Saturday, September 20, 2008

Alice's Cafe

Cindy and Chad have taken over a small cafe in Reisterstown, Maryland. It's a small and cute place with five tables and a very homey feel to it. On the way to the location, I wasn't sure what to expect. I figured it would be some rinky dink joint with white walls, drop ceilings, flourescent lighting and formica tables. You know, the typical suburban cafe. It was anything but.

Truth be told, it was absolutely a charming space. Inside a victorian house, the previous owners kept with the theme and recreated the dining room to the period. Lovely. In the back, the reception/counter area had been modernized while maintaining the victorian theme. Only in the kitchen did the place take on a clean and modern look.

Neither Cindy nor Chad are restauranteurs or cooks. She's a former deli manager and he's a fireman. They're just chasing a dream, which is a beautiful thing but it can also mean a disjointed approach to the business. Right now, they're taking the time to learn the business and figure out their own skills and where they want to go.

I don't know what I was expecting but I was expecting a larger and more varied menu. Currently, the menu is limited to soups, sandwiches, salads and pastries. I expected hot foods but that's not available yet. I was in the mood for hot food, but a toasted club sandwich would have to suffice. Chips or macaroni salad? Is the salad made in-house? Yes? Then, I'll have the salad.

Club sandwiches are almost universally disappointing. Layers of dried out turkey with bacon, lettuce and tomato piled on high with bread. It's typically too dry and too large to eat. I don't know what I was thinking but I would be pleasantly surprised. When my sandwich came out, it wasn't stacked on high with piles of iceberg lettuce, this one was perfectly toasted with layers of thinly sliced turkey and ham interspersed with bacon, lettuce and tomato with American cheese slices.

You may be thinking that sliced American cheese is pretty low brow, and it is - but gosh do I love a good American cheese. And this one was layered just right in the sandwich. Each bite was moist and flavorful with hints of salt and that slightly gooey-ness of American cheese. Maybe it's just fond childhood memories of American cheese, but it works.

The macaroni salad was also good. Light, flavorful and a nice accompaniment to the club sandwich. From there, it was onto a taste of their desserts. A slice of lemon cheesecake with lady fingers wedged inside was a pleasant treat, although the kitchen could take it a bit easier on the strawberry squeezed onto the plate. Just a little will do. No need to make it too busy.

The coffee though was perfunctory. It's nice to see thoughtfulness in terms of French pressed at the table but some basic concepts are missing, like freshly ground coffee to order and an understanding of just how long it takes to steep the coffee before pressing the plunger (4 minutes). There's also a desire to add these paper filters to the presses which just confounds me - why? The beauty of the press is the minor sediment left from the brewing method. Adding the paper filter removes the sediment and essential oils of the coffee - everything which makes pressed coffee so noteworthy.

In the end, it was a pleasant time and I think there's much promise for this place and its' new owners.

Alice's Cafe
213 Main Street
Reisterstown, MD 21136

The Cow

Vanilla Chocolate Custard Twist - Regular Size.

While waiting for my friends to meet me at Alice's Cafe, I wandered next door to a place called The Cow. It's a dessert place offering a confusing variety of frozen custards and Italian Ices, not to mention the necessary espresso drinks (why?). It's a cute looking place with a big cow out front and since the weather was warm and beautiful, I thought "why not?"

Meandering up to the counter, I find an attractive server who's a bit young but quite striking. Not only for her looks but also because of her friendly smile, great demeanor and positive customer service attitude. Quite frankly, if this place were closer to Towson, I'd offer her a position at The Spro.

Instead, I'm contented to note her in my mind and let Cindy and Chad know about her. She seems like she could be a good worker, maybe their could hire her instead.

There's a couple of choices when it comes to custard: vanilla, chocolate or twist. Kiddie, Regular and other sizes (I didn't ask). Cup or cone, or she would put a cone with the cup, if I wanted. I decided on the regular twist cone. Perhaps I should have ordered the kiddie.

Standing outside The Cow reminds me of the heyday of Jay's Shave Ice. In the world of frozen desserts, bigger is better and The Cow doesn't disappoint on the bigger category. The regular custard is absolutely fricken' huge. And I mean HUGE. It's a good eight inches of towering frozen dairy and eggs balancing precariously on a cake cone.

I take a lick and it's okay. It's rich and thick but there's a waxy film to the custard that I just don't appreciate. And it's pumped out of an Electro Freeze soft serve ice cream machine instead of a proper Ross Frozen Custard freezer. But the waxiness is unnerving.

Undaunted, I press on. The tip of my cone breaks off. The custard is melting faster than I can lick. Lick, lick, lick. Heavens, I almost never lick this much in the daylight! I'm falling behind. It's trickling onto my fingers. I can't keep up. I must eject.

With some tricky tongue maneuvering and swift fingers, I plop a four inch piece of custard into the rubbish bin. I can't keep up. It's too much. It's something that many operators and people haven't learned in America: more is not always more. Personally, I wish the flavor and texture of the custard were stellar and the serving size one third of what I had. Give me a taste of something to dream about and crave. Instead I'm ambushed by waxy and inferior custard.

I could use some Dave's Ice Cream right about now.

The Cow
201 Main Street
Reisterstown, MD 21136