by Alice Levitt
21 Essex Way, Essex, 878-7231
In the spirit of the Vermont International Film Festival, which continues all this week, I thought it only appropriate to grab some big-screen eats.
Sure, I could have feasted on popcorn and candy anywhere, but at the Essex Cinemas, the selections are, well, a little more substantial.
Club Take 2 opened in the theater this summer with an ambitious menu that included house-cured charcuterie. It's been toned down to better appeal to the football fans who poured in last night to watch the game on the 20-foot theater screen in a side room of the restaurant. Still, the offerings are more sophisticated than one might expect and, even if you sit at a table in the dining room, just outside the large theater, you can start with popcorn.
After that, it was hard to choose. Sophisticated local-cheese plate with housemade preserves? Pan-seared salmon over penne? Nope, I opted to start simply, with the chicken tenders.
I was particularly excited to try the made-to-order chips that the menu said came on the side. Strangely, for a made-to-order item, when our waitress brought out the plate, she said there were no chips. Disappointing, but the fat steak fries, inset with parmesan and fresh herbs, were a great consolation prize.
The chicken was good, too. Inside, the meat was moist. Outside, the crisp crust was nicely seasoned. The pineapple barbecue sauce that accompanied it was a little too sweet for me, but my dining partner handily finished it.
Instead, I dipped my chicken in some of the dots of sriracha that came with the plate of gyoza. Admittedly, this is a horrible picture (above), but the plating was a tad haphazard.
Nonetheless, this was a satisfying plate of food. I nearly ordered a salad as well, but when I saw the bountiful mound of veggies on this $8 plate, I was glad I didn't bother. They were dressed in a creamy vinaigrette, which seemed like an odd combo with the gingery, meaty little gyoza, but it worked surprisingly well.
I did miss the seasoned cucumber and tomato that the menu said would be on the plate, though. As if in compensation, the dumpling skin was cooked to perfection, moist enough and slightly chewy.
I couldn't resist trying the Cabot cheddar mac and cheese. Pretty, right? Once again, it wasn't exactly what I expected from the description. In my mind, at least, Ritz cracker crust denoted buttery, rich pasta. Instead, this was a sophisticated — dare I say light — take on the dish.
Strands of mild white cheese stretched from the tureen as I picked up forkfuls of the nicely al dente penne. However, thick lines of balsamic reduction gave the dish an overall bright, fruity flavor.
There was lots of balsamic on the buttery, appropriately garlicky garlic bread on the side, too. And the soft, grilled bread was plentiful. Between that and the pasta, the $9 dish easily could have fed two.
I wasn't really sure what to expect of a limoncello torte, but it certainly sounded worth a try. Really, the dessert was more of a lemon tres leches cake. The light slice was soaked in limoncello, rendering it extremely moist but not waterlogged. I don't usually like the combination of citrus and chocolate, but the dense strands of chocolate sauce on the plate gave depth to the subtle lemon flavor.
I might give this cake another try when I return to Club Take 2 this weekend for a showing of Dish: Women, Waitressing, and the Art of Service. Or, perhaps while I watch the Montréal serveuses sexy at work, I'll try the "chocolate peanut butter bliss" instead.