Friday, November 5, 2010
I have always resisted eating at Food Courts in malls – the same tired fried rice and noodle dishes from the Chinese eateries, the lousy pizza, under-spiced Italian subs with the anemic red sauce, the salad bars with their pale lettuce and tasteless carrot shavings, Mexican fast food consisting of premade taco shells stuffed with melted cheese and dubious chicken parts and beans – all washed down with watery soft drinks. Then you sit at some plastic table under fluorescent lights in a huge communal cafeteria and eat from Styrofoam boxes with plastic forks. The Blue Stove shows us that grabbing a quick bite while shopping need not mean bad takeout eaten quickly and forgotten as soon as possible.
On the second floor of Nordstrom Burlington, in a darkly elegant wooded room with chandeliers, soothing wall lamps and tables with stemware and white napery, is the Blue Stove. With an engaging menu of memorable tapas (dishes in sharable appetizer portions) and a wine list which is both sophisticated and under-priced, this is the place to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the soon-to-be-here shopping season while watching your budget. Kids are welcomed and there are several kid friendly menu items, but it is not a place for children who need to run around as the atmosphere says calm and quiet.
The tapas offered at Blue Stove are good sized and meant to be shared with friends. The food comes to the table when it is ready, so keep that in mind when ordering.
If you like tacos, the fresh lime/cilantro/chicken ones here will have you asking for a second round. The simple salt and pepper calamari, lightly fried with a bright zing of lemon zest, is delivered hot from the kitchen and is a great big plateful. Black pepper chicken wings were huge, hot and the no nonsense preparation delightful. A dish of glazed shrimp was a bit too sweet and needed more of the lemon capers mentioned in the description, but the shrimp were large and tender. Two crab cakes were sweet and meaty, with just a touch of bread filler to keep the cakes together, and the remoulade was light and lively on the tongue. Sweet potato fries with a lime aioli could become my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes.
The specials of the day (usually one or two) included two large arancini, (rice balls dusted with bread crumbs and quickly fried) and filled with some great gooey cheese and Parma ham – interestingly satisfying. A lemon-fragrant risotto with succulent seared scallops and green beans made you want to hug the chef as soon as you finished.
There are several other comfort food dishes – short ribs with a wine demi glaze, lamb rib chops with navy bean ragout, garlic chicken with grilled corn – which will be perfect for the cold days ahead. There are also steamed mussels and several salads, roasted sweet peppers, seared wild mushrooms and other simple potato dishes that everyone likes, all brought to you by a professional wait staff who are quick to take your order and ask if you want a leisurely meal or need to get going – they aim to please. Dishes also change with the seasons and the market, so go several times to see what is new.
Prices are moderate, averaging about $9 with a top price of $12.50, and the wines are also a bargain – and they know how to fill a glass. Order several plates to share, sip some wine, relax – it’s the holidays!
Hours 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Reservations taken (although I have never found them necessary).
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito