Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Why Critics Don’t Write Reviews of People’s Home Cuisine

with 2 comments

Upon walking into Thag’s, the observant patron will first notice the way the fallen leaves have gathered helter skelter on the front porch, as if taking refuge from the northerly winds that deposited them there. They decorate the two doormats – one gray and threadbare with a fading pattern, the other a sturdy black-and-brown calico – as if to accent the accumulated dust that covers the porch almost entirely. The dust itself blends almost seamlessly with the parades of ants marching to and fro underneath the door.

In cold weather, one can immediately sense the difference between inside and out: whereas outside, one encounters cold, wind and occasional rain, inside one merely encounters cold. Thag, the chef, prefers not to turn on the heat unless it get well and truly cold outside. In answer to the questions whether this strategy grows out of his desire for patrons to fully enjoy their hot soup, he simply grins, and gestures with a gloved hand – fingerless gloves, no less – toward the large dining table.

The table, it turns out, was crafted specifically with this space in mind, down to the centimeter. The chairs, eight of them, are carved of solid oak, upholstered in subtle brown, with square legs that vaguely resemble a lithe calf muscle. The table, though the same color as the chairs, remains shrouded under an off-white tablecloth, with subtle patterns woven into it, placed in sharp relief only where the threads have begun to unravel. The hand-crafted quality of the table is readily apparent, as it bows in the middle, a feature that gets even more pronounced when Thag extends the table for more guests, adding one or two leaves. The floor is tiled, and the windows offer a stunning view of the rear patio, where feral cats frolic and diminutive, wind-blown piles of autumn leaves spend the winter.

My companion and I were offered wine, but only on condition that we finish every last drop. We had a fine Merlot from the cellar, which is fully accessible to anyone – just down a set of steps right near the table. While Thag’s wine list fluctuates in the predictability of its offerings, the wine is always poured generously, and no mind given to the pretentiousness that often surrounds the ritual. It seemed almost intentional, in fact, that a slight dribble of wine traveled down the side of each glass after pouring.

For starters, I had some hummus and freshly microwaved pita. The hummus was garnished with the herb blend zaatar, which tingled in the mouth and got stuck between the teeth. My companion enjoyed cut vegetables in fascinating shapes, the work of Thag’s six-year-old sous-chef, who is just learning to use a knife and peeler.

My companion and I, both lapsed vegetarians, then dug into our main course: chicken absolutely smothered in coarse garlic powder and baked for up to three hours over potato wedges. Thag proudly leaves the skin on the bird, and boasts about the extra chicken fat he adds to the pan before baking, so the potatoes bake and fry simultaneously. One might expect such an extended stay in the oven to dry out the flesh, but Thag does not care for the way food is “supposed” to be; the skin and garlic keep enough moisture in for his taste, and for mine.

We were halfheartedly offered salad, but declined. Before dessert we made selections from an eclectic assortment of herbal infusions and real teas, and were presented with a sugar bowl, the lid of which broke in 2002. I chose cinnamon; my companion, chai massala.

Dessert was fresh strawberries; moist, mouth-watering chocolate cake; a chocolate-and-peanut-butter confection with pretzel sticks; chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies; chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa or cinnamon; flourless chocolate chip peanut butter cookies; and a chocolate-chocolate-chip brownie pie in a delicious crust.

Thag’s is a keeper. Reservations are recommended.

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Written by Thag

January 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. How do I place my reservation?

    Eliezer

    January 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    • After reading that, you should have plenty of them…

      Thag

      January 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm


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