A Tale of Two Tables

The verdict: pricey but delicious.

The verdict: pricey but delicious.

It is half past six on a quiet Saturday evening in Hanover, and the company quietly files into the dark, almost oppressive atmosphere of Market Table, an oft-overlooked and locally sourced dining establishment. This excursion marks the long-awaited return of Sheriff Rick Grimes and Pip Epiphany, who recently took some time off from their campaign to conquer the restaurants of the Upper Valley. The two are joined by the honorable Sir Loyn de Bef and his associate, newcomer Maximilian R. Pier, a rugged French aristocrat. The four are seated at the forefront table in the establishment, a cold steel square in the middle of everything, despite the presence of a perfectly acceptable open booth nearby. Immediately upon taking their seats, a swift movement is seen towards the back of the restaurant: Vice Provost of Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer hastily brushes past Sir Loyn in her urgent desire to leave the restaurant. Apparently, the introduction of the gang proved too conservative for the former dean, and she was forced to leave the restaurant for fear of things becoming “not very nice.”

Sir Loyn is also put off by the disconcerting character of the restaurant. “Is this a restaurant, or a cave?” he inquires, also noting the “creepy” metal table. “Take the table, for example: is this hard, cold, jail-like metal slab a ‘market table,’ or an operating table?”

Service gets started on the right foot as a young, attractive waitress hastily appears to provide the most basic of needs in the form of a glass flask of water. After a short glance at the cocktail menu, the gang are immediately drawn to the perfectly-fitting specials. Pip requests a Winter (rum, blood orange, lime, mint, orange juice, seltzer, sprite; $9) and Pier a Fall (Maker’s Mark, lemon, local maple syrup, Vermont apple cider; $10). Sir Loyn adds to that a Summer (grapefruit vodka, grapefruit juice, mint, simple syrup, seltzer; $9) and also a glass of milk, providing credence to the theory that he is, in fact, six years old. In a shocking turn of events, the Sheriff was recently placed on paid administrative leave following a scandal in which a member of his department was accused of shooting an unarmed black man; he thus completes the cycle with a Spring (Hendrick’s gin, St. Germaine, lemon, lavender syrup, prosecco). As the waitress leaves to prepare the drinks and appetizers, Pip catches a glimpse of a sticker prominently placed on her pocketbook: “Bernie 2016,” it boldly reads. The gang shakes their heads in disapproval and strike up a conversation regarding basic economics as they continue perusing the menus for entrees.

Within a short while, the drinks and appetizers appear. Pip is somewhat displeased by his brightly-colored pink Winter, as it distracts from the cold gale outside. “What is winter?” he epiphanizes. “The Winter of Stomach Discontent,” he finishes. Inquiring as to the confusing state of the drink, the waitress showcases her impressive knowledge of seasonal fruits, and the gang learn that the blood orange is, in fact, a winter fruit. Pier, on the other hand, is quite pleased with his Fall. “A perfect meniscus, skillfully carried out; I get some hints of fresh lemon juice and bourbon. It’s like… endless war.” Loyn was quite confused by the summer cocktail. It was slightly watery, with a slightly diluted grapefruit taste. Initially, he was disappointed in the drink, until it hit him. This drink was not meant to be sipped in the middle of winter on a metal table, it was meant to be ordered in the dead heat of summer after an exhilarating round of cliff diving in Cabo San Lucas. The cool and subtle grapefruit would be hydrating enough to soothe any weary adventurers dry palate. Upon this realization, Sir Loyn was impressed by the thought that obviously went into the creation of the cocktail. He romanticized it, and came to the understanding that the creator must have also been to Los Cabos. He was delighted with the shared experience. Finally, the Sheriff remarks on his own concoction. “An excellent preparation,” he exclaims. Bubbling and with a sweet smell of a fruity white from the prosecco, the Spring tastes crisp, light, and airy, with a tinge of St. Germaine on the tongue; “Spring in a drink,” he concludes, thoroughly satisfied.

Following the first drink tasting, the Gang begins to dig into the appetizers. Sir Loyn starts off on the Maine Jonah crab cakes with tartar sauce and lettuce ($17), while Pier prepares for the chicken liver pâté with cumberland sauce and focaccia toast ($11.50). The crab cake is an instant favorite. The Sheriff is enamored by its “excellent, big-bursting flavor.” Sir Loyn is particularly in love with the accompanying tartar sauce, which he claims to remind him of an urgency for war felt during his time in Zulu. “Sublime,” he finishes.

The pâté, on the other hand, garners a different reaction. Pip is initially confused: “This doesn’t taste Thai.” The rest of the gang shake their heads in disdain. Pier continues his analysis of the dish. “It tastes like year-old Parmesan, with an overpowering smell as well. In short, it is like steel.” He passes the dish over to the Sheriff, a noted expert in liver-based dishes, for a professional analysis. “It’s got a good consistency; the pâté is certainly well-made. However, I really question their decision to include such a sweet sauce; it really distracts from the deep flavor of the liver I’d typically desire.” Sir Loyn respectfully disagrees, downing the rest of the pâté in a single gulp. The accompanying salads, however, are universally poorly received. Pip in particular is depressed by their non-crunchy, non-fresh, overall soggy quality.

Alongside the appetizers comes a very well-received breadbasket, including biscuit halves and slices of garlic bread. “The biscuit is very good,” Sir Loyn proclaims. “Especially with the tartar sauce.” The rest of the gang prefer the garlic bread. “Strong hints of garlic, rosemary, and salt,” Pier says. “The best garlic bread I’ve ever had,” adds the Sheriff.

A perfect period of pause follows the appetizers, allowing for deep philosophical discussion to take place. “Isn’t every meal just a war?” Pip epiphanizes. The other three look on in awe as his mind works its magic. After the nice grace period, the main course arrives, along with Pip’s Switchback ale and Pier’s Whale Tail. Sir Loyn displays his beer snobbery, showing Pip how one properly pours an ale into the (improper, he notes) provided glass. The flawlessly poured beer was quickly downed as Pip quested for inspiration to be refined into concise nuggets of wisdom.

The Sheriff was more than pleased with his roasted pork belly and braised red cabbage with spätzle ($24). Due to the menu’s blatant misspelling of the spätzle as “spatzёl,” the Sheriff, a fluent speaker of the German language, was taking a significant risk with the dish; his fears, however, were instantly quelled with his first look at the plate, which he claims “looks just like a good German meal.” The first bite of the pork results in a fatty, succulent, flavorful explosion – it simply melts in the mouth. The ambiguous spätzle looks exactly like the noodles of his youth, with a creamy texture and full flavor. In fact, he goes as far as to claim that “I may have never had spätzle as good as this.” The braised red cabbage is also a success; it is well-cooked and soft with a dark, full flavor.

Pip’s burger arrived after much anticipation. His supply of ale was dwindling and sustenance was needed in order to keep his ever-epiphanizing mind from wandering far from the meal’s discourse. A detailed plan for a utopian society in which corporations can be elected into office disintegrated as the cool plate was set before him. A lengthy strip of bacon hung out either end of the globular burger, like a man of great stature laid down in a bed too small. The meat was cooked to Pip’s specifications—”medium, but not shoe leather”—and successfully returned his free flowing mind to the meal at hand.

Pier’s scallops ($28) were not short of a delicacy; the potatoes on which the scallops lay, however, were not. As the waitress delicately placed the burly, weighted plate on the table, the scent of curry overwhelmed Pier’s nostrils. “It’s like being in India,” he exclaimed. After a somewhat disdainful look from the table to the left, he quickly added, “Not that I have anything against India, the Indian People, or the Indian Head. I have great relationships with the Indian people and they love me!” Pier’s views on India aside, the potatoes were mushy and overpowered the nuanced balance of the scallops, and the arugula, while fresh, did nothing to help cleanse the palate between bites.

Loyn, a Breton by birth, was always an Italian at heart. He was a bit skeptical about how his pasta was going to turn out. “Any restaurant with chic metal tables is unfit for cooking pasta”, he exclaimed as he finished his eighth glass of milk. The soldier’s curiosity peaked as the plate arrived in front of him. Things were off to a good start, the sauce was light (as to not overwhelm the taste of the pasta), and the sundried tomatoes looked perfectly flavorful. His first bite erased all traces of skepticism. The pasta was expertly done, cooked to a wonderful, slightly chewy, al-dente. The tomatoes tasted like the sunshine of Sicily and filled the pasta with a sensational burst of flavor. Sir Loyn forgot to speak for the rest of his course, he was too overwhelmed by the food to be distracted by any of the other dinner guests. As he took his last bite, he noticed that he had passed twenty minutes in silence. He savored every bite and would have ordered another if his stomach wasn’t protesting the consumption of anything more. Five minutes later, the milk catches up with him and breaks his serenity. Loyn immediately goes to the bathroom. What he found there definitely intrigued him. It was a tasteful blend of the antique and the modern. While the sink and the toilet were of a fancy Bauhaus design, the walls, decorations, and side table were something out of a Tuscan village. The knight left the bathroom thoroughly impressed and confused by the duality of the scene. Like Miniver Cheevy, he questioned his place in the world, an old-fashioned gentleman in the twenty-first century, and realized the bathroom was made specifically as a metaphor for his own life. It spoke to him in a way no other bathroom had ever done, and as he meandered back to the table he couldn’t help but to think something was missing from his life.

Upon a final reflection, he realized it was cheese.

Dessert arrives with muted fanfare borne of the gang’s fatigue after conquering such a magnificent main course. Pip and Sir Loyn elect to split the cheese plate (obviously Loyn wasn’t feeling masochistic enough after consuming so much dairy already). It was a decadent mix of cheeses, nuts, fruits, and crackers. The particular attraction on the plate was the thinly slices apples and dried cranberries, which Pip refused to try because they are old people food. Even after the protests of Sir Loyn in which he called the berries “the perfect sweet compliment to an otherwise delicious, but incomplete nutty cheese,” Pip remained steadfast in his reluctance. Pip and Sir Loyn savored the perfect complement to their earlier dishes, under the disapproving eye of the sheriff.

Pier and the Sheriff, who is quite vocal about his opposition to cheese as a dessert, instead elected to try the sampler ($13), which includes baked Alaska (“our own banana ice cream with vanilla cake covered in toasted meringue”), panna cotta (“vanilla bean panna cotta, raspberry”), and crisp (“local apple + cherry with our own vanilla ice cream”). The crisp is initially steaming, a clear indicator of freshness. Both, however, are not fans of apples in general, and thus find that it needs more ice cream, which, admittedly, is delicious, with a grainy and full quality. The Sheriff also prefers more brown sugar crumble in such a crisp. The pudding is much more satisfying. Its jiggly state is no detriment to its smooth, vanilla bean taste. A note of citrus adds some interest. “This will be hard to top,” Pier proclaims. “…for the baked Alaska is calling.” Together the two plunge their spoons into the crispy outer shell, which stands no chance against the old friends’ insatiable lust for dessert. The faint twang of metal can be heard as the outer shell is breached, giving way to a marshmallow-like filling and a creamy banana filling. It is, above all, sweet, with a light, frothy texture. Notes of vanilla and caramel perfectly complement the delicious banana. It is, without question, the winner.

Their bloodlust quenched, the gang exit the restaurant in a food-induced stupor. The Sheriff immediately proclaims his desire to go back for lunch tomorrow, while Sir Loyn immediately lights up a Cuban cigar to calm the nerves after such an intense battle.

  • Liftcharge

    Bravo !!!

  • AnotherAlum

    The flourless chocolate cake at Market Table is one of the world’s great chocolate desserts.