Travels in a Canoe

The Review Reviews: Canoe Club

The Review Reviews: Canoe Club

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” It is with this philosophy that the gang once again make their way down Main Street and pull open the doors to one of Hanover’s more reputable dining establishments: the Canoe Club Bistro. Opened in 2003, the Canoe Club offers a more upscale option to the Hanover restaurant-goer, and boasts an impressive bar in its cozy, refined atmosphere. Tried-and-true Reviewers Pip Epiffany and Sheriff Rick Grimes lead the charge this time around, followed by protégés Pablo Goldwater and Jonathan Wallstein.

The diverse Hanover weather flavors the tone of each Reviewer rendezvous, and today, Hanover rained. Wringing out wet ponchos as we took shelter the Club, a moment of acclimation was necessary; we absorbed the posh atmosphere. The upbeat tempo of the bustling black-clad waiters was set by a jazz piano player; Mr. Goldwater pays particular attention. “You know, not even Pine offers live music!” In fact, a later trip to the Canoe Club’s website reveals that musical entertainment is a nightly event, and on this particular night, the Reviewers were serenaded by the mellow jazz tunes of one John Lovejoy. Initial impressions set the bar high.

To no one’s surprise, the local host and hostess were unpretentious and helpful. Clearly recognizing the iconic faces of Hanover’s premier reviewing team, the gang was quickly offered a rustic-themed, private backroom with cozy couch seating. Perhaps our homely attire suggested that the couch would be our preferred seating medium; we chose to accept the suggestion without reading too deeply into its implications. Pablo, after learning that the group would be dining on couches, was a little disappointed to learn that the group would nevertheless not be eating in the Roman style. “Where are the bunch of beautiful girls here to feed me grapes?!” he exclaims, thoroughly bittersweet at the offering. Although regrettably not a triclinium, the room did bear the history of the College on its walls. In addition to several wooden fish, a platter bearing a lengthy and ambiguous abbreviation is mounted on the wooden wall. Across the room hung a picture of the eponymous Class of ‘66 Lodge, to the right of which was a wooden sign engraved, “Class of ‘66 Room.” The crew pondered the significance of the decorations for fleeting moments before their ravenous nature took over.

Exhausted from the trials and tribulations of Week 8, Wallstein and Pip immediately and eagerly reach for the cocktail menu. The Canoe Club takes great pride in its well-stocked bar and offers an intriguing selection of beverages, available on shelves carved out in an antique canoe. Wallstein opts for the unique Honey Badger (“Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Barenjager honey liqueur, fresh lime juice”), which provides a fresh, light, satisfying cocktail. Pip, on the other hand, goes with the classic Sapling Manhattan (“Maker’s Mark bourbon, Sapling maple liqueur, sweet vermouth”), the Canoe Club’s added twist of maple liqueur is a more than welcome twist on the traditional drink. The bartender, picking up on their desperation, composed the drinks in several long slow pours and mixed them artfully as to let the Pip and Wallstein know that the Administration could not hurt them here. “Hanlon must go!” they exclaim at the toast. The two delighted in their beverages and sucked them down like floundering fish looking for water. The Sheriff, as usual, is on duty and thus unable to consume alcohol, and Goldwater does not need a drink, as he is already intoxicated.

The Sheriff stood up and headed to the restroom while Wallstein reclined, taking up his space on the couch with images of unclothed Roman women dancing almost visibly across his mind. He closed his eyes and relaxed, sinking into the couch and bathing in the luxury. The Sheriff returns shortly afterward with a slight frown on his face. “The bathroom, initially, looked quite good,” he begins. “The décor fits quite well with the restaurant. However, upon closer inspection, the whole room is quite dirty, from the water-spattered floor, to the chipped paint on the walls. Would not recommend.” Pip, usually the one to enjoy a nice bathroom, hangs his head in disapproval.

Soon after Grimes’ return, the gruff and off-putting waitress brings up the appetizers. The Potato Gnocchi & Exotic Mushrooms (“shaved parmesan, white truffle oil & sage cream, $9 small/$16 large) is small even in the large portion, but powerful in taste. The Sheriff especially is particularly enthralled. “If I were only to eat this for the rest of my life, I would certainly be content.” He rubs his stomach in satisfaction. The calamari, one of this night’s specials, is, however, a different story. It is delicate and well-crafted, but Wallstein criticizes the chef’s lack of foresight considering the pickled onion and arugula bedding. A lengthier bathing in the fryer and a consequently crispier squid might have offered a more complete flavor profile.

Not quite feeling the stomach distension characteristic of a successful review, the gang are more than delighted when a small helping of bread arrives. The waitress apologizes for the lateness, as it was apparently supposed to arrive before the appetizers. Jonathan is enthused by the surprise appearance, while the Sheriff is a bit put off by the unorganized service. Regardless, the bread is soft and warm, with a light, flavorful butter, and the gang are satisfied.

As Goldwater takes the last bite of his bread, the main courses arrive, as if on cue. The Cedar Plank Maple Salmon (“spinach, chopped green beans & candied almond salad with balsamic vinaigrette,” $24), which Pablo enjoys, is cooked on a cedar plank such that the outside of the fish is crisp, with the bottom and middle cooked to a little under rare. He more than welcomes the bold, albeit dangerous, move on the part of the chef, and thoroughly enjoys the dish. The accompanying greens were coated with sugared almonds and vinaigrette, and offer a solid complement to the strong main course.

Mr. Wallstein’s Lobster Macaroni and Cheese (“Pancetta, cheddar, tarentaise, parano, parmesan crumbles, greens,” $24) is a meal just as hearty and filling as it sounds. The chunks of lobster are thick and juicy and drenched with mixed molten cheese, as opposed to meager and non-existent, as is the case in many lesser culinary establishments. The delicious, gourmet cheeses meld together to give a distinct cheesy goodness suitable for such a dish. If that was not enough, bits of pancetta were dispersed throughout the mac to compliment the lobster and add to the overall decadence. Following his final bite, Wallstein drops his fork and collapses backward onto the couch, entering a short food coma.

Pip, with his well-known inclination for red meat, opts for the classic 12. oz New York Strip (“Grillled, roasted potato wedges, , asparagus, béarnaise & bordelaise sauces,” $27). As he chows down on the fattier-than-expected slab of meat, he screws his face in concentration. “It is,” he speaks as he swallows, “Most certainly… a quality steak, less masterfully prepared than I had hoped. That being said, it truly has an excellent flavor. I commend the chef’s use of sauces here.”

Finally, the Sheriff opts for the night’s special offering in the form of fried veal cutlets on finger potatoes and green beans ($25). The veal, being the Sheriff’s professed favorite form of meat, certainly takes on a different form here than anywhere else, with the flavor strongly enhanced by the excess oil used in the frying process. Though the breading is less crisp than he would have hoped for, it still offers him an unprecedented experience. Overall, he deems the dish a resounding success, and hopes that one day he can return and conquer it once again.

Though excessively stuffed from the entrees, Goldwater insists that the gang order a few select desserts. Pip, without questioning himself in the slightest, immediately announces his desire for the Chocolate Martini (“chocolate mousse, whipped cream, chocolate espresso bean garnish,” $7). Upon arrival, however, it is slightly disappointing. Though certainly a delicious medley of rich chocolate with a deep flavor, it ultimately is too simple to be deemed a winner.

The Sheriff decides on the Maple Cheesecake (“graham cracker crust, Vermont maple syrup, whipped cream, candied walnut,” $7). He is more than satisfied with the dish itself, as it offers the simple maple flavor, with accompanying hints of vanilla, but unfortunately comes in an egregiously small portion. The dessert is gone before he can even take a second spoonful.

Pablo Goldwater, on the other hand, stuns the crowd when he points to the Apple Galette (“puff-pastry, almond paste, house-made caramel sauce, sweet cream ice cream,” $6). A much larger portion than the cheesecake, the galette is composed of a complicated flavor mix involving apples, cinnamon, and sweet molasses. The rest of the gang are prompted by Goldwater’s ecstasy to take a bite themselves and agree that he has made the best decision. Unfortunately, Mr. Wallstein, still unconscious on the couch, misses out on the sweet, sweet ending to an overall delicious meal.
As the bill arrives and the clatter of plastic on plastic sounds, Wallstein awakes, and the gang rejoice in yet another successful culinary endeavor. As the coats are donned, suddenly, Pip cries out with a strange startled noise, and the others look to him. “Gents!” he exclaims. “I forgot my quip!” The gang hurriedly take their seats once again and wait for Pip to channel his inner power. As the light sound of the jazz piano carries in the background, Pip speaks.

“The rain still patters
I dip my oar in water
Gently canoe on.”

The gang bow their heads in solemn silence, contemplating Pip’s profound haiku. After a few minutes of silence, the gang take to their feet once again and head for the exit, thoroughly impressed by the Canoe Club’s offerings. As the shake hands and head their separate ways, they make a solemn vow to once again dine another day.