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Feast: The Ashmont Grill

March 31, 2011

I’m sick of the cold, I’m bored of my sweaters, and both my waistline and my psyche are getting pretty desperate for the end of comfort food season. But, for one last gravy- smothered hurrah, I made a return trip to The Ashmont Grill this week.  The Ashmont, for all of its Caesar salads and turkey pot pies, is the perfect transition from winter to spring- while the food can be rich, it is refined and not over-indulgent. Macaroni and cheese just doesn’t feel as sinful when it’s made with with sun dried tomatoes and Moody Blue.

train wreck fries

It’s always hard to choose between the perfectly battered onion rings with curry mayonnaise or the “Train Wreck” fries to start, but this week I felt fries paired better with my dirty martini. Hand-cut, topped with cheese, jalapenos, scallions, and bacon, they have just the right amount of embellishment. Not too greasy, not too crispy, these are best-case scenario cheese fries.
And speaking of my dirty martini – the drinks are a reason unto themselves to visit The Ashmont. A perfect martini, gimlet, or selection from the 100% eco-friendly wine list should be on its way to your table within minutes of sitting down.
For my main course, I’m usually a sucker for the afore-mentioned mac and cheese or the bolognese, but this week the special – pappardelle with braised, pulled lamb and cherries – was impossible to pass up. I’m picky about fresh pasta  and these noodles , though a little narrow for pappardelle, had the right amount of chewiness and doughiness. The lamb was seasoned nicely, with a hint of well-managed gamey-ness. My only wish was that there had been a few more cherries- their subtle acid really made the dish.

braised pulled lamb with cherries and pappardelle

One of my favorite aspects of The Ashmont is that, amidst the steaks and pastas, they do have healthier options on the menu. And this time, I actually tried one- a turkey burger.  Described as “righteous” on the menu, the burger was served with avocado mousse, arugula, cranberry relish, and roasted sweet potato wedges. The mousse and relish gave the burger rich, layered flavor, though I wished the size of the patty was in better ratio to the bun. I hate having extra bits of bun. The sweet potato wedges had a silky texture that made them feel decadent without actually being fattening. And, while I didn’t actually taste another lighter option – the pork loin special (served with couscous, spinach, and a wine reduction) – it certainly looked delicious.

I’ve always chosen a glass of port for dessert at The Ashmont- by that point in my meal I’m usually feeling too guilty for chocolate. But this week we shared a strawberry-rhubarb crumble that combined the winter warmness of brown sugar with the bright, tart promise of summer fruit. Appropriately sized- just enough for a few small bites around the table, it was worth the extra calories. Knowing how good the sweets are, I might go in for a piece of “Nanny Sheila’s Big Ole Carrot Cake” next time.

Thank you, Ashmont, for what my new jeans hope will be my comfort-food swan song this season. Knowing how worthwhile your healthier options can be, I’ll certainly be back before next winter, but I’ll bring someone else to order the mac and cheese. Which I bet goes really well with a turkey burger.

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