Woodward at Ames

Ben Franklin meets a supermodel? Go with it — it works.
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  April 29, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

If you need greens, a side dish of roast vegetables ($6) offers fresh, sweet, slightly caramelized versions of everything on the pickle plate, plus wild mushrooms, bits of salty kale, cubes of sweet potato or squash, and a few chunks of parsnip.

If anything would stretch this kitchen, it would be a complicated, tradition-based dish like bouillabaisse ($24). Here, it’s done the American way with shrimp, mussels, littleneck clams, and just enough monkfish to give it some body. But the broth was pretty French — fennel and saffron with a little tomato, some salt, and enough aromatic vegetables in tiny cubes to get past the memory of the original Mediterranean soup stew.

The wine list is from all over, and at least on the cheaper selections, wildly overpriced. In such moments, I like the old dodge of non-vintage, broad-appellation wines. A winner on this list is the Rosenblum Vintner’s Cuvée zinfandel ($9/glass; $14/half carafe; $26/carafe; $41/bottle). This California producer makes numerous single-vineyard zinfandels in the old bramble-fruit-forward style, with some structure in the flavor. For the economy line, it mixes lots from different counties and years, but it’s all zinfandel. The blend has a distinctive house style. A similar approach to German wines is the 2008 August Kesseler R reisling ($10; $15; $29; $45), a vintage-dated blend of village wines from the colder end of the Rheingau region. It has the acidity and aromas of some Moselles and quite a few whites from Oregon.

From a list of classic cocktails, an Old Cuban ($11) is a very effective combination of the fresh minty appeal of a real mojito with a drier cocktail influenced by using an aged rum, champagne, and bitters. Decaf ($3) and decaf cappuccino ($4) are strong and solid.

The menu lists five desserts (all $10), but three of them are gastro-pub clichés that don’t belong in a fancy hotel dining room: warm chocolate cookies, a brownie sundae, and seasonal berries with whipped cream (the supermodel special). That leaves a chocolate-and-almond bread pudding that contains little chocolate and almond extract only, and is big enough to share as cake — no drippy sauce at all. I guess you could drip the accompanying burnt-sugar (tastes like coffee) ice cream. The other choice is an apple-cranberry crumble that is just underdone on the apples and rolled oats, and uses Craisins for cranberries. See? Everything is near perfect until dessert.

Service, within the concept, is excellent. We didn’t see any supermodels or governors of Pennsylvania, but the bar starts happening early and the restaurant does fill up on a Saturday night. The background music includes some Amy Winehouse, but more neo-disco, a genre I just can’t put together with fine food. Eventually, the crowd drowns out the music and the food drowns out the design.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Mark Goldberg was incorrectly identified as Robert Goldberg. The correction has been made above.

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