Friday, September 7, 2012

Beanwood Cafe: Tapas Night

Let me begin by saying--yes, I'm still in America. And no, I'm not supposed to be. I've come to find out visas are a complicated thing. And time consuming. And costly. But that's all I'm going to say just in case the visa people find me on the internet and decide to take away my freshly received visa because I'm bad-mouthing visas. I digress.

Secondly, I now know why I was meant to stay in the good ol' US of A for another week. And it wasn't because my original flight was headed for disaster and God decided to spare me. Nope. It was so I could experience Tapas Night.

Many people from this area are very familiar with Bordentown's Farnsworth Avenue with its storefronts, restaurants, and the occasional street fair. I know for us, among many, it's a common destination on the weekend, especially when seeking out a lively meal. Farnsworth offers versatility when it comes to dining--there's Toscano's for the cozy, romantic, and satisfying dinner, Marcello's for its deck seating and live, upbeat music, Farnsworth House for an excellent tap selection, Oliver's for quaint, quiet fare, Under the Moon (which I also had my first experience with this week--Go! Go!) for quirky atmosphere and fun food. And those are just the options off the top of my head.

One place that is often overlooked is the unassuming Beanwood Cafe. It wasn't until an impromptu stop for coffee one evening a few weeks ago that I realized they even serve food. Not only did I learn that they serve food, but I also learned that they have al fresco dining on an outdoor patio behind the shop.

And they make a damn good cup of coffee. Mom claims it's the best soy latte she's had, and that's coming from a weekly-ritual-soy latte-consuming connoisseur.

It was while passing through that evening that the owner took the time to explain to us a little about their BYOB Tapas Night, which they've been hosting every Friday evening for about a year. And lucky for me, this whole visa debacle left me an extra Friday on the books.

I feel obliged to share this experience with you. As what I assume is my last food post from the States, you need to know this place exists.

Let's begin.

Yes, that's right, you get one of each.

Our meal began with a simple combination of a fried plantain and guacamole. The guacamole wasn't highly seasoned, which allowed the freshness of the avocado to shine. The plantain was perfectly fried, which after having to fry them at work, I've realized it actually takes some technique. 

Next was their take on gazpacho. Most versions I've seen usually have some texture, while this soup was completely smooth. The flavor was spot-on with the right balance of fresh veggies, a pop of tang, and a touch of sweetness. Their house-made bread was also pleasantly sweet. 

"Pain de maiz" was up next. The dish came to us quite plain: no condiment, no garnish, just a churro-looking version of cornbread. After one bite, however, you quickly realize none of that is necessary (okay, maybe just a bit of hot sauce on the side. What can I say-the hotter, the better). This cornbread was buttery, moist, and agreeably one of the most popular dishes among the tapas-goers. 

This was the ceviche. We weren't sure what protein was going to be served, but it turned out to be shrimp. The consumme was a beautiful balance of tomato and mango, bringing all of the additional ingredients together in great flavor harmony. Drink up! 

Here we have plantains two ways, a variation of a Cubano sandwich, and a bite of chorizo and fior di sardegna cheese. Do you see that teeny tiny little dab of sauce on top of the flattened plantain? That had to be the most flavorful part of the entire meal. It was garlicky and wonderful, and honestly you probably wouldn't want to eat any more than they give you (especially if you're on a date). This dish offered a variety of textures and temperatures. The plantains were so different, both done very well. The sandwich used that slightly sweet house-made bread, a great accompaniment to the salty ham. And the sausage and cheese bite was everything you'd want in a perfectly presented little package. 

This was a little mid-meal break of fresh fruit and balsamic reduction. The picture doesn't really do justice to this strawberry carving, but it looked surprisingly like a rose. Fruit design might be a little outdated elsewhere, but this attention to detail was charming. The balsamic reduction was just that--thick, sweet, and vinegary. 

Next was a stuffed piquillo, a version of a Spanish tortilla or omelet, and their house-recipe rice. No worries to those who aren't a fan of spice--this stuffed pepper focused on sweet rather than heat. Think Grandma's stuffed peppers with a little Latin flare. If you look closely, you can see the omelet is layered with potatoes. We all agreed this was seasoned quite nicely. The rice was sticky, but not gummy, and had a nice background of green olives. And I don't even particularly like green olives. It would have been just as enjoyable given in a smaller portion, but you can never have too much of a good thing, right? (Just ask Mastoris)

Let me just say that I do not enjoy tres leches cake. I've tried. And tried again. I've even written about a tres leches experience in the past, and I wasn't enthused. Next, let me also say that right before we were served this course the owner came over to chat. It seems this cake is near and dear to her heart, one that she makes her own sweetened condensed milk for, and a recipe that devoted tapas nighters will not let her take off the menu. That being said, I will be dreaming of this cake until I'm home bound a year from now. It's the kind of dish that stays with you, one you come to cherish the longer you are apart. It is sweet. On the verge of too sweet, but instead it just seems indulgent. My suggestion to you is to grab one of the two waitstaff and put in your order for coffee, or espresso, or a soy latte, before this final course comes. That, my friends, is perfection. 

Tasting menus are fun because you all get to experience the same dishes at the same time to appraise and discuss. It's like the book clubs of dining. I highly recommend Beanwood for Friday night date nights or social gatherings. Hell, go by yourself. The menu changes weekly, so there's no opportunity for boredom. Even as the weather gets colder, the indoor seating is just as warm and charming. The owner will be sure to stop by your table and see how you're doing, giving you that "welcome to my home" feeling. She mentioned that they try to use local, organic ingredients whenever possible. That's something I can certainly stand behind. They also will be happy to accommodate any food allergies or sensitivities, especially if you call and give them a head's up so they can prepare. 

Well done, indeed. 

Now, how much would you think a meal like this would cost? $50 a piece? $45? Not here! With this special offer you only need to pay two easy payments of...

Kidding. No financing is necessary. What I'm not kidding about is the actual price of this meal: $30 a person. Come on, folks, can you beat that? 

I just ask that you keep them in mind the next time you're faced with an open Friday evening. You have my word, they will not disappoint. And if they do, you're out of luck because I will be hiding in another country. But they won't, so go. I will apologize for one thing, and that's because you now have to wait an entire week before you can experience it for yourself.