Ashland, April 23—
ON THE ROAD when restauration's uncertain I often gravitate toward salads, of all things. Salads are just as delicate as any other course, but mediocre greens are better than no greens. So today at the brew pub I had a salad: arugula (commercial, tame, clean and sturdy, not bad) dressed with olive oil and "balsamic vinegar" and a few pine nuts (Chinese, no doubt of it at all) and domestic cheese masquerading as Parmigiano. Cheap pinot grigio.
But for dinner we stopped in at Amuse, which I think of as the area's second restaurant, New Sammy's being first. I started with a nice clam chowder, an unconventional one, clams with bits of bacon in a savory broth with bits of potato. Then — another salad: arugula with shaved fennel, feta, and pine nuts, with a creamy lemon dressing. Delicious.
It'd been days since I had a glass of red wine, so I asked for the Côtes de Rhône. It was absolutely terrible. I sent it back and asked for a Pinot noir instead. But the waitress brought me another glass of the Rhône, and it was fine. The first had come from a bottle that must have stood open for days. An odd flaw in a restaurant otherwise quite attentive to detail, both in the kitchen and on the floor.