The September sunshine on the meadow was descending into beautiful twilight. The setting, which had been rural in my youth, has been grudgingly set aside by developers and is surrounded by golf courses and condos. Even the dusty road had been preserved like an artifact in a museum.
The hostess at the Rye Tavern inquired whether I would like to eat indoors or dine al fresco. It was a decision I was certain to get wrong. The air conditioning inside the historic eatery, a godsend perhaps on sultry nights, gave the place a dank atmosphere evoking dripping stalactites and fluttering bats. I made my doomed choice, and Annette and I were seated on the patio. The gentle breeze that fluttered our menus foreshadowed a night wind. I was comfortable in a suit jacket and tie, but Annette was cold, and we moved inside.
When reviewing Stone Soup, the restaurant that previously occupied the space, I wrote, "You may notice a slight ripple in the space-time continuum when a server moves from (the modern kitchen) into the dining room, which has wide floorboards, hewn beams, a tin ceiling, and a fireplace." Changes have been made. The kitchen is no longer so plainly in view, but behind a bar a huge TV displayed a golf game so despite the surrounding shrubbery the true atmosphere of The Pine Hills prevailed.
As the restaurant filled, the warmth of humanity displaced the chill, but the sound of voices became defining. Women, exhilarated by cocktails and wine squealed with laughter, and assertive men raised their voices to be heard over the din. Relaxed dining and civilized conversation were impossible.
As for the meal, my martini was perfect and the service was excellent. I began with clam chowder, which turned out to be a base of cream and potatoes topped with fragments of fried clams. It was better than it sounds, but it won't replace the traditional version on chilly nights. My pork chop was done exactly as I had requested. This is something achieved these days in only the better restaurants, and I offer my compliments to whoever cooked it. The topping of pepper jelly isn't something I'll imitate at home, but it did no harm.
You may find this report a bit scanty but I'm basing it on one visit. I think you'll find the food innovative and good. The atmosphere is such that we skipped dessert, and won't be back. I recommend thick carpets and heavy drapes to deaden the sound. My daughter the museum curator will skin me if she reads this, but they might even replace the vintage ceiling with acoustical tile. I'm with Aesop who wrote, "A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."