Originally Published at www.whatgregeats.com.

I love eating out, as does my husband. Many married couples have hobbies; our problematic hobby is that we love to go to restaurants. For awhile we were pretty out of control. We would eat out to celebrate. We would eat out because we had a bad day. We would eat out because we were going to be out running errands. We would eat out because we just didn’t want to cook. Fortunately, with some kicking and screaming, almost entirely from me, we have managed to cut back on the eating out. It’s hard and I don’t like it, but unfortunately I’m getting older and my metabolism is slowing down. It’s better to eat healthy at home. Of course, we make exceptions, as we did this past weekend.

I am friends with a wonderful woman in another town about 4 hours away. She has a son in Rhinebeck, NY, which is only an hour and a half away from us. We always joked that when she went to visit her son, we should all meet up there and have dinner. Well, she emailed me to say that she was going to be in Rhinebeck and that her son, who I had been told is a very well liked host and restaurant manager, would be having a soft opening of a new restaurant he is a partner in called Starr Place. Would we like to go? Um, heck yeah. So after getting the okay for the car trip from my physical therapist, we drove out.

We had never been to Rhinebeck, NY but from the little bit I saw, it looks like a wonderful town. Nice enough that we want to go back and visit. Anyway, we enter the Starr Place for its soft opening. A soft opening is essentially a trial run; this one was all friends and family. Or in our case, friends of a family member. The restaurant wasn’t totally done being renovated. There are stairs going up and down, but for this evening, the main floor was the only one in use. The interior decorating was well planned. You can easily wear a suit to this restaurant, or jeans and a button down, and feel equally comfortable. A small dark wood bar sits in front of a beautiful glass and dark wood display of a multitude of spirits. An elegant, well stocked bar is a thing of beauty.

We were seated with the mom, the host/partner’s wife, and a couple of her friends. Everyone there seemed to know the bartender and the wife told our server to have the bartender make her whatever he wanted. An excellent sign. I ordered a cosmopolitan and my husband happily ordered Red Stripe, his all-time favorite beer. The cosmopolitan is the best one I’ve had since Graham’s in Saratoga Springs, NY closed (years ago).

To test the selection we opted to order plentiful appetizers and share. We had the grilled squid with baby arugula and salsa verde, falafel fritters with hummus and pita chips, French bread garlic, extra virgin olive oil and parsley pizza, and an order of fries with olivade (white cheese and olives). They were all very good. The real stand out for me was the grilled squid. Generally I don’t mind squid as long as it’s disguised, generally fried. This was just a generous piece of squid with grill marks. It was smoky and tender, I didn’t mind the fact that my squid appeared to be squid. After that, it has to be the fries with olivade. The fries were light and crisp and the olivade was just yummy.

After much debate and mind changing I settled on ordering the Idaho Brook Trout with lemon caper butter and apple walnut salad. The hubby opted for the cassoulet, which is pork, lamb, sausages, and white beans. Both dishes were delicious, but I think mine was better. I don’t believe I ever had trout before, and despite it not being as fresh as Greg would like, it was wonderful. The lemon butter was subtle and the fish was so flavorful, probably because of the fresh herbs skewered down the middle of it. I was enjoying it terribly when I was struck by a horrible thought. I leaned over to my husband and said, “We came out for tonight and I’m having fish and a salad!” Yes, one of the staple combinations from our healthy home cooking. Of course, our stuff never tastes like this! My husband reassured me that the two cosmos and all the appetizers definitely undid any health value of my entrée.

To be on the safe side, I ordered the chocolate pate for dessert. Sometimes I’m a chocolate person, other times not, but tonight I was and my inner chocolate beast was merrily sated by this dessert. It was two slices of chocolate presented in the way you might present a pate. The chocolate was firm on your fork when you dipped into it, but light like a mousse in your mouth.

The Starr Place has all the makings of your new special night out. The restaurant is elegant, but comfortable, the host is smooth and efficient, the bartender is fantastic, and the chef has obviously got the mad skillz (as the kids would say). If you’re within a two hour radius of Rhinebeck, NY I recommend checking it out once it’s open. You can keep track of that by visiting: www.starrplace.com.






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