Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Dinner at The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille

I grew up in New Hampshire, a place not exactly known for its culinary scene.  Since moving to San Francisco, let's just say that my standards have changed.  When I visit my family these days, I don't generally want to go out to eat, as their restaurants tend to disappoint.  Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, like the amazing first dinner I had at Home Hill Inn (although subsequent visits failed to impress), or the decent lunch we had at Republic Cafe.

But my sister has been talking about her favorite eating establishment, The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille, for ages.  It is located right down the street from her new house.  She raves about it constantly, and has been demanding that I go with her the next time I visited.  I didn't have my choice.  I expressed my skepticism, and my mother told me that she'd been skeptical as well, but that she recently went and had wonderful seafood, and, more importantly, fantastic dessert.

I looked at the website, and the menu wasn't that great sounding to me, all pub food.  But they did talk about using local produce, and listed their sources.  And like I said, I didn't have my choice.  We were going to "The Goose".

Since we were somewhat celebrating, my sister suggested that we order a bottle of wine.  They had a very short wine list, only 5 or so of each red and white, all available by the glass or by the bottle.  No bottles only list.  I asked about one of the wines, and the server said he had no idea, he didn't drink wine.  They obviously didn't have a sommelier.

But fine, we WERE at a "Brew Pub" after all, so wine obviously isn't their focus.  Since they do brew all their own beers, I hoped they'd have a cider, so I could just go that route, as I don't like beer.  But, no such luck.  So we got a few assorted glasses of wine, all $5.99 each, and all quite horrible.  The sauvignon blanc was sweet and unbalanced, the Malbec and Pinor Noir bitter.  I wouldn't get any of them again.  There is a reason they were so cheap.

The decor was rustic, all wooden tables and chairs.  Silverware was cafeteria grade thin, wrapped up in napkins, sealed with little paper rings.

Service was not good.  Our server was unable to answer most basic questions.  My mother has a shellfish allergy, so she asked what the "seafood stuffing" was on one dish, and he didn't know.  As I mentioned, he didn't know anything about the wine.  Our appetizers and appetizer plates were not cleared away before the mains arrived, even though we'd finished them far before the next round of food arrived.  No serving utensils were brought for any of the shared appetizers, including one that obviously required a spoon to dish out.  My father ordered a burger and fries, it arrived without ketchup.  The server did say he would return with ketchup, but it took at least 5 minutes for him to come back with the ketchup, during which time my father was unable to eat any of his meal, as he wanted the ketchup for both the burger and the fries, and they were then all cold by the time he got ketchup.  My mother and I ordered a dish to share, and of course, no share plate was brought.  When I asked for one, again, 5 minutes later, a single small appetizer plate was brought for one of us to try to use.  It wouldn't even fit a quarter of the dish, let alone half, and since only one was brought, it was assumed that one person would use the main plate.  When I mentioned my severe, life threatening allergy to watermelon, the server said that my dish did not contain watermelon.  I said "yes, but can you please let the kitchen know, since I see watermelon on the menu, and my allergy is very severe".  He didn't seem to care, nor grasp how it could matter since I didn't order a watermelon dish, and I'm skeptical that he told the kitchen anything.  My list could go on and on.

My family members who had visited before said this visit was disappointing. My sister, who had originally demanded that I order the "amazing mashed potatoes", refused to let me even try a bite when they arrived, because they were bad, and she didn't want me to have that impression of them.  Even the desserts, which I am much less of a snob about, were awful.  My family is, uh, known for our amazing dessert consumption, and our group of 5 couldn't even finish our 2 desserts.  We all took one bite of each, and even being crazy dessert lovers, didn't want to touch them after that.  Of course, no mention was made by the staff of why we didn't touch the desserts.

I honestly have zero desire to ever eat here again.  It doesn't matter how many times my family members go back and love it.  They won't be dragging me back.
Housemade Fried Zucchini with Marinara Sauce.  $6.99.
The appetizer menu was all what you'd expect from a pub, heavy and fried.  Not my style at all, so I went with my family's pick, since there was nothing I'd choose.

My sister has long raved about the fried zucchini.  Described as "Italian breaded and served with our marinara".  I was amused because it was the only appetizer that had "housemade" in its name.  Does that imply that the rest aren't actually made by the restaurant?

I expected zucchini sticks, but instead it was full slices of zucchini.  This was a pleasant surprise, as I actually do like zucchini and would be happy to taste it.  Unfortunately, even with full slices, I wasn't able to taste the zucchini through the breading.  All I could taste was oil.  So much oil.  So fried, so greasy, just really repulsive.  The breading did not stick to the zucchini, and slid off the moment you cut into it.  Did I mention that all you could taste was nasty oil?  Way, way over fried, and not drained.

The marinara sauce actually wasn't bad.  A bit sweet, a bit tangy.  Better than most jarred marinara.

$6.99 seems cheap for an appetizer in my world, but I think it is normal for around here.  I wouldn't eat this again.
Hot Artichoke Dip with Grilled Pita.  $7.99.
Next we moved on to my sister's other favorite appetizer, the hot artichoke dip.  Now, I do like a good dip.  This had potential.  Described as "artichoke, sundried tomato, and spinach cream cheese topped with shredded gouda".  Yes, "spinach cream cheese" was a single item listed, not quite sure what was up with that.

Anyway. It was delivered fresh and hot.  But the artichoke was not soft, it was hard, very off putting.  I didn't like this at all.  The only nice part was the slightly smoky flavor from the gouda.

$7.99 seemed a bit expensive compared to other apps, and I obviously wouldn't get this again.
Special: Fisherman's Platter (scallops, shrimp, haddock), coleslaw, sweet potato fries.  Tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, honey mustard.  
My mother and I both love seafood, so we decided to split one of the specials of the day, the Fisherman's Platter.

I knew this was going to be a big platter of fried, which again, isn't quite what I'd normally go for, but good fried seafood does have its place.  And if a pub can do anything good, it can be fish and chips.  We decided to go for the Fisherman's Platter instead of just the fish and chips, so we could get the scallops and shrimp in addition to the haddock.  And, because sweet potato fries are better than regular fries, we upgraded to sweet potato fries for an additional $2, particularly once my sister's boyfriend told us they were the best sweet potato fries he's ever had.

Let's start with the good.  He was right.  The sweet potato fries were REALLY good.  They were all large cut, super crispy on the outside, but creamy on the inside.  Fresh and hot.  Yes, fried, but not too greasy.  They really were good.  I like to have something to dip my sweet potato fries in, so when we ordered, we asked for honey mustard to go with it.  Of course our server forgot this, but he did bring it eventually.  The honey mustard was very sweet, a bit too sweet for what I really wanted with the sweet potato fries, but I still appreciated it.  I'm not sure how many of the fries my mom got, as we were supposed to be splitting, but I enjoyed them, and I'm pretty sure I had about 90% of them (a fact that I did indeed regret later).

Now, let's move on to the okay.  The fried haddock.  All the seafood was beer battered, I'm guessing using one of their own brews, although this fact was not touted anywhere.  Whenever I visit the east coast, one thing I love is the haddock, or Atlantic cod, as we don't get either in San Francisco.  And, fish and chips is a fantastic way to have it.  I figured it was best to pick something local and in line with classic pub food, in hopes that they'd do a better job with it, than say, the grilled salmon that was also on the menu.  I think this was a good move.  The haddock was ok.  It was pretty moist and tender inside.  It had too much breading however, and like the zucchini, was overly oily and fried.  But, by far the best of the seafood.  Our platter had one generous sized haddock filet.

At first glance, the other seafood on the plate seemed to all be shrimp.  Where were our scallops?  It turns out, the scallops were little bay scallops, and we just didn't see them at first.  The scallops and shrimp were both small size, and had way, way too much breading.  The small pieces of seafood were completely lost in the breading.  You didn't taste any seafood, just breading.  And more oil.  The haddock was the winner, because it was a larger filet, and so the ratio of breading to seafood was a bit better.  But none of this was worth getting again.

The platter was served with unremarkable tartar sauce and cocktail sauce.  Also a small container of classic coleslaw, heavily mayo-based, soggy, no real seasoning.

I didn't catch the price on this, as it was a special, but I'm guessing it was in the $20 range.  I wouldn't get any of the seafood again, but those sweet potato fries were actually tasty.
Apple Crisp a la mode.  $4.99.
Feeling pretty unsatisfied, but excited for dessert, we moved on.  My mom and sister insisted that the desserts were good.  And we all love dessert.  No offer of after dinner drinks was made, no coffee, no tea.  A single dessert menu was brought for our whole table, even though the restaurant was empty at this point, and they surely had more.

We asked for a recommendation, and the server told us the apple crisp.  So we got it.

Described as "homemade and served hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream".  Again, the only item on the dessert menu that said "homemade".  What does this imply about the other desserts?

The crisp didn't look horrible.  It had a scoop of vanilla ice cream AND some whipped cream.  It was hot.  I perked up.  Warm dessert and not needing to pick between whip and ice cream are both huge pluses.

But them my sister took the first bite, and looked up in disgust.  "Where are the apples?  This is just a bowl of oatmeal", she said.  I didn't think it could be that bad, so I dug in.  Indeed, she was right.  It was a bowl of oatmeal.  Certainly not a "crisp".  Very few apple slices.  My mother was away using the restroom when we tried it, so when she came back, we waited for her evaluation, without saying anything.  She took a bite, and immediately said, "this is just a bowl of mush".

Indeed, it was.  Mushy oatmeal.  With a few slices of apple.  NOT a crisp.  NOT good.  I actually gave it a few more tries, but really wish I hadn't.  The ice cream was generic, slightly icy, "vanilla" ice cream.  The whipped cream was clearly from a can.

Sure, $4.99 is cheap for a dessert, but this was truly one of the worst desserts I've ever had in a restaurant.  Maybe it is good that the others aren't homemade?
Pecan Pie a la mode.  $5.49.
Next we moved on to another classic, pecan pie.  It was offered warm or cold, and we opted for warm.  It didn't actually come warm, but that was the least of the problems.  The slice was also tiny, but, that didn't turn out to be a problem either.  Again, served with both ice cream and whip.

My sister moved on to this after pushing away the oatmeal crisp.  "THIS IS HORRIBLE!", she exclaimed.  "What is this?  This isn't crust!"

Again, I didn't think it could be that bad, but I was worried, as she loves "The Goose", and I haven't ever really seen her critique a dish before.

The crust was dried out, not buttery, not flaky, and well, just not good.  My mother thought it seemed more like philo dough than crust, but it definitely wasn't.  It was just bad pie crust.

The filling was mostly just a sweet layer, with a few pecans on top.  No pecans actually in the filling.  Again, my mom was gone when this arrived, so my sister and I each took a bite, thus each taking one of the very few pecans, so my mom was confused when she got back.  "Where are the pecans?", she asked.  She's lucky there weren't more.  They were burnt and bitter.

Nothing about this was good.  Not the crust.  Not the filling.  Not the nuts.  Price was again decent, $5.49, but none of us even ventured a second bite of this (except for me, I tried another piece of the crust, trying to identify what was up with it).
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