I was invited to Bolster, Snow & Co. at 747 Congress St. this week for a complimentary meal in return for an honest review. Having opened last month, it was on my list of places to go soon, and just a few weeks ago, we actually had reservations, but decided to stay in for the night instead. Needless to say, I was enthusiastic about my visit.
The restaurant, with dinner 6 nights a week and brunch on weekends, sits in The Francis, a newer 15-room hotel in the Mellen E. Bolster House – recently restored and now officially a historic building. From the outside, it exudes a character produced by many structures in the area, with high-end beauty and limitless charisma. The interior continues the experience, as the renovation preserved the original detail, creating a warm atmosphere with lounge areas, bar, and main dining room.
We were seated and began looking for a drink. Wines by the bottle or glass in addition to significant beer and cider options comprised the majority of the menu. However, the half dozen signature cocktails at the top demanded my attention. Amaretto, rum, gin, and vodka based libations were available and I chose the Honey Buck – Stroudwater Vodka, lemon juice, ginger syrup, honey ($12). Mrs. Portlandeater went with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc ($11).
When ordering drinks, we were told by our waitress that they ask for the entire food order at once. We got to deciding our full meal from the modest selection which had choices of snacks, apps, and entrees. I spotted a number of starter types that looked good and suggested ordering three snacks ($6 each or 3 for $15). My wife agreed and we chose Parsnip Chips – herbs, togarashi, Deviled Eggs – truffle, and Fried Pickles – chipotle aioli.
In addition to the snacks, I added an app to our starters, the Broccoli – almonds, herbs, lime, sesame seeds ($12). For our entrees, she went with Fettuccine – lobster, tomato, pickled finger chili, breadcrumb, basil ($33) – and I chose the Pappardelle – squash, radicchio, walnuts, bacon, sage ($23). I thought the order to be a good sampling of the available offerings.
Our drinks came out and I tried a sip of mine. Its flavors left me reeling. The citrus was strong with perfect sweetness and just a touch of the ginger. It was truly delicious. I had my wife take a swig and she confirmed, expressing some regret that she had ordered wine instead. I had to make a conscious decision not to drink it all in one fell swoop.
Bread and oil came out side-by-side with our broccoli. It was a salad along the lines of something you might expect at a Thai restaurant. Fresh and crunchy, the lime was most potent in every bite and I thought it to be brilliant. Citrus goes a long way in a salad and it created a powerful punch of flavor with the king of gorgeous green vegetables. The sesame added a follow-up of nutty goodness to it.
Following the broc, we received the snacks. I started with the deviled eggs, consuming half of my first one. As a connoisseur of the evil eggs, I know a good one when I taste one and these were magnificent. They were relatively traditional, but the truffle took them to another level and there was no shortage of that awesome flavor.
Fried pickles were provided as spears which I always find to be a brave play. Combined with the aioli, they were what I expected – quite tasty and a reminder of other similar local offerings that I enjoy. The parsnip chips were crispy and sweet. I didn’t get any of the togarashi or herbs, so I’m not sure if they were just too subtle or totally nonexistent, but the chips were still a suitable appetizer.
Entrees came out and, though we were a little full, we were ready to try another course. My pappardelle was creamy and dotted with the ingredients listed on the menu. There was a lot going on with many flavors coming together, different from the previous items we tried which were more focused on a killer ingredient or two. It had a little something for everyone – crunchy nuts and sweet squash were my favorite, but the bacon certainly didn’t hurt.
She worked on her pasta, the sauce for which was tomato based. I preferred mine, but she liked the fett which was a bit spicy and had a fair allotment of the sea’s greatest crustacean. Toward the end of the meal, we gave each other a knowing glance. The pasta was solid and its taste made a really good meal, but I was also particularly impressed with ribbons themselves. They were ultra fresh, tender, and satisfying.
All our food was done and we agreed to look at a dessert menu. There were three items and I was tempted by the cranberry eclair that we were “warned” was on the tart side, but I just didn’t think I could fit anymore in me. We passed up the opportunity for one last treat in favor of asking for the final tab. Our stay was coming to an end, but the thought of that eclair was left lingering in my brain.
After my first full meal at Bolster Snow, I was impressed. They offer bold flavors, shining combinations, and take some simple contemporary items and add just a touch of their own hand in them. Basic deviled eggs with truffle? A total winner. Broccoli salad with a hit of lime? Stunning. A vodka lemon cocktail with hints of honey and ginger? An easy-going-down concoction. Try them for drinks and snacks if you want, but I think you just might end up staying for dinner.
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