My opinions and insights about the products and services I've used may save you time and trouble before you make your next purchase or help you find that book, hotel or gadget that you've been hoping to find.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dante's Bistro Bar and Grill

I rank Dante's Bistro Bar and Grill at 567 Route 125 in Barrington, New Hampshire as one of the top Italian restaurants in New Hampshire. One of the primary reasons for this is attention to detail. Whether it is the food, the d├ęcor, or the service, everything is done to perfection.

The Menu

According to Dante's website, the recipes used in the restaurant were developed in ValCellina, Italy by the Meneguzzi family in their authentic Italian restaurant, The Spaghetti House of Montereale. For Italian food connoisseurs, that's in northeast Italy, not far from Venice. While I can't personally vouch for the Menguzzi family's Spaghetti House, I can say that the recipes certainly translate well to America.

Dante's Menu covers all the bases for an Italian restaurant: carbonara, puttanesco, all the parmagianos, gnocchi, pastas, pesto and the New England Italian favorite lobster ravioli. They also have filet Mignon and escargot. In all, the menu is broader than I am used to for an Italian restaurant, yet doesn't seem to have any weak dishes. Selecting one's meal would be difficult with so many excellent choices if not for the fact that it's nearly impossible to go wrong.

The pasta entrees are available in individual portions or family style and everything is made to order from ingredients that Dante's strives to acquire from local organic growers, including organically fed meat and fish from local farms.

Dante's even offers to accommodate special dietary needs including gluten-free meals. For the budget conscious, choose La Gondola: any three items from the broad antipasti menu as dinner for two for just $25.

Service

On my most recent trip, our waiter was Miles, his professionalism, like everything else at Dante's was impeccable. There's nothing that destroys the ambiance of a pleasant dinner like a waiter that interrupts the table conversation eight or ten times to ask if everything's OK, especially when I'm with someone whose company I enjoy as much as my wife's. You'd be surprised at how often that happens to me. It did not happen at Dante's. Miles was attentive, responsive and friendly without being obtrusive. At hand without being underfoot. Perfect.

Food Quality

I've eaten at Dante's several times, which is prima facie evidence that I like the quality of their food. On this occasion, we started with the Pizza Crudo a Mano and the Escargot. The escargot, cooked perfectly, was served in a truffle quattro formaggio (four cheese) sauce that was simply amazing. The deconstructed pizza with cherry peppers, Prosciutto di Parma and caprese ingredients was fresh and delicious. The presentation of these two dishes was obviously well-planned and elegant. Portions were generous for appetizers.

In addition to the regular menu, Dante's offers daily specials. On this day, that included an IPA battered haddock with Tuscan fries and cole slaw. The IPA's hoppy flavor was a pleasant compliment to the fish. Again, even for a dish as informal as fish and chips, the presentation was elegant and precise.

We also chose the Frutti di Mare. The tomato sauce was a delicate compliment to the seafood and pasta instead of dominating the dish. The seafood, including the calamari rings were cooked to tender perfection. We could not find a single fault with any dish we tried.

The Wines

Dante's offers a good selection of French, South American, Californian, and of course, Italian wines at a smaller mark-up than most other restaurants of similar quality. We had the Chianti, D.O.C.G. Gabbiano with dinner. We were disappointed that a dessert wine we had tried before at Dante's did not appear on the dessert menu this time. We mentioned our disappointment to Miles and he inquired for us and was able to locate a bottle of Alcyone, despite its absence from the menu. We each had a glass which was served slightly above room temperature to bring out its aromatic nature.

Alcyone, if you haven't tried it, is an absolutely marvelous Uruguayan wine made from the Tannat grape. It is sweet and full-bodied with the most delightful chocolate flavor and smell. This unique and little-known digestif (or digestivo in Italian) is almost worth the visit to Dante's by itself. As a dessert wine, it certainly puts the exclamation point on an excellent meal.

Outdoors

In warmer seasons, Dante's offers outdoor seating on a covered veranda. For those who prefer a bit of competition, there are Bocce courts and horseshoe pits. For others who may be bored waiting for certain members of the party to finish a match, there's a full spa and salon, Adagio, in the same building, owned by the same proprietors.

Perfect Date Night

For date night, I'll mention that there is also a movie theater, BarnZ's of Barrington, right across the street. Guys, you can't go wrong if you take your wife to Adagio for a couples massage, dinner at Dante's and a romantic comedy at BarnZ's Cinema.

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The author of this review has no material connection to Dante's, Adagio, or BarnZ's and received no compensation from them for writing this review.
 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: The World's Rarest Birds

Imagine holding a photo contest to get pictures for your upcoming book about rare birds and getting not just one, but several pictures of birds that have NEVER, ever appeared in a photo before. That's exactly what happened to the authors of the newly released "The World's Rarest Birds." Not only did photos submitted from around the world contain an unbelievable number of the world's rarest bird species, but the quality of the pictures received was incredible as well.

As a result, "The World's Rarest Birds" is a stunningly beautiful 360 page book with over 1000 photos and illustrations of rare birds species that we may never have the chance to see again.

Read my full review of "The World's Rarest Birds."