Friday, April 19, 2013

New Kid in Town

While running errands the other day, I noticed the location of a favorite restaurant that closed a couple of years ago was sporting a new tenant. What was Harry & Jean's on Ironwood Blvd. in Canfield is now Whitefire Grille|Spirits. When my errands were complete, I treated myself to lunch.

The interior doesn't appear to have been changed from the Harry & Jean's configuration. There's a feel of understated elegance. It's not white tablecloth, but the tables have a dark wood finish that is quite lovely. The wait staff is attired in all black, with ankle-length white aprons.

When I sat down at my table, I noticed large wine glasses with the logo etched into one side. Nice. And then I saw the large wooden pepper grinder and the—are you kidding me?!—Morton's Sea Salt Shaker. I have that same shaker at home IN MY CUPBOARD. I pull it out to season my cooking. I do NOT place it on the table when serving a meal!! Not nice.

The feel of elegance continued when the menu arrived. This is a "scratch kitchen" and "chef-inspired". Of course, one has to pay for that elegance. Lunch entrées were in the $10-$15 range. I ordered the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, which is accompanied by a house salad. I asked for balsamic vinegar dressing, which my server, Kayleigh, stated was a white balsamic. The salad portion was generous, and the dressing was delicious. However, on Thursday at 12:30 with a not-packed house, I had to wait 15-20 minutes for my salad to arrive. Kayleigh apologized for the wait, but really, what does it take to quickly put a salad on a plate? You don't need the chef to do that task!

When the entrée arrived, I noticed that it was the standard oversized entrée, meaning I'd have half for lunch the next day. The lobster seemed a little chewy or rubbery to me, but I don't have lobster very often, so maybe that's how it's supposed to be. The mac/cheese was a little runny; there was a liquid at the bottom of the bowl. To me, that's a dish that's normally baked solid, or has a fairly solid consistency. Where did this liquid come from? The dish included fresh chopped tomatoes and pea pods, which were tasty and added a nice texture to the dish.

Kayleigh asked if she could bring a box for my leftovers. When she did, she had affixed a label to the front of the black styrofoam container. The label was marked with the name of the dish and the date it had been served. I love that practice, which I have only experienced once before, at Pomodori Italian Eatery on Hilton Head Island.

I wanted to try their desserts. Kayleigh had to recite the list to me and—of course—didn't give me any prices. I hate asking the prices—it makes me feel cheap. (I'm sure I'm not alone, and that restauranteurs take advantage of that idiosyncracy). Therefore I like being given a dessert menu so I can make an informed decision. Alas, there is no dessert menu. I chose the carrot cake, which has almonds, walnuts, and pecans—and a wonderful texture. It was a large portion, and cost $6.00. (Why is Cheddar's the only restaurant in town that offers a selection of small, inexpensive desserts?)

As I was finishing my meal, I asked Kayleigh if they were on "soft open". In my long wait for my salad, I was searching the Internet to view their website. I could find no website and no Facebook page, so thought maybe they hadn't had their grand opening yet. She told me that they opened four weeks ago. I expressed surprise about the lack of social media and Internet presence. She said the wait staff had all been telling the manager that they needed this and that they needed advertising. But the Whitefire management doesn't seem to think any of that is important.

Is this going to be yet another Youngstown-area restaurant that is doomed to failure? I hope not, but unless they change some of their habits and get their name out and their reputation secured, that's exactly what will happen.

By the way, on the label on the take-out container, their website URL was prominently listed. When I opened my iPhone's browser and navigated to that URL, I saw "This Page Is Under Construction - Coming Soon!" Not even a placeholder page with their logo and information. Nothing.

To the management: you can't make money if no one knows about you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Daffs Are Coming! the Daffs Are Coming!

I love daffodils. I don't love winter. I can endure a couple of months of cold weather, but after too many below-freezing days in a row, I start moaning and groaning and annoying everyone around me. But once the spring bulbs start picking their green shoots through the ground, I sense that I can make it through the cold; I can stand to don a coat for a few more days.

April 9 was the day. I was backing out of the driveway to head to my aqua exercise class at the gym when I saw them: three little daffodils adjacent to the basement window.

And every day since, a few more have popped up and out.

Yellow abounds. I will live through another winter!