Recently we went on the prowl again for a good restaurant. We used a complex, methodical process to arrive at our choice -- we went downstairs to the bar in the Partridge Inn and asked Rick the bartender what he would recommend.
He suggested a small, intimate place known for its Mediterranean cuisine; upon further study, we learned the place had closed its doors to recover from the Masters. So we hailed a cab (every ride in Augusta Radio Cab is truly a unique experience) and, driven by a trainee barely old enough to see over the steering wheel, we headed to another small establishment also known for its Mediterranean cuisine.
"I salute the lusty appetites and powerful thirsts of my patrons, and I pledge to satisfy them with the bounty of my bar and the creations of my chef," says Colden Waller, owner of Cadwalladers.
With its awesome glass case filled with fine wines, its lavish fresh floral arrangements (tulips in the bathroom even) and its candlelight partitions setting the stage for a romantic evening, Cadwalladers, in a phrase, is the hot spot for hot dates for sophisticated couples. So, being basically romantics at heart (Tom, the original John Wayne, will never admit to this), we surrendered our senses to the restaurant's warm ambiance.
Tom: I think Julie has read one too any Victorian novels. I was far more interested in what we'd find for dinner and how dedicated a server we'd get.
Julie: Get a man's heart by way of the stomach. Certainly true with this one.
Tom: Anyway, Tina got us settled in, and, veteran server that she is, persuaded us to select a nice bottle of Merlot.
Julie: She really had to twist his arm -- what an Irish Catholic.
Tom: This from an Italian! So we began with appetizers. I took the sesame pepper shrimp, which was boldly presented on a large plate. Here, the food speaks for itself, not the advertising. The sesame-pepper aioli was lively yet not overbearing.
Julie: And I had the peachwood grilled Mediterranean pizza -- a tasty concoction of fresh vegetables and an assortment of cheeses (including feta, of course) on a light pita crust.
Tom: Next, the dinner.
Julie: Whoa -- back up! I have to put a word in here about the salads. Tom, ever addicted to his blue cheese (real bits of it, in this case), opted not to order the house salad, which was a fresh creation of assorted greens, mandarin oranges, yellow raisins and a sweet peppercorn dressing. It was delightful.
Tom: She'd never put words in my mouth. Anyway, for dinner I ordered the veal chop, cooked medium rare, which Tina understood perfectly. She knows her cook well. The veal was superb -- without a doubt, the best of our two entrees.
Julie: Or so you think! I had the pork medallions, sauteed with a sweet chutney barbecue sauce. Tender, succulently sweet. I ate every last bite -- wouldn't have traded it for anything.
Tom: Stop. that's not exactly true. The portions were generous, so Julie made it about halfway through her pork medallions and ate the rest for breakfast the next morning. (This is a woman who doesn't normally eat until well after noon -- so they must have been good.)
After dinner, our server, Tina, was closing out her checks so that she could go home to her son.
Julie: She showed us a picture -- cute as a button, 1 year old. One day a real troublemaker, like Tom.
Tom: Pascha, a college student majoring in mathematics, graciously stepped in to take care of us. When I asked about where my tip for Tina would go, she explained exuberantly the team spirit shared by the staff at Cadwalladers -- and the tip-pooling. If it were me, I certainly wouldn't go for it, but this is a small restaurant where everyone seems to be concerned about the satisfaction of the customers. You don't see that just anywhere.
Julie: For once, I agree. It is nice and unusual, but despite my democratic party line, I don't know how the servers can stand such a distribution of funds. Even so, Pascha was as attentive to our needs as Tina. She recommended that I try the Alpine chocolate cloud, along with the usual cup of cappuccino I order after a meal.
Tom: Heaven forbid we ever go to a Japanese restaurant -- don't know what'd she do without her cappuccino. And as for as dessert, I wasn't terribly impressed.
Julie: Here's where Tom's inexperience with sweets shines through. For the first time in a long while, I was actually able to make it all the way through the dessert. It was light, subtly sweet, and melted in the mouth. As I've tried to explain to Tom (without much success) you don't want a dessert to sink to your stomach like a ton of lead -- and you don't want it to be overwhelmingly sweet. As Pascha explained, the baker split but left his recipes behind -- thank heavens, because this creation achieved the delectable balance I just described.
Tom: Well then, I'll be the "heavy" here by wrapping this one up, saying that the only thing lacking was in the way of real, edible vegetables served with the entrees. Aside from this, I have to say we truly enjoyed our evening at Cadwalladers (and then waited 45 minutes for the wacky cab to pick us up).
Tom Curran and Julie Gates are the proprietors of Floyd Manor Inn in Blackville, S.C. They can be reached for questions or comments at (803) 284-3736.
Where:106 Davis Road, Martinez
Ratings: ***, atmosphere; ***, food; **** service and **** for Mize (the waitress' son).
Hours: 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Tuesday to Friday for lunch; 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for dinner.
Details: Visa, MasterCard and Amex accepted, smoking only at bar and live entertainment on weekends.