|View of the Bar From the Second Floor Balcony|
There are people who Know Barbecue, the sort of folks who get all huffy when anyone refers to grilling as barbecuing or, indeed, when anyone refers to anything as barbecue, short of a whole pig cooked in the ground, lovingly tended to from dusk to dawn by beer-fueled men. And then there are the rest of us who just eat barbecue and enjoy it. To be clear: I don't really Know Barbecue. But I grew up in the southern U.S. and I've eaten a fair amount of it -- enough to know what I like, at least.
As a casual enthusiast, I find The Cookhouse in New Milford wholly enjoyable. At recent dinners, the two-meat combo with ribs and pulled pork featured stellar pulled pork. The delineations are a little fuzzy, but I think these are considered a Kansas-City style preparation with a thick, sweet sauce on the side. The pulled pork, prepared from a shoulder cut, was tender, juicy and not overly fatty, with a bit of collagen remaining between some layers. Ribs -- meaty and nicely smoked -- came pre-slathered with sweet, just barely vinegary tomato-based sauce (Virginia-style?). They were falling off the bones, but not in that moist, fatty way you get from slow braising. I really enjoyed their tender-but-chewy texture, though I think I personally prefer having the sauce on the side. When meat is this delicious, you want to taste it in its unadulterated state.
Two Meat Combo with Ribs and Pulled Pork
Smoked duck, advertised as a newer menu offering, came with a meaty, generously sized leg and thigh in an orange-bourbon glaze -- essentially a variation of a duck a l'orange. Tender and juicy duck paired nicely with the well made orange glaze, studded with fresh orange zest.
French fries were gorgeously fried, with hardly any residual grease. It's not an overly exciting menu offering -- any diner or cafe will have it -- and there's no duck fat, bacon grease, rosemary, sea salt, or the like to fancy it up. But it is surprisingly rare to see fries prepared this well in a nice, hot fryer.
Horseradish mashed potatoes -- conceivably made from scratch -- were buttery and delicious with just a touch of horseradish. There wasn't much of a spicy kick, but the fragrance was there.
|Burrito with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, Slaw|
On the downside, a side of creamed spinach was not something I'd order again. It was overly thick with flour and more like a white gravy with a bit of incidental spinach than creamed spinach as I know it. The vegetable of the day always seems to be peas, blandly cooked from frozen and mixed with a few shreds of carrot. They're the kind of peas that make children hate vegetables: bland and starchy, designed for launching at your siblings or sneaking to your dog under the table.
|Full Rack of Ribs With Fries and Vegetable of the Day|
The servers ask you whether you want the bread basket at the beginning of the meal (a good policy that decreases waste). The correct answer is "yes." Yes, you do want the bread basket because it's wonderful. It comes with a few tiny, mini muffin-sized pieces of cornbread (Yankee-style and sweet); biscuits as fluffy and light as anything I've seen in the south; and lovely honey butter, which you'll want to eat, straight.
|Corn Muffins and Biscuits|
It's a child-friendly environment and the staff seems to be pretty used to young customers. (There's even a wall-mounted changing table in the bathroom, an unheard of amenity in NYC.) The servers and hostesses are personable, the food we've tried has for the most part been excellent. The carnivores of Connecticut have a lot to be happy about.
Baby-Friendly Rating: A+
31 Danbury Road
New Milford, CT 06776