I got out of work early today, due to the excessive amount of overtime that I typically end up working. What with the incessant wind, clouds, and rain, I utilized these free daytime hours to shop a little bit before returning home to spend time with my pets. After many minutes lying in bed listening to This American Life with my puppies, I felt that it was time for me to make caramels. I’ve been wanting to try out (a slightly altered and corn-syrup free) David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Caramel recipe ever since stumbling across his website during my unfinished Marshmallow experiment about six weeks or so ago, but still being only half moved into the apartment downstairs I haven’t had the inclination or the uncluttered kitchen space to be able to follow up on either endeavor (the Marshmallows or the Caramels). I had made a corn syrup free variation on David Lebovitz’s Salted Peanut Caramel in chocolate cups about a week ago for a work event, and found myself itching to make more caramel (and to use the remainder of my $6 bottle of heavy sweet jersey cream). Who can blame me? It just looks so pretty and luscious, bubbling away on my gas stove-top… my crappy iPhone pictures that I take because i’m too lazy to find my real camera don’t do it justice.
So basically, on a whim, I made Salted Butter Caramels today. I changed a few things (substituted 1/3 C Agave Nectar for the 1/2 C corn syrup, didn’t measure the salt or extracts, grabbed and added almond extract by accident and added vanilla after the fact, tried to cut the caramels with to small a knife at first, etc), but overall they came out very well. I would still like a little more salt on top for balance (some of them are quite nicely salted, but as the salt on top is not completely uniform some are quite sweet). I made about 64 Candies, and hand-wrapped each one in a parchment paper square:
Anyways, moving on to dinner.
After spending an hour and a half diligently monitoring temperatures, stirring, watching, cutting, and hand-wrapping caramels, I took a break and decided I would pick a restaurant for tonight. After UrbanSpooning old favorites and new hopefuls on my iPhone, my boyfriend agreed to call Mother’s and see if they had Gnocchi on the menu tonight (for anyone who doesn’t know, Mother’s has no website, one small standard menu, and one larger menu of night-by-night specials). After short period of phone banter with a bartender who couldn’t really hear him and didn’t seem to know what Gnocchi was, my boyfriend found out that it was on the menu for tonight. Sold.
We toss on some more appropriate clothes, hop in the car and head over to Mother’s (it takes twice as long to find parking as it does to actually get there). We rush from our street parking through the brisk spring night up to the diminutive awning of a restaurant we haven’t been to in almost a year. We slip through the first and then the second of the two modest wooden doors that guard the interior climate from the fickle Buffalo weather, and I pull my boyfriend faster than his bulk will allow through the douchy bar crowd in the entry area until we weave our way to the Host/Hostess stanchion that divides the bar from the restaurant. After waiting five minutes or so for somebody to show up and notice us, they graciously and immediately seat us without reservations next to a brick divider that is oozing copious amounts of long-since dried mortar. I look over the nightly menu and an sad that I don’t see Gnocchi as an entree, but my boyfriend soon spots it as part of an appetizer and forces me to talk (in many less words than I do now) to our very nice waiter, Steve, about having the chef recreate my most favorite thing that I have ever eaten there: Gnocchi with a most delicate and perfectly balanced truffled mushroom cream sauce. I hate feeling like a nuisance at restaurants - It’s hard enough to be vegetarian - so I never make a specific request unless I know the owner or chef. Though he does not yet understand that vegetarian means I also don’t eat fish, Steve is happy to accommodate my wishes; he talks to the chef and gets him to agree to make me gnocchi with mushroom cream sauce. Right off the bat, I am a happy customer.
As an aside, I think the chef at Mother’s might have changed; we used to go there once every month or two, and coming back now after not having eaten there for quite a while I found the food (while perfectly lovely) to be slightly different than I remembered. Also to be mentioned? Their service has improved drastically over the last 4 years, and the attitude of the wait staff has gone from making the customer feel like an inconvenience to being (for the most part) humble and accommodating.
I order Mushroom Asparagus Soup and, thanks to the very kind chef, Gnocchi in Mushroom Cream sauce. Boyfriend got minestrone soup and the 14 oz steak special with asparagus (not mentioned in the description), mashed potatoes, and onion rings (which ended up being two rings on top of his fatty steak).
Overall, it was a great meal. I cleared my plate. My soup was creamy and asparagus-y, but I would have liked more mushroom flavor (in all honestly there were plenty of mushrooms, so I think that the mushrooms they have at the moment are just not especially mushroomy; I have had this soup here once before and had the issue that it was all mushroom and no asparagus, so it really comes down to balance during seasoning). My personal preference would be to have it be a creamy mushroom soup with a bunch of well seasoned steamed asparagus added to it just before serving. Were I to do it over again, I would have probably gotten the Minestrone which I found to be quite fresh and delicious. Moving on, my entree was most everything I wanted it to be: creamy, delicate, and well balanced. Some of my dumplings were a touch grainy (very slightly undercooked potato), but it wasn’t anything that ruined the dish for me. I wish that the chef had added just a touch more truffle salt to the cream sauce, because it could have really pushed that sauce over the edge to amazing. One thing that the chef added that I really appreciate though? PEAS! I love Peas! Especially with cream sauce and pasta dishes! Not enough people use peas.
Things I was disappointed to taste? In the last couple bites of gnocchi I ate, I got an uncharacteristic hit of acid from within the dumpling (I’m wondering if they use vinegar or another acid to keep the potato from turning brown during prep). It wasn’t expected and unnecessarily soured my palate. I was extremely disappointed to find that my boyfriend’s asparagus, which I normally commandeer, were undercooked (very slightly) and not seasoned whatsoever (as in, not a single grain of salt), so after a few bites of one stalk I could not eat any more of it. The mashed potatoes were a bit dry and lacking in fat. Each of these disappointments are all issues that I have never encountered with the food at Mother’s in the past.
Overall, I had a lovely dinner, I really like Mother’s, I think it’s a great restaurant, and I will continue to go there at random or for special occasions. I would like to see them work on having two veg-friendly dishes at all times, and I would like to see them cut the cost of full-price entrees when you order them without meat/fish (they have not done this in the past, but they did do this tonight). They also have a reasonable wine selection that I have yet to be disappointed by.
Additional: As much as I love dessert, I was too full to peruse their menu this time around; however, based on my past experiences at this restaurant the desserts are subpar and taste ‘imported’. If dessert is the real deal-breaker for you, I would go to Shango - they have top notch made-in-house desserts, amazing service, and great food (though the menu is limited). I rate Mother’s a three of four; I have been there a number of times, and would like to see them continue to improve consistency, menu selection, and service. Also? Get a webpage.