If you haven’t noticed, it smells like fall. Like leaves and soup and cider. I know hot meal weather when I smell it.
When I ended up at Cafe Nell last week for dinner, the menu reflected the weather quite deliciously. Pork, lamb and beef braises, butternut squash and lentils and hearty vegetables like kale, spinach and beet salad. The menu warmed my stomach long before the tastes filled my mouth.
I ordered the beet salad with blue cheese toast, bibb lettuce, walnuts and walnut vinaigrette, and for my entree I ofered the chef’s braise – braised beef with diced vegetables, toast and egg sunnyside up. It sounded as comforting and warm as a log cabin with a fireside and fleece blanket.
The surroundings at Cafe Nell are inviting and bright, newly old. The waiter was friendly and knowledgeable about the remodel and the menu. When I chose the braised beef, he told me how he was skeptical when he first saw it on the menu, but that now it was his favorite. He seemed sincere, and I believed him.
The beet salad arrived first. Beets are so festive and tangy, don’t you think? The walnuts were sweet and crispy and the juicy beets combined with the blue cheese toast was intriguing. It was the kind of salad that could have been an entire meal – filling and flavorful.
The braised beef was beautiful and homey, stew with sweet chunks of carrots, tender meat, over grilled toast (I could even see the grill marks on it!), with an egg right on top that spilled over into the stew, adding a creamy depth to beef. It had such complex flavor and was so satisfying.
Mmmm. My house is so cold – all I have to do is think about that braised beef and I feel all warm and tingly. I’ll be heading back to Cafe Nell soon to try their other dishes as the weather gets colder.