It Ain't Easy Being Hungry

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but like most bloggers out there, I don’t receive any kind of payment for writing BHS. There is no fabulous editrix handing me the company card before sending me out to the newest four-star eatery in the state for a lavish meal, and no stipend for the gas used in the two and a half hour trek between my home and Watertown. While my blog does happen to be hosted on www.nnyorker.com  rather than on Blogspot or Wordpress, this is due to my fantastic cousin Becky’s generosity, not a business arrangement. I write BHS for the passion of it, because I love food and writing and wanted to smash them together into a delicious meatloaf of awesomeness. But sometimes, that puts a strain on ye olde Coach purse.
Compounding my cry of poverty this past weekend was Shawn’s current cold. He hasn’t felt well for the past week, so we hung out close to home all weekend, watching insane 4-hour disaster movies on SyFy and eating Chinese food. I could tell you about my twice-cooked pork, but it wouldn’t make for very compelling prose. What I do have to tell you about diverts from my usual love food, write nice things about it, philosophy, and brings us up to Monday night, which was also Big Hungry Melinda’s birthday.

We did a birthday happy hour for her at Lampy’s, in Endicott. Lampy’s is the sister restaruant to Number 5 in Binghamton, a restaurant of which I am most fond. But before last night, I had already had two bad experiences there – once, when Shawn and I tried to go there for dinner several years back on a weekday between Christmas and New Years, and the hostess actually laughed at us for not having a reservation before sending us away. Again, a year or so later, I ate there with a bunch of friends, was annoyed by our waitress, turned off by the roasted garlic/parmesan/EVOO/hot pepper goo she concocted for us, and absolutely grossed out by my chicken marsala, which was so overrun by heavy-handed use of rosemary, I couldn’t even eat it. But Melinda has told me good things about the lounge menu, and I was eager to give it another chance.

We actually had a really good time at our little happy hour. We sat in the bar, ordered a bunch of appys, which were pretty tasty, and shared some laughter and birthday gifts. We did notice that the bartender, who was waiting on our table, was a little distracted. She could not keep Derek’s drink order straight, and her time seemed to be monopolized by a very loud young woman and older man at the bar. And there was the weird bread concoction again, which I just do not get. The waitress actually has to pry the little cloves of roasted garlic out of the head, mash them all up table side, and mix them with parmesan, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and hot pepper flakes. Why? It’s a pleasing enough mixture, taste-wise, but it looks disgusting, and takes forever. I understand the intention of this ritual, but not the outcome, at all. It’s disruptive to the dining experience and the payoff isn’t all that great.

I ordered the arancini, which is Italian for orange, but in this case refers to little balls of risotto, wrapped around a cube of mozzarella, breaded and deep fried. They were good, but not great. Because mozzarella is such a mild cheese, I think you need to either punch up the flavor of the risotto or salt these to make them sing. I had them at the Hotel Hershey once and they were perfect, and Tony’s in Endicott had a fantastic version with spinach once as a special, but very often, they are a bit bland. Fortunately for these, the marinara served alongside was fresh, bright and savory.

See how they look like little oranges?

Rose chose the fried ravioli on the recommendation of our server. These were made, I believe, in won-ton skins, which is a cool, lighter twist from the ordinary pasta. I loved the pesto and roasted red pepper sauce upon which they were served.

Won ton of delicious

Melinda went for the appy special, which was a crab and artichoke dip. I think this was the winner of the table – creamy, mild, dotted with sweet grape tomatoes that burst in your mouth and added an incredible freshness to the earthy artichoke and rich crabmeat. It was served with crisp and golden bruschetta to scoop the soup dip into your gaping maw.

See the little tomatoes? Burst-y!

Derek got mussels, which were done in a beer sauce. I don’t like mussels, so I have nothing to share about them with you. But here’s what they looked like:

I don’t believe these are from Brussels

After a couple rounds of drinks and our appetizers, Rose and I departed so that Melinda and Derek could continue on with dinner and a birthday date night. Shortly after I arrived home, I received a text from Melinda informing me that they never did eat dinner, because the waitress forgot to put their order in (!!!), and they had to leave after about another half hour to make a prior engagement. I immediately asked if the bill was comped due to this blunder, compounded by her earlier preoccupation with other customers and issues with Derek’s drink order. It turns out, she removed two appetizers from the bill, but they had to pay for the rest. Now I’m sorry, but this is strike three for me. I have no idea how an establishment that is, on any level, associated with the excellence at Number 5, can justify service such as this. In a town this small, it only takes once for a person to be turned off to a restaurant, and I’ve given this one three chances to impress. And I’m not even all that hard to impress! Good service matters, and I just think Lampy’s is a little too full of itself to bother. I do believe they have a regular clientele, and maybe those regulars get all the niceties the staff has to offer – I don’t know. It’s hard for me to appreciate the idea of catering solely to your regulars, but maybe they’re basing their business model off Rao’s in NYC. I don’t know their life.

So that’s my story on Lampy’s. I really hate giving a bad review. I dislike food hatred so much, I repeatedly try foods I don’t like (ahem, asparagus, mussels, rosemary) in hopes my tastes will change and I can embrace them! I sincerely love food, and there is good food to be found here – but I can’t excuse multiple instances of bad service in this industry. I’m giving Lampy’s a 2 on the BHS scale and calling it a day.

Bonus shot of arancini insides

On the bright side of this distasteful post is this coming weekend, which will bring Shawn and me back to the bosom of the Northcountry! I’m hoping to shed my snark and take my Dad out for dinner someplace scrumptious, which I can then tell you all about next week. If you find my disdain for Lampy’s abhorrent and would like to offer your rebuttal, have at it in the comments, below. I would love someone to change my mind. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

Lampy's Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

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