After two visits to the Squeaky Bean (one last fall, for brunch, and one the weekend before Valentine’s Day, for dinner), I recommend it for artfully plated, flavorful food. But the middle-class Midwesterner still lurking in me complains that if you spend more than $50 per person, you ought to be stuffed. That’s not an easy thing to do at the Squeaky Bean unless you have money to burn.
We showed up at the Squeaky Bean at 5:30 (the only reservation we could get, unless we wanted to wait until 8), and the hostess bowed to me when I complimented her argyle tights. We sat at a small table by the window.
I ordered the Smoking Frenchman, consisting of Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10-year cognac, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur (fortified with cognac), Angostura bitters, lemon bitters, and a Talisker rinse (single-malt Scotch). It was sweet and smoky and strong. Todd ordered the Castelvetrano olives with Marcona almonds, and then we followed up with a small plate of pears and roquefort with walnuts and olive oil cake. The globule at the bottom is pear juice, which our waiter said the kitchen compressed by wrapping it in plastic (this during Plastic-Free February). The cheese was pungent, and firm slices of pears contrasted well with the cheese mousse and the pear juice.
After that, I felt the need for something hearty and asked for the No-Bake Shepherd’s Pie. Todd chose the seared Hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack). You can see the orange on top there, along with sliced fennel on top and a roasted leek on the bottom; the dish also included lentils and a tomato broth infused with proscuitto, which was poured into the bowl at the table. That was a nice touch.
Despite the variety of ingredients, Todd’s dinner was rather bland. Neither one of us could taste the ham in the tomato sauce.
The shepherd’s pie arrived, every bit as tasty as it looks here. The lamb, which included shoulder and roasted leg, ranged from lightly seared to well done, and I thought the latter was somewhat better. I was struck by the use of Chex in the little dollops of mashed potatoes (to look like eggs, I suppose) and by the pleasant saltiness of the sauce. Even so, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at its delicacy. I know chefs want to reinvent old standbys, and I thought this reinvention was lovely, but I wanted twice as much.
One of the things Squeaky Bean emphasizes on its website is the use of locally sourced ingredients, from its own garden or Aspen Moon Farms in Longmont. I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of this meal was local: the lamb, perhaps, and the veggies if grown in a greenhouse, but not the Hiramasa, certainly, or the pears or the oranges.
A truly local, seasonal menu would not offer nearly as much variety, of course, and given Americans’ expectation of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, a restaurant that stuck to seasonally available foods might not stay open for long.
Our desserts were plated as beautifully as everything else, and since we weren’t at the Cheesecake Factory, we didn’t expect to them to be massive. I chose the chocolate and blood orange three ways (I think someone is imitating D Bar, which frequently has “threeways” on its dessert menu), and Todd wanted the peanut butter.
Is it just me, or has blood orange been overused lately? The orange gelee on the chocolate mousse was pretty to look at, but its texture put me off, and I preferred the truffle without the candied fruit. The drink was my favorite, nut-flavored with an orange finish.
If “romantic dinner” means “cuddling” to you, then I wouldn’t recommend the Squeaky Bean, with its cafe atmosphere and tables spaced too close for truly intimate conversation. But if you want attentive service and food prepared with care and imagination, then grab a seat on the patio the next warm weekend day. Here’s the version of Pigs in a (crepe) Blanket I had last fall, with fig. Todd had a frittata.