Johnny P and I declared it “Date Night” and, tired of a recent run of pizza, burgers and paninis, we headed north to Saratoga Springs to a venue that had only been open since May. The Braeburn Tavern was recommended by a dependable friend. According to its website, “ … Braeburn is run by a husband and wife team, chef/owner Scott Brankman and proprietor Emily Farnsworth-Brankman. Chef Scott’s seasonal menus specialize in American cuisine, drawing influences from his experiences in kitchens from Colorado to Boston to Southern California. Emily brings over 20 years of front-of-the-house experience to developing a creative drink menu and global wine list as well as managing a loyal team whose family-like dynamic provides uplifting service.”
The restaurant’s prime location on Broadway made parking a little tricky, but at 5 p.m. we were the only patrons in the booth-lined, long and narrow room that included about a dozen each stools at the bar, small tables and booths. Crystal chandeliers down the middle of the high ceilings dimly lit the room already subdued by dark wood and walls, providing an atmosphere of warmth and privacy.
Treatment of adult beverages is beyond the scope of these reviews, but I should at least mention one of the craft cocktails created by Farnsworth-Brankman: the Mount Marcy ($13), a new take on the Margarita (tequila, orange liqueur, mango, jalapeno, lime, rimmed with salt). In nontechnical terms, it was a taste thrill.
Competent server Becky delivered two warm rolls resembling miniature pillows with herbed butter.
The dinner menu (beginning at 5 p.m.) listed approximately a dozen appetizers ($8-$12). John zeroed in on the crab fritters with Braeburn apple slaw and Creole mustard vinaigrette ($12). Four deep-brown crusted fritters arrived in a neat little row atop the apple/cabbage slaw. Responding to a single bite, John exclaimed, “Wow, there’s more critter than fritter!” Indeed, each fritter was nearly all tender pink crabmeat inside.
My butternut squash soup ($8) with petite cubes of Braeburn apple and buckshot-sized maroon dried cranberries suspended on top was slightly sweet and thick without being creamy. Autumn in a bowl.
Two steak entrees were offered, flat iron ($20) and New York ($25). John chose the former. Besides preferring the seasoning of ginger soy, he felt a chef’s talent with a lesser cut of meat would reveal his skill. It did. The meat was tender, flavorful and despite the slightly uneven thickness, cooked to a perfect medium rare as requested.
When I was a kid, Mom served us swordfish because it was plentiful and inexpensive. Then, for a long time, it was unavailable in the market. Now, it is a delicacy. It was one of four seafood dishes offered: grilled scallops, bacon and corn risotto for $22; shrimp and grits with crispy pork belly, poached egg and kale for $18; and roasted cod, squash puree and wilted greens for $22.
The thinner cut of swordfish made it difficult to grill without overcooking, but the fresh mango avocado salsa restored the moistness. Perched on a platform of black beans and rice, it was a most agreeable dish.
“Dessert or coffee?” Becky inquired. “Do you serve espresso?” I asked. “Sorry, no,” Becky replied. But I was not disappointed. Both the regular and decaffeinated coffees ($2.50 per cup) were excellent. I have recently noticed a trend toward premium, organic coffees served in restaurants. Coffee at the end of the meal is no longer an after-thought, but rather an integral part of the dining experience.
Red velvet cake ($7), pumpkin pecan bread pudding ($8) and Braeburn apple crisp ($8) with vanilla ice cream were offered as desserts. It was a “when-in-Rome” choice — we shared the dessert made from the apples, which also lent their name to the tavern. It arrived hot out of the oven (“be careful of the dish,” warned to server) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream already melting over the crunchy topping of the crisp. We savored sharing this in-house dessert to warm us on a chilly evening in Saratoga.
Named after Braeburn Orchard, where it was first commercially grown, the Braeburn apple is a cultivar of apple discovered as a chance seedling in New Zealand in 1952. Firm with a red-orange vertical streaky appearance on a yellow-green background, their sweet and tart flavor are excellent for eating and for cooking because they do not get mushy. Commercially grown in New York, Braeburns store well when chilled.
WHERE: 390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; (518) 430-2002; [email protected]; www.braeburnsaratoga.com
WHEN: Mon.-Tue. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $74 for two people without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible, takeout, large party accommodations, private room, DEA and veteran discounts, street parking, all major credit cards accepted.