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Drinks and dinner at the new Cottage Inn

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COPENHAGEN — We’ve been looking forward to visiting the Cottage Inn in Copenhagen since a nice article appeared in the Times back in August.

Denise and David Young reopened the “inn” last summer. It’s a big old house that has been in Denise’s family for many years operating as a country bar and eatery on and off since the ’60s.

According to the article, the Youngs are not restaurateurs, but they seized the opportunity to “give it a try.” Their goal was to bring the Cottage back with “a new look and upscale food and wine.”

Upscale food and wine? I’m there!

Well, I’m not there yet. I called the phone number mentioned in the article and it was disconnected. No forwarding information was offered.

I tried searching on the Internet. Seems like most any business, especially a restaurant, would have a website these days.

Nothing.

Through a friend of a friend, I finally got a current phone number. Denise herself answered and was happy to email their menu and wine list to me.

But I’m not there yet.

Copenhagen is situated halfway between Watertown and Lowville on Route 12. I drove past the Cottage Inn twice before I realized what it was. I was looking for one of those classic old inns, not an old farmhouse with a big porch and neon beer signs in the window.

Don’t you put a sign up in front of your business when you open? Or if you have one, light it up at night? I didn’t see a sign anywhere.

We entered the barroom to a warm welcome from the woman who was to be our server. We took up a position at the clean and uncluttered bar that featured a wide spectrum of liquors and wines, showcasing the local Tug Hill Vineyard as well as selections from California, France, Italy and Australia.

It’s a pretty decent list with a great deal more variety than many north country bars offer their patrons, and at affordable prices, both by the glass and by the bottle.

Wines are opened, dated and suction-sealed to maintain freshness, then offered individually, or in “flights” for tasting and comparison purposes — a great way to introduce people to the pleasures wine can bring to a meal.

Our young bartender was helpful as we raised questions about the wines and the various pub food offerings on the menu. She took a hospitable interest in us.

We enjoyed two “house pours,” a CK Mondavi Willow Springs Unoaked Chardonnay from California ($4) and a Rosemont Traminer-Riesling from Australia ($4), pairing them with a stone-baked “Long Island” pizza ($14) lightly robed in an Alfredo sauce, imported cheeses, thinly sliced tomatoes and a thin crust.

The toppings were OK, but the crust could have been better. It looked just like those crusts you can buy from a restaurant supplier. Seems like trendy flatbreads would work better in a wine bar.

Panko popping shrimp ($7) kept us at the bar for another round. There was a generous number of small deep-fried panko-encrusted tail-off shrimp served with a flavorful sweet red chili dipping sauce. It seemed appropriate to just pick them up with your fingers, dip them in the sauce and pop them in your mouth.

We could have stayed at the bar all night (we were the only ones there) but decided to move on to the spacious, newly renovated and tastefully appointed dining room. It was a little chilly in the dining room, but our thoughtful server seated us next to a hot air register.

House-made clam chowder ($5 a bowl), described as “the real deal,” was packed with chunky clams and potatoes with a few diced carrots for color and flavor. The broth was milkier than creamier, we thought, with a gentle undertone of bacon to enrich the clam flavor.

Chicken pot pie ($10) sounded like perfect comfort food on a chilly early winter night. It contained chunks of chicken and potatoes with peas and carrots in a soupy broth. We would have liked it thicker, more like a stew, and it needed some help in the herb department (some fresh thyme would have been perfect). The pastry lid could have been cooked more to a golden brown as well.

Linguine alla (sic) Vodka ($12) made a good first impression, a mound of fresh pasta nicely plated with colorful accents from bits of fresh tomato and dried herbs.

But the sauce lacked in both flavor and volume. Described as “our rich, velvety house-made Vodka sauce,” it never made the translation from the menu to the actual dish. The dish ultimately was dry and quite tasteless.

Steak and Rings ($14) was billed as a flat iron steak with onion rings or French fries. We went with the fries.

The steak arrived with a piping hot biscuit, an out-of-season piece of corn on the cob and a pile of standard-issue, commercial crinkle-cut fries.

The sensibly-sized portion of meat lacked flavor — a little salt and pepper would have been all it needed. Then there’s the starchy, overcooked hunk of corn. And why put three starches on the plate?

Desserts got things back on track, for the most part.

The homemade apple pie ($6) was delicious in every way. The pastry crust was flaky and nicely browned; the apples were the right balance of tart and sweet, soft but still firm, invoking an overall impression: “This is great pie.”

Carrot cake ($5.50), likewise, was a successful rendition of a classic dessert. Noticeable shreds of carrot and chunks of pineapple all melded together with moist, rich, flavorful cake, were slathered in cream cheese frosting. Pure pleasure on a plate.

Cheesecake ($5) was not as “decadent” as described. It could have been cheesier and less sugary for our tastes.

Food for three came to $79.20 before tip.

Our server (the owner’s sister, as it turns out) was accommodating and eager to please.

The genuine hospitality of the Cottage Inn’s staff and the bar’s ambience would be reason enough for us to return. But the food doesn’t measure up. They’ve got to create a dining experience for people to relish and want to return to. There is promise here but a long way to go if the Cottage Inn hopes to attract patrons with discriminating palates.

P.S. The Cottage Inn is on a main snowmobile trail. You may want to stop and try a burger, wings or sandwich and enjoy a beverage from the bar.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.



The Cottage Inn

9794 Route 12

Copenhagen, N.Y.

688-3018



A wine bar with upscale pub food in a rural setting



HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

4 p.m. to midnight Friday

Noon to midnight Saturday

Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday



A thoughtful wine list showcasing the local Tug Hill Vineyard as well as selections from California, France, Italy and Australia.



Try one of their desserts—the homemade apple pie and carrot cake are excellent.



RATING: 3 forks

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