[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
December 19 - 26, 1997
[Food Reviews]
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Cocke 'n Kettle

A Blackstone Valley fixture still passes muster after all these years

by Jim Johnson

Cocke 'n Kettle, Route 122, Uxbridge
Tues.-Fri. 4-9 p.m.
Sat. 5-10 p.m. (or "when the last person's served")
Sun. 1-9 p.m.
Full bar
Major credit cards
Restrooms not handicap accessible

When I thought about the ideal place to invite Rhode Island-based relatives, the Cocke 'n Kettle immediately came to mind. The Uxbridge restaurant has been a Worcester County fixture for years, attracting families and couples (especially older ones) from both sides of the nearby Rhode Island border. I'd dined there a few years ago and knew that we could look forward to a relaxed evening of fine dining at a reasonable price.

The Cocke 'n Kettle has grown around a Georgian-style homestead dating back to the early 1800s. Although much of the old mansion is masked by dropped ceilings, paneling, and carpeting, its historic character persists, especially in the main dining room with its dark wood beams and four working fireplaces.

As we studied the menu, we nibbled on crackers accompanied by an herbed cheese dip and a small crock of red beans mixed with a creamy relish of onions, garlic, and cayenne. During my earlier visits, servers came by almost constantly with baskets of light and fluffy popovers and trays of corn fritters flavored with honey and dusted with confectioners' sugar. This time, they didn't arrive until later, and I wondered if the restaurant had stopped the custom. As a result, we over-ordered on the appetizer front.

Not that I heard any complaining.

The escargots ($5.45) had been stuffed into fresh mushroom caps and drenched in a garlic-laden, herbed butter sauce. We soaked up any remnants with a loaf of bread served on a cutting board.

Fresh mozzarella ($5.95) was silky and fresh, served in a floral pattern with petals of basil leaves and sliced cherry tomatoes. The baked stuffed clams casino ($5.95) tasted as if they'd been shucked and stuffed moments earlier. The bread stuffing was moistened with broth instead of the more typical butter, leaving a more enhanced, natural flavor.

Finally, the fresh lobster bisque ($4.75) was a rich reduction of lobster broth and cream, with plenty of lobster bits and more sherry than usual. The solid lobster flavor more than stood up to the liquor, making for a brilliant complement of pungent wine and rich seafood.

About half of the menu consisted of steaks, chops, and veal. Meat-eaters will enjoy the choice of rack of lamb ($19.45 for one person, $37 for two), a one-pound broiled sirloin steak ($17.95), veal parmesan ($13.45), and petite filet mignon ($13.95). Seafood choices included broiled swordfish ($17.95), fried scallops ($14.95), broiled Norwegian salmon ($13.95), and jumbo shrimp ($16.45) stuffed with lobster and crabmeat with a splash of sherry. Of the cocke variety, there was a choice of chicken cordon bleu ($11.95), chicken parmigiana ($11.95), and broiled chicken breast ($10.95).

The Cocke 'n Kettle also offers nightly specials, as well as three complete dinners with salad, pasta, dessert, and beverage for under $10. The evening of our visit, choices included tenderloin tips, baked haddock, and stuffed chicken breast.

Three of our party had placed their orders before I asked if there were any specials. After our server belatedly read her lengthy list, I shifted to veal chop saltimbocca ($14.95).

Many menu choices are marked with asterisks to note that smaller portions are available at half-price for children. Our server mentioned that, noting the 10-year-old sitting across from me. Undaunted, the youngster ordered the most monstrous item of the four of us. At least he ordered the queen cut of prime rib ($15.75). If heredity plays any role in his life, he'll be ordering king cuts in no time.

Lest he become ill from such a large portion, I offered to help. He'd ordered medium rare, and that was exactly what he got. Juices oozed from the pink meat that had a minimal fat other than a good balance of marbling. He barely needed his knife to cut off a large chunk from the bone. It was as tender and moist as it looked.

The veal francaise ($13.95) was equally good, three tender medallions pounded thin, dredged in a slightly eggy breading, and sautéed with capers and lemon butter. Likewise, the broiled brook trout ($13.95), split into a butterflied, boned filet, was superb, though the broiling involved more butter than expected. A topping of lobster and crabmeat was an added bonus.

The veal chop was at least two inches thick, served in a thick demi-glace with mushrooms and a bed of spinach, both ingredients added pungent intrigue.

With so much food on the table, our youngest tablemate made an accurate and humorous observation: "This is just like a buffet, but you don't have to get up!" Indeed, our table did resemble a buffet, due in part to the strolling fritter-and-popover woman and in greater part to the appetizer dishes remaining far too long into our entree course.

Somehow, we found room for dessert: a heavenly eggy creme brulee browned to crispy, caramelized perfection; a monstrous ice-cream puff; and chocolate mousse served in edible Godiva chocolate shells. We spent about $22 per person but could easily have shaved it to $17 or so.

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