Sunday, January 26, 2014

Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails - Cornelius

First things first, I'm going to go ahead and apologize because my pictures accompanying this post are pretty darn awful. I had a whole flash vs. no flash debacle and I realized (for probably the twentieth time) that most restaurants tend to be dimly lit and I really need to just use an actual camera (and not an iPhone) if I want to successfully capture any food and actually make it look edible. In sum, please be aware that all of this food looked 100 times better in real life and hopefully I've learned a lesson for next time.

I digress... On Monday evening, I drove up to the LKN area and went to Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails with BFTB and my parents to check out the restaurant's offerings for Queen's Feast (aka- Restaurant Week). In the past, I've been kind of disappointed with Restaurant Week. I don't know if I keep picking the wrong places to eat or what, but I usually leave feeling like either a) I ended up spending too much money (and isn't the point to not do that?) that I never would have spent otherwise, or b) the food and/or service (somewhat understandably) suffered as a result of the hordes of people opting to chow down in the same places within such a tight time period. My experience at Alton's, however, suffered from neither issue and was actually so positive that it made me hop back on the pro-Restaurant Week bandwagon. 

We arrived just in time for our 7:30 reservation and were seated within a few minutes (a coworker told me that her party waited almost an extra hour for their reservation the previous Saturday, so I'm definitely glad we opted to come on an off-peak day). Our exceptionally friendly server let us know that, since it was a Monday, bottles of wine under $70 were all half-price (this is also the case on Sundays). Cha-ching. We decided to drink the same Meiomi Pinot Noir that BFTB and I had discovered on our recent trip to Beef & Bottle, and everybody was pretty pleased with the selection. All four of us decided to order off the Restaurant Week menu, which included an appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert.

Top Left: Peninsula Nachos; Top Right: Lobster Bisque; Bottom: Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms
(Sorry again for the terrible, dark photography!)
For our appetizers, BFTB and my dad went with the Lobster Bisque, my mom selected the Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms, and I ordered the Peninsula Nachos. All three of the offerings were really tasty, but I most enjoyed the Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms -cheesy, beefy, and horseradish-y is always going to be a solid bet in my book, and these were no exception. The Lobster Bisque was also incredible, especially since the velvety, rich soup was served with a hunk of creamy mashed potatoes in the middle of the bowl (holy gluttony). While I enjoyed the Peninsula Nachos, especially the hunks of blue cheese and crispy kettle chips, they're definitely a better choice for sharing rather than single-handedly gorging oneself on as a personal appetizer.

Top Left: Whole Leaf Caesar Salad; Top Right: Winter Chopped Salad;
Bottom Left: Braised Colorado Lamb Shank; Bottom Right: Ribeye and Twice-Baked Potato

Next came our salads. BFTB and I had ordered the Winter Chopped Salad (wild greens, craisins, green apple, walnuts, and blue cheese crumbles, tossed in apple cider vinaigrette), while my parents went with the Whole Leaf Caesar Salad (crisp romaine, french bread croutons, and Parmesan cheese with traditional Caesar dressing). Both salads were giant and tasty (I especially liked the apple/walnut/blue cheese combo in my salad), but were not the highlight of anybody's meal (I should note, however, that it will be a sad, sad day when a salad is ever the highlight of my meal). 

Even though everybody was already reaching an uncomfortable level of stuffed-ness, we were all super excited when the entrees arrived. My dad and I ordered the Braised Colorado Lamb Shank while BFTB & my mom ordered Monday night's chef feature, a Grilled Ribeye Steak. The Ribeye (my favorite cut of beef, by the way) sounded awesome -it was topped with Worcestershire herb butter and served with a twice-baked potato (my favorite form of potato), but I just couldn't resist ordering the lamb. I've been on a real lamb bender recently, and the Shank didn't let me down. Since it was braised and served with Cabernet jus and carrots, the Lamb Shank kind of reminded me of an upscale stew. It was tender, salty, rich, and had great lamb-y flavor that worked well with the thick Cabernet jus (although it seemed more sauce-like than a typical jus to me). The Ribeye was just as delicious, and because it was a little less heavy (I am seriously saying that a butter-topped, heavily marbled piece of beef was the less heavy choice), it is probably what I would order if it pops back up on the Alton's menu in the future. The twice-baked potato was insanely garlicky, cheesy, and also really good, but I was glad that my entree was served with the simpler garlic roasted mashed potatoes, because the twice-baked version would definitely have been overwhelming in combination with the uber-flavorful Lamb Shank.

Top: Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich; Bottom: Warm Apple Walnut Cobbler

And then came the dessert. I would have thought that no human could possibly have had the requisite stomach real estate left to eat dessert after the massive amount of food we'd consumed at this point (and we were also on our second bottle of wine), but of course, we were all able to stuff our faces when the sweet stuffed arrived. I'm not crazy about cobblers, especially the nutty variety, so I'm not a good judge here, but both my mom and dad really enjoyed the cinnamon-y Warm Apple Walnut Cobbler. Although I only managed to eat about two bites of it, I also really liked the Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich. I don't think I'll feel the need to order it when it isn't part of a prix fixe menu situation, but it was a tasty, fudgy way to end the meal.

All in all, I honestly have zero complaints about our experience at Alton's. The food, wine, and service were all great and it was a really fun way to spend an evening with some of my favorite people. Despite the fact that it's almost 30 minutes away (and I really hate driving), I think that Alton's is worthy of a spot in my regular rotation of restaurants. For American food, Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails gets an insanely strong 9/10.

Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails on Urbanspoon

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