Thursday, May 14, 1998
Long on imagination, with expertise to back it up--that's the impression you're likely to come away with after experiencing Tarpy's Roadhouse. Whether you're strolling the lovingly tended grounds, studying the mouth-watering menus, or enlisting their brand of party-planning wizardry to pull off your next event, this joint is jumpin' with innovative ideas. All the better, they're ideas that work.
Part of the original Ryan Ranch Homestead, this rambling stone farm house was first transformed into a restaurant back in the '40s and known as Cademartori's. After several name changes and incarnations, the building sat empty for a couple of years before Tony Tollner and his restaurant group, Downtown Dining, came along to reawaken its somnolent charms. That was six years ago, and executive chef Michael Kimmel has been on board since the beginning, creating the kind of culinary framework for success that perfectly complements the abundant ambiance.
Kimmel readily admits that creating Tarpy's "Creative American Country" cuisine is the kind of work he loves. "I don't really ever get tired of it," he asserts. "Mondays I'm in meetings all day, but the rest of the week is all food. There's not really one thing that's my favorite; I love doing soups, sauces, butchery, desserts, all of it. Whether it's a blue-plate lunch special for six or seven bucks, or the prime filet in a balsamic port wine reduction for $30--my emphasis is always on quality, from using Black Angus New York strip to the best seafood and produce we can get."
Knowing good food is inherent to Kimmel's background. "My mom was a wonderful family cook. I spent many summers helping her put up preserves and beans and corn from the garden. My whole family would get in the kitchen and cook, including my grandfather, who would make fabulous big roasts and turkeys and oysters at Christmas time." It was going on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, however, that seriously aimed him toward the kitchen-and some renowned ones, at that.
"I went from the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, a huge 3,000-room hotel to SaraBeth's in Manhattan and then opened Mustang Grill a year later. Then, I answered an ad for a sous chef here at the Highlands Inn. By the time plans were starting for Tarpy's, it was just the right moment to get in," he explains. And by all accounts, it's been a good marriage, one that now includes Kimmel in the partnership.
Nothing seems to have been overlooked on Tarpy's menus (including the huge selection of choices from the catering department). Signature dishes like the grilled pork chop with bourbon-molasses glaze or classic meatloaf with marsala mushroom gravy take their places along with lots of interesting sides, like the spud sampler and sweet corn succotash. Chances are, too, that the luscious heirloom tomato on your plate might have just been picked off the vine out back.
What began with a few pots of herbs now surrounds the restaurant, terraced beds that boast year-round sachets of tarragon and lemon verbena, hedges of rosemary and sage and several kinds of thyme and mint. Edible flowers are harvested eight months out of the year and the summer yields bumper crops of tomatoes, eggplants and chiles.
It's this kind of enthusiasm for great food that distinguishes Tarpy's, and the proof is in the pudding.