Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grafton Edition: Gourmet Express

I have never been "to" Grafton until recently. Maybe I've been "through" Grafton, but it was never intentional. In fact, I wasn't even sure how to get there.

For those taking note - if you keep driving back behind the "other" Walmart (instead of getting on the highway), you run right into it.

I happened to be coming home from Princeton when a friend, who will be moving out of the state very soon, asked me to meet up for dinner. Dinner in Grafton sounded as though it could pose a threat of difficulty. According to a few friends, though, Gourmet Express is a hidden gem.

Hidden is right - it's not exactly easy to spot this restaurant. It's essentially a two-story house at 1216 W Main Street in Grafton. There is a small sign signaling passers-by, as well as a small parking lot for patrons. It's hidden in plain sight.

When we walked in, the first thing I noticed was a smell - a good one. It was like a sweet, soft smell. Like I just walked in a fresh meadow. It may also be because I had just walked inside from the humid temperatures, and I smelled like sweat.

As soon as you walk in, there's a counter. The woman behind asked us if we'd like the lower or the upper floor. We decided to just stick the ground floor - mostly because I didn't want to make the poor woman run up and down the stairs for us. Surprisingly, it was fairly busy. There were only a handful of places to sit, plus the counter, and about half were taken up.


Our table had a small flower, and the interior had a girly country feel. Our server brought us some menus and took our drink orders. You definitely get that down-home, southern hospitality feel here. She explained all of their specials right up front (which were also written on the chalkboard, which is nice, so you can refer to them afterward) and gave us some time to look over the menu.

I couldn't get over one of their specials, though, the "portabeller rockefeller" (see what they did there?). Its description was "spinach and cream cheese, shrimp and scallops, grilled potato cake for $14.99. It was probably the most expensive item on their menu - but eesh, it sounded so good! I know Rockefeller (like Oysters Rockefeller) is so '70s, but I wasn't around then to experience the greatness.

It also came with a salad - basic iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese, couple tomatoes and croutons (I love croutons). I asked for French dressing - this was that orangey kind, as opposed to the Catalina red kind, but it was still OK nonetheless. I ate the good parts out of it and discarded the boring lettuce stock pieces.

Soon after, we were handed some fresh bread. I usually ignore the bread because it's just filler, but this was tasty! It was almost sweet. It wasn't plain, boring. It was fresh, flavorful, slightly sweet. Yum. And before I knew it, our main entrees were out.

A giant portabello cap stuffed with cream cheese and spinach was lightly baked with breadcrumbs on top. A couple small scallops and shrimp were sprinkled around the mushroom, and soaking in a thick, creamy cheese sauce. The scallops and shrimp were much better than I was expecting - who knew the seafood would be decent in Grafton, WV? No, it's clearly not straight from the ocean, but it's probably as close as any of us are going to get.

The mixture inside the mushroom was heavy on the cream cheese, less on the spinach. Rich and delicious. I used this as an opportunity to bring in a starchy, heavy base in my potato pancake. Seriously, positioning these two together is like a culinary heaven. If I had one or the other, I'd complain about the balance. They complement each other perfectly. The pancake was lightly fried, but thick and pillowy and delicious.

So each bite went: Small piece of seafood, chunk of mushroom, scoop of cheese mixture with a dollop of potato pancake. Yum! I sopped up any leftover sauce with my breadsticks and left that place one happy, carb-filled camper.

They had dessert - fresh-baked apple and sweet potato pies. But I was trying to watch my wallet. My total came out to be around $15. Worth. Every. Penny.

Grade: A
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