Blueprint American Bar and Grille
9 Village Square, Westminster
From the street, Blueprint was hardly welcoming. After passing the Westminster Cracker Factory, I scanned every business I passed till encountering Blueprint’s unlit street sign. Even after parking directly in front of the place, I was still unsure that I’d found it. But through the restaurant’s dark-tinted glass, I finally noticed football playing on a flat-panel TV, and ~ with an assist from a smoker banished outside in the cold drizzly night ~ my friend and I found our way to the front door and entered.
It wasn’t until Lauren, our server, passed us menus that reality started to come into focus ~ the reality that Blueprint American Bar and Grille might just be exceptional. Perhaps it was the Fig and Gorgonzola Flatbread Pizza, but soon I realized everything on this menu is intriguing. With football blazing on a half-dozen TVs, Blueprint has the decibel level of a sports bar, but the food and drink are of a much higher order.
Now, it’s one thing to print up a terrific menu, but execution is what really matters. This proved to be an evening of surprises, all of them pretty wonderful. Let’s start with drinks. When I asked Lauren about the draft selection, she directed my attention to an entire chalkboard wall divided into categories of brews ranging from craft to the standards.
Sensing that my amazement was tempered by the desire to make a quick decision, she asked, “What do you prefer?”
“An IPA,” I replied.
“Try Dogfish; 12- or 20-ounce?”
I’ve had Dogfish several times, and it’s always been a piece of beer heaven. It has a clean and crisp bitter flavor and deep amber color ~ totally refreshing after a day of working outside.
Lauren was even more helpful with my friend. When he mentioned how much he enjoyed Leinenkugel’s Shandy last summer, she recommended Leinenkugel’s winter offering ~ Snowdrift Vanilla Porter ~ and offered him a sample taste. In color, it was as dark as vanilla extract, and it balanced rich coffee, chocolate and caramel flavors with a scent of sweet vanilla.
And now, the food. When was the last time you saw Deviled Eggs on a menu? Blueprint has them, with eggs (from local hens) topped with chunks of lump crabmeat and a dab of truffle oil. The order of six was ideal for sharing and soon established the chef’s credentials for restraint and balance. The seemingly disparate flavors balanced harmoniously.
We continued with a Wedge Salad. This is not something I would normally order because I find iceberg lettuce so boring. But Blueprint’s Wedge was in a class of its own. Large creamy chunks of blue cheese from Great Hill Dairy, of Marion, contrasted with the crunch of pecan-smoked bacon and ripe heirloom tomatoes. And, of course, the perfectly crisp iceberg was topped with tangy buttermilk dressing. Each forkful was a study in contrasting flavors and textures.
There isn’t a single entrée on Blueprint’s menu that I would hesitate to order, but I had to make a decision and chose the Caribbean Jerk Pork Chop. This generously-sized chop’s afterburners were fired up with a tasty bit of heat countered by touch of orange-blossom honey. Sticks of grilled sweet potato came on the side, and the chop was topped with roasted corn and smoked green and red peppers.
It soon became apparent that Blueprint’s chef has a theme: one of adventurous flavor and texture contrasts presented attractively with flashes of color. The result: delicious and exciting cuisine.
This theme continued with my friend’s entrée of Pan-Seared Scallops. Six large scallops were served in a row over a bed of creamy risotto flavored with Meyer lemon, truffle oil and studded with tender asparagus tips. He raved, “The risotto is not overpowered by the lemon or the truffle oil … it’s a perfect blend of the sweetness of the seared scallops with truffle oil!” The forkful of rice I sampled had each of these flavors, plus an undercurrent rich in scallop flavor.
Even though Blueprint’s portions are generous and I’d had three courses, I just had to know about dessert. Lauren began to recite the list, but when she got to the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted-Caramel Gelato, it was all over. Decision made.
As it turned out, the caramel gelato was replaced by vanilla bean. But the real star was, of course, the chocolate cake. Each forkful was sticky and moist and as deep and dark as the devil’s hopyard. No matter what happens in the world, just keep making chocolate this dense and rich and all will be well.
Blueprint American Bar and Grille was an exciting discovery. And I haven’t even mentioned the craft cocktails, Asian Hotdogs or Coffee-crusted Fillet. And did I mention the service? Lauren was, in every way, engaging and adept.
Blueprint’s just down the road from Wachusett Mountain Ski Area; I have a feeling it’ll be this winter’s favorite destination. But why not light up the place, so we can find you?