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By Bernie Whitmore
Peppercorns Grille and Bar
455 Park Avenue, Worcester
Shortly after being seated in Peppercorns I looked up and noticed the brass coat hooks at the end of the booth. My thoughts slid briefly to winter as they do when I realize I’m hearing the last sounds of wind in leafy trees ~ or when I’m rummaging through coat pockets after a six month separation, wondering if I’ll find long-forgotten cash or gummed-up Sucrets. Fortunately, the glossy menu and its promise of comfort food snapped me out of this looming funk.
Peppercorns has all the seasons covered, so my friend and I discussed appetizers and pondered our drink orders. Our server, Tara, had a trainee assisting her ~ their service was flawless from the moment she recited the extensive list of draft beers. I chose a glass of Newcastle Brown Ale; my friend ordered Greg Norman Shiraz. Tara had them on the table in minutes.
Appetizers range from Asian to Italian to American with classics such as Buffalo Chicken and Stuffed Mushrooms. We shared an Artichoke & Spinach Dip served warm in a casserole dish surrounded by pita bread triangles. The artichokes had dissolved into a cheesy-rich sauce tinted green by flecks of chopped spinach – tasty dipping indeed! I’ve sampled this dish elsewhere served in similar style and I still think it might deserve more majestic treatment…might it attain the karmic splendor of the Blooming Onion if slathered between the leaves of a steamed jumbo artichoke?
When it comes to selecting an entrée, there’s a “clear and present danger” of getting lost in Peppercorns’ monster-menu of forty-plus meat, chicken, seafood and pasta selections. There’s an additional menu just for pizza…don’t even try to count the configurations! If you can’t find something that’s to your liking, you must be from some other planet.
My friend chose Grilled Black Angus Meatloaf. Here’s where Peppercorns delivered size ~ his plate was laden with two slabs of meatloaf shaped like Texas Toast ~ only bigger. The tops were crusty-brown with a rich concentration of spices and beef juices; a cup of marinara sauce for dipping offered another flavor dimension.
I went with one of the day’s specials, Baked Stuffed Haddock. A filet of fresh native haddock was layered with four-cheese filling and topped with beurre blanc sauce whisked with roasted pine nuts and diced sun-dried tomato. The melty cheese was at least an inch thick ~ undeniably decadent, but threatening to overwhelm the delicate nature of fresh haddock. So I banished it to a corner of the dish and thoroughly enjoyed the fish with its zesty topping. The teaming of pine nuts and sun-dried tomato was inspired, an implosion of summer and fall flavors.
Our entrees were served with whipped red bliss potatoes and a medley of sautéed cauliflower, peapods and summer squash.
After clearing our plates, Tara returned with the dessert tray. Although I was tempted by their fiendishly chocolate Decadence, my friend and I shared a wedge of Italian Lemon Cake. Mascarpone cheese made it Italian and moist; a thick layer of lemon cream made it refreshing.
Peppercorns Grille and Bar is part of a Worcester family enterprise. Their tradition of service, selection, quality and value is a passion that keeps them a leap ahead of the pack.