Restaurant Review: Fallen Gnome

By Veronique Bergeron

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In every life, a little gnome must fall. This was the feeling I had upon leaving the Happy Gnome, the famed Muddy Pigƒ?TMs asexually budded offspring, with somewhat mixed feelings. While the swine/dwarf nuptial arrangement may have been the stuff of dreams, the result is an extensive beer and wine list disguising a genetic fusion experiment still in the works.

An intimate friend recommended the Happy Gnome upon hearing that my dearest father would be treating the two of us to dinner one Friday night in January. He described it as the ƒ?oesober version of the Muddy Pig, with better food.ƒ?? Considering that I canƒ?TMt get enough of the big MPƒ?TMs el Cubano manwhich, not to mention that federal law has severed my god-given drinking privileges, I was thrilled. I was similarly happy to see that despite the Happy Gnomeƒ?TMs restaurant faAade, it managed to make enough money on booze alone to allow smoking. I am only a part-time smoker myself, but appreciate the designation in principle. Food, wine, coffee and cigarette: these (in combination with dirty love-making) are fundamental to human flourishing, and seeing a smoking section in the Happy Gnome made me feel a sort of philosophical kinship with the owners.

Understand this, reader: I am no curmudgeon. I will grant my elfin friend credit where indeed credit is due. One such area is in the ƒ?oepretentious fridgeƒ?? area, as I call it, namely, artisanal cheeses, meats, and a wine selection to boot. For beer lovers, there are Belgians out the wazoo: my companions ordered a lovely Belgian-style ale named La Fin Du Monde. French-Canadian beers like this one hold a special place in my heart, and I have to plug the fantastic Unibroue label, a brewery owned by a former Quebecois pop-idol whoƒ?TMs famous for singing a tragic ballad about a werewolf that drowns in a ground well. My lemonade, with apparently free refills, was also charming.

Since dinner was decidedly not on me, I splurged on a little pre-dinner salad. A mixed-green mAclange with a warm patty of goat cheese looked delicious two tables down. I was caught off guard, however, when my saladƒ?TMs delicate dairy nugget came wrapped in pecans (yum) and whole caraway seeds (hell, naw). Being a close-minded American with a limited degree of patience for offal meats, licorice, or heavy rye breads, I must admit that I despise caraway. I find it to be the most loathsome of spices, even ground. You can imagine my horror at having it lodged between my teeth. My intimate companion is of German ancestry, so heƒ?TMs a fan of the putrid pod, but even he agreed with me (for once) that there was far too much of this seed on the otherwise delicious salad.

I digress on such trifling matters, though: letƒ?TMs get to the beef of the business, or more appropriately, the bison. My intimate friend ordered the famed bison burger, which comes with bacon INSIDE THE PATTY. Vegetarians, I’m so sorry that youƒ?TMll never reach these heights of food pleasure, but I can assure you, two animals at once is as good as they say. The burger had a bit too much bun and mustard, and the wedge fries were too big to be tasty.

My dad opted for the cassoulet, also another hot and heavy meat-on-meat episode: duck confit, delicious sausage, and some beefy looking meatballs, all served on white beans. Cassoulet is a notoriously heavy dish, buttery, beanie, and always spicy. The Happy Gnome delivers: donƒ?TMt forget a doggy bag and Rolaids.

As for me, I ordered the special (apparently the third or fourth special in the entrAces that evening), a lasagna made with salami, gruyere, and goat cheese. Iƒ?TMm a heavy-duty salt and pepper-er (after all, the duo is famous for a reason) but I found my dinner perfect beyond personal spicing.

It was at this point in the meal that it dawned on me that we were dining in a very new establishment, and that while the base of the menu (a few well-chosen, not always well-executed entrAces) is certainly exceptional, the Happy Gnome seems to forget about the small things, ironic considering its elfin upbringings.

Our server was incredibly patient with my companions, though, even joining in on an exciting round of ƒ?oeName that tune,ƒ?? and was genuinely pleased to hear both our praise and criticism of our various dishes. Such a small, young restaurant always has the appeal of being elastic: you can be guaranteed that the next time you stop in, none of the above dishes will be available, or if they are, theyƒ?TMll only be better.

In one year from now, youƒ?TMll find me right back there, sampling the new additions and the edited oldies, drinking myself under the table, and praising that Happy Little Gnome being so small and unique, and so very flexible.