Food Porn: Sample

Sample Restaurant in the heart of Allentown

I have been wanting to head to Sample for a dinner ever since learning about Chef Adam Goetz’s unique concept.  Chef Goetz, who is one of the Nickel City Chefs, turns out miniature versions of fine dining entrees and some of Buffalo’s favorites in his small, cozy restaurant in the heart of Allentown.  Local Restaurant week seemed to be the perfect time to head out to Sample.  To be honest, it was the concept that drew me to the restaurant more than anything, and the concept certainly didn’t disappoint.

Autumn Martini

I had heard by word of mouth that their martinis, which are made with homemade mixers, were fantastic.  I decided to start the meal off right with what they call the Autumn martini.  Its made with a spiced pear and apple puree, spiced rum and a dusting of cinnamon.  The martini was fantastic and would be perfect for a cool, fall day.  The pear and apple puree they use has a great roasted flavor and is thick with chunks of the fruit.  Couldn’t have started the meal in a better fashion.

For dinner, I chose Chef Goetz’s tasting menu, which happened to be the local restaurant week deal and was offered at a fantastic reduced price of $20.10 (normally $36!).  The tasting menu turned out to be a very large amount of food, and without a doubt could be split into two small dinners to accompany some cocktails.  The first course (of 6) was the cheese board.

1st course - Cheese Board

The three offerings on the cheese board were a goat cheese and caramelized onion panini (left), a provolone fondue (center), and house made ricotta topped with pineapple chutney(right).  The goat cheese and onion panini was my favorite sample of the first course.  It was extremely creamy and very flavorful.  The onions were very caramelized and sweet.  The fondue was pretty standard, but I wish the dippers they offered were a bit more creative than pieces of white bread.  The house made ricotta was a bit dry, but the chutney on top was very flavorful and made the first course overall a success.

The second course was the Mediterranean Plate.

Second Course - Mediterranean Plate

The Mediterranean Plate included warm pita (far left), pickled red onion (left center), spicy eggplant (left center), marinated bean salad (right center), olive tapenade (far right) and hummus (far right).  The warm pita and pickled red onion are pretty self explanatory and basically served as accompaniments to the rest of the course.  The spicy eggplant lacked spice and therefore is perhaps a bit misrepresented and the bean salad was fairly bland and covered in an olive oil dressing.  The hummus I would describe as very run of the mill (I think mine that I make at home is much better).  The absolute star of the second course was the olive tapenade.  It was extremely flavorful and salty (like a great tapenade should be).  I would have been happier if they left out everything on the plate except the pita and tapenade.

The third course was a sampling of soups.

Third Course - Four Soups

The soup course had four offerings, the french onion soup (far left), garbure soup (left center), chicken noodle soup (right center), and a mushroom ramen (far right).  The french onion soup lacked any soup.  It was bread bowl filled with onions and topped with cheese but lacked any broth and was fairly dry.  The garbure soup was my favorite of the four and contained pulled pork and roasted vegetables.  The pork was very moist and flavorful and almost had the melt in your mouth type of feel.  The chicken noodle soup had no noodles, but rather was a play on the soup and utilized the chicken as the noodles.  The chicken “logs” were very well seasoned and had a great salty flavor.  The broth however left a little to be desired.  The mushroom ramen had the most flavorful broth.  It was a light and refreshing soup.  My biggest problem with this course was that all four of my soups were luke warm at best.  Cool might actually be a better word to use.  I love soup of all kinds, but unless I’m eating a tasty gazpacho, I want my soup piping hot.

The fourth course was the first of two main course plates.

Course Four - Main Course #1

The fourth course contained three offerings, sausage/peppers/onions (left), poutine (center), and eggplant parmigiana (right).  This course as a whole was better than the previous two had been.  The sausage was spicy and blended great with the pepper and onion toppers.  The poutine was pretty standard (fries covered with gravy and cheese).  In my opinion, it would be very difficult to mess up fries smothered in gravy and cheese and this version did not disappoint.  The eggplant was a fried eggplant topped with a salsa mixture.  The salsa was served cold and took a little away from the tasty eggplant.

The fifth course was the second of two main courses.

Course Five - Main Course #2

The fifth course also had three offerings, fish ‘n chips (left), steak fritte (center), and beef on weck (right).  The star of this plate was the small take on fish ‘n chips.  The small piece of fish was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and served on top of a crispy potato chip and a bed of coleslaw.  All the flavors from the savory fish and potato chips and the creamy slaw blended fantastically together and made for a delicious bite.  The steak frite had a balsamic aoili that was great, but the steak itself was slightly overcooked and a bit tough and served a little cold.  The beef on weck was a tiny version of the Buffalo staple.  It was salty and tasty as always, but I have had a plethora of better beef on wecks.

The 6th and final course was the dessert trio.

Course 6 - Dessert Trio

I must admit, although I really enjoy dessert, I generally avoid having a big dessert after a large meal.  However, this dessert trio possibly saved the entire meal for me.  Two of the three were absolutely fantastic and the third wasn’t too shabby either.  The three offerings were a pineapple upside down cake (left), a creme brule’ (center), and rice pudding (left).  The creme brule’ was my least favorite of the three, which was surprising because its one of my favorite desserts.  It was a little over-caramelized on the top almost to the point of burned, but the custard underneath was excellent.  The pineapple cake was outstanding.  It was moist, sweet, and came with an extremely delicious raspberry sauce.  My favorite dessert was the rice pudding.  I usually enjoy rice pudding, but its not my go-to dessert.  Their version was the best I have ever had.  It was perfectly cooked rice, extremely creamy, and served with pine nuts for a bit of crunch and the perfect amount of honey to give it that hint of sweetness.

My favorite samples over the entire meal, and ones that I would recommend, would be the goat cheese and onion panini, the olive tapenade, the garbure soup, the fish ‘n chips, and the rice pudding.  All in all, it was a fun experience at Sample.  The cocktails and the concept were very exciting and made for a fun evening.  That being said, I think many of the samples are small versions of standard (sometimes at best) meals.  The fact that a few of my samples were served cold and without a ton of seasoning didn’t help the experience.  Was my meal worth the $20.10 that I paid for it, absolutely.  Would it be worth the full menu price…that remains to be determined.  On Tuesday and Wednesday they offer half price and buy-one-get-one entree samples.  If you are interested in giving this small meal concept a try, I would give it a whirl on one of the discount nights.  If a martini and a few bites of dessert is what your craving, then Sample is your place.

Cheers!
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One thought on “Food Porn: Sample

  1. I went to Sample during last year’s Restaurant Week… The small portions of food were so cute and I was surprised at how full I was afterwords. When I was there, the bartender made me a passion fruit martini that had cayenne peper in it…I loved the extra kick that the cayenne pepper gave to it. I’ll have to swing by there again some time soon.

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