The Blackbird Cafe is one of the few restaurants in Canton, NY and are attempting to support local agriculture by purchasing local meats and produce when in season. If you go to their website (here) there is a list of what ingredients are local and where they are from. They have an eclectic menu featuring comfort foods with a twist to some Mediterranean favorites. They also feature an extensive beer list with many unique microbrews available, and there is always something interesting on tap if you prefer that option. Open Monday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner they are an interesting combination for coffee shop with the ability or order paninis and coffee for a quick bite and restaurant for a full sit down dinner. Almost a conflict of identity but it seems to work for them. To add in an additional component, they are definitely catering to the college crowd and have live music through their "concert series." They are definitely going for the eclectic/ethnic/worldly vibe.
Now, I've been there several times before, but like with all of these reviews, I am definitely trying to focus on the one visit that I am writing about. Certainly at the end of the review, I might comment on if this was "normal" for the restaurant or if I felt like there might be some irregularity in the experience.
Let us start out with service. My fiance and I made a last minute decision to go out for dinner on Friday night. I believe we arrived between 6:30 and 7 - definitely peak dinner hour. While the place was busy, we were quickly seated at a table and given menus and water glasses. It took a bit longer to hear the specials for the day, however, our drink order was not taken at that time. When we got the opportunity to order, we quickly found out that the regular menu was not as self explanatory as we were lead to believe when we discussed the specials with our waiter. My fiance attempted to order the chicken colorado - which they were out of; he then switched his order to the capanota with the local spicy italian sausage - and they were out of the sausage. Well, he was definitely craving some pasta but wanted the meat component as well, so asked if he could get a side of the fettuccine (I can see how this might be a hard option if they are making each serving of pasta to order and don't just have a big pile of it ready to serve). Again, this was not a possibility unless he was willing to order and entire entree. He settled on the pork chop Marsala and I ordered the falafel. We also agreed on the brie quesadilla from the tapas part of the menu (this is pretty much equivalent to appetizers, since there's not really enough variety to the tapas to make ordering a few of the tapas into a complete meal... if you're interested in tapas, hit up First Crush in Potsdam, I'm looking forward to another visit in order to write a review).
The brie quesadilla came out within a reasonable amount of time. The quesadilla is a combination of crisp apples, tender, earthy spinach and smooth and creamy brie. It is drizzled with a raspberry coulee, most of which I scraped off because while it added an interesting sweet note, the amount applied would be overpowering to the subtle taste of the brie. I wasn't expecting to like the combination so much, but the warm creamy and melting brie next to the cool and crisp apple was fantastic, and the whole wheat tortilla gave a nice crunch and texture to the otherwise softer contents. I also enjoy that it was whole wheat (better fiber) as it also contributes a nice nutty flavor. The spinach was mostly at the outer edge of the tortilla and was almost unexpected and a welcome change from the richness of the brie. While the spinach was cooked and wilted, it still added some fresh and green tenderness. I think if I were to order it again, I'd ask for the raspberry coulee on the side.
There was a significant wait between the appetizer and the entree, which was made slightly worse by the fact that the pork chop was delivered with an incorrect entree (which wasn't even the falafel done incorrectly, it was an entree for another table). We dove into the pork chop as I waited for the falafel, because we were anxious to try something (and didn't want it to get cold). Starting at the top of the pork chop, it was covered in a mushroom and onion medley that was obvious wonderfully sauteed in butter. I think I could have eaten an entire bowl of this alone. The mushrooms were earthy and tender, filling the mouth with richness and full of flavor. The onions were browned to sweet perfection, almost like a dry french onion soup. The pork chop was tender and juicy, but compared to the wonderful mushrooms on top and the mashed potatoes below, it's purpose was almost just a vehicle for the other flavors. It's true that pork is the other white meat, making it a perfect medium for other flavors, and this dish was certainly full of other flavors. The pork did add a meaty texture, and as my fiance likes to say (he picked this up form the food network): umami! Everything was moist and juicy with the marsala gravy and while I am not a gravy fan normally, this was silky and velvety, not heavy or dense. You can certainly tell it was finished with a magic ingredient of butter. Now we get to the mashed potatoes. They were wonderfully whipped, but not gummy or overworked. They were not quite smooth, which is nice to add that slight texture.
Within a 5-10 minutes, the second entree arrived. The falafel was fancier than expected. I was anticipating half a pita stuffed with a few falafel and the appropriate salad fixings stuffed inside with it. While certainly that presentation is a convenient package for eating this traditional middle eastern dish on the go, the presentation for this dish was much more upscale. 3 wonderful jewels of falafel on a tender flatbread and a small salad. I was surprised at the composition of the falafel. They were well seasoned, and you could tell not deep fried as many traditional ones are, making them less greasy. They were also different in texture - normally a falafel is a homogeneous texture of ground chick peas. These are slight heterogeneous with large chunks of chick pea present - I love being able to see and identify the ingredients I am eating. The falafel were warm and tender with the crisp and cool lettuce salad. The tzatziki sauce was on the side (I always get sauces on the side) and added a cool and creamy component. Definitely will get this again.
The Blackbird also has some wonderful desserts - we took some to go. A baklava for me and a vanilla cheesecake for my fiance. The baklava was excellent and the cheesecake rich and creamy with an intense vanilla flavor (almost like eating a vanilla bean).