Cuisine With Claire: Delectable Dinner at Paul and Elizabeth's
By Claire Jen '10, Staff Writer
In my mind, the tip I leave at the end of the meal says everything about the restaurant’s product: the food, the service and the experience. While some may argue that my logic is flawed (and others may fallaciously and clumsily accuse me of tipping less, no names mentioned here), I have a to-the-penny scale I always stick to — always. Terrible service is always a kicker — no matter how good the food is, if the service is terrible, 10 percent, to the penny, with the occasional note explaining why (tipping is so much the American norm that I feel to not tip at all is an insult to the entire restaurant, rather than a slap on the wrist for the surly server). 15 percent for the average Joe: OK food, OK service. 18 percent? I’d go again, sometimes. 20 percent? A place I’d recommend to friends, praise in this column and remember after graduation. The following is a 20 percent plus.

Paul and Elizabeth’s in Northampton is one of the few places in the Valley where the real Paul and the real Elizabeth still own and operate the restaurant. In fact, their son, Nate, has also joined the family business. The place has created a menu of culinary delights sticking to their commitment to using whole, unprocessed (local, if possible) ingredients and accentuating natural tastes and flavors.

You can walk to Paul and Elizabeth’s via the second floor of Thorne’s market — or you can take the red spiral staircase next to Herrell’s ice cream and walk up to a beautiful, naturally lit, honey-colored room with high ceilings — that’s the whole restaurant.

Everything on the menu sounds deliciously fresh. They bake their own enormous whole-wheat rolls (fluffy and just slightly sweet, and only a dollar!) and make their own salad dressing (I’ve actually purchased entire bottles of their honey miso dressing to go) in the same kitchen that your meal will eventually come out of. There are some regulars on the menu, like their pan fried noodles (fat and just chewy enough) with scallions, carrots, zucchini, Chinese cabbage and broccoli (this dish is my personal favorite, the only home-style lo mein type of dish I’ve eaten at a restaurant that actually reminds me of home) and any of their tempura (Paul, Elizabeth and Nate were all trained by a Japanese chef, and many Asian influences can be seen in the menu).

The other half of their menu changes regularly, depending on the season and what’s growing. This is where their staff is the most helpful: explaining the different dishes, asking for your preferences before commenting on their personal favorites, etc. I’ve had a white fish over brown rice and some strange local vegetable, a beef dish over mashed potatoes (real potatoes, just garlic-y enough) with broccoli and a few others — all equally amazing and flavorful.

Finally, don’t forget dessert. While this menu also changes, they always serve some sort of pear-granola crumble topped with whipped cream (if you already thought Cool Whip was good, wait until you try this one) that is not overpoweringly sweet, and impossible to share; last time I went with Ansel Orr ’10, we had to get two.

Paul and Elizabeth’s menu is thoughtfully planned out: they do the whole thing organically and locally, but without sacrificing any of the taste. Personal favorite!

Issue 22, Submitted 2010-04-15 14:24:57