What Ya Got Cookin?

Eclectic, simple, homey: Arbor House in Talent is a dining destination for folks who appreciate fresh, family-style food prepared with care and served in an unpretensious, countrified atmosphere. The dining room is covered with framed photos of the Calhoun family and their friends, while the screened windows of the wood-paneled outdoor patio are adorned with clinging vines, giving you a choice of ambiance that foreshadows the unique experience that is to come. Pretension has no place among this well-worn and take-me-as-I-am restaurant, and accordingly, the Calhoun family gives a hospitable, down-to-earth welcome to its visitors, and makes sure you leave full of good food.

Browsing the unique calligraphy menu tapping my foot to “Settin’ the Woods On Fire,” I passed on Boeuf Stroganoff, Braised Lamb, and Rainbow Trout Almandine (among a few others), in favor of Vegetable Curry, while Linda (my now-regular accomplice) opted for the Jambalaya just as Rod Stewart tried (key word) his hand at lounge classics…quite the world tour of a menu. It’s a strange combination of dishes to be sure, but the continuity of Arbor House lies in its preparation and service.

For instance, all the entrees come with a biscuit, soup, salad, and garlic bread. We had a crisp, earthy Whole Wheat Biscuit with our Split Pea Soup that, although served in a shallow bowl, had great depth of flavor. I chose to upgrade to the night’s special Greek Salad (for $2) and was pleased with the herbacious dressing of the crunchy cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, feta, and abundant green olives. Linda’s Green Salad was fresh, and accompanied by three housemade dressings, including a Watermelon Vinaigrette. We were full at this point, but had braced ourselves for the coming entrees with impressive enthusiasm, when our server brought me a small dish of my curry sauce so that I could verify that the Spice Is Right, before they continued. Shortly thereafter, two giant oval plates appeared full of food: the fresh seafood, chicken, and veggies in the Jambalaya had soaked up the light and zesty tomato base, while my mildy sweet curry sauce had taken a liking to what appeared to be the entire vegetable garden! Both were served with a savory, herbed brown rice, a great textural compliment and a welcome reprieve from traditional rice pilaf.

I know I said that we were already satiated before the main course, but really we only had a few bites of them…and then we just had to get dessert. You understand, don’t you? Another server came out and told us that she had made them herself and then said the magic words: “Cheesecake” and “Strawberry Shortcake.” What could we do? We got one of each. And we did the right thing, I assure you. Smooth as satin, perfectly sweetened, with a mild shortbread cookie crust, the amazing Cheesecake was topped with sweet, juicy strawberries and freshly whipped cream. Uh-huh. On the neighboring plate those same berries and silky cream enveloped a buttery, crumbly shortcake. Now that is what I call a happy ending!

Your happily-ever-after is waiting in downtown Talent, at 103 W. Wagner. For questions, the Calhoun family can be reached at 535.6817. They currently accept cash and checks only, though they are working on being card-friendly. Entrees, including the accompaniments, are $17.95-$21.95. Wine, beer, and a fruit smoothie are available. À noter: You can get soup, salad, and bread for $8.95.

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