Cindy and I recently celebrated our 14th anniversary with a meal at a place that we hadn't been to in quite some time, The Faithful Pilot Cafe in picturesque Le Claire, IA, just up the Mississippi River from Davenport (see map). Actually, I wanted to go there for my birthday in April, but Cindy sort of way-laid those plans when she organized a small surprise gathering. I was sort of upset we couldn't go to The Faithful Pilot that evening, but I was darn well set that we were going out there on our anniversary.
It had been a number of years since we were last at The Faithful Pilot. I don't know how long it had been, but it had been too long. The Faithful Pilot has been in business since 1991 when Steve and Nancy Rosetti first opened their doors. The Rosetti's strive to have some unique menu items, ones that are made fresh each day and with local ingredients when they can find them. Executive chef Robert Cook also contributes to some of the more interesting items on the daily menu. In addition to dinner served each evening, The Faithful Pilot also has a wonderful Sunday brunch they serve between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Faithful Pilot has garnered a number of great reviews over the years and was voted as both the Best Restaurant and Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the Quad Cities for 2009 by readers of the River Cities Reader. My buddy, Shawn Eldridge, who works at the Reader, definitely knows good food and he and I were talking about The Faithful Pilot one evening before we went there. He and his girlfriend, Kasey, just love the place.
The Rosetti's are also noted wine connoisseurs and own the Rosetti Wine Shop, which is sort of part of The Faithful Pilot. While there really isn't a retail store on the premises, the Rosetti's will deliver wine in the Quad City area, or you can make arrangements to pick up pre-ordered wine at the restaurant. The Rosetti's also host a number of wine tasting events at The Faithful Pilot where they pair wines with different courses of a meal. We've talked about doing that sometime.
It was a beautiful May evening when Cindy and I drove out to The Faithful Pilot. The restaurant is small and cozy with a number of old menus from famous restaurants on the walls, along with a number of paintings and other artwork. There's two dining areas - a front area as you walk in, and a back area that consists of seven booths and a small bar. We took a booth in the back area that afforded us a look out toward the Mississippi River.
Since it was our anniversary (Number 14), I wanted to do it up right. We both figured that we'd get seafood, so I took a gander at the wine list to see what kind of interesting white wines the Rosetti's had to choose from. After looking through the wine menu for a moment, one that caught my eye was the La Crema Chardonnay, a little winery from the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County in California. Most of the wines we've ever had from the Russian River Valley have been excellent. I'd never had the La Crema before, so I took a chance. It was light, yet with a complex fruity aroma and taste. It would go extremely well with our seafood.
For our main entrees, Cindy ordered the grilled salmon served on a bed of olive oil-infused mashed potatoes with sauteed spinach and an anchovy-rosemary cream sauce. She also ordered a mixed green salad with The Faithful Pilot's homemade creamy garlic dressing. I, on the other hand, was sort of torn as what to get.
Although I initially wanted fish, I was torn between the grilled Iowa pork chop served with fingerling potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and fried sage leaves. I hadn't had pork for a long time and that sounded great. What also sounded great was the grilled sirloin in a smoked gouda cheese sauce, also served with fingerling potatoes and a medley of fresh vegetables they'd acquired at a local farmer's market.
But, still being on the diet I went with the swordfish that is first marinated in citrus juice, then grilled medium-rare. It was laid on a bed of finely mashed cauliflower and served with five asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto. It sounded wonderful. I also got a salad, however I had mine with the creamy Maytag Blue Cheese dressing that's made in house.
Cindy's garlic dressing was unbelievably strong. I had to have a bite of it just to be able to stand to be around her later that evening. But the creamy Maytag Blue Cheese dressing was excellent, as well. Sometimes the blue cheese can be a little overpowering, but the dressing was far from that.
Not long after we finished up our salads, our entrees showed up at the table. Cindy's salmon filet wasn't all that big, but it was adequate. She said, "This is the perfect size. Any larger and I don't know if I could finish it."
And my swordfish filet was a little bigger and a little more thick. While I've had tuna medium-rare before, I'd never had swordfish cooked that way. Sometimes if the fish isn't all the fresh, you get sort of a fishy taste to it. Well, I certainly didn't get that with my swordfish at The Faithful Pilot. It was very good and had a great taste to it.
Our waitress that evening was on top of the ball, skillfully maneuvering between a couple other booths and our table. She made sure that our wine glasses weren't too low and she was making sure that we were fully taken care of.
Our food reminded us of why we used to go to The Faithful Pilot on a regular basis a number of years ago. Cindy said, "It's been too long for us since we've been here and we've forgotten how good this is." She couldn't have said it any better.
After we finished our dinner, our waitress was clearing our plates. She said, "Did you save room for dessert?" She rattled off a couple three things before Cindy stopped her when she mentioned the tiramisu. Cindy said, "Is the tiramisu homemade?"
The waitress said, "It's made fresh every day."
Cindy glanced at me and said, "We'll take that and bring a couple forks."
I've turned into somewhat of a tiramisu snob over the years. I can usually tell the good ones from the bad ones just by looking at what they've brought me. Actually, it's been one of the toughest things to give up during my diet. But it had been quite some time since I'd had a piece of tiramisu that I thought one piece wouldn't hurt me.
And, once again, I'm glad Cindy had the waitress bring one out to us. It was delicious. It was moist, but not soggy. It had a nice little coffee flavor, but wasn't overpowering. I said to Cindy, "This is homemade? This rivals anything I've ever had even in great Italian restaurants." It was very, very good.
All in all, our anniversary dinner at The Faithful Pilot was an absolute hit. We were full, but not gorged. The food was excellent, the service was wonderful and the wine was outstanding. The Faithful Pilot isn't cheap, but for a special occasion or for a birthday dinner it's highly recommended. It's a little bit of a drive to Le Claire from anywhere, but The Faithful Pilot is worth it. And we hope it won't be quite so long before we make a return trip to the restaurant.