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Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special: Spicing up food and life at the Rendezvous

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Marlene Lavelle slices seared tuna fo the Rendezvous' Spicy Tuna Taco.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Marlene Lavelle slices seared tuna fo the Rendezvous' Spicy Tuna Taco.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Spicy Tuna Taco at The Rendezvous

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Spicy Tuna Taco at The Rendezvous

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Marlene Lavelle slices seared tuna fo the Rendezvous' Spicy Tuna Taco.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Spicy Tuna Taco at The Rendezvous

The Rendezvous is steeped in history. In the late 19th century this neighborhood bar on Third Street in Turners Falls began the first of many incarnations.

“It has a history as a jazz club in the ’40s and a speakeasy in the ’20s,” said co-owner Chris Janke of his domain.

“We are just the latest generation.”

He and his partners took over and renovated the building in 2007, adding a kitchen but paying tribute to the history of the “Voo,” as it is called, by re-hanging the bar’s former murals on the walls and keeping as many pieces of furniture as they could.

They assembled additional used and antique furnishings into an eclectic blend. Some of the booths are made from old church pews; some of the table tops are sections of reclaimed bowling lanes.

The term “eclectic blend” appeals to non-physical features of the Rendezvous as well. The menu includes nibbles for serious drinkers, entrees, sandwiches, soups and salads.

Many of the dishes combine unexpected ingredients for maximum flavor, including the signature Voo Burger. This specially blended hamburger is topped with a thyme-and-olive oil aioli, chorizo, smoked cheddar cheese, and asparagus.

The entertainment that is one of the most popular features of the Rendezvous is also varied.

“We’ve got live music between two and three days a week,” explained Janke. “We’ve got zombie punk shows and jazz shows and blues shows and bluegrass shows. A little bit of everything.”

Above all, the eclectic blend includes the patrons of the pub.

“We really work very hard at serving a broad cross-section of people,” Janke noted. “We’ve got regulars who are in their 20s and regulars who are in their 70s. We’re proud of that. We like being a place for everyone.”

He admitted that despite the history of the Voo not everyone is aware of the building’s current incarnation as an eatery with music as well as a bar.

“Sometimes people are surprised to learn that we have food. And sometimes people are surprised to learn that we’re not a biker bar where people get beat up!”

“We have lots of families,” he added. “It’s a casual, nice dining experience that’s a little bit new ... but not scary. We like to think of ourselves as a friendly neighborhood pub. One of our slogans is ‘where comfort meets adventure.’ ”

The Rendezvous is open just about every day, closing some years (but not all) for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Janke and his colleagues enjoy participating in the current Turners Falls Renaissance.

“We’re a very tiny downtown,” he said. “We’re part of the creative energy, people who appreciate a small walkable downtown where you can get everything you need. The town encourages a little bit of creative experimentation.”

Marlene Lavelle, the Voo’s kitchen manager, is reflecting that spirit of experimentation as she retools the menu. Although she has worked at a number of area restaurants, including the People’s Pint, Café Koko, and Bottle of Bread, the gig at the Rendezvous is her first as head cook.

e_SDLqIt’s definitely challenging to be in charge of other people, but it’s a good thing to learn,” she says, adding that she is enjoying experimenting with new menu items.

The tuna recipe she shared with readers of The Recorder is part of the new menu ... and one of Chris Janke’s favorite things to eat at the Rendezvous.

THE RENDEZVOUS’S

SPICY TUNA TACO

Serves 2.

for the spicy coleslaw:

1/2 cup red cabbage

1/2 cup white cabbage

1 teaspoon chopped scallion (plus a few additional pieces later for garnish)

1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon shredded carrot

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot and sweet chili sauce)

1 teaspoon lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

for the tuna:

1 4-ounce, sushi-grade tuna steak (Lavelle purchases her tuna at Foster’s)

enough sesame seeds to coat the tuna (about 3 to 4 tablespoons)

2 eggroll wrappers (also available at Foster’s)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the spicy slaw. Combine the vegetables in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, the Sriracha, the lime juice, and the salt and pepper. Toss this mixture over the vegetables. Set aside.

Oil 2 ceramic cups. Drape the wonton wrappers over them so that they will take on the shape of the cups. Bake the wrappers in the cups just until they are crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat the tuna steak in the sesame seeds, and sear the tuna just until the sesame seeds brown. Do not overcook the tuna.

Slice the tuna thinly. Place it with the slaw in the wonton cups. Top with additional scallion pieces if you like.

Writer and singer Tinky Weisblat lives in Hawley. She is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” (www.merrylion.com) and the forthcoming “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com.).

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