Monday, January 11, 2010

Eating out

Over the past couple of months, I have had the pleasure of dining out. In December, I met with the other members of the TNTE Club at Becco, a Lydia Bastianich establishment for our annual holiday dinner. If you recall, last year we went to Perilla. Six of us squeezed into our chairs around a tiny round table that should really have been set for no more than four, but the whole dining room was that way - packed to the gills with guests back-to-back. Not sure how the waiters managed to shimmy between everyone. We feasted on several of the menu specials and all-you-can eat daily pastas. Actually, only one person at our table ordered the pastas, but we all had tastes of hers. The Gorgonzola gnocci was fantastic. Noisy, warm, and teetering on chaotic, but very satisfying food in the theater district. One in our party ordered the osso bucco which came with the largest marrow bone we'd ever seen with that dish! The best thing I thought we ate all night though, was on the dessert sampler we ordered. The panna cotta was simply the best I've ever had. It was smooth, light, not at all gelatinous or thick, and tasted of the best vanilla. Divine.

Rewind some more to November. Before we arrived in Miami to board the Crystal Serenity for our Thanksgiving cruise, Steve and I flew to Atlanta to meet up with David & Allison. The four of us drove down from Atlanta to Miami together. But before we started our 13 hour drive at 2AM, we had dinner at Kennesaw pizza joint, Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria. Perhaps you watch the food-porn and human spectacle on the Travel channel known as Man vs. Food? No? Oh well, you don't know what you're missing. Anyway, MVF's host and stomach-that-is-a-freak-of-nature, Adam Richman, visited Big Pie to take on their Carnivore Challenge - eating an ginormous 11-pound pizza. While the four of us weren't even tempted to try the Carnivore Challenge, the boys did settle for one slice each of a Carnivore. Basically, it's a pizza topped with just about all the standard meat pizza toppings. Allison and I opted for a slice each of the four-cheese. Here are some before and after shots. These are big freakin' slices of pie. And quite tasty, too.

Back home in Brooklyn, last week, Steve and I hosted our friends from Montana. We ate some usual and favorite NYC fare - pizza at Grimaldi's, hot dogs from a vendor, and brunch at Char No. 4. For our post-MoMA lunch, we took them to Ginger Man, a really good beer bar in east midtown that is extremely mellow on Sunday afternoon. The calm, quiet, warm surroundings were just what we needed after the noisy crowds at MoMA and swirling snow flurries and Arctic wind chill outside. We ordered two flights of beer tastes, soup, stew, sausages, sandwiches, and house-made soft pretzels. Hearty stuff to warm the gut. Yum.

We also took them to a place in Brooklyn for their last night in the city that Steve and I hadn't tried yet. I'm glad we got there when we did because Henry Public filled up fast after we snagged a booth. Henry Public is a relatively new place that is dressed up like a speakeasy. And old timey speakeasy. Even the staff wears a uniform that is really more of a costume - band-collar shirts, braces, flannel or non-denim pants, old fashioned shoes. The food menu is limited to burgers, a couple finger foods (house made pickles and roasted almonds were very good), and ice cream for dessert. The cocktail menu is from another era, too. We enjoyed our burgers and drinks, and it might be a place for Steve and I to visit again as long as we get there early enough to get a table.

I saved the best for last. While up in Maine for Christmas, Steve and I decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out at one of Portland's critically acclaimed restaurants. Portland is quite a mecca for chefs who are focused and committed to using local and seasonal ingredients and sources. We chose Fore Street for our dinner out. I'm so glad we did. I loved it. The menu was much larger than I expected for a place that does use local and regional sources for their seasonal ingredients. We ordered four smaller plates and one entree and one dessert. Here is what we had:

Marinated Hon Shimeji and Rocket Salad with roasted red onion, reggiano, apple bacon red wine vinaigrette
Three Selections from the Chilled Meats & Offal section served with cranberry jam, tarragon gherkins, spicy Allagash mustard: Salt Cured Foie Gras, Maine Farm Rabbit Galatine with Serrano and Lemon, Heritage Pork Cotechino
Wood Oven Roasted Maine Mussels with garlic almond butter
Wood Grilled Harlequin Quail with lentils, savory vegetables, smoked Heritage pork belly
Maine Farm Russian Boar Chop with celeriac puree, cranberry relish
Butter Braised Fingerling Potatoes, aged sherry vinegar
Two Citrus Desserts on one plate - lime steamed pudding, citrus cheesecake with pepper-basil sugar sauce and pomegranate seeds

Hello! Doesn't that all sound fabulous? It was. Several of you have asked how I remember what I ate at restaurants. Well, in most cases, I remember what I had and then I can go home and look up the restaurant's menu online for details. In the case of Fore Street, they don't post their menu online since it changes every day, so I asked our waitress if I could have a copy of the menu. She gladly handed over the dinner menu but I didn't get the dessert menu. Here is a scan of the menu. What would you have ordered? (Click on the image for a larger view.)

We loved everything we ate. We ate every little morsel, crumb, drip of sauce from our plates. Except for four fingerling potatoes. We had four potatoes too many.

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