Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Italian Groove

If Vietnamese was all the rage with the under 30 Bywater set in 2010, then Italian is going to be the It cuisine in 2011. Well, that is if the last month of where I've been eating is any indication. It all started when Peter and I dined at Mario Batali's Otto restaurant in Las Vegas. Verdict: that guy and his cooks know what they are doing. Carbonara pizza was stunning. I find myself continuously reaching for Marcella Hazan cookbooks and dreaming of prosciutto and prosecco laced afternoons.

Last Friday, lunch at Herbsaint. Began with a few samples of menu items chef de cuisine Ryan Prewitt has been developing. First was a mortadella puree with mustard seeds and pickled red onions. Simply dynamite. Then a large cornmeal blini topped with smoked mackerel tossed in a hazelnut dressing and thin slices of kumquat. While I am not the hugest fan of smoked fish, this was a delight: soft and fragrant with the kumquats and hazelnut dressing taking the dish in a Venetian/Orient trading direction.

Then, the dark rust colored chicken and sausage gumbo and a Tuscan bean soup. The chicken and sausage gumbo at Herbsaint is the best in the city. Smoky, rich, and thick without being gloppy, this version achieves a level of perfection few gumbos ever reach. Next a salad of fresh lettuces with city ham, Ryal's cheddar, and a buttermilk dressing. The city ham got lost in the shuffle and were chewy, but the slivers of Ryal's cheddar were creamy and delicious. Now granted, there was nothing Italian about the salad or the gumbo. However, the simple presentation and selection of good local ingredients is Italian in spirit. Finished it off with the always amazing and over the top spaghetti with fried egg and guanciale. Again, not sure if this Italian, but like Sinatra it should be.

Next Tuesday, Herbsaint is hosting a Barolo dinner with Hopper's Wine and Spirits. The menu is solid, the wines rare, and the company will be great as I have heard Robert Peyton will not be in attendance.

Dinner two weeks ago at a Mano. We dined as we are becoming accustomed to - order a selection of appetizers or starters to dance around the menu. The usually reliable and excellent tripe fell just short of its mark, the tripe slightly overcooked and turning to mush. The bruschetta di 'nduja was marvelous though with its deep porky flavor and perk of spiciness. Braesola with arugula is a dish best enjoyed on a summer night, but it is not bad on a cold Thursday either. The ricotta fritters were dense and boring; they need to bring back the Supli al Telefono.

Spaghetti carbonara and buccattini alla'amatriciana rounded out the meal. The former suffered from a bit too much salt but was still a glorious example of why pork and eggs are totes BFF. The latter could have been spicier for more taste, but the impeccable pasta did nothing to distract me from the Italian Groove.


Anonymous said...

I thought for a minute you was gonna tell us who got da best red gravy wit' their noodles.

Becky said...

Yeah I'm with Anon - When are you going to clue us in to what's new and notable at Venezia's?