Interrupting the radio silence to bring you…deliciousness

Since my last post, which truth be told seems so very long ago, I waved adieu to September and the last vestiges of summer, turned another year older (and as the beau pointed out, got that much closer to 30), and ate a lot of really good food that I have regrettably not documented on this very blog. (Due to a bad combo of feeling lazy, unmotivated, and struck with mild writer’s block, in case you were wondering.)

A bad picture of a good dessert

But I decided to interrupt my current funk to dish on a really great dessert I had recently at  Otto, Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village pizzeria. Yes, there was pizza before the dessert, and yes, it was delicious, but the dessert… oh, that dessert, it stole the show.

The olive oil coppetta, captured rather horribly in the picture you see here (thanks again, cheap camera bought at a Mexican Office Depot), was not just delicious but interesting too. Really! Every spoonful was like peeling back a new layer, getting a new flavor or texture. There was the creamy, smooth and slightly savory olive oil gelato next to the icy, tart concord grape sorbetto, mixed in with citrusy bright orange curd, plump, juicy figs roasted in red wine and a licorice like sweetness and candy crunch from the fennel brittle.  So many flavors, so much sweet deliciousness, so good.

I mean really, so good! Enough of this and I might just feel like blogging about all the other great eats I’ve been having recently. I’ll keep you posted.

Who’s your Babbo?

When my sister told me she’d be coming to visit for her 23rd birthday and wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner, I consulted my restaurant to-do list, read reviews, asked friends, compared menus and instead of picking one, I sent her a list of five places to choose from.

She was picky as a child and still not a very adventurous eater today, so I wasn’t surprised when she passed on my exotic options like Malaysian, Korean and Lebanese and instead went for the one Italian restaurant on the list.

Italian food is safe, I’m sure she assumed. Nothing weird about a bowl of pasta, right?

But where we went was anything but your usual Italian restaurant. Babbo, Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village take on Italian food, was creative, inventive and bold in flavor and personality—  not the place to go to for a safe plate of spaghetti and meatballs. And while the ingredients were Italian,  you won’t find the dishes you fell in love with on that last trip across the pond. Everything at Babbo (Tuscan slang for daddy) was unlike anything else anywhere else.

My sister was a little hesitant and her boyfriend, who I found out just that night is a seriously picky eater, looked on the verge of breaking out into a nervous sweat. Meanwhile me and my boyfriend debated back and forth on what to get, excitedly pointing out different menu items and listening with rapt attention as the waiter described the specials for the night.

To my sister and her boyfriend’s horror, Flaneur started things off with a lamb’s tongue antipasto. Soft, diced tongue was mixed around in a heap of Chanterelle mushrooms, all of it cooked to an earthy brown color and a smooth consistency. Resting on top was a “3-minute” egg (i.e. a poached egg that’s boiled for no more than three minutes) which when poked with a fork, oozed with runny, orange yolk. It had a pungent, almost sour taste which I thought was delicious for a couple of forkfuls but then became almost overwhelming. My sister and her boyfriend watched in disgust as we cleaned the plate.

Warm lamb's tongue vinaigrette

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Tapas style

Up until this weekend, I had never been a huge Mario Batali fan. Not because I had anything against him, but more because I didn’t know much about him. He was a jolly looking red haired guy with an Italian name and a show on the Food Network. He seemed likable enough.

After Friday though, I’m ready to submit my application for his fan club. Flaneur and I went to Casa Mono, the Gramercy Spanish-style eatery that Batali is co-owner of, and since then, I’ve become a believer. Big time.

Casa Mono is cozy and small, with a cluster of tables packed closely together on the main floor and the rest of the seats lined up around the bar and cooking station. Lucky for us, we were seated right in front of all the action, right where we could see the cooks at work and hear the meat sizzling as it hit the grill.

We shared everything, tapas style, but for the first round, I ordered the calamares fritos. They were juicy and tender on the inside with a light, crispy, seasoned fried outside. The salty, tangy seasoning dusted on top went perfectly with a twist of lemon and the subtle taste of the calamari.

Calamares fritos

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