Thanks to all who suggested 410 Boyd as a downtown spot for my party of 6. It ended up being a party of 8 and we had a blast. The decor is slightly funky-downtown-loft and very pleasant; the food is very satisfying and surprisingly great! The service could be a little faster but overall the staff was very accomodating- I even spoke with the chef for a while and heard through the hostess that the new owner plans to promote the place more and possibly open on the weekends for brunch and dinner soon (currently only open Mon-Fri) and have DJs in later at night for the bar patrons. Anyway, on to the grub. We all started out with salads- basic greens with a great balsamic vingrette that was tangy, sweet and peppery- the perfect combo. I had the pasta special- fusilli pasta with arugula, proscuitto and a paremesan/tomato sauce. Great combo of flavors; nicely cooked and a very generous portion of it made my growling stomach very happy. Other guests had the gorgonzola encrusted steak (as decadent as it sounds), another had the crispy salmon which was also very tasty with just the right amount of seasoning, and two others had the night's standout: a cajun dusted halibut served on a bed or asparagus risotto. The fish was good and spicy and full of flavors, and it matched so well with the warm, creamy risotto. For dessert we all split the creme brulee and a chocolate mousse cake - both delicious. The creme brulee was very soft and light...but still rich...I know that sounds strange, but the friend who ordered it never polishes off dessert and she ate 80% of it (the other 20% was licked up by the rest of us). I will definitely be going back. With the most expensive entree being $22, it's very reasonable.
The next night, we all went to Campanile (we were celebrating a friend's wedding). We shared a bevvy of appetizers- grilled sardines, beet salad, some sort of "fried" pasta with a lamb bolognese (the pasta is first boiled, then pan fried in hot butter or oil so it gets crispy on the outside, tender on the inside), crab cakes with spicy aioli, cheese puffs, stuffed baby artichokes, and foie gras with toast triangles and sliced pears. All were excellent- especially the pasta. One of my friends had spent all week telling the other people in the party about the porterhouse at Campanile- he ate it a year ago and just couldn't get it out of his mind and was looking forward to eating it again. Well, the porterhouse wasn't on the menu this time, but our waiter (Garrison, the best in the biz) overheard and asked how many we would need. Four in the party wanted it and he promptly walked back to the kitchen, came out and said they could make the steaks. Needless to say, those four dug into the enormous steak (which comes with thick steak fries and creamed spinach) with gusto and ate until they were going to explode. I had the duck with figs & proscuitto which was tender, sweet and not too oily. Another friend had the sanddabs (you can choose bone in or out) which were subtle in their delicate fish flavor and resting in a warm asparagus cream, and another had the braised shortribs with horseradish mashed potatoes. Everyone was beyond satisfied, but we split two pecan tartlets - buttery, flaky and crisp pastry filled with carmel and pecans, sitting in a bed of warm maple syrup and sweet cream and topped with a scoop of what tasted like maple ice cream. Divine. The service made the outstanding meal even better- I know people on this board have complained about service at Campanile in the past and I'm not speaking of all the waiters/waitresses there, but I have to nominate Garrison as server of the year. He is helpful without ever being too pushy, careful to observe what you might need without getting in your space and just basically makes you feel very taken care of. So hats off to you Garrison!
Ok, off to run on the treadmill now!