Restaurants & Bars

June: A month of eating in six parts [long]

JudiAU | Jul 8, 200301:45 PM     8

30th Birthday at Spago:

My husband surprised me with a birthday party at Spago in the back private room. Wine and champagne to start with passed hors d'oeuvres: revelatory vegetable spring rolls, salmon pizzas, little duck wontons. Attentive service. Two courses with asparagus salad with horseradish dressing, choice of sea bass with favas and morels or duck with fresh blackberries, chocolate-filled purse for dessert. All 15 people were served their courses at the same time in a very impressive feat of timing. Perfect evening, perfect service, perfect food. Finished with 1971 Calvados. Bill: Unknown.

Interesting food I wish I had recipe for:

AOC is serving their charcuterie platter with candied horseradish. Why doesn't everyone serve this? Sticky, sweet, hot, soft, and chewy all at the same time. Best with the boned pork rib. Also good with pig's liver pate, country pate, hunter's pate, rabbit terrine, and rabbit rillete. I love this Lyonnaise master, this king of pig cookery, this god among sausage makers. The boudin blanc and fois gras terrine remain rivals for my ultimate affection. Charcuterie Platter: $11

Most unexpected item encountered recently:

The giant Meatball at Al Gelato. Meatballs the size of baseballs. Meatballs that could conquer New York. Meatballs that cause all of the staff to peer around the corner to see the crazy girl eating lunch by herself react to the Meatball. And then, a really, really great Meatball which is dense but not heavy, herbaceous and cheesy without being cloying, and spicy without being hot. You've gotta try this meatball. This Meatball alone represents my love for Chowhound because Chowhound led me to the Meatball. Meatball and Sausage Sandwich: $8

Two lunches at Traktir:

One multi-generational lunch with my extended family on Father's Day, one lunch with a Russian friend. Dad was really happy with Traktir and finished ever dish we ordered. Our Russian friend said the food was much better here than in Moscow.

Excellent mixed salad with feta, another with a sour cream dressing, a platter of homemade marinated vegetables (standout: pickled tomato), great herring and home cured salmon served with buttered dill potatoes, multiple courses of dumplings and crepes filled with chicken in a champagne sauce, grilled leg of lamb and beef kebabs served with tomato sauce and fried butter soaked mushrooms and potatoes. We were offered a complimentary bottle of Georgian wine to try (interesting) and enjoyed their infused vodkas. The bills were around $20 per person.

Anniversary dinner at Sona:

Is this food? Art? I am not sure but it was almost all very good and seemed to tug at the cortex until we could talk about nothing but the food, the wine, the food. Tasting menu with matching wines, plates served simultaneously by two servers. Excellent warm bread, Gorgeous lush hamachi, weird salty-beyond-human consumptions sea beans and sea snails, beef tenderloin was good, but well, tenderloin. The meal was all about a flow of sensual tastes and textures. Our meal was a few weeks ago and it has dissolved into a blur. Dinner for two with fancy wine: $270

Boozy Friday Lunch at Valentino:

The good: Excellent seafood risotto with lovely unctuous quality, perfect marinated fresh sardines although a little difficult to swallow at $15 for 4 or 6, sea bream of exceptional quality, simply prepared (but who needs 8 ounces of fish at lunch?) deeply flavored duck ragu, two half bottles of wine chosen by the waiter $220.

The bad: We are seated in a small room to the immediate right of a horrible, loud couple who discussed everything as if they were at a soccer match. I could still distinctly hear their banal conversation in the restroom. We should have asked to be moved to another room-- anything-- to get away from them when we first sat down. I have never seen two people make so much noise in a restaurant before. I had the impression that he was a "somebody" in food business because while our service was generally excellent, the service he received could only be described as fawning.

The ugly: Why on earth would the restaurant torture us that way? There were 8 people eating that we could see and all of us were stuffed into this small room with this horrid man. We later figured out that they were already into their second course when we got there so their outrageous behavior must have been known. It was hard not to hold it against the staff.

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