There are certain, obvious things Michael and I first connected with. No, we aren't talking about those deeper, more intensely felt beliefs and ways of being that help two people relate to each other. I'm really talking about working out and food (trust me, the two go well together, as one can work out and then eat. It's a good system).
I had spent a lifetime of cooking for a family with brief forays into the wonderful world of cuisine. Long before I met him, Michael had been studying cooking informally, watching the Food Network, trying out recipes on a family that often ran from them (the steamed crab incident). But when we met, we had some of the same cookware and some of the same loves for food. We go out to restuarants, order up, and then talk about it as we eat. We do the same thing when we cook at home--deconstructing our meal as we shovel it in. This talk may be boring to some, but it works for us--sort of a food workshop.
Together, we've added to the cookware, the utensils, the machines, and we watch the Food Network and Bravo's cooking shows together, their "stars" our new stars. We watch Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Secrets of a Restuarant Chef, with Anne Burrell. So when we decided to come to New York, we thought to come to Anne Burrell's resturant, Centro Vinoteca. Yes, the gal uses way too much salt, but she has some great techniques. So Michael made the reservations, and last night, down to the Village we went, scooting into the restuarnat for a dinner before our play, Gods of Carnage.
Well, lo and behold that Anne Burell was no longer the executive chef bu, instead, the new chef was a loser in last season's Top Chef. As I stood waiting for my table, who did I see (I figured this out later with Michael's help) but Leah Cohen, the 27 year old chef, who I remembered most as occasionally brilliant but mostly a mess--that and she made out with the eventual winner one night on camera, even though both of them were otherwise committed.
So there we were. Oh, well. We were going to make the best of it. And once the hostess shut the windows so that the freezing air and the traffic no longer blasted in, we sat down prepared to enjoy.
But did we? I'll let my guest blogger below give you the scoop:
Where to start? The beginning, I guess. The restaurant is designed with large operable windows that, when open, being in the cool breeze and gentle traffic sounds of 7th Avenue (beiung glib: 7th is about as quiet as a hurricane). Unfortunately it was cold and just short of raining, and the hostess seemed very put out with our request to locate us somewhere warmer or close a window or two. Bad sign, especially since, at 5:30pm, we were the sole patrons. She complied, and later the entire staff joined in and closed up the wall openings.
Okay, once seated, we perused the menu, trying to decide which of the night's offerings to order and send back, we realized that the bread we were gnawing on was stale. Anne would never have allowed that! In fact, that might have been the tip off we ducked. The waiter appologized and brought us fresh bread, explaining that ours had been left over from lunch. Left over from lunch?
Undaunted (yet), we chose from the Prix Fixe menu (a copy of which we stole to write this blog), as it contained several items which we had seen Anne prepare on her show. Jessica ordered the Herbed Goat Cheese & Arugula salad (which was quite good), and I the Trio of Piccilini appetizer. This was Truffled Deviled Egg (I love those truffles, though the egg was unimaginative), Zucchini and Parmigiano Fritter (crunchy, flavorful, and only slightly pasty inside), and "BLT - Pancetta, Frisee & Tomato Confit On Crostini" which bombed.
Hmm. Jessica ordered Chicken Milanese and hoped it was the delicious item we watched Anne Burrell prepare (after all, Leah Cohen had been the restaurant's sous chef under Burrell), and I the English Pea Ravioli With Black Truffles (heh!) & Pea Tendrils. The third choice on the Pri Fixe menu was Grilled Rackk Of Lamb With Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, and in hindsight I realize now that one of us should have tried it.
The Chicken Milanese was the big shocker. Not only did it not look at all like what we expected (what arrived looked like a chicken burrito that had been deep fried), it was disgusting and tasteless, and back it went (fulfilling our quota). Dispite this opportunity to order the lamb, Jessica chose the ravioli which she enjoyed. I, too, enjoyed my ravioli (truffles!), but couldn't get past the obvious defect: the edges of about half were dried out, making them hard to chew. This, coupled with the obvious comparison of the filling to strained pea baby food, left us non-plussed. There were, alas, no pea tendrils.
The dinners came with dessert, and niether of us usually order that course (Jessica steadfastly refuses to eat desserts, claiming she would rather invest the calories in rice and further deepening my endearment of her mystery), so we weren't about to be disappointed, come what may.
What came was, well, amazing. Sweet Tarallucci With Salty Caramel, it turns out, are piped sugar cookies in the shape of rings, and these things were so light they barely stayed on the plate. The caramel was in liquid form, and as I dipped my cookies and enjoyed the fine (and I do mean "fine") house coffee, I couldn't help but wonder why the pastry chef's offerings always came last. The other dessert was "Warm Chocolate & Pine Nut Fondant With Mascarpone Cream, Salted Pine Nut Brittle and Chocolate Sauce", and suffice to say it took everything I could muster to stay awake in Gods Of Carnage. I didn't realize the mascarpone cream wasn't ice cream, as it was a perfect cannelle - I just thought it was the most amazing ice cream I had ever tasted, as ice cream is almost always too sweet for me - and this wasn't.
Would I return to Centro Vinoteca? No. Did I enjoy the meal? Well, okay, yes. But not as much as writing about it!
Okay folks, so that's the review from yesterday. We are likely food dilletantes, but we're damn good at it. It keeps us awake during all meals and entertains us to no end!
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org