June 1, 2011
For the past 3 years, April 5th was primarily associated with one major event: It was the day we got numbers from my client. Nevermind that it also happens to be the day of my birth – I worked in public accounting and April 5th was still part of busy season. Sure, on the day of, we’d eat a slice of cake and someone would sing me a song, but at the end of the day you’d still find me crunching numbers til 3AM.
This year was different though. You know why? ‘Cause I ain’t in public accounting anymore. No deadlines, no numbers – I took the entire day off and treated myself to lunch at Del Posto.
It had been a while since I’ve had a really nice meal out so I really wanted to go somewhere spectacular for my birthday. Out of all the places that came to mind, I couldn’t think of any place I wanted to try more than Del Posto. Recently awarded 1 star by the Michelin Guide and 4 stars by the NY Times (the first Italian restaurant in 36 years to receive such an honor), this was a restaurant worthy of the occasion.
Considering its reputation, it’s surprising how relatively affordable the place is. Del Posto offers a three-course lunch prix fixe for $29 with the option of an additional pasta course for only $10 more. Add on a free glass of prosecco thanks to foursquare (be sure to check in!) and you’ve got a four-course, 4-star meal for $40, before tax and tip.
Bread with butter and smoked whipped lardo
Some people believe that you can tell how good a restaurant is based on its bread basket alone. If I followed that rule, this meal was going to be extraordinary. C’mon – I had a whole basket of baguettes, olive rolls and focaccia and a dish of whipped lardo, JUST FOR ME.
Like most great meals, this one started with an amuse bouche…or three to be exact. Crispy Roman-style saffron risotto balls, choux pastry filled with pureed mortadella and a small shotglass of Roman-style chicken eggdrop soup were presented on a platter before my first course. (Of course, I polished off the soup before realizing I hadn’t taken a picture of the platter as a whole. My bad.)
Course 1: Zampone with Lentil Vinaigrette & Salsa Verde
A zampone is a stuffed pig’s trotter – think of a ground sausage type interior surrounded by the original pig’s own fatty skin. Exactly as you’d expect, it was a very meaty dish; the lentils and salsa verde barely held their own against the porkiness of the zampone. In retrospect, this may have been too heavy a dish to start; however, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Course 2: Whole Wheat Tonnarelli with Spicy Cicerchie, Fried Rosemary & Shaved Bonito
I ordered the whole wheat tonnarelli for two reasons, one of which being the whole wheat pasta and the other being the use of bonito. After tasting the dish, I realized why both were a necessary component to this course. The whole wheat gave the tender pasta texture and toothiness, and the vegetable broth in which the pasta was served was thoroughly enhanced by the umami of the bonito.
Course 3: Arctic Char with Watercress, Black Truffles and Chestnuts
If it wasn’t for Danny of Kung Food Panda and his recommendation of the arctic char, I may have not have gotten an extra course. Therefore I have to thank him for this one; his choice was spot on. That fish was fatty and flaky and absolutely delectable. The nutty chestnuts and earthy truffles were a wonderful complement to the hearty fish.
Finally came the course I had been waiting for: Dessert. Going into the meal, the one thing I knew I was going to order was the dessert with the celery sorbetto. It’s actually quite funny that this, of all things, caught my eye because I’m not a fan of celery at all. I’m the kind of person who smothers a celery stick in peanut butter and then only eats the peanut butter.
However, dislike of celery aside, I absolutely adored this dessert. Yes, the sorbetto still tasted of celery but it was tempered with the flavor of sugar and limes – the typically bland, watery flavor was now citric and robust! And when I paired that refreshing celery with the creaminess of the bread crumb encrusted goat cheese and the syrupy sweetness of the figs, I tasted my favorite course of the entire meal (and quite possibly my favorite course of 2011 thus far!).
Considering all of its outstanding reviews and the weight I was placing on them due to the occasion, it’s amazing that Del Posto was not only able to meet but even exceeded my expectations. The food was amazing (as you now know) and the service was delightful. (They even played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for me!) And during the entire meal, one particular thought kept reappearing in my mind: “I might be the happiest girl in the world right now. Happy birthday to me!”
May 12, 2010
I feel like I miss out on some things by living in Los Angeles. I’m not talking big things; I’m talking about the little ones that you only experience by living in a different city, a different state, a different coast.
For example, hand shaved ice – I’ve never had my shaved ice shaved by hand. I’ve been told it’s very common on the East Coast, with many street vendors shaving ice by hand on the sidewalk. However, I’ve only had ice shaved by a machine, behind the counter of some Asian tea house in the San Gabriel Valley or at a night market in Taiwan. Therefore, seeing this for the first time boggled my mind:
(Yes, the idea of someone running a blade across a gigantic block of ice to make shaved ice is so novel to me that, when I saw it in action, I had to take a video of it.)
People’s Pops is where I had my first hand shaved ice. Located in the famous Chelsea Market in NYC, you can find them at their brand spanking new counter that they just recently moved into about a month ago. The counter, completely covered with popsicle sticks, is simple and classic, and their popsicles and flavored syrups mirror the same characteristics. With all their products made from fresh fruit obtained locally, you can really taste the difference.
Unlike the typical artificial tasting sugar water, the syrup used in my bartlett pear shaved ice was sweet but not overly, rot your teeth sweet. The pear flavor wasn’t as pure as I imagined it to be – you know, that pear taste where you almost feel like you have pear grit in between your teeth – but it was definitely much better than the fluorescent red and blue colored stuff you get at the carnival. The hand shaved ice adds texture to the ice so you more of a crunch with each bite. And, unlike normal artificial shaved ices, I actually wanted to drink (and did drink) the melted slush at the bottom of my cup.
People’s Pops’ popsicles are refreshing too, but I think the shaved ice is still my favorite. Maybe I just like watching them hand shave ice…