Thursday, November 26, 2009
good bread, good meat, good god, let's eat
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. This is my favorite holiday of the year -- no religious or patriotic foofaraw, just cooking, eating, and hanging out with your favorite people. And maybe a little drinking. Perhaps some football (touch or spectator). Even the neighborhood cats (all 25 of 'em) were in a festive mood when I went out to get the paper: They were zooming around and playing together, which you never see on a work day.
In honor of all the eating we're about to do (and to procrastinate on getting into the kitchen and making pie), I thought I'd post about a meal earlier in the week and far from home.
Tuesday night, Dave Allen and I hopped the train and met K. at Union Station, from which we traipsed over to Bottega Louie, in the Jewelry District (or is it the Furniture District? I get confused on where one district ends and another begins).
It's in a huge old building that used to house Brooks Brothers, and the inside is enormous in all three dimensions. The walls are undoubtedly plaster like any other wall, but they've turned to marble in my memory -- not only because they are gleaming white but also because the place is louder than the Glass House during an International Noise Conspiracy show.
I don't get restaurants that are designed to be noisy. Yes, I know it turns tables, but surely wanting to talk over a meal isn't just for the middle-aged. Are there really that many people who go out to dinner with people they'd prefer not to talk to?
But we were there for the food, and I was impressed. The menu is pretty swoon-worthy, and I had a helluva time trying to decide. They have a few pizzas, a few pastas, a few salads, a few sandwiches, a few mains -- and three dozen small plates, each of which looks more delectable than the last.
In the end, K. got the carpaccio and the arancini (little balls of rice with cheese inside, fried to look like oranges -- hence the name). D-Bomb got the clam, roasted red peppers, & thyme pizza and a side of broccolini. I got the trenné (a triangular tube pasta -- imagine a pup tent) with prime rib and kale and a side of corn, bacon, & chard. K. had some eclectic beer I can't recall, D-Bomb had a vanilla Italian soda, and I got a $5 glass of Barolo that was mighty tasty (and a generous pour).
I didn't try the carpaccio, but K.'s arancini were perhaps the best I've ever had (I'm not normally a fan), although he said they were too spicy for him. It must have been the sauce (which I didn't get much of), because I detected no spice at all. D-Bomb's clam pizza was very tasty, although I wasn't expecting the clams to be breaded and fried before baking. I could have done without that, I think (and I imagine it didn't improve for breakfast -- D-Bomb took part of it home).
My pasta wasn't what I was expecting. I started out disappointed, but by the time I finished it, I was quite happy with it. Which is not to say that I couldn't recommend improvements. It's a very light dish: pasta, plenty of bits of prime rib, Italian black kale, shavings of parmesan, all in a light flavorful beef broth. My first recommendation is predictable: more kale! I am a huge fan of the dark leafy greens, and this could have used a lot more. Also, for some unknown reason (novelty?), they sauté the pasta after it's cooked, but that runs counter to the brothy spirit of the dish.
The corn, bacon, and chard side dish was fine, although it wasn't as good as I was hoping. The bacon was unsmoked, and there was barely any chard in it at all -- but it gives me ideas for making it at home, where I have fancy bacon from up in the holler (bacon made from a pig with a name, who got his ears scratched daily!) and enough chard to choke a cheetah.
I really liked BottLou except for the noise. I imagine it would be great during off hours, and great with a huge group, but by 8pm, it was a freaking zoo. (One that, as Jonathan Gold observed, seems to be staffed according to the terms of the USC Sorority Full-Employment Act.)
In food&bev news closer to home, we're going to begin Thanksgiving (cooking, not dining) with a magnum of Segura Viuda champagne (okay, cava) -- $10 at Cost Plus World Market in San Dimas, which is quite a deal! Meg-Bob says stock up for the holidays.