Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's All in the Delivery (Duck Choucoutre)

Tonight, my friend M and I had dinner at Café d’Alsace (88th and 2nd Avenue).

I first discovered this restaurant in a story in the NY Times Urban Studies/Pouring; This Beer's for You. (Or Maybe This One.) about their beer list and beer sommelier (M is a true beer lover and so the connection was obvious). I figured that any restaurant with that much beer variety would have to make him happy. The first time we went, it was three of us (all school friends), R, M and I. We ordered a couple of sausages as appetizers and were instantly hooked on the place (the sausages as appetizers are definitely the way to go – they are just fabulous). And if them being fabulous weren’t enough, they rest on top of the best (bar none) sauerkraut that I have ever had in my life. The only painful issue is figuring out which sausage(s) (veal, pork, duck, special – it’s a rough life) to have that night.

Tonight I ordered the Cote-du-Rhone by the glass (there’s wheat in beer) and M ordered a draft beer that he really likes (I can blame it on not eating wheat as the reason I don’t remember which one, but I really wouldn’t have remembered any way). We were both intrigued with the venison sausage special and so split that as an appetizer (as an understatement, I was not starving). It tasted like fall or Thanksgiving. The sausage (as usual) was on a bed of sauerkraut, but it also had a cranberry jelly on top – seemed odd, but really worked. Somehow it really did taste like fall.

The appetizer lived up to its name – my appetite was ready to go when the main dish appeared. I know I shouldn’t roll my eyes, but it does always happen. The server looked at his two dishes: Salmon with Lentils

and Duck Choucoutre

and swapped his hands, trying to put the salmon down in front of me. (I always get the salmon or the chicken caesar (I really am not a fan of caesar salad) or the well done (versus the medium rare) steak or whatever looks smaller, daintier). Most of the time the server will literally look at me, look at my male companion, look at the two plates and then physically shift the plates from the way he was planning to lay them down (I swear that I am not imagining this – and it doesn’t happen when I eat with women (I guess all bets are off then))). I gently corrected him and finally got my bathtub of sauerkraut and duck (clearly, giving up wheat is not a diet for me, not even close).

I really enjoy Café d’Alsace. I’ve had a number of good meals there. And I am now a true fan of Tuesday nights, because Tuesday night is when the Duck Choucoutre is the special. This menu option includes 1 duck breast (delicious), 2 duck sausages (made the duck breast seem trivial), 1 wing of duck confit (almost made the sausages seem trivial) all arranged on top of a mound (only word for that quantity) of sauerkraut. I insisted that M have some – not just because I figured a 4-day doggie bag (it really was a considerable amount of food) was just unnecessary, but also because it was truly great food. M doesn’t eat sauerkraut (usually serves as another reason to invite him to dinner (like my friend P who doesn’t like olives – she’s great to have around in Mediterranean restaurants), but tonight I actually had enough), but he did definitely enjoy the duck sausage (and I still came home with a very heavy doggie-bag).


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