Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Perfect Halves (Giorgio's of Gramercy)

M and I met up for a late dinner tonight. We hadn't really made any plans on where to go - she was busy and I got interrupted when I tried to figure out where would be convenient. Standing outside in the (seasonable) cold, we were encouraged to make a quick decision - and I was more decisive than usual (Italian sounded good to me).

M had recently been to Giorgio's of Gramercy (27 East 21st, between Park and Madison) and was excited to go back (M is very good about fully vetting restaurants by visiting multiple times - I am less good as I appear to subconsciously believe that I have some chance of visiting all NYC restaurants before I die). It was 9:30 when we got there (I believe we were the last table seated, but they were incredibly gracious; and the restaurant itself is a great space), which is late for me for a Tuesday and so I didn't want to overorder - we decided to do some half-portions and some sharing (do-it-yourself half portions).

I was also very excited because M really and truly doesn't mind me taking photos. She even, graciously, said that I could consider it a trade-off tonight (she'd ignore me taking photos if I'd ignore her putting a napkin on as a bib over her white sweater while eating pasta with tomato sauce - since I consider that a rather sensible decision, I had no problem with the agreement). Then, technology failure - no battery power (I swear I just recharged it before the s'mores last night, slightly concerned about my battery). And so, despite M's graciousness, this is a text-only post.

For appetizers, we split the beet salad and the avocado toast. I love both beets and avocados, but had been leaning toward the beets. M wanted the avocado toast, but was worried it was too much and so we decided to split it. (Note to self: Just in case you forget AGAIN, listen to what M says she's going to order as you generally like that best!) The beet salad was quite good, but nothing earth-shattering; it was a nice mix of beets, walnuts, green beens, goat cheese, etc. - quite nice. The avocado toast was really good (and looked super cool - close your eyes and try to imagine). It was 3 pieces of flatbread, each with 1/3 of an avocado (perfectly ripe) on top. It looked almost silly. It tasted like heaven. It was seasoned with sherry vinegar (L - take note, you will, obviously, love this dish) and some kind of pepper. I can't explain why it was so good, but it just worked. Highly recommended!

For the main, we both ordered half portions of the Penne Bolognese. So good. So very, very good. But, back to the description, half portions are such a blessing - they let you order what you want without the issue of overeating (or at least with a reduction of it). The penne was the perfect choice for me tonight; it has a rich tomato and meat sauce and was covered by a bunch of thinly sliced cheese (too creamy for parmigiano - in retrospect, I realize I'm not sure what it was, unfortunate that I didn't pay attention to that detail - but apparently I was absorbed in the total flavor/experience). It was a perfect blend of flavors and textures. I could see making that a standard weekly meal - and being very happy about it.

The amazing thing is that the half portion was still too much to allow for dessert. I did have a late lunch, and a few snacks with our earlier drinks, but still... It's a sad thing when dessert is just not appealing - but given a choice between finishing the penne and ordering dessert, I finished the penne (even knowing what that meant).

We did look at the dessert menu (because I insist on that). In the interest of making sure that everyone knows the outcomes of all possible scenarios, I would have had the s'mores offering - if only to compare it to last night's version.

The one issue with their menu that I did have was their pistachio creme brulee. One summer I spent 6 weeks in Paris and had creme brulee almost every day (and occasionally more than once a day (some day I will tell you about the 3 foie gras, 2 creme brulee, 1 steak and 1 pain aux raisin day - we need more food days in our lives like that). I do not believe that it is a stretch to imagine that I was one of the foremost experts in good Parisian creme brulees (I kept a running tally of my top 5 in my head at all times - as I am remembering details, I see a strong need to recreate this experience). My issue is that creme brulee done right is a sublimely perfect dish - I see no reason to overpower the vanilla and creme with flavors (pistachio, lavendar, anise, orange, chocolate, cinammon, etc.) More restaurants need to concentrate on getting into my top 5 with regular (vanilla) creme brulee than with trying to be innovative. So, despite my love of creme brulee, I definitely would have had the s'mores, but I really was way too full (my 2 halves of appetizers plus my half a pasta having totally filled me up (together they do equal one and one half)).


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