Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Life is Like a Box of Valrhona

Sitting in my front yard now a few days after the Christmas food coma has resided, I’m savoring a square of Valrhona Chocolates Noirs de Domaine’s Grand Couva from Trinidad. I told someone special that dark chocolate was my pie and that same someone gifted me with an exquisite Millesime box for the holidays. There’s something about the way this chocolate melts on the tongue, coating the palate, that is both sensual and heavenly and I realize that 2011 has been equally delicious for me. 

This may be the most delicious year of my life so far full of turning points and transitions. I sent a grown daughter to college, moved to the beach, dove into my novel and perpetuated my art career that has been pushed into overdrive. Passion has been the cornerstone of the year, which has also carried over into all things culinary as I continued to venture out on food adventures as well as learn new things in the kitchen. So to repeat a sappy sentiment, life really has become like a box of chocolates in all the best ways. Below is my ode to the best foodie memories of my 2011!

Horchata flavored Italian ice on the Venice Beach boardwalk for three bucks

My first Yakitori meal in L.A.’s Little Tokyo

Cold squid ink pasta at Mozza Osteria in West Hollywood

Perfecting my onion marmalade recipe

Lobster barbecue on the roof in San Francisco with Tara and Jamie

The best two a.m. grilled cheese sandwich in the middle of Burning Man after days of living on beef jerky, followed closely by the grilled cheese truck outside Bergamot Station in Los Angeles

Tandoori turkey Thanksgiving with the Hadley’s

Whole Foods’ pho bar and smoked chicken and red onion pizza

Organic cream on the top maple yogurt

Pt. Reyes bleu cheese from Cowgirl Creamery

The opening of Savory Spice Shop and discovering Penzey’s Spice Shop

Chef Ernesto from Rio Azul’s sweet corn tamales

Chia seeds

Cacao nibs

Tasty Bite microwavable Indian food packets

Flat bread duck confit pizza at 3rdCorner Wine Shop and Bistro

Sean Minor $15 pinot noir

The burger at Father’s Office Culver City

Gyro sandwich at Kabobz in Palm Desert

Wine and schwarma art geek salad lunches with fellow artist Richard Twedt at Garbanzo’s

Perfecting soy chorizo egg scrambles

One Life Natural Foods’ superfood chocolate and strawberry sundaes

Shrimp and mango quesadillas at Windward Farms market

Primitivo’s bacon and chorizo wrapped dates

The chorizo breakfast burrito at Alkobar

Bring your own wine cheap and easy Chinese eggplant at Mao’s

Korean pickled daikon

The Bread Man’s squaw rye loaf

The blueberry covered goat cheese log at Trader Joe’s

The perfect Negroni, straight up with an orange rind twist

Thai Kitchen instant green onion and ginger noodles

Vietnamese chili sauce

Ritter Sport’s dark chocolate and marzipan bar

Raw collard greens as wrap sandwich leaves

Swiss Chard

Lemon thyme and kale from Leslie Shockley’s garden

My first taste of haggis

Valeska Kaufmann’s mushroom stew

Brian Uyeda’s homegrown tomatoes

The rediscovery of taco-flavored Doritos

Coconut water

Poached salmon and beet salad at Cuistot during lunches with my mentor Gesso   

Creating my own sausage and sage stuffing for Christmas dinner

Sausages with grainy mustard in Austria

Tommy Bahamas’ scallop and arugula salad

Sammy Woodfired pizzas grilled chicken balsamic salad

Pork burrito at CasaLinda

The Twisted Snake habanera cocktail at Birba

Here’s to happy eating in 2012 to all my foodie friends!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sweet Meat at Father's Office

I have been wanting to try Father's Office ever since my friend Rick told me it's his favorite place to grab a beer and burger. I am a burger whore but only if it's a good one and I am usually hard pressed to find a joint that gets it right. See, I am one of those people who likes stinky cheese, weird leaves and sweetness on my warm, on-the-raw-side meat and that's not something that's traditional in the world of patties on a bun. After reading countless reviews of the place, I had a distinct intuition that this burger joint might be right for me, especially after my favorite meal companion of late told me that this one was served with caramelized onion on a bun usually reserved for lovers of au jus entrees.

So, last night we finally ventured to the place after a trek through the heaven that is Surfas in Culver City. After walking down rows of quail eggs, caviar, thai sauces and exotic butters, I was ready for something meaty and fulfilling. We scored a tiny tall boy table front and center of the bar and met full mouth bliss. At Father's Office, you get a menu, order at the bar, pick up your cocktails, and anxiously await your food. Even the obnoxious man in the booth next to us who got louder as the drinks diminished couldn't stave our pleasure.

First up, an amazing poached egg and smoked eel salad. Warm, flowing yolk-egged, and smoky with tiny strips of tangy red onion and vinegar. Best dish of the evening. Eaten in small savored bites.

My burger was amazing. Made rare and juicy, smothered in caramelized, sweet onion marmalade, the deep taste of maytag bleu cheese and fresh arugula leaves on a bun that soaked up all the meat's juice accept for the crusty exterior which provided a nice textural crunch. And the skinny fries dipped in garlic aoili were the perfect companion. I am going back for this, for this is my favorite burger found in L.A. so far.

They don't allow ketchup here but nothing needed it, even though people are known to bring in their own bottles. 

A warm duck salad was also amusing in its expertise texture and it mixed well with the crunchy filberts. I thought it lacked sweetness but found out later it had figs in it so it was more about it not being blended correctly to get the perfect blend of tastes in each bite.

The dessert was a Kobucha Squash buttercream cupcake with the most translucent and purely butter whipped frosting, which sort of made up for what I am going to say next. Yummy but the ratio of cake to frosting was imbalanced and the few pumpkin seeds could have been ground or dispersed better.

I liked the dim lit atmosphere, the nice staff and the people all around us enjoying themselves. And more than 24 hours later, I am still craving that burger.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hog Heaven at CasaLinda

Being the fanatic foodie that I am, and being new to the area, it’s pretty guaranteed that I won’t often go to a place twice as am I discovering the vast culinary landscape of the various cities that make up Los Angeles. So I was surprised when I chose to take a fellow foodie freak to CasaLinda for my second time this week all for the love of pork. 

Located smack dab in the middle of Abbott Kinney, in the spot where Tortilla Grill used to reside, and owned by the same people who own Hal’s Grill, it is now relegated to become my quintessential neighborhood taco joint. I had already discovered the restaurant a mere few nights before when a friend and I were on the hunt for a place we could order out from that was walk-able from my house. Even though we didn’t eat there, I liked the non-pretentious and simple dining room where you could see the cooks making the food and the salsa bar with all different kinds of toppings including a nice avocado and jalapeno blend. 

But it was the Al Pastor pork burrito that I fell head over heels for.  Its merits lay in the super tortilla-soak-through greasy, tiny chunks of sweet caramelized pork that stuff the gargantuan burrito. Adorned with not much else but some rice and tiny, diced pieces of zucchini, it was a tangy, zesty, spicy delight bite after bite. I could easily just sit around with a bowl filled with that pork and no tortilla and be just fine. 

They have tongue and octopus and other exotic items beyond the regular, and affordably priced, normal shrimp and chicken taco fare but I am not sure if I will ever be able to get past the pork items to try anything else. Oddly enough, the pork quesadilla was a dollar more expensive then the burrito; a mystery because it’s not as much food, doesn’t have the vegetables the burrito does, and comes with only cheese added.

Now I know where to go when I have had too much fun, stayed up too late, and need something I can rely on to soak up all the revelry and put me to bed with sweetness in the belly. It reminds me of my favorite end of the evening joints in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Triple Tomato Bliss

Gifts of freshly grown and plucked winter tomatoes have found their way to my produce bin over the course of the last month. The fastidious gardener who cultivated them warned me that they might not be so tasty this time of year. But I found that to be far from the truth as I crafted three great meals with the character-laden beauties, proving that his green thumb is actually a rather talented one.

There were different varieties including mild, perfectly round and pink momotaros; super red and fleshy purple cherokees, yellow hillbilly potato leaf and then a handful of baby San Marzanos.

My first endeavor was just to dive into the larger and plump globes calling for nothing more than to be eaten at a lukewarm and juicy room temperature with a garnish of sea salt and black pepper.

Laid on a leaf of romaine with a side of red pepper hummus and a slice of organic sharp white cheddar made a perfect lunch. Notice the red veins in the yellow slices; apparently these flames are what caused the great personality on the palate.

The second batch of the cherokees and the momotaros were diced at their most bursting ripeness for inclusion into one of my standard breakfasts: the soy chorizo omelet.

I have a bizarre secret for the perfect fluffy eggs. It’s all about putting eggs in a bowl and adding a teaspoon of almond milk. I know it sounds weird but there is something about the almond milk’s slight sweetness that puts a mellow and warm spin into the finished eggs without the taste of almond sticking in the mix. The second secret is to whisk the eggs for two whole minutes to guarantee the perfect fluff. With these two things in mind, you can really throw anything else into the eggs after that, and in this case, I added some dried, French thyme.

Whisked and poured into a pan that was already simmering up some soy chorizo and then adding a sprinkle of Mexican queso fresca on top until slightly melted, the whole thing was then flipped into an omelet worthy of being topped with the fresh diced tomatoes. The spice of the chorizo, the subtle flow of the thyme and the flesh of the tomato produced savory flavors in every bite.

The rest of the bunch, were the grizzly looking and scarred San Marzanos and odds and ends of others that had been used here and there . What a perfect little gang for my favorite smoked chicken sausage spaghetti sauce. I gathered up all the ingredients I needed. The secret of this sauce is to super-slow cook two large and fresh, spicy Italian chicken sausage links in a heavy pan on low for about an hour until they are heated all the way through, watching them carefully and flipping them over regularly to cause a nice burnt (but not overly) line here and there on the link. This causes the sausage to become multi-flavored and textured adding to the complexity of the final sauce. Once done the links are kept room temperature and reserved for the sauce. My grandfather taught me this sausage secret when I was little and used to stand on a bench as he slowly cooked them, singing big band songs to me while we waited. His sauce was the best so I have adapted it to my own version as an adult, absent the Crisco and other 1950s foods that have come to mean clogged arteries to my generation.

Here is the sauce recipe:


2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 small carrot or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped

1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops, finely chopped

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1-3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 teaspoon tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through.

Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, including the juice and shredding them with your fingers. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill, or blend it with an immersion blender, to give it a smooth consistency but I like it chunky and textural.

At the end, cut the sausage links into one inch or two-inch chunks and throw into the pan of tomato sauce and toss. Then, serve over a bed of hot whole-wheat pasta.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ethiopian Food and Authentic Jazz and Blues

We heard that the place to go for impromptu and live jazz ANY night of the week was Culver City’s Industry CafĂ©. Supposedly you could order authentic Ethiopian food, honey mead wine and get your groove on simultaneously so we met there on a Wednesday night to check out the scene.

A simple menu offered Southern-style soul food like fried chicken and catfish and candied yams alongside more authentic East African items. Although we started out sitting at the slim bar in the cramped house, the moment a table front and center of the stage opened up, we were offered it with great hospitality.

While the band in front of us tooted some blues, including a wild bongo player less than a foot from our feet, we opted for the East African specialties: a vegetable platter and a meat dish.

The band started out with a senior drummer with a soulful face full of sagging jowls and hands that wielded drumsticks like an old and lovable hound dog. The sax player slouched in a chair and fell asleep a little between his moments of waking up and throwing out a bellowing salute with a smile. A woman on the keyboard, dressed in full Christmas light regalia expertly played back up notes for a young guitarist in front on a stool in a striped cap and Chucks tennis shoes. Everyone was totally moving on stage, in the seats, on the sides of the room and every few minutes another person with an instrument would enter the door to sit around and contribute a few chords or a blast of sound when they felt duly inspired throughout the course of the evening. Just my kind of scene: real music, real people, real passion and no formal program with some awesome food thrown in. My hips and feet were bouncing the entire time beneath the table. 

The cool thing is that when you order they ask you if you want all the food together on one plate, which I think is essential to the experience. All of the food arrives on top of traditional Injera, a large pancake like piece of yeast-risen flatbread that is super spongy and is meant to be used like a tool for scooping up bits of the food to eat. No forks or spoons necessary here. The bread helps you eat and then becomes a flavorful end bite in which all the flavors of the meal harmoniously blend. 

 The vegetarian platter consisted of Atkilt Alicha, which is a sweet pile of vegetable white including carrots, potatoes, cabbage and green beans cooked with turmeric and special seasonings. A red lentil scoop of Misir Wot wonderfully resembled refried beans a bit in taste and the collard greens were my favorite of the meal, with their buttery sweetness and al dente onion strings.

Meat portion was an enormous pile of Kitfo, which is basically raw spicy beef, served room temperature rounded out in flavor by subtle chili and lemon spices from a mellow marinade. Really good mixed with everything else or alone, savored in single bites.

Before we knew it, we were in the middle of a huge birthday party of some of the regular musicians that frequent the joint and all levels of madness ensued. A chanteuse singing with gyrating hips, a ventriloquist, and even the tap dancing man who was the choreographer of Gregory Hines in the movie Taps all took turns at the mike. Cake was passed around and everyone in the place was invited to share in the festivities. While leaving, I realized the party was one of those that could easily last into the wee hours of night and that was just the kind of strange and random mix, I like to be privy to every once in while – those magical real slices of individual life that can’t be duplicated or forced.

This will definitely be a place I return to every once in a while for comfort food nights with live blues. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Melancholia at Bar Pintxo

Both of us wanted us to try Bar Pintxo because we already love Joseph Miller's real restaurant Joe's in Venice Beach and his step-son Spanish Tapas bar in Santa Monica had to be just as good. Maybe it was because we went there on a gloomy Sunday afternoon after seeing the Lars Von Trier's suicide-inspiration flick Melancholia that made the food not quite live up to our expectations. Maybe it was because my date had just eaten at Patina the night before and had an overloaded with pleasure palate that would leave anything else in the next 24 hours in the dust or the fact that I had visited my favorite bistro in the desert for a surprise chicken liver and apple mousse the night before because the food was strangely bred on plates where a great potential piece of fare was served with something less spectacular. We totally forgave our obviously new waiter for coming over every five minutes to see if we wanted something next when we really just wanted to be left alone to talk and sip our wine and savor our bites, and I actually did enjoy the small dining room getting more crowded as the hours drew on with chefs bustling about and a seeming sense of passion about the place. And the company was great so it was hard to hate the food, although it isn't somewhere I will be rushing back to in the future unless I want to just drink wine and enjoy the good happy hour prices.

Three menus made choices a little overwhelming; a regular one, a special happy hour one and then later on into the afternoon, the nightly specials one. We did eat something from each though which proves we are adventurous foodies hoping for that cream at the top. 

First off, we chose a cheese plate to savor with our Avinyo non-vintage Brut Cava sparkly. It came with thinly sliced Manchego, Valdeon blue and Capri Chevre al Pimienton. It's hard to muck up a blue and the apricot paste was good but the goat and manchego were mildly disappointing. The goat tasted more like cream cheese and the pimento rind wasn't that flavorful. Felt a little cheated.

Piquillo stuffed crab was next. This looked and tasted more like a tomato stuffed with watery crab salad. The green sauce was good but the same mouth texture and temperature of the other stuff so that it just melded into a tasteless wash on the tongue. Unfortunately, it had the same affect on the accompanying Luberri Tempranillo glass of red.

This dish was truly the saving grace of the evening for me, if I were to go digging for one, which the man across the table tells me he's noticed I am prone to do.  Pumpkin pate with pickled cauliflower and carrots. More French then Spanish according to my mate so maybe the geography jump had something to do with the better taste. The small pot of bright orange pate covered with a balsamic gel, which was hand mashed and not consistently textured (to our liking) was novel and interesting, especially when spread on the nicely charred bread for a little burnt mixed with sweet taste. And our option of Joan Garnatxa to drink with it was great.

 This was weird and I was sad about that because I love lamb. But the meatballs tasted more like beef and there were boiled grapes in the middle with no taste, just making it a strange surprise to find in the middle of lamb that sucked the meat's life away into a hard little globe of nothingness. The fried kale was good but again, took the life out of the poor lamb. Mencos Roja wine saved the tongue a bit. Wash down and to the next.

Further disappointment was in the "special" of the evening, a rolled turkey disk with truffles and brussel sprouts. Truffles and brussel sprouts being the reason our ears perked up over the dish but you could not taste the truffle at all so you were really eating a slab of hard turkey bologna, bland as something you would buy for a cocktail party buffet at Costco. Clamoring for the brussel sprouts ended this meal.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Italiexico Mash-Up Quesadilla

It all started when a really cute gardener gave me a thin-skinned and heavy, half pale yellow and half pale green, teeming-with-juice-waiting-to-be-released solitary lime. At first I was was going to take the easy way out and mix its juice into a Sunday morning guacamole for one. But then as it sat alone in the sun on my wooden kitchen counter, I realized I wanted to do something unique with it so I sliced off just the tip to adorn a small glass of iced Patron Anejo tequila, so I could ascertain the flavor of this particular little fruit. It was super tart and tangy so I knew it had to be used in a way to accentuate it's flavor.

 So while walking back from a volunteer meeting at the Venice Family Clinic today, I stumbled upon an unusual source of inspiration in at the Venice Ranch Market. A carniceria and market combined in one lured me in with the promise of some Mexican specialties and my first stop at the deli counter surprised me with the offerings of mild and hot Italian sausages. It is Venice Beach after all, the land of make up your own cultural identity with a little creative twist thrown in. I have been in love with hot Italian sausages, plump with sage and fennel, since I was a little girl and used to stand on a step ladder in my grandfather's kitchen for hours at a time while he would make his famous sausage chunk spaghetti sauce. My friend Kelly recently reacquainted me with this sausage at a girl's pasta night in her home and I had been looking for it on meat shelves ever since. So I bought a link and some authentic, fresh guacamole, some wheat tortillas, a skim milk queso round and cilantro and headed home.

So, musical mash ups seem to be super popular these days. Why not create a food mash up? Not a sophisticated fusion or hybrid "dish" but a down and dirty cross cultural, slang swapping, feed a family of five kind of standard fare. So, of course I immediately mentally conjured one of my all mighty favorites the quesadilla.

But with a loving and passionate twist perfect for the cultural bravo of both the Italian and Mexican communities. First, I squeezed the juice of half the line into the guacamole that I had purchased that was made of red bell pepper, avocado, and onion and the remaining half into a fresh pot set on steam temperature low on the stove. I put the raw sausage into the pan and covered it to simmer slowly for ten minutes in the citrus juice. Enough to make it almost burst but also to absorb the sprightly lime steam through its membrane.

 Then I cut up the sausage so I could see the momentum of its raw meat middle and sauteed the disks in the pan to make the edges carmelized with lime essence and finish the cooking.

 This was followed by a buttering of the pan and half a tortilla laid within its crusty, burnt bowels to be layered with two ounces of crudely crumbled queso. Atop of that went the slivers of sausage before being covered with the other tortilla half and fried to a darkened crisp.

The whole quesadilla was then put on a plate and smothered with the guacamole before halved. This was a heavenly mix. The crispness of the tortilla gave way to a nice layer of cheese, tasteless like tofu that acts more like a texture bed for the explosion of fennel sausage that comes next topped with the refreshing zest of guacamole aftermath. I must say, this particular in-breeding produced quite a success!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Head to Tail Yakitori at Kokekokko

Oh the poor maligned chicken in my life. The bird has been beaten down to bastard status in my culinary oeuvre over the past decade. It’s partly because I am just so freaked out by the steroids and slaughterhouse conditions of so much of the mainstream meat manufacturing machine but it’s also because I hardly step a toe into a regular old grocery store anymore to pick up a package of breasts or thighs, organic or not. I tend to eat meat that is grown wherever I live, or prepared organically, or offered on ice blocks from the sea at my weekly farmer’s market, or served exotically in some foodie joint, and chicken tends to be the farthest down on this chain of late. 

That is until I encountered my first Yakitori experience this past Saturday night. Yakitori, or “grilled chicken”, is the reason Kokekokko in the middle of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo exists. A restaurant centered on the bird, that the owners supposedly raise themselves, where every single part of the chicken is offered up for food in the most bare bones, simply salted and peppered, skewer-grilled style. I was happy to try it out because I hadn’t had chicken that bare minimum and blessed in years. 

An impromptu visit this past weekend at nine o’clock on a Saturday night found the place relatively packed but we were lucky to score two stool seats at the bar encountered by a heaping glass of Otokoyama sake and jazz piping in over the audio system in the rustic wooden room. It was poured generously until overflowing into a pool on the plate it sat within.

I loved watching the three guys grilling up the chicken in front of us over smoking coals while taking breaks to cheers each other with glasses of beer bought by joyous regular patrons. The place has a reputation of serving its loyals on black plates with passion while treating the newbie’s with skepticism in a kind of hierarchy where you have to earn your royal treatment by becoming a familiar fan. But we were treated well, maybe because my dinner companion has eaten there before, or maybe because we adventurously ordered one of everything from the menu, including the ugly bits. Prices are good, only around $2.50 for a skewer but you have to order at least five things per person to qualify for eating there.

We ordered skewers of chicken wrapped okra, zucchini, wing, thigh, gizzard, gizzard skin, heart, liver, quail egg, and meatball. A small bowl of ground chicken slaw was placed before us alongside two tiny clay pots of spices. One held shichimi togarashi, or “seven flavor chili pepper.” The other had a green powdery mix of what I think was green onions mixed with some other savory spice. Also, a dab of yellow karashi, or Japanese mustard, was swathed upon our plates.

My favorite skewer was the liver, served without adornment so that the plump, dense, smokiness of the meat shone through. Perfect on its own without any of the dips needed.

A surprising treat was the gizzards, not at all too crunchy or gristly, as I would have imagined, but flavorful little nuggets to chew on between the other stuff. All the chicken parts skewers were great and flavorful and it was fun deciding what spice to put on each.

I will stick with the chicken parts on more occasions as the veggies were just basic bits cooked right but not too lavish. The quail eggs were good cooked, maybe with a little more of a hardened rind of skin then regular eggs, but I will continue to prefer my quail eggs shot raw at the end of sushi, where they shine in their sensual liquid best.

I have never had chicken hearts but tried them and ended up really liking them. A little more jelly-like than the livers, and smaller, but with a nice inner density that alludes to the livers, they were almost sweet little cardinal gems to pop in the mouth, again with no condiment decorum. 

My dining companion who has a cantankerous funny bone waited until the end of the chicken parade to announce that the quarters could double as a salmonella flowering bed, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to go back. Or stop us from continuing on to order a skewer of crunchy chicken tail when prompted by a neighborly diner who could tell we were equally adventurous. I think of Anthony Bourdain squatting in Alaska over a whale freshly butchered with a family of ten bloody mouthed blubber eating Aleutians and feel proud that I can carry on in the same tradition in my own backyard restaurant full of raw chicken parts cooked and served up literally in front of my face. 

At the end of the meal, we were asked if we wanted dessert. Dessert consisted of a small white bowl of steamed sticky rice topped with a pool of mellow, brown curry. It was a nice little sweet moment at the end of a bare bones meat meal.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mouth Gluttony at Osteria Mozza

Dining out is most fun between fellow foodies, when you not only pick a place you've heard of and have always wanted to go, but you also get to sit and strategize the menu with another person who's just as adventurous with the palate as you are and willing to swap and share, doubling the culinary experimentation. This time it started with my favorite negroni, perfectly bitter and up, at the Nancy Silverton/Mario Batali gourmet Italian collaboration Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles.

My dinner mate and I came to the table with decidedly different taste buds. Me, of the bitter and acidic variety, and he, of the fatty and sweet persuasion. This made for an interesting pairing of all courses.

First, we were compelled to order a starter from the infamous mozzarella bar. He chose the burricotta with radicchio, spiced walnuts, honey and fried rosemary.

I chose the burrata with bacon, carmelized shallots and marinated escarole. Both plates arrived with two heaping toasted baguette slices topped with a generous dollop of creamy cheese, slathered in the middle with a golden pool of olive oil and then generous amounts of the other toppings. Both were melt in your mouth luscious yet we both agreed that the bacon option was the best. The crisp and meaty slices mixed with the bitter escarole and the vinegar taste of the dressing combined with the pile of cheese in a way that I can only describe as sinful. Tangy perfection on a sopping, chewy bread bed. The portions were surprisingly enormous and we agreed that one was all that was really needed per order but that didn't stop us from finishing both plates - how can you let mozzarella that divine go to waste?

The entire incentive for me to go to this restaurant in the first place had been spurred by reviews on one particular dish in the Primi course - the Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi and it lived up to the hype. A magnificent cold dish of squid ink pasta with flakes of Dungeness crab, moist mini-filets of sea urchin and a kick of jalapeno piled in a refreshing briny sauce. Slurped up as if slurping directly from some deep jeweled pocket of the sea. I told my dinner mate that I would no doubt wake up craving this dish oftentimes in the future. 

He chose a Orecchiette with sausage and Swiss chard for his Primi and it was a lovely shallow bowl of pasta, perfectly cooked and filled with meaty nuggets of smoky ground sausage and a slightly spicy, musky aftertaste. We had many exchanges of dish in this course with shared wines to alternate between the darkness of the sausage and the lightness of the juice of the sea: a sparkly and enlivened Offida Pecorino white and the La Mozza "Aragone" sangiovese blend.  

For our Secondi, he chose the guinea hen crostone with liver pancetta sauce. A small piece of meat beneath the super smoky sauce was a bit indiscernable but flavorful nonetheless. Which hardly mattered because by this bursting point in our guts we were focused on finishing my dish. 

 I opted for the decadently exotic sweetbreads picatta with braised artichokes, greens and whole capers. A bite of caper bursting with juice alongside the other tangy and tart greens on top of the subtly cooked sweetbread bits crusted excellently and charred was a match made exactly for my mouth. I think this is my favorite sweetbread version tasted thus far. 

As if that weren't enough, we ordered the warm chocolate cake with a shared glass of Madeira "New Orleans" to seal the exquisite meal. A watery nub of ice cream ignored in lieu of the belly-aching hot and moist cake with a swish of the fragrant, bruised plum-reminiscent drink was in order to top off the night at this world class joint.