Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hello, Lovely

Shut up, I like tasting menus.

As many times as I've done the Tuesday Tasting at the Empress, it never occurred to me how much I like the concept.

Two of us decided to give their Southern Italian tasting a whirl tonight and joined a small but enthusiastic group of diners doing the same.

Tarczal Dry Moscato was just dry enough to cut the rich garlicky pan sauce over roasted squid stuffed with white beans, spinach and garlic.

Conversation revolved around the stages of a post-relationship friendship. How much is too much?

I'm always thrilled to find fresh anchovies, so the next course of them served with black olive puree, lemon zest, spicy caper sauce and cherry tomato confit pleased me no end.

A Villa Pozzi Pinot Grigio delivered honeysuckle and fruit and got a thumbs up from the nearest Southern Italian.

Then it was time for the third course and Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano suited my penchant for a full-bodied red while only slightly intimidating my table mate.

It was paired beautifully with mussels in a red wine, tomato, garlic and pepper flake sauce over gluten-free linguine.

My gluten-intolerant friend would have been over the moon with that dish.

Last up was fried veal sweetbreads with veal jus, roasted green tomato puree and fried sage leaf.

And if you're going to eat innards, you need a luscious and velvety wine like Layer Cake Primitivo to keep things properly primal.

And that's when it occurred to me. How great would it be if a restaurant did this every night?

You pay your twenty bucks and you get four two-ounce pours of different wines with a small plate paired with each.

And not a small plate two people could pick off of, but a true small plate. A few bites of four different dishes.

Call me fickle, call me a Gemini, but know that I enjoy savoring as many different tastes as possible.

So naturally I see a lot of sense in a four-course tasting/pairing, something that offers me both fresh anchovies and sweetbreads in the same meal.

Not to mention squid and mussels.

Plus just enough wine to make it work. Brilliant.

But since no one's calling me for restaurant concept ideas, I'll set that aside for now.

Instead of stopping while we were ahead, we opted for the chocolate/banana crepe to round out our meal.

Between listening to the XX on the restaurant sound system and saying hello to the friend (who thinks of himself as Princess Di) busy plotting with his cohorts how to rule the world ("We want you to be the social director," he insisted), I used my finger to finish up the last of the chocolate sauce on the plate.

Therein lies the beauty of a tasting menu. You not only have room for dessert but time for finger licking.

You know, in case you have bigger fish to fry later.

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