Monday, May 28, 2007

gastronomic weekend, part 2

Going up to Calistoga today to see Schramsberg and taste some bubbly. Bringing the dog along in the car, so that should be interesting.

A16 was so wonderful. I fell in love with the dimly lit interior and the tiny garden room in back, the ancient foosball table and the open kitchen where a dozen hands toiled away. We ordered big, full bodied Italian wines that tasted like dirt and earth and first sip and mellowed as they sat. Crusty bread and good dipping oil. Soon the fava beans came, and they were divine. They were perfectly seasoned. Every now and then I'd get a bite of crispy mint leaf or a lightly charred pod and shudder in delight. It made me want to go to market and buy a bunch of favas. My only prior experience with favas was disappointing, shucking large pods from the farm where I worked because in upstate New York June they were the only thing ready before I moved back to Boston.

I followed the excellent favas with a quattro formaggio pizza topped with arugula, my favorite bitter green. A little soggy in the middle from the weight of the cheese, and a little light on the arugula for my taste, but still amazing. I could only manage half a pizza, and now I've got leftovers sitting in the mini fridge in the hotel.

The dessert menu was entirely Italian inspired, and that sort of thing usually doesn't moved me. So we settled on the zabaglione with lemon granita and torrone, since I've been thinking of doing a sabayon w/ berries for Frog Hollow anyway. It was excellent as well. A perfectly composed dessert, which is hard, nice flavor balance of tart and sweet, and to discover the fluffy, icy granita lurking underneath creamy, aerated vanilla custard was an amazing sensory experience. For me it's all about taking something familiar and making it new, making it more. Every element of this dessert did that for me...the chopped, toasted buts on top, the really good cookie (and I'm not a cookie person).

Compared to the A16 experience, Jardiniere was disappointing. But that's another post.

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