Monday, November 26, 2007

A Venetian Supper [with Mental Margin Notes]

Back in August I posted about my affection for La Posta restaurant in Santa Cruz, particularly the 4-course Sunday dinners, served family-style. The menu is fixed -- no choices; no substitutions. I never call ahead to ask what's being served; I like the surprises. But this past Sunday, my initial reaction to the menu was disappointment. Return with me:
The hostess seats us at our favorite table in the front corner near the bar and hands us the night's menus. First course: a radicchio salad with marinated anchovies. [Ho-hum. I make radicchio salad at home all the time.]
J orders a plate of the house-made salamis. [Because we've been eating so lightly all weekend we need five courses tonight instead of four.] The salamis are excellent. I eat more than my share [Because I'm just going to pick at the boring salad.]
Only, the salad is spendid. Tossed with the radicchio leaves are sprigs of flat-leaf parsley -- "Very Nigella," our friend R notes -- and the anchovies are the plump white boquerones I love.
The second course is risotto with squid ink. [I'd been hoping for pasta. Preferably a repeat of the pasta with duck we had here a few weeks ago] Of course it is delicious and certainly isn't something I make frequently at home. Like: ever.
Next comes petrale sole marinated in sweet and sour sauce. [Is there a more boring fish in the sea than petrale sole? And I hate sweet and sour sauces.] Ok, once again I decide chef Chris Avila is a genius. I LOVE this dish, redolent with mounds of sauteed onions, plump raisins and a perfect balance of sweet and sour notes. A side dish of kale with pine nuts is a fine complement.
Dessert is seckel pear poached in white wine. [Waah. I want my pears swathed in caramel or tucked between layers of pastry.] And my record is now 4 for 4 in the boy-was-I-wrong department. Each of us gets a perfect wee pear, perched jauntily in a pool of poaching liquid which tastes of lemon zest and cinnamon. Bliss: start to finish.
Dear Chef Avila: I shall not doubt you again. [Unless, of course, on some tragic Sunday you make a dish permeated with peas.]

And in a small spurt of serendipity, today's mail brings a beautiful new cookbook by Anna Del Conte: "The Painter, the Cook and the Art of Cucina." I turn to the "Veneto" chapter and find, on adjacent pages, a recipe for Risotto Nero and another for Sardines in Sweet and Sour Sauce. Perhaps I'll try them. Or perhaps I'll hope Chris Avila repeats last Sunday's menu before too long.


katiez said...

I think the best foods are the ones we expect to be boring or only so-so and then turn out wonderful!
What a lovely restaurant - I think I'd want to go every week!

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