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.

2 comments:

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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