5/02/2003

oof. too much eating. but i can't help myself when it's so good. wednesday: the tasting room. i ran into the chef of 71 clinton a couple weeks back, and he spoke glowingly of the tasting room -- which i hadn't even heard of -- but we didn't get around to checking it out until now. this guy from daniel, colin alevras, opened up this place in the east village with his wife, offering an ever-changing menu of small dishes (which can be upgraded somewhat to entree portions if desired) and a really massive list of wines. it is a wine bar, after all. similar to troquet in boston, but less conservative. tim deems it a real wine geek's place. we started with an asparagus terrine, a tidy little paved square of stalk, held together with veg aspic, accompanied by some remarkably savory grapefruit supremes; the foie gras, a modest lobe with lemon jam and some winey-saucey thing underneath, garnished with a big ol' pile of chives; poached cod with spring peas in a cardamom-laced sauce (so delicious, and yet there was still string in the cod from poaching, and the peas were veryundercooked. still, i would eat this one again, and again);and oh yes, the squid with chorizo -- while very, very tasty, the sausage dice was too large i thought and overwhelmed the delicate squid flavor. but the textures were nice, and i felt like it was right idea. we got a large (relatively) portion of the braised rabbit, and nearly licked the plate clean. excellent ciabatta in the breadbasket. the room is small but unassuming. lots of exposed brick, dark wood, bicycle paintings. the service has to be one of the least pretentious in the city, just alot of enthusiasm and sincerity. alevras is the nicest guy. we had some champagne with the starters, glasses of dry and yeasty blanc de blancs, and a bottle of pinot noir with the rest of the meal. cheese plate: i remember only the sally jackson and the point reyes, but they selected three others that were superb, and the cheese came with thin slices of dense, nutty bread, pesto, honey, and pickled grapes. pickled grapes are now my ideal fruit pairing with cheese -- i feel like dried fruit just reinforces the dryness of some cheeses, and regular grapes, while acidic, don't have the smack of pickling liquid. for the perfect dessert to cap off such a spring-y meal, lemon tart. this is definitely our new favorite place to eat in the city. tim cooked last night (and dammit, i wish i'd had my digital camera): to start, olive oil-poached cherry tomato-fresh mozzarella-pesto tarts with arugula (dressed) garnished with prosciutto chips. both this tart crust and the ones for dessert were made with lard, which yields the most flavorful, flaky result (see march's saveur). the doughs are very similar, but the savory pate brisee lacks the sugar in the pate sucre (i guess that's obvious). then, he browned some halibut and served it with a ragu of favas, spring peas, onions, mussels and artichokes. dessert was strawberry-rhubarb tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a strawberry juice-reduction. sometimes he truly amazes me. yum. things i want to do: pickle (everything), make a pie, bake something from my maida heatter cookbook, make preserves.

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