Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Reviews - Food Edition

I haven't done this in a while and will cover a few of the finer things in life: food, books and movies.

Dining: Osteria La Spiga

The impromptu organizational meeting of the Tuesday night dinner club was held at Osteria La Spiga (website under construction, but gives a decent glimpse at the decor). Me and the P met her sister and Andrew and Kevin for an early meal last night. P and I usually do dinner at her place on Sundays, but we were both up for something different. Andrew and Kevin are both chefs and foodies, not to mention fantastic company, and P's sister D is one of the better people on the planet, so there was no shortage of conversation or laughter.

We arrived about half an hour after them and they had already sampled the sardines and the cheese plate. Although I am normally pretty skeeved by sardines (what with the hair and all of that), I sampled it for foodie sake and it was delicious - salty, meaty, caramelized - not the sardines that are usually haphazardly scattered on your Caesar salad. The cheese plate was actually ample, for a refreshing change, and the selections were creamy, salty and sharp. I may be the last person in the world to get on board with the cheese plate as a first course (owing to a childhood fixation of cheese being mold. See also mushrooms as fungus, infra), but am coming around to the notion of a well balanced cheese plate as an ideal means to stimulate your palate.

We decided to create our own tasting menu and share everything. The house salad is, without question, the best house salad I have had in Seattle. God help me, I cannot remember the name of the greens (I honestly hadn't heard of it before last night), but they were the perfect size and texture and the perfect kind of bitter. Paired with crisp prosciutto, eggs and amazingly flavorful heirloom tomatoes and dressed in the lightest of vinaigrette, it was the quintessential summer salad. It was so good, in fact, that P ordered a second one after we finished our meal.

All these words and I haven't even started on the paparadelle with truffle butter. Oh, sweet heaven on earth, it is positively amazing. Simple but perfectly cooked homemade pasta coated (but not drenched) and the most fragrant truffle butter and just a hint of fresh black pepper. It was, without question, the crowd favorite, and the two plates we ordered were licked clean. I ordered the paparadelle with bolognese, which is almost always my favorite dish in any Italian restaurant and it did not disappoint. Meaty, perfectly seasoned and again, atop that perfect pasta, it is a dish that I know I will need to have on a fairly regular basis. I especially enjoyed the little dishes of finely grated reggiano Parmesan to garnish both pasta plates, as I am of the belief that there is little that cannot be improved upon without a liberal spoonful of high quality Parmesan. Yes. Exception to the mold rule.

D ordered the roasted pork and it fell apart by the forkful. Tender, moist and clearly roasted in a masterful au jus, it was the all too uncommon preparation where you savored the flavor of the meat - so often, chefs mask the pork with a fruity compote or sauce. La Spiga let the meat and fresh herbs do the heavy lifting and the pork won its weight division.

P ordered the roasted potatoes and Kevin ordered the spinach soup. The potatoes were roasted perfectly - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, seasoned with rosemary and garlic, but of all of the dishes, it was the least interesting. The spinach soup, however, was a complete and pleasant surprise. I love raw spinach and usually only enjoy it cooked when it still has its raw texture, unless it is creamed and really, what doesn't taste great when flavored with butter, cream and salt? The soup was so prepared, but also seasoned with fresh nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon. It was probably too heavy for your average Seattle summer day, but last night had a touch of fall in the air and it worked well. Kevin ordered a mushroom dish that everyone pronounced as magnificent, but alas, as I have not crossed over to the dark side of fungus, I abstained. I think I might have already told the mushroom-as-fungus story, but if not, have mentally filed it away for another day.

As I mentioned, P reordered the house salad, and that was the perfect ending to the meal. We didn't do dessert, and although I am not a dessert person, I would go back to see what they offer. Aside from the simply but expertly seasoned and prepared food, to say nothing of the perfect company, what bumps La Spiga up to your list of regular haunts is the atmosphere. The space is eye candy from almost any angle, and you find yourself wanting to come back and sit in a different corner. The outdoor dining patio, while small and in an alley, for fuck's sake, is someplace I intend to seek out before the unofficial end of summer. I can see how nearby residents would quickly call this place their go-to haunt. Although I am a self-pronounced urban city snob, who considers a jaunt to nearby Capitol Hill a field trip, I found myself looking longingly at the bar and considering a mid-week dinner alone, with a book, tasting all of the dishes that we didn't order.


Norm said...

Wait ... sardines don't have hair ... !

/marine biologist

cornutt said...

Then what the fuck is that furry shit on a sardine?

Phyllis said...

That lovely lettuce was called 'mache', also called 'lamb's lettuce'. SO good, sweet, buttery, slightly nutty.

Norm said...

"That furry shit on a sardine" is a fantastic name for a band.