I talk about food a lot. And other stuff.

But mostly food.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine's Dinner at Piccolo

I don't have enough words to explain how much I love this restaurant - no matter how long this post is.  Three years ago when Auriga closed it's doors, I mourned.  I mourned the loss of a place my family celebrated big and small events in our life with food.  It was the loss of the place we brought our of town visitors and new and old friends, and championed to strangers in our everyday lives.  It was the place I could go and know, for a fact, that whatever I ordered was going to be beautiful, flavorful, seasonal, interesting, surprising and, above all, the kind of food I needed to close my eyes to eat.   The kind of food that makes me do my little happy food dance in my chair when the server approaches.

This year, Chef Doug Flicker (along with many others from Auriga, including the lovely and talented Front of House Goddess, Bridget Harrington, and ├╝ber-knowledgeable and very tall server Robb-With-Two-Bs) is back with Piccolo.  With a vision of smaller plates that are easy to share (and prices that reflect that), the brilliant concept of Shared Gratuity between front and back of house, and the return of complex, interesting, surprising, eye-closing, conversation-stopping flavors, I say: Let the happy food chair dancing begin again!

My husband and I were there with my parents on opening night (my mom with four freshly broken ribs - she wouldn't have missed it!) and ordered The Entire Menu.  You can read my letter to the Chef from opening night, along with that night's menu, after the jump if you'd like.

For Valentine's Day, Piccolo offered a pre fixe menu ($50 per person).  We, again, ordered the entire menu (how smart to offer a choice of two for each course, allowing me to order dinner without feeling like I'm missing something).  We also got the wine pairing ($75 per person) (I don't have that list with me, but it was great).

Sitting in the little back room this time gave us a private feeling, and I especially love walking through the kitchen to get to my table.  Chef Flicker was always happy to look up, say hello, and even answer my question about the little jars lining the bookcase with mysterious contents marked "White Asparagus Dill Pollen".   Apparently white asparagus pickles might be in a future dining experience.  Can't wait to try them.

I am so happy and so grateful to have a place to go for food like this.  I have a new place to champion, because I really believe in it.  Knowing that it's there makes me feel happy and somehow connected with my ideal of creativity through food.  It broadens my palate and my imagination about food, and it fosters my courage about all the wonderful things our Earth's bounty offers us.  I try things I would never eat anywhere else when Chef Flicker cooks it - from the simple mushroom or escargot to the slightly more adventurous pickled pigs feet or veal tongue - because I trust that even if it's not my favorite flavor, it will be a wonderful experience.

Valentine's Day Menu:

House "smoked" wild sturgeon with potato, lemon jam and dill
Chioggia beet terrine with goat's milk, truffle honey and endive

Winter ragout of white asparagus and Brussels sprouts with brioche crouton and chevre
Swiss chard raviolis with Au Bon Canard duck, medjool dates and pickled walnuts

Blue prawns with chamomile yogurt, english cucumbers and saffron couscous
Spanish mackerel with Jerusalem artichokes, porcini mushrooms and tomato jam

Roasted quail stuffed with a chestnut sausage, braised salsify and garlic potato puree
Pine cured veal breast confit with Brussels sprouts, pistachios and garlic sausage

Malted panna cotta with chocolate milk and figs
Chocolate terrine with chocolate pearls, dark raisins and pinecone syrup

Opening Night Letter to the Chef and Staff (as seen on their page on Facebook):

Doug, Polly, Dan, Bridget, Xan, et al: Last night's dinner was just perfect. As you know, we ordered everything on the menu. I ate things I never thought I would (escargot, pigs feet, veal tongue - even the skin on the cod and olives are things I wouldn't eat anywhere else). I have to say, though, when you trust your chef, and have looked forward to a meal for three years, you just can't NOT taste everything. I'm so happy I did, because each dish was surprising and wonderful. Even the more subtle flavors of the celery root terrine, potato and veal tongue pave and ricotta pana cotta were so complex I ate with my eyes closed to savor each bite. I actually dreamed about the scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet last night. My husband Bill really loved the sous vide beef shin.

My parents were delighted that I had found you on Twitter (great move! Though linking to FB each tweet is sometimes disappointing as I'm always hoping it's a picture or link) and that I managed to make us a reservation for opening night. (Yay, Open Table!) Even mom's four broken ribs from her car accident last Friday couldn't keep her away. They never would have missed it. She would have called to figure out where to park her hospital gurney if she needed to. My dad used the word "magnificent" more than once - and mostly about the roasted chicken - a delightful surprise to us all.

We're so pleased to know we can come and have Doug's amazing food any time we want (ok, not Tuesdays - but we'll come Mondays and Wednesdays, promise). We are so amazed at Bridget's memory, kindness and care (thanks for sitting down with us at the end of the night and catching up with us). Mostly we're just so excited to have you all back. Thanks for an amazing night that lived up to every ridiculous expectation we've been building for the past three years.

Opening Night Menu: 
($6 - $14)

Escargot with artichokes, soft polenta and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms

Sunchoke croquettes with shaved fennel, radish and green apple mustard

Celery root terrine with apple butter, speck and arugula

Scrambled eggs with pickled pigs feet, truffle butter and parmagiano

Potato and veal tongue pave with cornichons, caraway and Italian parsley

Potato gnocchi with white beans guanciale and robiola cheese

Sea scallop with red wine braised onions, radish and sorrel

Black cod with smoked celery, pancetta, arugula and hazel nuts

Roasted chicken with ricotta pain purdu, cipollini onion and golden turnips

Pastured lamb crepinette with squash confit, olives and quince

Sous vide beef shins with compressed figs, walnuts and horseradish

Ricotta panna cotta with Meyer lemon and quince

Bitter almond cake with vanilla ice cream and brown butter honey

Chocolate terrine with dark raisins, chocolate pearls and pinecone syrup

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