April 07, 2005

au revoir

tallasiandude took me to the Tuscan Grill the night before I left for Chicago. This was a bittersweet evening -- many tears have been shed as I have made my way to the midwest, but our dinner at the grill was as wonderful as always, if not perhaps more so. This is our restaurant, much the way other couples have "our song." We don't generally go there with anyone but ourselves, and it is so close to the house that we could almost (almost but not quite) walk there. And we always sit at the bar, for a host of reasons: it's faster to get a seat, the bar itself is lovely to look at, all dark wood and glass, and the bartender (& owner?) is one of the best ever. He's genial but not aggressively friendly, he's attentive in a most unobtrusive way, and he's as genuinely enthusiastic about the food as we are.

We used to overorder (us? overorder? *gasp*) and roll out of there stuffed to the point of pain, but we've mastered the art of ordering by now. The trick is to go easy on two of the three courses, and simply share one dish instead of two. This time we had a single antipasto, a single half-order of pasta, and two entrees.

The starter was a no-brainer to order -- anything called "duck three ways" and claiming to involve both confit and pate is something i must eat. The third way was a duck proscuitto, and the works came with crostini & a lemony fig conserve. Gorgeous. The pasta was a wild-mushroom cannelloni in a mushroom broth, which was creamy and light and full of mushroom flavor, a wonderfully simple dish after the rich savory duck treats.

The two perennial highlights of the secondi are always the hanger steak and the scallops -- this time the fish special trumped the scallops but the hanger steak was spectacular as always, tender and intensely meaty and almost crispy on the outside. It came with sauteed escarole and a gratin of penne and grated parsnips. I love the veg-pasta gratins they do at the Tuscan Grill, and this one was particularly delightful, the sweetness of the parsnips bringing out both the wheatiness of the pasta and the flavor of the meat. It is a very clever idea, marrying vegetable and pasta under a thin blanket of cream and a toasted crust of parmesan -- i have seen them do this with cauliflower and other veg as well -- and I am going to have to borrow it one of these days for a dinner party.

The fish was a piece of halibut with a perfect crunchy golden crust, a simple butter sauce, and a huge pile of black trumpet mushrooms, flanked by a pile of baby spinach lightly dressed and decorated with a handful of lovely rock shrimp. This time even tallasiandude was wrestling with the impulse to lick the plate, and there were many surreptitious swipes of the finger through the sauce left on the plate, a luscious blend of butter, fish juices, mushroom juices and just a wisp of acid from the salad. It is a damned shame that we can't get fish like this without going to the top-shelf restaurants. We live on the ocean, within an hour's drive of a major fishing city, and yet the average person will get utter dreck when ordering fish in the average restaurant or buying in a normal supermarket. Scandalous.

Dessert was a half-bottle of moscato d'asti, a particularly fruity, peachy version called Nivole, along with a single unctuous creme brulee that we shared. And then we went home to snuggle and watch the special features on the Incredibles dvd, because we are just that geeky. It was a lovely night, making quite clear the wonderful man unfortunately still in Boston while I forge on with this project of living in Chicago.

Posted by foodnerd at April 7, 2005 10:00 PM
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