"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Felidia (Umbrian Food and Wine) - March 23, 2011

This was my last attempt to save my relationship with Felidia (no, I am not monogamous, but): Our marriage has run its course from the honeymoon – the first exquisite pleasure of chewing the perfectly al dente pasta and cutting into the artistic mosaic of octopus; then to the comfortable domestic life of solidly agreeable entrees (which the Italian restaurants in New York seem to have even harder time to execute than boiling pasta); and gradually to the taciturn evenings filled with recurring disappointments and bitter resentments, some of which directed toward the invariably inedible desserts – be it tiramisu or bomboloni; and finally, in the last year or two, to the extramarital affairs to discover greener grass and recoup the lost years. Even the expensive truffled tagliolini had failed to rouse my interest: Money neither buys heart nor stomach. Now, this last dinner was the ultimatum; let us see if the family reunion - a.k.a. Winemaker Dinner celebrating Umbrian Food and Wine - with Signora Lidia and Signore Nicotra – and a third-party mediator – Signore Salvatore “Toto”* Denaro – would be able to rekindle my love and interest.

*In Sicily, “Toto” is the nickname for Salvatore, like in Cinema Paradiso.

The tired bean spread remained unchanged and bland, garnished with a large absolutely tasteless black fava bean like an evil eye. Even the whole-wheat focaccia with walnuts (and perhaps butter) did not do more than raising my eyebrow a millimeter.

Castellucio Lentils with Baccala

The baccalà was bland – how many bowls of water did it require the chef to change in order to ring every last bit of the good fishness out of the salted cod – slick and viscous from too much pommede like a mafia hairdo. The lentils underneath revealed the simple earthy origin with onions and celery, which would have brought back happier memory if it was properly salted.

Salvatore’s Chickpea Soup

The change of plan from the intriguing chickpea pasta to the common zuppa di ceci did let me down intellectually, and yet, seemed rather suitable for a night of blizzard at the end of March. The luckluster soup was thick in texture but thin in taste, on which the small but hefty greasy lardo crostino sat heavily down; such superficial show of machismo was not impressive but only disdainful.

Rigatoni alla Norma

The perfectly cooked rigatoni, slathered in an intense tomato sauce with tender fried eggplants and aromatic basil, picqued my interest for the time being; while the creamy shreds of ricotta salata mellowed my sharp and ready anger toward the sloppy hand that scooped the pasta.

Porcini Pappardelle with Braised Duck

The thin delicate sheets of pappardelle were light and silky, folding in the rich and dark duck sugo with porcini. The concentrated flavors of the duck and porcini almost made me forget the bad memories; nevertheless, when I turned for some carbohydrate support, the pappardelle deserted me with its quick sleaziness.

Jamison Farm Roast Leg of Lamb and Lamb Chop with Sunchoke Puree, Roasted Potatoes in Black Truffle Sauce

The leg and the chop were aptly roasted to medium: Good meats do not need to be bloody rare (double entendere intended) because they are tender and flavorful anyway. The execution of the earthy and licorish sunchoke pureee was well-done, so were the roasted potatoes with the evenly bowned skin. However, the paltry amount of the black truffle showed the ungenerous side of my former caro mio.

Umbrian Chocolate Cake with Gelato

As expected, the chocolate cake – or should I say chocolate pudding à la Kozy Shack – was unacceptable in both texture – lumpy – and taste – too eggy. The vapid cherry sauce was masked as a mixed berry sauce (or was it the mixed berry sauce masquerading as the cherry sauce). As I scooped the frozen milk - the only edible part of the dessert - off the plate with a frozen face, I contemplated the cosmic wisdom of Mr. Albert Einstein: “Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed.”

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