Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sneaker Wave

So, the Union League experience was lovely. It was not a Culinary Adventure, but it was very yummy and such a pretty room. There were lots of college kids there in t-shirts and flip-flops with their parents, eating tomatoes-three-ways (an appetizer that sounded delicious but which we did not have) while looking at the IKEA catalog. But for us it was An Occasion, which we celebrated with oysters, pink Champagne, and for Andy, an enormous gin Martini. Why do they make Martini glasses big enough to hold half a bottle of gin? What happened to the lovely Liquor Cocktail-size glass? We had cocktails in small (or "normal") sized glasses at Vahl's a while back, and they were just the perfect size to whet our appetites for dinner but not to get us so sloshed that we couldn't taste the food.

Anyway, after our very briny and fresh east coast oysters, we had a salad of quail, corn, spinach, and chanterelle mushrooms. This was a little like eating Quail Meatloaf -- a clever French technique of somehow mashing the quail meat and corn together and then making it look like it was back on the bone again. French chefs love illusions. Then we had our main courses -- Andy had veal cheeks, which was like the best pot roast ever, and I had roast chicken, which I have not ordered in a restaurant in years, but was just perfect last night. The "chickpea fries" that came with it were not quite as surprising and wonderful as I had hoped -- they were very much like sticks of fried polenta -- but the "fork-mashed zucchini" (ha!) was a pleasant surprise! I decided, at the end of dinner, to make up my own WD-50-esque bite of food, so peeled all the delicious skin off the relatively dry chicken breast and wrapped it around a square of chickpea fry. A delicious and unexpected ravioli experience!

The best parts were the cheeses, though. Andy had a compte that tasted at first like something unmentionable but then mellowed into buttery grassy deliciousness, and a pecorino from Pienza -- a town we visited in Italy -- that was grainy and wonderful, and the best was the mystery cheese that he was too tipsy to remember the name of -- insanely peppery, almost effervescent. I had some ice creams, the best of which was the salted caramel kind. Oh my god. So good.

I had called ahead and feared that I would be considered so cheesy for asking if the nice folks at Union League would put a little candle in Andy's dessert, but was so happy when they even offered to write "Happy Birthday" on his plate! Therefore, I was a little tense when he ordered cheese instead of cake -- would they desecrate the cheese by jabbing a candle into it? -- but instead they brought over a lovely little plate of complimentary mignardises, with a candle in the middle and "Happy Birthday" written in chocolate on the rim, to accompany the cheeses. That alone made me love Union League. Such nice people, those French chefs.

We didn't realize how full we were until after we left. Oof. Even when my chicken came, I thought to myself, wow, I am going to have to order two desserts in order to fill my giant belly. But I couldn't even finish the chicken! It must have been all the butter in the fork-mashed zucchini.


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