Monday, July 12, 2010

First Course

I apologize for the break in posts here since January. I went on a particularly restrictive elimination diet to figure out what I should and should not eat for a few months. The results were conclusive, if not fixing EVERY health problem I have, but I call it a win. In the mean time, I hadn't been going to very many new restaurants. But there are a handful now that I have been to and have not posted about yet. But will.

My personal cross to bear is that for the most part I have to avoid tomatoes. Being of Italian descent (among other things) this is particularly sucky. But it does inform where I tend to go. As does my intense need to avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors, be those HFCS or aspartame, or even MSG.

It means that my focus on restaurants has shifted a little, and I mostly focus on ones that tend towards making their own entrees from fresh ingredients and are less likely to use those sorts of short cuts. Not always, but I do try.

I go out to eat less, but I would like to think that the quality of restaurant that I'm going to is elevating as a result.

In any case. The actual review.

Tonight I biked on down to a local restaurant hidden near my local Kowalski's - First Course. I have immediately put this restaurant into the "why have I taken this LONG to find this place?" category. It is a cute french-american bistro style restaurant. The outside seating is plenty, though I went at the bright part of the evening so opted to sit inside with my book in the relatively dark interior.

I started off my evening with an Argentinian Malbec whose name I have sadly forgotten. If you haven't tried a Malbec for a red wine, you should. This is the current "hip" grape, passing by any Cab, Merlot, or Shiraz, especially for a summer red. It is slightly acidic but not harsh with the tannins. And it ends up with a full enough body but not enough to weigh you down.

As I was eating alone, I did not have any appetizers. I did note however that they had a $4 calamari tapas. Since PiC is a calamari *addict*, noting that I was certain I would at least have to come back here to try that with him.

Instead, I asked for the specials, and though they all sounded lovely I decided I wanted a entree that would challenge me. I went with the butternut squash with gorgonzola cream sauce, sweet potato strings, rainbow chard, and julienned vegetables. Understand that I *hate* blue cheese. I hate the feel, I hate the quality of the sharpness, I hate the way that it always feels out of balance with whatever else is in the meal. Gorgonzola is only one of many blue cheeses that I dislike.

And I loved my meal. Had to convince myself not to lick the plate loved my meal. The balance made the blue cheese subtle but strong enough to stand up to the other flavors of the meal, and it all danced across my tongue. It made me wish I had not snarfed the fantastic crusty bread that came as the appetizer as I would have used that to sop up more of the sauce.

To balance my meal, I had a glass of '05 Three Saints Chardonnay on the recommendation of the waiter. Chardonnay is also one of those wines that I drink occasionally but rarely enjoy. For this particular meal I thought it had enough body to compliment my meal, with the acidity cutting through some of the cream. It would be brassy if served at the wrong temperature, but here it was a lovely compliment.

To end my meal, I went with what I am required to go with if I have the option - I tried their creme brulee. With a sugar crust that was caramelized but not burnt, a rare treat in this town I have found, and an exceptionally smooth custard underneath, again I had to fight with myself not to lick the dish. The custard and caramel flavoring was especially lovely with their bold strawberry sliced on top.

I can guarantee that I will be back at this restaurant, only a few blocks from my house. I can bike to it and have a mostly lovely coast home on the way back.

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