I have just had the pleasure of spending a wonderful afternoon eating and drinking at the Batali/Bastianich experience known as Lupa.
Stacey said we all look like our blogs. That's true. I think I glow and am covered in words. ;-)
Raise a glass everyone
It was wonderful to meet other food bloggers for the first time. I had the pleasure of meeting the sharp-witted Stacey of Stacey Snacks (who was both the organizer, and generous funder of this outing), my "neighbor" Giff of Constable's Larder, adorable Claire of Colloquial Coooking, the wonderfully affable Stefan the Zen Chef Gone Wild, and the very special guest, Peter of Kalofagas who is in town on vacation (and is every bit as charming and funny IRL as he is in his blog).
I have to admit company like this is a little intimdating for me. I'm not the most wordly of foodies. Hearing everyone discuss the joys and pitfalls of traveling in Paris was educational and interesting to me. On the other hand it did give me a little of that "I'm an unsophisticated bumpkin" feeling as my European travel experiences are limited to a bus tour of Italy in 1985, a horseback tour of Ireland in 2003, and three business trips to London between 2005 and 2008. Heck, I only visited Canada for the first time earlier this spring and that was to Calgary (not exactly a foodie city). But that feeling was only my own insecurities talking because there was certainly no pretension or snobbery in the crowd. No one seemed shocked or condescending that *gasp* I've never been to Paris. (Not that I don't want to go, mind you. I'm totally willing to risk that "snooty Parisian" thing to have the opportunity to see that city.)
So the company was wonderful, but how was the food? What was my first experience at a Batali/Bastianich restaurant like?
I began at the bar with Stacey while we waited for the others to show up. She recommended a Sicilian white, that was excellent. When everyone showed up (somehow the rest of the party all made it to the restaurant at the same time) we went to our table where we ordered more wine (including a bottle of a Tuscan red and a bottle of the white I was drinking, which Peter said was like drinking the "bookends of Italy") and a plate of foccacia. The foccacia was wonderful. There was a taste reminiscent of biscuits in it. Thanks to the fact that I had to spend my morning at home with the plumber, rush to my office for a meeting, and then rush to the city, I was really starving by the time I got to the restaurant. I really snarfed that bread!
For a starter the table ordered a sampler of all of the vegetable antipasti. There were beets with pistachio, brussels sprouts, treviso, olives, broccoli rabe, and squash. I tried all of them but the olives. I'm lukewarm on beets, but these were great with the pistachios. Even the brussels sprouts were better than usual. I liked the squash and the treviso quite a bit. Although I usually can't handle the bitterness of broccoli rabe, this was nicely mellowed by ricotta. I would say Lupa uses quite a skillfull hand with veggies.
The table also ordered a mix of seafood appetizers, which I didn't touch. Some of the fish did come with some grains that I took a risk and tasted, but the fish taste lingered in them, so I wasn't too keen on them. I had hoped all of the wine I was drinking might make me enjoy it more. Sadly it didn't work. Everyone else was pleased.
For myself, I tried some of the cured meats. I tried a mix of prosciutto and house-made coppa cotta. WOW! These were awesome. If only I could live on Italian cured meats without clogging my arteries and raising my blood pressure with all of the salt. The prosciutto was - well prosciutto. Proscuitto is always a beautiful thing. The coppa was nicely spicy.
Moving on to the next course, I opted for pasta. I'm a huge gnocchi fanatic, so I had ricotta gnocchi with fennel and sausage. The gnocchi were a perfect mix of dense and light. They were everything I like gnocchi to be. I was a little disappointed in the sauce. It was very good, but I don't feel as if it tasted very sausage-y or fennel-y. Does that make sense? It reminded me of the gnocchi bolognese I had at Chef Antonio's down the street a week ago (but that isn't a bad thing as I love Chef A's gnocchi).
For dessert I took Stacey's recommendation and tried the tartufo. This is not ordinary tartufo. This isn't your standard red-sauce-Italian-restaurant tartufo, which tends to consist of a maraschino cherry and some almonds surrounded by vanilla or chocolate ice cream and coated with Magic Shell. No, this was serious ice cream and chocolate. Break through the tasty chocolate coating and bite into creamy hazelnut ice cream. Keep digging and you get to lots of crunchy biscotti, and yes, a maraschino cherry. This was tartufo to end all tartufi. This was tartufo taken to a whole new level.
All in all, I would definitely say I liked the food at Lupa as much as I like the company, although it's no Iron Forge Inn (my gold standard by which I judge the deliciousness of all restaurants). I would definitely go back again in the future. The next time I would try another dish for a main course though. I would really love to try one of their meat dishes, particularly the yummy looking pork shoulder Peter ordered.
A well-fed group of bloggers. Can you tell how cold it is in New York this week?