Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to whoever it is that happens to be keeping tabs on my little corner of cyberspace. I'm not one for resolutions, but I am going to try to write more and take more pictures. I can promise you that there will probably be an amazingly long and picture-filled post on Sunday because our good friends Meghann and Aaron are coming up, and Aaron and I are going to be cooking up a veritable feast. I'm looking forward to it, as I think I'm pretty talented...but Aaron is that much better. Stay posted.

Steph and I, being the recipients of some generous gifts from relatives, decided we would go out to a really fancy dinner for New Years Eve, before meeting up with friends. We decided on Piccola Italia in Ocean, for a good number of reasons. First off, Stephanie had eaten here over the summer for Laura's bachelorette dinner, and said the food was amazing. Second, we'd met the general manager through Joe and Brian and company a few times, and we'd had some good talks about good food and good eating, and I wanted to renew the acquaintance. Finally, everyone I've talked to (other than Steph) has raved about the food. So away we went...

So we arrive to a practically dead dining room, but I was OK with that because it only meant better service for us! The New Years Eve menu was a three-course prix fixe, with an app, entree and dessert. Very straightforward. We say hi to Andrew (the manager) and talk to our waiter about food and wine, saying we'd like pairings for the dishes we were choosing, but only by the glass. I do have to say up front that Andrew (who I believe also acts as the wine captain/sommelier) did an amazing job. So here's where our meal went (you can see the menu here):

Amuse: A 'gift from the chef', a baby tartlet of asparagus, truffled cheese and mache with basil oil. Creaminess, earthiness and tastiness, all wrapped up in a single bite (which is something those Top Chef people still don't get about an amuse). I'm no fan of asparagus, but this was delicious, and got us warmed up (along with a glass of house prosecco, which definitely helped)

App: Since it was New Years, and I felt like celebrating with my awesome wife, I decided to buck the low-cholesterol diet and order the seared foie gras with apricot corn bread and the cranberry gastrique. If you've never eaten foie gras...there's really nothing like it, and there's no way to describe it. Amazing. Paired with a moscato that was perfect and cut through the richness of the foie. I'd eat this every day if my cholesterol and wallet would hold up. Steph ordered the "Fire and Ice" oysters (paired with a Sauvignon Blanc) which was 3 polenta-breaded fried oysters with a chili sauce and 3 half-shell raw oysters. I am happy to have turned Steph on to eating oysters, as she always enjoys them. Last night was no different.

Salad: A bonus course from Andrew, baby field greens with goat cheese, walnuts...and something something something because at that point I stopped paying attention. However, both Andrew and the waiter were extremely apologetic, and brought me out what was probably the most tasty Caesar salad I've ever eaten. 3 planks of romaine hearts stacked with shaved Piave and white anchovies, with a tomato confit and some garlic croutons. I've never had anchovies when they weren't mashed or blended into a sauce or a soup...but this was out of this world. I am a changed man and am willing to open my mind to the world of anchovies (mind you, *quality* anchovies like these). It needs to be noted that noone else seated around us (as we were observing later in the evening) was brought out salads :)

Entree: Steph ordered porcini-dusted scallops with mushrooms, truffle butter and mache, paired with a Chardonnay (might have been a white Bordeaux) that was unoaked, to let the subtle sweetness really work with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the sweetness of the scallop. Out of this world. I got the double-cut veal chop (out of the norm for me, but tender and delicious) with a chestnut truffle bread pudding (amazing), hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (unreal) and a marrow/truffle reduction, which was just about the most luxurious and amazing sauce I've ever had (the asparagus on the plate sat lonely and ignored). It was paired with a California meritage Syrah/Cabarnet blend, which I really enjoyed, despite the fact that I am usually not a fan of Syrah, as I find it to be far too spicy and bold. In this wine, however, everything was balanced and was an excellent complement to the meal.

Cheese: After our entrees were cleared, our amazing waiter comes back to ask if we would be interested in a cheese tasting before he had to ask. Of course we agree, and out comes a plate for 2, consisting of some Piave, Taleggio, aged sharp Provolone and a ball tasted like chevre, which was a bit of a bummer seeing we were in an Italian restaurant. Steph enjoyed the Piave quite a bit, as well as the provolone, leaving the good stuff (the taleggio and the chevre) to me. It also should be noted at this point that, even though we paid for the cheese, no other tables were being offered the option of supplementing their meal. Woot!

Dessert: A "teardrop" of chocolate and espresso mousse, with vanilla gelato and a raspberry coulis. Pretty standard stuff, but still delicious. Maybe the portion was a bit too big, but I'm not terribly upset. With a cup of coffee, it was the perfect ending to the meal.

So that was our New Years dinner, one with which we are still extremely satisfied. We will definitely be back to Picolla, hopefully sooner rather than later!


Stephanie said...

A few additions to my husband's review. . .

1. The sauvingon blanc that went with the Fire & Ice oysters was perfect. Clean, crisp, and light.

2. The oysters were out of this world. The fried ones had a green chili aioli on it that added just the right amount of "fire", which was then taken care of by the cucumber vodka shooter on the side. And the oysters on the half shell? A little piece of oceanic heaven. I could have eaten those all night.

3. The white bordeaux that went with my scallops was fantastic. It was rich and buttery and complimented the earthiness of the scallops.

4. Yes, earthy scallops. They were dusted in porcini mushrooms, so the earthiness was a surprising flavor, but delicious.

If any of you live in the area, I strongly urge you to eat at Piccola's. Well worth it.