Saturday, February 23, 2008


The blog has seen a dearth of food-related entries in recent months. I'm tempted to shift the food course towards only reporting on 2 Amys outings. Each trip seems ripe for analysis and comment, as each trip yields fresh, new, impeccable dishes and flavors. And we go often enough that focusing on that one restaurant would yield weekly, if not more frequent, entries.

Most recent trip was solo. Solo means I'm free to create my whole meal from wine bar offerings. Without SVR, there's no obligation towards pizza and, despite being a pizza restaurant, I'm fine skipping the pie in favor of cold items. And so it was a completely cold dinner for me at the bar.

I had:

Goat cheese and chive crostini--A go-to option. Rich, creamy, smooth, and only slightly pungent cheese flecked with enough chive to add sweetness and bite. As with all things from Scott's arsenal, quality black pepper and salt make the subtle flavors 'pop' that much more.

Root vegetables with speck--Different from the roasted root vegetable salad, this version benefits greatly from the smoky speck. The roasted version carries a certain smokiness from the char on the vegetables, but cured and smoked meat offers a far greater level of fire-y flavor. The earthy vegetables pair really well with the meaty ham and all flavors are balanced by the sweetness and tartness of a balsamic drizzle. So this dish really has it all...the sparkle of vegetables (albeit heavy, winter vegetables), the richness and depth of those vegetables mingled with cured meat, and the offset of sweet vinegar. I'd like to see this on the menu more regularly than the roasted root veg.

Smoked mackerel and potato salad--Never seen this on the menu before, but I knew I HAD to have it. Colors were subdued and boring, but I knew looks were bound to be deceiving. Found out Scott, in fact, smoked the mackerel in-house. Very cool. And my best guess is that the potatoes were fingerlings. Dominant flavors were the cedar from the smoked fish, the salt from the curing the fish underwent before smoking, the mild sweetness and creaminess of the potatoes (a lot like a fine Yukon gold), and the extreme savory punch and mineral-iness of the granular sal de mer. A winner.

Rabbit stuffed with rapini and pecorino--Another winner. This dish is, once more, about balance. The rabbit meat seems to be a mix of darker and lighter flesh and is kept in the skin. The skin adds good moisture and tenderness to the white meat which, in past experience, can dry out pretty easily. Beyond the skin's fat tenderizing the meat, the skin also crisps nicely on the outside. A bite of this rabbit starts with the crunch of the crispy skin, yields some softer fat, moves on to dense meat, and finally rewards with the bitter rapini and sharp pecorino cheese stuffed all up in the center. Scott pairs the meat component with a fruit preserve/marmalade. I don't know what fruit he uses, but I think it might be quince. Of course, the jam serves as the real icing on this savory cake. All the flavors described above are, once again, balanced with a blast of sweet. I'm a sucker for the sweet/savory pairing and this dish dials it pretty perfectly.

Beverages included a Beirra Uno (not entirely clear on the name). It was a refreshing and straightforward pilsner. Nothing complex, but a good thirst quencher.

Also had an Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale. I'm willing to call this a perfect beer and easily my favorite of all time. Did I mention how balance is my thing? Apparently the Boont Amber is a pale ale, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it. Rich copper in color, it's a joy to look at before taking a sip. The dominant flavor is the rich and mildly sweet malt. Bitter and slightly floral hops cut the sweetness just the right amount and achieve the right balance. I've had this beer on tap and in the bottle and the stuff from the keg achieves this balance best.

I also treated myself to Scott's herbal digestivo. Not for the faint at heart, this concoction lives at the very back of the bar coolers and, from what Scott tells me, rarely sees daylight. Like something out of a mad scientist's lab, this stuff is wild in look and flavor. The current batch isn't quite as blindingly fluorescent green as the last version. Still, though, the color is about as garish as Rock Racing's current green scheme. (I couldn't let this post go without at least one cycling reference.) Basil infuses most of the color and a lot of the flavor. This batch had at least fifteen other herbs thrown in the mix and the effect is pretty much liquid Ricola. To me, this drink is simply of the earth and very soothing.

Dessert was straciatella ice cream. Awesome. Good, sweet, rich vanilla cream laced delicately with dark chocolate shavings. Paired it with an espresso and sipping the coffee right after a bite of ice cream was really good. It was like a deeply pungent cup of coffee with the right amount of cream and sugar. But the mixing happened in my mouth, so it was a slightly different and better sensation.

It's funny to imagine many of the uninitiated bop in to 2 Amys, order a pie with mushrooms or some such, and never come near experiencing what makes the restaurant really shine.

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