Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Sweet It Was

I hope all the hype about antioxidants is true, because my diet is chock full of em; My days begin with lots of coffee and end with lots of wine.

Much to my delight, the bulk of last night's vino came out of juice glasses served at La Dolce Via, my favorite restaurant in St. Louis. Usually, drinking wine out of anything other than a traditional wine glass would bother me to the point of not drinking at all. At La Dolce Via however, this little irregularity just added to the charm.
In celebration of a friend's birthday, there were several diners at our table. There were six, to be exact, which is two more than the number of entree options offered. The hand written menu changes daily, and usually is composed of just five or six small plates and four main courses. The chef goes to market on Friday mornings and the menu is built around whatever in-season, fresh ingredients strike his fancy.
We started by splitting two beet salads, one with and one without chicken confit. I was in the non-meat camp but I wished I wasn't as the chicken was cooked perfectly. The salad was simple and delicious; spring greens, red and golden beets, cherry tomatoes, black olives, Parmesan shavings and a touch of balsamic vinaigrette.
We also split the goat cheese plate. Beet and tomato goat cheese is something I've never tried before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and delicate the flavor combination was. It was served with toasted bread, brushed with olive oil.

My party made sure to order at least one of each main course option, which included: Roasted Pork Loin with zucchini, mashed potatoes and green tomato preserves,
Roasted Amish chicken with spinach, mashed potatoes and a garlic cream sauce,
Seared Grouper with mashed potatoes and beets, and
Tortellini with prosciutto and pees in a cheesy cream sauce.

I had the pork loin, which was cooked perfectly. The green tomato preserves was another item which I had never tried before but one that I hope to come across again. The taste was refreshing, not too sweet, and paired wonderfully with the pork. I love roasted vegetables in any shape and form, so naturally I was delighted with the zucchini. Usually I am not a big fan of mashed potatoes. This may seem sinful to hoards of butter lovin Americans, but I'm just not. There are many great ways to prepare a potato, but mashing it is not one of them, in my opinion. Regardless, La Dolce Via has perfected this side dish. The potatoes were light and fluffy, white (I hate buttery yellow undertones), and spiced up with an herb sprinkling that made them taste, well, healthier.
My distaste for mashed potatoes goes hand in hand with a dislike of cream sauces, but again, I was in no way put off by LDV's tortellini. It had a bold, hearty taste when I first put it in my mouth but it finished light upon swallowing. The combo of cheese flavors and cream gave the sauce the impression of being a cream sauce without the heavy, thick, swallow that usually comes along with it.
The grouper was also delightful. I had only a bite of a friends, but it confirmed my opinion, established last year upon having trout at LDV (the best I've ever had, in fact), that this place knows how to cook a fish. Grouper especially is a toughie in the kitchen, but this was so tasty that I wondered why it's not offered more regularly in restaurants.
I did not taste the Amish Chicken but it's eater said, surprise, that it was delicious. In fact every one at the table was very impressed with their meals and basically licked their plates clean.
The only sore point of the experience was the bread. It was homemade, no doubt, but as La Dolce Via is a bakery by day, I expected it to be on par with the rest of the food served there, but the bread was just ok.

This wonderfully kept secret, nestled on the corner of Arco and Taylor, is decidedly my favorite restaurant in St. Louis. The atmosphere is terribly casual (the mismatched chairs and tables make it look more like somebody's apartment than a restaurant) but I feel a need to dress up when I go there, to honor the food you see. The prices are very reasonable for what you get, and the wine list is actually pretty extensive for such a little place. As my friend Gagan said last night, gesturing towards the kitchen, "I feel like someone's mom is back there, making my dinner." I agreed with the sentiment, but I've never met a mom who can cook like this.

La Dolce Via, "The Sweet Way," how sweet indeed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How I wish it would never end

A few hilarious things that I love about my friends:

The way Ellyse says "expresso," owns a flying squirrel, and is always "mouthy" to the bouncers at Mandarin.

The fact that Kristian no longer attends SLU because he drove his "victory red" Hummer around the clock tower and will arbitrarily plow into traffic cones. Also he owns a shirt that says "Maids Are For Everyone."

The way that Gagan says "Oooh," opens her eyes real wide, and looks down when she disapproves of something, and the particular way she articulates her disapproval. She also secretly loves her Shine (as do I) and is a bonafide crazy cat lady.

Marty honestly did not know that Sketchers are not cool, bought a pair, and introduced them as "adult shoes." Also when dining out he will, in a very high-brow type of voice, ask the waiter questions like "now, this cheese platter, what is that like?"

I still laugh every time John says "Hey Lil Momma! How you doin??" And also, on command, he will perform ebonic poetry.

Stephen, who is gay, openly refers to himself as "homo," "fag," and "queer," and says "hello daaaaahling" to me when we meet.

Last but not least, Nick Marco's existence itself is delightfully funny enough.

I also love the fact that we are all blossoming alcoholics and we support one another in this pursuit.

I am not looking forward to the impending disbandment of this wonderful group of people (sadly Nick has already left us). I do not think I will be able to find others who make me laugh as much or as hard as they do on a regular basis, or with whom I have as much fun. I can honestly say, without any cliche, that I do not know what I will do without them.