Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lying Low

On the run from the authorities. 

Will Return Soon

Friday, February 6, 2009

Enoteca Turi

I awoke Thursday morning to another day of snow and work ahead of me. I turned on the TV and waited for a knock on the door announcing the arrival of my morning coffee. As the BBC flashed on, I found myself face to face with the grim visage of Gordon Brown, who for some reason decided to announce that we are on the precipice of a global depression. This, after announcing late last year the it was He who saved the global economy with his plan to recapitalize banks.

So what's up with that Gordy?

I must confess that I find these feckless pronouncements from our leaders to be most distressing. What happened to the stiff British upper lip, or the American can do spirit? Why, with an admittedly severe global downturn, have our leaders taken up the cause of cheerleading the economy into oblivion?

And most importantly, what is this loathsome display going to do to our dining establishments?

Well, I may not be able to save the economy, and I certainly can't give everyone a job, but as I sat there watching the vile Head of England pronounce the end of civilization as we know it I vowed that I would do my small part to put the economy on more sound footing.   I would dine at Enoteca Turi that very night!

So after a day in the office, I ventured back to my hotel, dropped my bag and instructed the taxi driver to take me to 28 High Putney Street on the double. I arrived at the restaurant at 730pm on the dot and requested a table for one. Disturbingly, I noted that only three other tables were occupied, and I silently cursed PM Brown's name. Already the knuckle dragging mouth breather was having an impact!

Enoteca advertises itself as a family run restaurant and this certainly seemed to be the case. I was escorted to my table by a matronly sort, and on my way I noted that there were only 4 other wait staff in a place with approximately 30 tables. The menu was limited, but sufficiently varied and I placed my order; Artichoke Cardoons, Spinach and Rosemary Risotto with Chicken Livers, and Milk roasted Pork Shoulder. I also requested a bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of the house primitivo to wash everything down.

The cardoons arrived promptly and looked delicious. I will say that the artichokes themselves, as they had been at Zaferrano earlier in the week, were a bit light on flavor. Perhaps it was the season. Having said that, the dish was quite lovely. The cardoons were stuffed with a light goat cheese and fried perfectly. They were presented in a sort of potato puree with dabs of olive oil and a small mound of crispy leaks was nestled in the center of the plate. As with all of the food here, this dish was not terribly sophisticated, but none-the-less, expertly prepared and quite good.

Next up, the risotto came to my table on a subtle waft of rosemary. This dish is built around the time honored concept of strong herbs and organ meat, as had been my sage and beef kidney at Zafferano. If I were to quibble I would say I enjoy my risotto a tad more toothsome, but otherwise the spinach, rosemary and kidneys were quite lovely.

The final dish, milk roasted pork shoulder was the one I was really anticipating. Milk roasted? Certainly a new concept to me! The shoulder was presented with cabbage and a puree of celeriac and apple with a paper thin slice of dried apple in each mound of puree. Completely delicious! Most interestingly, from the first bite this dish reminded me of thanksgiving, only with a nice hunk of pork instead of turkey. I definitely will try to replicate this at home!

To round out the meal I settled on a polenta cake with blood oranges and mascarpone cream. The perfect finish to a delightful meal.

And so my little contribution to the British dining scene ended with me as a satisfied customer, and Enoteca Turi on the "Must Get Back There" list. Oh, and the sparsely populated tables at the start of dinner that I wrote off to old Gordon's foul influence? Almost completely full by 830pm. 

Harry Truman, a leader who knew a thing or two about leading a country through challenges once said that its a recession when your neighbor loses his job, but a depression when you lose your job.  Perhaps I read old Gordy wrong.  Is there a vote coming up soon by any chance?!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Quick update from London. Despite the "historic" snowfall (6 inches; the Brits are wussies!) I did manage to get out and around the crippled city. After a morning and early afternoon of meetings I hopped in a cab and told the driver to head to 19 Theobald's street. As we approached our destination the driver began looking for the number at which point I told him, "I'm going to The Fryers Delight, for a little lunch". "Ah, the Fryer's Delight! Why didn't you say so that's where all the cabbies go" was his response.

At this very moment, I knew I had made an excellent choice.

I paid the driver and headed in to the clean, but decidedly spartan place. The waitress was quick, and I ordered a plate of cod and chips. A little heat would have been nice, but I suppose London isn't prepared for the type of weather that us Chicagoans take for granted.

My food arrived unbelievably fast, and it was excellent. The Cod, a big ole piece of fish was darn near cooked perfect and certainly the best fried fish I've had. The batter was nicely flavored, and provided the cod with a crispy, flavorful coating that was not the slightest bit greasy. Good temperature discipline on the fry vat was clearly a core competency! The best thing about the place is that they fry in, as they refer to it, "beef drippings" which as I understand it is the traditional Engtlish way. Even more impressive when one considers that the joint's proprietors are a couple of Italian brothers.

Bottom line: Highly recommended.

For Dinner I popped over to Zafferano, a Michelin two star that happens to be next door to my hotel. I didn't have reservations, but I was counting on the "historic snow" to keep business down a bit, and my strategy paid off with a table in the bar. I momentarily wondered what happened to the traditional British stiff upper lip, but then figured I shouldn't question my good fortune and took my seat.

The amuse bouche was a traditional onion tart. Very well done, nice pastry.

I then started my first course with a warm roasted artichoke salad with veal shins. Delightful! Although, to be honest, it would have been just as good without the artichokes as they really had very little flavor.

Course number two was papardelle in a saffron scented sauce with pig cheeks. This dish was profound. The hint of saffron was perfect and the bits of onion among the shredded meat really made this an outstanding course.

Course three was veal kidney with warm lentils. When the dish arrived at my table, I must say I immediately became concerned; the scent of sage was quite strong and I was afraid the chef might have had a bit of a heavy hand. This only turned out to be partially true and the lentils, kidney and sage mostly worked together in the dish.

Wine was by the glass, as I didn't want to order a full bottle, and wasn't terribly enamored with the half bottle selections. I enjoyed a Sangiovese with the first two courses and had a very good Montepulciano with the Kidney.

Desert was a chocolate fondant, better known to us as a molten chocolate cake with a scoop of espresso flavored ice milk.

Zafferano was good and at 80 pounds for the above, a good deal considering the two stars