Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Restaurant Week

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

My youngest son, Teddy told me about Restaurant Week last year, but it was too late to take advantage of dining in some of the Twin Cities best eating establishments at a reduced price. This year I was determined to make sure and get a reservation. My search began by going on the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine (www.mspmag.com) web site and seeing which restaurants were participating in this second annual event. I took some time and looked at each of the tastings offered at the places I thought would be fun to try. D' Amico Cucina (www.damico.com) was selected because the group that we were going with loves Italian food and good wine. And last night we were not disappointed.

Everyhting about our dining experience was just great. My friend and I pulled up to the front door and immediately, there were two nice young men ready to whisk are car away, welcome us and lead us to the host's desk. D'Amico's general manager, Michael Gentile was there to greet us and escort us to our table, which was very nice. While we waited for our other two dining companions, we perused the 3 course menu and munched on their delicious bread basket. I was very familiar with the tasting menu for the week and knew what I was going to be ordering before I even left home as I had gone on line to see the complete menu for the evening.

When the four of us had a moment to look at the menu our friendly waiter suggested that we also try their wine flight with our dinner. At $20 for a flight of three wines we felt we were getting a good deal and went with that.

I ordered the Butternut Squash Cappelletti with Mascarpone, Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Oil. The presentation was colorfully and artfully presented in a white pasta bowl. Since I eat with my eyes first, I was already in heaven before tasting even the first bite. The three stuffed Cappelletti (small hats) were filled with lots of well spiced squash and drizzled with a delicious mascarpone sauce and then the oil with chopped pistachios strewn around the plate. The half glass of wine that accompanied the course was a light crips Anthilia, Donnafugata 2005.

Two at our table ordered The Terrine of Braised Octopus with Saffron Aioli and Green Olive. My husband insisted that I try a bit of his and I did. For a gal that loves just about any food, I just don't like octopus anyway you serve it. While I think the kitchen did take special care with the preparation of this dish, it is still octopus and I still don't like it. That is why I went with the pasta and loved every bite of it, although I did reluctantly share a bite with my husband, Bob. After all he did share his octopus with me! The fourth member of our group ordered the Truffled Cauliflower Soup. While I did not taste his first course, he said it was very good. I thought it looked very pale in the white bowl it was served in despite the Caramelized Onion and House-Made Pacetta garnish.

The second course offering was a Pan Roasted Skate Piccata in White Wine with Fingerling Potato and Haricot Vert which I ordered. The serving was large, and the fish moist and flaky, but I felt that the sauce was missing a little something. I was hoping for a little more of a lemon, caper flavor. The haricot vert were cooked perfectly. The other three were all set to order the Beef Shortrib, Osso Bucco style. When they went to order it they were told that it had been substituted with Pork Osso Buco style, a very meaty portion of pork served over soft polenta with a horseradish gemolata. The group loved it and were not disappointed that there had been a change in plans. While they enjoyed their main course they sipped on a glass of Nero d" Avola, Poggionotte 2003 and I enjoyed a smooth Soave, Inama 2006.

In my opinion the dessert course was the very best. I have eaten many desserts in my life all over the world, and I have to say that the Warm Almond Fragipane Crepes with Vanilla Mascarpone Mousse and Candied Apricots has to be up there with the top 10. Of the 4 of us, 3 of us selected the crepes and loved every last bite. On my way out the door I begged my new friend, Michael for the recipe and he agreed to email it to me. I am waiting Michael!

The fourth person in our group, not one who really likes sweets, ordered the House Made Gelati and Sorbetti. I made it a rule many years ago to enjoy my gelati while touring in Italy and not to bother with American made ones, no matter how good they are supposed to be. If you are not eating gelato in Italy, then you just aren't eating gelato, is how I feel about it. She thought of the three selections, the Meyer Lemon Gelato was the best and that the Raspberry Red Wine and Chocolate Sorbetti were just OK. She kept eyeing my crepes and I knew she was sorry that she had not gone with them. But hey, she had the same chance to order them that we all had, and I was not going to give up even a teeny bite of mine even though she is one of my best friends.

As wonderful as the dessert was the dessert wine was the star of the evening. Cool, crisp, bubbly, the Moscato d' Asti Sourgal was the best ever. So much so I am sending my husband, Bob out to Syrdyk's wine sale this afternoon to stock up on some.

Restaurant week at the end of a cold winter is a great idea. There are 41 restaurants that are participating this year. Most tasting menus are in the $20 to $30 range. There is still time to make a reservation, I suggest that you do.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

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