I fell so in love with this place from Day 1—I think it was literally Day 2—that when our honeymoon phase seemed to come to an abrupt end with a mediocre meal a few months later, the loss & betrayal I felt kept me far away for the better part of 2 years. Better to remember the good times, I reasoned, to let bygones be bygones on the assumption that it wasn’t personal, that Beatrice & Woodsley was still as romantic as ever—even Casanova probably had off-nights. I continued to recommend it highly to others—but I just wasn’t ready to risk reopening the wound I’d received by returning myself.
Until last week. A pal from my old Chowhound crew in Boston, in town for a conference, had found herself in the sudden midst of a whirlwind romance of her own—& it somehow seemed fitting that I take the happy couple there, to a place whose concept was inspired by the elopement of its historical namesakes. Maybe Beatrice & Woodsley & I, caught up in the spirit of circumstance, would kiss & make up.
We totally made out & made up. Good thing the Director wasn’t there; it might have gotten ugly. Or it could’ve led to a foursome, Beatrice & Woodsley & The Director & me. That’s how seduced anew I was with exec chef Pete List’s cooking.
Although the first sign that things would be okay was nothing new at all: the reappearance on the menu of one of List’s inaugural dishes, crawfish beignets.
These warm orbs of Creole crunch & chew are basically seafood doughnut holes, flecked with diced zucchini & oozing with red pepper aioli that blends with the powdered sugar on top for a spicy-sweet finish. What, after all, is sexier than a spicy-sweet finish?
Nothing, if the pimiento cheesecake is to be believed.
To be sure, it’s so good it almost isn’t to be believed. With an extremely dense, moist cheddar crust & a garnish of pepper-heavy chow chow & frizzled onion, it’s creamy & luscious in one bite, multitextured & ultra-piquant the next, all of the above the next. Brilliant.
But no more brilliant than the grilled scallion blini.
Exemplifying what List does best, these thick, springy green pancakes bounced all over the place in terms of influence, only to finally suggest a faraway, long-ago place & time: East Asian, yes, à la scallion pancakes topped with firm grilled slices of shiitake; Near Asian, maybe, with dollops of housemade yogurt cheese; but something else too—a darkly hearty whole-graininess evoking vodka-drinking climes, the snowy bundled-up landscapes whence the word blini originates.
On the opposite side of the flavor spectrum, surprisingly, but the same side of the awesomeness spectrum, not surprisingly, was pal H’s risotto champenoise.
Infused with bubbly & lemon juice, speckled with diced summer squash & enriched with fresh mozzarella curds & pine nuts, it was as lightly & sprightly & sparkling as could be given that, most importantly, the texture was just right: neither ricelike nor oatmeal-like, in the velvety-soft sweet spot.
Confit tuna salad was essentially a layered Niçoise (minus the potatoes & olives), with olive oil–poached albacore, hard-cooked egg & grilled bread which I’d just as soon have used to turn the whole thing into a sandwich. Funny how much more satisfying the exact same ingredients can be in hand-held form.
but its lovely components were as well-integrated as all the rest.
Finally, there’s always 1 cocktail here to stir my fancy into a frenzy. Beatrice’s bar team is, I think, highly underrated—perhaps because the bar itself nabs all the buzz, built from antique fireplaces, with shelves supported by chainsaws. My former fave, Tiptoe Through the Tulips—a blend of buffalo-grass vodka, lavender & lime—is no longer on the list (though our server assured us the bartender could still make it), but in its place is the killer Cucupeña,
The flames of my own, um, jalapeño for Beatrice & Woodsley, meanwhile, have only been fanned.