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Coppa’s Cornucopia

Hell, I already blew my wad regarding Coppa in a single Tweet. It went something like this: “I was among the 1st to write about @Jamiebiss’s way with offal, & when lesser fat-storers keel over, I’ll be the last.”

In 2005, I met Jamie Bissonnette for the 1st time in the lobby of a local cable TV station; due to an article I’d written for Stuff, we were there to discuss on air the nose-to-tail charcuterie with which he was just beginning to make a name for himself at Eastern Standard. I liked him immediately—a young, big, beefy, strawberry-blonde, tattooed up to here, with an equal taste for punk & pork.

Since then, I’ve proudly watched him kick oxtail & take names at KO Prime, Toro, & now Coppa, his joint venture with Ken Oringer. That I didn’t go for dinner is one of my deepest regrets following this particular trip to Beantown, because I tend to behave better at brunch.

Still, pal H & I did okay for relatively sober people.

Warm salt-cod crostini. Well, would ya look at that. I’m guessing, what a full cup of the stuff atop a whole piece of grilled toast?

The world’s most famous salt-cod spreads—Provençal brandade de morue, Venetian baccalà mantecato—can vary widely, from rough to creamy, via any combination of milk/cream, garlic/onion, potatoes, herbs, olive oil & lemon juice. This one let the fish do most of the talking—flaky, funky, but still very much itself given all it had been through: salting, drying, rinsing, toasting, broiling, I don’t know what all—enhanced by the crunchy chew of the bread.

Cauliflower marinated with thyme, shallots & sea salt. H & I didn’t know how brilliant we were, really, ordering this at the same time as the salt cod. ‘Twas the perfect foil: served cold & crisp, lightly tangy, simple & fresh.

Rabbit porchetta. Usually, coniglio in porchetta is a dish of rabbit stuffed & roasted in the manner of a whole pig; here, it’s served terrine-style with whole-grain mustard. Again, the emphasis is on the flavor of the meat itself, midly salty-sweet & cutting like butter.

Wood oven–roasted pig’s tail with mostarda glaze. Classic Bissonnette. The meat just slid off the bone in rich, tender, pungent chunks; the mostarda di frutta, which we were told was made from jars of “ghetto fruit salad,” was its ideal match, sharply bright & sticky-sweet.

We ended with a toasted Nutella-banana sandwich—perfectly fine, but hardly representative of Coppa’s repertoire. Next time, I’ll go for the gold—spaghetti alla carbonara with sea urchin; wood-fired pizza with burrata & chili oil; smoked beef tongue with anchovies & almonds (sigh). Until then, though, I’m glad I got to experience the place at its least chaotic; after all the reports of hour-plus waits, we walked right in on at noon on a sunny Sunday. Something to consider if you’ve been avoiding the crowds thus far.

Coppa on Urbanspoon

Myers + Chang: Dim Sum to Dispel Gloom

It was a gray, bitter Saturday afternoon, & I’d been cold & hungry a long time, when I walked into Myers + Chang with a twofold agenda: 1) to interview the ever-scintillating Christopher Myers for an upcoming piece in Stuff & 2) to thaw my bones & down dim sum with my pal T until my face fell off. I achieved it all with aplomb, if I do say so myself.

Of course, as Myers’s guest I can’t in good conscience call this a fair review. If you want a review uncomplicated by questions of special treatment, countless other bloggers have weighed in on Urbanspoon, Chowhounds have done their dissecting bit on the Boston board, & so on. Without trawling through them all, I’ve been in this business long enough to bet big bucks that the most glowing of them confirm the graciousness, talent & passion for excellence of the almost disgustingly golden couple that Myers & Chang are, separately & as such—that much has been well documented for going on a millennium—& that the most skeptical of them say things like “Go to Chinatown for the real thing” (granting that many of those same people will also add “in San Francisco”). I’ve also been in this business long enough to believe that graciousness, talent & passion for excellence are the real thing. Having dim sum at Myers + Chang is not like having dim sum at Winsor Dim Sum Cafe or Hei La Moon, nor should it be. It should be like having dim sum at Myers + Chang. And it is! In fact, it’s textbook Chang (with a nod to her exec chef Matthew Barros): vibrant, cheeky, highly personal.

Meanwhile, I don’t bite the hand that feeds me; in cases in which I’m a guest, if I haven’t enjoyed my experience, I keep my trap shut about it. In this case, I liked most everything; I adored many things. The latter I can present to you below in good conscience. So take this in the spirit in which it’s intended: not as an actual review but rather a likewise highly personal recap of one fine meal from the perspective of a food writer who wants you to know, if she were returning, say, this weekend, in disguise, what she’d order again.

Hakka eggplant. Not at all spicy, but rich, sticky & soulful.

Asian pickles. Part on fire, part on ice—a mixture as fresh & bright as fresh & bright can be, with the vegetables shining through the chilies & brine.

Pan-fried dumplings with shiitakes & Chinese greens. We also tried the lemony shrimp version, but these were my faves, from the glistening, thin dough to the filling, akin to that ofclassic leek or chive dumplings—slightly bitter, earthy-sour, oh-so-juicy.

Sweet potato fritters with Chinese sausage. The photo speaks to the crunchy exterior; inside is basically a warm, thick sweet potato puree, at the center of which is a daub of sausage that’s practically melting. Totally unexpected.

Fried oysters with fermented black beans, pickled bean sprouts & fresh herbs. Eat these the moment they arrive, because they won’t hold up long. But hot & fresh, they’re pungent little suckers, dripping with funk.

Tofu, celery & sesame salad. Crisp, cold & mild, this is quite the palate cleanser before dessert.

Lemon-ginger mousse with homemade fortune cookie. Because you do have to have dessert—it’s Chang’s world, after all. And this one, bursting with the zing of its namesake flavors to balance the almost puddinglike, dense creaminess, was easily one of the best 4 or 5 things I ate over the course of my 6-day reunion tour—

no small triumph given that I sampled more than 70 dishes. Burp & thank you.

Myers & Chang on Urbanspoon

A Doozy of Meze at Istanbul’lu

After wine o’clock, a place that doesn’t serve booze has to be pretty special for me to spend precious time eating there that could be spent drinking & eating somewhere else. Promising me Somerville Turkish café Istanbul’lu was just such a place, a couple of pals took me for dinner—& they were right; it’s lovely, with smiling service as open-hearted as the cooking is soul-warmingly homey & honest. Is it better than Brookline Family Restaurant or Sultan’s Kitchen? I haven’t been to either in some time, but assuming they’re as good as ever, & I might be mistaken in assuming they are, I’d be hard-pressed to rate one over the other; each has its own strengths. At BFR, for instance, there’s the lahmacun; at SK, the doner kebab. At Istanbul’lu, if we’d stopped at the warm, focaccia-like bread with what I believe is called acili ezme, or maybe biber salcazi (both are vibrant red-pepper spreads of the sort that abound in the Balkans, from avjar to lutenica)

& the remarkably expressive, funky & sour, yogurt-enriched, lamb-chunked soup called paca,

I wouldn’t have been happier.

What these & all the other appetizers we sampled revealed was the extraordinary way in which Levantine cookery milks so much flavor from plants as such—vegetables, legumes, nuts, herbs; fruits like pomegranates, lemons & olives (including the oil); spices like sumac—along with yogurt & fresh cheeses, while meat tends to play a lesser role. The overall profile of the cuisine is utterly luscious yet still fresh, sun-drenched with bright-tart accents.

For instance, under all those tomato slices (which really could have been worse given that it’s winter; at least they had a little juice) there was a meaty, zesty, simple salad of white beans & red onions.

There was haydari, a thick, mildly tangy strained-yogurt dip much like Middle Eastern labne.

And the famous imam biyaldi, eggplant stuffed with a mixture of onions, peppers & tomatoes, then baked; this wasn’t one of my favorites, however, as the eggplant was still a bit woody & stringy, a little bitter.

Borek stuffed with feta were also slightly disappointing, especially in light of my fond memories of the same dish at Sabur just across the street—the phyllo was flaccid, not crisp.

For that matter, the mucver—zucchini fritters with carrots & herbs—weren’t as crisp as they look either, but for me their softness was a plus, making for a sort of melted zucchini pudding in the mouth. (Not sure my pals agreed with me on that point, though.)

And if they’d been slightly hotter, mercimek kofte—red lentil cakes—would’ve been terrific: earthy & nutty, sprinkled with bits of tomato, green onion & parsley.

Groaning as we already were, we skipped entrees & went straight to dessert. Kadayif—essentially baklava made with shredded phyllo—was a little tough, but the flavor was textbook.

Of the 2 puddings we tried, the soothing sutlac—rice pudding (pictured)—was the bigger hit, the keskul (almond pudding) being rather bland.

In short, nearly everything had its flaws, its imprecisions—& yet, somehow, the whole was all the sweeter & more charming for them, the sum greater than its parts. Now if only they’d spike that sour-cherry juice with a little somethin somethin.

Istanbul'lu on Urbanspoon

Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar: Like Franklin Café, Only Different

Ha, these titles are funny ’cause they’re true. The original Franklin Café was a gastropub way before there was a word for such a thing. Now, its Fenway sibling Citizen is the latest word in such a thing. Piggy logo? Check. Piggy dishes? Check. Raw bar? Check. Raw bartender, too adorably young to know his ‘stache makes him look like Meathead from All in the Family? Check. Fernet on tap? Check. Wait…Fernet on tap?! Industry alert, check.

It’s all so of-the-moment it’d already be over, if David Dubois weren’t the sort of seasoned vet who knows how to make a good thing last. Since he is, he does, so it’s not. Over. It’s only just begun.

Granted, my own meal began with a misstep on my part. You know how sometimes a menu is so appealing, & everything sounds so good—like roast pork loin with cranberry beans, applesauce & melted cabbage; pig’s trotter schnitzel with smoked chickpeas & tartar sauce; or a fish & chips special wherein the fish appeared to be near-whole filets—that your brain starts to short-circuit & you wind up spastically ordering something accidental? So it was with peel & eat Old Bay shrimp—a classic, to be sure, done handsomely with a garlicky, spinach-&-tomatillo-based green sauce, but I wished I’d had the forethought to set the tone with something a bit more signature.

I got my act together after that via pungently salty-sweet, rosemary-whipped lardo with “breadsticks”—aka grilled crostini—which was so light & airy I could almost pretend I wasn’t eating entire spoonfuls of pure pork fat, especially since the bitterness of the accompanying dry-cured olives cut through it pleasingly.

There was, however, no pretending the giant carpetbagger steak wasn’t over the top—rare & juicy, topped with a fried oyster & served over spinach in a red-wine sauce.

It was a natural alongside a bottle of Robert Foley Franklin Cuvee, a soft, round, house-label Petit Sirah. What wasn’t so natural was the fact that pal T & I managed to follow it up a plate of sticky toffee pudding (unpictured), textbook except for the fact that it stood at least 6 inches high.

All of which goes to show why the draft Fernet is making such a splash; after a meal at Citizen, you & your digestive system are gonna need it.

Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Dirty Laundry List 2011: Every Single Thing I Tasted in Boston Tuesday-Sunday

Can you guess where I’ve been? Cocktails not included, ditto bread baskets.

oysters on the 1/2-shell (x4)
fried oyster sliders
pancetta-crusted broiled oysters
oyster stew
clam chowder (x2)
razor clams with bacon
lobster roll
cider doughnuts with caramel sauce
Caesar salad
antipasto salad
whipped lardo with crostini & olives
peel & eat Old Bay shrimp
carpetbagger steak
sticky toffee pudding
acili ezme
piyaz salat
mercimek kofte
imam biyaldi
sigara borek
za’atar pita
tahini toast
oyster crackers
bay scallop crudo
buttermilk johnnycake with smoked trout tartare & caviar
anchovy & air-dried tuna on pork-fat toast
Neptunes on piggyback (big hint)
pulpitos alla plancha
smoked salmon & pork shank rillettes
yellowfin crostini with brandade
pepperoni pizza
spinach-ricotta arancino
chocolate-peanut butter bar
Asian pickle sampler
shrimp-jicama rolls with chili-peanut sauce
crispy spring rolls
fried oysters with fermented black bean sauce & pickled bean sprouts
green papaya slaw
5-spice grilled tofu bao
potstickers with shiitake mushrooms & Chinese greens
potstickers with lemony shrimp
tofu, sesame & celery salad
hakka eggplant
sweet potato fritters with Chinese sausage
lemon-ginger mousse with homemade fortune cookie
coconut cream pie with lime whipped cream
prosciutto-wrapped blackened tuna with queso fresco
pancetta-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese
grilled Caesar salad with corn salsa
grilled mixed mushrooms (yellowfoot, chanterelle, white trumpet) with tomato-ginger chutney
pan-seared scallops with foie gras, avocado & acorn squash puree, & sundried strawberry-arbol salsa
tequila-braised pork shanks with white corn polenta, smoked tomato grits, & fried chard
grilled swordfish with truffle risotto, pumpkin cream sauce & pumpkin salsa
pecan tart with black lava sea salt caramel
roasted pig’s tail with mostarda glaze
salt cod crostini
marinated cauliflower with thyme
rabbit “porchetta”
fish tacos
yuca gnocchi with green lamb ragù
crab-potato causa
lasagna (I woke up with it next to me; vague memories of the counter at Vinny’s Superette. Otherwise a mystery)
+ 1 banana

***Disgustingly full reports to come.***

Island Creek Oyster Bar: Like Great Bay, Only Different (UPDATED 6/12)

***Two reviews for the price of one!***

The first time I went to Island Creek Oyster Bar (report after the jump), it was relatively empty; though the buzz was loud among the city’s food geeks, it had yet to spread. On my return visit a year-plus later, the giant house was packed to the gills. Little else has changed, however: both Jeremy Sewall’s kitchen & the bar—where long-&-still-rising stars Tom Schlesinger-Giudelli & Jackson Cannon ply their trade—remain at the center of a tightly run, smooth-sailing ship.

And you bet said ship trawls for daily-caught seafood. As he served us an absolute stunner of an off-menu dish composed of fish charcuterie, Schlesinger-Giudelli waxed ever so poetic about the 300-lb. bluefin that had come in straight off the boat to produce, among many other things, the pastrami-cured slices pictured center. My stars, they were beautiful, almost literally melting in the mouth, rich but clear-flavored—only subtly pungent (if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, trust me, it isn’t). The fluke crudo on the right might have been outstanding on its own but couldn’t quite hold up to its neighbors—the leftmost item being a luscious tidbit of smoked steelhead trout over a walnut pesto–daubed rye cracker topped with an orange segment: funky, salty, sour-sweet.

I followed it with the signature dish of fresh pasta tossed with pieces of braised short rib, copious chunks of lobster, & maitake mushrooms, which served as the icing on the umami cake;

it’s a solid hit, elegant yet robust, though it too was overshadowed by the unexpected: a buttermilk biscuit half-hidden among the side dishes.

Golden-topped & flaky-layered throughout (no small order at its 3-inch height), then lightly drizzled in a gently spiced honey butter, it was just obscenely spot-on. No meal here should go without at least one.

Not should it go without at least a few moments in the company of Schlesinger-Giudelli, as gracious as he is extremely well versed in all things boozy.

Island Creek Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon


Dish of the Week: Mark Special, Charlie’s Front & Back Door, ABQ

Two joints in one—the cozy, family-oriented Front Door & the dark, boozy Back Door—Charlie’s opened 45 years ago (in 1966) & has remained my sentimental Albuquerque fave for about half that time. Is it the city’s 5-star best? I can’t honestly say it is, since the red & green chile are inconsistent—& red & green chile are, of course, the be-all-end-all of Southwestern & especially New Mexican cookery. But when they’re good, they’re great, & everything else rocks all the way out, from the chicken & jocoque (a type of sour cream) enchiladas

to the como se llama with Polish sausage & beans to the torta de huevo—a sort of frittata in red chile—to the Navajo taco & all the oddities in between, containing such incongruous stuff as pastrami, sauerkraut, & 1000 Island dressing.

Still, I met my match this week while in town for Thanksgiving: the Mark Special.

It starts with carnitas whose crisped chunks, like good barbecue, almost slide unctously apart rather than break up in strands. These are scattered across generous mounds of chopped fideos—think soupy, ultra-comfy Mexican spaghetti; cheese-smothered calabacitas—think succotash, here with squash & corn; quelites—think sauteed spinach; potatoes fried with onions; & of course frijoles. But don’t, as you eat it, think at all; just take giant forkfuls of everything, separately & mixed together, letting a rich bit of this enhance the flavor of a tangy bit of that, combining & contrasting until suddenly you find you’ve eaten nearly the whole thing. Then scoop up that last bite with a piece of 1 of the fried dough squares known as sopaipillas.

Then squeeze some honey from the bottle on the table into the rest of the pocket & munch until your eyeballs pop out.

If you’ve got another millimeter or two of space, snitch a little of your mom’s smoky, indeed practically blackened, chiles rellenos

or grab 1 more chip to dunk into the guacamole or the kill-you-softly salsa on the appetizer sampler. (I’m not such a fan of the queso, done Texas-style with Velveeta, though I realize it’s not illegit.)

Then take a nap & have kaleidoscopic nightmares about how on earth you’re going to stuff down turkey with all the trimmings the next day. Yes, do it all exactly like that. Such are holidays in the Land of Enchantment.

Charlie's Front & Back Door on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: new potatoes w/ garlic & onions + J.J. Prum Kabinett Riesling

I learned some cool shit this weekend while taking the Level 1 Wine Certification class at the International Wine Guild. Such as: Madeira is patriotic! And Madeira is awesome. And The Stereoisomers would be a good name for a band.

And that not even good old, plain old potatoes—roasted in plain old fat with plain old onions & not enough garlic to complicate matters—pair with absolutely everything (take, duh, a light-bodied sparkling wine).

But they sure go beautifully with this.

I suppose that should be equally duh in the sense that Germans do have a storied way with kartoffeln as well as Riesling. But beyond a geographical rationale, I wouldn’t have thought that a semisweet white would shine so clear & bright against that oily, earthy landscape; I’d have guessed it would sort of…make a dull smear.

Try the pairing yourself, tell me if I lie. Dare.

Last Dispatch from Boston 2010: Bin 26 Enoteca, Brasserie Jo, & a few words about Poe’s Kitchen & Erbaluce

The definition of enoteca appears to be expanding even in Italy to cover a range of wine shops and bars, but as I’ve experienced them in Venice, Rome, Orvieto, Bologna, Parma & a few other cities & towns here & there, enoteche are predominantly rustic, woody neighborhood joints, serving local wines from barrels as well as by the bottle, plus simple, hearty snacks (which may be called cicchetti, spuntini, stuzzichini or various other names depending on the region).

Beacon Hill’s chic, streamlined boutique Bin 26 isn’t one of those. Though the menu’s indeed comprised of Italian small plates, it emphasizes modern elegance, while the ambitious wine list spans the globe—& both are priced accordingly. But they’re also a treat: interesting, smart & executed with more sprezzatura than self-seriousness. In fact, the latter isn’t just a list—it’s a veritable primer, packed with clever, user-frieindly tidbits like the following (click to enlarge):

Nice, right? Equally user-friendly from a tasting standpoint are a terrific range of offerings by the glass, quartino, half-bottle & bottle (granted, that very structure tends to facilitate an inflated price point), laden with underappreciated varietals like Insolia & Brachetto. And you can expect the same combination of warmth & precision from the food (although that doesn’t come as such a surprise to anyone who knows it’s owned by siblings Azita Bina-Seibel & Babak Bina of long-standing Persian rose Lala Rokh; I imagine, not having been there, the same is true of their latest, Bina Osteria, although again, the name is misleading, an osteria being by definition a humble place serving simple fare, not a gleaming Ritz-Carlton outlet where $30 lamb loin millefoglie is what’s for dinner).

Not that white anchovies need much caretaking—just a little quality olive oil & plenty of lemon juice to underscore their refreshing but mild sour tang, a revelation if your experience is limited to tins of tiny bones & salt.


More elaborate was the timbale of chilled crab & squid salad—light & clean on its own, a nifty surprise when combined with a bite of the warm polenta. The juxtaposition of cold & hot ingredients on the same plate is, I think, underrated—perhaps because it’s as often as not a mistake as a choice. But when it’s the latter—fresh chips & guacamole, pie à la mode—the effect is startlingly appealing.

Generous as it was, the portion of bruschetta with sauteed mushrooms, fontina & garlic I received was the the slightly unwieldy exception to the rule of precision here; at about half their thickness, the very crusty slices of bread would’ve been easier to chew, especially as the mushroom juices & cheese penetrated them a bit more deeply.


But the signature cocoa tagliatelle with porcini ragù was just as I remembered it from my first taste a few years ago: wonderful, less rich & more subtle than it looks, the bittersweetly earthy overtones of the pasta enhanced by a bare hint of nepitella, which tastes something like a hybrid of mint & sage.

If memory serves fairly well, then, I can also wholeheartedly recommend the carpaccio—traditional with aged parm, arugula & a lemon vinaigrette (sorry, “tarragon citronelle”)—as well as the spaghetti con frutti di mare in a light, spicy tomato sauce. But for lunch, just the pictured plates washed down with a couple of glasses of Brachetto d’Acqui—the irresistible strawberry soda pop of Italian wines—while seated at the bar on a sunny Tuesday afternoon overlooking Beacon St.

felt about as good & right &, hey, classy as I ever feel.

Bin 26 Enoteca on Urbanspoon

As compared, say, to how I felt when the Director, a crew of old Chowhound buddies & I stumbled into Brasserie Jo late 1 night, having already been chowing & hounding for, I lie not, 7 hours straight (more on that anon). But then, this stalwart in the Colonnade Hotel always was 1 of my favorite shelters in a shitstorm. Or in a literal one, for that matter. Or in a lull, for that matter; blowing from out of a raw chill into

Brasseriejorest18 here

to loll around at the warmly lit Art Deco bar (preferably unoccupied by lovey-dovey yuppie scum!)

& nibble on croque monsieurs & oysters in the off-hours—mid-afternoon, late night—had a way of making everything okay.

But nothing could right 7 hours’ worth of wrongs—unless it was doing so much more wrong we’d come out the other side into the bright light of rightness again. Worth a try, am I right (or wrong)?

So we tried, starting with what every meal at Brasserie Jo starts with—a warm, crusty baguette in a paper bag (so nice when that’s not just a travelogue cliché), served with butter & a mysterious but always welcome plate of crisply marinated, herbed carrots—
BJbaguette BJcarrots

plus what my every meal here starts with: steak tartare.


I like my tartare either/or. Either it should be very pure—the barest amount of binder & seasoning to provide almost undetectable support to the raw beef in all its beefy rawness—or very tarted up, with lots & lots of mustard & egg yolk & capers & spices into which the meat can just about melt. B. Jo’s occupies the latter end of the spectrum—in fact, for the 1st time, I thought it overshot the mark, losing the raw savor altogether.

The rest mostly went by in a blur, from the standard-issue tarte flambée w/ onions, bacon & herbs

to the generously varied charcuterie plate (click to enlarge)—I vaguely recall a suprisingly piquant chicken liver pâté—& fries served in classic fashion, upright.


But again, the gist of this place has long, for me, inhered in nonchalance: you breeze in on a whim; you sip some Belgian ale or other; you graze on something impérative—escargots en cocotte, onion soupe gratinée, steak frites, salade niçoise, what have you—while soaking up the retro-Euro vibe; you breeze out casually contented, et voilà.

That we did. But we still failed. Turns out you *can’t* add 2 hours of debauchery to 7 hours of debauchery & come out smelling like anything close to a rose. In the immortal words of (to use her Chowhound moniker) yumyum the next morning: “I blame you.”

Brasserie Jo at the Colonnade Hotel on Urbanspoon

Me, I blame various others, including Brian Poe, chef of Poe’s Kitchen at The Rattlesnake, where those 1st 7 hours were frittered away. Because Poe & I have a working relationship that has turned into a friendship, & because those -ships meant that the food was on the house, it would be improper of me to review it in the usual manner. But it’s totally appropriate, I think, for me to praise the tireless charm & good nature of the gentleman himself, while assuring any Bostonian who still associates The ‘Snake with cut-rate culinary afterthoughts that Poe is hell-bent on winning (heh, I just typed “sinning”—that too) hearts & minds via a rip-roaring repertoire that, like nature itself, abhors a vacuum—chock-full of crunchies, creamies, chilies & other gut-gripping delights such as

PKcornbreadthe signature grilled cornbread with Hatch chilies, queso fresco & Guadalajara butter (which you will polish off with a spoon despite your better judgment)
chilled lobster with grilled avocado in black pepper–lavender crema

PKdessertnachos&, groan-grin-groan, dessert nachos: cinnamon sugar–dusted chips, with cheesecake, berries, chocolate sauce & whipped cream.

So don’t let the naysayers, who may be speaking from the experience of a collegiate margarita whirl-&-hurl 10 years ago, sway you—or me sway you, for that matter. Decide for yourself what you think of Poe’s ambitious doings (venison-brie tacos! burgers with lobster, foie gras & whiskey-cured bacon! grilled doughnuts with champagne foam!)—& do report back.

Rattlesnake Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

As for Erbaluce: it was one of those once-in-a-moon-made-of-green-cheese meals that I chose in advance to savor sans camera or critical-thinking cap—in part because the lovely-but-personal circumstances thereof were such that I didn’t want to skew them with my own agenda, in part because the chorus of raves about Charles Draghi’s handsomely intimate contemporary Italian spot in Bay Village is so sonorous that I knew there’d be little point in adding my own goofy pipsqueak (never mind the fact that Draghi has spoken for himself so intelligently right here on this blog).

Suffice it to say the food lives up to its renown—from lobster broth with whelks to an incroyable caul-&-speck-wrapped shad roe with roasted red pepper–pink peppercorn sugo to the signature rack of wild boar, roasted over walnut shells & served with Concord grape mosto—while Draghi lives up to his own reputation as a warm, smart, generous, deeply engaged chef-restaurateur. Kudos e basta.

Dish of the Week: Fiesta Morning Sandwich, Flying Star Café, ABQ

In town for less than 48 hours, I as usual spent about half of them drinking up the free WiFi juice the Flying Star at Paseo del Norte & Wyoming pumps out. Of course, it came with actual food; as I’ve suggested, the New Mexican–American deli/diner/coffeehouse repertoire of this wildly popular citywide franchise, rounded out by a bakery counter bestowed with many a local blue ribbon, is highly likeable—as satisfying as could be, really, under the presumably corners-cutting circumstances of such a high-volume operation.

For instance, even artlessly photographed in its takeout container for the road trip back to Denver, the Fiesta Morning Sandwich is a beauty, eh?


Spilling over the sides of the huge housemade “cheesy chile bun”—extra-chewy, with a nice hard yet thin crust & a strong hint of onion—is a fine mess of cheddar, green chile &, usually, egg, but in this case tofu that I’d have sworn was a bit curried, though that may have been a trick of the hue. In any case, the mixture was so bold, funky & moist it didn’t really need the chipotle salsa (also distinctive for being far smokier than it was spicy). And I didn’t need to eat again til home.