Thursday, July 13, 2006

happy birthday to my stomach



The other night Ellen and I went to the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and new restaurant Degustation to celebrate my birth 24 years and 354 days prior. It's a good thing I didn't get called onstage to spell as I'd recently consumed half a bottle of prosecco and a pint and a half of Stella. In good conscience I'd have had to remove my Knights of Columbus 7th Grade 1st Place spelling bee trophy from its place of prominence in my bedroom. But this isn't about spelling. No, it is about food.

Okay, let me just get one other little thing out of the way before we talk about food. Wesley Genovart, the 26-year-old Spanish chef at Degustation, is hot. Really, really hot. If I were younger and dumber I would've left my number on the back of a receipt (which I did to a chef when I was younger and dumber, and it worked, but that's a whole nother story.) Actually that's giving myself too much credit. We overheard that he has a girlfriend.

Anyway, the way Degustation works is you make a reservation and sit at one of the 16 seats at a bar that curves around the open kitchen. So you get to stare at the hot chef for a couple hours. Or watch the food preparation, if you're into that sort of thing. The menu is all Spanish-ish small plates, and there are about 18 of them. Ellen and I consumed 10.

We arrived five minutes before our 10:30 reservation and our seats weren't ready yet. There's nowhere to wait in the teeny tiny restaurant, but the hostess escorted us next door to the slightly less teeny tiny Jewel Bako where we grabbed a table and a couple glasses of white wine. Now I'm no wine snob (okay I sort of am,) but I was slightly disappointed that the wine was ice cold. It fogged up the glasses and didn't taste like much of anything, but when I warmed up the cup part with my hands it "opened up," as they say. When our seats were free, they transfered our tab between restaurants, which was awesome.

Time for a red! We went for the Rioja because of the description, not because I didn't know what any of the other Spanish reds were. (Time to expand my Wines For Dummies collection.) There was no room on the bar to keep our bottle so the servers kept it on a nearby shelf which had me worried but my glass magically filled itself whenever it got close to empty. E and I ordered the five course tasting menu, and the server explained exactly what we'd be getting, thus helping us decide not to get the tasting menu. We did a little mental math, and getting two of each of five things for $100 versus choosing what we wanted and trying a bunch of different things for less money seemed to make much more sense. Lesson learned: Always find out what you're getting with a tasting menu.

We started off ordering the cheese plate (would've preferred smaller hunks of more cheeses rather than huge hunks of two cheeses, one of which was a little too pungent for dear Ellen), this foamy poached egg with jamon thing, a fancy little roast beef open-faced sandwich with foie gras mayo, squid stuffed with pork ribs (I've been really into the surf and the turf in such close proximity lately), pork belly, rabbit something or other, and pan seared foie gras. Before the foie gras came out we saw Mr. Hot Chef making the lamb dish, and it looked so good we tacked that on too. Everything was good and, if not great, certainly interesting. Side of chlorophyll, anyone? We ate the foamy poached egg with jamon thing in about 6.2 seconds, and I could've eaten about ten more orders of it. This also marked my first foie gras experience. It's like eating a hunk of melted butter. It is good.

Before dessert we went outside for a cigarette, and before I could start searching my bag for matches a server whipped out a lighter and a smile. Awww. For dessert we ordered the apple tart because Ellen noted that the strawberry dessert came with but one little strawberry sliced up. Kinda weak. But she told the server it was my birthday and we ended up with both anyway, plus a sparkler in the apple thing. I tried repeatedly to blow it out, given my new phobia of sparklers, but my efforts were in vain. Everything was so good all around that I'm tempted to go back on my real birthday.

Attentive and friendly but unobtrusive service + tasty and fun food + hot chef + cozy, relaxed atmosphere = three and a half oinks from this little piggy.

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