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02 April 2007 — The Pleasures of Hot Food (6)

Kris and I went out to Gino's for dinner on Friday night. Since Amy Jo introduced us to the place a couple months ago, it's become one of our favorite restaurants. It's relatively close to home, the food is good, and the booths are private.

Ostensibly our purpose was to discuss my possible transition from the box factory to stay-at-home, full-time blogging. In reality, we wanted some of Gino's hot food.

Most restaurant food is served tepid. It's warm, but either the food has been sitting under a heat lamp, or it was never truly hot in the first place. (Often both.) This isn't anything we'd ever really noticed until we found Gino's. At Gino's, the food arrives at the table piping hot. It's a revelation.

On Friday, for example, Kris ordered an Italian herb-encrusted chicken on a bed of potatoes. When she cut through the bird's crispy skin, steam poured from inside. She took a bite. She closed her eyes and sighed, "Mmmm.... this is so good, so hot." The entire meal was like that.

For my part, I had a bowl of clams and mussels in a broth of wine, butter, and fish stock. When I met Tom and Paul at Gino's in February, we'd ordered this for the three of us, and I had been shocked by how good it was. Sometimes you order an unassuming dish in a restaurant only to discover it's one of the best things you've ever eaten — this is one of those dishes. My bowl came hot, too. It was delicious.

On Saturday we attended an impromptu dinner party at Jeremy and Jennifer's. Yay! It's been more than three years since we last experienced a Gingerich dinner party — this was the best yet.

For appetizers we had:

  • puff pastry with melted blue cheese
  • lime-pepper dates stuffed with almonds
The first course was, to my delight, a close facsimile of the clam dish I'd had at Gino's the night before. Jeremy reduced some wine and fish stock with a lot of garlic and a little pork of some sort. He added a bunch of clams to the liquid and boiled them 'til they opened. After reducing the liquid further, he served each person 7-8 clams, a cup or so of sauce, and some garlic bread. It was awesome. (Gino's version is more of a broth; Jeremy's was more of a sauce.)

Next came an asparagus salad with tangerine aioli and hazelnuts. This was followed by a butternut squash ravioli with browned butter and hazelnuts. (Jeremy and Jennifer have a filbert orchard, so hazelnuts are plentiful.) The entree was rack of lamb served with green herb-butter mashed potatoes. The lamb's presentation was great: it featured three chive stalks jutting from the potatoes. The evening wound down with a cheese plate, and then a banana bread pudding with chocolate and caramel sauces.

The food was delicious. The wine was excellent. The company was delightful.

But all I can think of in retrospect is that I WANT MORE CLAMS! I've never been a huge seafood fan, but the older I get, the more I learn to appreciate its charms. (Here's a promising clam broth recipe from Giata.)


Comments
On 02 April 2007 (09:37 AM), Lance Lavandowska said:

dang that sounds like a good night! I haven't had any of those dishes, but they sound delicious, I want to try them all.


On 02 April 2007 (11:18 AM), Joel said:

I read somewhere that the flavor of food is most discernable at a little warmer than room temp, say 80 degrees or so. Hotter than that and the taste buds are all overwhelmed by the "HOT!" signal. I comfort myself with this thought when I'm cooking several things and struggling to time it so everything's done simultaneously.

Re: flotch: I thought you didn't care for Rushmore? Must've been some other movie we disagree about.


On 03 April 2007 (07:06 AM), Rich R said:

Wow! Sounds like at great evening at Jen and Jeremy's. Jeremy is a fine cook. Having only attended one true dinner party at their house, I am jealous!


On 03 April 2007 (07:07 PM), Amy Jo said:

Sounds like you had a great food weekend. I wish I could take credit for Gino's, but I think it was Kris who introduced us. I'm still in DC, but leaving tomorrow. I spent a chunk of my weekend introducing my 3-year old friend Eleanor the joy of baking. Together we made biscuits and an apple crisp! (And tonight she declared that my lasagna was the best ever.) I couldn't be a prouder friend "auntie."


On 04 April 2007 (09:24 PM), Josh said:

Gino's is one of the restaurant customers of 47th Avenue Farm. Sheila and I have only eaten at Gino's once, but it was excellent. We're also proud customers and supporters of the farm itself. Love those fresh veggies!


On 07 April 2007 (11:47 PM), jeremy said:

Thank you JD for the kinds words (and Rich too, as this is an especially high compliment from my sensei of cooking). I think the success this time came mostly from not ovethinking the menu. We made things we liked, the way we liked them, the way we like to make them. A lesson learned I think.

I have very little time to cook anymore, so when I do I like to use it to the best advantage. If you just take the flavors and recipes you like and use them wisely it is vey hard to go wrong.

By the way, bread pudding has long been one of my favorite desserts. About 4 or 5 years ago Jenn and I went to Southpark in Portland for an intimate eveing following a symphony concert. We sat at the wine bar and the somelier/bartender shared several Madieras with us. I have since found a good source for Madiera and the ease of the bread pudding will make this a staple at our house.

Thank you for the kind words. It was a pleasure having you. (Rich, I am really sorry you and Karen were unable to join us. Someday soon...)