Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I Still Like Food

The Fireman Hospitality Group is really good—I signed up for their “Birthday Club,” and now every August and March we get a coupon in the mail good for a free entrée (of up to $35 in value) at any of their five restaurants in New York. I’d eaten at the Redeye Grill a couple times, and it was a really good seafood place. So yesterday, armed with our coupon, Jamie and I decided to celebrate her birthday at one of their restaurants.

Because the Redeye Grill is mostly seafood, because Jamie wasn’t in the mood for seafood, and because it was her birthday, we decided to try the Trattoria Dell’Arte (which, it turns out, is right next door to the Redeye). Jamie wanted a sidewalk seat, which I was hesitant about on Seventh Avenue and 57th. It turns out that 57th is just far enough north that you don’t have the vestiges of Times Square traffic. Plus the restaurant encircles its outdoor seating with tall planters, creating a definitive wall (and the bus that was parked on the side of the street for most of our meal also helped lower what noise level there may have been). Still, I could see Central Park from where I was sitting, and Jamie could see the other patrons. And Carnegie Hall was right across the street.

The wait staff was spectacular. Our waiter gave us suggestions, checked up on us, but allowed us to eat in peace. And the food was wonderful: it’s an Italian place, and I didn’t want to waste my purchase on a non-pasta dish, but decided on the Filetto di Tonno—tuna on an artichoke-lentil salad. The presentation alone almost kept me from eating, but the taste was even better than the presentation. I asked for medium, but it came out done. It’s been a long time since I’ve had fully-cooked tuna, and I’m not sure which I like better. This tuna was crusted in something spicy, it flaked, and it was delicious. And the salad—grilled carrot slices, lentils, artichoke hearts, some funky vinaigrette; nothing to complain about there.

When Jamie saw my tuna next to her Spaghettoni Gricia, she was disappointed. She needn’t have been—her spaghetti came in a roasted red pepper puree. She ate every bite of her dinner, except for the two or three that I stole. The next recipe we need to get (after lime-rosemary sorbet) is this roasted red pepper puree.

We debated over whether to get dessert there or have me make it while Jamie was at a dance rehearsal. And then the waiter brought the dessert tray to our table. You can’t say no to a dessert tray. I had the chocolate cheesecake with Oreo crust and Jamie had the lemon crème brulée tart. Only when the waiter left, she told me I’d taken what she wanted. I told her I’d trade, because she’d actually taken what I kind of wanted, but when the desserts came, she traded back again. We were worried, after the chocolate ganache disappointment (admittedly, a minor disappointment), that the crème brulée wouldn’t seem so hot, but it was amazingly refreshing and good. And my cheesecake was rich—maybe a little too rich given how much I’d eaten, but delicious nonetheless. Both were topped with cream and raspberries. I ate until the point where one more bite would make me throw up. Jamie ate her whole dessert (again, excepting the two bites I stole from her).

And then, to top off a near-perfect dinner, Trattoria Dell’Arte applied the birthday certificate to my (far more expensive) entrée, no "of equal or lesser value" there.