A sure thing. Last week, in the throes of my stomach flu, I was forced to bag out of a dinner at Hearth. Ever the trooper, Wife went and came back with the news that for a $50 supplement they were shaving white truffles on the gnocchi side dish. I am a person that believes in absolutes, and in my mind Marco Canora's gnocchi are the best. Gorgeous little pillows simply adorned with a little butter, a little Parmigiano, and a grind of pepper, they are truly sublime. I have been known to grab a barstool, an order of these little treasures, and a bottle of wine to kick off a good run of wine-wandering through the East Village. Imagine my heartbreak at not only missing a Hearth dinner, which always pleases, but missing white truffle on those gnocchi. I mean how unfair can a flu be?
Last night Bear was dining at Hearth with a group of co-workers. I explained that that was fine, but we would have to go again later in the week so I could have the truffle gnocchi. At 6:45 last night Bear called, explaining that there was a surprise extra seat at their table and that, if I ran, I could join them and get the truffle pasta. Just like Gib in The Sure Thing, I started my cross-country trip (well, across town) with guaranteed satisfaction on the other side, my Bikini-clad girl the white truffle gnocchi.
Well, I got there in about fifteen minutes, was introduced all around, took my seat, started planning truffle wines and, to be honest, felt a little giddy. Then it happened. Our server explained that there were no truffles. There I was, journey finished and no Nicollette Sheridan. What was I to do? To be fair, Paul and Marco had made no promises. It was my Lance, Wife, who had promised me The Sure Thing, and getting mad at her never works.
The nice part is, if any restaurant is my Alison Bradbury -- totally cute, actually interested in my company, always there, and absolutely dependable -- it is Hearth. I looked at the menu last night and realized that at this point I have had everything on it at least once, and I love it all. So what did I do? I asked the manager, server, food runner, busboy, and anyone else that happened by our table, in one of those Tommy Hilfiger striped shirts the staff wears, if they had found any truffles, then ordered things I knew I would love.
For wine, we did a white and a red. For the red we went with an '04 Mitolo "Jester" Shiraz. A perfect cocktail wine, it is big, extracted, fruity, and fun to drink. As for white, Paul Grieco keeps some amazing, aromatic whites. After much deliberation, we settled on a '03 Dézaley "Médinette" by Bovard, crisp with nice washing acids, all lemon and mineral on the palate. Dézaley is a grand Cru region of Switzerland and the grape they grow is Chasselas. In most places Chasselas is considered inconsequential, but on the wickedly steep slopes of Dézaley it is supposed to make its most interesting wines, so I grab them whenever a beverage director has the stones to put them on the list.
For the second wine round, we had the Jester again but got an '03 Chateau de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montracchet for the white. Served a little cold, it needed time to show but once it did it was a very youthful, fruity Burgundy. I'll look for it again in twelve years to see what it has become.
We were a la carte for dinner. I started with the Ribollita, which was a very authentic version of the Tuscan bean soup made with black cabbage, white beans, Parmigiano, and very thin slices of toast on top. What a great, hearty, clean-tasting soup. I poured a little olive oil over it and it did that wondrous thing hot Italian bean soup does when olive oil is added, which alone was worth the trip.
For an entrée, I chose the Monkfish Osso Buco. Marco Canora has a gift with monkfish. That may sound weird to say, but I have had about four versions at Hearth and without fail they are wonderful. He makes it hard to stick by my eco-friendly intentions to avoid fish caught in destructive manners. The Osso Buco is my favorite of the four preparations. It is really Osso Buco, with all the richness of veal stock and the liveliness of the gremolata. The texture is of the tight, toothsome, monkfish, as opposed to the falling apart stringy bits of veal shanks. Veal shanks are awesome but, just like Wide Spread Panic's cover of And It Stoned Me, it is possible this version is better then the original.
The monkfish is served with a Calamari Saffron Risotto that is so good it deserves its own paragraph. It joins the salinity of the squid with that awesome aroma of saffron. It is at once rich and fresh. It counters the robustness of the Osso Buco perfectly and somehow reminds you that this dish started in the sea. It also happens to go exceedingly well with the Montrachet we were drinking.
I opted to call my glass of Moscato d'Asti dessert. In spite of this, a sampling of the whole menu showed up (Bear loves to see people eat dessert after saying they won't). The big news was not only that the Cider Doughnuts are back, but that they had them. These often run out and I was almost convinced that, in spite of several tries, Bear might die having never tried them. Ultimately, three orders were had so everyone got to try the elusive little buggers. Everybody loved them, as well as everything else, including the glasses of Mead (how amny places let you say that?).
So, in the end, I traveled for the temptress and found myself in love with the ones I had been traveling with, once again living the lessons Rob Reiner taught me in my youth. I can't wait to see where the quest for the six-fingered man leads me...