Saturday, January 27, 2007


Well, I tried. While appealingly peculiar, "Captain Cassoulet and the Globules of Doom" was just a little too whimsical for my mood. So I've declared last week to be two days days long. The new Title of the Week comes from John, master baker and fellow bon vivant, whose new blog promises to be quite the read.

Spotted dick? It's the same thing as spotted dog. Go read Patrick O'Brien's discussion of English puddings. What did you think it was?


In Serve it Forth, M.F.K. Fisher fantasizes about going up to some working stiff narfing down a hamburger on his lunch break and saying "Please, sir, stop a minute and listen to me. Can you imagine eating bananas and Limburger cheese together? You have never thought about it? Then think. Taste them seperately together in your mind, the banana, the Limburger. Taste them together. Ah! Is it horrible? Then how about mutton chops with shrimp sauce? And try herring soup with strawberry jam, or chocolate with red wine." She imagines some few of the people approached this way would listen, and would begin to "eat with their minds for the first time."

Well, I've got another combo for you. First, aged balsamic vinegar. The really good stuff, the true aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena. Taste that in your mind now. All its gorgeous syrupy sweet-sharp complexity, the hints of sour cherries and tobacco. Got it? Ok. Now. Vanilla gelato. Consider that carefully, the luxurious denseness of it as well as the flavor. Ok? Now, taste them together.

That was my dessert at Dino last night. It was a combination of flavors that involved me completely. I had to put my book down so I could concentrate on it. I had a glass of muscato alongside, a cheerful bright thing tasting of sunshine and grapefruit, that didn't go well at all, but I used it between bites to clean my palate so each taste of the gelato would have the rich peculiar newness of the first spoonful. It was simple and spectacular.

The rest of the meal was along the same lines, i.e. excellent ingredients unencumbered by cleverness. I started with the salumi artigianali -- a platter of cured meats, including bresaola (salted air-dried beef filet, sort of a hard dark reddish-purple beef prosciutto), speck (similar to pancetta, only aged longer and more intensely flavored), petit Jesu (garlic salame, of which I could easily put away a couple of pounds), and Spanish choriso. All sliced thinly and laid out on the plate like panes of stained glass. Then, venison steak, served as scallopini with marsala sauce and mushrooms over wilted mixed greens. Cooking scallopini alla marsala is marginally more difficult than falling off a log (saute your meat, deglaze your pan with marsala, throw some shrooms in if you like, reduce with a little stock, finish with a lump of butter, it's done). What made me eat this slowly, with an attitude approaching awe, was the the full-throttle incredibleness of the ingredients. I imagine the deer must have been a very relaxed animal, nutured on beer and massaged daily like a wagyu cow.

I washed all this down with a big glass of 2001 Judd petite syrah. The unfortunate thing about eating alone at Dino is that it's not really practical (for me) to get a whole bottle of wine, which results in a slight eunuch-in-a-harem vibe. But they do have some nice stuff by the glass: the Judd was much mellower than most petite syrahs I've had, not nearly the tannic monster wine I was half expecting.

And then that dessert. Um. Ha. Yeah.

In other news, I've started reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, which is the book that grew out of Julie Powell's cooking and blogging her way through Volume 1 of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (I'm such an amateur.) More on that later.


An Briosca Mor said...

Rob, you neglected to mention the state of the restrooms at Dino. This is relevant, since they are just down the street from that alleged session pub and presumably the same health inspector is working the beat at both places. Is Dino paying him off (as presumably Nanny's must have been for all these years)or are they actually cleaning their restrooms? Remember, the chef who is elegantly arranging all those fine but simple ingredients into the culinary magic appearing on your plate is washing his hands (we hope) in the same jacks that you are!

BTW, if you're not already doing so you should be reading the forums at It's a spinoff from the eGullet DC forum in the same vein as the Bloomfield spinoff from Chiff & Fipple. The difference is that people actually post to, unlike the Bloomfield forum, and have pretty much abandoned the eGullet DC forum. In fact, the chefs/owners of places like Dino, Ray's the Steaks/Classics, Restaurant Eve, etc, are regular posters on Check it out...

Rob said...

I didn't, um, actually evaluate the restrooms on this visit. I suppose I was shirking my journalistic responsibility or something.

I'd forgotten about That's a great resource. I'll link it.

Orion said...

Sometimes it scares me how homogeneous a crowd we can be... I am just starting to read Julie and Julia...My year of cooking dangerously...picked out at the bookstore two weekends ago.

An Briosca Mor said...

Actually it may be a good thing that someone with a blog name such as yours is not frequenting the facilities at our local eateries.

As for the Julie/Julia book, I'm way ahead of you guys. I read it right after it first came out, a year or more ago. It appears they've changed the title now, I guess for the paperback edition. My hardback copy has a subtitle something like "365 days, 536 recipes, one cramped apartment kitchen". I like the new title better, myself. But imagine how well it might have sold if they'd called it Spotted Dick...

Rob said...

Why? You've got a problem with people taking puddings into public restrooms? I'm sure I don't know WHAT you're talking about.

I'm enjoying J&J, but I'm finding the little fictional vignettes about Julia Child kind of annoying. JP's a much better writer when she's just telling the truth. That's all a writer ever needs to do, especially a blogger.

An Briosca Mor said...

I suppose I'm okay with people taking puddings into public restrooms. However, I don't want to see anyone bringing a pudding out of one. Perhaps there should be signs posted within: All Puddings Must Be Consumed On Premises.

Several months after reading the Julie/Julia book, I read My Life in France, a memoir put together by Julia Child's grand-nephew Alex Prudhomme from her writings during the time she and Paul Child lived in France, along with his own conversations with her before she died. It's a great book, I recommend it highly. I bet if Julie Powell had read it before she wrote her book, she wouldn't have bothered writing the fictional vignettes. Perhaps her book should be subtitled a year of Writing Dangerously instead.

Rob said...

Snort. I think A Year of Cluttering Up My Otherwise Excellent Prose in a Misguided Attempt to Pander to the Perceived Tastes of the Reading Public would be more accurate.

I'll dig into My Life in France when I'm done with J&J. Thanks!