Hi, Maria Reina making my next guest blogging appearance from The Cookery. Larry and I were thrilled to be returning to this little hot spot in Dobby’s Ferry. You might remember that I reported on Chef David’s fabulous offerings last year during HVRW 2011. This year we were happy to be joined by our friends Anne Wennerstrand, Serge Ghio, Mary Pile, and returning gastronome Jeff Schlotman.
We arrived right at 7:00, for our reservation, to a very busy restaurant. I suspected there might have been a little snafu with our table, as we unfortunately had to wait for about 30 minutes to be seated. A very apologetic hostess offered us a drink on the house once we sat down. The group shared a bottle of Prosecco to start, but I opted for a lovely glass of Lambrusco. If you’ve never had Lambrusco from the Lombardy region you simply must try it. Not many places have this frizzante red wine, so it’s always a treat for me when I see it on the wine list.
Once we got situated our cheery server Gigi took us through the menu and the specials for the day that we could choose from, in addition to the HVRW menu. Their HVRW menu has a great variety, so we were all able to get a nice cross section from each course. Again, I had the great good fortune of tasting just about everything. (Lucky me!)
Two appetizers really stood out for me. First, Chef David’s famous Polpette; heirloom meatballs with tomato sauce, parmigiano and parsley. I remember asking him on a live chat last year what his inspiration was I remember him saying they were inspired by his Grandmother. These divine, large meatballs are intensely succulent. As each bite melts in your mouth it’s followed by the tangy tomato sauce.
The other stand-out appetizer for me was the Braised Pork Belly Agrodolce. Tender bites of pork belly were combined with spring asparagus and tiny heirloom tomatoes in a silky agro-dolce sauce. Really outstanding.
Moving on to our main courses … two ended up being very tasty pastas from the evening special list. I should first note that they make a lot of their pastas in-house. Serge chose the Rigatoni with Blood Sausage, Escarole and Pine Nuts. If you can get past the “idea” of what you’re eating, definitely give it a try. The sausages are made in-house and have an earthy rustic quality. Very tasty.
I had the Maccaroni Lisci alla Scarpetta. Here is an interesting tidbit: did you know that in Italy “scarpetta” is the way to show your appreciation for a homemade meal? You do a “scarpetta” by sliding a piece of bread across your plate to soak up the last delicious bite. It’s a way of complimenting the chef at the end of a delicious meal. Chef David’s dish was in fact very delicious and yet so simple. Truly the best way to go. The sauce not only incorporated bits of bread, but also the drippings from the meatballs, as they are cooked, from the appetizer above. (As I type this now I am wishing I had another plate in front of me!)
Larry had the Sea Bass with Barlotti Beans, Broccoli Rabe and Pickled Fennel. All I can say is that I was lucky to get a 2-inch bite of the fish and a few beans. I looked once, turned away for I think a few minutes and then looked back to an empty plate. I’m told the fish was cooked perfectly, moist and flavorful, with a delightfully crisp skin. The beans were creamy with a little tang from the fennel and lemon. I was sad to not have more of a taste!
Also of note was the polenta served with the Pork Osso Bucco. I mentioned last week in another post about my recent foray into working with many different versions of polenta. Jeff was kind enough to let me have a couple of scoops from his plate. Chef David’s was just lovely; white, fluffy and creamy. Yes, polenta does come in a white version and this was a finely ground grade.
On to dessert – ah, where to start? Well, I will go first: Mary and I had the Stickabutta Pie.
Wow … the pie, with a beautiful filling made with butter, cream cheese and eggs sat on top of an equally splendid buttery pecan crust; it was just heavenly.
The other dessert of note at the table was Warm Chocolate Polenta. Ah, polenta again. This time starring in a rich chocolately version and topped with crushed pretzels, caramel and pink salt. Chocolate, caramel and salt … a triple match made in heaven. Serge was so anxious to taste it I had to snap this picture before it was gone.
Quite separate from our dinner we experienced seeing something really stunning that night. Just as we were finishing dessert the lights came up quite dramatically in the room. As everyone looked around Larry commented, with a chuckle, “oops, someone just leaned on a light switch.” Then from the kitchen came two servers carrying a large cutting board with a whole roasted suckling pig.
Behind them walked Chef David who proceeded to carve it tableside for the group. It was quite spectacular. The “Swine Dinner” is something that they have available with a 4-day advance notice for 6-8 guests. The pricing ranges from $65 per person up to $95 per person and includes various combinations of appetizer, sides and even wine pairing.
What a wonderful dinner again, at the Cookery. We’ll be back very soon.