My kind of Tuesday night:
My friend Josiah calls and tells me his dad sent him a shipment of venison from a deer he killed in Nebraska over the weekend. More than he can he feed his family or give away. Josiah’s dad is of the generation that rightly thinks the term foodie is a strange neologism. Josiah’s dad also hung out with Johnny Apple in London before Johnny Apple started writing about food. That generation.
I go over to Josiah’s and am met with this sight:
Butchers neither of us, we clean it all up, remove the silver skin, and turn the mess of meat into a number of cuts we can imagine going into stews, braises, roasts, and the like.
I put some of it in on a rack in my refrigerator to age a few days. I earmark the odd bits for a stew. I freeze a couple of roasts.
I take what I’m guessing is the mock tender and sear it on the stove and roast it in the oven for a few minutes. While it rests, I deglaze the pan with brown butter, throw in some sprigs of thyme, and a few slices of meyer lemon from our charter school garden. I have this for dinner.
The thyme echoes the grassy-sweet taste of the meat. The butter enriches its lean-ness. The mild acid of the meyer lemon cuts through it all just right.
The best free dinner of the month so far.
Requisite undercover iphone shot of Scarpetta’s famous spaghetti. Check out the side lighting! The intentional granularity! The buttery sheen!
It’s all my fault. I like going out on a whim. Dodging the whole theater of white table cloths and fawning waiters. I prefer, and have always preferred, eating at the bar. So I ate at the bar at Scarpetta this weekend and am bummed to report that eating at the bar at Scarpetta Beverly Hills sucks. I love eating at the bar at restaurants. I love the gamble and the payoff of snagging an unreserved a seat at the bar and full menu. I have thrown the dice around the world and have never come up short (Scarpetta in NY Gramercy Tavern. Babbo. Lupa. Masa. Spotted Pig. The Breslin. John Dory. NY, I know, but these come to mind). I love Scott Conant’s cooking. Loved his food the other night. Liked the staff at the bar (didn’t love the dude at the podium at the entrance; the one with the blue silk tie on Saturday night. Let’s start a scholarship fund to send that man to Danny Meyer Charm and Usefulness School)
The food is great: the famous spaghetti with tomato sauce is a study in putting enough yolk in your noodles and butter in your tomato sauce and fresh basil at the end to get people talking about how good your spaghetti with tomato sauce is.The yellowtail crudo is more subtly and expertly seasoned than a lot of pricey sushi in this town. The ash-roasted venison is so subtly cocoa bitter and delicious that I actually implore all serious diners in Los Angeles to somehow eat it. Just not at the bar, or “the lounge” as they call it, which is basically a generic could be anywhere (but probably not a thrilling city) hotel bar with a flat screen TV and bad music, and, in the end, a $240 dollar bill for two in a city where you can go, at the last minute, to Osteria Mozza and grab a seat at the marble mozzarella bar and watch a master like Nancy Silverton at work, or Angelini Osteria and do the same; or even go to a neighborhood joint like Osteria La Buca and have a neighborly experience with a nice handmade pasta and lovely Italian wines and a fair bill to boot. Next time I’d choose one of the seats at Scarpetta’s counter in the kitchen where you can sit and watch some deft cooking up close and personal, tho they were empty when I arrived and left. I’m sure there’s other spatial loveliness to be had in the main dining room too. I’ll just be sure to reserve in advance.
The Bicicletta is a cocktail that supposedly originated in Italy, but I’ve yet to successfully order one there. Luckily they’re very easy to make it home. In a glass with ice, pour cold crisp white wine (still or sparkling), add a splash of Campari and you’re good to go. I finally got around to adding 4 dashes of the orange variety of Angostura Bitters and am thrilled to report it fully negates the need for a peel of fresh orange or lemon as garnish.