April 20, 2006

Al Dente al fresco and SHACK STACK ARTERY ATTACK

"Where do you want to eat"
"It doesn't matter so long as it's outside. Let's just walk [until we find a place]"
amen to that.

Our cabin fever was taken out back and shot last night when Meg and I ate al fresco at Al Dente, a moderately priced 80th st. Italian spot. It had what we were looking for: outdoor seating, open seats, and decent prices.

Because Meg lost her wallet at lunch, we ended up eating like real New Yorkers. Late. Late for us, anyway; it seems like people only start to go out to dinner at 8 here. We usually prefer 7 or slightly earlier when we can. I decided, since I was paying, that we were going to go all out to get our minds off of the day's events (granted, they weighed more heavily on Meg, but I was vicariously distressed): drinks, appetizer, meal, of course, and dessert.

Bellinis were followed by caprese di bufala (fresh buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, basil, and olive oil). The bellinis were interesting, not entirely my thing, but pleasant, but the caprese was something special. After months of hearing foodies praise buffalo mozzarella this was finally my shot, and it was so worth it. It's hard to describe, but the texture is tender and it tastes like concentrated mozzarella. Mozzarella on crack, basically (in the best possible way).

I made the mistake of telling Meg what I was planning on ordering, homemade saffron fettuccine with shrimp, asparagus, basil, and fresh tomato, and she immediately fell in love with it. And because I can't bear to have people order the same plates, I moved on to my second choice, black linguine with calimari in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. The fettuccini was perhaps the ultimate spring dish and I was happy for Meg. In lieu of sauce, she can correct me here, I think it was just covered with olive oil and a little cheese. Brilliant.

My black linguine, a new thing for me, was interesting. It was more purple than black, was strangely dense, and didn't have too much tensile strength (eg it fell apart too readily for my taste). The dish overall was very good though; the sauce had just a enough red pepper kick on the finish and the calimari were tender.

And we ate everything.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the bread. Before the caprese our waiter brought out two cute pieces of focaccia with olive oil in a crescent-shaped plate. Meg loved the focaccia but it was a bit too bland and chewy for me.

And dessert. Who could resist molten chocolate cake with a scoop of gelato? Certainly not us. It was everything we'd hoped for, but with the gooey chocolate center and delicate Italian ice cream, how couldn't it? It was, I think, my first experience with non-Ciao Bella gelato and I found it thoroughly acceptable. Harder and denser than I was expecting but still light and dreamy. I'll be hitting up the Laboratorio del Gelato (sic) soon, so then I'll know what it's really supposed to be.

Afterward, someone could have rolled us home. I was as full as I'd been in a while. Quite full and appreciative.


I was going to go to the Spotted Pig with Meat Stick tonight (god I wish she would change her name, though it is entertaining to refer to her like that) but considering the wonderful weather we opted for the good ole' Shake Shack instead (they're open till 9p.m. now!). The line was long, probably 50 people or so, but it went quickly. Quite a different experience than in the fall. It used to take a long time to make an order, then a long time to receive your food, now it takes a long time to make your order but your food is almost immediately ready. I'm a fan of speedy service.

The Shack Stack (flickr picture)was a beautiful, wonderful, awful feast on a bun. A shack burger covered by a portabella mushroom burger covered by a shack burger with cheese. A healthy dose of vitamin G (read: grease, not riboflavin) Oh, and there was a piece of lettuce too, and a tomato. The cheese-stuffed mushroom layer was really something else.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Robyn said...

Cheese stuffed shroom...

I love me some vitamin G.

I have to admit, all I really want from Shake Shack is a shackapalooza. I need to bring some friends to help me eat it though.

skip said...

The cheese stuffed shroom was really interesting; next time I think i'll sub it into a double shack. The gushy cheese completely rocked. The stack was a meal unto itself. That with the shake made me feel gross.