Friday, November 16, 2007

From Columbus to Carbonara in 24 Hours

Less than 24 hours ago I was enjoying a great meal with great company at Dragonfly in Columbus, Ohio. For a city touted as being comprised of citizens of such average taste that major chain restaurants use them as a test market, the meal was a marvel, and it would have held its own anywhere I've been. On a side note, while I've only had about half a dozen dinners in Columbus, they've all been very good, including one here, and another here.

The vegan, but more upscale new agey than hippie, restaurant was recommended to be me by a friend who has compared the pictures on this blog to unattractive women. With such honesty, he is someone who I'll readily take suggestions from.

As for the food itself, the amuse buche was standard enough--very solid (good) bread with a simple but incredibly light and enjoyable butternut squash puree. We then shared an appetizer of vegan pates, one based on the perhaps overutilized butternut squash (the place is big on seasonal, and it is the season), and the other on French lentils--that is correct, it was a French lentil pate; no Frenchmen were around to be offended. The pates tasted great, plus they were garnished with marinated mushrooms, huckleberries, and two sauces, but the name pate was one of several loose usages of culinary terms. The pates were made of the respective item pureed and congealed to make a very even color and consistency, similar to that of the filling of a well chilled pumpkin pie, but a bit firmer. Picture a rich and heavy jello and you're close. The taste was great, but it was bit too Food 2.0 for the setting.

The main courses all looked great and we each enjoyed our dishes, an olive and pesto pizza, a mini burger made with black truffle, and my choice, trumpet mushroom confit. The simple titled trumpet mushroom confit (I think the formal name was different, but not much so) had confited trumpet mushrooms (not actually cooked in fat), perfectly fried mushrooms (likely indeed cooked in fat), dumplings with some more of the ubiquitous butternut, and a clean and slightly spicy tasty green curry. A great mix of flavors, and there was no sense of anything lacking, as can often be the case with vegetarian, and especially vegan, dishes.

The dessert also was very good--three tarts and a scoop of green apple sorbet. The sorbet was incredible, like the best sour apple blow pop ever (without the gum). The tarts were good too, but is it really a custard without eggs? Here they were missed.

The meal was accompanied by a very drinkable and very reasonably priced Rioja. Overall the meal was great. Rereading what I wrote maybe I was a bit too critical--the meal had a great flow, the space was great, and the food was presented impeccably. I'd certainly go again and recommend it to anyone who likes good food, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise. Still, with the folks who joined me it would have been hard to find a place where we wouldn't have enjoyed dinner.

As for the picture above, the only thing vegan in there is the pasta, obtained by way of the food buying group from the usual purveyor. I forgot where the parmesan cheese came from, but likely the same place as the pancetta--my favorite import shop in town (the website doesn't do them justice). Despite it being an import shop, the pancetta is from here (I could take their web tour over and over). Parsley is from a little windowbox that is still producing, and garlic from the farmer's market. And eggs, as always, from here--the best poultry and related products in the area bar none, and now available at the Shaker and Crocker farmers' markets. Here's the recipe, a not too loose adaptation from The Silver Spoon:

- Pasta
- Eggs (1 or two per serving)
- Pancetta, relatively big dice (Lardons work very well too. Regardless of how the linked English gentleman complicates things, starting with thick sliced bacon works great.)
- Hard cheese, grated (I used all parmesan.)
- Garlic, halved
- Parsley, chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper

- Cook pasta in boiling salted water
- Add olive oil to a heated saute pan (Just enough to get the pancetta to start rendering--the pork will produce quite a bit of liquefied fat.)
- Add pancetta and garlic
- While that's cooking beat together eggs and half of the cheese
- Stir pancetta and garlic occasionally
- When garlic turns brown remove it and discard
- When pancetta is how you like it turn off heat (don't drain)
- Add drained pasta to pancetta and fat, still in the warm/hot pan and mix well
- Add egg/cheese mixture to pasta (You don't want the eggs to scramble, but they should cook slightly--adding a drop of cream to the egg/cheese mixture provides a bit of a safety net.)
- Once it's all mixed well add the rest of the cheese and mix again
- Season appropriately (The pancetta and cheese are salty, so there's no need for too much salt, but a good dose of pepper is a nice addition.)
- Plate and top with parsley
- Serve immediately

That's it. The pork fat, eggs, and cheese were a welcome treat when I returned to Cleveland and it's awaiting showers of hail.


Anonymous said...

o.k. o.k., when can we come over with your new lighting setup? Emily

The CFT said...

Just let me know when you've found a babysitter.