Thursday, March 12, 2009


Wrap something in bacon and there's a good chance it'll be pretty darn tasty. But this is also the reason I try not to eat tapas too often. The Spanish really know how to use rich ingredients to create bursts of flavor. That's great, as long as I don't start bursting at the seams as well.

Tonight I plan to visit my fave tapas place in New York, Alta, on West 10th Street. To prepare myself, I thought it would be nice to remember the last time I was there last July. I dined with Rob Sheffield, rock critic and local genius. What a feast we had! White sangria put us in a festive mood (it's nice and strong!) We sat upstairs at the edge of a balustrade looking down on the ground floor. The list of tasty morsels is long and colorful, so we just started choosing at random. Pretty much everything we ordered was excellent. We started with the grilled Japanese eggplant scallion gratinee, aleppo pepper & toasted sesame seeds.
Then we tried grilled chorizo-wrapped gulf shrimp with whipped avocado lime mousse. Don't let that word chorizo fool you. Basically, it's bacon!
Next up were the lamb meatballs with spiced butternut squash foam and lebne. Delish. Lebne, by the way, is kind of like Greek yogurt.
Following closely behind in this parade of calories and saturated fats, we had crabmeat canneloni with crème fraîche-verju foam, almonds and halved grapes. Oy.
Think that's rich? How about crispy duck confit. Unh.
Believe it or not, we were still hungry! We tried the Danish pork ribs with kecap manis and coriander. I couldn't resist something that included kecap manis, the sweet Indonesian soy sauce I grew to love while living in Bali.
"Oh sure, that's pretty fattening," I can hear you say, "but isn't there some dish made with about a stick of butter per serving?" Not to worry: the specialty of the house is the crispy, carmelized Brussel sprouts with Fuji apples, crème fraîche and pistachio nuts. In-sane. Scrumptious to the point of being unfair.
After such a repast, what dessert could possibly add enough calories to fill the corners of our appetites? No problem. First we tried the warm chocolate fondue with almond-scented grappa, with a side of Marcona-almond-and-orange biscuits. Actually, this was the one item I found hard to take. The alcohol of the grappa was so intense and stinging that it seriously detracted from the total pleasure of the dish.
Such concerns were short-lived, however. To put us over the edge, we ate Crema Catalana, which the Spanish claim is the predecessor to the French crème brûlée.

As I get myself ready for this meal, which is now just a few hours away, I know it will be a delight for my tongue and an assault on my arteries. So I keep telling myself, Hey, I haven't been to Alta since last July. That's a long time ago!


Anonymous said...

For the record, on this return visit to Alta (my first), it emerged that it was more than possible to order from their long, unique menu without being inundated by pork and dairy products. Our dinner was sensational: every dish like a little jump for joy, and we didn't feel gross afterwards. My only quibble was the decibel range: all those raucous 20-somethings in there! Who ARE those people?

Katie Bowen said...

I was craving Paella the other night and went to El Faro on Greenwich and Horatio. My food was yummy enough, but the Paella was a bit bland, and although it gave a nice buzz, the red sangria was a bit thin. The ribs and shrimp were tasty, but the Puerto Rican music in the background confused me.

I wasn't thrilled or disheartened--think I'll try Alta next time!