Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Around The City In Fewer Than 80 Hours

That was the name of last night's game.

First, it was cocktails with college friends at Ruby Foo's in Times Square. I hate Times Square and I'm not a huge fan of Ruby Foo's, either. I went there a few times with my family back in the 90s. Rest assured: it still has that 'Asian-fusion is so cool' quality to it. A drink I remembered fondly, the Ruby Foo, a martini dolled up with plum wine and lemon juice, was less plummy than I remembered. I didn't stay long. Time Square gives me heartburn.

Next up, a trip to 10 Downing Food and Wine in the west village with an industry friend. The decor is simple and teeming with avant garde art. I particularly enjoyed the Cy Twombly poster in the bathroom. It doesn't get much more obscure than that.

But the food was not obscure and neither was the wine list, which is small and mostly affordable (though they have a Chave Hermitage listed at well over 3,000 dollars, which seems like nothing short of highway robbery). My partner in crime selected a 2006 Comte Armand Volnay from Burgundy's Cote de Beaune. For Burgundy drinkers turned off by the 05 vintage--aggressive and aggressively priced--06 is like slipping into a pair of sweatpants after wearing a suit all day. This wine, like many of its counterparts, was traditionally Burgundian with red cherries on the palate. A delicate drink, like Volnays were in 2000 and 2001.

Actually, I had started with a glass of Franciacorta, which you don't see everywhere and which matched perfectly with my Nantucket Bay scallops (in season this month only), served over a sunchoke puree with balled pears. Franciacorta is the Italian answer to Champagne, made in the traditional method and demonstrating a lot of the same qualities as good vintage bubbly. The bay scallops were sweet like candy. My friend's duck meatball cassoulet would have been more appropriate in colder weather, but were delicious nonetheless.

For entrees I ordered another special, the pan-seared squab over raviolini. I love game birds and this was game bird at its finest: skin crisped, flesh cooked medium-rare, raviolini filled with the bird's liver and heart. The one dissonant component of the dish was a vinegar-sodden cabbage slaw with shitake mushrooms atop which the bird arrived. I could have done without it.

My friend had striped bass, another lovely specimen, skin on, delicate, moist. For dessert, we turned once more to the savory for a domestic cheese plate. The cheeses themselves were impressive. The blue was as strong as blue cheeses get, the triple-cream oozing off of the board. A semi-hard was just okay. And although the board itself was not as interesting or charasmatic as the boards at Casellula, I couldn't complain about the puree served as accompaniment, which I'm pretty sure was quince and pear.

From 10 Downing, I headed down to TriBeCa for a late-night tasting at the office of one of my favorite distributors, where I enjoyed two nightcaps: Jamey Whetstone's 2006 Jon Boat Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast and, finally, a Stella Artois served, appropriately, in a Burgundy glass.

Ruby Foo's
1626 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

10 Downing Food and Wine
10 Downing Street
New York, NY 10014

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