When you’re single, every night out on the town seems to feel like a chore – dress to impress, arm self with extensive knowledge of useless (but interesting) facts, research and practice pronunciation for fancy European menus, chew slowly (not inhale, as is my usual habit), and laugh (even if his jokes are not funny), always remembering to empty contents of mouth before doing so.
When you’re attached, dining out either becomes the usual fall back plan for an otherwise unplanned evening and thus run close to the line of becoming “just the norm” (dull), or, if you’re luckily dating someone sentimental, a romantic and hopefully thoughtful excuse to celebrate some ridiculously cliched milestone. And the fun part of it all? You get to laugh with your mouth chockful of expensive handmade pasta, and your dining companion will love you for it.
Friday night was the end of a 2nd week of work at the new place, and disappointingly, I still hadn’t received my first paycheck. Having already spent the entire week moaning and groaning about the newbie shitwork I’m expected to do, my Debbie Downer behavior was probably negatively affecting everyone, including myself, and in no mood to cook with the contents of an empty pantry (I am no magician), I decided to employ my Sexual Bewitchery and Feminine Wiles, which merely involved mentioning a certain fiddlehead fern pasta at a certain restaurant of Michael White’s, and was able to finagle myself a date at Alto.
Without a reservation, we arrived at the restaurant around 8pm, and resigned ourselves to the bar (fully booked until 9pm) to contemplate our next plan of action. Luckily, a cancellation around 8:30 brought the hostess over to seat us at a table not less than 10 feet away from THE Michael White, who seemed to be in the middle of some feasting (as opposed to a dinner) meeting.
Now normally I’d never allow myself to even consider ordering a 4-course priced at (what I consider a hefty) $84 when 1 bowl of pasta is enough to satisfy, but given the prices of each dish, and all the enticing varieties offered, I slyly mentioned that the number of months since our first date had reached 7 (2 days shy, actually) – a lucky number suitable for silly celebrations – and a better deal would be had if we decided to go for the prix fixe. And thus, we had one of our first really special dinner dates in a long time – scallops, beef tartare, fiddlehead fern pasta with pesto and pea puree, egg ravioli with sweetbreads (an egg whose yolk runs out when the ravioli is pierced! how amazing is that?), lobster, and sirloin. As is to be expected from Michael White, the food was no less than amazing, and on the actual day of the silly 7th, we made our own version of the fiddlehead fern pasta.
Pesto Gemelli with Fiddlehead Ferns and Peas, and Roasted Potatoes
gemelli (2 cups)
minced garlic, 1 clove
Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and set aside. Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente, 9 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up a pan with some olive oil, and toss in the garlic and fiddlehead ferns. After the pasta is done, reserve some pasta water, drain, and toss into the pan. Add the peas and several tablespoons of pesto, to taste. Salt and pepper if necessary, and use the pasta water if the contents of the pan should get too dry.
In a baking pan, pour in some olive oil. Put it in the oven as you preheat it to 500 degrees. When the oil is warm, or the oven is fully heated, take out the pan, empty the potatoes into it, tossing, add salt and pepper, and add the crushed garlic and rosemary. Roast for 30 minutes, checking halfway to toss. Remove the sprigs when done and serve.
Quick Red Wine Sangria
Mix together, adding as much seltzer as you’d like to lighten up the wine. If needed, add agave nectar to sweeten.