Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Crush

Yes, OK, fine, we went to the Publican again, this time for a cider dinner and sat in our favorite seats. And while there were some fantastic dishes—like the Fingerling Potato, Artichoke, and Celery Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette and Remoulade, which built strong flavor atop strong flavor atop strong flavor—it wasn't a TKO like the last two times. The risotto seemed bland to me—basically just butter with occasional other textures—and the Roasted Guinea Hen with Root Vegetables and Wild Mushrooms would have been much stronger with only dark meat. Then again, I don't care much for poultry, so what do I know? The Sweet Potato Tart was a winner, though, redeemed from its potential blandness by the surprising saltiness of its graham-cracker crust.

The ciders were of a broad range—I preferred the very dry and less overtly apple-y ones, though there were two darker, vinous ones that were well matched with the food as well. I especially dug the Sarasola Basque Cider, which to my palate had a sharp minerality not common to apples. Our man Paulie tended to us more than nicely again—this time plying us with pear cognac and introducing us to some of his other regulars and some of the staffers. We learned that Paulie has done time in the wine biz, that he recently chased down a mugger, and that his 90-day TV fast is almost over. We chatted briefly, too, with the chef de cuisine. These are all perks, in their way, and they're a big part of why we'll be back again soon—cry though our bank balances do. Urban Belly, take a note: we're charitable to the Big P because even when it isn't at the top of its game, it still feels like a great place to be.

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