There’s a scene in Annie Hall (my favorite movie) where Alvy Singer buys Annie lingerie for her birthday. “Oh ho ho,” says Annie. “I think this is more a gift for you than it is for me.”
The same could be argued about Lisa’s birthday dinner. I tried to defer to her wishes (“Where would you like to go?” I asked her) but she simply said, “I like food, Adam, so wherever you want to go is fine by me.” So can I be forgiven for taking her to the place I secretly wanted to return to? Where Lisa and I enjoyed an outstanding meal last April? I think I can. And I think Lisa can too. Here she is taking a picture of her food with her new digital camera, a birthday present from her mom:
Won’t you join us for the rest of Lisa’s birthday dinner?
In case you missed the post title and didn’t follow the link to the old review, Lisa’s birthday dinner happened at Hearth. We called on Saturday afternoon and booked the last two-top for the night. I arrived earlier than Lisa and sat in the window waiting for her. This afforded me an opportunity to soak in the scene. Here are some details that you might enjoy:
– the waiters at Hearth all wear jeans but many of the customers are dressed more formally. A table of men next to us at dinner wore suits. I wore jeans, Lisa wore corduroy pants, and we felt fine about it.
– There’s a counter by the kitchen where you can sit and watch them cook your food. This is something I’d like to do at a future meal.
– The hosts and hostesses are genuinely friendly people. No phoniness here. I can’t tell you how I know this, but just observing them while waiting for Lisa I got a sense that they really liked working here and that they really liked their customers. It’s all part of the Hearth charm.
When Lisa arrived, we were seated at the EXACT same table we were seated at last time. (Flush against the wall; a nice, private two-top that afforded each of us an opportunity for people watching: Lisa, the door, and me the rest of the room.)
I made the bold suggestion that we order a bottle of wine for our meal. We asked the waiter for a wine list, and I set upon reading it. If you still don’t have a sense of what Hearth’s about, I’d like to point you to their wine list (that’s a PDF, so proceed with caution) which may be my favorite wine list ever. It says things like this:
– (under German Riesling): “Let’s begin with the obvious or maybe not so obvious…RIESLING IS NOT AN INHERENTLY SWEET WINE. Okay, so that is out of the way. Next up.” [See, I actually had a bad experience ordering a Riseling when we ate at Joel Robuchon in Monte Carlo. It was way too sweet for our dinner, so I’m glad to know it’s not always a bad choice.]
– (under Trebbiano d’Abruzzo): “We should just acknowledge upfront that as a grape, trebbiano is shite. Drinking a glass of the ubiquitous trebbiano is like watching a Britney Spears video on permanent rotation…initially, you can stomach the prospect but then things quickly turn sour and unappealing and you run for the nearest exit.”
Ok, there are lots of more examples: I highly recommend you click the link and read through it yourself. It’s a pretty fantastic education and highly amusing.
I finally settled on the Chardonnay, Don David, Michel Torino, 2002, Cafayate Valley because…umm…well. Ok. I’ll fess up: it was cheap and we both like Chardonnay.
And this one was really crisp and tasty. We both enjoyed it and it went great with the food.
I started out with “Hamachi with Honeycrisp Apples, Pickled Celery and Coriander.”
The wide array of flavors and textures and colors made this dish a wonderful way to start the meal. Lisa had “Baby Lettuces with Shallots, Beets and Red Wine Vinaigrette.”
I tasted hers and tasted mine again and made the statement: “What makes these dishes great, I think, is the balance… everything’s in perfect balance. Just the perfect amount of dressing…”
“I agree,” said Lisa.”
I am very profound.
For my entree, I had the Duck Pappardelle with Black Olives, Red Wine and Rosemary:
Sometimes dishes are so perfectly prepared the only thing you can be critical of is your own discretion in ordering it. Here, I made the mistake of choosing a pasta when I didn’t really want a pasta. I should’ve gone with the veal but regrets, I have a few, but then again this pasta was too good to mention.
As was Lisa’s vegetarian Pumpkin Tortelli with Chestnuts, Amaretti and Sage (you can see her photographing it in the first picture.)
That’s such a winning combination: pumpkin and sage and tortellini and amaretti. Babbo does it great and so does Hearth. I nibbled at Lisa’s and felt myself cheer on the inside.
At this point, we discovered we had half a bottle of wine left. I, for one, do not like to drink wine with dessert. I like coffee with dessert. And so I sought to extend the wine by ordering a cheese.
“Ummm,” said Lisa. Lisa was full and didn’t necessarily need a cheese.
“It’ll help us stretch the wine,” I explained.
“Well let’s at least look at the cart,” she offered.
We did look at the cart and the waiter suggested the goat cheese to pair with the wine. “We take it to pastry and they pair it with a condiment,” he said after we accepted the goat and he whisked it off.
“Oooh, I wonder what condiment we’re going to get,” I said, hoping for cherries or something fruity. I like fruity condiments.
Ok, so our condiments sucked:
Two slices of bread and two tiny biscuits. But, on the positive side, these kept our throats dry so we could polish off our wine. And I polished off my glass rather quickly.
I wondered aloud how much that slice of cheese might cost. “What if it was a $40 slice of cheese?” I joked. But seriously, what if? It’s not like the cheese cart comes with a pricing menu.
At the end of the meal, when the check came, I stared at it agog and said to Lisa. “Oh my God, guess how much that slice of cheese cost?”
“$14?” she guessed.
“No,” I said.
“$16?” she guessed again.
I laughed. “It was $3.50.”
Funny how hard it is to price things mentally in the world of fine dining.
But no meal is worth its price without dessert. Because it was Lisa’s birthday, I let her have her say. We enjoyed a pecan tart with sweet potato ice cream. Here’s the birthday girl modeling her dish:
It was luscious and rich and the sweet potato ice cream tasted like the perfect pie only in ice cream form.
“Happy birthday, Lisa,” I said.
“Thanks, Adam,” she replied.
And with that we concluded Lisa’s birthday dinner. A gift for Lisa that gifted the giver too. What could be better than that? I rest my case.