I love having a February birthday. If I see the light, some day, and I’m born again I hope it’s in February. Having a February birthday means that in the dead of winter, when it’s cruelly cold outside, you have a big happy day to look forward to. Add to that Craig’s birthday, also in February, and Valentine’s Day and you have a month worth celebrating.
Take this pancake, for example:
I ate this pancake on my birthday. Craig and I went to August in the Village, something we wouldn’t ordinarily do but because it was my birthday we had a reason. And it was a good pancake, a mighty good pancake. Craig loved brunching in the sun room at August (it was his first time there) he said he felt like we were in Montreal. I liked how the pancake was cooked in a wood-burning oven, though–I must say–the inside of the middle of the pancake was undercooked (the batter ran out when I cut in). But it was a dynamite pancake (studded with golden raisins, I should add) and we have February to thank for it.
But let’s rewind for a moment. You know what we did for Craig’s birthday, but I never told you what we did for Valentine’s Day.
At lunch with Dana Bowen, last week, she suggested a perfect place for a Park Slope Valentine’s Day: Palo Santo. (I just Googled the New York Times review and Dana wrote it! Funny.) She said it was perfect because it’s cozy and small and the food is terrific and elegantly plated. “You should ask for the tasting menu,” she advised.
So I made the reservation–they only had 10:30 left–and on a cold, snowy, blustery Valentine’s Day, Craig and I trekked over to Union Street where gastronomic bliss awaited us. The entrance is pretty miss-able. Can you see it? Don’t miss it!
Here’s Craig holding the bottle of wine we ordered:
The waitress (who was FANTASTIC, maybe the best waitress of 2007—knowledgeable, funny, helpful, wise) told us that the grapes came from Europe to South America where this wine is made and eventually the grapes stopped growing in Europe, so the only place to get this kind of wine is now in South America. What kind of wine is it? I forget. Zoom in on the label!
Wit is a virtue seldom attributed to chefs, but how witty is this amuse bouche for Valentine’s Day? A raw scallop, served ceviche-style, like an oyster. Get it? Like an oyster’s an aphrodisiac, but this is a scallop? I loved it:
For my first course, I had the clam chowder which had coconut milk and was super flavorful:
Craig, however, had a real doozie. I’m not sure what was going on there, but he ordered pumpkin soup which everyone expected (at least Craig and I) to be like the creamy pumpkin soup you might get on Thanksgiving. But this was a clear broth without much flavor and without much pumpkin. It was weird.
Now reader, I anticipate that when I tell you this next fact you will tut your tongues and shake your heads in disgust. I had the opportunity, for this next course, to order HEARTS. That’s right: real hearts on skewers basted with a spicy pepper sauce. What kind of hearts? I think chicken hearts, but I don’t remember. So why didn’t I order it? Because it was really spicy (according to the waitress) and I’m not a fan of really spicy. I’m sorry! I know you wanted to see a plate with spicy hearts on it from Valentine’s day but my heart wasn’t in it. (Yuk, yuk, yuk.)
I felt pretty lame, then, ordering an endive salad with blue cheese and Persimmons. But you know what?
It was AWESOME, so there!
Then there was this wonderful pork taco dish that came between the salad and the entree. It tasted like a bacon taco: and who wouldn’t love that?
(I should say here that this was a tasting menu with several options for every course. So this wasn’t the set menu.)
For my entree, I had the tuna which was nice and light and balanced well with everything else on the plate:
And then for dessert, an apple rhubarb cobbler with ice cream:
All in all, a wonderful Valentine’s Day steal at $45 a person. Not only that, but the place is indeed an adorable venue; a place with a warm cozy atmosphere that I’d love to go back to for another meal. This is a Park Slope gem.
But are we done?
No! This is February! And February’s all about my birthday, remember?
So I told you about the Chinese dinner I had with my friends, I told you about the pancake, but I didn’t tell you what Craig got me.
Craig wouldn’t tell me what he had planned for my birthday, so I went into the day not knowing. We had brunch, then we walked around the West Village, then we read the Times at Joe, and then we went to see “Notes on a Scandal.” (Campy, but fun. Like me!) After the movie, Craig lead me to our secret destination (which I’ve given away in the title of this post, but I didn’t have a printout from the future to read on our journey to dinner.)
We walked up Broadway and I immediately catalogued all the places I knew nearby in my brain: Prune? Una Pizza Napoletana? I had a feeling we were going to the East Village and, sure enough, we started heading East. But why did we turn on this block? Why are we near the Public Theater? Hey, what’s that, is that… Five Points?
Of course! Five Points is the restaurant Craig loved before he met me and the place we’d never been to together.
“Awww,” I said. “That’s perfect!”
The inside of Five Points is beautiful. It’s decked out with flowers and it’s very warm and welcoming.
We had another fantastic waitress at this meal (apparently, February is the month for fantastic waitresses) who reminded me of the little girl from “Party of Five.”
It’s getting late so I’m going to hurry this along…
I had a white anchovy panzanella salad to start:
If you haven’t had a white anchovy before, I highly recommend it. It’s really different from those slimy things you get from a jar; much fresher and cleaner tasting, somehow.
For my entree I had a pork chop:
Now I don’t mean to be ungrateful, I loved this meal to no end, and I think this pork chop was wonderfully prepared (that’s a kumquat relish on top) but I’m starting to take to heart the notion put forth by Mario Batali and, most recently, Molly Stevens in her braising book about meat. That notion is: the tougher the cut of meat, the more flavorful.
That’s why the braised pork shoulder we had in Chinatown was such a triumph. All that muscle dissolved into gelatin which flavored the sauce and left the meat ultra tender. Here, the pork chop was so lean it tasted like chicken breast. Granted, a beautifully dressed up chicken breast, but still: a chicken breast. It’s like going to the prom with a monkey. You can put the monkey in Prada, but at the end of the day, you’re still dancing with a monkey. (That’s the kind of insight that got me where I am, folks.)
And, at last, a sticky toffee cake with a candle in it:
We were too full to finish the cake, but I blew out the candle and made a wish: a wish that every month could be like February. As you can see, it is indeed the kindest month.