Sunday. crêpes and more.
As I do every Sunday I have to work (provided I get up early enough), I head down to the Essential Bakery for a bacon-and-Swiss crêpe and a caffé mocha. I grab a loaf of bread and a "carrot-cake" cookie for later, and settle in with an Angela Thirkell novel and my hearty breakfast, and it keeps me going through the morning. Hours later I eat my cookie, which is in fact two chewy carrot-cake "cookies" enclosing a hefty blob of cream-cheese frosting, nearly as much frosting as cookie (or so it seems). My heart racing from sugar, I settle in for another several hours of work, until the clock ticks well past five and I realize that I am hungry again. Time for dinner. I call C. from the office phone, after finding that my cell phone has run out of batteries and I have been incommunicado all day. Italian sounds good to her, so we head out to Spinasse, just around the corner from work.
As usual, every seat at the three communal tables (plus one small four-top) is booked, so we squeeze into the bar (with myself wedged in uncomfortably against the wall) and say hi to the owner, who is busy making ravioli behind the counter. I ask him how business is going - it is booming, and last night they sold out of everything - and tell him that the last time I was here, I noticed that his hair got higher and messier as the room got smokier and more crowded. This appears to amuse him. We order prosciutto with fresh plums (it is the season) and the ravioli (for me) and cavatelli (for C.), and our server brings us a small plate with two kinds of crostini: one is heaped with marinated chanterelles, which are unto pickled mushrooms as Château Latour is to Two-Buck Chuck, and the other a rabbit pâté with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The chanterelles are those tiny ones that every restaurant seems to have and that I can never find in the market, and they are magical. There is bread, which I ignore, and then the prosciutto, which is every bit as delicately (and yet intensely) flavored as I remember, only better, now that I am here without my grandfather, who does not willingly consume prosciutto when such things as jamon Iberico exist on this planet.
We watch J. make ravioli and eat our appetizer, until every scrap of rosy-pink ham and sweet dark fruit is gone, and then he heads back into the kitchen to cook our pasta (but not until he suggests how I should cook the beets I got at the market - dry-roasting them with sea salt and olive oil, simply sautéeing the greens). The hum of voices has become louder, and when I turn to look over my shoulder I see nearly every seat is occupied. I love this ravioli even better than the last one; the beet greens are tender but have more flavor than, say, spinach, without the sharpness of the rapini that I had before. They are simply tossed with some sage, a dusting of cheese, and a scattering of pine nuts. I steal a bite of C.'s cavatelli, sauced with just enough cheese and cream, rich without being overwhelming. It is like some sublime form of macaroni and cheese, and for a moment I wish that I had ordered it instead, until I take another bite of ravioli, and reassure myself that I had made the right choice. We plan to come back again, because it is the kind of food we like best, simple and pure, good food, without fuss or frills or pretentiousness of any kind. I am glad to see that it is so busy, that business is good, and I am even gladder that it is so close to work.
We head out the door, intent on dessert from another quarter: Ice cream, from Molly Moon. They have a new flavor, Baracky Road, their own twist on Rocky Road, possibly one of my favorite ice cream flavors of all time. When we get to Molly Moon (having snagged a rare open parking spot across the street) there is a line out the door. Even in times of financial hardship, people still need ice cream. It is what we call a "cheap luxury," made with organic, all natural ingredients with exotic flavors like lavender honey and balsamic strawberry and sea salt caramel. A single scoop on a regular cone is $3, a bargain compared to the $20 pasta we downed an hour before. I have a scoop of the Baracky Road, chocolate ice cream bursting with hazelnuts and homemade marshmallows and chunks of dark chocolate. It is so good I nearly head back for more. As we walk out with our cones the line has spread down the sidewalk, a few doors down. If it had been shorter I might have gone back for another scoop.