Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dinner for two. Sunday Lark.

Duty and boredom called me into work this morning, after a breakfast of tea (Earl Grey Silver Tips from Mariage Fréres, the best Earl Grey I have ever had) and a ham-and-cheese croissant from Belle's Buns, a stand at the farmer's market. Lunch was the last of my homemade rillettes on toast, and two of my chocolate chunk cookies, but I must confess that before the last crumb was regretfully swallowed, I was already thinking about dinner. At Lark. And I was lucky. C. wanted to come, too. And then we were even luckier: the dining room was quiet, the weekend before the holiday ahead. J. offers us our choice of tables; I choose one of the booths. I never get to sit in one of the booths when I am alone and the restaurant is busy. We order, the skate wing, the steak, the farro, the carrots, and sit back with our bread and butter.

First, though, comes a surprise from the kitchen: the brandade of salt cod, a warm, airy purée of salt cod and potato, served with toasts under a cloud of herbs, surrounded by tiny Niçoise olives, cornichons, and what appear to be pickled carrots. It would never have occurred to me to order this (I confess, I ate too much salt cod in Portugal to ever care for it again), but it is wonderful. Then comes the skate wing, in brown butter, with beans of some sort (which I cannot identify), a little like garbanzos, and little cubes of chorizo. The farro is creamy and buttery and chewy, with crunchy slices of hearts-of-palm and mushrooms. A mélange of carrots arrives in its Staub dish, sweet and tender, fat little orange ones, skinny baby purple ones, all different shapes and sizes and colors, a rainbow of carrots. The steak is served sliced, rare in some reduction of a sauce, draped across a bundle of dark chard and a layered gratin of potato, celery root, and horseradish. I must say I am not a fan of the gratin, but I love everything else.

We are defeated by the farro, which tends to sink like a stone in the stomach, however delicious it is. But there is always room for dessert. C. wavers between the apple crisp and the quince tarte tatin, but with the help of M. I push her into ordering the tarte tatin, which is my usual choice. I head for the hazelnut chocolate mousse, two dollops of mousse framing another of whipped cream, with light cocoa ladyfingers and candied hazelnuts. It is like eating Nutella, only better, and it is so good, I want another order immediately. Next time.

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