Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dinner for one. Spinasse.

I am called in to work again. I tell them I will be late, because I have to go to the market, where I buy bundles of greens and carrots, eggs that promise to be organic and free-range and Grade A ("or better"), potatoes and chestnut trofie pasta, and two tins of Mariage Frères tea, one an Earl Grey tangled with tiny blue flowers (for C.) and the other English Breakfast (for me). I buy a loaf of sourdough bread, and some Naughty Nellie cheese from the same farm that produces the Silly Billy I saw at Lark last week. They tell me the chef buys their cheese every week, and hand me samples of everything to try. And then I head into work, knowing that at the end of the day I could reward myself with dinner. Perhaps I would go to Spinasse. It's been a while.

At Spinasse there is only one seat left at the bar, and I have to dislodge the poor guy sitting to my right so I can wiggle ungracefully onto my stool, elbowing the chap on my left as I do so. (Apparently I continue elbowing him all throughout my dinner, because he finally says "I'll just give you some space here," and moves his seat, rather pointedly, three inches closer to his own dining companion). My server says to me, "You look familiar. Do I know you?" and I point out that I have eaten here several times before. The chef/owner waves at me from the kitchen. He is not yet at the point in the evening where his hair is sticking up in all directions, but he will be. I order the ravioli, decline a glass of wine, and wiggle into a slightly less uncomfortable (it is never really comfortable here, when you are wedged between two complete strangers at a tiny bar that rather unwillingly seats six or seven) position.

As usual, two crostini arrive, one spread with fresh ricotta, draped with a single anchovy, and dusted with fennel pollen. I feel either my palate is insufficiently sensitive, or the anchovy overwhelms the pollen, because I can't taste anything but anchovy. The other crostini is spread with a pâté of black trumpet mushrooms and chanterelles, which I prefer. Then my pasta arrives. Tonight's ravioli is filled with a purée of Jerusalem artichokes, which I always feel taste a bit like a cross between an artichoke heart and a potato, two of my favorite things. The ravioli are simply sauced with a little (ok, rather a lot of) butter with a scattering of toasted pine nuts, grated cheese, and fried sage leaves, still crisp. I eat my ravioli and watch the action in the kitchen - there seems to be more people in there every time I come in - as well as the locomotion in the dining room at my back, as people come in and out in a flutter of coats and kisses.

I refuse dessert and chat with my server about Claudio Corallo, whose chocolates I have been hoarding. He likes the orange-infused chocolate, but I prefer the one with the big sugar crystals that crunch with every bite. It's time to go home, but first I have to dismount awkwardly from my stool, pushing it out from under the slim metal railing that separates the bar from the rest of the room and then contorting myself under the railing before putting the stool back and collecting my bag and coat from the floor where I dropped them. The elderly couple dining in relative comfort at one of the communal tables looks on in amazement at my lack of grace, and I smile and say goodnight before heading out the door.

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