There Is No Love Sincerer Than The Love Of Food
103 West 77th Street
New York, NY
I first read the phrase "there is no love sincerer than the love of food" on a Carrabas menu when I was in tenth grade. I was so inspired by this statement that I made it the subject of a creative writing paper in my English class. My teacher gave me an A, a grade I hadn't seen for what felt like several decades. I was so shocked to receive it I wondered aloud if she had added a little something extra to her coffee when she was grading. My loquaciousness had a tendency to get me kicked out of class until teachers discovered that that only worsened the problem, as I was caught loudly hugging and gabbing with everyone that walked through the halls. This teacher, however, let me off the hook as she was shocked by the depths of my passion for half moon ravioli.
For years I credited the fine folks at Carrabas for inspiring me to receive my first (and as it turned out, my last) A in tenth grade. But a couple of weeks ago, as I watched The Iron Chef on The Food Network, I heard the host say, "To quote the great George Bernard Shaw, 'There is no love sincerer than the love of food." Oops.
So, George Bernard Shaw has become my new hero. And I believe this statement could not be more appropriate to have in mind as Valentines Day '09 came around. Whether you are single, married, dating, womanizing, man-eating, or even considering the priesthood, we are all united by a common love of eating. No matter what, I believe everyone should celebrate V-Day by indulging their palate with one of the great loves of their lives, whether it be pastries, pastas, or pork butts.
In my case, I celebrated with two of the three. We decided to do brunch to avoid Manhattan V-Day dinner crowds and tabs, and made a 1pm reservation at Dovetail. My friend, Cornelia, had raved about this Upper West Side Establishment ever since she spent time there as an intern. I have to admit I was a bit nervous upon arrival. It has the sort of minimalist decor that fools you into thinking it's casual until you spot someone like Diane Sawyer sipping a cappuccino a table away. It's serious food for serious people, and there I am in my three year-old skirt from TJ Maxx that has a slight hole in it. "Relax," I said to myself. After all, it's only visible up close.
I immediately started chatting with my Prada suit-clad server and was delighted to discover that behind his fancy attire, he was just as piggy as me. He spoke beautifully about the chef's signature dishes. I got so excited, I practically oinked. Brunch is 28 dollars pp, and in addition to whatever main course you select, you are provided with nibbles before and after your entree.
The first treat brought to our table was an assortment of sweet and savory breads. The standout was definitely the Gruyere cookie. It was like a Cheez-It touched by a culinary angel. Once we went through the ENTIRE basket, one of what felt like 40 different servers brought us another plate of snacks. The dish included a mini yogurt/honey parfait, a shot of parsnip soup, a mini cucumber sandwich, and the tiniest duck meatball I had ever seen. The thick and creamy whole milk yogurt combined with the fresh honey and nut-heavy granola was the unanimous favorite. It's the kind of breakfast you imagine would be served to Charles and Camillia on a Grecian vacation.
I chose the lamb meatloaf for my entree, and Jeremy ordered the duck goulash, which we were told is the chef's signature dish. I think the meatloaf should be renamed a "deconstructed gyro," seeing as it is served open faced with crusty bread, mixed greens, and a seductively delicious tzatziki. The term "meatloaf" has always sounded a tad vulgar to me and does not seem fitting for a dish so simple and elegant.
Although the meatloaf was my entree selection, the server made a tiny error and put the duck goulash in front of me. I decided to take a bite before handing it over to Jeremy, and as soon as I did, one person came into my mind. Oddly, it was Sigmund Freud. One of Freud's more significant theories is that there are no real mistakes in life. I always thought one look at my tenth grade geometry tests would have changed Sigmund's mind, but after that bite, the theory finally made sense. The dish was culinary poetry, and divine intervention caused it to land in front of me. I didn't want to hand it over to Jeremy, and I briefly thought of taking the dish, sprinting to Central Park, and hiding while I devoured every bite. The plate consists of duck confit ragu served over a bed of cavatelli and root vegetables, dressed with a poached hen egg. Watching the yolk spill into the ragu was like seeing Salma Hayek walk the red carpet in a low-cut gown -- a moment of unearthly beauty.
I did give the dish to Jeremy, and although it felt like sacrificing my first born, I managed to steal about half. The final course was a selection of sweet treats, and although my stomach was begging me to stop, my eyes forced me to push through. We were served a plethora of little treats, nothing supremely unusual, but all delicious. My favorite was the butterscotch pudding; Jeremy liked the home-made passion fruit marshmallow.
So take a trip uptown, downtown, crosstown, or over a bridge to Dovetail. Order the goulash and remind yourself how sincere true love can be.
Please log in to dish on this post.