Monday, March 14, 2011

Osteria Mozza

I finally made it to Osteria Mozza, after several attempts I made it.

It was a last minute decision and we were able to reserve a table for 5 at 5:15 on a Sunday. I was with a group of food lovers and we had just enjoyed ourselves at the Gold Standard Food event.

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We arrived as they opened at 5:00pm and seated immediately. The restaurant is nicely decorated and not too dim. It's nice, but also casual at the same time. Since we weren't starving we decided to order a few starters and entrees to share. We also order a few cocktails and a bottle of wine. Before our meal started, we were served an amuse of crostini with burrata, olive tapenade and julienned basil. It was a nice little bite.

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Our starters included Crispy Testina con salsa di gribiche, Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery & lemon, Burricotta with radicchio, spiced walnuts, honey & fried rosemary and an arugula salad.

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The Crispy Testina was delicious, it was sort of a terrine of pork fried and served with a garlic aioli with fried capers and parsley. It was rich and salty, but perfect to be shared among five people.

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The grilled octopus was awesome, perfectly cooked and tender. The celery and lemon added a fresh bite. The dish was simple and very clean.

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Next up from the mozzarella bar, we had the burricotta. I've never had that before, it was very much like ricotta, much lighter and very mild. The grilled radicchio added a nice charred bitter note and the walnuts were sweet.

For our entrees we ordered a nice selection of pastas. Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi with Dungeness crab, sea urchin & jalapeno, Ricotta Gnudi with garlic and parsely, Ricotta & Egg Raviolo with browned butter and Fiorentini with guanciale, tomato & spicy pickled peppers. Each dish had a different flavor profile and base sauce.

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The squid ink pasta was a cold dish and the urchin added a really nice sweetness. I thought the squid ink was very subtle and I missed the brinyness of it.

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The gnudi were so tender and light. The simplicity of the dish really shined, each ingredient stood out on it's own and combined they were harmoniess.

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The ravioli with ricotta and egg was the highlight of the night. As you cut into the plate sized ravioli, the egg yolk oozed out and mixed with the delicious brown butter. It was so decadant, so delicious.

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The last dish was the Fiorentini with guanciale, tomato & spicy pickled peppers had the most familiar Italian flavors. With a tomato based sauce, the pasta cooked al dente. The guanciale was diced into small pieces and the spicy peppers weren't that spicy. But the dish was good.

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Desserts and digestifs were next, but I was up to my eyeballs with food. My friends ordered some Grappa, Madiera, some cannolis filled with ice cream and the Torta della Nonna. Was told everything was delicious.

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I was pleased and excited to have finally experienced Osteria Mozza. The food was good and the ambience was nice. The service was attentive and informed. I am looking forward to my next visit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Gold Standard 2011

The day finally came, the 3rd Annual Gold Standard event. This would be the second straight year the event was held at the Petersen Automotive Museum. We had VIP tickets which would allow us to enjoy the first hour of the event with a smaller crowd. It was definitely the way to go. After we grabbed our gift bags, we headed up to the second floor. A great sponsor this year was Knork, a knife and fork combo that was very useful at this event.

The first booth I noticed was Susan Feniger's Street, they served a Vietnamese Crepe wrapped around a bean sprouts, carrots, pickled daikon and peanuts. They execution of this dish was off, my serving was a mouthful of fish sauce. There was no balance in the dish.

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Immediately after my bite of the crepe, I headed over to the Fathers Office booth. I thought they might serve their signature burger, but instead they offered Stout Braised Ribs with a Spicy Orange Blossom Honey Glaze. This dish was also not executed well, I noticed the ribs were in steam trays without sauce, it was sauced before serving. While the meat was very tender, the flavor just didn't penetrate the meat. This wasn't the way I expected the event to start off.

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As we split up to conquer separate booths, I headed off to Mozza. They were serving a Roasted Cherry Tomato on top of Burrata and pesto. Nancy Silverton was plating along with the rest of her staff. It was a simple plate with great flavors. The burrata was silky smooth and the ingredients all complimented each other. I grabbed an extra plate and headed over to Bistro LQ.

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Next up, Chef Laurent Quenioux was offering a set of dishes. The first was a Hare Terrine and Stuffed Duck and Pickled Huckleberries. Delicious. The next item was pork cheeks with a Chocolate Sauce served over polenta. The pork cheeks were perfectly cooked and the sauce was subtle but flavorful.

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We gathered with our selections and each of us sampled each others plates. We had Irish Car Bomb doughnut holes from The Nickle Diner, Tripe Soup and Cochinita Pibil from Chichen Itza and the best single bite of the day. It was Raw Scallop with tiny rice puffs wrapped in a nasturtium leaf. It was delicious, clean and so creative, Providence represented.

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At this point, the VIP hour was coming to a close and we had only sampled a third of the booths. The tent was divided into three rows, with the middle row being beverages. Then another handful of booths outside. We decided to attack the next row of booths before the lines got too long. I headed to Slaw Dogs and Waterloo and City. Slaw dogs offered something they called the "Spring Fling" and Waterloo and City had a Chicken Liver and Foie mousse.

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As we met back at our table, I started sampling. The chicken liver and foie mousse was really good, the sweetness came through and balanced the richness. The Slaw Dog was weird, actually it was bad. The first issue was the fact that you couldn't fit your mouth around the entire thing and they had some type of Parmesean and Bacon wrapped around the hot dog, disgusting. My friends brought over some dishes from La Casita Mexicana and Ethiopian from Meals from Genet.

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Every dish from La Casita had heat, but also good flavor. A cheese and jalapeno tamale, chile relleno made with a jalapeno stuffed with beans and cheese, it was roasted, not fried. The third dish was a roasted pork tostada, which also had a ton of heat. I was happy they didn't tame the heat.

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Meals from Genet was a plate of Ethiopian fare. Collard greens, split pea puree, lentils, salad all served on Injera. I really enjoyed the collard greens and split pea puree. The flavors were so unique.

I'm getting full at this point, but there were still several places I needed to try. We headed to Akasha to try some cheese and there chutneys and jelly, the pear chutney was awesome. Then to Palate, to try the Pork Ear, Lardon, Pistachio and Kumquat banh mi. The portion was ridiculous, the flavors were awesome, a bit to sweet from the Kumquat, but really good. Then it was CUT serving Braised Kobe Short Ribs with Indian spices. Really good, a little cold, but tasty.

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Then across the aisle was Mo-Chica serving mussels topped with Peruvian salsa. This dish has flavors of Ceviche, a lot of acidity and fresh veggies. Next door was Drago Centro serving Foie Gras Pannacotta with duck confit and beet croutons. The most beautiful presentation of the event and very good.

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We headed outside, the first booth was Little Doms. They were serving grilled oysters, it was awesome, incredible, ridiculously good. Parks BBQ had Bulgogi with fried rice, nothing special. The Gorbals really surprised me with their Fried chicken gizzards with Romesco sauce, it was really good. The Foundry served an award winning grilled cheese, it had Raisin bread with Taleggio Cheese, Arugula and Roasted Red Bell Peppers.

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I thought the event was a great success. The lines were always manageable and the food was delicious for the most part. Looking forward to the next one!!