Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dinner and a show

In addition to being my favorite season in general, I think fall is also my favorite time to eat. Everything just tastes better. Plus, that chill in the air puts me in the mood to drink spicy red wines and eat heavier, richer foods like stuffed pastas or to cook with fragrant fall-like herbs such as sage (does anything smell more like fall than sage?) - not to mention all the glorious things you can make with pumpkin.

We've definitely been doing some good eating this fall, from the New London Main Street Fall Food Stroll to dining at G'vanni's in Boston with Sophie. However, I think I ate my favorite dish of the fall (so far) last Saturday night at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods.

Amanda and I were headed out to the Duffy concert. For those of you unfamiliar with Duffy, she is another retro-sounding UK-born and bred singer in the vein of Amy Winehouse (only Duffy isn't crazy). I don't like her quite as much as I like Amy, but definitely enough to go see her in the MGM Grand's new theater with the comfortable seats and excellent acoustics.

Of course, Amanda and I celebrated the occasion by wearing 60's-inspired clothing purchased at various thrift stores. In addition, we decided that as long as were were hauling ourselves all the way out to Foxwoods, we deserved a nice meal. Craftsteak was unfortunately out due to budget constraints (someday I will make my pilgrimage to worship at that altar of Tom Collichio) but Michael Schlow's Alta Strada was definitely in the running.

Michael Schlow is a Boston-area chef specializing in Italian cuisine. The restaurant itself looked sort of like everything in the MGM Grand - modern, dimly lit, lots of dark wood and brushed steel but still somehow managing to look "warm." We were very pleased when the host showed us to an excellent corner booth instead of one of the tiny two-top tables in the middle of the floor (I'd like to think it was the outfits).

For some inexplicable reason I wanted white wine. Sadly, I am not incredibly good at navigating an Italian wine list - Amanda, Katie, and I have been drinking a lot of South American, Spanish, and French wines lately. I was unfamiliar with pretty much everything on the list. I settled for a glass of Foradori “Myrto” Sauvignon Blanc. It was decent - lots of flavors going on, softer citrus than I initially expected, and kind of a mineral-y taste in there - but would not rank amongst my favorites.

Due to time constraints, we skipped appetizers and went straight for the the entrees. Both Amanda and I were in the mood for pasta. After perusing the menu, I selected the Ravioli Gnudi with Tomato, Italian Bacon and Sage Brown Butter. (I know, I just ate ravioli with a sage and burnt butter sauce in Boston. But this was TOTALLY different - trust me.)

The waitress explained to me that the ravioli gnudi meant "naked ravioli" - as in, not really ravioli at all. She explained that the dish was actually the ravioli filling, formed into balls. This sounded intriguing, and everything in it sounded tasty, so I considered myself warned and ordered it anyway.

The dish arrived and looked as described - six or seven balls of ravioli filling - cheese and spinach? - cooked just enough to be warmed through and to hold their shape, resting delicately in a light brown butter sauce with only a whiff of sage wafting away from the plate. Cherry tomatoes and delicious smelling Italian bacon completed the dish.

If you think this sounds glorious, well, you should have tasted it. It was amazing. First of all, I love almost anything that comes in a brown butter sauce and this was no exception. The little bits of bacon added just enough complexity to an otherwise simple dressing. The tomatoes had a delicious roasted flavor, and the ravioli themselves were so satisfying that I did not at all miss the pasta pouch one would normally expect a ravioli to come in.

Amanda's dish was also prepared in an interesting manner. The menu described it as cavatelli with broccoli, chilies, and several other ingredients, which it was. However, instead if being sliced up and tossed with the pasta, they broccoli, chilies, etc were ground up into a sort of pesto and tossed with the pasta. It had a delightfully chunky texture and fantastic flavors. The chilies provided a little interesting heat at the end of every mouthful without making the dish overly hot.

We both ate every bite and were way too full to even look at dessert. It's a good thing Duffy's sound is kind of mellow and lounge singer-esque, because I am not sure the two of us could have stood up to dance even had we wanted to (although the middle-aged drunk women in the crowd had NO trouble dancing, they may have had a little harder time with the "standing up" part).

Duffy sounded great and looked great - we were only twelve rows back, so we had a pretty good view of her and the band. If you'd like to check her out, here is the URL to the video for Duffy's most recognizable song, "Mercy" (unfortunately, the embedding feature for these videos has been disabled): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE2orthS3TQ

All in all, we had a delicious meal and a great time. I can't wait to dress up and head out to our next dinner-and-a-show casino adventure, which will be Michael Buble in December!


Alison said...

Wow, that sounds amazing -- both the meal and the concert! I love Duffy.

Bobby G said...

I downloaded the album & I am blown away..Her voice is incredible! Shes not too bad on the eyes either, infact I may be in love with her lol. That happens to be, when I go to a musical I typically leave w/ a crush on the female lead. Its no different here...

Anonymous said...

Amy, your description of the food you had at Alta Strada made my mouth water. You should consider being a food critic. A combination of your wonderful writing and food...what could be better. Mary G.

Amanda said...

I would love to go back to Alta strada and try something else since my dish was so delicious. Perhaps when we go see Michael Buble, we can go to Tuscany if I save my money up.