Thursday, April 22, 2010

When parents come to town...

Last week, I was very, very fortunate that I got to go to dinner with my friend Heather and her father in SoHo.  Mr. Olsen was in town for a couple of days on business and treated us to delicious Italian food!

Side note: One time, Heather's dad took Heather, me, and our three friends to the fanciest dinner I've ever eaten in my life.  I had to detox for three days after that.  I promise I'll tell you about it... another time!

We all went to Mezzogiorno Restaurant which is down by Spring Street and 6th Ave.  On the outside, it looked like a casual café (I'll bet it'd be great for lunch), and on the inside, it was small but very sleek in design.  Because we got there at 6, it was pretty much empty... but we stayed until 8:30 or 9, so it definitely filled up!

I want to say right now that you could probably dine at Mezzogiorno the Undergrad Gourmet way - my entree was about $19, and there were dishes for both less and more than that.  However, we did not dine the Undergrad Gourmet way, which is why I have so many dishes that I can talk about.  It was quite a treat for Heather and me.

We started off with appetizers: Crostino Toscano di polenta fritta and Mozzarella di bufala con pomodoro e basilico.  What?  You don't speak Italian?  Well then, why don't I translate for you?

Crostino Toscano di polenta fritta was a dish of fried polenta triangles with Tuscan pate and caramelized orange peel.  I had never had polenta before, and I loved it.  I loved it so much.  It is basically made from cornmeal, and in our case, it was fried, making it taste a bit like high-end hash browns.  We were a little nervous to try the pate, but it tasted a lot like ground beef and went well with the polenta!

Mozzarella di bufala con pomodoro e basilico was buffalo Mozzarella with tomatoes and basil.  I made the mistake of saying that there was nothing "buffalo" about it and was then told that "buffalo Mozzarella" is a type of Mozzerella.  My bad.  I love this basic dish in general, but this Mozz was fresh, creamy, and delicious.  It was absolutely refreshing.

Then we moved onto our main courses.  Heather's dad had the special, with homemade pasta.  Heather had Petto di pollo del “Granduca” and I had Garganelli con capesante e porcini.  I tried Heather's dish, so I will speak for her too.

Petto di pollo del "Granduca,"or chicken breast with avocado in a light truffle sauce was absolutely magnificent.  I've only had anything with truffles one other time (the expensive mushroom, not the chocolate- I've had lots of the chocolate), so I was really excited to try Heather's food.  It was so rich but still remained light as a sauce, and even though the avocado seemed a little odd at first, it really tied the whole dish together.  I can't emphasize just how good this was.

My Garganelli con capesante e porcini was so good, too, and I ate way more of it than I planned.  It was garganelli pasta with scallops and mushrooms (two of my favorite things) in a light cream sauce.  I didn't know what garganelli looks like, but it looks like penne:
 Courtesy of

The scallops weren't the round bay or sea scallops that I'm used to, being from New England, but they were still delicious.  It was slightly more fishy, but it worked well.  I was so surprised at how many scallops and mushrooms were in the dish; they didn't skimp at all.  I also liked the firmness of the pasta.  It went well with the soft texture of everything else.  I would eat this all day, every day.

Finally, dessert.  Heather and I couldn't decide on a dessert, so we got two: Crema gratinata ai lamponi e zucchero di canna and Torta di gianduia con gelato alla vaniglia.  They sound fancier than they were.

Crema gratinata ai lamponi e zucchero di canna, or creme brulée with raspberry and caramelized sugar cane, absolutely blew my mind.  This really cemented my love for creme brulée - it was very vanilla-flavored and super addicting.  I am not the biggest fan of raspberry, so I didn't have too much of that, but the creme brulée on its own was so worth it.  The sugar cane on the top just gave the slightest candy crust to the whole dessert, which was amazing!

Torta di gianduia con gelato alla vaniglia, a chocolate cake with hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream, was like comfort food fancified to me.  We had to get something chocolate, so we got this.  The hazelnuts were larger than I expected, but such a classic combo always works.

And there you have it... the complete menu of our fancy dinner out!  It was so nice to have a dinner that we could really take our time to enjoy, which you don't often get to do as an undergrad.  If your parents are coming to town, or if you just want to have a nice night out, I definitely recommend Mezzogiorno.  It's in a great area of the city, and I'll bet you could have a nice time walking around afterward!  Thanks, Mr. Olsen, for a great dinner out in SoHo!

If you weren't on an undergrad budget, where would you choose to eat??

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