Risotto & My Misspent Youth
December 7 | 2012
We’ve been making a risotto dish each Tuesday for the past few months, but this week’s was so tasty we decided to hold it over and serve it all week. How tasty was it you ask? Well, Carol – one of my favorite customers (ok check that, let’s just go with “favorite customer” singular, so she doesn’t yell at me) – grabbed my arm after inhaling a bowl and says “where’s Ben? – tell him to leave his wife because I’m marrying him – that was the best meal I’ve ever had”.
Anyway, the dish sounds simple – we’re making it with Jerusalem artichokes (which as you might or might not know, are really closer in flavor and consistency to a potato than to a artichoke), fresh Gulf shrimp, and some lightly dressed arugula. It’s a Gordon Ramsay recipe in which the dish is topped with the brown butter in which we’ve cooked the shrimp – and I can’t explain it. I had the same response as Carol – as in, wow, that’s really, really good.
Anyway – it got me thinking about where I first encountered Arborio rice – the basic component of risotto. And honestly, I had assumed that I would be writing a story about my summer in Spain in 1986 on the coast in Valencia where I learned to love love love Paella. No, not that awful imitation that you occasionally find on the back page of the menu at some stateside restaurant – but the real, robust, unbelievable, cooked in a pan that’s never actually been washed but has just had the bottom layer of dried spice scraped off repeatedly only to be refilled with rice, stock and seafood goodness and baked again, hopefully to serve me, damn it – good stuff. I’m talking about a dish that can only be properly experienced if you are sitting with an ice cold Spanish beer on a boardwalk that is within direct eyesight of the Mediterranean. (Since I’ve been on the photo nostalgia trip this week, yes, that’s me and a friend at a beachside bar, where we just finished the specialty of the casa – paella & beer.)
But – a very small amount of research informed me that my whole approach here was shot. Traditional paella from Valencia, is not only (as it turns out) not made with Arborio rice (named for a city in Italy, duh), but is in fact made with something called a Bomba rice that is grown in Spain (again, duh) and is far less starchy than true risotto rice and really closer to a short grain, white, sushi style rice. There goes my angle – oh well.
As you might imagine, I had intended to draw a parallel between the delicious paella of my misspent and rowdy youth, and this exemplary and restrained dish now on our menu that features some faint hints of that Spanish travel experience. But, God, it doesn’t even use the same type of rice. I’ll leave it at this – this risotto is blow-your-mind good – come try it.
Finally – we wanted to let you know that starting today and running through December 23 – get 10% off your purchase of any of our cookie tins and/or tea breads when you join us for dinner. That should help with solve some of your holiday gift-giving dilemmas.
And – as some of you have noticed, over the past couple of months we’ve partnered with Open Table to make some of our tables available for reservations for parties up to six guests. We’d like to emphasize two things: 1) we would be very grateful if you could make your reservations through the link on our site, rather than going directly to Open Table (it’s much less expensive for us that way), and 2) we only make a portion of the dining room available for reservations which means we can almost always accommodate your party on a walk-in basis.
hope to see you soon – bon appetite,