Thursday, October 07, 2010

Speaking Of Food And Love ...

Last night, I met up with Jay (aka Mr. Busy Guy) for dinner at Scoozi!, a stalwart of the Chicago restaurant scene.

I first went there, if memory serves, in 1989. As in, 21 years ago.

Jay had never been.

So we went.

I love the interior. There are a few restaurants that I wouldn't mind making my home, and Scoozi! is one of them. (Balthazar in New York City is another.) The vast convex ceiling does its part to bounce around sound, and on busy nights, there's quite a din. But last night didn't play to a full house, so we were able to chat with ease.

Perusing the wine list, Jay's eyes lit up when he hit upon a Seghesio Zinfandel, not offered by the glass, which was fine because we intended on getting a bottle anyway. It arrived. It was poured. Yep, I'll be ordering that again.

I knew what I was going to order for my entree. I always get the same thing when I'm there, because I'm not there very often and because that particular pasta dish is sublime, but even knowing, I can stare at the menu for a long time, so we decided to decide on what we wanted to order before we launched into our marathon of catching up.

We landed on a couple of antipasto items, the roasted beets with toasted hazelnuts and the roasted cippolini onions. Why do I not eat roasted onions every day of my life?

And of course, there's the bread at Scoozi! Oh, the bread. Thick slices of it presented by servers from large baskets, along with the plateful of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. The bread has changed slightly, and for the better. Still with a hearty (yet chewable) crust and a substantial crumb, but now with a sprinkling of salt on top. Delightful.

One of the lovely aspects of Scoozi! is the pace of the service. We ordered our antipasti but our server didn't ask what we'd like for dinner until our antipasti was nearly gone. Though once we ordered our entrees, they arrived rather swiftly. But such is the case with pasta. It doesn't take long to assemble the components.

Jay had the campanelle with shrimp in a tomato vodka sauce, which I'd never had, so I tried a bite of the pasta, and, not surprisingly, it was lovely.

I had the rigatoni with smoked chicken, spinach, and mushrooms in Parmesan cream sauce, which, as I mentioned, I get every time I'm there because I love it so.

Our server or some other member of the staff arrived every so often to keep our wine glasses filled to respectable levels, but other than that, we were left to savor and talk.

The dessert menu arrived later, and we had to at least look, right?

I am a panna cotta devotee, The restaurant has changed its presentation of it, but it warranted a try.

I liked it the old way, served with fresh berries and covered by a tuile cookie "cage" baked in a bowl, I presume, and inverted onto the plate.

It's now served with a blueberry sauce, which was nicely tart and contained smashed berries, but it's also topped with an oatmeal crumble situation that is completely superfluous.

There is no need to contrast the texture of panna cotta. The texture of panna cotta is the entire point of panna cotta, that and the simple flavor.

I seem to remember that the restaurant served those rustic sugar cubes with its coffee service, and those are gone, if indeed they were ever there. I prefer those to packets. So that, I'd change.

But it was a lovely evening with a lovely friend, three hours of food and wine and animated conversation.

If you haven't been, go. If you've been, go again.

I'll probably see you there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you like Seghesio wine, you should do yourself a favor and visit the vineyard. We did two summers ago and it was splendid. We had a special lunch, paired with wines and a visit from the matriarch of the family, who talked about the history of the place. And the tasting from was great fun, where we were served by a firefighter who moonlights as a wine guy. Needless to say, I shipped some of their wine home!

9:10 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

What a fine suggestion!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Just visited the site - - and learned that Mrs. Seghesio has passed away. Sad.

But it's surely a place I'd like to visit. Just over an hour outside of San Fran, which would be a lovely little drive.

Will add it to the list of someday-soon travel.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make it a few-day trip. Stay in Calistoga and don't forget to visit the Terra Valentine vineyards on the top of a mountain. Treacherous drive, but worth it when you get to the top. Divine rose and blush wines.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, panna cotta! I just had my first taste of it (a chocolate version with fresh berries, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings) about a month ago. Oh, to die for. Thinking about actually trying to make it myself. Perhaps it will turn out better than my attempt at ganache. So glad you have someplace to find this divinity. :-)

5:07 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks for the wine-trip suggestions, Anon.

And Anon 2, as a panna cotta purist, I must insist that you try the real deal.

I'm a big fan of chocolate, but chocolate panna cotta ceases to be panna cotta in my book. The beauty of it is the exquisitely simple flavor of the cream and a hint of vanilla.

Scoozi's version is fine, but skip the crunchy topping. Ask for it with the blueberry sauce on the side.

And if you're in New York City, go to Five Points; it has the best I've ever had.

6:18 PM  

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