Saturday, November 16, 2013

Oh Dear God: Dillman's. ...

Look at it. Just look at it!

I was excited to go to Dillman's because I had fallen hard for Au Cheval, but I have to tell you: I love Dillman's even more.

The space is bigger and the tables are farther apart so there is far less din than at Au Cheval. (Au Cheval is wee.) Charmingly, though, Doreen and I reprised our table placement. At Au Cheval, we were tucked into the right-hand corner, all the way back. At Dillman's, well, see the bookshelves against the far wall in the image above, flanked by the sconces? We were sitting underneath the right side of those bookshelves and that right-hand sconce. Doreen nabbed the banquette, which is really a giant cognac-colored Chesterfield sofa, complete with a bevy of dec pillows.

As dinner was winding down, I said, not unseriously, "I want to live here." The checkered floor – one of my "Someday, I shall have it!" loves – transitions to a gorgeous herringbone floor – another of my "Someday, I shall have it!" loves.

But look at me, getting head of myself by writing about dinner winding down when I've not yet written about dinner winding up.

Doreen opted for vodka – "No vegetables, no fruit" – and I opted for a glass of Barbera. Barbera is always a winner with me, no matter what I'm opting for from the menu.

We started with the shaved Brussels sprouts salad with pecans and golden raisins, and the baked goat cheese with tomato and garlic toast.

I love Brussels sprouts. I love them. My love for them cannot be overstated. But I think I would have preferred that salad during a warmer month. Though the hit of lemon dressing was nice, I wasn't wowed by the Brussels sprouts salad.

But I damn near fell out of my chair with the goat cheese. Oh. Dear. God. That dish alone may be the sole reason that I never fully give up wheat.

If you've ever had a goat cheese appetizer in a restaurant, you may be thinking that what arrived at our table was a small baking dish containing an unremarkable round of goat cheese with some tomato sauce splashed on top. And you would not be more wrong.

No, no, at Dillman's, the goat cheese arrives in a gratin dish, from edge to edge and side to side. A lot of goat cheese. And it is topped by a lovely bit of tomato sauce with just enough texture to be interesting but not in any way to truly detract from the cheese. And alongside the gratin dish, on the larger plate: the garlic toast. Again, you may be thinking of sliced baguette or ciabatta. And again, you would not be more wrong.

No, no, at Dillman's, "garlic toast" means "rustic bread torn into large hunks, dipped into garlic and oil, and baked until the crust is shatteringly crisp and served so immediately out of the oven that it's almost too hot to tear into pieces."

Now imagine – because imagination will have to suffice until you can get there – tearing off a piece of the soft, hot, garlicky bread, just crispy enough from all of the toasted torn edges, and dragging it through the warm tomato-topped goat cheese. Now imagine the creamy tanginess and the soft, hot, crispy garlickiness that you've just set onto your tongue.

Right? Yeah, you need that. We all need that. Every day. For the rest of our lives.

Doreen opted for the chicken pot pie, as it's a signature dish, and indeed, it arrived looking very adorable, nestled in among a happy island of mashed potatoes with just enough jus-like gravy and roasted garlic cloves to equal perfection. And I opted for the roasted chicken, which, too, came with jus and roasted cloves of garlic. I didn't opt for mashed potatoes on the side. I wouldn't have had room, after the earlier bread extravaganza. The chicken was cooked perfectly with impossibly crispy skin and a bit of fried sage for good measure. I brought half of it home.

Doreen had requested dessert menus while we were marveling over our main courses, so she could decide if she would finish her dinner or take half home to save room for dessert.

Once she homed in on coconut cream pie, there was nothing else she needed to see. But the dessert menu was lovely: chocolate layer cake, carrot cake, cheese blintz, pistachio ice cream, malted vanilla ice cream, rice pudding, and more.

I opted for none of it, as I knew I'd have a bite or two of Doreen's coconut cream pie, but much, much more importantly, because I'd spied the "Dessert Drinks" section of the menu.

It is very short.

It contains two drinks.

I do not remember the other one. Because I was fixated on ...

Scotch & Honey with steamed milk.

I couldn't not try it. I couldn't not.

It arrived at the table in a classic rounded coffee cup, on a saucer, with a demitasse spoon on the side, all looking very much like a cappuccino topped with soft foam.

I took a sip.

I took a second sip.

It was perfectly, drinkably hot.

It was sweet.

It was creamy.

It contained just enough scotch to be present but not so much as to be overpowering, as scotch can sometimes be.

It was, in a word: fascinating.

Doreen tried a sip. And then another.

It is absolutely a two-sipper for anyone giving it a try.

Oh. My. God.

Angelo, you must have one. You must.

Doreen's dessert, by the by, was perfectly lovely. I had more than one bite.

But oh, my scotch and honey. I scooped up demitasse spoonfuls of the remaining foam. I didn't want it to end. It is the most perfect thing I can remember having, ever.

Dillman's, bless its heart, takes reservations. (Au Cheval does not.) So book an evening and go.

I'll probably see you there.

I really, really want to move in.

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