Monday, January 12, 2009

Confessions from the Sickbed: My First Encounter with Mario Batali

I am sick.

The flu-like symptoms descended on my immune system like fog over San Francisco. One moment I was enjoying a brisk 75 degree afternoon in Los Angeles (East Coast, eat your heart out), by 5 p.m. I was fighting to swallow. By 2 a.m., I dreaded the very act of swallowing my own saliva.

Somewhere in my codeine-induced delirium (and flipping through the pages of Michelle Obama's biography), I thought about my time at Mario Batali's restaurant in Los Angeles, Osteria Mozza. Last Friday, I decided to have a spiritual celebration of sorts with some close friends, and what better way to do it than with chic Italian food in Hollywood?

Unfortunately, the experience didn't quite live up to the hype. For one, though I am an extrovert, standing in heels alone by the bar (while my friends were late to an 8:15 reservation) wasn't my idea of a good time. The restaurant refused to seat me until my HUGE party of three was there. I would've sat and enjoyed a glass of wine at the bar, except that the entire joint was packed with yuppies on their second Cosmo. Which left me standing in a corner, attempting not to look awkward. I finally called an unfortunate friend to keep me entertained as I tried not to look like the one girl at the school dance who didn't have a date.

When my friends did finally get there, we were seated towards the back of the restaurant where the deafening chatter quieted to something a little more mellow. The gorgeous chocolate floors were complemented by white linen tablecloths and dim lighting. And this was a true Italian restaurant, meaning that half of what was on the menu I didn't understand. So I went for the tortellini -- I wasn't in the mood to be adventurous with a entree of calf brains.

My friends got the adventurous palate awards for the night, ordering grilled beef tagliata, rucola and Parmigiano with aceto balsamico:

And beef brasato with polenta & horseradish gremolata:

After we ate and traded stories, I had the annoying feeling of eating food that ALMOST made me satisfied, the same feeling you get when you eat something that is missing the essential ingredient. My palate was still wanting -- frustrating when you spend one month waiting for the experience. But as it is Mario Batali, I suppose I'll give him another try.

Back to my kitchen...