after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

k and cm Go to Vetri

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k says: This is a long overdue discussion of our venture to one of the best restaurants in the city. Or, better spoken by the people at Bon Appetit, it is “ probably the best Italian restaurant in America.” (cm note: or as k put it, “the most important meal of our lives.”) We’re talking about Vetri. Yup, and we got to go. Ballers. So this is usually a bit out of our price range, but we had help from t and g in the form of a gift certificate for our wedding gift. It was a wonderful night. We waited almost a year to go, waiting for the right time when we were both definitely in need of a night out, and actually free enough to have a night out. We were also lucky to get in just after the airing of Iron Chef America with Vetri as the challenger, as I’m sure they booked up quickly after his strong showing.  The evening started with the presentation of the menu.  It resembled a price fixe menu but instead of you choosing one from each category, the chef chooses for you (and you get more than one from each category anyways.) They ask if you have any particular requests, and beyond that you are to leave it to the chef. Now, normally, I don’t like giving up any element of control, particularly in a very expensive meal.  But if we hadn’t, then we never would have experienced Israeli couscous for dessert!

The atmosphere was really cozy – the living room of an old Philadelphia row house turned into a gourmet restaurant. We spotted the shiny espresso maker, which he famously made room for by removing one of the tables. We took a corner seat, perfect for people watching. We were the youngest people in the room, and definitely the most excited to be there. We were surrounded by older couples that seemed bored by the concept of a delicious dinner, and frankly bored by each other. One couple just played with their phones the whole night! There was also a young woman dining by herself in a short black dress. We took bets on whether she was a food critic or just stood up on a date. Twice we saw Mr. Vetri himself wearing his chef outfit. I stifled my desire to yell something out to him, although I felt a bit like an adoring teenaged fan. We did get a chance to talk to Jeff, the wine guy. He was really friendly and very knowledgeable about wine and food pairings. I liked his obvious pride in his work, yet his ability to speak about his specialty without making you feel dumb or beneath him.

The dinner began with an array of amuse bouches. My favorite was a solitary butternut squash gnocchi with a crispy sage leaf, served on a golden spoon. The gnocchi was so rich and smooth, perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the cheese and the crispy, herby leaf.

cm felt the foie gras was delicious but could only eat his own and not mine also, as it was too similar to butter to eat much of.  The golden sweet onion crepe was incredible, with onions that had been cooked for hours and so much intense flavor.  Other amuse bouches included a bluefin tuna tartare and a veal carpaccio, both decadently rich.

Perhaps my favorite part of the entire meal was the spinach gnocchi. So fluffy, like green pillows bursting with spinach and cheese flavor. The biggest mistake of the night was not eating my last spinach gnocchi. I was afraid I’d be too full for the rest of the dishes to follow. But I awoke the next morning wishing for just one more spinach gnocchi. A major error!

Next we were served two different pastas. One was a saffron pasta stuffed with braised squab and hand shaped into tortellini then served with a savory cocoa sauce. This was cm’s favorite from the whole night. I loved the stuffed pappardelle. It was long strips of tender home made pasta stuffed with cheese and matched with caramelized onions and topped with shaved foie gras. I had never eaten foie gras before, and I feel like I can still claim that. This was literally shavings from a big block, much as like some sprinkled parmesan cheese, and once it melted in I couldn’t taste it at all. The flavors in this pasta were very similar to the sweet onion crepe. Frankly, I didn’t care because they were both so freakin’ delicious I liked having it in two forms during the meal.  In both pasta dishes the texture of the pasta was absolutely perfect, and cm wished he could have a whole bowl of it.

For the meat, we were served poached cod with a side of mushrooms. This was cm’s other favorite. The fish was light and buttery and kind of understated flavors. I agreed but thought it was over salted. Next we were served these little shot glasses of Concord grape sorbet. The texture was so smooth and creamy, not the usual icy feel you expect. As cm put it, it was more grapey than grapes. It was seriously grapey, and the perfect palate cleanser before dessert. Then came the craziest most creative dessert we’ve ever eaten. Israeli couscous, nuts, raisins in a light vanilla sauce served with ginger ice cream. As I mentioned, I never would have ordered this myself, but I was so glad we tried it! The Israeli couscous is plumper than the conventional one, with a great nutty flavor and feels almost like eating the pearls in bubble tea. The second dessert was a pistachio flan with a rich chocolate sauce and molten pistachio stuff flowing from the middle. This was followed by a plate of bite-size desserts. One was a deliciously light meringue with a vanilla coconut flavor. There was also a miniature chocolate mousse layer cake that was very tasty.

In all, we were stuffed to the brim with fantastic foods. Some were unique combinations of flavors we never would have dreamed of, while others were classic foods just executed perfectly. Thanks to t and g for making this culinary wonderland possible! Vetri sent us home with a signed copy of the menu and 2 beautiful blueberry muffins for the next morning’s breakfast. Such a nice touch to have a bit of the night’s dining experience left over for breakfast. Doesn’t make up for not eating that last spinach gnocchi though. How could I!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 February 2011 at 1:07pm

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