Missing pasta right now

Probably because it’s the middle of the afternoon.

From Roxane Gay: “Like I was a necessary thread among other necessary threads. Like I had found that essential truth. Like I was in a place that could become part of what I need home to be.”

About pesto alfredo: “I fell in love with pasta after reading about an Italian witch. It was 1994, and Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola was hot on the Reading Rainbow circuit.”

About Buca di Beppo: “The atmosphere was always raucous, the platters of food were so massive that they demanded sharing, and ogling at the sundry black-and-white photos of Italian wrestlers and spaghetti-eating contests that crowded the walls was as much a part of the experience as the actual dining.”

I really enjoyed this Red Sauce issue.

More pasta geometry

A long time ago in this blog, I posted some of my favorite lines from The Geometry of Pasta. I still take the book off the shelf from time to time to learn what a pasta name means… or just to find a shape that pushes my brain in a different way. So, I loved The Strategist’s recent “Fancy Pasta Shapes, Ranked.”

“Springy Sicilian pasta coils that dangle like your grandma’s old landline cord.”

“In addition to knots, they look like little spaceships, or a Frenchwoman’s advanced scarf-tying technique, and trap sauce with wild abandon.”

“Not gnocchi as you know it, but puffy Pac-Man-like shells….”

‘Plain Plate of Noodles’

It would be difficult to write a song that captures my childhood food life more than this one. Efforts from my parents and various significant others eventually worked. These days I eat everything. Even, when fatherhood demands it, my lifelong enemy, peanut butter. But for many years I was the boy in this song. And I still like a plain plate of noodles with a little bit of butter, and lots and lots of cheese.

Pasta science is a crazy thing

“Add 3 cups of cold water to a pot, add the pasta, turn the stove on high, then give the pasta 10 minutes with a perfunctory stir every now and then. As it cooks, the pasta absorbs the water, all of it, which is kind of nuts, but which also eliminates the need to drain the pasta.”

My brother sent me a link and video with the above. The subject of his email? “The devil’s pasta” and I think that’s about right.

But I’m interested.

A sentence with which to welcome Restaurant Week

Vermillion tonight, Dino’s on Tuesday, Birch and Barley on Thursday. But what’s making me the hungriest so far this week is a sentence from Tom Sietsema’s review of new Charlottesville restaurant Glass Haus Kitchen. He argues that chef Ian Boden’s lobster tagliatelle should stay on the menu.

Ready for this? “Boden makes his own long and supple noodles, which he scatters with sweet crumbles of blanched lobster, dusts with minced chives and finishes with sea urchin ‘froth’ that melts into the elegant mound as you eat it and becomes an enticing, richer-by-the-minute sauce.” I’m sold.

Mindful eating blisses me out

Even though taking 10 or 20 minutes between bites of a meal sounds incredibly hard, in this week’s New York Times article about silent, slow, Buddhist-based “mindful eating,” I think my stress levels are lower just reading this paragraph. I even like the random link to the pasta topic.

Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.

Few things in writing relax the brain like a long sentence followed by a string of short sentences followed by another long and measured line.

In related news, did I buy tickets for Giada’s coming visit to Sixth and I? Of course. Blog-category love translates to tickets. This means I am seeing Giada and Springsteen back-to-back nights. My spring is made.

Also, first I get to see Tina Fey talk there, and now Giada? Sixth and I, thank you very much. Now get back to work on booking Maura Tierney.

Only one paragraph and one minute, but still

A year and a half ago, when I still worked at USA Today, I received a Tasting Table email about a new Capitol Hill restaurant called Acqua Al 2. My favorite paragraph about the Italian spot began, “The assaggio di primi ($13) presents five different plates of the house-made pastas.”

I bookmarked the page immediately.

Time passed. I jumped to NPR. Tasting Table started a to-do feature. I killed my bookmark and put Acqua on mine. The site’s editor became a friend. Her boyfriend became a fellow gunslinger. Colleagues became friends and more, and many of them turned out to live on Capitol Hill.

This story leads to the fact that I’ve now finally been to Acqua Al 2. For 11/11/11, Lori, Becky, the no-longer-elusive Kyle, and I dressed up and went for dinner. We wound up sitting below the mystery plate above.

A couple bottles of Montepulciano around the table, sizable tastings of five different vegetarian pastas (a pumpkin bowtie and the risotto with parsley, basil and rosemary were my favorites, but honorable mention to a simple vodka-sauced penne that was perfectly cooked), and then a dessert platter where the tiramisu was good but a berry cheesecake had immense flavor and surprised everyone at the table. Good service, low, warm lights and conversation volume, even with the place packed.

Didn’t realize until later: The pasta we ate was what Tasting Table had mentioned in that first, intriguing paragraph. Oh, the roads we travel…

Stops at the post-fire Tune Inn, the post-fire Argonaut, and the happily fire-free Smith Commons followed. Following taxi issues and bartender neighborhood fears, we celebrated 11:11 11/11/11 at the middle stop.

In the early morning hours, we saw the Sticky Rice police car. The sight made me happy. A year and a half ago, I had wanted something new.

Successful trip to the city’s first meatballs restaurant

You heard me right. Washington now has a meatballs restaurant. It’s called “Meatballs.” Colleagues Sondra, Lauren and I visited for lunch last week, after its opening. We left impressed and full of meatballs.

The place was packed when we arrived around 12:30, but tables grew easier to find over the hour. Music by the door was ear-splittingly loud.

But the volume was better further into the restaurant, and the menu distracted us from all else. For this first visit, I went the simple route: classic meatballs, inside sliders, with marinara and mozzarella slices added on. The pricing was odd: half the posted price for two sliders. Why not offer four sliders at regular price? I would have eaten four.

Continue reading Successful trip to the city’s first meatballs restaurant

10 wonderful things about ‘The Geometry of Pasta’

Not even counting how every recipe ends with Parmesan or Pecorino over everything. The book is part cookbook, part history, part design.

Inside the front cover:

1. Bigoli. “The recipe is nearly impossible to follow exactly, as it relies on the use of a bigolario — something resembling a gymnastics horse which you sit astride, with a brass hand-cranked press attached to one end. Given that probably only a very small minority of families in the Veneto (where bigoli come from) have such a device, it seems a fair assumption that even fewer of my readership will.”

2. Busiati. “The version described and illustrated here looks and behaves like a coiled telephone wire.”

3. Capelli  D’Angelo – Pasta Souffle. “This recipe comes from my grandmother, who remembers the dish from Rome in the 1950s. We have had some interesting times cooking it together, since the original recipe went missing a few years ago. Here at last is a new working version, to avoid the dramas of impossible thick bechamel and collapsed dreams.”

4. Cavatelli. “Like a comma in cross-section.”

5. Dischi Volanti. “Named flying saucers (literally, “flying discs”), dischi volanti were designed shortly after the name was coined in 1947 following Kenneth Arnold’s sighting in the United States.”

6. Farfalle. I had no idea the word meant butterflies.

7. Gnocchi. “Their name may derive from gnocco (“idiot”), but seems more likely to stem from nodo (“node,” or “knot” as in wood).

8. Malfatti. “The dough is so soft you will never manage a sphere, but that is why they are called malfatti — ‘badly made.’ ”

9. Pappardelle. “In Tuscan dialect, papparisi means to gobble up or to stuff oneself.”

10. Tortellini. “There are various enchanting and similar tales of their origin. In one, Lucrezia Borgia stopped off at an inn in Castelfranco Emilia. Smitten by his guest’s beauty, the innkeeper crept up to her door in the night to sneak a peek through the keyhole. All he could see was Lucrezia’s navel, but what a navel it was!”

Inside the back cover: