Monday, October 17, 2011

On Top of Spaghetti, All Covered in Meat

Spaghetti and Meatballs -- Extra Virgin
Extra Virgin

We have, admittedly, been a bit remiss in our Best Thing I Ever Ate mission as of late.  But we have a good excuse.  In fact, we have at least two good excuses:

1. Ginger ventured to the hotspot vacation destination, El Salvador, where she consumed entirely too many unfamiliar foods and ended up laid up in bed (well, really in the bathroom) for days, resulting in a nearly month-long aversion to (over)eating.

2. Vodka, in preparation for her future as a crazy cat lady, has acquired a kitten, which , if you're keeping count, now has her outnumbered by pets.  (As it happens, because Vodka cannot do anything in a manner that does not result in some sort of ridiculous story, she adopted said kitten from none other than her favorite childhood author, and if "The BSC" means anything to you, you can figure out who that is).  Anyway, the wrangling of these animals has consumed a great deal of Vodka's hermit-like existence.

But now, we are back: Ginger recovering from post-traumatic pupusa disorder and Vodka leaving her poodle in charge of the apartment.  And we are ready to eat.  And, more importantly, to drink.
Somebody Get Lady and the Tramp on the Line for Us
We begin this leg of our culinary journey at Extra Virgin in the West Village, home of Anne Burrell's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate COMBOS dish, the spaghetti and meatballs.  Said dish is served only on Sunday nights, and a limited twenty-eight portions of the combination is prepared, forcing those who wish to consume it to arrive early.  Because Vodka is mildly anal and less mildly psychotic, she has insisted that we arrive at 4:45pm so that we are guaranteed two of the twenty-eight servings when Extra Virgin begins dinner service at 5:00pm.

Unfortunately for all involved, Extra Virgin actually begins dinner service at 5:30pm. 
But At Least We Have a Bowl of Salt and a Shmata of a Menu to Keep Ourselves Occupied
We make this discovery after Vodka arrives at Extra Virgin and finds many a table already filled with patrons.  In a meatball panic, she gives the hostess her name and goes to stand outside and wait for Ginger.  Ginger appears exactly one minute later only to find that Vodka is jaywalking across the street away from the restaurant.

"Um, where are you going?" she bellows, cutting through the quaintness of the tree-lined streets.

Vodka returns to her sheepishly and answers, "I felt conspicuous standing right in front of all of the outside diners, so I was going to wait across the street."  Now, however, Vodka's plan to not look insane has been rendered moot by Ginger's outing of her (perhaps faulty) reasoning, and it is with a bit of a mocking smirk that the hostess seats us at our table.
Sorry, Lady, We Don't Get Out Much
"We're sitting outside?" Ginger, never fond of a blustery fall breeze, asks.  Pulling her jacket tighter, she complains about a mysterious plague that has consumed her body for three weeks and decides that a hot apple rum cider is just the cocktail to cure what's ailing her.  But before we can place our cocktail orders, Ginger blurts out that we are here for the spaghetti and meatballs, afraid to order anything without confirming their existence.

"We don't have that today," the waitress begins.  "They're only served on Sundays."

"It is Sunday," we say.

"Oh," she answers.  "Well, it's only served for dinner after 5:30pm."

The current time?  4:51pm.  Apparently, we are seated with the "After Brunch" menu crowd, rather than the "Dinner" crowd.

"Nothing like being early," Ginger notes as we saddle up for a long, chilly wait for our requested platters.  At least we'll have our cocktails to keep us warm and entertained, right?  Wrong.

Said cocktails do not appear for at least 25 minutes, during which time we are forced into confusing conversations about Ginger's brunch earlier that day ("I came here for brunch -- "; "HERE?!";  "Well, not HERE, just in the West Village") and her forays the night before into what we've taken to calling "triple house wine" (think house wine of the very worst variety).  Meanwhile, Vodka taps distractedly at her phone, interrupting Ginger's tales with various pictures of her animal menagerie like someone straight out of an episode of Hoarders.

Eventually, our cocktails arrive, and the spaghetti and meatballs follow soon after.

And dare we say they are all worth the wait.

The spaghetti and meatballs are separated onto two serving dishes.
Add This Fine China to Our Hypothetical Registries
The bowl features a thick swarm of pasta piled high, coated gently in tomato sauce and a healthy helping of parmesan cheese ("I mean, look at that parm," Ginger says with true appreciation).
Feel Free to Leave the Cheese Grater on the Table, Thanks in Advance
Next to this heap, in their own mini-casserole dish, rest the two largest meatballs we have ever seen, each dripping with more sauce and melted cheese and speared by a thin triangular crostini of bread.
Two Basketballs of Meat
Taking the first bite, Ginger has only one thing to say: "I'll be here every Sunday, just so you know."

And She'll Be Consuming Double-Orders, With or Without Vodka
Unlike Roger Mooking's downright dour COMBOS choice from Fatty Crab, which left us just short of gagging, Extra Virgin's most famous combination is delicious in its simplicity (and, to be honest, its size).  The spaghetti noodles are cooked to a perfect al dente and complemented by the ideal amounts of sauce and cheese.
Forkful Twirl Courtesy of Lucy Ricardo
The meatballs are fork-tender and hearty, with a spicy kick that pops the whole dish away from the ordinary.
Nobody Sneeze - We Don't Want to Lose a Meatball
Along with our clear enjoyment of our forkfuls of noodles, the dish draws many a gasped reaction from passersby and people at the surrounding tables.  In fact, one unlikable-looking gentleman at the table next to Ginger scoffs at the notion that anyone could ever eat the entire dish on her own, a comment that prompts Ginger, ever the competitor, to whisper to Vodka, "We have to finish the whole thing cause this guy thinks we can't."
Time to Start Shoveling It In, Girls
Sadly, it soon becomes clear why we've never entered a spaghetti-eating contest, as we both find ourselves, halfway through our spaghetti and down one meatball, unable to continue.
You Win This Round, Disgruntled Fellow at the Next Table
As we await our doggie bags, Ginger attacks her cider with a straw, poking at some unknown substance at the bottom of the cup.  "I hope whatever this is turns out to be something delicious and not something weird," she says, and when a bit of fork leverage reveals that it is a real cinnamon stick, her wishes are granted.
Only the Classiest People Stick Forks in Their Cocktails
Indeed, we believe that despite Ginger's initial reluctance, our outside seating adds to the appeal of both Ginger's hot toddy and our spaghetti: the slightly chilly external temperatures cause the warmness of the dishes to be all the more comforting (Vodka's white cosmopolitan, on the other hand, is more suited for the tropics).
Bipolar Climate Choices
In truth, if we have any real criticism of the whole experience, it is that a basket of bread to help mop up the spaghetti sauce would have been more useful than the slab of crunchy crostini provided (and being that we see bread baskets appear on other tables as we leave, we fear we've been gypped). 
And Goodness Knows We'd Hate to Miss a Carb
As we sort our leftovers, the conversation turns to Ginger's desire to begin becoming a society matron, which Vodka, naturally, manages to turn into a passive/aggressive attempt to get Ginger to see Follies:

Ginger: "I want to start doing cultural things."
Vodka: "Follies."
Ginger: "I'm going to begin doing something cultural every week.  Eating and drinking don't count."
Vodka: "Follies."

Our waitress escorts our check to the table before Vodka can get Ginger to agree to a ticket purchase or Ginger can get Vodka to stop repeating the word "Follies" with Rain Man-like precision.  We pay our bill with what turns out to be the last $43 in each of our wallets and go on our merry ways, both content in the knowledge that "eating and drinking" is just about all of the culture either of us is going to expose ourselves to anytime soon.

Particularly Because We Just Left All of Our Cash Blowing Through the Winds of the West Village
Extra Virgin's Spaghetti and Meatballs: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

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