Monday, December 26, 2011

Rabe Us the Wrong Way

Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe -- Roc

The reason we have come all the way to Roc to sip clandestine tastes of egg nog out of our handbags is so that we can also try Rocco DiSpirito's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate AS GOOD AS MOM's dish, the cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe.  We have relatively high expectations for this dish, if only because we have found Rocco's past Best Thing I Ever Ate choices to be delicious (and plus, we have never met a plate of pasta we couldn't finish).

Unfortunately in all cases, Roc's cavatelli dish breaks a few of our usual patterns.
It's Not Easy Being Green... Pasta
When we arrive at the establishment, Ginger initially questions whether Rocco himself owns the place, finding it seemingly unfathomable that more than one person would have the letters "Roc" in his name.  In truth, we wonder what Rocco's informal connection is to this restaurant, as by the end of our meal, we would like to send him to Scarpetta in order to witness what a truly extraordinary pasta dish and bread basket tastes like.
Well, Now, Doesn't This Reek of "Unimpressive"?
In contrast to Scarpetta's prized stromboli, Roc provides a cup of hard bread sticks on each table.  Crunching into the first one, Ginger comments, "Am I supposed to be eating this?  I assume it's not a centerpiece."
Though the Sticks Could Crack Your Teeth as Easily as a Flower Vase
The bread sticks taste of adequacy, as do the components of the bread basket itself (save for a small loaf of olive oil-soaked slices, which tip to the side of the extraordinary).

Along with the cavatelli, we decide to order the spaghetti pomodoro, if only to compare it to Ted Allen's delectable spaghetti choice at Scarpetta.
Someone Get Us a Bib, Stat
Along with our pastas and our forbidden egg nog, we are also contending with our half bottle of Frog's Leap sauvignon blanc, a choice we made because a) we liked the name and b) it was the cheapest one on the menu.  When our plates of food arrive, we become almost instantly aware that the cavatelli was a poor choice on Rocco's part.
We'll Take Some Broccoli Rabe with a Side of Cavatelli, Please
Smothered in gallons of broccoli rabe, it looks decidedly like a health food (and let's be real - if any pasta dish is ever compared to something sold an GNC stores, there is a problem).  Though the busboy coats the pile of noodles in enough parmesan cheese to sink Venice once and for all, it is not nearly enough to conquer the bitter taste of the rabe itself.  Ginger compares the sensation to kale, while Vodka, who makes it a habit to never eat "superfoods," looks on blankly.
Vodka Compares the Rabe More to the Taste of "Just Plain Awful"
Indeed, while the broccoli rabe is the most overpowering component on the plate, the sausage is also cut into overly thick, mildly spicy pieces that pick up wherever the rabe lets off.
Lopsided Cheese Sprinkling Like Whoa
In fact, the cavatelli themselves seem almost an afterthought in this whole mixture, as they are left to drown in the ever-increasing sauce produced by the combination of the rabe and the sausage.

To say nothing for the fact that, in our estimation, the cavatelli is overcooked and mildly mushy.
But Other Than All of Those Complaints, It was GREAT...
In contrast, the spaghetti is extremely al dente -- a virtue which we enjoy, and therefore do not mind when the pasta remains just short of being "crunchy."
Cap'n Crunch, Spaghetti-Style
In some ways, we might even enjoy the spaghetti more than the one served at Scarpetta, if only for how undercooked the noodles are.
And Also for How Wonderfully Those Noodles Photograph
But the rest of the Roc experience does not hold a waxy piece of a molten candle to the delicacies which Scott Conant has created on 14th Street. 
Apparently, We Have Become Messy Eaters in our Old Age
As we emerge from our final joint-eating experience of 2011, we are almost reassured that we have ended with a 3 star dish.  For if our eighty-five posts so far have taught us anything, sometimes Best Thing I Ever Ate is right, sometimes it is dreadfully wrong, and more often than we would like, it is just not all that we had hoped it would be.

Roc's Cavatelli with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe: 3 stars

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Brought Our Own Mixer

Egg Nog -- Ronnybrook Farm Dairy
Ronnybrook Farm Dairy

"The egg nog is unspiked, if that's the concern."

And with this sentence, Vodka persuades Ginger to go on our last Best Thing I Ever Ate eating spree of 2011.  The irony being that she had to convince Ginger that we were NOT going to end up loaded on cheap alcoholic beverages in order to get her out of her apartment.

On the most recent SEASON'S EATINGS episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, Alex Guarnaschelli spoke of the egg nog created by Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.  The egg nog which is only offered during the month of December.

The egg nog that Vodka is hellbent on procuring this year, no matter how hectic our non-Food Network schedules.
Vodka Can Be a Nag About the Nog
And so, with the promise that we will not end up tipsy and stumbling out of lunch like two Beverly Hills housewives, we meet at Roc to say goodbye to 2011 in high style.  But first, there is the egg nog with which to contend.

Vodka had purchased said nog two days prior during a jaunt to Chelsea Market.  In fact, she had tasted the stuff at the same time, as waiting three hours for a Stephen Sondheim event at Barnes and Noble had left her in search of a liquid cure (for the record, egg nog does not the most effective thirst quencher make).
Kind of Like Drinking the Textural Equivalent of Elmer's Glue
Not being overly fond of the stuff in general, Vodka often finds the first taste of egg nog delicious and then grows more and more bored with every subsequent sip.  Therefore, while she found the Ronnybrook Farm's version pleasing, she was not particularly blown away.
Though Thanks for the Christmas Greetings, Ronnybrook
Ginger, in contrast, loves egg nog.  In fact, "love" would be an understatement when it comes to her affection for this Christmastime cocktail.  So when Vodka arrives at Roc (after some minor confusion regarding the nonsensical streets of Tribeca) and hands Ginger her individual portion of the stuff, she finds it quite enjoyable.  Though she may have found it more enjoyable were we not so paranoid about drinking this foreign beverage in a completely unrelated culinary establishment.  It's like Bring Your Own Pickle-Gate all over again.
PS Apparently, Roc Only Has Room for One at Their Bar
As we take clandestine sips of our respective egg nogs and the waitstaff looks on in judgment, Vodka comments, "We're already the spectacle and the egg nog is still in our bags."

Vodka is, naturally, referring to the fact that she plans on asking for a shot of bourbon in order to complete our egg nog experience. After all, if Alex Guarnaschelli had recommended adding alcohol, we are not one to argue.  And so, with a major hint of sheepishness, Vodka asks our waitress, "Can I also have a shot of bourbon?" 
Lunch Beverage Double-Hitter of Champions
To her Oscar-worthy-acting-skills credit, the waitress does not react to this request with any more than a solemn nod, despite the fact that we are already deep into our half bottle of wine and keep reaching for our handbags like neurotic senior citizens.  When she trots off to the bar in search of our request, Ginger confesses, "I was really afraid she was going to ask you what kind of bourbon you wanted."

A few minutes later, the waitress appears with an intimidatingly deep glass of the sour brown liquid which we usually make every effort to avoid.  Vodka sets it aside with a flippant, "Let's just drink our wine and worry about this problem later," and we delay the inevitable for as long as we can.

Which in this case, is approximately 20 minutes.

At that time, Vodka retrieves her egg nog from her bag and pours half of it, lickety split, into the bourbon-laden shot glass. Finding her fork to be the only appropriate stirrer, she mixes the "cocktail" to the best of her ability and takes a sip.
Why Vodka Is Not a Bartender
And her face contorts into the expression of an obvious non-bourbon drinker.

Ginger's slurp, which is even more tentative than Vodka's, confirms the fact that we are not meant to drink any hard liquor (which in our case amounts to anything that is not wine, vodka, or gin).  In fact, we believe the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy egg nog, like the Stand toasted marshmallow shake, is much more pleasant in virgin form.
Egg Nog Was Presumably Mary's Favorite Beverage
It is excessively creamy, slightly spicy, and contains a solid helping of cinnamon, all of which makes for a comforting, if incredibly rich, drink.  The bourbon only mutes all of the otherwise tasty components, rendering the egg nog the Shirley Temple of the Christmas holiday.
Look Away, Roc Waitress.  Nothing to See Here
As it happens, we are both mildly obsessed with Ronnybrook Farm Dairy's chocolate milk, which remains the quintessentially perfect cow-based beverage we have ever tasted.  And while we are certain that the egg nog from Ronnybrook is of ten times greater quality than that from our local grocery store, we're just not sure we would seek it out again.

But we are positive that we will never, ever make another request for bourbon.

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy's Egg Nog: 4 stars