Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Dish Is Our New Favorite Word: Misguided

Arroz de Pato -- Aldea

"I assume you have a life, but in case not, do you want to go to dinner tomorrow?" Ginger emails Vodka Thursday afternoon.  Thankfully, Vodka has no such thing, so she instantaneously answers "Yes," and we decide to head to Aldea for Frank Bruni's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate BIRD IS THE WORD dish, the arroz de pato.
The Benefits of Having No Life
Now duck, so far, has not treated us very kindly on this mission, but we are hoping we can blame this track record on Buddakan and not on the poultry itself.  What is also not helping our case on this particular night, however, is that we have both, separately and inexplicably, been is foul moods for the majority of the week. 
Or in Our Case - Fowl Moods.  Heh Heh
Ginger is blaming her hostility on an overall lack of carbs, and Vodka, simply on the fact that we are crazy ("Well, that too," Ginger answers, "But also the bread.").  For this reason, when we belly up to the bar and the bartender holds a platter of four varieties of bread products in front of us, we finagle our way into trying one of each ("We're not really a 'one piece per person' place anyway," the bartender informs us.  Our kind of policy).
An Image of Gluttony
Said bread is served seconds after the arrival of the cheese plate we have ordered, but instead of pairing the two entities, we find ourselves carb-loading all four varieties into our mouths at rapid-fire pace, the cheese nearly forgotten. 
And Never in Our Lives Have We Forgotten About Cheese
One of the options, a cornbread soaked in bacon renderings, we believe holds the most potential for greatness, and so Vodka takes a deep, hearty bite.

And she instantly clamps her mouth shut.
Bacon Bread?  What Could Go Wrong?
"Is it good?" Ginger asks, not sure whether to interpret Vodka's face as horror or ecstasy.  Vodka shakes her head back and forth slowly.  "Well, no wonder it's unlimited," Ginger reasons, yet unfortunately, this is not the end of our bread drama of the evening.
Easy to Give Away Free Things When They're All Different Degrees of "Adequate"
While the three other varieties (a brioche, a baguette, and an olive roll) are all various states of "fine" (the baguette proves to be the most successful), as is the accompanying olive oil, we are at another stand-off over the walnut version that has come with the actual cheese. 
Aldea Seems to Be Suffering from a Case of "Too Much Bread in the Kitchen"
Taking her first bite, Vodka observes, "This has nuts in it."

This statement is followed immediately, in unison, with:

Ginger: "Yes, it's delicious."
Vodka: "I hate nuts."

Truth be told, with tastes like these, it's amazing we've made it through this many dishes without a fistfight.
With Tastes Like These, It's Also Amazing We're Friends In the First Place
Onto the cheese plate, which includes a blue cheese, a soft goat-like cheese, and a hard, cheddar-like cheese (clearly, we can't distinguish cheeses unless they're blue): all are tasty enough, though we are especially taken with the lone hard cheese on the platter (and Ginger enjoys the accompanying triangles of membrillo-like jam, though Vodka finds them useless).
With So Much Bread and Cheese to Be Had, Who Needs Jelly?
Similarly, our cocktails are satisfying, if nothing to write home (or in this case, to AA) about -- Ginger's tastes appropriately like ginger, and Vodka's, in a true "I've had a tough week" divergence from her usual vodka, like tequila.
Though We Do Enjoy the Metal Straw That Accompanies Vodka's Choice
Finally, we are served our Best Thing I Ever Ate reason for being here: the arroz de pato, featuring duck confit, chorizo, clementines, and olives.  Pretty enough, the dish looks like a cross between paella and pork fried rice, and because we love a carb, we are optimistic that this rice will prove appropriately pleasing.

It does not.
To Sum Things Up in a Nutshell and All
Vodka takes one forkful, and confirming that all the bread in the world has not yet raised her from her funk, states, with mild hostility, "I don't like it."  It seems Vodka's first bite has included a healthy dose of the yellow sauce that is dolloped around the plate, which we're assuming are the clementines but taste more like lemons.  This sauce seems excessively sweet for this savory dish.
Yellow Dollops of Sugary Not-Goodness
As we manage to eat around the "frosting," we find the duck itself to be extremely well-cooked (as in tender and juicy, not dry and chewy), and the rice, appealingly sticky with a tangy bite.  The chorizo, sliced super thinly, adds more spice than one would assume it would be capable of in such a form, which is more than we can say for the bits of crispy duck skin, which taste like, well, nothing.
Perhaps Mustard Would Have Made a Better Yellow Condiment Choice
"This whole lemon thing is misguided," Ginger states, tossing her fork with disdain.  It seems "misguided" has crept into her lexicon recently and taken up residence as her favorite word ever, and the term is now catching, as one thing then another, including Aldea's chef, becomes "misguided."

You see, earlier in the evening, Vodka had spotted said chef, George Mendes, lingering near the bar. 

"I think he was our waiter somewhere else," she whispers.  "Oh no, wait - he was on Top Chef or something."

"I like that you assumed he was our waiter, like everyone is always here to serve us," Ginger smirks. 
This Is the Kind of Logic That Occurs When One's Bloodstream Is Filled with Tequila
When we figure out that Mendes is actually the chef of this place, we begin to notice him, throughout our meal, perched in various points of the restaurant, texting on his phone.

"What is he doing?!  He should be somewhere making this dish better!" Ginger exclaims, and with that, we decide it is time to leave.
After One Cocktail Each and Everything
When we receive our bill, we learn that Aldea has recently started the policy of taking 20% off all food served at the bar, a concept that not only thrills us, but is also the first thing all week that neither of us can even dare to call "misguided."

Aldea's Arroz de Pato: 3 stars

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