In the past few months I have had quite a few “wow” food moments. Here are a some of my most memorable, starting with:
Category 1: “Wow, how did they make this?”
L’ail Doux: At one of my favorite restaurants, Da Rosa, they serve this amazing garlic that they call l’ail doux (soft garlic). “Soft garlic” makes you think that it will be roasted and “soft” in texture, but it’s actually the exact opposite, it’s crunchy. “Soft” refers to the soft flavor, but regardless, the crunchy texture can be daunting. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared. You put it in your mouth and it crunches like raw garlic (well, I don’t think I have ever really put a whole clove of garlic in my mouth and chewed it, but I imagine that it would have this texture). It crunches like a radish, which makes you instantly worry that you are going to reek of garlic for days. But then you realize that it has a very mild, almost sweet garlic flavor. I have no idea how it’s made. It tastes as though it’s pickled in a vinegary brine, rather than confit-ed in oil, but how long it’s soaked or what exactly it’s soaked in is still a mystery to me. However because it’s so addictive, I’m hoping to figure out the secret recipe soon. Don’t be surprised if you see a future post about my garlic pickling adventures.
Octopus Salad at La Mora Bianca: I’ve had some great octopus in past trips to Italy, so when I was in Sardinia earlier this summer I was really looking forward to enjoying some. After a few nights with no octopus on the menu I was getting discouraged, that is until we went to a restaurant, La Mora Bianca, suggested by our hotel. It was a little off the beaten path so we were skeptical at first, but one look at the local crowd seated in the restaurant and we were a little more confident; and after one bite of the octopus salad, I was sold. The menu didn’t have any description of the dish besides the name, so we didn’t know what to expect. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when the beautiful dish above appeared. As you can see from the picture, the octopus is served thinly sliced like carpaccio, piled up, and topped with a tomato-caper-onion relish and vinaigrette. The mystery to me is how they create the carpaccio like slices. The slices are solid making me think that the octopus is pressed into a loaf like shape, then perhaps frozen to firm up and make slicing possible, and then finally sliced to order on a deli/meat slicer. I really have no idea, but the resulting dish is fantastic. The octopus is ridiculously tender. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had.
(to be continued)