Tuesday, May 1, 2007

El gato no tiene tapas*

Sunday evening we met up with some other friends who live in the Boston-Cambridge area and went out for an early supper at Dali, a tapas restaurant in Somerville that is owned by the same folks who run Tapeo on Newbury, the restaurant where we held D's bachelorette party last October. I enjoyed the food there very much, and wanted Chris to have an opportunity to try it; our friends eagerly agreed that it was a great place, and as luck would have it, they only recently began taking reservations. Only until 6:30 p.m., though, so we went early and had a truly fabulous meal in a stunning room - the exposed brick walls are layered with mirrors and candleholders and art and the ceilings are copper paneled. The lighting is dim, the chairs are comfy, and the waiters attentive and friendly.

There were so many delicious-sounding dishes we could have ordered, but we decided everyone would pick two and we'd go from there. As it turned out, that ended up being the perfect amount of food for five of us. I'm not sure I can recall everything we had, but I'll try. From the "tapas frias" (cold tapas) we had a plato mixto with three or four kinds of Spanish cheese, thinly sliced roasted red peppers, olives, salami and Serrano ham. We also ordered a wedge of tortilla espanola, a cold potato-egg omelette topped with tomato - delicious. The rest of the plates were hot ones - quail stuffed with bacon; pork sausages with figs in a sweet and delicious sauce; sauteed artichoke hearts with pine nuts; chicken croquettes; baked goat cheese with tomato and basil; grilled chorizo sausage; cauliflower and broccoli cheese puffs; and my pick and personal favourite, scallops in saffron cream sauce.

Everything was pretty good, and the nice thing was that everyone got to try a bit of everything, with each individual getting a little more of the things they ordered and particularly liked. The scallops were beautifully cooked to just firm, not even a bit rubbery, bathed in a rich and interesting sauce heavily spiked with saffron and white wine, enhanced by the briny flavours of the shellfish. Several of us dipped a lot of good bread into the sauce, rather than waste it, once the scallops were gone. The grilled chorizo, cut into 1/4" slices on the diagonal, was heavenly, rich and smoky and a little spicy. One of the best things to do with a pig, in my opinion. The baked goat cheese is to die for, nicely browned on top and sitting in a wonderfully balanced tomato sauce flecked with fresh basil leaves. Scooped onto more bread, it's divine. Chris's choice, the pork sausages with figs, was pretty awesome too, and the roasted red peppers were some of the best I've ever had.

We all shared a bottle of Spanish red wine - a tempranillo, which was lovely, though I only had a tiny bit due to a residual migraine which eventually went away, thanks in no small part to the excellent food and company, I think. We refused dessert, which was hard given that I know the high quality of the torta de chocolate from my visit to Tapeo - but I'll go back sometime and enjoy it again. Instead, we walked about ten minutes to Inman Square for ice cream at Christina's, and it was so worth it. I tried their Burnt Sugar ice cream, which tasted exactly like the top of a creme brulee. Chris had Mexican Chocolate, with cinnamon and a little chili in it, and proclaimed it the best ice cream ever. We wandered back to the car in a sugar haze and headed back to our friends' apartment for tea and conversation and a lot of laughter. It was a great end to a wonderful weekend.

*Translation: The cat has no tapas. An old friend of ours used to say, as a way of demonstrating his knowledge of Spanish (limited) and his sense of humour (goofy), "el gato no tiene patas (the cat has no paws). When tapas became trendy a few years ago, Chris adapted the expression for his own use. It is, of course, true - the cat doesn't get any tapas, unless cats in Spain have it better than here in Canada.

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