15 April 2007

La Dolce Vita at A Voce

Ravenous doesn't even come near describing the state of my hunger when J. and I rolled into A Voce for our 9:30 PM dinner reservation on Saturday night. I was already starved for food two hours earlier when we strolled through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was a shame because I dearly love wandering through the Met, but my rumbling, grumbling stomach kept distracting me while looking at the exhibits.

A Voce was packed. I don't think they had an empty table all night. The place buzzed with boisterous chatter, and the convivial mood last until closing. I overheard a guy the next table over exclaim, in a posh English accent, to his companion, "I love your tits", which made his whole party burst out laughing. And this was over appetizers and the first bottle of wine, so you can imagine how the night progressed for them and all of us who were eating and drinking—good food and good fun all around.

But back to the food festivities at my table where J. and I started with cocktails and two antipasti: duck meatballs with dried cherry mostarda and roasted beet salad with hazelnuts, ruby grapefruit, and formaggio caprino.

The duck meatballs seemed to be the most popular dish in the place. I counted three plates in a row coming out to the kitchen when I went back to the ladies room. And once I ate one I could see why. These were no ordinary meatballs; they were rich and full-flavored with a faint hint of a licorice-like spice, maybe anise, I’m guessing, floating in the background. The cherry sauce was slightly tart, cutting the heaviness of the duck, and the celery purée was pure soft pleasure that was like silk in my mouth.

The beet salad was fairly pedestrian with mixed greens, citrus, and cheese, but still good if not exceptional. The flavors were too even, so the salad tasted a bit flat. Maybe if the cheese bits were sharper, the citrus dressing more acidic, or the hazelnuts smoked then the salad would have another dimension and be more playful on the palate.

Being one not to make a decision when it can be avoided, I got appetizer portions of the pasta so I could try two kinds—spaghetti with ramps, speck (bacon), and Parmesan and rigatoni with spicy pork ragu, rapini, and ceci (chickpea). The spaghetti was amazing; pasta like this is why I love Italian food. The Parmesan coated the pasta with a delightfully sharp saltiness, while the bacon amped up the flavor factor with more salty fattiness. Then the ramps cut through all that with bursts of greenness that made everything taste fresh. It was pasta that was a pleasure to eat, and I couldn’t stop to try the rigatoni until the bowl was clean.

The rigatoni was a surprisingly mild considering the sauce was a spicy pork ragu. I was expecting something heartier and earthier. Chickpeas were an interesting addition, albeit strange in my opinion, and gave the pasta a nutty flavor if you got one with your noodles.

Two appetizers and two pastas down and I still had an entrée to get through, although I planned it to be light so I could manage it. I like seafood, particularly East Coast seafood, which I grew-up eating, but is difficult to get on the West Coast, obviously. So, I couldn’t resist when I saw local striped bass on the menu—steamed striped bass in basil-shellfish broth with shrimp polpettine and new potatoes. The fish was light and lovely in the basil broth, but I felt the dish didn’t need the clams to mix things up on the plate; their flavor in the liquid would have been enough for me. Very satisfying after the pasta, but probably not substantial enough if I had order it alone being as hungry as I was an hour and half ago.

Even after all that food, I was still game for desert. I was determined to end the meal properly and bring my time in the Big Apple to an appropriate close.

There are few things in the world as glorious fried dough dusted with sugar and dipped in melted chocolate; so when I saw donuts on the menu, or bomboloni in Italian, it was a no-brainer that J. and I would share that when she deferred the choice to me.

Hot out of fryer these donuts were as light as air and filled with soft custard that oozed sweet pleasure across my tongue. The experience only got better when I dunked them in chocolate and hurried to take a bite before the sauce ran to my hand. The rush of lushness in my mouth made me giddy.

My last night in New York I was left licking sugar and chocolate off my fingers—it truly was the sweet life!

A Voce
41 Madison Ave. (at 26th St.)
New York, NY 10010
ph: 212-545-8555

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Anonymous unhipla.com said...

omg, these pictures are so great. i wish i could eat your blog!!!

5/24/2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

thanks, unhipla.

a voce was great—some of the best italian i've ever had. the pictures reflected what was a pleasure to eat.

: ) blue plate

5/26/2007 10:52 PM  

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