Friday, November 08, 2019

Flashback Friday - Cooking with Il Douche

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on November 28, 2011.

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While I love to pick on chef Rocco DiSpirito, he probably doesn't deserve the beating I give him as much as does another chef, Scott Conant. (Rumor has it that DiSpirito is actually a very nice guy.) Conant first popped up on my radar when he appeared as a guest judge on Season 5 of Top Chef. He didn't have to open his mouth for me to slap the "smarmy" tag on him; one look at the carefully-groomed stubble was quite enough. Top Cheftestant Fabio Viviani wasn't all that impressed with him, either. (Check out the last part of our interview with Fabio.)

A blogger that I follow posted on Facebook and Twitter not long ago that she was thisclose to Conant. I told her that I think he's a douche. Conant himself responded on Twitter that she should "tell her friend I'm not a douche."

After poking around his account for a few minutes, I noticed that he seems to enjoy re-Tweeting comments that disparage him. Maybe he gets off on it. 

He deleted his "tell your friend I'm not a douche" comment before I thought to screen-cap it. Guess he can't deny the truth.

Since this is a food blog, I figured I should try one of his recipes before I trash talk him. Because I've read raves about his simple spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, that seemed to be the dish to try. Mr Minx and I whipped it up one recent evening.

Eh. It's fine. The sauce was so unctuous from the copious amounts of oil, butter, and starchy pasta water, the tomato provided merely an acidic accent that could also be achieved with a more reasonably-priced squeeze of lemon or dash of zest.

It's almost criminal that this dish is listed on the Scarpetta menu at $24. Wait...what am I saying, "almost?" Definitely criminal.

Personally, I think it would be tastier with more cheese, some shellfish, and chopped red onion.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato-and-Basil Sauce

1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
30 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
11⁄2 pounds dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
8 basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Add the olive oil to a pan and heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red-pepper flakes, but take into consideration that the sauce will reduce and the salt will become concentrated. Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher to release all their liquid. Cook for 25 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, until the tomatoes form a semi-chunky sauce.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. When it is three-quarters cooked, drain the pasta and reserve the water. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin out the sauce. Remove from the heat, and, just before serving, add the butter, basil, and cheese, mixing thoroughly until the pasta is an orange hue. Season to taste with salt.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, November 04, 2019

La Calle

There are so many chain restaurants in the Inner Harbor area of downtown Baltimore, that when a locally-owned joint opens up, I get excited. Situated on a bland block of South Street, between Baltimore and Redwood, and a stone's throw from The Block, La Calle--"the street" in Spanish--is among the most exciting. While the name conjures thoughts of street food, the decor--some walls paneled, others painted the color of red mole, a full bar--suggest fine dining.

At this point, I've only ever been for lunch, so have not experienced the lobster empanadas or braised lamb shank barbacoa or chicken mole poblano, all of which sound amazing.

What I have had, so far, has been the shrimp ceviche, light and full of flavor (though the accompanying "sweet" tortilla chips are a little too thick and crunchy for my tastes).

Also a perfectly cooked, crisp-skinned, salmon that was so good I've had it twice. It was accompanied by tiny potatoes, tomatoes, and fava beans in an epazote lobster cream sauce. And it's $12. Honestly, both times it was the best salmon I've had in town in ages, hands down, and at a fraction of the price.

Several of my various dining companions went with tacos, and though I didn't get to try any of them, they looked uniformly tasty. That might be my next order, unless of course I finally go for dinner. The last time I was at La Calle, it was with Mr Minx, and he tried the al pastor torta. It's a nice big sandwich, as tortas usually are, filled with tasty and tender pork bits that I couldn't resist snatching off of his plate.

We also tried the flan, which was excellent--firm, very smooth, just sweet enough, and dusted with a smattering of sesame seeds. One of the best I've tried.

La Calle is a long walk from work for me, but well worth it. And of course if I'm feeling lazy, I can always take a bus. I'm already contemplating my next visit in a couple of weeks. Do go, because I'd love for this place to stick around for a long time.

La Calle
10 South St
Baltimore, MD 21202
www.lacallerestaurant.com

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Posted on Minxeats.com.