18 October 2008

go it alone, build your own

I really should have written this within 48 hours of eating at Vidalia in DC. My notes are not quite what they might have been. Part of the problem was the burnt out lightbulb above my table. The waiter noticed when I was on course number four and offered to move me. Too late, buddy. And by the way, I only understood every third or fourth word you said.

Despite dining alone for the first time in ages, and certainly the first time ever at a place like this, I had a great time. It helped that I'd been reading Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl's account of her days as food critic for the New York Times. She talks about going to restaurants in disguise and not being treated very well. I half expected to have a similar experience and to feel like I really didn't belong, but that was not the case at all, perhaps because I walked in with a fair bit of determination to enjoy myself.  I wasted no time in getting to work on the menu. Here's what I had, with a sprinkling of notes:

Wine flight, 2oz tasting pours
07 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cat Amongst the Pigeons, Barossa Valley, Au. (ick...and I am usually a fan of Australian reds)
05 Cabernet Blend, Rustenberg, John X Merriman, Stellenbosch S.A. (huge step up)
05 Cabernet Sauvignon, Worthy, Napa Valley (outstanding)

Build your own tasting menu:

amuse bouche - three sips of a tomato soup in a slanted shot glass, a pork salad -- both were very tasty (waiter claimed it was gazpacho but it was hot -- maybe it was that failure to communicate thing)

first course - mosaic of path valley farm tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, olive crumble, bouqueron anchovies, verbena gelĂ©e and lime-basil emulsion (four little treats and not a dud in the bunch)

second course - wild mushroom ragout a vidalia classic with country ham, chive biscuits and creamy black pepper gravy (never met a mushroom I didn't like)

third course - shrimp and grits wild caught gulf shrimp with creamy grits, house made andouille sausage and sweet onion ravigote (Yummy. Thanks to Trannyhead for the recommendation. It wasn't what I would have ordered if left to my own devices.)

fourth course - lamb from the nightly chef's choice tasting menu. Looked amazing and tasted great, but I didn't write down the complete description and have forgotten what came with it. Needless to say, at this point the dishes were a little overwhelming. What really scared me off the chef's tasting menu was the brains in the second course.

fifth course - vidalia’s lemon chess pie rich lemon custard in a buttery crust with berry compote and chantilly cream (Full sized portion. What the hell are they thinking? Waiter gave me crap about not finishing it. Wanted to know what was wrong. Um, how about I was worried I might explode?)

But wait, there's more.... A plate of little cookies appeared with the check. I ate one that was the size of the tip of my pinkie. The waiter kindly suggested I take the rest with me, thus saving his tip (see fifth course). They were great the next day, thankfully.

Using UncleCrappy's nom rating scale once again, Vidalia easily scores the five nom rating. That's nom nom nom nom nom to you.

And if you're in a city with terrific restaurants but happen to be traveling alone, my advice is to suck it up and go out. Elastic waists help too.

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