March 30, 2012

Burger Club PHL: Grace Tavern Edition

I've been hearing about the Burger Club for a LONG time, and have always been intrigued.  What could be better than a group of friends who get together once a month-ish and eat burgers?  And then rank them- for official club business, of course.  Even though burgers aren't on the top of my list of favorite foods, I do appreciate a good one.  Even better, the March meeting was the first sponsored event in the history of the Club, with Google Philly footing the bill, giving us the extra impetus we needed to check it out.  I still can't tell you what, exactly, Google Philly is, but I'm perfectly comfortable with their continuing domination of the world.

This month's "meeting" was at Grace Tavern, a Graduate Hospital neighborhood bar and restaurant at the weird intersection of 23rd and South (technically on Gray's Ferry).  We've been thinking about eating here off and on for awhile, so we were glad to finally have an excuse (even though we didn't get a chance to try their famous green bean fries).

The problem with Grace is that it's really not conducive to large groups-- and even though the meeting was on a Wednesday evening AND we were granted the entire back dining room, it was crowded by the time we arrived.  Members arriving after us had no chance at a seat.  However, we made it work, although we both sat at separate tables (better for meeting lots of new people!).  The head of the Club, Steph, was super nice and greeted everyone who came in- including lots of newbies like us, enticed by the word "free."

Our view: appears erroneously spacious Source
Grace sells several different burgers, most of which have two toppings.  You can also order your own combination of toppings, although it's not stated so on the menu.  I love mushrooms, so I ordered the "Kennett Square," complete with sauteed mushrooms and melted cheddar cheese.  The waitress asked my temperature preference, and as always, I requested medium-rare-- although 95% of the time I do this, the burger comes cooked medium or worse.

Even though our table was last to be served, we didn't wait long- they have an efficient kitchen.  The burger looks enormous, but the bun to patty ratio is pretty large.  The bun had a shiny, almost plastic-y outer surface, but the innards were fluffy.  Light grill marks alluded to a short toasting session, which I appreciated.

The Kennett

Many Burger Club members commented on two factors: 1) small patty, and on a related note, 2) heavy char.  I think I avoided these problems by ordering my burger lightly cooked-- which they actually did surprisingly well.  The patty was loosely packed, with a definite char flavor but very little crusty edge, at least in this case.  The flavor of the meat was my favorite part, shining through in each bite, and well complemented by the mushrooms and cheese.

J ordered the classic Grace Burger, which comes with the same patty, but topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  This rendition reminded us of a classic backyard barbecue burger- simple toppings, with a smoky char.  The Swiss could have been left off for all that it added to the flavors, and we definitely could have done with way less onion- even a thin slice of the red variety was a bit too sharp.

We both also liked the fries-- not a huge portion, thankfully, and well cooked if not a bit stubby (longer fries are better for dipping!).

Although ketchup is an option, each burger is served with a Belgian-style mayo dip (perhaps identical to the one at Monk's?), which is a must.

At the end of the evening, Steph reminded us to log onto the Club site and vote-- categories include the bun, the toppings, the meat, and the atmosphere, as well as an overall score.  FYI, so far in all of the Club's outings, Royal Tavern maintains the top scores.

We're echoing the sentiments of many of the other members when we say the burger was good, but not great.  There was absolutely nothing bad about it, but in a city of greats, it certainly doesn't shine.  However, the fact that we walked out without opening our wallets and gained a few new friends in the process made the whole experience a positive one.  We're already looking forward to the next meeting of the Club-- check the website for more info!

Burger Club Philly

Grace Tavern
2229 Gray's Ferry Ave

March 27, 2012


This past weekend, we accompanied friends on their first trip to New York City.  We were only there for less than 36 hours (my NYC limit, I think...), but explored so many different neighborhoods and ate about a weeks worth of food.  I requested to make a stop at Eataly, Mario Batali's rendition of an international Italian food and wine marketplace.  I had read a few things here and there about the concept- restaurants interspersed with various markets- but wanted to check it out for myself.

We were all a little overwhelmed by what we discovered.  The space is enormous- A picked up a map at the front entrance, and it's necessary.  Different sections- from produce to fish to wine to vinegars to cheese- occupy distinct areas, and many of these sections also have tables and chairs with accompanying wait-staff that serve as a mini-restaurant.  Each restaurant's menu primarily focuses on that section's offerings.

We spent a little while just wandering around and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.  The vast array of offerings are overwhelming in and of themselves, but the high capacity of shoppers and diners alike make things borderline chaotic.

Cured meats counter.

Fresh meat- including Pat LaFrieda hotdogs!

A and I both compared this to DiBruno Brothers, one of our favorite places to shop in Philadelphia (typically for specialty items only, since it is $$$)- but on a 100x scale.  It was difficult to tell what the general clientele was- NYC citizens? Tourists like ourselves? I'm not even sure what their target market is... Regardless, the place was not hurting for business- every table was taken, the upstairs restaurant (a bit more separated from the frantic pace of the downstairs market) had a 45 minute wait mid-afternoon on a Sunday, and the check-out counter was hopping.

We considered putting out name in for Birreria (the upstairs restaurant) but we really only wanted a little snack.  Unfortunately, the pre-made sandwiches, slices of foccacia pizza, and other easily consumable snacks are not allowed to be eaten on Eataly property.

We opted to grab a space in La Piazza- a central wine bar that utilizes standing height tables complete with bag hooks and compartments for silverware and plates for quick turnover.  An experienced waiter whisked from one table to the next, taking orders and checking on each of the patrons.  He even took the time to listen to the annoying guy next to us complain extensively about the no-"takeout"-food-eaten-inside-Eataly policy.

The menu is relatively simple- cheeses, meats, a few salads, a panino, and some options from the nearby raw bar.  We really weren't looking for anything expansive, but our waiter talked me into ordering the Grande Piatto Misto Di Salumi & Formaggi- a combo platter of meats and cheeses served with bread and a few accompaniments.

 The plate was terrific- plenty for the four of us to get a taste of everything.  We each had a different favorite cheese, from the creamy ricotta to the sharp Parmigiano Reggiano to a beautifully marbled but mild blue. The pairing of the cheeses with the plate of accompaniments was a treat- they all had a bit of a surprising element, from the garlic in the honey to the spicy chili pepper burn of the apricots.  I particularly liked the honey with the Parm. Several types of cured meat, from ham, salami, chunks of mortadella- just a taste of each- were certainly high quality, flavorful without being greasy.  We paired bits of each with chunks of bread to make little open faced sandwiches.  A dollop of mustard would have been nice!

The atmosphere of the entire complex is incredibly friendly and welcoming, complete with charming signs and slogans ("You are what you Eataly").  I particularly enjoyed The 8 Rules of Vegetable Enjoyment- it's nice to see that veggies are getting their due attention in a cuisine well-known for meat, cheese, and pasta.

Even though my overall impression was a feeling of sensory overload, the concept of Eataly is terrific.  I would definitely head back next time I'm in the city, perhaps trying to go during the week or later in the evening when it's a little quieter.  Its central location certainly makes it prime for the mid-afternoon shopper to stop in for a bite to eat.

200 5th Avenue
New York City

March 22, 2012

Chicken Liver Pate

Liver was not something we grew up eating.  My parents were both scarred by it in their childhoods, and their stories had us steering clear for years.  However, we're generally adventurous eaters, so at some point we ordered "patè" at a restaurant without actually really knowing what it was.  I was pleasantly surprised by the buttery, meaty paste that was easily spreadable across crispy toast.  Perhaps the beginning of my love affair with French food?

We were recently invited to a friend's new (and beautiful) house in the suburbs, and offered to bring over a few dishes to contribute to a multi-course dinner.  Poking around the internet led me to this recipe from the blog meandering eats.  The directions sounded doable, the ingredients list seemed reasonable, and it would be easy to make ahead the night before.  First up- where does one actually buy chicken livers? Well, I can't actually answer that question, because the first place I looked had them in stock.  Whole Foods sells 'em in one-pound tubs.

They look and feel about how you might expect- pretty disgusting.  However, the rest of the ingredients had me convinced that the end product would be nothing less than superb.  I started out by melting 1/3 of a stick of butter in a large pan and cooking two strips of bacon alongside (in place of the guanciale).  Cooking bacon in butter seemed incredibly absurd.

I finely chopped up one large shallot and added that to the pan, pulling out the bacon as it was reaching crispy status.  After about five minutes, when the shallots became translucent, I added one clove of garlic.

The recipe calls for the livers to be "trimmed," but I had no idea what this meant, so I just added the livers as is.  Half the tub went into the pan, along with half of a Gala apple and a few stems worth of fresh thyme.  I also chopped up my bacon and threw that back in the pan towards the end.  Since the livers were whole, it took awhile for them to cook through, so I let everything saute for quite awhile (at least fifteen minutes), cooking down and softening everything as much as possible.  It wasn't all that pretty- and also didn't seem like a very large quantity of food. The livers also started looking a lot like cooked mushrooms. Weird.

I allowed the whole mess to cool a bit while I set up my food processor.  Into the processor went the liver concoction, a chopped hard-boiled egg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a splash of water.  The recipe called for a bit of sherry, but I couldn't come up with anything decent to replace it with and figured it might need a little liquid.

The mixture was still pretty thick, but I allowed it to blend for awhile till it took on a smoother consistency.  In order to really get a nice texture, the mixture needs to be sieved- or in my case, smushed through a mesh strainer.  I used a spatula to press the pate through the strainer, reminding me of those Play-Doh hair toys.  Every so often, I would scrape the sieved mixture into a new bowl and then add more from the food processor into the strainer.

I'm glad I decided to experiment with the sieving (I toyed with the idea of skipping that step) because I was left with a strainer full of little crispy bits of shallot and bacon that had evaded the blades of my food processor.  I chopped another 1/3 stick of room temperature butter and worked it into the sieved mixture, enhancing the incredibly creamy texture.  I transferred the whole mess (which still didn't seem like all that much) into a small glass bowl and garnished with a sprig of thyme.  Covered it and stashed it in the fridge to chill.

I'm not going to lie... it looked a lot like a bowl of cat food.  However, after letting it warm back up to room temp and whipping a bit up to spread on a piece of toasted baguette... the depth of flavor was unbelievable. Salty balanced by a subtle sweetness from the apple, with an almost nutty, bold flavor from the livers.  Of course almost an entire stick of butter and a couple slices of bacon don't hurt either.  And the small bowl went a long way- the intensity of it meant you only needed a thin smear to get the full effect.  Now the real question is... what should I do with the other half pound of livers that are now stashed in my freezer?

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.

March 19, 2012

Deke's Bar-B-Que

Seems like it's been awhile since we talked about barbecue, right?  Don't worry-- still getting my fix and figuring out which local barbecue place is best.  Next up on the list is a little hidden gem in the fuzzy district between Manayunk and Roxborough (I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins..).  Built into a huge garage, Deke's Bar-B-Que actually has built a considerable name for itself, especially among the residents of the area.

The garage sits in the back of a large lot, which has a sizeable brick patio with firepits and picnic tables.  While it wasn't in use on the chilly night we went, it looks like it would be perfect for hanging out outside in good weather.
The inside is smaller than I imagined, but extends outward with a winter-proof heated tent to provide some extra seating.  We grabbed seats at the bar so we could keep an eye on the Flyers game (and have MUCH better lighting!).  This also ensured we had stellar service throughout the meal, as the bartender was always there to make sure we had what we needed.

There are daily food and drink specials, including a $12 all you can eat buffet the night we went, which I struggled to pass up.  I wanted to try a variety of items that weren't offered on the buffet though, so we stuck to the regular menu.  

Although the trip to Deke's was a dinner celebration for the birthday boy, I picked our appetizer- the "Fritters & Pickles," or jalapeno hush puppies and some pickled dills ($4?).  I rarely see hush puppies in the Philly area, so not only was I excited to have them at all, I was actually very impressed with these.  Their take is a really dense cornmeal-based doughball, with bits of chopped jalapenos throughout.  The frying process gives them a thick crunchy exterior but maintains a soft, doughy interior.  A thin hot sauce gave it even more heat, to be applied as needed.

Since my fiance can't NOT eat pulled pork, an order of the Smokin' Hog sandwich was a no brainer ($9).  The pork is slow-cooked and shredded, and topped with a Carolina style vinegar-based sauce.  The enormous pile of meat was incredibly tender, with a few shreds holding on to the crisped outside crust (my favorite part!).  The sauce is fairly subtle, letting the meat do the talking, and the bun- a buttered soft yeast roll- which while not quite the sandwich "norm," was great for holding in the mess of meat.

All of the sandwiches come with two sides, a tiny tin of coleslaw and an enormous pile of roasted skin-on wedge fries.  The food runner told us the fries come with a bit of the Carolina barbecue sauce splashed on, so if you're not a fan of vinegar, you might want to specify they hold it.  Wedges are my all time favorite fries (hello, crispy skin and actual potato flavor!) so I definitely stole my fair share.

Since I wanted many small tastes of multiple items, I chose to make my own mix and match meal.  Most importantly, a "small plate" of smoked brisket ($6), as it's definitely my favorite of all the barbecued meat options.  All of the meats are available in this "smaller" portion-- you still receive plenty of it.  The brisket is soft and smoky, with an inner pink ring serving as a telltale sign of hours spent cooking over wood.  Brisket is notoriously fatty, but this had just the right amount to provide some juice and flavor without being gristly.  They pre-applied some barbecue sauce, which might be one of my favorites around the city- nothing fancy, but spicy and tangy, with just a touch of smokiness.

I'm also a sucker for collard greens, so ordered a small bowl on the side ($3).  The greens here are well-chopped, making them a little easier to eat, but are left in a deep pool of their cooking liquid.  This made it more like collard soup, and kept it boilingly hot for quite awhile.  The combination of the high temperature and the spice heat brought them slightly past my comfort zone, but it didn't stop me from consuming the entire portion.

Finally (what can I say, I was hungry!), I opted for a second side.. which is actually served as a double, since the coleslaw & cornbread come together ($3).  Their coleslaw is my ideal- not too soggy, but not skimpy on the sauce, with lots of vinegar, mayo, and pepper (the most important flavor).  The mix of fresh green cabbage and shredded carrots makes me feel like I'm getting in a good dose of veggies to offset the creamy dressing-- that's how it works, right?

The cornbread is sweet and cake-like, with a honey-soaked top and a small crumb.  Cornbread can come in so many shapes, sizes, flavors, and textures, but I enjoyed this version- almost a dessert, but a good contrast to all the salty, smoky, savory items we had consumed.

The restaurant was MUCH quieter than I had expected, which I really appreciated, but perhaps most people are saving their barbecue for the summer.  With Deke's enormous projector screen television, it might be one of the best places to hang out and watch a game I've found in awhile-- but please don't steal my seat there this summer come baseball season!

Deke's Bar-B-Que
443 Shurs Lane
Manayunk/Roxborough, PA

March 15, 2012

Bistrot La Minette

I happen to love French food.  Pates, crusty baguettes, cheese after creamy cheese, lots of butter... sign me up.    Bibou currently holds the top position on my list, but we made plans to give Bistrot La Minette a try.  Tucked off of South Street, the unassuming restaurant has more of a relaxed, shabby-chic cafe vibe than the "Country French" Bibou.  Dining mid-week, it was quiet throughout our meal. Our waitress, though attentive, seemed a little taken-aback whenever we asked a question about the menu.

Along with bread service, we were surprised by a little amuse bouche of a crispy chip (thin, toasted slice of baguette) topped with a blob of a duck rillette- essentially a shredded duck confit.  Lots of flavor- most recipes call for plenty of duck fat- and a good way to acclimate our mouths to the heavier French cooking style.

We  front-loaded our meal with entrees (French for first course), trying five of the ten options (no, it was not just the two of us..).  Of course we had to try the classic escargots- nine fat snails served in an herbed butter sauce within individual non-slip ceramic pots.  The serving of nine ($12) split perfectly between the three of us- we loved how each snail had its own pool of sauce and its own little buttery crouton. The snails themselves were slightly chewy with a mineral undertone- perhaps a bit of an acquired taste.

The table favorite was the grilled sardines- four large fillets of fresh fish, skin on, paired with intensely flavorful roasted red pepper "fillets."  The similarity in texture of the two ingredients alongside their sweet and salty flavor contrast made for a very unique experience. I don't know what it is, but red peppers + sardines = incredible.

I requested that we order the Flammekeuche- the French version of pizza ($10).  A dense, chewy flatbread type crust served as a salty base- a bit crispy, quite different from the typical "Italian" style pizza.  The crust is topped with creme fraiche, thick cut chopped bacon, and caramelized onion.  There also seemed to be another type of shredded cheese that provided a more standard stretchy, meltedness to the surface.  The disc was cut into strips, flatbread style, keeping the potentially overwhelmingly salty ingredients to a manageable quantity.  Interestingly, the bits of bacon didn't exude the expected levels of salty grease, again keeping that critical balance of savory flavors in check.

The last dish in the first round was the Bouchees a la Reine aux Champignons Sauvages- translated into "puff pastry with wild mushrooms" ($13).  A very light twist of airy croissant is filled with slow-cooked mushrooms in a rich, earthy cream sauce.  Additional mushrooms form a moat around the pastry castle, including a few big chunks of honeycombed morel- such a unique texture!  Fava beans give a little bit of color to an otherwise drab dish, but don't provide much otherwise.  

A opted to try another first course as her "Plats Principaux" (main course)- the potage parmentier, a pureed winter root vegetable soup ($11).  The soup itself had a mild flavor, primarily potato and cream based. On top, a sprinkle of fresh chives, a drizzle of truffle oil and a few dried chanterelle mushrooms added a bit of texture and a depth to the flavor profile.  A complained about the mushrooms- they were a little on the gritty side which, along with their dehydration, emphasized the "dirty" aspect.  Not really what she was hoping for.

The rest of the menu includes plenty of French classics, and I stuck to a very familiar one- the Cassoulet Toulousain ($26).  The base of the dish was a leg of lamb that was overflowing from the earthenware bowl it was served in.  White beans, tomatoes, and other bits of meat including duck confit and a slightly spicy sausage filled the crevices around the lamb. Crunchy bread crumbs soaked in duck fat cover the top surface.  While the lamb itself was incredibly tender, the result of a long and slow braise, the rest of the flavors didn't come together as well as I expected.  There was an inherent meaty richness that was missing from the broth, as if the ingredients were all cooked separately and then mixed together at the last minute.

I split the cassoulet with our friend in return for some of his Daurade Poelee ($25), a much lighter fish dish highlighting flaky white porgy (otherwise known as bream).  The fillet was thin, but large enough to cover a generous pile of basmati rice packed with chunks of cauliflower. A shallow pool of sherry cream sauce soaked into the saffron-tinted rice.  A great counterpoint to the cassoulet- I'm glad to know the French do know a few things about "cooking light(er)."

We asked our waitress for her opinion on dessert- something I typically try to avoid doing- but her recommendation of the mille feuille aux framboises ($8) was spot on. Three layers of crispy caramelized puff pastry sandwiched beautifully piped pastry cream with a hint of vanilla and minimal sweetness. A few gorgeous tart red raspberries complimented the "not too sweet" concept, though a pool of concentrated raspberry syrup was available for those who wanted to up the ante.  It was a little bit difficult to cut through the dessert without destroying its structural integrity, but this became a little less of an issue once we realized how darn delicious it was.

I'm not sure how I avoided the one chocolate dessert on the menu, but we agreed to also try the tarte au citron ($8).  An incredibly dense disc of lemon custard, almost like a cheesecake, continued the sweet/tart theme of our desserts.  The scoop of cassis sorbet was intense- cassis is made from black currants, but the flavor was similar to cranberry- again, another sour aspect.  The balance of sweet wasn't quite as well-equilibrated as in the mille feuille, but the touch of dark chocolate sauce was a surprisingly nice companion.

Our dinner wrapped up with a simple chocolate truffle- a smooth chocolate shell covering a bite of fudgy ganache.  A nice touch (and satisfied my chocolate addiction) to conclude the meal.

We all left raving about our dining experience- it certainly exceeded our expectations.  A doesn't really love French cuisine, but she thought the quiet cafe was cute and couldn't argue that almost all of the dishes were incredibly well-executed.  Our meal was 30% off thanks to Savored, making it quite afforable (even "dangerously" affordable to our friend, who wanted to order the foie gras dish after we had finished the meal).  I didn't get the "special occasion" vibe like I did at Bibou, but as an everyday neighborhood bistro, I highly recommend it!

623 S. 6th Street

March 12, 2012


Relying on another person's opinion to make your own decisions can be tricky.  I sometimes feel that I live or die by consensus opinions on Yelp or TripAdvisor, but for some reason feel wary of the recommendations of professional restaurant critics (yeah, I know it doesn't make sense!).  However, Craig LaBan's recent roundup of solid-but-not-quite-four-bell-restaurants seemed knowledgeable and fair, and based off of his review, our food-loving father requested a trip to Melograno, rated well under the "Distinctive Italian" category.

Located just a few blocks away on the narrow strip of Sansom between 20th and 21st, the space is pretty expansive- and MUCH larger than their previous home at 22nd and Spruce.  They also now take reservations (every night but Saturday?), which are a must in our opinion.

Our waitress was a little bizarre, giving us a few blank stares while reciting the daily specials, and generally looking lost.  I don't think she was a newbie either, which made it even more strange.  The meal began with a basic bread service- some fluffy foccacia slices and a plain olive oil dip.  Nothing special, but adequate.

We ordered a couple appetizers to share as a table, and my immediate request was an order of the Fritturina, or fried smelts ($9).  I know sardines are a little weird to some, but I love their salty, oily flavor.  Plus, fried whole, these were kind of like fancy fish sticks!  The light fried coating and the delicious lemon-herb mayo dip did mask some of the fishy flavor, but don't order these if you're not a sardine/smelt fan.  To us though, they were addicting- and the substantial portion was well worth the price.

A few friends of mine had dinner at Melograno (which apparently means pomegranate in Italian) the night before we went, and they uniformly recommended we get the Sformato, or wild mushroom bread pudding ($10).  For the price, it's a pretty tiny dish, but considering the richness of the earthy mushrooms, buttery bread pieces, and ricotta mousse, a bite or two was enough for each of us.

We also ordered a side dish as our third shared appetizer- the artichoke ($5).  I honestly don't know quite how this was prepared, but our waitress described it as "Roman style."  Google tells me this would require lots of fresh herbs and a long, slow braise, but the crispiness of the 'choke makes me think it may have been fried.  Regardless, it was great-- we all wanted an order for ourselves!

Melograno is particularly well known for its homemade pasta, and most of us (at least the carb-loving females) took advantage of this.  J ordered the Pappardelle Tartufate, a rich mixture of ground walnuts, mushrooms, truffle oil, and pecorino ($18).  The homemade pappardelle was the star of this dish- long, thick strips of hand cut pasta with just the right amount of chew.  The portion was also more than adequate- even sharing around the table, we couldn't quite finish the plate.  For a vegetarian dish, it was also quite satisfying and filling with the addition of nuts to the sauce- but the truffle oil definitely stole the show in terms of flavor.

Our non-pasta dish was the Zuppetta di Mare, or spicy fish stew ($20).  A huge head-on prawn, mussels, scallops and white fish were all immersed in a thin tomato-based sauce that held surprising heat.  The seafood was all well-cooked, and the fregola, or couscous-like beads of pasta, helped soak up some of the broth at the bottom.  The flavor of the soup was not quite as I expected, making this my least favorite of the night- a single flavor (saffron?) dominated, making it a bit one-note.

Our mom chose the Ravioli alla Zucca, an almost dessert-like decadent dish of lovely pasta pockets filled with pumpkin and doused in a brown butter sauce ($18).  The flavors on this were intense- creamy mascarpone in the filling provided additional richness, and several slivers of fried sage gave each bite a salty kick.

I chose the other pappardelle option- for homemade pasta, I think it's one of the best styles to really appreciate the freshness.  I also think it's one of the best styles to soak up and distribute a rich sauce, so I appreciated the thoughtfully matched walnut-truffle (previously discussed) and Wild Boar Ragu options ($18).  However, the ragu fell slightly flat in comparison to the pasta itself.  A really solid ragu will give the entire sauce a deeply meaty flavor, even if the actual portion of meat served is meager.  Instead of meat, the immediate flavor profile here was cinnamon.  Apparently this complements the potential gaminess of wild boar well, but I don't love cinnamon in baked goods, and I certainly don't add it to savory dishes.  But, perhaps this just stems from my personal likes and dislikes, so I'd still suggest you try it for yourself!

We weren't particularly in need of dessert after that rich meal, but Laban's previous review spoke highly of Melograno's tiramisu.  Even though none of us rank tiramisu at the top of our list of favorite desserts, we figured a classic, authentic Italian restaurant might do it right.  Thankfully, we were happy with our decision, as the bowl of creamy mousse was like nothing we'd ever had before.  The bottom of the bowl contained espresso soaked ladyfingers, so soft they melted in your mouth.  The coffee flavor was subtle, but well matched with the dark cocoa sprinkled over the dish.  The highlight was the mousse itself- a "zabaione," or pudding made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala.  Cool, rich, with just the right amount of sweetness to balance the bitter espresso and dark chocolate, I could have eaten a bowl of this plain.

Our meal at Melograno was solid- and thus, we agree with Laban that this is one of the finest Italian restaurants in the city.  However, a few flavor tweaks here and there had me disappointed with a couple of the dishes- perhaps authentic Roman cuisine just isn't always for me.  With reasonable prices and solid portion sizes, don't save it for a special occasion- and don't forget that reservation!

2012 Sansom Street