Friday, April 1, 2005

Tryout Wednesday: Lola Bistro

The last Tryout out came on Wednesday, and took the form of attending a dinner at Lola Bistro with 36 other people from the local food and wine forum. It was a three-hour feast from which I'm just now recovering. How the very wealthy and the very gluttonous manage to do these things on a regular basis is beyond me.

Lola Bistro is one of the most acclaimed restaurants of Cleveland, and its headliner Michael Symon is the city's very own celebrity chef (see page on the Food Network if you don't believe me). So when the local food and wine forum proposed a dinner there, on the occasion of its imminent closing for relocation, what I could I do but sign Foodgoat and me up?

Shall we start things off with sturgeon on beef cheeks? I thought it might be just a name, but now I thought this is actually be meat a cow's face. It was quite tender and tasty.

The first actual course was yellowtail sashimi ... horseradish marinated yellowtail with hot sauce. Very yummy.

The second course was by far the best, and the highlight of the evening: lobster pierogi, a single truffled lobster pierogi with caramelized onions and creme fraiche. Utterly delectable, and completely convinced me that I love lobster, and Foodgoat, that he needs to bring truffles into his cooking repertoire. Foodgoat laments that had dinner ended here, he would have been a happy camper.

I've never eaten bunnies, but here, before me was my third course: rabbit strudel, with spiced almond and roasted carrot sauce. Very good. Would it be a cliche to mention that rabbit tastes like chicken? I only regret that I ate the whole freaking thing, instead of saving half of it for lunch later.

Foodgoat, on the other hand, went with the much hyped mac and cheese, with roasted chicken, tomatoes and goat cheese. The photo didn't quite come out, and neither, to Foodgoat, did the dish. For all the talk I've heard about the Lola mac and cheese, it was just okay, and rather a disappointment. Surely the man who made the lobster pierogi could do much better than this.

Course four, duck confit "stroganoff" with mushrooms, spinach, and broad noodles for me. It must have been delicious, because I polished it off, even though by now I was pretty well stuffed.

I give Foodgoat great credit, because he ordered the veal sweetbreads - thyroid glands of a baby cow - and ate them. Much to his regret. I ate a bit and found them absolutely delicious. But Foodgoat had an upset stomach the whole next day, and blames the sweetbreads. (Personally, I think it's psychosomatic. He's never done well with organs.)

And the grand finale: dessert. The menu said "chocolate covered pretzel with vanilla ice cream" so I expected something a bit more prosaic than this elaborate getup. Pretzel bits are mixed into a caramel candy (yum!), covered with chocolate and topped with mascarpone ice cream. It bummed me out that I couldn't eat the chocolate or ice cream parts, but it was just as well, since it was so rich I could barely manage to eat the pretzels.

So there you go, our fanciest meal out yet. The best part was the company: everyone there was great fun and splendid dinner companions. The chef was also a blast: I was impressed that he actually spent much of the evening chatting with everyone and describing each course for us. I ask you, what can be more convivial, more festive, than a group of people who love food?

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