The Vegetarian goes French

I admit that, as a vegetarian, French food can be a bit difficult for me. Not food in France, made at home with wonderful bread and vegetables and cheese and herbs, but the kind served in French restaurants. Nevertheless, I’m always up to try something new, and when some friends wanted to go romantic French for Valentines day, I was game. Could I make a meal? Yes, yes I could. If you don’t eat cheese, your options are severely reduced, but I do, and this is what I had a wonderful little spot called Bistro La Minette. Pictured above is the Gnocchi GratinĂ©s au Fromage, gnocchi so pillowy and soft they disappeared into the Comte, caramelized onions, and wild mushrooms. Heaven.

For my main course, I ordered the Charlotte au Morbier, a stacked-style bread pudding with morbier cheese, served with a cold beet salad (which seems to be leaking all over my plate). I like the flavors, but would have preferred a moister, more traditional bread pudding.

Dessert? It was Valentines day, and the black current sorbet paired with this lemon tart got me all excited.

This Mille Feuille aux Framboises, while it had the more exciting name, didn’t quite line-up in the flavor department. Caramelized puff pastry, baked crisp, just isn’t the best vehicle for creme, and the overall flavor was a little bland. The restaurant was lovely, though, and we had a wonderful night with carafes of serviceable house red, a charming waiter, and romantic decor. Try it again? Yes, I would.

Bistro La Minette on Urbanspoon

La Viola

After a long day of suit shopping for the incredibly difficult-to-fit boyfriend at Macy’s, on Thanksgiving weekend, I was in need of some immediate, delicious, comfort food. I’ve been meaning to go to La Viola for years, and, having only ever heard mostly wonderful things, had even recommended it to friends without a visit (I know, not best practices). Finally making it in for dinner myself, I was not disappointed.

We picked up a tasty Grenache at the wine and spirits store down the street, and were lucky, unfashionably early enough, to walk in without a reservation. La Viola is dim, and warm, and filled to capacity with a diverse crowd. We had to squeeze ourselves into the center of two other two-tops, but everyone was friendly and generous about getting up to let us slip by. We began the meal with a basket of very hot, very crusty homemade french bread with an balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary and olive oil dipping bowl. I started with the Funghi Trentino – porcini shitakiand portbello mushrooms in a garlic basil and olive oil sauce.

La Viola's Funghi Trentino
La Viola's Funghi Trentino

Mushroom lover that I am, I was in heaven. The prima portion was huge enough that I was able to share, and mopped up all the delicious sauce at the end with another slice of bread, just because I couldn’t help myself.
Gnocchi Al Filletto Di Pomodoro
Gnocchi Al Filletto Di Pomodoro

I ordered the Gnocchi Al Filletto Di Pomodoro, a homemade spinach gnocchi with tomato basil sauce and fresh ricotta cheese. Gnocchi, delicious gnocchi.The pasta was startlingly light and pillowly, perfectly sauced, and salty ricotta chunks, sliced and eaten with every bit, added just enough bite. I finished with a dark coffee, black, and a few bites of the house tiramisu. I’m not really into dessert, but compared to the rest of the meal, dessert with only “good.”

At it’s affordable, BYOB prices, and with such delicious, comforting Italian food and impeccable service (especially in such a tight space) I understand why has loyal regulars.

La Viola on Urbanspoon