At the Movies with Forking Tasty
This little piggy: jamon iberico, manchego, jamon serrano, garrotxa, and quince
Woody Allen and tapas aren't the first things one might match up in a game of Apples to Apples, but in the genius mind of chef Jason Anello, head chef and blogger at Forking Tasty, it made perfect sense. The meal, over a dozen courses of mini-Spanish bites, was coursed slowly throughout an evening that began under blue skies, on a so-great-you-wished-it-was-yours deck in Greenpoint. Two hours into the meal, with the help of a projector and a neighborly building, Woody dropped in with a screening of Vicki Cristina Barcelona.
When I arrived there were about twenty people standing around chatting, everyone smiling and feeling pretty lucky to be right where they were. I filled up a tumbler with white wine, crunched on a few marcona almonds and got my mingle on.
A coworker of mine from our Yahoo! days, Jason, and his brother Anthony, have been throwing dinner parties long enough that they're experts on pacing and ambiance, and can make a meal with twenty strangers seem like child's play. The lengthy menu ran the gamut from things I'd tasted before (catalonian canned mussels and paella) to those I had never tried (bikinis and raw squid with marjoram). In a four-hour meal it's not easy to nail every dish, but there were several that shined. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bikinis: The tiny sliver of a sandwich, named after a concert hall in Barcelona, was fairly simple: white bread, jamon, fontina and black truffle. I nibbled it slowly, licking my lips from the salty and gooey and inhaling the scent of the truffles deeply; a scent I have yet to describe quite right. Perhaps chemical and woodsy and salty, all at the same time? I'm glad it was just a sliver and that I was only allowed one. (Dinner mates mentioned a restaurant with the same name in the East Village serving a similar sando.)
Grape salad: Served in a white bowl, this simple salad had only three visible ingredients: green grapes, butter lettuce and spring onions. The wow factor was hidden in the invisible dressing, a blood orange vinaigrette that made the salad into something I wanted seconds of. Blood oranges are slightly more bitter, with a less acidic kick than a standard orange. Used in a dressing it was a perfect foil to the sweet grapes. Also, did you know there's a liquor made from blood oranges? Now you do.
Grape salad with blood orange vinaigrette
Pan con Tomate: It's not really summer without some Weber action, and I watched Jason and his helpers busy themselves grilling plump round tomatoes and giant slabs of bread. The best part? That the items were served as separate components, along with clear instructions on how to assemble the dish. Rub the crunchy bread with the garlic, press the roasted tomato into the bread, and devour.
There were surprises too. While the movie was playing (and miraculously we weren't eating), out came spicy flavored popcorn in small glassine envelopes. Of course I ate it. And then came dessert(s).
Olive oil cake: I had seen a few photos of earlier attempts at this cake posted to the Forking Tasty Instagram feed––they all looked delicious. I'm a big fan of olive oil cake and this one was so good I wanted to ask for the recipe. Light, not too sweet, dense but crumbly, and dusted with powdered sugar. Nothing was off on this cake. I could have seen it with preserved lemons, tangy berries, anything. This slice had a few wedges of citrus and a creme fraiche sidling up to the cake. The girl across from me didn't eat hers, I couldn't decide if she was crazy or just being sensible.
And then came marcona almond caramel ice cream, which was dense and rich with a delicate buttery nuttiness woven through it.
With the desserts laying around the table in various states of disintegration, the meal ended in a flurry of gunshots as Penelope Cruz aimed her gun at Javier Bardim. After four-plus hours of being plied with Spanish delicacies, Jason reminded us to pick up one last thing, meringue cookies, for that extra nudge into the oh-my-god-I-ate-too-much land.
Out on the sidewalk I joined some fellow diners for the 20-minute walk to the L-train. We were all happy to be moving our legs after the long meal and, as we wandered away, I hoped that the 45-miles I had put in that day on my bike were enough to offset my caloric Spanish-themed Woody Allen dinner.
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The menu, the view, and the well-set table.