Ah, the holidays...how I hate the holidays. The holidays have a way of bringing out everyone's crazy, and every year, there are so my kinds of crazy. The one crooked ornament on a tree will send one aunt into a frenzy, and a hastily stolen white elephant gift is grounds for a major meltdown. Keep your holiday gifts to yourselves, crazy people. I'll just give myself one of the best dinners in LA and call it a day.
I may hate holidays for their drama, but I don't hate all the traditions. The Amuse Bouche, for example, is a classic that never gets old. It's olives and burrata just like the last time, and this time, it's just as awesome. A dark, juicy tapenade spreads its wings as salty olives ski across creamy peaks of burrata, a combination as ageless as making an angel in the snow.
Have you seen what Osteria Mozza can do with cheese? Skip the mozza tasting and dig into some of their craftier collaborations. The Burrata & Artichoke, for example, is a savor-haven. The braised artichokes are all heart, and the robust pine nuts and currants light up the branches of a mint pesto tree.
On Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen...On to the Burricotta & Spiced Walnuts... Whoa. Whoa those nuts are nuts! Each nutmeat is bold, encased in a thick shell of spices not so small. They add some zing to the otherwise mellow burricotta. The needles of fried rosemary crackle like a chimney fire, and a veil honey soothes the walnut burn.
The holiday spirit is all about sharing, 'tis better to give than to receive. Nothing nips that in the bud like a plate of Warm Black Dates & Speck. It's a plate made for multiple mouths, but gooey dates and hard-cured ham are a sweet and savory supremacy that I'd rather keep for myself.
The holiday spirit is all about sharing, and the SoCal spirit is all about...seafood. The Linguine stings with mighty ocean waves of fresh, briny clams and burns with the wrath of spicy Fresno chiles that make my 22 in-laws fighting over white-elephant gifts look tame. It looks like just another bowl of pasta, but wow, those peppers make it pop.
I once introduced a friend to snow for the first time in her life. She was from Florida, and she gaped at the two full feet of fresh powder like it was the prettiest sight she'd ever seen. The Goat Cheese Ravioli tastes like that. The cheese is sticky and smooth inside an al dente cocoon, and the five lilies captures a fleeting fragrance, a waft of joy you can taste.
Next comes a peace-on-earth Pappardelle. Good-will-to-men and women alike, as a soft tomato sauce snuggles under ribbon blankets with a hearty niblets of rabbit ragu.
The Duck al Mattone main is probably Osteria Mozza's greatest gift. The skin is super crispy, the fat crackles underneath, and it cackles as it sears the strips of fall-off-the-bone flesh. It's a regift; duck that has been done before, done exquisitely with its own special touch. Wrap it up in a smooth pear mostarda and break through the gristle with bites of sharp sauteed brussels sprouts, and suddenly, it's even better than new.
We probably didn't need the side of Crispy Sunchokes, but actually we did. I am in love with this love-child of artichoke and potato, an-almost creamy root that finishes like chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Sharing is caring, and this dinner perfectly captured my holiday spirit. A magical dinner split between the love of my life and two of the best people I've ever known is the only way I see fit to celebrate all the things for which I am thankful. Tis' better to give than to receive, and sharing is caring, but I still disagree because they gave us all the leftovers, and I believe we got the better end of the deal.