Friday, June 3, 2011

Birthday dinner Italian style at Puttanesca in Hell's Kitchen

Dash turned 12, so we planned to go out for dinner.  I hesitated to ask him where he wanted to eat, thinking he'd want to burgers and fries, and I wasn't really in the mood. But it was his day, so...

Me: Dash, where would you like to go for your birthday dinner?
Dash:  Hmmm, could we go to Puttanesca?
Me (surprised, and pleased, since it's one of my favorite local Italian places, and my mouth was watering already over the thought of the bruschetta):  Of course!
Dash:  Good. I already know what I want -- the macaroni and cheese with black truffle oil and a black truffle on top.
Me (with my mouth open in surprise and nothing to say!)

I couldn't help but wonder where this child came from.  Ok, yes, I know we like to try lots of different foods, but I still feel very much like that mid-western girl who grew up on iceberg lettuce and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  We've eaten at Puttanesca a couple of times, but not recently, and I had no idea how Dash knew about the black truffle oil.

It turns out that a couple of years ago Glen had family in town and had taken Kate and Dash to dinner at Puttanesca.  We have a rule about eating at new places -- the kids are not allowed to order the same food they always get. For example, they can't always order pizza at an Italian restaurant.  Since Macaroni and Cheese is a known food, it was a "safe" dish to order, and Glen had convinced Dash to try it. The black truffle slice on top was a surprise, but a tasty one.  Dash hasn't been there for two years, but he remembered that dish!

This year, for Dash's birthday dinner we shared a couple of appetizers -- buffalo mozzarella with sliced tomatoes and basil-truffle oil.  The cheese was perfect -- dense on the outside and creamy on the inside. The tomatoes were disappointingly unripe, but made me excited about the tomatoes growing in our garden.

We also shared a plate of cantelope and prosciutto. Dash wasn't up to it (maybe because he had just finished two slices of bread dipped liberally in olive oil), but Kate really enjoyed it.

Guess what Dash ordered for dinner? Yep, macaroni and cheese.  He was very excited to point out the truffle slice on top, and wanted to share it with everyone.  I opted for a bite of the noodles, and wow, the black truffle oil really made them pop. Combined with several different cheeses, this dish is perfect.

Kate usually orders ravioli, but surprised me by ordering a steak with grilled potatoes and broccoli rabe.  (Medium rare, in case you were wondering.)

Glen ordered the spinach ravioli stuffed with cheese and sundried tomatoes.  It looked a little holiday-ish, with red sauce and green pasta. The homemade shells looked beautiful, and Glen declared it delicious.

In a change of pace, I had the veal chop, which was perfectly cooked, and served with a side of fresh green beens and slivered almonds.  It came with a red madeira sauce on the side which I skipped after the first taste as I thought it was a little too sweet for the meat.

For dessert, Glen and I split the "Tradicional Walnut Tartufo" which is ball of half chocolate/half vanilla ice cream that is covered in a layer of chocolate -- and there's a cherry center.  Kate devoured the profiteroles (cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and served with chocolate sauce) and Dash opted for the apple tart with vanilla ice cream.

All in all, a lovely birthday celebration.

And the best part? Dash had leftovers to take to school for lunch on Friday. I can only imagine him eating macaroni and cheese with black truffle oil out of a thermos while the kid next to him pulls out a bologna sandwich!  Gotta love it!