Sunday, December 20, 2009

Boston (bactracking) - La Morra

La Morra memories
My first visit to Boston had us celebrating Christmas Eve at La Morra over five courses, family style in preparation, with the air of an Italian matriarch insisting, “MANGE, MANGE!” Exposed brick glowed with mortared teeth above our table, upstairs in a dining room that had the discreet elegance of a fine garment- never ostentatious, but with subtle detailing that silently spoke volumes of its quality.

We selected from the bounty that was to be our feast. Our indecisive clamoring was silenced by the arrival of delicate greens in citrus vinaigrette that immediately lulled us into appreciation of what was about to ensue, decisions became easy and everything faded to black (truffles.)

Appetizer Course: Truffle oil glossed my lips and I felt the sun on my tongue. Mushroom bruschetta gave the billowy fluff of bread while retaining its crunch under a layer of sautéed mushrooms so rich, they made my eyes heavy. Fresh mussels popped with tender bursts of flesh and sea, but floated in a bland, white wine broth that suffered from an acute case of seasoning sickness.

Pasta course: The pasta course lived out the lesson of a favorite fairytale. The artichoke risotto with shrimp was too hard. The gnocchi with bolognese was too soft. But, the squash ravioli finished with cream, sage and pine nuts, was just right (more than just right- perfect). This “goldy” was a lock and a tale that would need no exaggeration in future folklore.

Third Course: A crunchy saltlick of skin surrounded the roast duck and tender apples added to its holiday decadence. Not to be shown up by another fowl, Tom Turkey made his entrance, but without much impact. Sliced turkey with sausage stuffing was moist, but lost among its flashier co-stars, namely the sliced sirloin with gorgonzola butter, cooked perfectly pink and heightened by its pungent lacquer.

Side dishes: The sautéed spinach and sage roasted potatoes were satisfactory, but ho-hum. Brussels sprouts were tender, but all of the alcohol hadn’t been cooked out, while the yams won by simply working well with other autumnal offerings (duck and turkey).

I felt like a Roman as I clenched a duck thigh one hand and stabbed a slice of steak with the other. The extravagance was a bit overwhelming and I could have been happy with just a fraction of the items (bruschetta, ravioli, steak.) But, then again, odds pay off. We had gotten a taste of everything and my belly felt as round as Santa’s.

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