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bucatini

Bucatini

Finally, finally I got over to 10 Tables in JP. It was a mixed celebration of summer, the end of a hectic rowing season for my husband, and our upcoming anniversary. Given the last cause, the wine dinner theme of Italy was appropriate as it’s where we honeymooned and enjoyed many a memorable meal. 

Not only was the meal fantastic, but sitting at the small bar they call the Chef’s Table was, as well. We got to share recipes, meals, and favorite restaurants with the quiet but genuine Dave Punch and his assistant. We found we’re all big fans of Franklin Cafe, and got a few new ideas for places we must try soon, including Toro in the South End. Stanislas Hilbert was our waiter and thoughtfully picked all of the wines we enjoyed on this evening. Each of the four was unique and enjoyable, with just a little reservation on the very sweet dessert wine, a 2004 Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. But I’m not a fan of real sweet wines, so that probably explains that. My husband enjoyed it greatly.

Dinner began with a fresh, cool salad of shaved zucchini, crimini and fennel, and ricotta salata. We will no doubt be trying the ricotta salata, a dried and salted ricotta, at home this summer. It’s excellent on salad. The next course was probably my favorite – bucatini alla matriciana. Oh, heaven. Very fresh pasta of Abbruzi (via Formaggio Kitchen) covered in a rich tomato sauce with onions, garlic, evoo, fresh herbs and most important, pancetta, that had simmered for hours. Served with the 2004 Salice Salentino Rivera, it was a perfect coupling. Feeling like I could eat this dish all night long, not to mention my hesitation to move onto the next wine because the Rivera was so complex, rich, and delicious, we did, and rest assured we more than survived the tuscan style steak course. It was amazing – marinated yet not overly flavored with anything besides its natural goodness, it was a fair portion served with a few nice light greens and wonderful oven roasted potatoes that melted in your mouth. Hints of truffle oil and Sabo were on the plate. It was well paired with a 2005 Cannonau Reserva, Sella & Mosca from Sardenia. Almost as good as the Rivera. I will definitely look for both. We finished things off with a caradamom scented arborio rice pudding with pistachio and coconut. Not a big rice pudding fan myself, I still enjoyed dessert especially given the luscious crunchy topping, and shared my portion with my husband, the biggest rice pudding fan I know.

10 Tables, you are small but what’s the saying – good things come in small packages. I look forward to another fantastic Tuesday night regional wine dinner later in the summer.  

Ten Tables 

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srcafe1Tucked away is an understatement. This special restaurant commands you stray from the mainstream and venture to the back roads of northeastern Connecticut. An hour and a quarter from Boston and probably forty-five minutes from Hartford, the scenic drive from I-84 puts you in the mood for what waits in this quaint restored barn in Eastford, CT. A former Connecticut resident myself, I’d never heard of the town, but once off the interstate I recognized the territory as I drove through part of Bigelow Hollow State Park, a swimming and canoeing oasis I have fond memories of from childhood days gone by.

My dining companion who arrived before I was seated on the sunny side porch with a book the owners wrote about the restaurants of St. Bart’s. It was a glorious spring day, the kind that restores hope after a long cold New England winter.

Once inside, the old converted barn shined with warm spring sunlight on rustic old beams and clean white walls amidst a simple and rustic, yet elegant interior.  The menu looked fresh, robust with just enough choices, and customized for the latest local harvest.

I’d hoped to begin with the Blue Hill Mussels, but sadly they were sold out this Sunday brunch. So instead, I was satiated by a hearty serving of the North Ashford Farm Salad – healthy, fresh, and light with baby greens, toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved fennel and goat cheese feta, which I am slowing learning to enjoy (goat cheese, that is). My companion enjoyed an even more tasty Farm Beat salad, which was gorgeously plated and shined with earthy red and golden beats and a mellow local goat cheese.

Next, I moved onto the Kobe Beef Carpaccio. Wow. These ‘dumplings’ were packed with a beefy, bacony flavor and had a melt in your mouth texture, complimented by baby arugula and Parmesan shavings. My guest enjoyed the Tasting of Scallops – scallops with a scallop jus and another with a hazelnut crust. I preferred the former, which were perfectly cooked with most complimentary jus, however both were worthy of ordering again.

We wrapped up brunch with a fun experiment in chocolate that included homemade chocolates (the caramel with sea salt was the best I’ve ever had – I wanted to take a box home), a simple but rich mouse, and brownie-like bites of cake. It was the perfect ending to a special brunch, all of which overlooked a serene rural setting that my city soul savored. Still River is a winner in my book, and even with the distance,  I’ll be back. 

Still River Cafe Website

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