It seems the worst sort of teasing to write about a meal that was available all through September at Splendido, knowing that particular ship will have sailed by the time you read about it. The dinner was a collaborative effort between the restaurant and Stem Wine Group, a wine agency specializing (though not exclusively) in the wines of Italy. Splendido’s sommelier, Carlo Catallo, chose six beauties from Stem’s portfolio then David Lee created a menu to flatter them. It’s something he does extraordinarily well, and the evening was gastronomic nirvana. If I had to pick one of the six courses (weeping and at gunpoint) it would be a rustic little casserole of rabbit soffritto spiked with Tuscan salami and served over orecchiette pasta—pungent, hearty but at the same time quietly elegant in its balance and textural integrity. The wine was a 2001 Brunello from Collemattoni, and it worked brilliantly. It had to because the wine from the previous course was simply terrific—Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Marina Cvetic,” 2004—maybe the ultimate example of what the often humble M d’A grape can do when coaxed and encouraged.
I’m sure we all remember Yasser Qahawish, who until quite recently was the talented young chef at Osgoode Hall. He and his wife, Allison Mitchell, have now weighed anchor and tacked away to Guelph where they have opened their own place, Artisanale Café & Bistro. Yasser numbers Alice Waters, Michael Stadtländer and Jamie Kennedy among his major influences and plans tightly cooperative gastronomical liaisons with the righteous farmers in his new neck of the woods. I love his food. Check it out here: www.artisanale.ca.
Meanwhile, people who like to be first in line are calling Treadwell’s, in beautiful downtown Port Dalhousie, where the roiling waters of Erie evolve into Ontario, to book their places for the special Cumbrae Farms evening on November 10. Owner-chef Stephen Treadwell will be creating a special, one-night-only menu showcasing the gorgeous local meats from one of his top suppliers. I have no doubt that his son, James Treadwell, the restaurant’s sommelier, will do his duty by such treats.
A question arises. The time has finally come when I have saved up enough dosh to order a new model ship kit (a bundle of wood and thread and some die-cast details), but which model should I order? I am sorely tempted by Victory Models’s kit of HMS Fly, a Swan-class rigged sloop of Nelson’s era, and by all accounts one of the best kits now available. But perhaps I should go for the much more elaborate Wasa from the glory days of Sweden’s victories in the 30 Years War, 167 years earlier. I should add that it takes me two to three years (standing in my inadequately lit kitchen, the monkey mind occupied by rigging knots and hull-planking issues, the rest of the brain listening to talk radio) to complete these models, so this is a genuine commitment. I have made a British frigate before, so the Fly would be more a quest for perfection than an attempt at a new challenge. Building the Wasa would be like trying to grasp the street dialect of a shipwright from Mars (probably some kind of Barese espresso-speak), and totally different from anything yet attempted. So it becomes an aesthetic dilemma: classicism versus romanticism; the quest for perfect form versus reaching after the unknown. My fellow nerds cluster round, encouraging one direction or another. Perhaps I should astound them all by ordering both kits (!!) and dropping dead before I finish either.