Monday, August 10, 2009

Low On the Hog Is High On the Hog

Andy and I love eating at Palate, because we never know exactly what will transpire, what we'll get to sample and who we'll be privileged to spend a pleasant evening with. This past week's dinner party brought together people from an array of backgrounds with a common thread--we all love good food, good wine and good conversation. And we had plenty of all the above.

We sampled an array of sublime French cheeses and wines--essentially, whatever Todd set in front of us disappeared down our happy, grateful gullets--followed by a succession of small plates from the CUI category, that is, Cooking Under the Influence of Cheese. We had ricotta gnocchi, scallops with fennel and a rich croque monsieur with a layer of "salumi butter" inside. Each of these three dishes was nestled under a blanket of delicate summer truffles shaved so thinly they had only one side. It's a good thing we were all sitting down--we were swooning and giggling like preteens at a concert.

Just when we were beginning to feel that life couldn't get any better, what should show up on our table but a juicy, succulent, flavorful pork belly, overlaid with a golden, crisped skin. You'd think that with Los Angeles' international population and its cultural and culinary diversity, this type of meal would be fairly easy to have. But until Palate came along, pork belly was nigh impossible to find here. Accompanying it was a generous dish of succotash of beans, potatoes, zucchini and corn freshly snipped from the cob, flavored with the internal organs of the very pig who's belly we stuffed into our own. It was inspired and inspiring, both soul food and soulful food.

Of the seven of us at the table there was overlap of acquaintance, but no one person knew everyone else when we all arrived. Sharing that amazing meal was a great ice breaker. It gave us something more significant to talk about than the weather, safer to discuss than politics and more fun to ponder than the latest celebrity shenanigans. The owner stopped by our table to chat, and throughout the evening so did the executive chef, the wine merchant and the cheese guy--completing the circle of those who planned the feast, those who prepared it and those who enjoyed it. We talked until well after the food and wine were gone, lingering until we realized that it was a weeknight and we all really did have to go home.

This is a typical Palate experience: Often the unexpected lands on your table, and you never know who will drop by to chat. No matter how often we go there, we're always surprised by something--and always in a good way.
We look happy, eh? Don't worry--we shared!

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