If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jen and Friends@Emporio

On Thursday night I went to Emporio with my good friend Jen and a chain-link assortment of other acquaintances. On Wednesday night, Emporio opened its doors for the first time.

Jen had suggested the place because it its liquor-license-pending embryonic stage, we thought we could BYOW. Turns out that was false advertisement. No matter, like I've ever let the lack of alcohol get in the way of my ability to taste food. This was a special challenge. Newly opened! No reviews to dissect yet! Who knows what Frank Bruni thinks!

Good thing Jen casually mentioned to chef/owner Riccardo Buitoni (also of Aurora) that I was a "food writer" within two minutes of being seated. I kind of stammered "well...actually...food blogger," but he had already pulled up a chair and started telling me that he uses all parts of the farm-raised pigs on his menu.

I asked what was good. He said everything. He's opening in the dead of recession and he wants to sell, but that's just frustrating. I can't order everything, so tell me SOMETHING.

Eventually, he gave us some ideas, and we followed them. The appetizers:


Grilled lamb spiedini, ceci beans, rosemary.


Wood fired octopus, risina beans, preserved lemon.


Home made testa (headcheese).

I don't know if the lamb was good, because I didn't get to try it, but I know we were all surprised by how small the skewers were. The octopus was deliciously savory and smoky, but again, there was very little of it. I'd forgotten it came with preserved lemon until I found a piece under all the beans - an afterthought. The testa was good when combined with the pickled onion, but I found myself wishing for more spice. I also had to order it twice - it didn't come with the other appetizers so I got it as kind of an awkward halfway course between appetizer and entree. The one other appetizer I ordered, fava beans, mint, and pea shoots with pecorino, was also bland. The greens needed a unifier; the cheese couldn't accomplish the task alone. Maybe if there had been more mint, the dish would've had more tang. As it was, I forgot there was supposed to be mint at all until I reread the menu just now.

My favorite thing all night was probably this:


Grilled (or fried?) polenta with some kind of creamy, spicy, spread.

It was a dish sent over on the house due to my food writerly status. I genuinely felt bad about this until I tasted it. Completely addictive. Will be an awesome bar snack once the bar gets going.


My entrée, the frascati braised local rabbit.

The rabbit was dry; I wanted to drown it in the delicate frascati sauce but there wasn't enough of it. My favorite parts of this dish were the rabbit liver pâté and the salty bed of greens, both of which gave my palate the flavor it had been craving all night. But still, a spread and a side of greens should not outshine the literal meat of the dish!



The other entrée I tasted was the 32oz porterhouse these two shared. It was a great steak, made more impressive by the fact that the kitchen had actually managed to accommodate their odd, uncompromising request for half-medium, half-medium rare. But I know the boys weren't full after eating it (32 ounces apparently goes by fast).

Basically, there are some kinks here, which is reasonable considering they'd only opened the night before. It was all just a bit anemic for my taste. But then, cautiously seasoned small portions shouldn't really suit anyone's taste. I hope Mr Buitoni - who was very kind - realizes it before the real food writers come along.

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