Friday, March 30, 2007

Adventures in Alba

A quick hit on another stellar dining experience last night. w and I went to one of our favorite Italian feeding spots with our friends J&K, that always satisfying spot being Alba Osteria and Enoteca here in PDX. There are certain places you eat at where you can feel the love and passion for what is being prepared. You just now that the chef back in the kitchen really cares, and is not just sharing his food, but sharing an important piece of who he/she is. I always get that feeling at Alba, and once again owner/chef Kurt Spack's Piedmontese-inspired creations didn't disappoint. Kurt has a serious Alba jones going, and I always look forward to his current edible inspirations. We started with an ever appropriate bottle of Prosecco, which always sets the mood. We moved into two different antipasti, Jerusalem artichokes baked in bagna cauda and fried Willapa Bay oysters with a fresh celery root salad. Both did exactly what they should, which is whet our appetites for what is to come.
After ordering a bottle of 2005 Bruna Grimaldi Barbera d'Alba "Scassa", which is always a killer food wine, next up were two primi for sharing. I can't go to Alba without having Kurt's ethereal house-made fresh Tajarin pasta, and tonight it was served with a pork/beef ragu that was a savory compliment to the delicate tajarin. Molto bene! We also had his pillowy ricotta gnocchi that were wrapped in a silky pillowcase of leeks and cream that were light with a spot on texture.

To get ready for our entrées, we had the Alba wine guy Jeff pop the cork on a bottle of 2003 Paitin Nebbiolo "Ca Veja", which is Barbaresco level red for about half the price. In order, this is came rolling out of the kitchen:
Me- Pan roasted sweetbreads and grilled duck liver with a mustard sauce. good. As always the kitchen cooked their sweetbreads to a tender perfection. And the grilled duck liver was actually rather mild, which was very appreciated, and grilled to a just done texture with a nice char.
w- The special fresh fish, tonight a whole trout stuffed with mushrooms. Very good, maybe a smidge overdone, but nicely flavored.
J- A spectacular brine cured pork chop that was off the charts, and I'm sure any pig would gladly give up his leg if he knew it was going to treated with such respect.
K- She picked the roasted lamb loin chops with a lamb and olive crepinette. It came out perfectly medium-rare, and was a very generously sized portion. Wonderful stuff.

Since we'd come this far, it would have like surrendering to not have dessert. Luckily J&K have that same "don't quit 'til the job is done" attitude and were very willing to share a couple. One, a sensually soft panna cotta that almost melted away when it hit your tongue, and my favorite, a stunning lemon and honey tart. Jeff was very kind to comp us a bottle of Moscato d'Asti, and though not really needed at that point, was most appreciated and indulged in. This was a night of Piedmontese soul food and kudos to Kurt and staff for sharing the passion!

Final note: Alba is also a place where you know no matter what wine you order, and this is a really well chosen list of Piedmont reds and whites, you can be sure you are getting a great deal. Very reasonable markups that I can only wish other restaurants could take a clue from.

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