I'm writing from my couch because I'm stiff as a board and utterly exhausted today; as such I'm fully prostrate and gratefully so. All for good reasons and in good ways, but daaammmnn! I love this couch; it's leather, old now (one of the first purchases T and I made before moving into our first real home), the perfect combo of firm-squishy. It has all manner of child-based crumb in its crevices, the pets have left their own marks too. Presently, I'm cozy under a soft, bamboo blanket that is the perfect shade of blue; Percy's head is resting on my thigh, and he's snoring contentedly; my left triceps caught on the pillow on my way down so is kinda hung up there but I'm too tired to deal with it; T made me a coffee; my hair is crying out for a washing but maybe later.
Yesterday's market was a good one. Not the most hoppin' of years passed, but I was beyond flattered by the number of folks who came to find my table. Many were repeat customers from last year, some are devoted blog readers who I'd never been lucky enough to meet in person until yesterday, some were friends I don't see nearly enough in regular life, one was a high school friend I've not seen since graduation, two were new clients who -until yesterday- I'd only spoken to via phone and email. What joys, all of these moments and meetings.
I was also situated across from Liz Chabra of Ms Curry; she's a yoga instructor, ayurvedic chef, and an UTTER delight. She and her sous chef, a wonderful man whose name I'm sadly blanking on right now, couldn't have been more fun to hang out with. I bought a jar of Liz's wonderful Tamarind Chutney, they consumed great quantities of my red beans and rice. Our proximity to each other was one of the most fortuitous parts of yesterday, and I hope to see them again.
Most of the collard handpies were bought, a single slice of plum tart left (just what I was hoping because I really wanted it), half my jam stash cleared out and so forth and so on. Dear T helped me pack everything up, and after we got home, put what needed to go in the fridge there as quickly as possible, and rested a tad, we took ourselves out for an early dinner at Ghibellina.
Oh.my.dio. Though I've never been disappointed in Ghib, last night's meal was my best ever. It was perfection in every bite. I felt blissed out the whole time; a happy drug equal parts food, drink and ambiance. My favorite spot, at the horn of the U-bar, were taken so we sat down at a real table (imagine that, coming from us!), a cozy two-top nestled in a romantic alcove. I love banquettes so immediately took that seat; also, that allowed me to look out over the seemingly endless bar and the laughing cadre of patrons packing it to the brim.
It was possible the waitress was surprised by the speed with which I ordered a glass of the Feudi Fiano d'Avellino but hey, it'd been a day. I love fiano, an Italian white wine grape that yields, in its well-done iterations, an enchantingly crisp, just-round-enough vino. It's refreshing and interesting but never detracts from what you're eating*.
To start, we ordered plates of patate lesse and fagiole umido. Both were simple Italian food at its best; the kind of dishes you taste, reel in the confluence of flavor, freshness and perfectly-cooked'ness, and sadly suspect you could never recreate at home despite the fact that each utilizes oh, maybe 5 ingredients.
The patate was, in essence, a plate of perfectly steamed rounds of perfectly white potatoes drizzled in best-quality olive oil (I think Ghib uses one from Frantoia), sprinkled with Maldon salt, and served alongside an Italian salsa verde. Chervil, capers, parsley, other green herbs, lemon and egg. I loved, loved this dish and could bathe in the salsa verde, so delightful did I find it. (Please excuse my photos from last night; I had absolutely no interest in trying to take great ones; just wanted to capture and then eat!)
The fagiole umido was equally wonderful. You just don't understand how Italians coax such flavor and perfection from humble beans, in this case green and wax beans. The beans are definitely cooked -read: not al dente- but are NEVER mushy or soggy. Last night, the beans were enrobed in a glorious tomato-marjoram sauce that not only perfectly attended to them but also made a great dipping sauce for the pizza crusts we were soon to have.
Having not eaten much since breakfast, I wasn't shy about ordering both pasta and pizza for dinner. In a perfectly timed dance, they waltzed to our table just as we we'd almost laid complete waste to our primis. I'd spied the gnocchetti con pesto di cavolo immediately upon glancing at my menu and knew it had to be mine. Lighter-than-air pillows of baby gnocchi (hence gnocchetti versus gnocchi) tossed with the smoothest of kale-walnuts pestos, drizzled with gooey Taleggio (a marvelous soft'ish Italian cheese that melts beautifully) and topped with honeyed walnuts. It was divine. Really divine.
I let T choose the pizza, and he wisely opted for the Olive e Carciofi pie (olives and artichokes). If you served a good artichoke atop a slug, T would consider eating it, so strenuously does he love the unassuming thistles. And if Italians make a star of any vegetable (well, truth be told they make stars of ALL vegetables but I'm making a point here), it's the artichoke. Good god on Italian carciofi.
But I digress. Topped with nostraliana olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, garlic, peperoncino, I admit that I was slightly concerned that this pie would have too much going on, that it would lack focus. Happily, I was dead wrong, and in fact, this is possibly my favorite of Ghibellina's pizzas. The olives provide salt, the artichokes heft, the tomatoes just that extra flair, the smoked mozz a unifying earthiness, and the basil- amen!
We managed to devour all but one slice of pizza, had a truly fabulous time, and really, I can't urge you strongly enough to go to Ghibellina ASAP if you've not already. If I lived in the Logan Circle/Dupont area, I'd be a regular fixture there. I'll do my best anyway!
*Have you ever had a vin jaune, for example? Translating as "yellow wine," it's a French vin from the Jura region, and has a decidedly unique taste. Sort of dry sherry meets white wine in flavor, it's very yellow, matured under a film of yeast, and if you're indulging in vin jaune (usually, these are on the pricey end), it's more a main event rather than a supporting actor.