Ululations in the night, Fiola review

I feel worse than a pile of cat puke this morning, y'all. Mom, T and I indulged in a marvelous dinner at Fiola last night and returned home happy, sated and ready for a good night's sleep. Such was not to be for T and me as Jack kept us up ALL night, ululating continuously from his bed. I mean ALL.NIGHT long. Hours after hours of this horrid widow's cry. Half the time we couldn't rouse him but the rest of the time was even more frustrating because trying to talk sense into a lunatic seven year old in the middle of the night is not a satisfying experience.

You see, this past Tuesday when J had the four cavities on the right side of his mouth filled (thank you, subprime tooth anatomy), the dentist urged him to avoid nibbling on his numb cheek at all cost. Unfortunately, J nibbled and so now has a large wound just inside his mouth. I don't doubt that the bugger really hurts and crimps his style, but you know what doesn't help? Dramatically screeching two nights in a row such that neither he nor we get any sleep. He looks like the wrath of god this morning, eyes spinning wildly and ringed by deep, dark bags of fatigue, hair mussed in an odd way. And while I might look slightly better than that, I feel infinitely worse.

It is gray as get-out outside today, and I feel that overall, this Saturday will lag.

Fiola, on the other hand, was lovely. The service there is Danny Meyer-terrific; Artur, our waiter, was such a doll, and all support staff was equally well trained, striking the perfect balance between attentive and absent. There was zero pretension, complete knowledge, good advice and a little bit extra in every way.

Mom started with an Old Fashioned, T an IPA and for moi, an Arneis from the Roero DOCG in Italy's Piedmont. I'm a big fan of Arneis, a varietal that often reminds me of a minerally yet round Chardonnay. It pairs wonderfully with a number of dishes; last night I had it in mind for the appetizer I wanted: the burrata di bufala with sardine escabeche, puntarelle, basil pesto and an airy bread tuile. As it turned out, I finished the wine before the dish arrived, but both were independently spectacular so it mattered not.


We shared the burrata so that we could also share the lobster ravioli. This was no "hint of lobster" ravioli. No, it was in your face, giant chunks of tender lobster in every bite and everywhere you looked. Of the gods.


In the meantime, I ordered a marvelous '08 Montepulciano from Le Marche, the region of Italy from which Fiola's chef hails. I simply cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this wine, the Umani Ronchi Cumaro. Meraviglioso!

Mom and I each ordered the wild cod with salsify, black trumpet mushrooms, truffle, cipollini agrodolce and a bit of port; Tom chose the Le Marche-style lasagna which was about 8 types of meat plus sweetbreads mixed and stuffed delicately between rounds of papery pasta. He said it was excellent, Mom loved her cod, I liked but didn't love mine; it was a tad rich.

As is too often the case, sadly, dessert underwhelmed. Mom ordered the vanilla panna cotta with mandarins and honeycomb candy, and Artur brought us the chocolate mousse with cassis gelato as a treat. I didn't like either. The honeycomb candy tasted like stale bread crumbs, and why the panna cotta appeared to have been stirred is beyond me. When I order panna cotta, or flan for that matter, I expect and want a compact yet airy puck of creaminess. I want to be able to scoop generous spoonfuls from the sweet hill, unencumbered by rogue fruit or dissonant toppings; those things should sit off to the side so that options they are and remain. Last night, I had to work to avoid all the extras and finally just laid my spoon to rest.

The chocolate dish lacked complexity and interest; chocolate mousse easily falls into this trap. It's got to have an underpinning of flavor that gives me something in each bite that is not just chocolate fluff. I want a contrast: dark chocolate with milk for example, or a nutty component that makes each taste captivating. This dessert bored my tongue, numbed it, and so again, I let my companions finish things off.

The shining star for me was the glass of Maculan Torcolato we shared, a dessert wine with a delightful viscosity, a sweetness that is not cloying and just enough acidity and fruit to make your mouth feel like dancing.

All in all, a delight!