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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Return to Ithaca

LAST Tuesday, on the eve of our twelve year anniversary, I made the trip north to Ithaca on the 8 a.m. Short Line Bus. It'd been a while since I'd been to Ithaca for anything resembling an 'extended stay' and I was very much looking forward to the journey!

Ahead of my departure, I'd barely the time to pick up champagne for the celebration. Being in midtown the previous day, I'd stopped at 67 Wine to select a couple of choice bottles of wine. Noticing Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois (entirely vinified in oak) on an upper shelf, I'd known then and there that that would be the first bottle we'd enjoy at our anniversary dinner; having tasted it a year before, it's barrel-aged taste proved itself one that's not quickly forgotten. 

I had already known that David and I would be dining at Moosewood (winner of multiple James Beard Awards for their several cookbooks) for our anniversary fête--we were given a gift certificate for the restaurant years prior and still had yet to use it. Briefly reading up on Moosewood's history, I was more than looking forward to our visit!

Moosewood's tomato garlic soup
with croutons and cheese

Taking a downtown-bound bus from the foot of the Cornell campus (on/off the Cornell campus, it pays to have friends with cars) David and I were deposited a short distance from the restaurant, located within the "historic" (a renovated brick school building) Dewitt Mall. Being thirty minutes ahead of its 8:30 p.m. closing time, I was worried that we'd--possibly--be the only diners on a crisp-cold Tuesday night. But passing through the receiving area (complete with a Moosewood gift shop) into the dining room, it seemed to be the place for people "in the know." It was an Ithacans' night out.

With Moosewood's menu offering a smorgasbord of options, I (mostly) let David do the ordering. Still a bit bone-chilled, I'd thought the soup du jour sounded like a good start; I chose the tomato garlic while David opted for the cream of asparagus. My "cup" portion of tomato soup looked stunning; and tasting it, I could hardly believe I was impressed further. Simply put: it was the best tomato soup I'd ever had. As a mid course, David and I decided on the Mediterranean salad with mixed greens, marinated artichoke hearts and chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, red onion and olives (and for 50¢ more, crumbled feta).

Mediterranean salad
What can I say about the salad other than that it was stellar. Everything tasted so "fresh from the garden," especially the artichoke hearts; and for the first time, I didn't have a struggle within my mouth to get all the olive meat cleanly off the pit.

For our entrée, David and I shared, from the menu, the salmon cake(s) with lemon-herb aïoli and cabbage slaw and from the entrée specials, the salmon tart with maple apple glazed acorn squash crescents. Although our third course had arrived before we were through with the mid course, the slight ruffle quickly slipped from my memory upon tasting a portion of the aïoli-draped salmon cake.

So delicate and tender, I'd never had a fish(/crab) cake like this before! Completely un-dry, the fish tasted so fresh that if I'd been told it'd come straight from the fish monger to the fryer, I'd have no reason to believe otherwise! And with the salmon tart, the case was quite similar. Essentially a (generous) slice of quiche, the salmon tart had the same delicate, light quality of the salmon cake, but with a wonderful béchamel-like creaminess to it. And not to be outshone by its counterpart, the glazed squash crescents had a toothsomeness all its own!

Proceeding toward a second bottle of champagne, tucked discretely in my bag (Moosewood has a mere $10 corkage fee): "Normally I wouldn't, but we're celebrating... but I insist you open this bottle in the back and pour a glass for yourself." Our server tactfully opened the bottle behind me... without pouring herself so much as a taste. Complete. Class. We paired the champagne with a duo of Moosewood desserts, of which David and I agreed the upside-down cake was the more unforgettable of the pair.

"B.A. Bitters" at Bar Argos at Argos Inn

The following day, David surprised me with a free evening. Meeting me back at his apartment after an afternoon on campus, we decided on apéritifs at Bar Argos. Even though it was still "cool," I thought it'd be nice to walk to Argos rather than taking the bus (at least while the sun was still out). An easy downhill stride, David didn't protest. 

Even at just barely past its regular 4 o'clock opening, all of Bar Argos' adjoining rooms were nearly standing room only (the live jazz ensemble didn't help in the matter). Nonetheless, after a brief powwow with a few of David's colleagues who'd happened to be there, we managed to claim a couple of bar stools. Recalling a keen interest in Bar Argos' housemade bitters on my last visit in November, I'd wanted to try one of their specialty champagne cocktails. Sounding completely exotic (to me), I'd placed an order for a mushroom champagne cocktail!

"The bitter the better" is an old saying of mine

Even though I couldn't taste any mushroom, the cocktail did make me feel fancy. And I couldn't wait to tell all my "city friends" that I'd spent the week drinking mushroom champagne cocktails in Ithaca! Following my un-mushroom-y glassful, I decided to stick with bubbles and selected the "Purple Rain" with Plymouth gin, liqueur de violettes, lemon, prosecco and violet sugar. While I'd wished the Purple Rain (which looked more pink to me than it did purple) was more violet-hued... its taste pleased me perfectly.

I could easily drink six of these

Post-Argos, Maxie's Supper Club (which David had introduced me to on a previous visit) seemed like a good idea. A dozen oysters, several plates and a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte later, it proved itself a sweet end for our two-day celebration. We didn't even need dessert. 

The "Eat" Goes On...
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