This dish at One/Fifth Romance Languages has heart. (Photo by Julie Soefer.)
Here’s your culinary assignment for the week: Make a reservation at three restaurants — One/Fifth Romance Languages, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, and Tony’s — take your seat and relax, ask for the wine list, and order a glass or bottle (more on that later). Next, spend a few minutes enjoying your wine and conversing with your dining partner(s). Don’t be in a hurry to ask for the menu. Instead, take in the scene, appreciate the wine, put yourself in a calm but expectant state, and simply be in the moment.
This is an easy and pleasurable assignment, one requiring no study time. And I’m making it even easier for you, because each of these restaurants is serving a dish you are going to order, items ideally suited for the advent of cooler weather in Houston. They’re rich, they’re slightly decadent, and they taste like a million dollars.
Let’s begin with a steak, one you’ll have to ask for, because it’s not always on the menu (call ahead to be sure): It’s a 32-ounce double bone-in prime ribeye, and you’ll eat it at Del Frisco’s. I sampled it recently, and, at medium-rare, it was hearty and royal. They’ll slice it for you tableside, which will add to your sensual experience, and I recommend sharing this piece of meat.
Ask for it to be sliced thinly, sprinkle on a bit of the Himalayan pink salt that’ll be at the table, and put a piece of the ribeye in your mouth. Don’t chew; instead, savor the flavors on your tongue. The cut, which is sold for $125, possesses a wonderful funkiness, courtesy of the 45 days of aging (dry). Once the flavors wow you, settle in for a fine interlude. You can decide the other dishes you’ll have with this steak, but I’m going to urge you to pair a 2014 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with it.
Pasta is next, and this one is not for everyone, I imagine. But it should be, because duck heart bolognese is a good thing. And besides, this is an assignment, so if you want a passing mark you cannot skip this dish. Have you ever had casarecce? If not, there’s a bonus here, because that’s the pasta in this dish, served at One/Fifth Romance Languages, Chris Shepherd’s love letter to Spain, France, and Italy.
Casarecce gets its name from the Italian word “casereccio,” which means “homemade.” The pasta is loosely formed, and is similar to strozzapreti. What’s great about it is the way it marries with a sauce, the manner in which a sauce clings to its surfaces. In the duck heart bolognese at Romance Languages, that clinging is a marvelous thing, because the depth of flavors in the dish is profound.
You’ll experience a touch of tomato, duck hearts that have been ground and cooked down in the traditional method, plus some lemon zest and whipped ricotta. If you are averse to offal, that’s understood, but I am willing to bet that a taste of this dish — which will cost you $14 — will appeal, and might even open your horizons to further offal exploration.
On the evening I ordered it, the pasta was perfectly al dente and the ricotta oh so smooth and delicate. My only thought while eating it was: I want more pungency, more gaminess. But that’s just me, so put aside your fears and have some heart. And a glass of 2005 Muriel Tempranillo “Gran Reserva”.
Finally, we come to foie gras, the last equation on your test. It’s a torchon creation on the tasting menu at Tony’s, and it is an appropriate closer, because it embodies an admirable balance of savory and sweet. (If you are unfamiliar with the term “torchon,” gives this a read.) This whimsical dish sits pretty on a plate, like something Alice would encounter in Wonderland. There are crisps made with duck fat (savory), Fuji apple (semi-sweet), hazelnut, and, of course, the smooth, luscious, comforting foie gras. Austin Waiter, chef de cuisine at Tony’s, has a winner here.
When you begin this portion of your assignment, use your fork to gently break into the crisp, then put some of the foie and hazelnut on your fork as well. As with the steak, let this mixture linger on your palate. Sip your 2008 Chateau Rieussec, close your eyes, and … your evening is made. Seriously, this dish is satisfying in all ways. It’s slightly decadent, it’s comforting, it’s fancy. It makes you feel good, which is what food should do. It’s $19, and worth every cent.
That’s it for the week. Have fun with your assignments, and I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Want more food and wine? Check out these stories:
Clam Chowder For You
A Frittata for Emma
A Soup for a Doubter
The Breakfast (or Brunch) Wonder Dish
Vitello Tonnato Done Right
Wine in a Can
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
A Value Rioja
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek