Sunday, August 28, 2011

Birthday Dinner at Lidia's; Watching Irene

Lidia's was the luscious locale for the Friday night birthday dinner. As referenced in my last post, my thoughts have been heavy with concern over loved ones and Friday itself brought some more sobering news, but we were determined to continue on in celebration and not sit home crying in our milk. The approach of monster storm Irene was also on our minds as I had been watching coverage a fair part of the day as the hurricane took its historic path up the coast towards NYC. Today, we watch as it moves into Massachusetts and breathe a small sigh of relief that Irene was not the catastrophe it was predicted to be.

As I get older, I find having a birthday during hurricane season to be an ongoing and powerful distraction. Distracted fashion would indeed be the way I'd check out hurricane coverage during younger birthdays as hurricanes didn't seem as prevalent during my childhood. I remember later being concerned for friends and in particular, for one or both sisters when they lived on the coast in Florida or North Carolina during hurricane season. Hurricane Andrew gave us some tense moments of being concerned for some relatives. My first real hurricane experience came days after moving to Jekyll Island, Georgia with Keith in 1999 to take resort jobs. In fact, it was my birthday and all managers were called to an emergency hurricane meeting in our friend and general manager Patrick's office. After a brief but intense discussion on preparedness that barely elicited a yawn from local residents but had my hair standing on end, a cake was brought in and a birthday was sung in my honor. I put on my best fake smile, thanked everyone and upon leaving the meeting; promptly proceeded to begin a session of orderly blind panic. Dennis passed by without incident but then badass Hurricane Floyd bore down and we AND the locals would find ourselves shocked to have this serene little section of the Golden Isles under mandatory evacuation. Suddenly, I'm in my new friend Annette's cramped car with her two Cocker Spaniels crawling through endless evacuation traffic towards a Holiday Inn in Macon; worried about Keith who stayed behind to help close the resort. We had lived on Jekyll Island for two weeks.

Years later, we would be packing to leave Santa Fe, New Mexico after a truly magical little birthday the prior day and watched the flickering TV detail the approach of Hurricane Katrina towards New Orleans. Little did we know how devastating that would become a day later. As this year's birthday celebrations got underway, Irene was always being watched at least out of the corner of our eyes. Thankfully again, Irene wasn't as bad as feared.

Lidia's, though, was every bit as scrumptious as anticipated. Famed TV chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich opened this Kansas City restaurant in the Freight House District near Union Station. Lidia's is a favorite of ours and one of my favorite aspects is the restaurant's design. Designed by famed NYC restaurant architect David Rockwell; the interior manages to be stunningly sleek but far from impersonal. In fact, even with the eye-catching flourishes such as the wine wall and the gorgeous overhead lighting fixtures, Lidia's manages to feel like a cozy farmhouse. Fresh baked bread and two house spreads lured us in to begin...fresh basil in one and the other consisting of a silky mixture of cannellini beans and black olives. Next came a tasty Caesar salad with savory croutons and a glass of Lidia's son (and MasterChef judge) Joe's signature Sangiovese. We have yet to venture from Lidia's Pasta Tasting Trio for our entree; a daily tasting of three fresh made, seasonal pastas. In this case, the Trio featured was a fettuccine sauteed in olive oil and fresh market veggies, fusilli pasta with a hearty house-made Bolognese sauce and the clear winner for both of us, a corn and leek filled homemade ravioli topped with a pancetta and shallot cream sauce. These little pillows of flavor had us sighing in bliss. We still managed two sample two desserts: a Torta Di Limone, lemon cake with blueberry jam, cardamom streusel, and buttermilk ice cream and a Budello alla Nutella; featuring chocolate and Nutella custard, caramel bananas and a crispy chocolate hazelnut crunch.

It was a lovely evening, serene and delicious at the same time.


The Everyday Foodie said...

That sounds amazing.

Confounded Cook said...

Kara, scratch the pancetta and your vegetarian soul would've loved that ravioli....and everything else.

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