Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night III
Last week was chock full of eating in restaurants. In North Carolina; in Ivrea, Italy; and since returning home, in Cambridge. Here's the recent culinary roundup:

Friday: Southern Lights Bistro
Reminding me of meat and three's in Tennessee, this unpretentious, unassuming eatery will be missed by most Greensboro, N.C.., passers by. Outside, the building is quite plain, and signage is scant. Inside, the food prepared by chef John Drees is as artistic as the paintings lining the walls. The decor is stylish yet comfortable, and the food was quite good. I started off with a chicken quesadilla -- wolfed that puppy down in no time flat, I was so hungry -- and ended up with a salmon dish complete with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Topped off with a New River Brewing Co. (Blacksburg, West Virginia) pale ale, as well as some quality conversation with local CoF members, it was quite a meal.

Saturday: Green Valley Grill
After Martha and I spent most of the day stomping around the greater Greensboro area, visiting a Revolutionary War battleground, the site of the first civil rights movement sit in, the local museum, the defunct railroad station, and other hotspots, we retired to this more-than-a-hotel restaurant at the O. Henry. The hotel's not supposed to be all that, but the restaurant was quite nice. I forget what I ordered, but I remember the interior decor -- reminiscent of old boys' club steakhouses with an open-air feel to it -- the sweet iced tea, and the rosemary fries. Well worth checking out if you're in the area. If it's good enough for Orson Scott Card, it's good enough for me.

Monday: Hotel Sirio Ristoranta
Onward to Italy. Slightly outside Ivrea and up a ways into the foothills of the Alps (I guess), rests Hotel Sirio. I was joined by several faculty, staff, and friends of the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea for a fixed-course meal of traditional northern Italy -- and mountain region -- cuisine. The meat dumplings and breadsticks made the biggest impression on me, and heck if I can remember what else we ate. Nevertheless, it was good. Of that I am sure.

Tuesday: Bodega
I think that's what this restaurant in Ivrea is called. It's just on the other side of one of the bridges crossing the river as it winds lazily around the center city, and it's a bit upscale but wonderful. Because this was a celebration dinner of sorts for faculty, staff, students, and friends of the institute after the first day of the Business Week conference -- and the new school term -- the wine flowed pretty quickly and thickly. And the wine in Italy is amazing. I ordered a fish dish and was surprised and slightly dismayed that the fish was served complete with bones, scales, and head. After being a vegetarian for 10 years (I lapsed at the end of 2001.) I wasn't sure I could eat the thing, but a friend coached and coaxed me through it. I ate half.

Wednesday: Morbelli
Another wonderful Ivrean restaurant, this is located within walking distance of the new apartment of institute director Gillian Crampton Smith. An old wine storage facility, the interior is full of stone walls and doored cask storage spaces, and the restaurant blends exquisite food and an intimate setting with an informal atmosphere -- several children ran around the restaurant while we ate, and the music piped in by the staff ranged from electronica and dance music to a string of easier-listening oldies. True to form, I forget what I ordered and ate, but Gillian and her husband coached me through the menu, and the food was quite good, as was the light red (but not local) wine we selected. Doubling as a wine shop, this might very well be the place for local wine enthusiasts. They had quite a stock on hand.

Thursday: Brasserie Flo
I've already commented on my free meal at this restaurant at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, so I won't say anything more here. OK, I will: It was less than a positive experience. Word is that there's another Flo in the city, and my guess is that it's much better than its airport counterpart.

Saturday: Christopher's
Back home in the Boston area, I was thrilled silly that Alex and I met for dinner at one of my longtime favorite local eateries. Christopher's is a wonderful place. Between the wide range of beers on tap, the excellent new American-meets-vegetarian menu, and the convenient location near several Cambridge-side music venues (Toad, the Lizard Lounge), it's a great restaurant. I sampled the spinach and sesame burrito and was surprised that it was, probably to be expected, a burrito chock full of spinach and sesame seeds. Mmm. It was seasoned and spiced well, and while I'll probably not order it again in order to sample something else on the menu, it's worth trying. Mmm.

Sunday: Sound Bites
Still at home, this is a cozy, crowded, neighborhood brunch joint located on Ball Square in Somerville. The proprietors and staff have the seating and ordering process down cold, so even if there's a line outside, it moves quickly. Coffee and juice is self-serve, and the daily specials ably augment the standing menu. Alex and I went south of the border with our orders, with me ordering the Mexican omelette, which was stuffed with salsa, cheese, and other goodies. I know it's a small, simple thing, but the toast is among the best I've ever had. Perfectly toasted. Unbuttered. Tasty.

Monday: Anna's Taqueria
Now we're caught up to date. Alex and I grabbed a quick bite at this Porter Square taqueria before heading to 608 for the Boston Bloggers Gathering last night. She had a chicken burrito. I had a chicken quesadilla. Cheap eats, but good. It's good to be back in Boston!

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