More on Da Flora
- Melanie Wong
Last weekend I had a chance to return to Da Flora (701 Columbus Ave., SF, 415.981.4664), the first since our Chowhound dinner there in April (link below). My companions this visit were two dear friends from Toronto. They'd asked me to choose an undiscovered cozy place for an intimate but not too expensive dinner. Sounded like Da Flora to a T to me.
For apps, to my delight, they chose the three winners from our first outing - shaved bottarga on toast with marinated cucumbers/fennel, sweet potato gnocchi in prosciutto cream sauce, and polpi in lemony olive oil dressing that was so delicious to mop up with the light and airy foccacia bread. We shared these and two mains - orrechetti with rabe and osso bucco risotto.
Both were fine renditions with the pasta just nosing out the risotto, imho. The rabe was chopped which made it easier to eat with the ear-shaped pasta and sauteed with plenty of minced garlic. The crushed pepperoncini accent is what made this dish. So gentle in flavor, more of a sensation of a warm buzz in the mouth, rather than a taste. Surprising what a difference the right pepper flake can make, a departure from the harshness of other types. The risotto was rich and creamy, a different recipe than the rice that accompanied the seafood last time. This was the right backdrop for the falling off the bone and succulent veal on the whole shank.
I'd brought in my Riedel Chianti Classico glasses (Flora said, Melanie, you're too weird) to show off acidic wines from the all Italian list to best advantage. My friends chose two fabulous examples of Northern Italian winemaking, both from master producer Cantina Terlano.
The 1997 Pinot Bianco (~$35) from a single vineyard site in Alto Adige was the essence of subtlety. A nuance of citrus here, a little pear over there, the taste of lemon cream, and a very light hand with oak. The back label said this cuvée was aged in wood for 12 months, but the taste of wood was nearly imperceptible. We would have been hard-pressed to identify oak aging with any confidence, only evident in the broadening on the palate and the mouthfeel, rather than a specific taste of vanilla or toast. The wine was deliciously fresh and vibrant with good acid balance, yet showed some complexity from bottle aging. Really fantastic with the appetizers.
The red was 1998 "Porphyr" Lagrein (~$65) offering my first taste of this indigenous grape variety. In contrast to the white, this wine had a big slug of new oak flavor, but it was in balance with the powerful fruit. The character of Lagrein was somewhere between Syrah and Dolcetto, if that makes any sense. Lots of black plum flavor and blueberries, rounded lush mouthfeel, moderate acidity, and not much tannin. Best enjoyed now for the delicious and exuberant youthful fruit.
Another very wonderful evening.
the osso bucco rissoto sounds intruging, can you describe it a little more? was it just the shank on top of a plain risotto with the rice serving as a bed for the veal rather than noodles or was the rice studded with the traditional vegies that accompany it? sounds great at any rate.
The risotto was what I think of as Milanese style, rich with saffron and heavier stock, creamy and dense. A different preparation than our earlier experience with a seafood risotto which was tender and light, almost fluffy. Each the right foil for the style of dish.
The veal shank was browned and braised. Amazingly tender, Mary just touched it with the knife and it unwrapped from the bone. Yet it still had its integrity and gelatinous goodness, not at all stringy or flavor all cooked out.
One of those wide shallow bowls so popular for showing off tall food was the plate. A bed of risotto, then the whole shank plunked on end in the middle. No tomatoes and no apparent veggies but for a little bit of carmelized aromatic veggies that happened to stick to the meat. Don't even think there was a gremolata or parsley garnish.
Oh, I'll also mention that the fruity Tuscan olive oil used for the pasta and rabe dish was a big part of what made it special.