Yesterday was the anniversary of S’s and my first date. Neither of us is terribly into Valentine’s Day, so in a tiny rebellion against the Hallmarkization of everything, we celebrate our own milestone instead. Budget-restricted food lover that I am, this generally translates into dinner at a highly-recommended restaurant (see my birthday dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns). Last night was I Trulli on East 27th Street.
During my high-living publishing executive days, I Trulli was my favorite restaurant. But the last time I went, a good five years ago, was one of the lowlights of my life. I’d just come out of a bad breakup and was fast sinking into my first real depression. R, my on-again-off-again-notmyboyfriend, had rematerialized to pick up the pieces.
“I know just what you need,” he said. “A nice dinner out.”
Reluctantly, I agreed—by now I was having trouble lifting my head off the pillow, so it took a considerable effort to put on makeup and nice clothes. But it gave me hope that R was being so nice to me, and when he told me he’d made a reservation at I Trulli it rekindled my hopes yet again that he could be The One: Perhaps our silliest argument concerned the title-holder of Favorite Restaurant—his was Campagna, so his opting for my choice seemed like it might be some sort of sign. (I can’t resist pointing out that Campagna is now closed, which of course is no indication of its true worth, while my beloved I Trulli is still going strong).
The room was lovely, a fire crackling in the double-sided fireplace. Tables were filled with smiling couples and families. The food, as always, was superb. And I was miserable, struggling not to burst into tears every few minutes. I can’t remember anymore how we got on the subject, but over our main course and through dessert R riffed about the sorry state of the world, how he nearly regretted having brought his then-twelve-year-old son into this mess, how there were days when he had difficulty encouraging his boy to make any kind of effort since what was the point anyway. Excellent dinner conversation for a depressed woman, don’t you think? As I recall, the night devolved into yet another of our arguments, with him licking his wounds over my ingratitude for his efforts to cheer me up, and me becoming rapidly convinced there was no point to continuing the relationship, or much else.
It took a good couple of years for me to even want to return to I Trulli—how awful, that one bad evening can nearly spoil a restaurant’s cherished status—and by then I could no longer afford it. But when S and I were planning our anniversary dinner, I put it on the short list and left the final choice up to him. I was thrilled to return, and what a difference it makes to go with the right person! We sat in the same room as I had the last time, but not once did I think of R during the evening. S made me laugh, effortlessly, over and over, and as we ate our wonderfully-executed meals (Grilled Baby Octopus with Fennel and Orange followed by Orechiette with Rabbit Ragu for him; Lanache [a wide, flat pasta, sort of like pappardelle] with Wild Mushrooms and then Branzino with Vegetable Caponata and Roasted Tomatoes for me), I just kept thinking how very lucky I am. We shared a dessert, a fabulous mousse-like Chocolate Hazelnut cake with Bacio gelato, and hurried off into the night in time to buy the last two tickets for a midnight screening of Annie Hall.
It was a pretty perfect night.
This morning I awoke before S, as usual, still full of love and goofy good feelings for my husband. We’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal in my quest to lose weight, so I wanted to make him something special that wouldn’t blow my regimen. An Oven Puffed Pancake from Cooking Light seemed perfect, and indeed it was delicious, eggy but still pancakey, with the same custardy interior that makes me love popovers. The recipe said it serves four, but that would only be if there are plenty of other items being served alongside—S and I finished this in about three minutes, and an hour later we were both starving.
Oven Puffed Pancake (Dutch Baby)
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves two, if you’re not terribly hungry
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 T. granulated sugar [I used 1 T. Splenda Baking Blend]
¼ t. salt
½ cup 1% milk
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 T. butter
Powdered sugar (optional)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl lightly beat milk, egg, and egg white, and add to flour mixture. Stir to combine (do not overmix).
Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour batter into pan; cook 1 minute (do not stir). Bake at 425° for 18 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and lemon juice, if desired. Cut into quarters and serve immediately.
Here’s what it looked like moments after it came out of the oven—it starts to sink almost immediately.