Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Press Herald's Final Sunday? We'll See...

22 Broad Street Pleases the Palate and The Eyes
Translation: Deception, Seduction, Sexual Tension, and Photosynthesis.

BETHEL — The sun is always shining out of the food on our plates, each ingredient ripening or maturing and storing away a nutritious translation of light.

In order to enhance your enjoyment of this review, it's important that I take this opportunity to talk about photosynthesis.

So what better way to enliven a thoroughly rained-out weekend in Bethel than by dining out at 22 Broad Street on good Italian food?

The only other things I could come up with were painting model airplanes, using my Ouija board, huffing gas, or doing an intestinal cleanse. Good Italian food it is!

Magnificent Carpaccio with shaved Parmesan, heaped arugula and a fruity olive oil did the trick at the beginning of the meal. Rich focaccia, good wine and a flourless chocolate cake and biscuit Tortoni for dessert made a chilly evening warm right up.

More about all of these things later. You will learn how Carpaccio the Magnificent, Foccacia the Rich, Arugula the Heap, and Tortoni the Biscuit were able to come through and warm the very cockles of my heart.

An eggplant "lasagna" constructed without pasta that was not quite fresh, and house ravioli with an odd texture were frustrating detractions, since they were so close to the mark. Those misses could easily have been the result of a bad night.

Everytime I thought I was getting there, I would encounter a frustrating detraction. I tried to close my eyes and concentrate. I could feel myself about to hit the mark, closer, closer, god i'm almost fucking there.. Shit! Goddamn these detractions!

St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling ($8) filled a bright glass with nectar, slightly sweet and utterly refreshing. Santa Martina Toscano Rosso 2005 ($8) was the recommended chianti from the opposite side of the wine spectrum, though just as full-bodied and richly flavored. This deep red wine tasted earthy, with a hint of spice and dry tannins.

I launched into my usual reckless abuse of wine terminology. Not often you find stemware that's so bright, twinkling like an utterly refreshing little angel. The recommended Chianti from the other side of the wine spectrum? Just as full bodied and richly flavored as what? Dry tannins? As opposed to fucking wet tannins?

More good wines and multiple specialty martinis are offered from the snug bar area, and in good weather, a game of Bocce might be a fine way to enjoy the cocktail hour in the court outside.

More bad wines are offered elsewhere, but only good ones in the snug bar area. A game of Bocce may in deed be a fine way to enjoy the cocktail hour. I also suggest parcheezi, the game of life, lawn darts, sparklers, retiring to the men's room to pleasure yourself, getting a henna tattoo, reading star magazine, or writing a bad food review.

John Amann owns the inn, called the Gideon Hastings House after its original owner, a major in the Union Army during the Civil War. The line of columns across the front veranda exemplifies the 1848 building's Greek Revival architectural style, and the paint following each molding detail shows off a painstaking renovation.

The Gideon Hastings House is the Inn owned by John Amann. You may hear more about him later, in reference to bread. He is mentioned only to fill out space. It is named after it's orginal owner, who was a major in the Union Army during the Civil War. Just some food for thought...

Inside, gleaming, ornate tin ceilings reveal more of the careful work accomplished here.

The tin ceilings were gleaming, ornate, and inside. They reveal work accomplished here and hide the horrible mistakes of the past..

Chef Donald Hauser has run the kitchen since mid-June. He prepares John Amann's focaccia recipe every day the restaurant's open, and once it's on the table, it is too tempting to pass up.

Before it's on the table, I could give a fuck about it. As I see the server approaching the table with it, I try to supress a yawn. Focaccia? Whatever.. My server's arm extends towards the table and I feel something changing inside of me. What's this? Why am I suddenly so intrigued by this bread? As it lands on the table something inside of me snaps. I violently backhand my 6 year old dining companion's hand away from the basket and I dive in. I eat piece after piece, barely pausing to breathe. I become unaware of my surroundings and the fact that my dining companion had started to weep loudly... I have completely surrendered myself to temptation, and may god have mercy on my soul.

Spongy, topped with some coarse salt and dried rosemary, this focaccia is like a savory cake. A few cherry tomatoes pressed into the top and roasted added their own concentrated flavor, and a dish of olive oil offered another layer of richness.

It's like some sort of goddamned savory cake. I can't even believe it. My other dining companion tries to stop me, saying that at this point I'm actually panting and that I need to get a grip on myself.

The restaurant's Carpaccio ($11.50), presented on a wide white plate covered with tissue-thin raw beef under arugula and strewn with olive oil, capers and cracked pepper, won a new convert early in the meal. The abundance of cheese and sour sharp capers accentuated the sweet, mild beef.

This is the carpaccio from the restaurant, just in case you got confused and thought I was talking about someone else's carpaccio. I'm talking about the one I had that night. It wasn't so much paper-thin, more tissue-thin. Like a woman's stocking. It actually won a new convert early in the meal, so that means we must have had it as an appetizer. The abundance of sour sharp capers were much more appealing than an abundance of sweet crunchy capers.

The soup of the evening, wild mushroom bisque ($6.50), wasn't immediately identifiable as wild. The finely chopped mushrooms were portobello, crimini and oyster, Hauser said, and their flavor was quite good. The bisque was exceptionally thick – too thick for my liking, though my companion preferred it that way.

My keen senses weren't screaming wild mushrooms initially. Hauser told me that they were portobello, crimini, and oyster mushrooms. I didn't want to believe him at first, but I gave in to his confidence, his sinister smile, and his bedroom eyes. I started thinking - how thick? I usually don't like it thick, but It appears I might be able to get used to it.. Over time...

Caesar salad ($3.50 with an entree) was admirable, the fresh, crisp romaine dressed in a lemony dressing and accompanied by a wedge of lemon to make it even more so. Lots of grated Parmigianno Reggiano intensified the savoriness of the salad.

I admired the Ceasar's spunk. Lemony dressing and lemons and a spoonfull of parmesan make the savory medicine go down in the most delightful way. Such a nice departure from the cowardly Ceasar's of past dining experiences..

Hauser said the dressing was not made with an egg yolk, and therefore healthier than dressing that is – but an egg yolk is one of the reasons Caesar salad can be sublime, and I would not give it up.

I wouldn't give in to his seduction. I love egg yolks.. Don't I? Why am I second guessing myself around this man? My dining companion tells me that he's bad news but I don't care. I know I can change him, I know I can make him love egg yolks, and I know he feels this crazy sexual tension as much as I do..

The kitchen offers Italian classics such as spaghetti and meatballs, a daily ravioli special, and perhaps gnocchi with prosciutto and mushrooms.

Perhaps gnocchi with prosciutto and mushrooms.. Or perhaps fucking not!

The main course, or "secondi" in Italian, could be veal chop al forno ($17.50), grilled and served with gremolata, chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic, and shrimp pomodoro, or steamed halibut Toscana ($22.50), served with fresh Little Neck clams, roasted plum tomatoes, capicola, artichokes and basil.

It could be veal chop al forno or it could be halibut toscana. It could also very well be nothing, another order of carpaccio, more focaccia, a cup of Sanka, an alcoholic call beverage of your choice, a caramel calcium chew from your purse, or an ice cube. Kind of like a culinary choose your own adventure..

Eggplant lasagna ($17.50) is a popular favorite on the menu and it's easy to see why, though my own serving tasted a little off. Deeply browned on the top, this layered vegetarian dinner struts the classic virtues of tender fried eggplant and creamy ricotta. The house marinara, lavished around the large serving in the shallow bowl, is excellent.

Even though mine tasted off, it's easy to see how the other shitheads who dine here would make this their favorite. This layered vegetarian dinner was all about strutting around the fucking table, just asking to be lavished with some serious house-made shit.

Chicken and pesto ravioli ($19), the ravioli of the day, had an odd texture, with the pasta rather chewy and not at all tender, as is typical of fresh pasta.

The ravioli of the day, chicken and pesto ravioli, was different than other ravioli that i've had when I've ordered ravioli out in ravioli restaurants that serve lots of ravioli.

Biscuit Tortoni, an old-fashioned dessert described in a New York Times Sunday Magazine column last winter by Amanda Hesser, is a mixture of meringue and whipped cream with toasted almonds and almond extract folded in. Hesser wrote that it fell out of favor after the 1960s, though online blog said it's never lost favor in Pittsburgh. It's wonderful whatever the history – and I am glad 22 Broad Street put it on the dessert list.

I desperately need to fill up space so I begin referencing ridiculous bullshit to distract you:
Old fashioned biscuit tortoni had fallen on hard times. With the 60's over no one seemed to care about their old pal tortoni anymore.. After successfully dodging the draft, he found himself in Pittsburgh, running with a tough crowd. People in this city seemed to identify with Tortoni's irrepressible spirit and soon he became the number one dessert in the entire city. To this day they still celebrate St. Tortoni day, with a parade and a massive city-wide orgy. So wonderful....

Valrhona flourless chocolate cake was another surefire pleasure, almost liquified with heat when it was served on the night of our visit – dark, bittersweet and excellent.

Surefire, Pleasure, Liquified, Excellent, Dark, and Bittersweet. The Verve begins to play in the background and we all rise from our seats and start dancing. I find my self spinning uncontrollably and get so caught up in the moment that I am completely oblivious to the fact that i'm screaming at the top of my lungs. If only this moment could last forever..

A cup of smooth decaffeinated coffee accompanied those almond and chocolate flavors perfectly.

A soothing cigarette put an end to the madness..


  1. Thanks for translating the bullshit, and I love your tags for this post.

  2. Whenever I write down my thoughts about a recent dining experience I've had, I only have to go back to this post to make sure that I try not to sound like a pretentious ass. =P Which apparently, John Golden got skewered in his last review for Grace by a ton of readers...eek.

  3. Yeah, Everyone knows the Golden Girls just wanna have fun. Sometimes a few too many Stoli Gimlets straight up with roses lime instead of fresh.... Maybe they should look into getting a voice recorder on their phones..