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Dining. An activity my mother and I do best. Not eating per se, dining. In every sense of the word, we do it properly. Hence, nothing gets the devoted foodie more excited than trips to Manhattan. On our most recent trip, we experienced the wonderful world of Lidia Bastianich. Lidia, who was born in Istria, came to New York in 1958, where she later opened several restaurants on Manhattan proper, including the acclaimed Felidia, which opened its doors in 1981. Her empire began growing from the day she moved here, and still is to this very day(Chef Lidia Bastianich Recipes and Cookbooks).
In any case, over the years, my mother and I have had the pleasure of watching Lidia's cooking shows, and reading her cookbooks, but never had we been to any of her establishments. That being the case, as my mother and I strolled down 58th street one day, on the way back to our apartment, we passed the utterly charming front facade of Felidia that we had passed so many times before. With its rustic, rich cherry wood exterior, and stunning etched glass windows, my mother and I were overwhelmed by its appeal, and zipped in to make a reservation for the next evening. Content from doing so, we both walked home chatting about how the evening shall be choreographed, and what we may order.
On arrival of the next evening, my mother and I were dressed and on our way to Felidia. As we walk in, we are greeted by the pleasantly hospitable hostess, and maître de with an exuberant "Welcome back Ms. Wood!" as I gave my name at the mahogany podium in the front room. They lead us back to our quiet table for two. On the journey to your table, you cannot help but feel as if you are in someones home. I don't mean that in the way that you may think, though. Although the decor is elegant and obviously professionally done, I feel as if there are personal touches of Lidia's scattered throughout the room. Family heirlooms, thrift store treasures, nick-nacs, and personal favorites of the women behind the empire. Everything felt very personal, and for the evening, Felidia would be our home.
Within seconds of being seated, our table was adorned with the most delectable looking morsels. Flatbreads; one variety made of squid ink, the other of parmigiano reggiano. The squid ink was our favorite so much so, that it left my mother and I strategically divvying up the last one.
"You can have this much, Sydney, because I already had this much."
"Are you sure? I kinda' over did it on the other flavor."
In conclusion, the whole basket is consumed...
Promptly afterwards, a man comes to us with a large basket filled with a motley assortment of artesian breads. Simultaneously, he places a lovely split pea spread, topped with meteor sized Fava beans, on our table. My mother and I choose our bread and put in our orders. As we sit and await our food, the two of us discuss the two different breads we chose and our upcoming entrees. As we sit and munch, we are both momentarily distracted by each and every morsel that exits the kitchen. Each one, adding a new flavor to the room, with steam radiating off of the hot pastas, as fog does off of a pond on a cold morning. My mother and I are already impressed and the entrees have not even arrived yet.
With bated breath, my mother and I see the entrees enter the dining room as if they were a girl being presented at her deb ball. My mother ordered a veal tenderloin, with asparagus and a local corn polenta, while I opted for a roasted rack of lamb, with tomato, cipolline and pecorino tart, with a balsamic fig reduction. We gingerly taste our first bites, sampling the aromas filling our mouths, and savoring slowly so we can attain every flavor and taste of the food laid before us. My mother and I lock eyes, and in unison we let out a lazy, "Mhmm…So good." If that doesn't tell you enough, I don't know what will.
The preparation and ingredients of the food were so beautifully simple and unfussy, while still being so elegant and flavorful at the same time. Following our euphorically divine entrees, my mother and I were absolutely cudgeled(Not!)by a beautiful Italian waitress to order the hazelnut flan, with pistachio ice-cream and white chocolate sauce. Fortunately, we did order this dessert, seeing it was probably one of the most incredible of desserts I have had in some time. The cake was ooey-gooey and warm, as if it had been set out on the hot pavement before being served, while the pistachio ice cream was cold, and the perfect accompaniment to the flan. It was indescribably delicious, and put even a non-diehard dessert lover like my mother, on a pretty-little-pink cloud in the sky. It was too quickly over though, and our check was brought along with six perfect little petit fours, and Italian palette cleansers, that sat on the plate with such finesse, each holding a new, and different secret flavor all of their own. My mother and I walked away from our table, with a feeling of happiness brought on only by great food and the most warm and hospitable service. We walked out to the front room, and no matter how much we don't like to "repeat offense", we scheduled reservations for the very next week. Then, my mother and I strode out the door, and onto the sidewalk, pleasantly full in our bellies, and in our hearts.
"Chef Lidia Bastianich Recipes and Cookbooks | Chef2Chef.net." Professional Chef Resources, Top Culinary Schools, Jobs, Recipes and Forums | Chef 2 Chef. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <http://www.chef2chef.net/articles/featured-chef/lidia-bastianich.html>.