Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canele + Neko Case = Pre-Birthday Dinner and a Show

Why had we forgotten about Canele? There's no good reason. After all, it's a superb neighborhood restaurant that's super close to us, affordable, uses farm fresh produce and happy meats (those raised without hormones, antibiotics, free to roam, etc.) and consistently turns out excellent dishes.

Sure, the staff sometimes seem a little in over their heads and there's that no reservation policy leading to waits if you get there at a prime time. But this is a neighborhood spot so I'm not looking for polished perfection. We've been twice in the last week, wowed both times by the food and proud to show it off to my in-laws from Berkeley.

Last Sunday, I started with a silky and sweet winter squash soup with dates and a tiny dollop of creme fraiche. It fit the cool fall night wonderfully. The choice of the roasted chicken with a corn pancake was a wise one. We ended the night with Canele's flourless chocolate cake with a slightly orange flavored candy on top and served with a huge portion of vanilla ice cream. It was soon clear that a second was in order and luckily they were happy to comply.
I have to say it's quite satisfying to be able to say thank you and good night to chef Corina thanks to Canele's open kitchen. Having worked in restaurants where the kitchens were filled with cantankerous characters and almost violent verbal and physical exchanges, it's quite a pleasure to watch the calm and pleasant kitchen staff at Canele.
Last night, I started with the Farmer's Market salad of greens, finely sliced shallots, and a creme fraiche dressing. Simple, yet irresistible. Max tried the Pissaladiere, a lovely onion tart. We shared the pork chop, again just lovely with a smooth apple compote, sauteed greens, and braised cippolini onions. And just to go over the top, we tried the pommes anna, a classic potato dish. Finishing again with the chocolate cake, we were off to Walt Disney Hall to see Neko Case, my birthday present from Max.

Even though we were in the nose bleed section of WDMH, Neko's voice radiated beautifully throughout the space. Her humble demeanor and cute sense of humor made the night feel intimate and small, even though it's a spacious venue. The first time we saw her, she was opening up for Willie Nelson at the Bowl. While her performance was good, the Bowl kind of swallowed her up. At Disney Hall however, Neko was able to beam her voice into every corner and I swear I could have listened to her for so many more hours. After two encores, the show was over and a fabulous pre-birthday evening came to a close.