Glamorous? Not exactly. Divine? Completely.
On Sunday, I celebrated my 36th birthday with a proper NYC brunch at Perla in the West Village, complete with rich food, good friends and a bit too much wine.
The highlight was the pici with duck ragu and foie gras pictured above. The pasta was honestly cooked to perfection with an enticing blend of just the right chew against an almost sultry melt in your mouth give. The serving size was modest (at least for a runner’s diet), but when the full consequence of the foie gras the waiter coyly shaved across the top dawned on me, I was smitten. Intense. Wonderful.
I was less wowed with the mortadella Eggs Benedict with pistachio Hollandaise that actually led me to Perla in the first place. But perhaps I’ve just inoculated myself against the joys of Eggs Benedict over the years. I first fell in love with the delightful open faced rounds when I was about six and out for my very first brunch. For year’s after, it was my birthday dinner of choice which is just to say that I’ve eaten an awful lot of Eggs Benedict. This past fall, my boyfriend and I even created our own Italian version with pancetta in lieu of Canadian bacon while I was visiting him in Rome. It was marvelous. Eggs Benedict, in my opinion, if done right, should be done rich. Hollandaise sauce is not for the faint of heart, and based on the few (yes, plural) sticks of butter that go into it, no one should expect it to be. I felt the Perla Hollandaise sauce was good. I love, love, loved the pistachio addition and am going to give that a go myself one of these days, but the sauce was somehow more on the light side than this butter lover would like and the mortadella, again, no diet food, was almost delicate. Overall, it felt dainty whereas I expect my Eggs Benedict to pin me to the floor in all the splendor of its glorious fat. Ahem.
Across our table, we also tried the roasted cauliflower with little gem lettuce, currants, pine nuts and anchovy , the octopus with oven dried tomatoes, eggplant and fett’unta, the black spaghetti with ‘nduja, calamari and breadcrumbs and the gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce and ricotta. The octopus was cooked superbly and every pasta dish received a hearty round of applause–although, I personally am still rooting first and foremost for the duck ragu. We also all liked the cauliflower, sang praise to its anchovies, but felt it was perhaps more salad than roasted cauliflower, not a complaint, just an observation.
Of course, my birthday celebration isn’t quite over yet. The marvelous pasta loving brunch at Perla was round one. But the boyfriend, being on the wrong continent and all, couldn’t join us and has therefore promised me birthday round two in Paris the week after next. I can’t wait.