With lovely little neighborhood joints shuttering right and left, it was heartening to hear buzz about Prune's 10 year anniversary and celebratory prix-fixe menus, one for each week for the month of October.
Soft-Spoken Feisty Lady didn't bat an eye when I asked if she was interested in a little anniversary tripe. The fixed menu would help to clip our ordering pointers and prevent our utter destruction by overeating.
Said prix-fixe are a loving amalgam of things that Gabrielle Hamilton has been offering for years. Where else but Prune would manti, succotash and pavlova exist so naturally side-by-side? The rabbit in vinegar sauce was a favorite of Big-Eyed, Curvy Bombshell and Heathie, dearly missed migrated eaters.
We were a little surprised that the place wasn't choked with like-minded offal-eaters; people gradually trickled in, many of them ordering whole bronzino and other treats from the regular menu.
(Pictured above: Pink and in the foreground = Italian Greyhound = grapefruit with vodka and rosemary; caramel in the background = Pimm's Cup = gin, ginger ale, cucumber and lime.)
SSFL and I clinked glasses and fell to the Calf's Brains Fritto Misto.
No, it's not all brains...just the rounded nubbin at 12 o'clock, golden and crusty on the outside, creamy within. Think fried oysters, or cream croquettes. The brain brought fried companions of apple slices and cippolini onions, plus browned butter and capers for dipping and zinging.
It may look small, but it was a pretty rich plate of food, and SSFL and I found ourselves wishing for a lemon wedge or some malt vinegar to help break things up a bit.
(Spooning up braised tripe and tender vegetables.)
EF: This is...(Making smacking sounds.)
SSFL: ...really light!
It's true...and we be fans of tripe, so it caught us off-guard. A lot of the time, tripe is treated with strong flavors, seemingly to mask any inherent stomach-y funk (see tripe parmigiana or menudo).
Gabrielle's tripe was meltingly soft, and infused the whole stew with a gelatinous roundness that was distinctly but not overbearingly meaty, without a lick of funk. It was like eating an unset bowl of aspic, in a good way--bright, rich, and clear.
The Bitter Greens salad it came with was a little spartan, but once mixed into the tripe, they rubbed up against the smooth unctuousness of the stew nicely.
Dessert? Spot-on. Anticipating diner fatigue, Prune wisely set before us ethereally light single-servings of Pavlova with Lemon Curd:
Meringue can be a sugary, styrofoam mess, but this baby was light-yet-chewy in the way that lightly caramelized sugar should be, and the portion size, lemon curd and fresh fruit helped to rein in any threat of oversweetness. Kiwis and Aussies would be proud of this one!
Prune-detractors tend to harp on how little the menu rotates, how small the operation is, or how Hamilton has not chosen to expand her empire. As I'm bathed in the well-being of well-made bovine naughty bits, good dinner company, cocktail glow, and tea lights reflecting off of clean white walls and polished antique mirrors, I say with perfect faith: Those marketchasing phucktards can screw off. Don't fix what ain't broken.
(Raising a glass to ten more years.)