November 13, 2009
One Sunday evening, after enjoying a viewing of Coco Before Chanel at the venerable Harvard Exit movie theater, we ambled across Broadway to see if we could get into our friend Jerry Traunfeld’s Poppy restaurant. Fortuitously, at the door, we ran into Alan Aquila, former general manager of the since-departed and lamented Yarrow Bay Grill, who led us to a perfect window seat for two.
Jerry and his partner, Stephen, were also in the house and we enjoyed catching up with all three men. By this time it was beginning to feel like old-home day, especially when the ever-generous Jerry sent over an order of the restos fabu Dungeness Crab and Herb Summer Rolls. These paired perfectly with the flute of Piper Heidsieck I’d ordered, as did the Lightly Fried Mussels with Basil Aïoli (both the crab rolls and mussels are on the appetizer menu).
Here’s my Smali, which featured a lovely serving of Black Cod along with Savoy Cabbage and Matsutake mushroom, the rare mushroom that’s a favorite in Japan, and that Jerry told me he often used when he was still chef at The Herbfarm.
Other dishes included a vegetarian Potato-Coriander Soup, Warm Leeks, a gratin of Swiss chard and oregano, burdock pickles with ginger, and naan, the traditional Indian tandoor bread sprinkled with aromatic, anise-y nigella seeds. Jerry told me the Dilled Asian Pear, Celery, and Hazelnut Salad comes straight from his cookbook, The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor. This smali was a steal at just $25.
For just one dollar more, Spencer went straight for the beef–Grilled Wagyu Denver Steak–to be exact, served with farro (an ancient grain that’s suddenly popping up on every menu about town) and peppers.
His sides included several of the same ones as on my platter, with the substitution of Pumpkin, Fenugreek, and Green-Chile Soup and Roasted Beet, Quince (from Jerry’s neighbor’s farm!), and Huckleberry Salad (a yummy combo of flavors, textures, and colors).
We were too full for a dessert thali, opting instead to finish our bottle of Buty Conner Lee Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay, a not-too-oaky, not-too-fruity, perfectly balanced wine (and great with this type of flavorful and complex food).