Twenty-first birthdays are supposed to be special; they're supposed to be perfect in every way – well, at least until hangover the next morning. Jill's birthday last year was special, but it wasn't exactly perfect; a meal we could barely afford at Clyde's in Georgetown, followed by a drink we were nearly too tired to have, I wish I could have done something a bit better for her.
So with that in mind, I tried to go as far out as I could (going all out just isn't within my limits right now), and reserved us a table at Bebo Trattoria for dinner, with the plan to go to Jaleo for dessert and drinks afterwards. I couldn't afford the perfect meal for Jill's birthday, but some good food and a little surprise from a chef made twenty-two a lot more memorable than twenty-one.
We arrived at Bebo a few minutes after 8pm, when our reservation was set. Upon announcing ourselves, we were told that there was a table available, but there was a nice table next to the window that would be open in five minutes – us being the people watchers we are, we elected to wait.
During the three minutes we waited, the maitre d and Roberto Donna himself (manning the brand-new pizza station) asked us if we had been helped. I'm going to say this once so I don't repeat myself – for all of the knocks that Bebo gets for poor service, the service was pretty spot on for our visit. Everyone was incredibly nice, and we never had to wait very long for anything.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the food. I started off with a big plate of cullatello, the center cut portion of prosciutto. Wonderfully soft and salty, prosciutto is one of my top ten favorite foods of all time, and Bebo's reminds me why I like it so much.
Jill started off with some sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and anchovies. This was my first experience with broccoli rabe, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised. I usually have an adverse reaction to anything green, but I probably could have eaten the whole bowl.
For our main course I got the cannelloni alla nepoletana – a house made baked cannelloni with ricotta cheese and a pork sausage sauce. The dish itself was incredibly flavorful, yet very simple. The highlight of the dish was the base cream sauce (probably also made of ricotta) which was simply amazing.
Jill decided to go with one of the pappardelle with roasted eggplant, tomato, and smoked mozzarella. Richer than my dish, the eggplant and mozzarella really came through wonderfully; and the pasta – all house made – was cooked perfectly.
If you're looking for complexity in Bebo's dishes, then you're sitting in the wrong restaurant (go next door to Jaleo), but if you want really solid, simple Italian fare, Bebo does it just right.
Yet it wasn't the food that'll make that night memorable, it was what happened after the meal. Jill, with the help of a very nice glass of wine, went to Chef Donna and asked if he'd take a picture with her – you know, being that it was her birthday and all. And very nicely, and with a lot of charm, he wiped the flour from his hands and came out to take a picture. Pretty cool for a guy who's supposed to be a complete prima donna.
Dinner was over, but our evening wasn't. After paying our bill and leaving a very satisfying dinner at Bebo, we walked the twenty feet to Jaleo for a little after dinner fare.
For those of you new to us, we've already reviewed Jaleo a couple months ago, so I'll spare you the bigger picture stuff and leave you with details of a very fine dessert.
I decided to get the Sopa fría de frutos del bosque con helado de queso fresco, or the chilled fruit soup with fresh cheese ice cream. The fruit soup was amazingly refreshing and complimented well with the incredible cheese ice cream, which was probably the best single bite of food I've eaten in a long time – just ask Jill, I couldn't shut up about it.
Jill got the Espuma de avellanas y chocolate, a Chocolate and hazelnut mousse torte, which was a wonderfully sweet and chocolate dessert in its own right, but was topped by the dessert wine that was served with it, which Jill fell head over heals for.
By the time we walked out of Jaleo, filled with quality food and good drink, Jill's birthday was almost over. There was no dish, no bite of food that I would say was the best I've ever had, but it was all good at its worst, and wonderful at best – an evening truly worthy of a twenty-second birthday.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007