Monday, February 09, 2009

Platter of Figs: He mostly redeems himself

I scored abysmally in my predictions about David Tanis' "Tapas Party" menu. 

I also made one horrible, lewd, cringe-inducing joke at last night's dinner. Justine and Michael, I'M SO SORRY. Ashamed. 

The food was a hit, anyway, starting with the . . . 

Octopus salad. An ordeal to acquire the animal, which had to be special ordered and came frozen in a perfect gray sphere the size and shape of a volleyball. $15 for a 3-pound cephalopod -- such a bargain! Like butchers, fishmongers appear to enjoy special ordering weird stuff and discussing. I have been persuaded to someday grill an octopus, but this one was simmered gently for two hours, chopped into chunks, dressed with olive oil, dusted with smoked paprika, garnished with pickled red onion. "Octopus salad is one of the most delectable things I know," Tanis writes, and he is right.
Potato tortilla. Hispanophile Justine is helping me appreciate tortilla as a steady, mild-mannered foil for spicier Iberian dishes and garlicky mayonnaise. The Jeff Daniels of tapas. Tanis' version was big, gentle, rich, very tasty.

Scallops a la Plancha. I thought these would be the highlight of the meal, but ultimately felt the scallops were just an expensive vehicle for green sauce. Delicious, delicious green sauce (cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, roasted cumin, oil) which would be good on almost anything so why pay for scallops.

Black paella with squid and shrimp. A typical paella, only uglier. The squid ink (ninety-nine cents for a tiny envelope at The Spanish Table) tinted pearly bomba rice the color of topsoil. Is that really a good thing? No squid to be had; substituted clams.

Manchego and membrillo. Breathtaking. Like melon and prosciutto, one of those miraculous salty/sweet combinations. Could have eaten the whole plate all by myself and almost did.

An altogether excellent menu that begins to make up for recent disasters. As Alice Waters might put it, "a little masterpiece." 

Having cooked all six of Tanis' winter menus, I'm taking a break from Platter of Figs to resume after March 20 when I'll try his spring meals. 


  1. I'm fascinated by the octopus revelation.
    What was the texture? Chewy? It almost looks scallop-y in the photo.

  2. The octopus was chewy in a good, meaty way -- scallops seemed unctuous and overly soft by comparison.
    I really didn't expect to love the octopus but did. That smoked paprika is excellent stuff. If you haven't used it, I highly recommend.

  3. I can't believe you didn't mention the laurie colwin nutmeg cake. i know it wasn't from platter of figs, but it was incredible. i really want the recipe!

  4. is there a special "tipsy blue" site where we can all share in the lewd joke?

  5. I will never reveal the details of the joke, nor will any of the appalled people who heard it.

  6. Dinner was tasty and the conversation lewd and jaunty perfect for close family and explaining to small children that daddy is only a creole not black. Sad really all my shortfalls. But boy that cake was good. I had fun as usual and so happy to have family making me dinner. Keep the conversation spicy I always say.

  7. Tortilla espanola = the Jeff Daniels of tapas! Brilliant.

    And I, too, am horribly curious as to the nature of the unspeakable joke.

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