I'm going to do that thing where I don't do what I said I was going to do. Oops.
The promised list of my favorite vegetarian restaurants is currently taking too long for me to cobble together, so before that happens, I'd like to share an experience I had about a month ago involving a pleasant meal that ended with a mindbogglingly crappy dessert. These things occasionally happen, but you don't expect them to. If you did, you wouldn't order dessert in the first place. And then everything would be happy joy joy.
Unfortunately, a bad dessert cancels out the goodness of the rest of the meal. For me, at least. Mediocre, I could accept; "WTF is this?"-inducing, not so much.
It began and ended at Alta. I had been there once before; it's a nice place, maybe not "oh my freakin' god" good, but good enough that I'd recommend it to other people and want to go back despite it being pricier than what I'm used to. When Tim suggested meeting there for dinner, I was all for it. I brought Nathan, Tim brought his girlfriend Sara, and then there were four...stomachs to share food between.
Fried goat cheese. with lavender-infused honey proved, as always, that you cannot go wrong with fried cheese. Or fried anything. The fried-ness didn't bring out any gooey properties—goat cheese doesn't gooify, it just stays soft and creamy—but eating a warm ball of goat cheese with a light, crunchy shell rolled in honey is a lot better than eating a plain ball of goat cheese.
Another favorite was the bacon-wrapped dates and olives stuffed with almonds. Oh. Baby. All the flavors and texture you love in a single bite: saltiness of the crispy bacon, sweetness of the soft, rich date, and nuttiness of the crunchy almond center. Does anyone make a bacon-date-almond sandwich? Because I'd totally eat that.
Ricotta Parmesan gnocchi with tomato & piquillo pepper sauce, pancetta, and pesto somehow tasted light and rich at the same time. Like, "Oo, fluffy pasta pillow!...oo wait this is cheese and potato....mm, this is cheese and potato." That's how my brain works. Yes. Simple Homer Simpson-like thoughts connected by ellipses.
Crispy Brussels sprouts with Fuji apples, crème fraiche, and crushed pistachios makes me wonder how Brussels sprouts could ever have a bad rap. Sweet cruciferous chunks of multi-layered, miniature cabbagey goodness, I love you. I want a bucket of you. So I can eat...a bucket of you.
Smoked eggplant and lebne dip with za'tar, honey, mint lemon zest was...alright. Tasted like creamy eggplant mashies. And stuff.
Grilled chorizo-wrapped gulf shrimp with whipped avocado lime mousse was also alright. Tasted good of course, just not that interesting. I prefer pork wrapped around...dates. And almonds. Mmm.
I also like pork inside things, like in these pulled pork empanadas with sweet and spicy cilantro sauce. While diminutive in size, just one bite exploded with juicy porky goodness in a thin, crisp shell. If only it were bigger...if only. Like five times bigger.
The paprika-potato gratin with oloroso caramelized onions, piquillo pepper, and manchego looked like a slab of meat. It didn't taste like meat though; that would've been odd. It tasted like soft layers of thinly sliced potato, with stuff that sounded more interesting on paper than in practice. Rather disappointing.
And then, there was dessert
It's too bad that little balls of cantaloupe in some sort of gelée can also look like yellow egg sacs in alien amniotic fluid.
Unfortunately, I didn't write down the name of this dessert and it's not mentioned on their website. I tried calling the restaurant the day after my meal, but couldn't get a hold of anyone on the phone and my dominant characteristic of flaming laziness prevented me from giving it another go. No matter, I remembered enough of the description: cantaloupe and olive oil gelato in some sort of gelée garnished with salt and black mint. Why did it appeal to me? I don't know; in my head it looked more like a parfait, not a plate with flavorless semi-transparent goo and flavorless melon balls with a pool of melted ice cream in the middle. Ice cream that tasted nothing like olive oil, but faintly of sour cream. I'd rather believe that they forgot to put the ice cream in at all than believe that was it. On the bright side, the mint tasted great—it was the only thing on the plate that didn't suck.
Ignoring that this dessert tasted almost like nothing, wouldn't it have made more sense to layer it all in a tall cup of some sort than have it splayed out in a plate? It would've looked nicer, at least.
If anyone's wondering why I didn't send it back, I rarely ever eat anything that's so bad that I think it's worth sending back. Maybe once before in my life, surely less than what I can count on one hand, partially because I'm not that picky, other partially because I might just be lucky. This probably should've been returned, but as none of my table mates suggested it, I know I'm not alone in my inability to form the idea of sending something back.
There was another objectionable part of our dessert, but just a tiny part. The right-most cheese in Tim's Spanish cheese platter (the splodge that the NO arrow is pointing to) tasted quite bitter and faintly fruity, like fermented pineapple (not that I've ever eaten fermented pineapple, just if I had to guess). Very old fermented pineapple. Which surely appeals to someone. Except anyone sitting at our table. I'm just going to assume it pairs well with something.
Alta is worth eating at. As long as you don't get the dessert I ate. Hopefully it doesn't even exist anymore.