I have, what I call, reverse trust issues. I let go easily. I trust fully. I believe that what is represented to me is what I should expect. I generally do not doubt. This puts me in a vulnerable position, sets me up for disappointment, makes me prone to frustration, but it is the way I am and feel too old to figure out defenses and safeguards.
I am all about expectations and the easiest way to get me disillusioned, heartbroken, or plain angry is to set misleading ones. Whether it is a mountain hike or a tomato soup, I get in a mindset- I set expectations. And I can deal with anything- harsh, exhausting, or frustrating if I know about it. I can accept and perhaps even enjoy whatever as long as I know it is coming my way. I can handle the truth. Surprises are hardly my thing, but I won’t say I hate them. And while I may not be the model of consistency – I am moody and impulsive, temperamental and sometimes volatile, I consider myself reliable. If I lead you to expect something- good, bad, or ugly- you can count on that being delivered. I call that being reliable.
Reliability is what defines Frasca. I have had more meals there than I can remember and it never failed me, never misled me, never let me down. It delivers exactly what I expect and my expectations for them are high.
Falling in love with Frasca was not hard. We walked in more than five years ago, sat down, and it was love at first bite of the Frico Caldo. We promptly decided that a trip to Friuli (Frasca’s geographical area of inspiration) was in order and a few short months later we found ourselves in Northern Italy hardly being able to lift ourselves from our dinner seats after 4 hours of copious grazing on insanely fresh home-cooked dishes at La Subida. A short novel can be dedicated to that those few days in Friuli, but this is not the time for that. I will say this- if you have an itch to trek to Italy, go to Friuli. It is stunning delicious, faultless. We stayed here and here and would go back in a heartbeat.
Over the years, Frasca has been our destination for impromptu dinners with friends, post-law-school-class-weekly-appetizers at the bar, and special occasion celebrations. It is welcoming, relaxed yet distinguished with great service and remarkable food. It is comforting to see that year after year the staff is the same- the familiar faces are reassuring. We know their names and stories and they know ours.
With the emergence of the blog, writing about Frasca and my absolute love for it became imperative. But I wanted pictures and to get pictures we had to sacrifice ourselves and have dinner there once again! Tough. Plus, restaurant review per se is not exactly what I had in mind for the blog. The beauty though with a new blog that is mine is that there is always a first- so this is the first restaurant review, of sorts.
It was a Saturday night and Ben and Karen met us at Frasca at 8:15.
We got seated and our waitress came over. Hi Rose, I said. Hello, she replied. How is Louise doing? It had been a while but she remembered our daughter’s name- Rose was on her game! That conversation made us all comfortable. It relaxed and lightened the mood.
Rose brought four glasses of a complimentary Scarpetta, a beautiful Friulano bianco, crisp, refreshing, and bright- a perfect way to begin our meal.
We looked at the menu and wondered where to start. We are not fans of the four or five course meal. It is not the way we eat. We like to order a variety of things, probably split a main course and sample as many of the dishes as we can. Luckily, Ben and Karen dine the same way- very fun!
At Frasca, we always begin with a cocktail because the bartenders are inspired and sophisticated and create balanced mixed drinks that dazzle the senses. Rose recommended that I go on a limb (meaning not get the usual, safe, but outstanding Frasca French Martini) and try the Stephania, a mix created with fresh grapefruit juice and elderberry essence. I agreed and could not have picked better.
We ordered the frico caldo and coleslaw. The frico caldo is hard to describe and do justice to. Some call it a potato and cheese pancake. I hate that description! The frico is so much more…a delicate layer of potatoes flooded in a gentle sheet of melted Montasio cheese. Mmmmm. It is drizzled with a mouth-watering shallot and cilantro concoction inundated in an acidic sherry vinegar- oil blend. Pure love.
The coleslaw is not what you expect. At all. The cabbage is cut into thin long strips that create a pleasant texture. There is no mayo, no carrots, no extraneous seasonings. This is a juicy vinegary explosion that, to us, perfectly complements the frico caldo. We always eat them together.
After some advice from the very able sommeliers, a bottle of Lioco ’07 (Pinot Noir) made its way to our table. It was followed by the appetizers: Rancho Gordo White Bean Soup, Pancetta and Rosemary and “Frico Croccante”Creamy Chestnut Polenta La Quercia Speck Americano and Ricotta. And then closely followed by the main courses “Riso Superfino Carnaroli”Stonington Maine Lobster and Tarragon and Russet Potato Gnocchi Braised Oxtail, Mushroom “Conserva” and Parmesan.
Pheww! Let’s talk about this. First of all, you will always find some staples on the Frasca menu- a soup, a polenta, a risotto, and a gnocchi to just namea few. Every month, the variation on these dishes will change but the main idea remains there. This is, to me, the best kind of combining a traditional approach of staple dishes with the trend of changing menus. I like to know that I will find a polenta dish on there and I appreciate the variation, creativity, and surprise that comes from the range of combinations and ingredients.
Now, the soup was creamy yet light. An even texture was complemented by an intriguing rosemary overtone that did not overpower the delicate taste of the beans.
Frico Croquante was intriguing first because it is clearly a spin off the “other” Frico and second because it included the deadly creamy chestnut polenta. I have to admit- the way to my heart is not just through my stomach, but through any sort of delicious polenta. I adore polenta and its many preparations! It was faultless- a combination of soft buttery polenta matched with a thin yet crispy layer of frico to create a crunch/soft consistency that was enhanced by the saltiness of a skinny sheet of prosciutto.
Both of our main courses were perfectly thought-out and flawlessly executed. The gnocchi was rich but not heavy. The gnocchi were drowned in a sauce that was infused with flavors- concentrated, reduced, and cleaned of all impurities. The braised oxtail added the richness- tender, melting in your mouth- perfect on a cold winter Colorado evening.
The risotto literally almost made me cry- silky, buttery, with a surprise tarragon burst that lightened the lobster yet allowed it to shine.
We could not get enough.
Yes we had dessert.I wouldn’t skip it.
And if you thought this post was only going to praise Frasca, well, you had to wait for the dessert. It was fine. Not great, not bad. Nothing inspiring or stimulating. Just a little something sweet at the end of a beautiful meal.
We had a dessert wine. And then we had espresso. We were all very, very happy and we cannot wait to go back.
Here is another reason to be happy- Bobby is a finalist on the newly (yesterday) released James Beard Nominees list for outstanding wine service. He undoubtedly deserves that! Winners will be announced at the James Beard Gala on May 3rd. Good luck!!!
On a separate note, I could not make up my mind about including or not a recipe with this post. My version of a compromise is as follows: instead of me writing out a recipe for you, here it comes straight from the source- the amazing and memorable Frico Caldo…only a click away!
P.S. If you “heard” that this is a place where you “need” to make reservations 6 weeks in advance, let me assure you than such is not the case. If you really want to eat there and don’t have a reservation, be flexible- think early or late, and be willing to sit at the bar- arguably the best experience you can ask for anyway!
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