A few days ago I got a half insulted-half complaining telephone call from girlfriend Shir. From the start I knew that I'd done wrong, so I decided to go with pleading – to confess all and hope for an easy punishment. "Ok, I admit that in the last little while I've been too immersed in school and neglected you" I told her. "Great. So you owe me the compensation of my choice", she immediately shot back, followed by a request: A romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant, so that I can learn about romance in a relationship, and she'll get to enjoy as well. As soon as I found a suitable restaurant that was located exactly midway between our two houses, I reserved a table for two. I even bought her flowers, so she couldn't say I wasn't trying.
La Toscana, which offers a kosher Italian menu, was almost full, and the waitress praised me for having reserved a table. The restaurant's décor is exactly what you'd expect from an Italian restaurant: red and white checkered tablecloths, set with cutlery, wine glasses and a bottle of red wine on every table.
We focused on ordering starters – the lady felt like a refreshing salad, and ordered the goat's feta salad. The salad was served beautifully, with lots of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, red cabbage, a few green leaves, and the crowning glory – lightly fried goat's feta. The vegetables were seasoned with a slightly sour vinaigrette, and the cheese was a bit crispy on the outside, while on the inside it melted, but retained its unique flavour nicely. I tried to be a bit more sophisticated, and chose the cheese and eggplant terrine – an ingenious and excellent selection. At the heart of the terrine were a number of layers of various cheeses (some sweet, others more sour), all of which were wrapped in a layer upon layer of sweet, seed free eggplant. Within this meticulous creation I also noticed baked tomato, and no less important – a decorative red pepper sauce which added a strong flavour to the dish.
When it came to mains, we each went our separate ways. I stuck with Italian, and ordered the gnocchi in four cheese sauce, which looks a bit simple on first glance, but surprised me with the strong flavours of the cream cheese, Roquefort, cheddar and parmesan. The gnocchi itself was light and airy, like gnocchi should be, and the sauce covered all the gnocchi and gave the balanced taste of each of the cheeses.
Shir chose an impressive dish off the fish menu – filet of tilapia – which was composed of two pieces of tilapia filets served coated in tomatoes, chopped mushrooms and nutmeg. The fish was very delicate and the seasoning highlighted the fish's natural flavours. The dish was served with mini oven-baked potatoes, and on a bed of cooked green beans which, though simple looking, were richly infused with the flavours of the fish with which they had baked. Shir agreen to the waitress' recommendation, and ordered a glass of white Riesling to go with her fish.
Because this was meant to be a compensatory meal, Shir didn’t even ask me if I wanted dessert, and simply ordered two: tiramisu and chocolate soufflé. The tiramisu was an excellent choice, because when it comes to a dairy Italian restaurant, there is no dessert more characteristic than this one. Between layers of the sweet cheese cream, lay pieces of espresso and brandy soaked biscuit. The soufflé was warm, and melted the moment we pierced the crisp crust. The combination of milk and bitter-sweet chocolate lent the dessert sophisticated dimension, making this soufflé much more than a simple hot chocolate cake. Of course, chocolate soufflé can't be eaten without a scoop of authentic vanilla ice cream, because that is what balances the heavy sweetness of the chocolate and cleanses the palate every few bites. We agreed that the soufflé was just the right amount of sweet and not too heavy for the end of a meal.
When we left, we agreed that the mal had been tasty, that the atmosphere had most certainly been romantic, and Shir resolved that because it had been so great, next week we'd have to reenact the experience in order to taste other things on the menu. I gave myself a little pat on the back, and noted that because Shir loved the food so much – I needn't have bothered with the flowers…
3 HaSadna, Raanana