One thing I do well is spend money; one thing I do very well is spend other people’s money. So you can imagine how excited I was last weekend when a friend invited me to dinner with her family who were in town visiting, AND I was in charge of picking the restaurant. Heaven!
They were staying at the Liberty Hotel, so we decided to stay close and just walk over, and my friend’s dad was kind of a wine buff, so after I had tried pitching KO Prime and Mooo…, we decided on Bin 26 Enoteca for its wine list, Italian food, and more laid-back atmosphere that was more conducive for a 15 year old brother.
We made reservations for 9 pm but when we walked in our table was not ready yet. The bar area was packed; it seemed like every elderly fur-coat-clad couple and young professional “J.Crew is bargain-hunting for me” couple (Beacon Hill’s scope of residents always perplexes me) had decided to dine here this night.
We were informed that the bar was just a dinner bar, and you could not order drinks at it (thank god the manager let us know this so we weren’t awkwardly waiting for 20 minutes) but this same manager was kind enough to bring us our drinks. I don’t know whether it was the fact that my friend’s dad decided on a very expensive bottle of wine for us (we got, all jokes aside, their signature Bin 26 bottle of red-- a blend of mostly sangiovese and merlot, which was out.of.con.trol. good), or if the manager was just that hospitable all the time, but in any case he kept us happy while we waited for our table as if we were the only group in the restaurant. When our table wasn’t ready at 9:25, he brought us over complimentary toasts with prosciutto and a tiny little gerkin pickle. With a large glass of some of the best red wine I’ve had in one hand and a prosciutto toast in the other, there was no way I was bemoaning the small nuance of not yet having a table.
Finally we were seated in the back part of the dining room. We mulled over the menu, but since I’m a dork, I pretty much had it picked out already. Upon request, our server pretty much explained what everything was on the menu—questions ranging from what anyone could be confused about (“what’s speck?”) to questions the server probably doesn’t hear every day (“what’s gnocchi?”). Silly questions aside, our waiter’s patience was unflappable, as he explained items with such clarity I was itching to ask him more questions that didn’t even pertain to the menu, like how do they get the caffeine out of decaf coffee, or what is the meaning of life?
We ordered some appetizers, and then some salads, and then our entrees, and then dessert (I told you I was good at spending money! But my dinner companions were similar in the “let’s try everything” mentality that I usually have). We started with risotto balls stuffed with fontina (mmmm) and bruschetta (mmmm mmmm). My friend and I split a simple green salad with shaved parmesan cheese which was delicious and suitably cleansed the palate, while my friend’s (adorable) mom ordered the beet salad, and insisted I try some (yay! Another foodie dream: dining with people who love to share).
My main course that I had already selected was cocoa tagliatelle with porcini ragout and orange zest ($16). It was very rich and very mushroom-y, but was the type of dish that reminds me why I love to dine in restaurants, as I could never have dreamed up (or executed, clearly) such a dish on my own.
I was so focused on my own meal that I didn’t really get a chance to steal some of the others—but to my right was gnocchi with meat sauce that had wild boar in it (looked great) and to my left was chicken stuffed with cheese atop butternut squash risotto (mmm). The pasta was heavy in my stomach, and the wine had flushed my face and given me that dopey/sleepy feeling that I love, but as soon as the desserts were placed in front of me I miraculously perked right up! Funny how that happens...We got the “Threemisu” which was Tiramisu deconstructed three ways—normal, ice cream, and mousse (the ice cream was the best part) and we also tried the crème caramel which was excellent.
By the time we finished it was nearly midnight, and I was high on great food and amazing wine. This was the type of night where the food hits you, full force. You just take your belt off, sit back, and enjoy (which-- I kid you not-- I actually did! Foolishly I had worn one of those around-your-waist not around-your-hips belts that just had to go as my stomach expanded – ha! Let’s hope none of the restaurant staff noticed my slightly-different outfit as I exited).
On Charles Street, I was so happy from my meal that I felt the urge to skip down the cobblestone sidewalk, and I probably would have—that is, if I hadn’t been so full =)