Monday, April 2, 2012

Such an Early Spring

I do not remember having spring arrive so early here in North Carolina, but before getting into it in some detail I am first going to talk about some meals I had last week in New York City. I visited my son, Caleb, and his girlfriend, Jackie, for a couple of days. They live in Brooklyn which gives me a chance to eat some great food in NYC. I arrived last Tuesday evening in time for us to go to one of our favorite pizza places--Franny's. We have discovered that in order to avoid waiting for a table, the key is to get there after 10 PM. In the center of the photo above are 2 of the pizzas Caleb and I shared--a sausage with bufala mozzarella, and a white pizza with ricotta and spicy peppers. At the edge of the photo is Jackie's margarita pizza. I have eaten here several times and am always satisfied with their wood fired pizzas--great ingredients and a nicely chewy crust.

On Thursday Jackie was able to take a long lunch, so we went to Del Posto to partake of their ridiculously inexpensive 3 course prix fixe Italian food offerings. Last summer we discovered this lunch special which was only $29, but has now crept up to $39. You select from 6 appetizers, and then pick from either 6 pasta dishes or 6 second courses plus one dessert from another 6 choices. The key is for the table to try as many different dishes as possible. Above is the home made orrechiette with carrots, toasted sage and lamb ragu. Below is the chocolate ricotta tortino with toasted Sicilian pistachios and extra virgin olive oil gelato. Other dishes that we savored included vitello tonnato; tortello puzzone with taleggio dolce and black truffle oil; Sardinian lamb with Roman artichokes, bruised mint and saffron potatoes; and spezzata di castagne--crushed chestnuts, red wine plums and yogurt gelato.

The meal also comes with 3 different homemade breads plus the kitchen sends out some surprise starter "tastes", and even though you have a dessert course, the table also receives some delightful petit fours to complete your meal. Even though the wine list is over 60 pages long, unless you are on an expense account and don't care, it takes some careful sleuthing to find a bottle of wine under $100. We did find a lovely $60 pinot noir from Grosjean, a producer in the Val d'Aosta region of Italy.

Even though we had a quite filling lunch, we decided Thursday evening to try a new burger joint--Mooburger--which had opened recently on Court St. near where Caleb lives. It proved to be a big winner. In fact, it was as good a hamburger as I have had in a very long time. A perfect last meal before I headed back to NC very early on Friday morning. As I drove south, the trees had more and more leaves, and by the time I reached DC, the dogwoods were in full bloom, as they are here in North Carolina.

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful spring day here in Chapel Hill. I awoke to the Louisiana waterthrush calling on territory along the creek below our house. I took a long walk to see how this very early spring was advancing. The wild azaleas had already peaked. The carp were trying to swim up the main creek to spawn. The redbuds are aleady done, and the dogwoods are in all their glory. I heard and saw upwards of 10 waterthrushes, heard several northern parulas, plus not 1 but 2 ovenbirds (photo above, click on it to enlarge) were already on territory. I can not remember ovenbirds being here so early in April. As I scan the bird listservs, it appears that everyone is remarking on how early the start of the migration is this year. I am planning to bird Kansas at the end of April, and then go to Magee Marsh on Lake Erie in early May for the warbler migration. I hope that the early spring does not mean I will have missed the main passage of birds. Stay tuned!

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