Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cabrales, Come Hither…

Last night I visited relatives in New Jersey. It’s true; I have them.

Now, I’ve actually had a few good meals in the ‘Jerz, but this time around, there was none. We went to The Frog and the Peach in downtown New Brunswick (home to Rutgers University), which is supposed to be one of the finest restaurants in the Garden State. However…

The first tip off to impending disappointment was the very odd lighting scheme: there were wide, cylindrical cloth shades over the lights at the bar, but plain, harsh spotlights over each table. It was like eating in an interrogation room, ala Law and Order. Bizarre. Didn’t understand. I know what you’re thinking,

“Poor décor at New Brunswick’s finest, no way!”

cabraleslgI won’t waste time discussing the small portions of unimpressive food (thank God I’d had a big bowl of leftover chicken pot pie for lunch), but the cheese plate included a favorite of mine, one worth a musing: Cabrales. I’m a fan of stinky, and I’m a fan of bleu, so of course I adore this Spanish curd! Now, a lot of cheeses are purportedly Cabrales, but if it ain’t from the northern coast of Spain, it just ain’t it. Cabrales looks like Roquefort, in terms of its veins and marbled, bruise-like colors, but it’s typically much more pungent, spicier and peppery by comparison. The one I ate at The Frog and the Peach was a bit unique: it was made of a blend of cow, sheep, and goat’s milk (often Cabrales is made only of cow’s milk) which gave it complexity and intensity that lingered on my palette as I waited for my (sadly sub-par) steak frites…

That meal was not a success, but it did put me in mind of a quick trip to my favorite Spanish spot, Bar Carrera, for one of my most-beloved desserts in the East Village. (By the way, sources tell me this spot is about to expand to almost twice its current size. This is great news since it’s always a tight squeeze in there as is, and it suggests that business is booming for Frederick Twomey and his partners, who have followed the opening of Solex with the re-opening of the original Bar Veloce on Cleveland Place in SoHo; the space was Room4Dessert in the interim. Now comes the expansion of the Spanish spot…their formula for success seems solid.) There, they serve a Cabrales cheesecake that gives me heart palpitations. It is simplicity defined: a small round portion (the size of a Kennedy half dollar) of robust Spanish blue cheese, topped with a silky veil of white chocolate. The sweet, salty and sour flavors play off one another perfectly, and the texture of the tiny dessert is meltingly creamy. So when Sara and I planned to meet for drinks and toast her new deal with Showtime Television (!), I suggested a little cava sipping on 2nd Avenue just so I could get my hands on that little Cabrales concoction! It was as good as ever; it never lets me down.

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