This week on WMFE-FM, I offered an imaginary progressive dinner to 90.7’s Nicole Creston. You’ve heard of progressive dinners, haven’t you? They’re usually done by friends and neighbors in private homes. You start out at one house for the appetizer or salad, then move — or progress, if you will — to other houses for subsequent courses. It’s a literal moveable feast. (You can listen to the broadcast at 5:45 p.m. Firdays or Saturday mornings at 9:35.)
I thought it would be fun to concoct a progressive dinner from among the many options on Restaurant Row. So let’s get started.
We’ll begin with our pre-dinner cocktail or aperitif at Vines Grille and Wine Bar. Why Vines? Because I love the strips of fried bacon the bartenders put out on the bar for patrons to nibble on. I mean, who doesn’t like bacon? And what a smart move, too, because the saltiness of the cured pork makes you want to drink more.
But no time; we have to move on to the next venue for our appetizer course. I’ve chosen Cantina Laredo. Yes, yes, I know, it’s a chain. Don’t hate. We’re here because CL does a terrific tableside guacamole. And the Haas avocados have been wonderful lately; enjoying them in a chunky guac is my favorite form. (Click this link if you want the Cantina Laredo guacamole recipe.)
We don’t have to go far — just next door to Big Fin Seafood Kitchen — for the soup course. There, chef James Slattery is serving something he calls Thai soup, which is a simple term for what is basically a complex she-crab soup with spicy Thai seasonings. This is a seriously good soup.
We’ll stay here at Dellagio Plaza for the pasta course, as well. I like the lasagna at Peperoncino. It’s a big block of pasta sheets layered with meat and tomato sauce and cheese. Better split one so you don’t spoil the rest of the meal.
The fish course is at Moonfish. They do lots of good fresh fish here, but the Vietnamese basa is one of my favorite presentations. It’s a whole fish, served in swimming form on the platter, a lovely presentation to those not disturbed by the thought of the dis-animation. The flesh is white and mild flavored, and enhanced with the ginger seasonings on the fish.
For steak, nothing fancy, if you don’t count one of the uber steaks at Morton’s as fancy. There’s nothing like a big slab of good quality meat, cooked under intense broilers so that the crust is crispy and ashen but the inside is as rare as you’d like it to be.
For dessert, I’m bypassing the trendy shot glasses at Seasons 52 (please, can we move on from this fad?) and staying in the same plaza as Morton’s. At Anatolia (soon to be renamed Bosphorous to reflect the new ownership), my favorite dessert is the kazandibi. Described on the menu as baked caramelized milk pudding, it reminds me of a cross between creme brulee and flan. It’s so creamy and wonderfully rich.
If you start with an aperitif you should end with a digestif. Let’s finish at Timpano because they have entertainment in the lounge most evenings, and there’s nothing like relaxing after a long — and exhausting! — meal like enjoying a classic cocktail and some good music. I’m having a sidecar — what’ll you have?
Have other ideas for an ideal progressive dinner? Tell us about them in the comments below.