Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Orange Squirrel

After a week on the beach with S and A, John and I thought we would eat and drink sparingly this past week. At the beginning of each week in St. Thomas, where we return each year, we walk the hills to begin our day. But by the end of the week, the only time we leave our beach chairs is to return to our apartment to eat lunch. So a large dinner out mid-week was not in our plans.

But when our friends L and J found themselves with time on their hands because of an aborted vacation trip, I knew the perfect thing to do--make dinner reservations at The Orange Squirrel.

Downtown Bloomfield is not the destination one thinks of for quality restaurant dining, but we had been hearing about The Orange Squirrel for a few months now. Hey I grew up there--but who knew that we would find a trendy 40-seat restaurant with amazing food on a main thoroughfare in Bloomfield?

The slight, unassuming chef-owner, Francesco Palmieri, was bussing his own tables that night; and until L told me who he was,I would have never known. But this boy can cook. He graduated from the CIA and did a stint at Windows on the World until September 11.

The food is amazing. We started with an amuse bouche of two tiny bites of a sublime pleated pasta filled with a savory braised lamb. The four of us went on to share an order of gnudi, fluffy pillows of poached ricotta bathed in a wild mushroom broth. Perfect. The salads were great, especially mine, a riff on Ceasar sald with endive and white anchovies--brilliant.

Our entrees included aged rib eye steak, perfectly cooked and served with chipotle butter; roasted halibut; and a veal chop Milanese. All were delicious. There was a wonderful assortment of sides dishes. We so enjoyed the polenta with mascarpone cheese and the roasted brussel sprouts with crispy pancetta. For dessert we tried the blood orange creme brulee. The intense flavor of the blood oranges in the custard as well as in the dollop of sorbet that sat on top blew us away. This was followed by a house-made Bailey's Irish cream.

The best part of the evening was that we got to share time with our best friends as we have many times before--be it in our homes, in a dive bar in Orange, NJ, with the best pizza; in a wine bar on the Piazza Pasquino in Rome; and now on Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield, NJ. Who knew?

Today is Mother's Day, and L and I are cooking for our mothers. Happy Mother's Day.