i hit the ground running when school started this week–editing deadlines began falling down all around me, like bombs almost. actually, bombs probably would’ve been better. all this stress & busy work means i’ve had no time for the one thing besides cooking that keeps me centered during the shit storm that is law school: yoga. a tina without yoga is a very cranky tina. fortunately, there’s no better antidote to my bad moods than having a hump-day dinner date with my favorite group of girls. well, maybe there’s one better antidote.
since it is restaurant week in madison, we made reservations at sardine, a french-inspired bistro-style restaurant that i’ve been dying to try since i moved here. sardine is housed in the lovely machinery row, a historic brick building overlooking lake monona with gorgeous arched windows & well-loved wood floors. if there’s anything i love more than food, it’s interior design & this place pushed all my buttons. my friend erin pointed out the vintage penny tiling surrounding the bar, while i lusted after the shiny white subway tile, hammered glass accents & vaulted wood ceilings. we agreed that the antique touches added charm to the restaurant & warmed up what otherwise could have been a cold industrial space. but enough about the building, let’s get to the food.
to start, i chose an arugula salad with apples, pumpkin seeds, sweet potato crisps, radishes & shallots in a cider mustard vinaigrette. i loved the interesting combination of textures & tastes in this crunchy, sweet salad. i also loved that the dish starred a lot of quintessential winter vegetables, proving with pops of pink radishes & orange sweet potatoes that winter doesn’t always have to be so dreary.
most of us chose the moules frites for an entree. we weren’t disappointed–we were served heaping bowls of fresh mussels swimming in a white wine cream sauce, garnished with shaved fennel & sprigs of fresh thyme. these were by far the best mussels i’ve had in the states. the first time i had mussels was when i was living in france. i fell hard & fast, ordering them everywhere i went, only to be spoiled when i moved back to the states. although i craved them often upon returning, i’d learned not to order them because they’re either not fresh enough or not flavorful enough. neither criticism applied in this case–they were everything i could have dreamed of in a mussel! with the help of my mini-fork (mini silverware makes me giggle) i ate every last one of them.
a little while after our dinner plates were cleared from the table, someone came to the brilliant realization that we still had dessert coming. excitement ensued & i remembered that this is why i love restaurant week. at $25 a meal, i don’t find it to be that great of a deal, but i do like the fact that it typically involves dessert, a course i never order when i eat out. i also like that you’re pushed to try something new — usually you’ve got to leave your taste bud comfort zone due to the limited but very thoughtful menu. as an unadventurous person who finds something she loves & sticks to it (& yes, i could be talking about nathan, or the fact that i always go to the same restaurants & order the same foods at those restaurants), i appreciate the curve ball that restaurant week throws at me each year.
this chocolate ganache in salted caramel sauce was no exception–this dish was the perfect marriage of salty & sweet. although it was a small serving, i, uncharacteristically, did not finish the whole thing. i convinced myself that it was because it was “too rich” for me, but between you & me, it’s because i gorged myself on the fries that came with my mussels.