I'm a member of the best book club ever. The first rule of our book club is, don't talk about book club, so don't tell anybody I told you. The second rule of our book club is, bring wine. There are many other rules of book club, but the best part of it is that we are spectacularly lax about them, except perhaps #2.
This month we're reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. It's a good book so far, but it is long. In fact, I'd say it's bigger and possibly heavier than my new mini notebook computer on which I'm blogging this at Caffe Luna. So as sometimes happens, book clubbers gradually fessed up to being not quite finished with it. Alert member C suggested that we just meet up for dinner and not discuss the book - after all, another rule of book club is no discussing of the book before the meeting.
After some wrangling of schedules, we met up at Cuchi Cuchi in Cambridge. Just now I got a real jolt of pleasure typing "Cuchi Cuchi Cambridge" into google, not least because it actually brought up the restaurant's website as the first result. It was flapper night. Actually, it's always flapper night there. Or something close to it. Apologies for the photo quality, it was atmospheric in there to say the least, and I really really hate to use a flash in such settings.
We started off with a round of drinks selected from Cuchi Cuchi's categories of "Cuchi cocktails" and "Vintage cocktails" -- Kir Royale, Mint Julep, Thai Martini, Cosmopolitan and my pick, the Caipiroshka, subtitled "Caipirinha's dirty little sister" I'm not sure what's so dirty about it, since it just substitutes vodka for the usual cachaça among the lime and sugar, making it a bit like a sugary gimlet. But I digress. It should be enough to say that with that drink, I not very officially observed the autumnal switch from gin to vodka.
Cuchi Cuchi serves only small plates, recommending two or three per person. We enjoyed the grilled eggplant napoleon, warm baby beets & sheep cheese salad, sizzling garlic shrimp, fried artichoke hearts, grilled Indian lamb with pickled beet salad, and blini with mushroom filling and salmon roe. Two more dishes (before dessert) deserve a little more description.
First, Caspian Heaven: Roasted Fingerling potatoes, crispy oysters, creme fraiche, salmon roe & champagne sauce. Super decadent yet accessible. The oysters, although cooked (and some would call that a crime), retained their delicacy with the salmon roe contributing back some of the brininess. The potatoes provided some good slavic grounding.
Next, Cuchi Cuchi's "Signature Dish with a nod to Thomas Keller, The French Laundry," Savory Cornets w/Tuna Tartare & Avocado Mousse. These beauties come three or five to an order, slotted into a japanese hand roll rack with fried lotus root on top. These were a big hit, and deservedly so. And there's nothing too shabby about getting a bit of French Laundry on the East coast.
For dessert, we had the Cornucopia (a pizzelle cone filled with fresh fruit, fruit kissel, whipped cream) and chocolate cake that I can't find on the online menu but would describe as warm chocolate cake with sour cherries, crème anglaise and feullitine (the crunchy bits visible floating in the creme) with a big hollow chocolate ball on top. We gave the chcolate ball to L because she was the winner of the "when will C finally show up" pool. The cake was incredible, reminding me that I had the same thing and in fact sat in the same seat last time I was here, in the summer, with E.
Full and happy, we adjourned without a word about Wroblewski. Exiting into the cool autumn air on Main street we were greeted by the most peculiar smell. What is that? It's chocolately. It's not coming from Cuchi Cuchi. Certainly not from the Indian or Italian restaurants flanking it. A block later, a sign on a small parking lot explained it all. Across the street is Cambridge Brands. Don't recognize that name? Perhaps you've heard of the Tootsie Roll or the Junior Mint? (scroll to the very bottom of this page for the payoff) That's right, there's at least one still-functioning candy factory right in Cambridge, filling the night air with the sweet smell of chocolate like a Chicago bridge.
Now, back to my reading...