Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dolce Vita

I dined at Marco Wiles’s new pizzeria, Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca, on Friday. I was quite excited about it and I had high expectations, after having read Allison Cook’s and Robb Walsh’s gleaming reviews. The restaurant is situated in a quaint old two-story house at 500 Westheimer. Dolce Vita does not serve lunch, opening at five o’clock. They do not accept reservations, but, if one arrives early enough, this is not problematic. I escaped from work an hour early to arrive shortly after 6:00, and my dining companion and I did not experience any difficulty being seated on the second floor.

The menu is organized (to the best of my recollection) into antipasti, which include verdure, carne, pesce; formaggio, pastas, and pizzas.

The verdure antipasti include such offerings as roasted Sicilian cauliflower, sautéed mushrooms with mint and ricotta rosa, and shaved Brussels sprouts with pecorino cheese. My dining companion and I shared orders of the roasted beets with horseradish and walnuts and the celery root with citrus. The soft, earthy beets were cut in large dice and were adorned with walnuts, chives, and what appeared to be a finely grated cheese; I did not detect the pungency of horseradish. The celery root, which I do not believe I had eaten before, was julienned and tossed with citrus juice and olive oil, wedges of supremed orange segments, and parsley. My fellow diner and I had different understandings of what celery root was – I urged that it was the bulbous portion of the celery plant that grew beneath the ground, whereas my company thought it was the stalks at the heart of the celery. “This rather ugly, knobby, brown vegetable is actually the root of a special celery cultivated specifically for its root,” according to Sharon Tyler Herbst’s The New Food Lover’s Companion, (2nd ed. 1995).

We also ordered pumpkin and goat cheese fritto, which consisted of little spheres of pumpkin puree and goat cheese that were covered in a batter and then fried.

Pizzas include the Margherita, with tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese; the marinara, with tomato, garlic, and oregano; the romana, with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies, a pizza with leeks and pancetta with cheese; one with tomato, shaved fennel, and dried fish roe; and a selection of pizzas with assorted salumi,* among others. We went with the Margherita, among the most traditional of pizzas, and the Taleggio, with arugula, pears, and a strong-tasting taleggio cheese. I have made pizza with arugula on it, along with prosciutto, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese, but I arranged the arugula on the pizza before baking it. The arugula on Dolce Vita’s Taleggio pizza was dressed with olive oil and piled atop the pizza, after baking it in a scorching hot oven. It was as though an entire salad was placed on the pizza bread. The crusts were nice and thin, and the pies were dressed sparingly. In Italy, I understand, pizza is more about the bread, and not so much about the toppings. However, the Margherita was slightly soggy in the center, from a slight excess of sauce and cheese.

I thought $11 to $20 would be a bit steep for personal-sized pizzas, but I figured they would be remarkable. However, these were not personal-sized pizzas. Rather, they were at least a foot in diameter. And they were quite remarkable.

A frequent complaint about Houston area restaurants is that the noise level is too high. Once Dolce Vita began to fill up, the din became deafening. We would have stayed for dessert, but it was impossible to converse due to the noise.

I generally do not order alcohol in restaurants, because the markup is exorbitant. However, my dining companion expressed an interest in sampling an offering from the lengthy wine list. Since wine by the glass is even more unreasonably priced than wine by the bottle, we had no option but to purchase an entire bottle. I suggested a Prosecco, and we selected the Prosecco Carpene Malvolti. We were both quite pleased with it. It also was the most expensive item on the bill, thus contributing considerably to the sizeable dent the meal put in my bank account.

Dolce Vita makes the best pizzas I have eaten in restaurants, in my limited experience dining out. The collection of antipasti was intriguing and creative. The only open for dinner thing and the noise level are the biggest drawbacks, for me.

*Salumi is the Italian word for any cured pork product.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Crowning Accomplishment

My most notable accomplishment today was shining my shoes – two pairs of them. There are no shoeshines in Conroe. In Harris County, there are guys in the Criminal Justice Center and in the tunnel system who will ask, “Shine ‘em for you?” I always respectfully decline, since I am so frugal.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Polar Opposites

I can’t decline to eat lunch with my coworkers all the time. I hate being drug to restaurants that cater to Americans who don’t care what they put into their bodies. The Caesar salad at Chili’s may or may not have been the best option for a reluctant diner. At least the greens were romaine, and they were fresh. The salad dressing, I’m certain, was not freshly made, but came from a bottle and was loaded with fat (although Caesar salad dressing usually is high in calories).

Shade, by contrast, did not feature all that I detest in a restaurant. I ordered the curried tuna salad sandwich. The menu stated that the bread was homemade. The server assured me that the tuna was fresh, as was everything else on the menu, she said. Ditto for the Caesar salad dressing. The tuna did not taste like it came from a can that was put there by a man, in a factory downtown. The tuna was cooked beyond rare, as was necessary so that it would flake and mix with the mayonnaise, the quantity of which was not excessive, the minced celery and onion, and the grapes. The curry powder mixed into the tuna was not overbearing. The hearty homemade sandwich bread was lightly pan-toasted The Columbian fair trade coffee, rich, smooth, and low acid, is well worth the two dollars, especially when the server refills your cup four times. I hope Thomas does not resent me dragging him to Shade.

The horror! the horror!

I did not want to spend nearly three-and-a-half days’ pay on repairing body damage on the Si. I knew the cost to remedy a broken taillight cover and a dent near the fuel door would be higher than I anticipated. But this is even higher than I anticipated! Am I being taken advantage of? Probably, but I don’t have time to shop around for a better estimate. Is the Chevy dealership the first place I would have preferred to take the Si for bodywork? No, but the Honda dealership does not have a body shop, and the Chevy dealership is “approved” by my insurance company and it is close to the office. Is the Chevy dealership the first place I would like to spend nearly three-and-a-half days’ pay? No. Hard to come by, easy go. So much for saving money. If I was going to spend money wantonly, could have purchased a new suit, or a Japanese knife. Instead, I am throwing money away on something for which I do not care to be allocating cash. What a waste! It’s like adding insult to injury. It’s like adding injury to injury!

Monday, May 22, 2006

“Food, Drink, and Shade in The Heights” with Thomas

Thomas and I had lunch at Shade recently. It was good to see Thomas. I had been afraid that he was avoiding me.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Keepin’ ‘em Out of Jail, or Innocent until Proven Guilty

The criminal bar has been experiencing a series of successes, lately. The lead lawyer at the firm participated this week in a thirteen-count aggravated sexual assault and one count indecency with a child by sexual assault trial that ended in a hung jury. I would like to believe that the allegations were too fantastic to be true. Another attorney with the law firm won a victory in receiving probation for a client when the State was seeking a state jail sentence. This same attorney also prevailed in an early termination hearing in a distant county where the State was opposed to terminating probation.

I hope the Enron Jury hammers Lay and Skilling, though.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Good Deal at Starbucks

I actually feel like I got my money’s worth at Starbucks, for once. Although Starbucks offers a quality product, I don’t typically buy their overpriced beverages. However, when I am traveling on the interstate and spending two dollars on a cup of coffee is necessary to prevent me from nodding off to sleep and driving off the road, I will splurge on an ice coffee or an Americano. I am partial to the coffee beverages that do not consist of flavored syrups. Yesterday, I inquired of the friendly barista as to what was in the mocha. As I suspected, it contained syrup. When a free sample was offered to me, though, I did not decline it. I was surprised when the sample of the mocha arrived in a cup that was not much smaller than the smallest-size cup that I had ordered, a tall, or large, or whatever they call it, other than “small.” Thus, I left Starbucks feeling as though I did not receive a bad deal for my $1.90. I was also able to stay awake during the last 30 miles back to the office.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Look What I Did at School!

I am so pleased with myself! As is often the case, I was the last to know that I had been selected to go to Harris County at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday to move for a continuance of a trial setting. Due to the late notice, I was not equipped with an actual Motion for Continuance to file; I hoped the court would allow me merely to reset the trial. The court required that a Motion for Continuance be filed. Thus, on construction paper and in crayon, I handwrote a very official-looking Motion for Continuance. Well, it was not actually written in crayon, and I did not use construction paper. But it was handwritten, and it did sound very official, despite its appearance. The judge granted and signed my scrawled Motion for Continuance.

An Unconventional Happy Mother’s Day

Sales of handsaws are up one unit this Mother’s Day. How many mothers, in addition to mine, do you suppose will be recipients of handsaws today? My mom enjoys working in the yard, and she remarked that she needed a new saw for cutting branches. What better time to deliver that new saw than Mother’s Day?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My stomach is full of raw fish.

My brother, sister, and I went to Kyoto Japanese Restaurant to celebrate my brother's birthday. They tend not to exercise any restraint when ordering sushi and sashimi, so we had five entrees to share among three people.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Best Way to Win on Appeal...

Is to win at trial. The best way to win at trial is not to commit the crime.

We were appointed to represent an indigent criminal defendant, who is serving a life sentence, in filing his motion for forensic DNA testing. I thought I wrote a strong brief. However, the facts were not on our side, and the court of appeals ruled against our client.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Irrational Fear

Curbs scare me. I am convinced that they are out to get the tires and wheels on the Si.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Insulting and Inadequate Gas Rebate

A $100 gas rebate: there is a token gesture. Instead of taking any measures to avert or solve an energy crisis, our Capitol Hill spokespersons for business interests think they can appease voters by giving us a tax break that amounts to less than what many of us spend on gasoline in a month. Ultimately, this proposition was rejected by the House as “insulting and inadequate.” I think the House is insulting and inadequate.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tea Tax

Every time I go to Serenitea, I feel like I get a bad deal. They don’t tare the bags, and I noticed that they charge tax. Wasn’t there a little uprising back in 1773 over taxing tea?