Suits Recap – Season 5, Episode 4: No Puedo Hacerlo

In which Harvey over-flirts, former dancers move about in a dancerly fashion, we are rewarded with a distinct lack of Jack Soloff, and I learn that No Puedo Hacerlo is Spanish for “no can do,” or possibly, “fuck that noise.”

Harvey & Esther Sitting in A Tree

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Harvey and Mike are walking through the lobby of their building doing their old-school basketball schtick about whether Harvey feels competitive with Robert Zane (“Did Magic ever worry about Bird?” etc.) when Harvey spots an attractive, well-dressed woman trying to get by building security to visit someone without an appointment.

Harvey makes a beeline for the woman and aggressively flirts with her, to the tune of let’s have breakfast tomorrow after we spend tonight together. Harvey is handsome and rich and smart and all, but his lines here strike me as calling for a whoa-there-buddy reaction. Though he made similar out-of-place remarks to the model-looks lawyer played by Tricia Helfer last season, so at least his character is being consistently written, I guess. Captain Dickhead, indeed?

The woman, played by Amy Acker, an actress with a dancer’s bearing (and background, according to Wikipedia), appears charmed by Harvey’s attention, but departs for an important meeting with her brother Louis. Turns out this Esther is a wealthy lifestyle business mogul who wants the renowned Harvey Specter she has heard about from Louis all these years to represent her in divorce proceedings.

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Relations are plenty frosty between Louis and Harvey, but Louis asks the favor anyway, and on Donna’s advice, appeals to Harvey’s respect for Family Ties. Harvey agrees on two conditions: that Louis stay completely out of the case, and later, that he take Harvey’s side on the compensation issue of last week. In return, Louis makes Harvey promise not to sleep with Esther, a promise that will be broken by the episode’s end, though not to Louis’s knowledge.

The divorce is happening because Esther’s husband cheated on her, and children (not shown) are involved. Cue the pressing of Harvey’s hot button on cheating spouses and child abandonment! The husband wants 50% of Esther’s business based on a verbal contract they made twelve years ago when he gave up going to medical school in favor of her career.  After Rachel uncovers the fact that the husband was never accepted at any medical school, a settlement is agreed for him to get 25% of the company, which is still more than Esther wanted to give. Harvey convinces Esther to accept the deal for the sake of the children, and because did she ever thank the husband for his 12 years of devotion to the family? Maybe she should have. He then takes her home to bed (not shown), and thanks Donna for HER twelve years of devotion to him, which thank you makes Donna look like this:

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Louis, Man of Many Emotions

Louis brings the comedy and the pathos this week and reveals his own childhood emotional baggage. In his middle school days, cool guys sometimes befriended him when all they wanted was access to the beauteous Esther, so he’s paranoid about Harvey handling Esther’s divorce. He flatters Rachel to pump her for info on the case, and during a divorce-related meeting, he does this in an attempt to listen in:

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When Louis angrily accuses Harvey of figuratively screwing his sister (by offering too much to the husband) merely to get back at Louis, Harvey assures him he is doing the right thing by everyone because Family Matters. Louis apologizes sincerely for misreading the sitch and it looks like Harvey and Louis might be having a rapprochement. Or at least a temporary truce.

Mike, Robert Zane and The Insurance Case

I’m already bored by this story line so I was glad it got wrapped up though it was nice to see Katrina (played by former ballet dancer of Centre Stage fame, Amanda Schull) appear at Zane’s law firm (yay for continuity re: last season), and she was given some nicer costumes this time, like this pretty cocktail dress that goes well with her awesome curtain of blonde hair.

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Robert and Jessica want to accept the offered $25 million settlement from the insurance company, which works out to $70K per claimant, but Mike doesn’t, so he and Robert clash. Robert reluctantly lets Mike counter the offer, which leads to one of the lawyers saying “No puedo hacerlo.” Mike discovers what might be a conflict of interest that is making Zane wanting to settle but when he tells Jessica and Rachel about it, they both get mad at him for suggesting Robert could be dirty or dishonest.

Mike eventually decides to accept the settlement because the original plaintiff is just happy to have justice done, and anyway, he has brought Rachel and Robert closer together by allowing her to come to her dad’s defense, so okay, whatever. Until Jessica, wearing a rather heinous sheer black lace top, reveals that there was something fishy going on, but it wasn’t Robert being crooked, it was his client the hedge fund. She fixes it somehow so no one gets in trouble, the plaintiffs still get paid, and Robert now owes her. So everyone’s happy, heinous lace top notwithstanding.

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Random Recap Addenda:

1) I really liked this businesslike but pretty ombre blouse that Rachel wore, though I liked it more before I realized it was sheer and worn over a tank top.

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2) Hungry Novelist that I am, I also quite liked the pulled chicken sandwich and Frenchy salad that I picked up this week at Flock, the new Toronto artisanal rotisserie chicken and greens place run by chef Corey Vitiello, who is apparently dating Meghan Markle.

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Next week on Suits: the return of the dastardly Tanner character, played by Eric Close, AKA Teddy on Nashville.

KimMoritsuguTheHungryNovelist

Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper whose latest novel is a comedy of manners about food and sex called The Oakdale Dinner Club.

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Suits Recap – Season 5, Episode 2: Compensation

The season’s second episode features internecine law firm conflict, oh my! Also callbacks to two guest players from past seasons who each pop in for a single scene reappearance, a couple of new law firm characters, and one good yelp-out-loud joke.

Let’s go one story line at a time, starting with:

The Aftermath of the Michael/Rachel Engagement

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Rachel and her dad Robert meet for dinner at a NYC restaurant played by the Colette Grand Café in Toronto’s Thompson Hotel, which is located on the same block as my adult son’s apartment. This scene was shot one day a few months back when I happened to stop by. I saw the trucks lined up outside, asked a security guard what was filming, heard it was Suits, and tried to storm the restaurant (not really – all I did was timidly walk in and out of the hotel lobby), only to find the café firmly closed – including the bakery counter part of it, which sells, when open, nice miniature hazelnut madeleines – and all its windows covered with blackout curtains.

So I did not even glimpse Meghan Markle or Wendell Pierce shooting the scene wherein Robert complains that chicken nuggets are not on the menu of the fancy restaurant they’re in, then hands Rachel a pre-nup he’s had drawn up that he thinks Rachel and Mike should sign so that the considerable financial assets he will one day leave Rachel will not fall into Mike’s hands.

Rachel sees the pre-nup as an instance of her dad trying to control her, but after a heart-to-heart with Robert, Mike figures out that Robert is actually trying to protect her. So Mike signs it, but Rachel doesn’t, because their love is bigger than money and pre-nups! And because she has her own heart-to-heart with Jessica, during which Jessica alludes to her trust issues with Jeff of last season as having taught her not to treat her personal relationships like business ones.

The Aftermath of the Harvey/Donna Split

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Harvey appears to be over Donna’s departure – he’s cordial when he sees her in the office, and finally hires a replacement for her. Or is he over it? He passes on a candidate who, like Donna, is attractive and over-confident, in favor of an experienced older woman named Gretchen, who supplies the episode’s big laugh when she tells him he needn’t worry about any boss-secretary sexual tension between them, because she prefers her men to be manly.

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When Louis accuses Harvey of being jealous of Louis and Donna’s new work partnership, Harvey reveals to Louis something he’s never told Donna: that he generously supplements her firm-paid salary out of his own pocket and is continuing to do so while she works for Louis, unless Louis wants to take over those payments. Harvey eventually does tell Donna about this, but she is more pissed that he kept this info from her than pleased that he was doing it, so that doesn’t go well.

And Louis and Jessica both accuse Harvey of working out his Donna anger on Louis. Poor Harvey. Sort of.

Louis, a random new guy and the compensation issue

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A lawyer who everyone calls by his full name (so that we’ll remember it?) – Jack Soloff – joins the cast as the new head of the firm’s compensation committee. He wants to even things out at the firm by making billables more important than contingency cases, an internal policy change that would affect (reduce) Harvey’s income the most.

Louis brings up the subject in a partners’ meeting so that he can be seen to support Harvey, but that plan backfires, with both Harvey and Soloff pissed off at him afterwards. When Louis finds out by how much Harvey is supplementing Donna’s salary, he decides to support Soloff’s suggestion after all, so that he can earn extra dough with which to pay Donna.

At the height of the conflict, Louis decides to leak the amount of Harvey’s compensation to the law firm by doing the old trick of leaving a confidential document in the photocopier to be discovered by the next person who comes along. Donna strongly counsels against this ploy, but Louis asks her to decide whose side she’s on, once and for all, and she stays quiet in her pretty green and blue print dress.

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Harvey, moved by the story of a client who wants to sell his successful athletic shoe business because his good friend recently died, and is that all there is? etc., apologizes to Louis sincerely for all the shit-flinging and suggests they bury the hatchet. Too late, Louis tries to take back the compensation document from the photocopier. Harvey is super-pissed when he finds out everyone now knows the HUGE number of dollars he makes. He vows to get Louis fired, and asks Donna to admit that Louis leaked the info, but Donna won’t, because she’s chosen a side and it’s Louis’s. For now.

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Louis gets the new compensation policy passed and declares that he’s won, but Harvey doesn’t care anymore because it’s not about the money, it’s about ownership of the chattel known as Donna. And Harvey is going to get Donna back, dammit.

Mike the Do-Gooder Rides Again

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Mike meets two former associates who used to work at Pearson Specter Litt for drinks to announce his engagement to Rachel. One of those associates is (Childe) Harold, of the curly blond hair and the thin-skinned permanently blushing cheeks. The other is a guy named Jimmy, who asks Mike to look into taking on a class action suit against an insurance company that neglected poor-ish patients who died because the company wouldn’t pay for treatment. Jimmy’s law firm won’t allow him to take on the case but he’s hoping that Mike the do-gooder will, because didn’t he used to want to help people?

Mike looks into the case, but when Jessica finds out, she nixes spending the firm money on the labor and prep that would be required (this is one of those contingency situations Soloff is so against), whether Mike thinks it’s winnable or not.

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Mike goes next to see his old investment banker boss Jonathan Sidwell (tall Canadian actor Brandon Firla makes his one-scene reappearance) to ask him to underwrite the case, but not only won’t he, he will besmirch Mike’s name with all the other investment bankers because he’s holding an extra-tall grudge against Mike for how the Gillis situation played out in season 4.

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Mike’s last option is to go to Robert Zane, who had earlier mentioned having been poor-ish himself back in the day. Mike presents Robert with a gift/bribe: a zip-loc bag containing what are meant to be homemade, deep-fried chicken nuggets cooked by Rachel, though the one Wendell Pierce tries to choke down a bite of looks like a breaded fish filet that came out of a Costco frozen food box. Zane agrees to take on the case but suggests he and Mike do it together. How will that work? Find out next week!

KimMoritsuguTheHungryNovelist

Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper whose latest novel is a comedy of manners about food and sex called The Oakdale Dinner Club.

My Year of Revision & Fried Chicken

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There’s a good reason I haven’t posted here for 12 months. Or there’s a reason, anyway, which is that I spent most (okay, some) of the year hidden away in a cave (also known as my study) rewriting and revising two novels at once (not an exercise I would recommend) like a madwoman, till I was blue in the face and tearing my hair out, though I tried to keep both clichés and bracketed asides out of my manuscripts.

One of the novels I was revising was The Oakdale Dinner Club, an irreverent comedy of suburban manners about food, infidelity and telepathy – a novel in the vein of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and Maeve Binchy’s Evening Class with a soupçon of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (say what?). It will be published in May, 2014 by Dundurn, and I will be featuring recipes for some of the dishes in the book in this space as the pub date draws nearer.

I did emerge from my revision cave from time to time during the year to travel a bit and eat well, especially when it came to fried chicken.

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While in New York in June to attend a writers’ pitch conference, for instance, I learned about the importance of using the right “comparable” titles in a pitch – FYI, only one should be a classic, one should be recent, and all must have been best-sellers. And after a long day of pitching, I happily consumed a fried chicken supper at Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter, an East Village spot (whose website home page, I just realized, is hey, what do you know, comparable to The Oakdale Dinner Club book cover). Bobwhite is my favorite kind of restaurant: it’s unpretentious, ultra-casual, and serves good, real food, like the deliciously moist inside, crunchy-skinned, Southern-style fried chicken, pictured above.

Summer weather or not, I couldn’t leave New York without stopping in for a set lunch of ramen with a side bowl (!) of fried chicken on rice with lettuce, a dab of teriyaki sauce and mayo (!) at my favorite ramen spot Ippudo.IMG_2360

Later in the year, when the revisions of The Oakdale Dinner Club were finally done, and the copy edit proofed and get it off my desk already, I escaped the wintry weather in Toronto for a few weeks in Florida, where I tried fried chicken and waffles at a resolutely downscale strip plaza location of Bay Bay’s Chicken and Waffles in West Palm Beach (the pic is theirs, lifted from their website, I’d gotten out of the habit of photographing my food by then):

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The spicy, crunchy breast of chicken on top of a freshly made cinnamon-scented buttermilk waffle was good enough to get me back there a second time a few days later (though West Palm Beach is admittedly a bit of a desert, food-wise). And when we swung by Miami Beach the next week, I had to check out the cool, comfortable and prettily appointed Yardbird in South Beach, where the cauliflower ‘steak’ sandwich (loved the sliced apples inside) was tasty if a little pricy at $13:

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the reasonably priced fried chicken blue plate special (only $14) was not as crispy as it should have been, and the biscuits were impressively flaky – like I can be after months of revision.

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Goodbye Twelve, Hello Thirteen: The Hungry Novelist’s Year’s Bests

Best Restaurant Meal I Ate That I Didn’t Blog About: mixed salads at Joan’s on Third in Los Angeles

Joan's on Third

My pics don’t do the food justice – that might be why I didn’t post about how much I loved the sophisticated comfort food and the airy, casual ambience at Joan’s on Third in L.A. Among the delicious salads I tried as part of two different Salad Trio plates (only $12 for a heaping plateful) were a wonderful roasted potato salad with blue cheese dressing, a tarragon chicken salad, and a pretty and fresh shrimp salad with grapes and celery. I’m psyched to go back for more.

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And hey, Ellen Pompeo (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) was eating at a communal table at Joan’s on one of the days I was there.

Best 2012 Restaurant Breakfast: the poached eggs with fennel pollen Hollandaise at Little Dom’s in L.A.

Poached Eggs at Little Dom's

Poached Eggs at Little Dom’s

Little Dom’s is another Los Angeles restaurant I’m eager to return to, for the breakfast eggs and potatoes, because I might see frequent customers Emily Van Camp and Josh Bowman (of Revenge fame) there, and for the delicious little olive oil cake I bought (and did not photograph) from the Little Dom’s deli after brunch. I ate that cake in two bites, without sharing it with my husband E, who is still sulking, I mean talking, about this, a year later. Now we have to go back, so I can buy us each two little cakes.

Best Toronto Restaurant Trend: The Ramen Invasion

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It doesn’t even matter where this particular bowl of ramen is from (okay, it’s from Kinton Ramen, on Baldwin Street). The plethora of new authentic ramen restaurants that have arrived in town means there’s a very good and possibly great bowl of ramen available downtown at almost all times. Hell, keep that spicy broth away from me, and I’m even liking Kenzo Ramen these days. And Ramen Raijin. With, lucky me, several more new spots still left to try.

Best Frugal Gourmet Fare: The aperitivo buffet at Taverna del Campiello Remer in Venice, Italy

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Amazing all you can eat risotto. For free. Read about it here.

Best 20th Century Recipe That Still Tasted Damn Good in 2012 : Chicken Chasseur

Chicken Chasseur Hungry Novelist Style

Chicken Chasseur Hungry Novelist Style

Because sometimes I actually cook.

Best New (to me) Burger and Food Truck: the burger and fries from Miho Gastrotruck in Carlsbad, California

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My first exposure to a California style food truck was at Miho Gastrotruck, a Farm to Table operation that uses artisanal ingredients to produce a great tasting juicy burger and impeccable fries on the road. Worth going out of the way for when in the San Diego area.

And finally, because I’m not just hungry, I’m a novelist:

Best Thrillers I Read in 2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Alys Always by Harriet Lane

My current novel-in-progess is a psychological thriller, so I read several novels in that genre this year as part of my research. I disliked some, was meh on others, and liked a small number, of which the best, to my taste, were these two.

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The much-lauded and buzzed-about Gone Girl, about a woman who goes missing, and the suspicions cast on her husband, gets pretty crazy and twisty in its last third, but I found it to be engrossing, well plotted, paced and written, and very memorable.

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Alys Always, about a young newspaper subeditor (of a books section!) who happens upon a fatal car accident one night on a dark country road, is a quieter sort of thriller, with fewer extremes and no violence, but I loved its slow build, mounting suspense and unreliable narrator. It reminded me, in good ways, of another past favourite: Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal.

Eating Well for Less in Venice

The food: good cheap eats in Venice, Italy

During my first-ever visit to Venice, (on a long weekend in early November) I saw a little high water, many tourists, and beautiful art, architecture and skyscapes, and I ate some very good and inexpensive food.

Our best meal – for both quality and price – was at Taverna del Campiello Remer , a charming, casual and difficult-to-find spot that’s a five minute walk from the Rialto bridge in Canareggio. (For instructions on how to get there, see the end of this post*.)

The taverna is known for its generous aperitivo (AKA happy hour) offer: from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on every day but Wednesday, one orders a glass of wine (a choice of red, prosecco, or a spritz – a mixture of Campari, Prosecco and mineral water) at the bar, pays 5 Euros, and is granted unlimited access to a square buffet table laden with, on the night we visited, several different kinds of bruschetta, and huge pots of a simple pasta and an excellent mushroom risotto, both brought out steaming from the kitchen at around 5:40 pm.

Assorted Bruschetta from Taverna del Campiello Remer Aperitivo

Simple Pasta from Taverna del Campiello Remer Aperitivo

The unmarked entrance to Taverna del Campiello Remer in Venice

Another day, another good meal deal in the Rialto market neighbourhood, courtesy of where Muro Rialto, a bar and restaurant that offers seafood and fish tarts for 2 Euros each in its ground floor stand-up wine bar (shrimp in a rossa sauce and with pesto are shown here).

The main attraction on Saturdays at lunchtime is the lunch special, served outdoors in the Campo Bella Vienna, just outside the Muro Rialto wine bar entrance.

Saturday in the Square Sign from Muro Venice

Here, a lineup forms before noon at an outdoor table set up with a cash register, bottles of wine and wine glasses, and trays of hot fresh-cooked food brought out from the restaurant.

8 Euros gets you a glass of white wine and the special of the day, which was fritto misto (made with very fresh fish from the neighbouring fish market) on the day we visited.

I admit that even after trying a piece of that white block of something on the plate, I had no idea what it was. Some kind of firm whitefish that wasn’t fried? If you can identify it, please do so in the comments below.

In the same square is a small and very busy cheese shop, the Casa del Parmigiano. purveyor of cheeses, salumi, olives and a small selection of house-prepared foods.

Casa del Parmigiano in Venice

From here, I picked up some of the elements of a perfect Italian light lunch. To experience la dolce vita in Venice all I needed to add to a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some marinated artichoke hearts from Casa del Parmigiano was a zucchini roll from a nearby bakery and a sliced apple from a fruit and vegetable stand in the adjacent Rialto market.

*To find Taverna del Campiello Remer from the the Rialto bridge, cross the bridge from the south San Polo market (mercato) side to the north Cannareggio side. Turn left on the first street, which is what passes for a main drag in Venice, and follow it for four or five blocks, watching for small side streets (alleys) that open off it to the left towards the curving Grand Canal. The street/alley that leads to Campiello del Remer is not marked, but shopkeepers on the main street will direct you to it (tip: it’s near a tobacconist) if you pronounce it properly (Reh-mehr). Take the dark Remer alley one short block to the end – it opens into a small square on the canal. The taverna, with no sign, is the only storefront in the square.

Cross-Continent Eats

The food: eating Aspen-style, with a bonus stop in Minneapolis

The story:

In June, I attended the Aspen Summer Words Writers’ Retreat in scenic Aspen, Colorado, a town filled with Victorian era architecture of types both cottagey and stately, mountain vistas, and pretty, well-groomed flower beds:

Also, cowboy boots and hats, worn unironically:

With each morning devoted to an intense Novel Editing workshop with a group of fine fellow writers, and each afternoon spent reading the works of my classmates (150 pages for each!) and preparing critiques for the next day, I had little time to search for good food. I was underwhelmed by the Aspen restaurant fare, aside from some perfectly acceptable but unexceptional sushi from Matsuhisa, where I learned that the correct term for takeout food in Aspen is “to go.” As in, “Here’s your to go.”

The best food I ate all week was the surprisingly good and varied artisanal cuisine served at the lovely Aspen Meadows resort, where the conference was held, including the fish tacos and salads shown at the top of the post, and sweet little desserts like these beignet-style donuts served with raspberry and lemon sauces at the faculty-student dinner:

I was also delighted to find tasty gourmet fare at Surdyk’s Flights , a wine market and bar in the mall at the Minneapolis Airport, of all places, where I had a stopover on the way home. I’m not a wine drinker, but my Minneapple Panini, a sandwich made with Applegate Farms roast turkey, brie, apples and lingonberry sauce, was a welcome, freshly-prepared treat in the middle of a long travel day.

After Sotto: Minty Lemony Lamb Ragu

The food: pasta with minty, lemony lamb ragu

The story:

While in L.A. in February, my husband E and I had lunch at Sotto, a newish spot located just south of Beverly Hills that serves what it calls “an honest, market-driven menu of regionally-inspired Southern Italian dishes.” Though the restaurant’s press had trumpeted its imported brick-by-brick from Italy pizza oven, we had sated our appetites for Neapolitan-style pizza earlier that week at Pizzeria Mozza, so we went for an extra-long hike that morning to pre-emptively burn off some calories, and both ordered from the $22 prix fixe menu offered during dineLA’s Restaurant Week.

To start, we had the shaved beet and mixed lettuce salad (with wheatberries, lemon vinaigrette, and Fiore Sardo) which was fresh-tasting, if a little boring:

and the very delicious and very rich cauliflower almond zuppa with chilies, capers, sultanas and, if I’m not mistaken, heavy cream:

Our mains were a crispy pork belly porcetto sandwich with pickled vegetable giardiniera to which I was indifferent (not being big on pork belly ):

and a small and again very rich serving of casarecce pasta with braised lamb ragu, egg, and pecorino that was lovely and bright despite its richness, due to the addition of lemon, maybe, or fresh mint, or both.

We had desserts too (!): a dense bittersweet chocolate crostata with hazelnuts and salted rosemary caramel, and a cannoli siciliani that was billed as having been filled with ricotta, orange marmalade, pistachios, and chocolate, but tasted overwhelmingly of its deep-fried pastry shell.

I, too, was overwhelmed by this intense, creamy meal. But a few weeks later, at home in Toronto, I had fond memories of Sotto’s pasta with lamb ragu. So, though I rarely eat or cook lamb, I bought some, prepared a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for lamb ragu with mint and ricotta to which I added a lemon’s worth of lemon zest, and mixed it up with some President’s Choice black label Fiorelli pasta. The result didn’t quite measure up to Sotto’s version – next time I may subsititute an egg for the ricotta – but after eating a modest portion of it with a fresh green salad, I didn’t feel the need for a strenuous two or three hour hike afterwards either.

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