See that post title above? I have a confession about it… I seriously almost used a more, shall we say, colorful homophonic version of the word “come,” but chose not to because I was afraid it might be interpreted as vulgar. I may be salty at times with my language choices, but crass is something I do not want to be.
So – why the temptation to use a word with carnal connotations to describe a dining experience? Well, because Cucina, located at the north (east?) end of town in Woodstock, is a very sexy restaurant. From the wide porch which offers dining al fresco during the warmer months, to the painted plank floors and the understated decor, to the menu which invites exploration and sharing, this place is hot.
My number one advice for planning your meal at Cucina is this: go with people you love because you’re going to want to share your food. Until the dessert course, of course, but we’ll get to that…
My home(town)girls and I selected Cucina for our “midway” dining date based upon recommendations from the Wine Bar & Bistro Chef, Nick, and the prior experience of one of the girls. We had 7pm reservations, but arrived a little early since most of our usual shopping destinations are still on winter hours and had closed by 6pm. We began at the bar, an open, well-lit area, and perused the creative cocktail list. I struggled with personal responsibility wanting to order one of everything, gin drinks aside. Because of our mutual appreciation of wine with dinner, Ginny and I elected to share the Orient Old Fashioned as an aperitif and it was a revelation. Spicy from the ginger syrup, smooth from the Bulleit, refreshing and piquant, I easily could have gulped this down in record time.
squid – two sauces
The dinner menu came with its own impressive array of temptations, but as a party of four we were in a good position to try a number of items. I took charge (imagine!) of how many dishes we would have and collectively we agreed on what each course would contain. We started with two appetizers – the crispy squid and the shrimp and white beans. Neither dish broke any new ground in terms of composition, but the execution was exceptional. The squid was lightly battered and virtually without greasiness, while the shrimp were perfectly cooked and accompanied by beans which retained the ideal amount of firmness. Great start!
shrimp, white beans, tomatoes
We followed the appetizers with two salads and a special pizza. The asparagus, snap peas, endive, etc salad was creative and capitalized on ingredients which are coming into their own, seasonwise. What can you say about roasted beets, Coach Farms goat cheese and balsamic vinegar other than yum? Exactly. Our beautiful pizza, topped with a riot of green veggies, including some banging jalapenos, on the thinnest of crusts, was a spicy delight.
pizza – baby spinach, jalapenos, red onions
We finished our savory experience with two pastas – the spinach and ricotta filled ravioli with brown sage butter and an evening risotto special with scallops, shrimp and saffron. The portions aren’t tremendous, but the flavors are and we were very content with the quality and amount of food we were served. Speaking of served, our server was terrific. No complaints at all , start to finish. With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, 2010, a wonderful food wine which I am familiar with from the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark. Perfect.
MY dessert – no sharing
When it came time for dessert, I was done with sharing and insisted that it was every woman for herself. My choice, the butterscotch budino, was off the hook, crazy delicious. Butterscotch, caramel, toasted coconut and sea salt put together in ideal proportions to make a dreamy pudding-esque climax to a wonderful evening.
Yeah, I’ll come on in Cucina any time.