Linguine alla twistiana. Sauté in butter: onions, chunks of pancetta, mushrooms, the thing they call “broccolini,” garlic, and red bell pepper. Deglaze pan with whatever wine you intend to drink later. Add glugs of heavy cream and a couple of squirts of sundried tomato paste from a tube. Thin the sauce, if you must, with chicken stock. Dump this over the kind of linguine that comes in egg noodle nests. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and, if this sort of thing moves you, grated parmesan.
I wish I had eaten this exquisite linguine last night instead of the exceedingly mediocre dish of cassoulet I was served at the bipolar Capitol Brasserie. For $22, I’d expected something a bit more rarefied than a greasy, semi-incinerated duck leg protruding from a crock of bland, incomprehensible mush. Poor Austin! Yes, we are miles from France, but have our standards of duck-leg decency plummeted so far?
Yes. Yes they have. Our server not only felt compelled to explain “cassoulet” to me, Twisty Faster, as though it were some exotic delicacy from the golden depths of Atlantis and I was a Neanderthal from the Missouri boot-heel, she also described it, the miserable little prevaricator, as “delicious.”
I should mention that Stingray, who’d ordered an alternate anatine dish– a basic confit— tolerated her duck leg fairly well, although the discovery of its having been served on a bed of wilted frisée was quite a nasty jar for both of us.
The indignities that Stingray and I suffered at the Capitol Brasserie were in fact many and varied. Right off the bat there was no valet parking, which in downtown Austin is a crappy thing to do to a starving spinster aunt and her nurse, for it means driving to a distant lot and having to bandy words with a sketchy parking dude, senselessly wasting valuable feedbag time.
When at last we washed ashore, exhausted from our arduous journey, we were summarily ignored in the vestibule by the hostess, who was on the phone, although how she could carry on a conversation over the rocket-launch-caliber rumbling of my stomach I’ll never know.
Oh, and let me just tell you about our table! We were given a highly crappy table in the middle of the saloon, which room aspired– successfully, I am sorry to say– to an airport bar aesthetic, ca. 1990. It was located directly beneath an air conditioning vent and mere inches from a booth where one of the line cooks was entertaining his wife and screaming two-year-old between jaunts to the kitchen. And this table, she was like unto a large boulder jutting from the middle of a swift stream polluted with cheap perfume; a ceaseless deluge of subsequent patrons, all of whom tappity-tapped in crappy little high-heeled shoes, and none of whom were able to resist staring in astonishment at my bald head, flowed around and about it throughout the duration of our conspicuous residency.
“You’re right!” I’d tell them, eager to validate their concerns, “I’m bald!”
But wait. There’s more. The ambient room temperature swung at 15 minute intervals between 40 below and 85 above, necessitating the sort of constant fidgeting with outerwear I find inconsistent with the concept of being inside. We had to beg for silverware with each course. Some psychotic employee kept dimming and un-dimming the lights, creating a sort of disco-nausea effect. And naturally we were forced to endure the lonely anguish of post-dessert abandonment by our server.
Which dessert, by the way — a lemon tart with ginger crust — tasted exactly like sardines.
Of course, there was a creepy guy leering at us from the bar, so the natural order was preserved.