This month’s inspiration: “Little Red Corvette” by Prince
“On the verge of bein’ obscene” is how Prince describes his babe’s body in this 1982 classic; it’s also an apt description of the song itself. On the surface, “Little Red Corvette” sounds like it’s about a car, but it is filled with not-so-hidden sexual references. Chef Savuthy “T” Dye of Urbane, who suggested this song after participating in last month’s Dish-Off, envisioned the use of aphrodisiacal foods, but adds that since the song is about a woman going too fast (and a man who wants her to slow down), this month’s chefs might “move in a different direction, concentrating on the words ‘fast’ and ‘slow’—maybe doing a gourmet take on fast food, or a combination of fast and slow foods on the same plate.” How will two Wallingford chefs get down and dirty in making a main dish that would please a Prince—or at least T and me?
Avila: Swordfish and Puttanesca Sauce
When told of the song, Chef Alex Pitts and his team at Avila thought “fast cars and fast women” and immediately wanted to serve something that moves fast in the wild, settling on swordfish. “Since it’s predatory, it’s perfect for the song,” Pitts says. The fish is well-chosen, and well-cooked. As for the sauce with a name (as we saw in October, when Branzino prepared it) that means “of a whore,” restaurant owner Jared Carpenter explains delicately: “Prince is basically talking about a woman who—what’s the best way to put it—enjoys life.” This modern take on puttanesca sauce is colorful and delightful, featuring (Tuscan) Controne beans, Castelvetrano olives, cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers. A polenta cone finishes the dish, which looks as good as it tastes. I especially like the olives, a noted aphrodisiac.
Cantinetta: Pork Three Ways
Cantinetta chef Brian Cartenuto is quite the character, as is easy to discern from his “Bachelor in the Kitchen” blog. This challenge was right up his alley. When he brings the pork-filled plate, he announces, “The song is not only about sex, but it’s actually all about vaginas.” As I wonder whether this will be suitable for publication, he adds, “When I think about vaginas, I think about ‘porking,’ and since no one likes to do it in just one position, I present to you ‘Pork Three Ways.’” On one side, braised pork belly, crisped in pork fat, on a bed of shaved Brussels sprouts with pancetta; on the other, a pork and shrimp “shumai”—actually more like sausage on a stick—served with stone-ground mustard, and kohlrabi and grapefruit salad. Cartenuto is a crazy chef cooking crazily good food.
Photos by Rina Jordan. (Click to enlarge them.)
Note: Dish-Off reviews are based on announced visits. Restaurants get guidelines and choose what to serve according to the month’s song.