Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beer and Butterbeans

Sunday August 23rd dawned a glorious day. I knew, from the moment I set foot out of the house early Sunday morning to walk the dogs, that my morning was going to involve sitting on the patio while waiting for Ann to arise. The temperature was remarkably in the low 60's and the humidity was finally down, a very pleasant change from the August status quo. It was a beautiful morning, one of those very special and rare mornings of which we see only a few a year.

I got off work early Saturday night (yes, slow nights do happen in the restaurant business) and consequently, I was up early. I knew since Saturday morning at the farmers market that my early Sunday morning project would be shelling butterbeans. Beth brought the first of her tiny crop of butterbeans to market and I grabbed a big bag of them for our Sunday dinner. Butterbeans are one of my all time favorites: I would suffer a lot for a batch of fresh butterbeans.

There is much confusion about butterbean terminology. Some people use different names for the different sizes of these beans. Some call the small beans limas and the big ones butterbeans and some people do exactly the opposite. This hardly makes sense because they are genetically the same bean. Me, I call them all butterbeans, but if I really want to call out a size difference, I'll add an appropriate adjective, as in baby butterbeans or large butterbeans. Beth's are large butterbeans as you see in the photo. Lima beans do not exist in my world.


Shelling Butterbeans
Outside on the patio, I shelled beans while Grace lay at my feet on the bluestones and stubby-legged troublemaker Charlie kept getting in the raised bed in which the squash are planted, not that it really mattered: this year the squash have foundered and we haven't got so much as a single fruit. That my toes and fingers were a bit chilled was really novel and got me thinking that I just cannot wait for fall any longer. With the days growing noticeably shorter, the locust trees already shedding leaves, and the nip in the air, I can just about taste fall.

Ann brought coffee out later when she got up and joined us in relishing the amazing weather. As I was shelling beans, I got to thinking about what we should do in the afternoon to take advantage of the phenomenal weather. For some reason, probably the linkage of fall weather and hiking in my mind, I got to thinking about the restaurant to which Kelly invited us a couple weekends ago when we were out hiking sweating on the Appalachian Trail. Although we couldn't make it then, I kept the name of the restaurant filed away. I figure that any place Kelly wants us to visit, given that she is a very fine chef, is worth our time.

So we undertook to drive down to Front Royal and try out PaveMint, styled a farm-to-street grill and micro- and craft-beer taphouse. The micro- and craft-beer part of this is important because Front Royal is one of the last bastions where Budmiller holds sway and it is important to forewarn the masses that only good beer is on tap. Already, I can see on the internet review sites that people are grumbling about the beer selection, i.e., that there is not any Budmiller anywhere to be found. My kind of place already.

Industrial Look and Feel
PaveMint is located in a recycled automotive garage in downtown Front Royal and the décor is intentionally spare and industrial as you can see in the photo with the tap wall clad in stainless steel, the recycled pallets, and the concrete bar top. A lot of people have complained about the décor on the web, but I'm one of those people who doesn't really care what the décor is: I go to a restaurant for the food and the beverage. As long as I am reasonably comfortable, the space and decoration are secondary.

For example, in St. Martin we had a great meal of grilled red snapper sitting at a picnic table at an impromptu restaurant right on the sidewalk of the Boulevard de Grande Case with a bazillion scooters going up and down the street and hundreds of people walking around celebrating Easter Monday, so a little recycled industrial isn't going to phase us. At PaveMint, I am sure that because the space is so hard it gets really noisy when there is a crowd, but at noon on a Sunday, no worries.

I suggested that we sit at the bar so that I could check out the beer selection. Glancing through the roughly 35 tap handles, I spied one for Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA and I was done. This is currently my favorite beer. I keep comparing others to it and keep finding them wanting. Ann had an Allagash White, which she discovered on our visit to Portland, ME. We had tasters of Oskar Blues G'Knight, a double red IPA that is too malty for me; Baltimore's own DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus Porter, never been a fan of chocolate or peanut butter in my beer; and Winchester's own Escutcheon Kölsch, a credible beer whose style does not appeal to me.


Starters: Falafel Bites and Crab Tots
Beer selection done, we turned to the menu which is pretty eclectic for Front Royal and is appealing to me as a chef. I like the fact that it is a simple and limited menu and pretty perfectly suited for the tiny kitchen. I decided I wanted duck confit tacos because I am always going to order duck confit tacos when I see them on the menu: reminds me of staff/chef-snacks at my own restaurant. Other than that, I told Ann to order whatever appealed to her. She ordered falafel bites and crab tots for starters and a burger for herself.

These falafels were a pretty decent take on the concept and I could snack a lot of them. Personally, I like more herbs in mine than most Americans are accustomed to, but nothing against these. The crab tots were less successful for me. I wouldn't order them again. They ended up being almost like a crab hushpuppy. I had to work hard to know that there was crab in mine and one of the three was still pretty raw in the middle. Not bad, but not memorable. I would rather pay a whole lot more and get a whole lot more crab for my money. I suspect that I am in the minority.

Duck Confit Tacos
These duck confit tacos were pretty damned decent drinking food and I could eat a lot of them, a whole lot of them. My duck confit is much more bomb that this, but these were honest and delicious tacos.

Ann's Bacon-Onion Jam Burger with Polenta Fries
After last weekend's trip to Melt Gourmet Cheeseburgers in Leesburg, I am hamburgered out for a very long time. Apparently, Ann, not so much because she ordered a burger at PaveMint. I strongly suggested she order it rare and she did. This was a good thing because it came out medium. I consider it a success when any burger I order anywhere has any pink in it, so little faith do I have in cooks.

Temperature issues aside, it was a delicious burger and much better than the burger I had at Melt. I'm sure it was a no-brainer for Ann to order polenta fries; I mean, what is a good Italian to do? These were good. I prefer a finer grind of polenta in fries because the coarser grain as in these fries makes a crust that is a bit tough and chewy. Still, kudos to anyone who puts polenta or chickpea fries on the menu.

My little nitpicks aside, I'm really happy with PaveMint and it pleases me that there is finally a decent casual restaurant in the restaurant wasteland that is Front Royal. The prices are very good for the quality. I hope this place really succeeds.

While sitting at the bar, I proposed that since we were already in Front Royal, that we go the extra 10 minutes and visit with Jeff and Kelly at Glen Manor Vineyards and to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner. On arriving, it was immediately obvious that harvest preparations are underway. Both presses are on the end of the crush pad and the north side is lined with empty fruit bins. Looking out over the vineyard, the bird netting is plainly visible.

One Week Before Harvest Begins
After an effusive greeting from Kelly, we spied Jorge and Randall out on the patio and went to say hello to them before coming back inside to taste. The Sauvignon Blanc in particular is starting to round out. I haven't tasted it in a couple of months when it was tasting super acidic. The reds are drinking really well now and we bought a bottle of Hodder Hill for dinner. After tasting, I got a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and we went back outside and sat with Jorge and Randall and caught up on the news.

And after a wonderful day out, we were tired and ready to head back to the house. I cooked the butterbeans and I enjoyed them to no end. As for the Hodder Hill, we decided to save that for another night when we were not so tired and could enjoy it more.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Quaglie al Barolo

It all started with a fantastic bottle of Barolo and too many cooks in the kitchen.

Just like at home, there can be too many cooks in a restaurant kitchen as well. And last night given the sparse reservations and ugly weather forecast, we had too many cooks in the kitchen. So, I planned to take the night off and let the line cooks fly on their own. Honestly, they wanted their nitpicky boss out of their hair for a night and so they were dropping hints about me going home all afternoon. They're not as slick as they think they are. But I was happy to play along.

That takes care of the too many cooks bit. But what about the Barolo? Earlier in the week, I had tasted an outstanding Barolo that I just knew that Ann would love. It was delivered yesterday morning. I had been looking for an occasion to break it out for her, to let her taste it blind, and to see how she reacted to it, hoping that she would be as beguiled by the wine as was I.

It All Started with a Bottle of Barolo
I was hooked by the gorgeous room-filling nose that offered hints of anise, rose petals, red raspberries, dried raspberry leaf tea, and other floral and herbaceous notes. Moreover, it tasted equally wonderful! There is nothing more depressing than a wine that smells amazing and then doesn't follow through. I am very impressed by this 2011 Guido Porro Barolo Vigna Santa Caterina. In my book, Nebbiolo, like Pinot Noir, can make highly expressive wines in cooler years and on cooler sites. The wines have less fruit to mask the nuances, both in the nose and on the palate.

Knowing that I was going to serve Barolo with dinner started helping me focus on what to make for dinner. Criteria: simple, flavorful, easy on the waistline, less than an hour from start to finish, and pairs well with Barolo. If we both weren't trying to shed a bunch of excess weight, I would have made a simple but mindblowing risotto ai funghi. But rice and other simple carbs are just not on our diet right now, at least not midweek. Maybe if we are splurging on the weekend.

I started by thinking about proteins, what would pair well and what I had on hand. Barolo rules out seafood. What I really wanted was a roasted guinea hen or barring that, a fat hen chicken. Of course, I had neither on hand. But I did have two spare quail which would suffice. Now what to do with them? Pan sear them and finish with a quick braise in Barolo, naturally. And what to serve with them? Two 4-ounce birds by themselves are not going to feed two hungry adults. Risotto, of course! Ugh, we are not doing risotto until we shed some blubber. So what then?

Lentils to the rescue. Complex carbs and highly satisfying to mangiafagioli such as Ann and I. And lentils are a great foil, almost as great as rice (but not quite), for wild mushrooms.

Matsutake Mushrooms
Once I decided on lentils, I took inventory of what else I had on hand and of course, I already had mushrooms in mind. With the Japanese economy struggling, demand for matsutake mushrooms is off and the consequent price decrease means that they are barely affordable this year as opposed to not being affordable at all, Japan by far being the largest market for US matsutake.

Lentils Cooking Away
The secret to good lentils (actually, the secret to any dish) is building layers of flavor which I did a variety of ways. I started by cooking mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) with reconstituted dried porcini and a bit of slab bacon. I usually use pancetta but for this dish, I decided I wanted a little smokiness to play with the wine. The cooking liquid is mainly water, but I have added a cup of porcini stock and a quarter cup of pork belly goodness, the pork essence that we find congealed in the pork belly roasting pans at the restaurant. We save all this goodness and use it to amplify many dishes. The only catch is that it is very salty (from the pork belly cure) and a very little goes a very long way. A bay leaf rounds out the seasoning.

Barolo-Braised Quail on Porcini Lentils with Matsutake Mushrooms
While the lentils were cooking, I briefly sautéed the matsutake slices and held them warm. Prep for the quail sauce involved dicing a shallot, mincing some reconstituted porcini, dicing an ounce of slab bacon, and mincing some parsley from the garden. When the lentils were fully cooked and the liquid reduced, I gave them a final season and moved them to the back of the stove. The quail I dredged in seasoned Wondra and then cooked them perhaps 90 seconds on each side until they were golden brown.

Removing the quail from the pan to a plate, I started the sauce by adding the bacon, porcini, and shallot to the pan and cooking until the bacon was starting to render and crisp, about 90 more seconds. Into the pan next went a half a cup of Barolo, a couple tablespoons of pork belly goodness, and a half a cup of porcini stock. And back into the pan with the quail. I basted the quail for a minute or so, flipping them once so that the Wondra could do its bit in thickening the sauce slightly. Out of the pan again with the quail and a final reduction of another minute or 90 seconds to finish the pan sauce.

We Ate at the Table like Big People
And then it was off to the dining room, glasses of Barolo in hand, to eat dinner and talk like real people for a good long while. I never get to sit and linger with my wife at the dinner table. What a great night!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers, Leesburg VA

Ann saw someone talking about MELT Gourmet Cheeseburgers on Facebook last week and decided that we needed to ride over to Leesburg on Sunday and check it out. In looking at the place on line, I could see there's a lot of hype about this restaurant, a lot of hype: Best Burger in Loudoun County, Best Burger in Virginia, on people's lists of best burger joints in the entire country. For all this, I had never heard of the place before, not that I am really all that attuned to what is happening in the burger world. I eat one or two a year and that pretty much is the sum total of all the beef that I eat in a year.

Ann's Bison Burger: Best Looking of the Lot
We arrived in Leesburg about 12:15 and our wait in line at this counter service-only restaurant was not long. The restaurant occupies a pretty small storefront in a shopping center with a couple of tables on the sidewalk, a few tables inside, and a counter along the sidewall opposite the open kitchen. We sat along this counter. The tables are pretty cramped. If you're allergic to people, this is not your scene.

You order at the back of the restaurant at the end of the counter fronting the kitchen and then a runner brings you your food to your table. Or rather they holler out the table number and hope for you to flag them down so that they know where they are going in the chaos that is a packed room. There is no tipping, but the tip line on the credit card slip let you donate to the local humane society and so I did, what I would have normally tipped the server/food runner.

Carter came with us, so we were three and we ordered three different burgers. Carter ordered a basic bacon cheeseburger mid-rare, Ann a bison burger mid, and me, a green chile burger rare. I must say that all the burgers were cooked spot on, exactly as ordered. In my experience, this is not something you encounter every day.

All the ingredients were fresh, buns being baked as we sat there, and the toppings were generous. My burger in particular had a ton of bacon on it. I didn't find the roasted poblano chiles until the second half of the burger: they must have slid to one side. And by that time, I was done. These burgers are immense and way more than any one person needs to eat. I left a quarter of mine and could easily have stopped after a half. Ann's bison burger was really great, perfectly seasoned. My burger was desperate for some salt and pepper. Not sure about Carter's burger: it got hoovered in just a few seconds.

So far, creative menu, burgers cooked correctly, and good quality ingredients, including the beef. Massive portions. No issues there. As I mentioned earlier, seasoning of the burgers was inconsistent. The buns, despite being baked in house, were not my thing. They were too soft to stand up to the burger and all the toppings: by the time I got my hands around the burger, the bun had become so soaked with juices that it wasn't much of a bun any longer. I also like my buns cooked longer with more of a crust. They were coming out of the double-door oven very pale. Moreover, I want my bun toasted on the flat-top before the burger goes on. Ann's was at least noticeably toasted. My bun was not.

I never felt like my burger and the topping meshed into a coherent whole. The green chile burger sounded much better on paper than it was in execution. Mine had too much shredded lettuce and special sauce that pretty much drowned every other flavor. I think this is a situation where less is more and a little restraint would have made a big difference.

Onion Rings Did Not Scratch My Onion Ring Itch
We also ordered a plate of fries and a plate of onion rings. Again portions are huge, but the skinny shoestring fries just are not in keeping with the immense burgers. Five Guys still has the best fries in our area, though their burgers suck. The onion rings were a disappointment. I'm looking for large rings of beer-battered onions; these were not it. The quality of the fries and the onion rings did not match the quality of the burgers. Prices are what they are. Three burgers, one beer, two milk shakes, one fries, one onion ring: $75.

In sum, nice menu, very good quality ingredients and beef. Burgers cooked perfectly. Some dings on execution for inconsistent toasting of buns and seasoning, but this is a factor of how busy they are. Nobody on that line has a moment to come up for air, let alone concentrate on quality. Onion rings and fries not quite to the standard set by the beef. Overall, very good quality for a burger joint. Lives up to the hype? I don't think so. And I can do better at home and so it's not worth the 45-minute drive for me. If I lived closer, I might visit once a year when they are not very busy and order a burger with minimal toppings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bonus Dinner: Cellophane Noodle Salad

Tuesday was about as odd a day in the restaurant business as one could imagine. School just started so we had no reservations and not much hope of any dinner business either. Worse still, our disgruntled dishwasher called out sick after posting on Facebook on the weekend that he hates his job and never wants to wash dishes again, so we were stuck with no dishwasher.

However, one of our line cooks volunteered to come in and wash dishes for the extra hours on his paycheck. And with the extra line cook in the kitchen, there was really no need for me to be there, so I took the night off and stopped by the grocery store to pick up some items to make that cellophane noodle salad that Ann and I had discussed as a possibility for Sunday's dinner.

Cellophane Noodle Salad with Shrimp
This light, refreshing salad was just what the doctor ordered. Ann and I ate it while catching up on some TV.

Salad Ingredients Save for Shrimp and Noodles
This is a freeform salad that takes little time to prep, cook, and devour and should be in everyone's culinary arsenal. Five minutes of prep included cutting up two bunches of cellophane noodles with kitchen scissors and covering them in warm water, defrosting eight big shrimp, slicing a quarter of a small red onion, cutting half a bunch of green onions into batons, likewise for a small pickling cucumber and a small orange pepper, picking some cilantro leaves, harvesting some Thai basil leaves from the garden, and making a batch of nước chấm from lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, sambal oelek, and agave nectar.

When we were ready to eat, I quickly cooked the shrimp, drained the noodles, and mixed everything together. A quick scattering of crispy fried shallots on top finished the dish.

Ann said to me during dinner, "It's almost like we're normal." Almost, girlfriend, almost.

Easy. Fresh. Delicious. Quick. Try it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sushi

Monday evening, Ann, Carter, and I planned to go have sushi at Awabi where owner Marcus Doe's skills are getting better and better all the time. Carter had some requests, otherwise, I asked Marcus to send out whatever he would for us. These two plates of sashimi were beautifully done.

Beautiful Sashimi

Part of Carter's Haul
Having a teenager along, especially one who is a ravenous sushi hound, definitely increased the bill. He ate a third of the sushi for the table, the two rolls you see above, and another lollipop roll on top of that! At least he suffered to be seen in public with Ann and me. That is definitely not a given.

The Rolls are Beautiful

Bonanza!

Only 5 Frames to Get a Smile
As I said last time we were here, it felt so normal to be sitting outside in front of the restaurant eating like real people. In this business, we don't get to feel normal very often. It was a really wonderful evening out!

Penne ai Frutti di Mare all’Arrabbiata

On our way back from Skyline Drive on Sunday, Ann and I started kicking around what to have for dinner. We tried to talk about dinner on the drive down to no avail: we both think better about food when we are hungry. And hungry we were starting to get after our hike whetted our appetites.

Ann started things off with shrimp seviche, which morphed into cellophane noodle salad or some combination of the two dishes. I thought we were done with dinner planning and had arrived at the "light and fresh" dinner that Ann was craving. Then scallops got into the picture, still light and fresh. But then things took a left turn: "in a spicy tomato sauce." Next, "what kind of pasta do you have at the restaurant?" At this point, I knew light and fresh was out the window and I threw in the towel offering that we also had beautiful mussels to add to the arrabbiata/puttanesca sauce.

And what an awesome dinner it turned out to be!

Penne ai Frutti di Mare all’Arrabbiata
 This pasta turned out to be even better tasting than it looks!

Warm-up Wine During Prep
When we got home from hiking, we opened this 2010 Hodder Hill Bordeaux blend from Glen Manor. I thought it fitting because we spent the day hiking very near the winery.

Sauce Mise en Place
Here you see the majority of the sauce components ready to go, from top left clockwise: red pepper flakes, olives, tomatoes, garlic, capers, mussels, and basil. Missing are white wine and fish sauce, my alternative to anchovy filets. The olives are the little ones very similar to those from Nice and are cured in the Niçoise fashion. These happen to be from Spain where they are called Coquillos.

Searing Scallops
To start the sauce, I first seared the scallops and the shrimp in a black steel pan, trying to build as much fond (the brown caramelized glaze on the bottom of the pan) as possible.

Searing Shrimp
As each batch of seafood was just barely cooked, I transferred it to a large pasta bowl. Once all the seafood was cooked, I deglazed the pan with a half a cup or so of dry white wine, a bit of leftover Chablis from the fridge. I moved the black steel pan off the range, dropped the pasta in the water, and moved a large pan onto the flame to make the sauce. I used a large, shallow pan because I wanted as much surface area as possible so that the sauce reduced as quickly as possible: it needed to be done in the time that the pasta took to cook, about 10 minutes.

Sauce Just Starting to Work
First into the pan were olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic, healthy quantities of each on the order of 3 tablespoons. Once the garlic started to brown, in went the capers, the mussels, the olives, and the tomatoes. I also added half the sliced basil, the deglazing liquid, and a good shot of fish sauce (rather than anchovies). The other half of the basil went into the pasta bowl with the shrimp and scallops.

Final Reduction on the Sauce
The mussels will in all likelihood cook before the sauce is completely reduced, so when they open, remove them to the bowl with the other seafood. When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the seafood and once the majority of the liquid has evaporated from the sauce, check it for seasoning and add it to the pasta. Toss everything and serve immediately with a little grated cheese, if you like. I tend not to add grated cheese to seafood dishes.

A Perfect Wine for This Sauce
The perfect wine for this spicy tomato-based dish is a high-acid, light-bodied Italian red. Barolo might be overkill but I sure didn't mind. A Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo would have been a more budget conscious choice.

Compton Peak/Skyline Drive

On Sunday, we took advantage of the really beautiful weather to go down to Skyline Drive and hike from Compton Gap up to Compton Peak and have lunch at the top. We picked this hike because it is only about two and a half miles in length with only 800 feet of elevation gain, fairly flat for this part of the world. Given how out of shape we are, this is all we needed to bite off on this particular day, especially since I spent the last two nights working the front of the house at the restaurant and running constantly.

Glen Manor Vineyards From Above
We stopped at a couple overlooks on our way to the Compton Gap parking lot, including the Gooney Manor overlook, which looks straight down onto Jeff and Kelly's winery. I shot them this picture from the road and they invited us to dinner, but we were already back in Winchester by the time we got the invite.

Rocks, The AT has Rocks
From the parking lot, we headed south down the Appalachian Trail and up Compton Peak. The going up the hill was slow at times as we were walking on loose rock in many places. Still the AT through Shenandoah National Park is one of the flatter and better manicured sections.

View Northwest from Compton Peak
Near the top, a small trail crosses the AT, the one branch going to the rocks at the peak in about two tenths of a mile and the other branch going down a very steep slope to a rock formation with no view. We sat in the breeze on the rocks at the peak and ate our picnic lunch: some peanuts and dried cherries, a little Mezzo Secco Monterey Jack from Vella Cheese Company, a couple slices each of two different salame, and the last few pluots of the year.

American Mountain-Ash
At the top, I saw a small tree/shrub that was similar to a sumac in full fruit, but I know how to identify all four kinds of sumac that grow in this part of the world and this was not one of those four. The leaves were slightly wrong and the fruit was all wrong. Sumac fruit does not look like Nandina berries as this does. This is the American Mountain-Ash, Sorbus americana, cousin to the European Mountain-ash that is often referred to as the Rowan.

Columnar Basalt
At the other end of the trail, which I visited while Ann rested at the crossroads on the AT, is a large basaltic rock formation which when viewed from the bottom displays what geologists call columnar jointing. Basically, when certain types of lava cool, they shrink and the shrinking causes them to crack in vertical columns. The columns are roughly hexagonal or pentagonal in shape. Each of the columns you see here is about half a meter to two-thirds of a meter in diameter. The honeycomb shape is unlike anything I have ever seen before.

The climb down was steep and the climb up was worse! As I neared the AT on my way back up the hill, I could hear Ann talking animatedly with someone. It turns out that a thru-hiker and his dog had stopped for a few minutes on their way north. It seems to me that he must be pretty far behind schedule, given that most folks are aiming for the halfway point at Harper's Ferry by July 4th. He is still 3-4 days out of Harper's Ferry more than a week into August. He's going to have a hell of a hurry to get to Katahdin before Baxter State Park closes for the season on October 15th. He might make it yet: he came blowing by us a few minutes later at nearly a jog, a good 4-5 miles per hour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bruschetta?

We had planned to eat bruschetta on Monday since early on Sunday morning when Ann surprised me by pulling a bowl of bread dough from the oven where it had been fermenting overnight. We planned to go to the movies on Sunday afternoon and as it worked out, after eating junk food at the late afternoon movie, we weren't going to need any dinner and so we postponed the bread until Monday.

Another Awesome Loaf from Ann
We were all set for bruschetta on Monday, with plenty of ripe tomatoes and bunches of basil from the garden. I was all ready to grill the bread after it baked. I was salivating for bruschetta.

I should have known. I really should, after all these years with Ann, I really should have known it was coming. "I don't want bruschetta," she threw out about mid-afternoon and apropos of exactly nothing while we were binging on The Wire, "I want pasta." And to put the exclamation point on that statement, she went and dredged out a box of rotini from wherever she keeps her stash. At that point, it was futile to argue that I wanted gloriously toasted bread with tomatoes and basil on top. No, at that point, it was just best to shut up and get on with the pasta.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil
There is no better way to eat pasta than in the summer when you gently heat slivered garlic in extra virgin olive oil, toss in raw diced tomatoes, and a handful of basil just to warm everything through. And then you unceremoniously dump the tomatoes on top of a bowl of hot pasta and dig in. There is nothing at all wrong with this delicious seasonal pasta...except that it is not bruschetta!