The Best Thing I Ate This Week: White on White
"It's not Italian" I muttered, as I nodded in assent against my better judgement, not wishing to go against the grain. We were ordering for my birthday dinner at what's just about my favorite restaurant in the world.
Ajo blanco, or white gazpacho is a traditional alternative to the better known red gazpacho. It's ubiquitous in the south of Spain, Andalucia to be more precise, during the warm months. A soup cool in every way, it's as good as the sum of its ingredients, and the balancing skills of its maker. Olive oil, pulverized almonds, vinegar, garlic, perhaps a little bread are whipped into a smooth cream and served over green grapes.
The warm months have arrived in Mexico City, dry dusty desert-like days will be upon us until the rains come. So, yes, a cold soup is a good idea.
It arrived after squash blossom flowers which were fried so light they seemed to levitate off the plate like little cumulous clouds.
The soup was textbook perfect. The balance between sweet, salty, tart and umami was 3 star Michelin.
But Rosetta specializes in regional Italian fare, not southern Spanish. I asked the brilliant chef Elena Reygadas why, why she did it. "My Spanish grandmother made it and when the weather turns warm I get nostalgic - and there just aren't so many cold Italian soups I like." Chef Reygadas' touch is to add a little green apple and tarragon. So the soup is her own. Any Italian would approve.
Go for the white gazpacho while you can. Then eat pasta.
Note: Listen to an in-depth interview with the author: http://colinmarshall.libsyn.com/s3e18-first-rate-second-world-eating-with-nicholas-gilman