Friday 13 November
We had tempted our friends Lois and Jon to drive over from Urbana so that Jon could give a talk on one of his favorite topics, the novel Ben-Hur and all its amazing spinoffs. Everyone loved the lecture, and as a reward, we took him, Lois, and Catherine, who'll be teaching "Classics and Film" next term, out for dinner to a buzzy local place, Enoteca Emilia.
It was crowded, and specials were disappearing as soon as they were announced, but we managed to grab a bottle of Francesco Cirelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013, which was warm and fruity on a chill evening.
When we finally managed to make up our minds, we had tastes of Jon's whipped lardo and nduja (which turns out to be one thing rather than two, a sort of salami spread for grilled bread), as well as a plate of white bean and kale salad scattered with hazelnuts, fig, pecorino romano, and lemon, and a hearty dish of octopus and chickpea stew with tomato, chorizo, lemon brown butter, and pea shoots on top.
Our lighter main course was bucatini with Massachusetts Bay middleneck clams (out of their shells), pancetta, caper butter, and garlic toast (we ignored the latter). The heavier was braised pork "osso buco" (i.e. two pork shanks) lapped in creamy polenta, scattered with dried tart cherries and walnut gremolata. Eating them produced a pile of bones that looked bigger than it had when the meat was on them, and there wasn't a sign of marrow, but neither of us was complaining, as the meat was tender, savory, and filling.
After this good dinner, we took Jon and Lois home for Dark 'n' Stormies, plus Graeter's and chocolate for those still in the mood for edibles.
We stayed up drinking and talking on all topics till all hours, just like college kids. It's always fun when Lois and Jon visit.