Chow, Baby: Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Hallmark Pass

Many of Chow, Baby’s favorite holiday rituals fall in February, beginning with repeated viewings of that great existential masterpiece, Groundhog Day, with its dazzling treatment of Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence, its brilliant illustration of the Jungian process of individuation, and Chris Elliott. Also, at least part of the Mardi Gras season always falls in this month, so Chow, Baby gets to vicariously share the party by eating shipped-from-home coffeecake with a little plastic baby Jesus baked inside. Purple, green, and gold icing makes Him extra tasty.
Next comes Valentine’s Day, which this year was a boom-whopper, business-wise, for Fort Worth’s medium- to high-end restaurants. Chow, Baby knows this not by reading any, like, statistics, though they’re probably available from the Texas Restaurant Association if you really care, but because it freakishly couldn’t get a table that Saturday night. For the umpteenth year in a row — and really, Chow, Baby feels terrible about this — it had completely lost track of which one single day of the year it was supposed to declare its undying love and commitment to the beloved, because apparently the other 364 don’t count, and so hadn’t planned ahead, reservation-wise, for the special night. Turned away by heart-shaped-balloon-filled restaurant after heart-shaped-balloon-filled restaurant, we finally abandoned the idea of a shmancy Saturday night gourmet meal and let Tommy’s Hamburgers (5228 Camp Bowie Blvd.) fill the void. Which they did wonderfully. To go with our juicy, cooked- and dressed-exactly-as-requested cheddarburgers ($6.59), soft-hearted waitress B.J. recommended the new Texas Toothpicks ($3.99), julienne-cut battered-n-fried onions and jalapeños, which we shared just as lovingly as we share every dish every day of the year (except Chadra Mezza’s Heavenly Chicken). Screw you, Hallmark.
Chow, Baby’s newest February-holiday ritual is to celebrate Presidents’ Day at Ruffino’s (2455 Forest Park Blvd.), where executive chef Asdren Albanese honored Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays by preparing their favorite dishes, following period recipes. How cool is that? Pure bonus that the meal was great. The prix-fixe dinner ($20) included fall-off-the-bone chicken fricassee à la Abraham Lincoln’s housekeeper, and of course cherry pie, not too sweet, with huge, fresh bing cherries. Server Kathleen’s pampering and a nice visit from Chef Asdren, in which he carefully explained how to reheat the leftover fricassee (Chow, Baby just wound up nuking it; it was great), made us feel presidentally important.
Speaking of Albaneseez: Asdren’s Uncle Bobby’s place, Piola, which got hit by a fire a few weeks ago, is already starting to look like a building again. Watch: It’ll reopen just in time for some stupid Hallmark holiday, maybe as soon as Mother’s Day if we’re lucky, and Chow, Baby won’t be able to get in. But we’ll worry about that in May, because just a few days after Washington’s birthday is the most special day in February: Chow, Baby’s and the beloved’s own birthday. (Yes, we share, isn’t that sweet; please, no cards.) Planning ahead, which is what one does for important special days, Chow, Baby ordered our favorite Ruffino’s dishes to go: russett potato gnocchi ($12), salmon steak with perfect risotto ($26), tingly lemon tart ($8), and of course tiramisu ($8). The good and bad news: Chef Asdren is unveiling his new spring menu in March, and we’ll soon have to start celebrating all over again.

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