Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Mixed doubles at Toro

With temperatures dropping into the single digits, I am reluctant to go out for dinner. But David had had a long day and was eager for a little treat. The cozy room of Ken Oringer's newly opened Toro in Boston's South End seemed the perfect compromise, with a roaring fireplace and satisfying, yet innovative, tapas.

The dining room is small, just a dozen tables line the walls, and two communal "tables," really high bars in the middle. Another, more proper bar, offers more seating and drinking space. We walked in and the only spaces available were at the bars. So we perched across from two women already ensconced in mini-Kobe burgers and roasted brussel sprouts. The narrow table allowed us an intimate review of the menu. We were quite hungry so we started with the Pan con Tomate and Olive Oil (another menu with an eclectic mix of English and a foreign language -- in this case, Spanish). Crispy and rich with olive oil, but still light on the palate, just perfect to take the edge off while we perused the rest of the menu.

We consulted with our neighbors as to what to order, and decided to take their recommendation on to whom we should send the first official Random App of 2006. We departed a bit from our neighbors' choices and ordered the Lengua con Lentils as well as the Garbanzos with Chorizo. Smoked Duck Drumettes with Kumquat delighted our palates. But we took their recommendations to send the salt cod fritters, which they said was the best dish on the menu, to a table of three men and one woman. As the group had sauntered in, gregarious and laughing, they had the presence of locals dining at their favorite haunt.

The waiter brought over the dish, while David and I tried to watch without obviously staring. The waiter pointed at us and the group all turned to look, waving at us quizzically while we timidly waved back. Rafael, whose name we soon learned, walked over to introduce himself and thank us. He walked back to has table seemingly even more confused.

David and I returned to chatting with our table mates, who by this point were licking the chocolate dish from a spicy rendition of Churros y Chocolate (the name is forever embedded in my brain as the name of my Spanish I text book in high school). We discussed our favorite restaurants, as both Bonnie and Paula, our new friends, were both avid diners. Paula, a freelance architecture writer from New York has written about Boston Celebrity chefs and their homes. Bonnie produces her own line of jams which are also sold at Formaggio's Kitchen.

Since I couldn't eat the salt cod fritters myself, I decided to ask Rafael and his table how they enjoyed them. It turns out very much, and we also had a chance to clear the confusion. Rafael and his brother Ricardo thought, for sure, that one of them knew us, as they had never received a Random App. They were horribly embarrassed that they couldn't recall. After that issue was resolved we chatted a bit about Ricardo and Eliot's curtain business (which I would love to plug, but they did not give me their card), and Raphael's art (www.raphaeljaimesbranger.com). Mother Hercilia was visiting from Venezuela and was happily enjoying her sons' company and the Paella Valencia.

Pleasantly full after several small plates and some very nice and reasonably priced wine, we said farewell to the friendly staff and our new friends and emerged into the freezing Boston night. Who will get the next Random App, and where will it happen? Time will tell, but I welcome your suggestions.

Fantastic idea, your Random Apps of Kindness! I live in a part of town where people can't muster as much as a random smile of kindness. Surely a few Random Apps will ameliorate the situation. I'll give it a try and let you know how it turns out.
What an uplifting and delicious gesture! Please keep on posting photos as well. Together with your descriptions of the dishes and atmosphere, I feel as though I am sitting with you and David at your table tasting all the delectable dishes and delighting in the surprise of your the next new friend. I wonder how you could eliminate some of the confusion that always seems to precede the lucky recipient and skip straight to them being enchanted and delighted. Bon appetit!
P.S.: thanks also for the restaurant reviews. Please keep visiting new places...
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