The first time I had paté was right after college, during the inaugural Itinerant Foodies adventure.
We were somewhere in Spain, shopping for picnic fixings—I distinctly remember using my limited Spanish to ask one of the grocers where the cheaper products were—when one of our new Australian friends dropped a small container into our basket. I’m not sure if I knew then that paté was made from liver, and I surely don’t recall the setting for our al fresco lunch. Those details are obscured by the more important ones: a chunk of crackly, warm baguette cautiously topped with a thin layer of spread, that eye-opening first bite, then seconds, thirds, and fourths with progressively generous helpings of the funky, earthy, heavenly stuff.
I was hooked.
That elemental experience, with its refrigerated-food-aisle offerings and plastic utensils, informed many that followed, but it was a far cry from the most recent.
I met up with two friends last night at Casellula, a small wine-and-cheese joint in Midtown west. Counterintuitively, maybe, we didn’t opt for any cheese (I don’t think we were given a menu, anyway); we did order a plate of olives, the pig’s ass sandwich (a glorified Cuban, without the pickles) and the chicken-liver paté, all to share. After an offhand remark about a perceived shortage of pork (the normal amount, seemingly) in the sandwich, our amiable waiter dropped off a gratis helping of sweet peppadew peppers, stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, wrapped in speck and heated until the cheese was oozing and the meat was crispy. Highly addictive, yes, but the evening’s winner, hands down, was the paté.
It came to the table in a neat little crock, kept warm under a blanket of house-made crème fraiche and a garnish of chopped parsley. Alongside, a mound of olive-oil-drizzled, toasted slices of baguette hid a pool of bitter-orange marmalade. Not to overstate matters, but the combination—creamy, tangy, sweet, bitter, pungent, vegetal—was revelatory.
We would’ve licked the bowl; at the very least, I wish we’d asked for a spoon to scrape it clean, or maybe ordered a portion to go. I’m sure it would’ve made a great breakfast.
Casellula Wine & Cheese Café
401 West 52nd Street
New York, NY