Think Globally, Eat Locally

The Local's Kieran Folliard is no stranger to turning pieces of straw into plates of gold.

On my second visit my waitress announced that we were her first-ever table, so let's not even talk about that. But even the third time, when the server was reasonably present and quite knowledgeable about the wine list, he managed to leave a bowl of mussel shells on the table throughout the meal and left us to pour our own wine, awkwardly, from an ice bucket. Fine dining to me means that you get to be sealed in a little cocoon of delight for the duration, and little annoyances like these keep the Local from being a top-flight fancy feed. Unfortunately, I suspect that the way you create that sort of pampering white-glove service is to have management be ever-vigilant and occasionally furious, and I wonder if sweethearts like Folliard and Cowley can ever be as adamant as all that.

Still, the Local may be the first restaurant that makes me break my policy of not reviewing the same place twice within a year; that's how confident I am that Folliard can buff out the flaws from this downtown gem. For example, on my first visit all the desserts were lackluster, but when I returned they had become fully realized--a lemon curd tartlet ($6) topped with fresh blackberries was as sunny as an August weekend, and a cocoa-infused poached pear served in a Guinness sabayon sauce ($6) had me happily singing to myself.

Besides, Folliard is no stranger to turning pieces of straw into plates of gold--witness the Local's most popular spot, a little curtained nook toward the rear of the restaurant called the Kissing Room. This, Folliard says, was a construction mistake. "When we were decorating, people said, 'Well, let's make it into a storage room.' And I said, 'That's one thing it won't be in the very middle of the ground floor--a storage room.' So we called it the Kissing Room, painted it red, put up a curtain. Today people love it, everyone's clamoring to get into the Kissing Room." The only remaining problem: "I don't think there has been nearly enough kissing going on in there."

TABLEHOPPING

HEART-SMART SLAW: Don't know what to bring to your cardiologist's potluck? How about a virtually fat-free coleslaw? This is one of several you can find in Bon Appétit:

Italian-Style Cabbage Salad

* 8 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

(about 1/2 large head)

* 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

* 2 tablespoons drained capers

* 2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably

extra virgin)

* 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

* 2 tablespoons water

* 1 tablespoon minced garlic

Combine red cabbage, parsley, and capers in large bowl. Whisk oil, vinegar, water, and garlic in small bowl to blend. Add to cabbage mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared up to three hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

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