Money’s tight these days for many people and I definitely count myself a member of that penny pinching group. But I’ve decided that this is no reason to go on a complete starvation diet when it comes to fun. Having a good meal, prepared, served, and cleaned up by people other than me, and enjoyed with family or friends plus something fermented or distilled, is a favorite way to play. Perhaps that’s because I’m still in recovery from cooking nightly for three sons- now grown and capable of fending for themselves- and a husband, all big guys with big appetites. No matter how often I do it, eating in a restaurant feels out of the ordinary, lifts me up and out of the day’s problems, and goes a long way towards turning any evening into an occasion.
One of the places that delivers a lot of pleasure for a small investment is Sergio’s in University Circle. The menu once leaned heavily towards Brazilian fare, but now has a Mediterranean bent. I come here to do what I think of as table traveling. Chef Ryan Alabaugh runs the kitchen and he’s made it his mission to source the best, most authentic imported products that really ramp up the flavor of everything he offers. I can go all Spanish by ordering a glass of garnet colored Tempranillo and tapas plates of chorizo sausage simmered in wine; scallops with Serrano ham in a zesty romesco sauce; crispy rodillo (artichokes and manchego cheese wrapped in more of that wonderful dry cured country ham); and a baked egg dish called huevos flamencos. Or do an Italian thing with an antipasto of Tuscan style Molinari pepperoni and salami, handmade pappardelle pasta in lemon pistachio pesto cream, and a bottle of Soave or Barbera.
And you never know what fantastic special the Chef and his crew will whip up. I once had the most amazing pheasant broth. Pictured here is chargrilled balsamic glazed beef tenderloin basilico"on a bed of mixed greens with feta. The selection of cheeses-served with fruit, nuts, and other tasty tidbits and condiments- is always changing and always spectacular. So yes- I am trying to spend carefully. But there’s no doubt in my mind that these relatively modest culinary indulgences are a good investment. After all, dining out makes for happy times and nice memories that are guaranteed not to lose value. And I can’t say the same for my house or my 401K