Olé! Olé! Olé! - Toro Restaurant, Food and the presence of the Divine
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love describes the origin of this phrase “Ole! Ole! Ole!” in this wonderful presentation at TED.
Really, for anyone involved in creative endeavors, the clip is well-worth watching. Thought-provoking, funny, sensitive - it was enough to put her “freakishly successful” book on my Powell’s Wish List. As Gilbert describes it, the Arabic origins grew from the shouts of Allah! Allah! Allah! that people would proclaim when a dancer was so exquisite that there was no doubt the audience was witnessing something like a spiritual possession. To see a transcendent performance is to see the presence of God.
As the Moors migrated to Spain, the cries of Allah! evolved to Ole! Indeed, when I was in the presence of some master Flamenco dancers here in Boston, years ago, this phenomenon was described to me as “el duende” or a sort of mystical or magical spirit (only) the best dancers would possess in certain performances.
This creative force that makes one feel alive is often, maybe not often enough, expressed through food. Is it too far-fetched to believe the presence of the Divine can be experienced during special meals that move one in the same way a magical performance does? You’ve had those meals where you are tingly, knowing that this is a meal you will always remember.
A cynic like me is so moved by these experiences, and so passionate about them, perhaps because these connections, these moments, ARE the essence of the greater-than-ourselves thing. We can, through food, be connected to our history, our culture, to each other, to our sense of possibility, or to our youngest memories. Who can say these moments are less divine than those moments in dance? Cannot a chef be moved, possessed in the same way as a musi cian or a dancer? Are not some of our best chefs also musicians?
For me, the moments approaching this “duende” do not often occur in quiet or solitary reflection. These moments of vitality are experienced in the sharing of a great meal or a great performance.
From the Divine to the profane, and back again
Can I just say that even Penelope Cruz could not fit her thighs between the tables at Toro? Fine. We move furniture in order to be seated. That doesn’t exactly put this diner in the mood to eat.
But then you are six inches away from the most beautiful food at the next table. You are faintly aware that the swooning person next to you may fall on your shoulder or lap if they are not careful. And back to the divine. The food at Toro is wholly deserving of shouts of Olé! Olé! Olé!
Start with a Gypsy - Courtney's signature cocktail: gin, chartreuse, St. Germain. Or the most perfect Pisco Sour in the city (sorry Cuchi Cuchi, you have been replaced.)
Then pick a few pinchos and hang on to a menu, so you can order the next round after a little bite or two. We had the pleasure of many offerings on the house (H) in between the obscene number of dishes we ourselves ordered. It is nothing short of a miracle no eyes were lost to popping buttons from my shirt. See, there it is again, the Divine.
Our evening's feast:
Navajas a la Plancha
Seared razor clams with garlic, lemon and piquillo peppers
(H) Bisbe de Porc
Moon in the Pond pork rillete pincho
Tablito de Charcuteria
House charcuterie: Jamone de Pato; pig ear terrine; house pate over candied carrots; Vietnamese style bologna; Morcilla
Asado de Porc
CT raised pork loin with harssa and Macomber turnips
(H) Bocadillo de Erizos
Pressed Maine sea urchin sandwich
(H) Suquet de Chanchito
Moon on the Pond pork stew with tripe, Chantenay carrots and farm egg
Grilled heirloom pork sausage with beet greens
Gambas al Ajillo
Griddled garlic shrimp
Lengua con Lentejas y Salsa Verde
Smoked beef tongue with lentils and salsa verde
Datiles con Jamon
Medjool dates filled with Marcona almonds and Cabrales blue cheese, wrapped in Jamon Serrano
Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija
La Especialidad de la Casa. Grilled corn with lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese (if you think I’m joking about how good this is: see what Richard, normally a reserved if Passionate Foodie, has to say: Toro! Give me more corn!)
Asado de Huesos
Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade
(H) Rib Roasted Vietnamese style with mint, peanuts
If you eat all that, and haven’t burst, there’s only one thing to do: order dessert.
Churros for us and for the young couple next to us.
The food at Toro is wholly deserving of shouts of Olé! Olé! Olé!