Friday, June 22, 2007

Lovely Hands Make a Lovely Evening

When someone calls and asks if I'd like to meet them for a drink and apps, I'm usually clapping my hands and jumping up and down before they finish the question. In the case of my cousin Julie it's a no-brainer, since she always has a list of places she hasn't tried yet and they're (so far, anyway!) always great.

This time we met down on Mississippi at Lovely Hula Hands, an early entry in the Mississippi sweepstakes and one that has garnered almost universal critical and public accolades for their drinks and their food. Initially located in a converted pink house at the south end of the avenue, they relocated up the street several months ago to a neglected brick building that originally housed a florist. It's now completely renovated in cool colors and retains its brick walls and 19th century feel, and they've recently added an arbor-covered back patio that's a great hang on a warm summer evening.

We started with coolers of their house Limedrops to set the mood for perusing the menu. Since the fam was heading out for dinner that evening, I didn't want to totally pork out beforehand. I settled on their fish cakes with preserved beets, chervil aioli and garden greens, the cakes having the requisite fish-rather-than-filler flavor and nicely (lightly) breaded and grilled. I love beets in any form, and the little jewels of red and gold were the perfect accompaniment to this dish.

Julie was ordering dinner and went for their penne pasta with sausage ragu, fava beans and parmesan, a hearty and flavorful bowl of goodness with just the right touch of spring from the favas. The sauce was light, so the sausage, beans and parma took center stage and gave it a nice depth of flavor without being too heavy for the warm evening. A glass of their syrah-cab franc blend alongside made it easy to catch up on the family news (smile for that video, you guys!).

With the vibe of a great spot to land after a day at work or a fun place to meet friends, it's got big tables that can accomodate larger parties both inside and out. Prices are moderate, so if you've been wanting an excuse to venture down the avenue, this would be a good place to head to.

Details: Lovely Hula Hands, 4057 N Mississippi. Phone 503-445-9910.

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