The hummus dip at Merende.
Here's another dose of happy hour. Today, my happy hour stop is Merende. Yesterday, I toured El Gaucho's happy hour menu. Tomorrow, come back for thoughts on happy hours at Pacific Grill, Stanley & Seafort's and Duke's.
Now for today's offering....
Il Trattoria di Merende
Five dollars makes me happy at Merende. It's all I need – five bucks – to enjoy a plate of hummus with pita, or a helping of mushroom risotto, from the "everything five bucks" happy hour menu at Merende. I appreciate a menu full of $5 options. Here's what I ate:
Mushroom risotto, $5: Al dente carnaroli rice makes this dish chewtastic. I love rice with just a touch of bite, all bound together in the creamy harmony that is risotto. And that's why carnaroli makes a superior risotto -- even during a long cook, it retains just enough bite to give it texture. The risotto here is a small portion, but loaded with chunky mushrooms. Topped with a sprinkle of fresh-diced tomatoes, and a nice plunk of tart goat cheese, this risotto is one of my favorite nibbles at Merende.
House made hummus, $5: My dining partners devoured this dip so quickly, I'm lucky I got in a few scoops. I liked that it wasn't pureed beyond recognition; a little texture from garbanzo beans is good for hummus (too much bean texture makes the dip waxy; a little adds a nice mouthfeel). Bright with lemon and nutty with tahini, the hummus was fragrantly garlicky, too. Ask for extra grilled pita bread to scoop up the last of the dip. This dip is a worthy companion for the olive tapenade.
Olive tapenade, $5: Two mounds of green olive and kalamata olive tapenade proved a perfectly compatible spread with the hummus. I thought the kalamata tapenade had deeper, saltier flavor than the green olive tapanade. Like the hummus, the tapenades were delicious spread on the pita bread. Be sure to order the extra grilled pita bread; the tapenade comes with one piece of crunchy, grilled crostini. The softer texture of the pita makes a better dipping vessel.
Sausage, peppers and onions, $5: A crispy grilled sausage had a kicky, peppery bite and was loaded with garlic. It would wash down perfectly with a frosty brew. The sausage came split open and ready for the devouring – easy to enjoy if this is your dish, but more awkward and sloppy to cut apart if you're trying to share across plates. The sausage came covered with a layer of sautéed red peppers and onions that were sweet and fragrant. This is one of those dishes you want to just keep eating and eating.