I remember the first risotto I ever had. I ordered it at some random restaurant I decided to try on a whim one night in downtown Santa Barbara. It was a long time ago. The place is probably not there anymore. But the risotto I had was so good, so creamy, I compare every risotto I've had since to it.
The new Taverna in Laguna Beach, which specializes in risottos, has just four on its menus, including one with wild mushrooms, another with shrimp and prosecco. The cheapest version on the list, the risotto con burrata, is also the most basic: risotto stripped to its foundations. In this dish, more than the others, the grains are as translucent as pearls, suspended in the gravy they helped to create.
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There are bits of tomato for acidity, a fleck of oven-crisped prosciutto for saltiness, and a gob of melting burrata cheese for richness. But when you eat it, it's the creaminess and lusciousness of the rice that bubbles to the top. Paradoxically, it's also a light dish.
This is the risotto you want to eat during an early-summer weekend brunch on the patio, next to a gurgling fountain and with a view of beach volleyball. Even if you're not one to eat something so starchy so early in the morning, you should get it above all else, shunning the traditional brunch menu that has a Benedict and French toast among them. If it's your first risotto, it'll also be the one that makes you fall in love with the dish. Trust me: You always remember your first risotto...
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