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Have a Friend Who Hates Broccoli and Anchovies? Take Them to Vinoteca Poscol

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Maybe it's the contrarian in me -- the endless debater who loves a good, healthy, productive argument -- but there are few things that bring me more pleasure in this world than finding a food someone claims to hate and then finding or making an amazing dish with that food, turning that hate into love.

If someone tells me he doesn't like apples, I make it my mission to find an apple varietal he'll like. If a wine drinker tells me she doesn't like beer, I give her a Flemish sour and watch her horizons expand. If a cautious eater tells me he will never try blood sausage, I send him to eat a creamy piece of morcilla at Pampa Grill and beam as another offal convert is created.

This doesn't always work, of course, but my favorite people are those who'll at least give a "hated" food a handful of tries before giving up entirely. And then a couple more times a few years later...just to make sure. This is how I came to love beets after loathing them throughout my childhood. Now, the sweet, earthy root vegetable is my most treasured food.

So let's say you have a friend who hates broccoli and/or anchovies. Even better if he or she hates both -- as one of my friends did, until recently. Take the person to Vinoteca Poscol, where he may very well come away a changed person.

All of the dishes at the very egalitarian Poscol are inexpensive ways to experiment with ingredients you may shy away from at other restaurants: baby octopus, pork cheeks, bottarga, tongue.

Owner and chef Marco Wiles -- who also owns Da Marco and Dolce Vita, both Lower Westheimer institutions -- knows the best way to showcase these specialty items in accessible Italian dishes. And chef de cuisine Alfredo Mojica makes sure the kitchen knocks each dish out of the park every time. Consistency is key in restaurants as it is, but there's something about knowing every other dish you've tried has been en pointe that makes delving into more exotic ingredients that much easier.

Each dish under the "verdura," or vegetable section, of the menu is only $6. That's where you'll find the broccoletti with anchovies -- a very simple dish that I promise will help to convert even the pickiest of broccoli or anchovy unbelievers.

The broccolini is technically not broccoli, but rather a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan (the flat-leafed Chinese broccoli often seen in stir-fry dishes). As such, it is considerably smaller and less dense than a whole head of broccoli. The sweet, vegetal flavor is the same, however. The bulky, fibrous texture that some people find unpalatable in broccoli isn't there in broccolini, and the smaller stems and florets are easier to saute.

The anchovies at Poscol are good, high-quality Italian anchovies that don't reek of a wharf, but instead have a pleasantly briny scent and flavor like that of sea salt. And that's really how the anchovies are used here: as seasoning for the tender broccolini, which is gently sauteed in olive oil and dressed lightly with just a few nearly melted anchovies and a sprinkling of salt.

It helps, of course, to pair this dish with something utterly decadent as a reward to your intrepid eater. I paired the broccolini on this day with a pasta dish so rich it should make your blood simply seize up in your veins: prosciutto and tagliolini coated with a thick, nutmeg-scented bechamel sauce that bubbles up and browns under Poscol's broiler. It was a much-relished reward for my dining companion that day, who eventually admitted that he liked both the $10 pasta and the $6 broccolini equally.

You can try them both on the menu every night, but my favorite time to go is on Tuesday evenings. That's when Poscol's weekly happy hour kicks off (it runs Tuesday through Friday) and you can enhance your dinner with the addition of $1 cicchetti (Italian tapas, usually of the open-faced finger sandwich variety), $3 beers and $4 glasses of wine from 5 to 7 p.m.

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