Thursday, December 17, 2009

Turducken Day Visual Memory

My little sister was kind enough to provide a photo of some foods before the digging in began, so here's half of what we ate:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turducken Day Memories

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post?! So much has taken place since then, from our first Thanksgiving ever as a married couple and homeowners, to ... well, a bunch of stuff.

Sadly, Boy and I haven't been out to dinner very often during this time, but we've been making a lot of truly spectacular food at home. And eating a lot of truly spectacular food at my dad's restaurant. Obviously.

To backtrack, though (sorry, no photos ... I was too busy swilling Al Valley Cab on Turducken Day), Thanksgiving was a roaring success, with 21 guests and enough leftovers to feed another 21. The turducken we got from Cajun Grocer went quickly, and certainly lived up to the hype the Wall Street Journal gave it, tender, well-spiced, and deliciously moist all the way through. It was a dream to carve (no electric knives in THIS kitchen!), according to Boy, and the jambalaya was a hit, all red and delicious like I remembered it to be. The shrimp in it were tiny and the amount of crawfish negligible, but hey -- at least my guests didn't know any better, the half of them being afraid of "crayfish" as it were. What was truly remarkable to those who partook, though, is the fact that the entire turducken was fantastically juicy all the way through, due to the stuffing technique and the density that comprised the 15-lb, 5-meat beast. Definitely worth the headache and the $85.

An 18-lb traditional roasted turkey in a Cajun (which is not to say spicy, as so many wrongfully assume ...) dry rub fed those who were less adventurous, but they proved to be in the vast minority, given that the turducken was the hit of the day.

Violently purple local cauliflower the size of a small animal was -- I believe "butchered" is the appropriate word here -- and made into a deliciously garlicky sauteed dish with white pearl onions, dyed a shocking shade of purple due to the violet varietal of that particular vegetable. A frightening or exotic sight, depending on who you're asking!

Other sauteed things included my dad's version of Singapore-style Chow Mei Fun, a thin, rice noodle about the approximate thickness of angel hair pasta, lightly seasoned and with a touch of curry. This ethnic dish is a specialty of my father's, using considerably less yellow curry than the traditional Singapore Chow Mei Fun, and colorfully enhanced by the presence of delightfully crunchy broccoli, fresh-roasted Chinese red roast pork, sliced into thin strips, thinly sliced chicken, fried and scrambled egg, snow white mushrooms, and Napa cabbage. Flavorful in a light way, with a touch of salt, this is one of my favorite things to eat when Chinese black mushrooms are also thrown in.

We also went ethnic in another direction with two traditional lasagnas, homemade sauce created courtesy of Boy's mother. A bit more acidic and tangy than the store-bought varieties, the marinara favored by this family of Long Island Italians tends to be a little thinner and a bit harsher than the sweet sauces in the jars ... but again, those sauces are nowhere near as sweet as the Southern renditions of "tomato gravy" I've experienced in Louisiana! Thick layers of ricotta cheese made the filling, and a generous layer of mozzarella, browned and bubbly, topped it off.

Boy's mom's signature salad with mesclun greens, Gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, craisins, tomatoes, and cucumbers tossed in a non-fat sugary-sweet raspberry vinaigrette filled two giant bowls, and accompanied the other snacks very well.

I know we're going backwards here, but my contribution to the dinner was, in fact, the snacks, from soft mozzarella ringed by roasted red peppers doused in olive oil and Italian seasoning; whole wheat butter crackers and tomato and basil multi-grain crackers to go with rolled Prosciutto di Parma, sliced hot Pepper Jack cheese, reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese, and port wine and cheddar cheeses covered in almond slices; to various other finger foods. For once, I did the antipasti only and sat back and watched my kitchen erupt in scents and sounds.

Anyway, we did have more traditional fare as well. Green bean casserole made an appearance, French's fried onions and all (a guilty pleasure I learned to love in adulthood, actually); as did a more shameful mashed potatoes-and-gravy, which came from a box and jar, respectively (there were 21 people! From-scratch was not going to happen after how much money we'd spent, lol). Mashed sweet potatoes were also served, along with a cornbread stuffing mix, which included pan-sauteed celery and diced mushrooms for additional texture and flavor. A bit salty, but that's what you get when you cheat and go the Stove Top route!

As if that weren't enough to carb-load on, homemade quick biscuits were also made, along with lemon-poppyseed bread and pumpkin bread in tiny slices (adorable!), and a rice and orange cheesecake was offered up for dessert. My greatest baked good weakness is, however, a cake from Benkert's Bakery, an award-winning local bakery with amazingly affordable prices (even though they've just recently raised their rates a couple of bucks). The shadow cake was served in honor of Boy's mom's birthday, which fell on Thanksgiving this year, a delicious confection of yellow cake and chocolate cake layers filled with sweet, light buttercream icing and topped off with melted chocolate. Ice cream cake also found its way into the festivities, a welcome pick-me-up after the lethargy that accompanies a meal of this proportion.

I feel as though I'm forgetting another dish, and I'm sorry I don't have pictures to refer back to (and of course, for the delay for those poor people who have stuck by me as I struggle to balance facets of my quickly changing life!), but I have to say, this was one of the best Thanksgivings ever. Not only did I stuff myself stupid, but I was able to bring a New Orleanian/Louisianian tradition to Long Island, New York, and share a little bit of my life for the past five years with the family that hasn't been able to partake that portion of my life for that long.

Happy holidays, everyone, and pictures of home-cooked meals to come!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Half-iversary with a River View

Living as nomads for a month, then as squatters for close to four, Boy and I hadn't really had the opportunity to really relish married life. For longer than we would have liked, we were regressed into an earlier time, a time when Mom and Dad made your meals and you were happy to not have to share your room. Although my parents were hospitable to a fault (in fact, so much so that all of us, including Baxter, gained even MORE poundage, supplemented by Grandma), after living on your own, it's not only humbling but frustrating to fly back to the nest and roost there.

So with all the frenzy of job-hunting, then house-hunting, working and working on the house closing, and now working on the ACTUAL house (hence the attached photo) into the wee hours, it was to my pleasant surprise to note that our six-month wedding anniversary was already upon us. Long Island Restaurant Week was the week prior to the one that just passed, and a good many restaurants participated in a 3-course prix fixe menu ... including the Riverview and The Snapper Inn.

Both the Riverview and The Snapper Inn were places Boy and I had our eyes on going, now that we've moved into the neighborhood they're located in. Both were beautiful waterfront dining establishments with excellent reputations and gorgeous views ... and both had extended their restaurant week menus into the foreseeable future. Huzzah!

Next was the difficult part - picking the restaurant. The pick between the two restaurants was a tough one, pitting Oysters Vanderbilt (Riverview) against Oysters Rockefeller (Snapper); short ribs with parsnip puree (Riverview) against a queen-cut of prime rib (Snapper); and a 1-lb. Maine lobster with drawn butter against seared Maine diver scallops. Worthy adversaries indeed. In the end, I was swayed by the argument made by the Riverview's oysters and scallops, and without reservations, reservations were made.

Initially, we'd planned a Tuesday night outing, on our actual 6-month-versary, but Boy fell inopportunely ill, to both of our great disappointments (although I suspect he was more disappointed than I, being that I felt pretty damn robust at the time ... my scratchy throat as of yesterday says I gloated too soon ...), so we decided to go last night. Snapper's prixe fix was only Wednesdays and Thursdays anyway, whereas Riverview offered a more competitive Sunday-Friday deal.

We drove there instead of walking per our original plan, since it was still kind of wet out (does it ever cease to rain on this island?) and we were dressed up, and were welcomed by a large dining space, bar that opens out onto the deck (my boss says their summer happy hours are definitely worth going to, between the drink specials, apps, and live music), and cozy dining nooks for intimate parties of ... well, parties, literally, of a dozen-ish people.

The service was excellent, and I was thrilled to discover that our fancy restaurant just up the block believed in amuse bouche. Instant win! A beautiful little bay scallop was served atop a buttery leek sauce, nestled in a perfect scallop shell atop a bed of sea salt. This sauce was in fact so fabulous that it caused Boy to change his order (after much debate) from the short ribs with parnsip puree to what I'd ordered, the seared scallops.

We each got a slice of bread following our hasty inhalation of what was an absolutely wonderful single bite, and the hot, crusty, hearty bread stick came with a cold pat of butter. I found myself going back for the butter several times despite the artisan quality of the bread, but mainly because it was warm enough that it kept melting the butter, and I happen to really like the texture of non-melted butter. Anyway, the bread wasn't particularly notable.

However, the next course, the Oysters Vanderbilt (which we both got) was definitely notable. Fortunately for us, we'd moved from one renowned oyster -- Louisiana's monstrously large Gulf oysters -- to another -- Long Island's Blue Point oysters, so this one was a no-brainer. The difference in flavor is there, with the Long Island oysters having a little bit of a more wild taste than the ones I've had in New Orleans, the hint of brine or something oceanic having a tiny more of a bite to it. The size difference was noticeable, New Orleans oysters at places like Drago's weighing in at what could easily be about two or three times the size. The flavor of the dish itself though was laudable, with spinach and gruyere baked together and topped with sizeable chunks of thick bacon to accent the squishy goodness of the oysters. All it needed were a few granules of the course salt they were anchored on and all systems were go. Boy and I could very easily have eaten a dozen each. They were juicy, fresh, and flavorful, and made us excited for our main courses, since we had both decided to traverse the seafood way that evening.

The presentation of the seared Maine diver scallops was nice and elegant in a simple way, with a good deal of lobster white truffle risotto dolloped in the middle and three very large scallops arranged around it as a frame. A lovely aroma of fresh scallop (very different than freezer-burned, stored scallop, I think) rose up in a sweet cloud of steam, and it was refreshing to see all the bits of lobster poking out of the risotto so generously.

The scallops were more seared on one side than the other for both of our dishes, but not enough to take away from the experience. They were prepared medium as to be firmer on the outside but shiny and soft, yet still easily sliced, in the center, where it was a lighter seashell color than the parts closer to the sear. The flavor was delicious, and with the citrus buerre blanc to give it that acid zest, the sauce and scallop just went together perfectly.

I really enjoyed the lobster white truffle risotto as well, since seriously -- what's not to love? I pity those who can't taste white truffle; it's a wonderful experience, with an earthiness that's difficult to describe in its distinction. The lobster meat was nice, and the risotto cooked perfectly, although I thought the heavier flavors of the risotto competed a little with the lightness of the scallops. However, this is a classic Riverview dish and I hear it's one of their signature favorites. I, on the other hand, would like to see a main course of the amuse that was sent out. That was unequivocably the best dish of the night.

The creme brulee I chose for my dessert course (from options of gelato, sorbet, or cobbler) had a thick crust of the carmelized sugar, and was topped with a single mint leaf and fresh blackberry. These were disposable to me. The custard was slightly tinged with cinnamon, which I found interesting but good. The apple cobbler Boy picked was good, with a sweet crusty streusel topping, nicely prepared apples (not too sweet), and a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream served on the side rather than atop, which I think is brilliant. I hate wrongful sogginess!

So the final consensus about the Riverview? With it's vacation spot, old-school, luxurious ambience, pretty views, great service, and delectable food, it's a jewel to have within walking distance of your house. For $25 for three courses and an amuse, a commendable selection of French-influenced dishes, and just-right portions, it's a value hard to beat. Will I be back again? Once we figure out how much was can spend on ourselves (we've been putting a lot of money into the new house), most certainly I'll be back. There's a Cedar Roasted Atlantic Salmon with
Citrus Salad, Dill Creme Fraiche, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette with my name on it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: A Cajun/LI Thanksgiving

One of the hardest things, as you know if you've been following this now-sporadically updated blog (umm ... yeah, sorry about that!), of moving away from a geographic area with a lot of culinary character, is knowing that the luxuries that you took for granted and the novelties that became commonplace over the course of the years, is no longer accessible. As Boy and I are nearing the time for our first family festivities both a) as a married couple and b) as homeowners, we were presented with the internal conundrum of incorporating what we've grown to love as New Orleanians into our New York/Long Island family traditions. This year would be pivotal since it'll be the first of many warm holidays at our waterside refuge, and we wanted to do it up in style and introduce our families to New Orleans things we enjoyed at this time for the past few years.

It was actually Boy's idea, the stroke of genius of how best to incorporate Big Easy novelty into a traditional Northern gathering. I wasn't sure if he'd go for this, so I didn't mention it, so was doubly pleased when he came up with it himself. But what better way to bring Thanksgiving in with an exciting, exotic bang than with an animal as unheard of on Long Island as the Texan jackalope?

Turducken was the answer.

A turducken, for those unfamiliar, is essentially a PETA-disapproved Cajun classic; a smorgasbord of unnecessary overuse of meat. It is, my friends, a chicken stuffed inside a duck inside a turkey, with layers of stuffing to help differentiate. The chicken and duck are fully deboned, and the turkey is partially deboned, usually, so it's actually super easy to carve and serve.

I was intrigued by this when I first heard of it back at my old workplace, the Mudbug office in downtown New Orleans, and upon further research, became determined to try it. My enthusiasm and Boy's penchant for meat and gluttony embarked us on a mission to find this fabulous fowl(s), and so last year, we enjoyed Thanksgiving at John Besh's Luke in the CBD. Served in a cast-iron skillet atop oyster and jalapeno cornbread, with gravy and plenty of collard greens, this was worth the search and as the featured entree for the 3-course prix fixe menu they offer daily, also worth every penny.

Granted, most families head out to K. Paul's Louisiana Kitchen for their turducken Thanksgiving out, but we were young, poor, and looking for quieter ambience, hence our decision to patronize the brasserie instead.

Anyway, this year's hunt for our Thanksgiving bird(s) has been considerably more difficult, due to our distance from Cajun country, and the obstacles presented by cross-country shipping. The price of the turduckens themselves aren't too bad, with full 15-pound birds ranging from $39-89, but the shipping is astronomical. Because it's a very large, perishable item, certain guidelines for shipping must be adhered, and many distributors are wary of shipping anything longer than 3 days. Special packaging is needed, dry ice, and et cetera all get factored into the cost. Therefore, some of the cheapest shipping I was looking at was for $33-98 for shipping alone. And obviously, the places with the cheaper turduckens had the more costly shipping, and vice versa, so an average price of around $120 became the norm in my searches.

Well, having a decent-sized mortgage on our heads, 20+ people attending our first family shindig, and bills, bills, bills, $120 for a novelty bird in addition to the traditional baste-and-roast turkey, was a bit much. Especially since the one that I wanted, with the chicken and andouille jambalaya stuffing, would have cost $138 or so. No oyster cornbread stuffing was to be found, unfortunately, and regular cornbread or pork sausage and dirty rice were the most common options. We were getting kind of saddened and stressed by this since half of each of our respective families were looking forward to trying this mythical animal, and we didn't want to disappoint. It seemed that our only option was to go ahead and order a mass-manufactured Tony Chachere's frozen turducken from Sam's Club (!).

However, at the last minute, I stumbled back upon a web site called Cajun Grocer, who was willing to ship their Lafayette, Louisiana-made turduckens ground! Huzzah! Plus, the Wall Street Journal was quoted as calling them a best value site, and they were on Fine Living Network, so double huzzah for creds! And with a discount code found on (bigeasy2, if you're curious), we saved 10% on top of that, putting in an order for a shrimp and crawfish jambalaya stuffed turducken for $89.

Hopefully, all's well that ends well, and it will be delicious. My expectations aren't so lofty as to expect our well-traveled turducken to rival the deliciousness that was turducken at Luke, but I do hope that the shrimp are properly deveined, the crawfish relatively fresh and juicy (which I'm wary about since it's not crawfish season ... another reason I'd have preferred oysters!), and the meat moist and flavor-rich by Louisiana standards.

For those of you who are interested in where my research took me before I made my final decision, here's a list of places where you can buy a real Cajun turducken and have it shipped:
Happy feasting, everyone! And enjoy your turkey or turducken day, depending on where you are :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Po-Boy Festival, New Orleans!

My sister (pictured right), a well-rounded, well-read, and much less busy than me due to her status as grad student and not "homeowner" (I almost want to say "lucky" ... ;) sent me an email last night with a link to this article:

If you don't feel like clicking, well the long and short of it is that New Orleans is in the NY Times! The New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival is back Uptown on Oak Street, on November 22 this year, and although it makes my heart glad to know that this little festival that celebrates one of the most simple pleasures of living in NOLA goes on, it also makes it heavy that I'll be missing it for the first time in years.

Flaky Leidenheimer bread. Crunchy breaded shrimp. Shredded lettuce. Pickles on everything. Gravy on fries. REMOULADE! All of these make me homesick.

I remember my first one. My then-boyfriend (now-husband) was out of town, and I went to meet a few people there to brave the crowds for $3 bites of heaven. I got a wrongful parking ticket (meter maids must work on commission there, because let me tell you, I have yet to meet a total of three people who have received even ONE legitimate ticket ...) that I later fought, but had a wonderful time listening to loud music, digesting over a cup of coffee at Zotz, and going back for more.

I remember my last one. My husband was in town, as was his sister, and being a po-boy lover himself, we were offended at her utter lack of enthusiasm for a festival devoted to some of the most delicious sandwiches ever. (Yes, non-foodies actually hurt our feelings, and make me upset. I am aware that I'm a freak.) Nothing daunted, Boy and I ate our way through a total of 6 booths combined, and refused to feel guilty about it since we walked there (having since learned from my first experience with the parking ticket).

This year, I trust that Drago's will be there, Tommy and his crew charbroiling their famous oysters in a thick, black cloud of smoke over open flame. I'll think about the airy French bread crusts littering the streets and crunching underfoot. I'll recall with fondness the feeling of roast beef gravy running down my arms and leaving brown trails of deliciousness (and disgustingness) all over my clothes. More importantly, I'll always remember the fun I had at every New Orleans festival, each of them so unique, and the love I have for this distinctive city I hope to return to one day.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, November 22, I plan to commemorate one of my favorite New Orleans traditions with one of my favorite New York ones -- the Deli Special at Corner (formerly Campus) Heroes.

I raise my loaf of bread in a salute to messy paper-wrapped regional sandwiches on that day -- to the ones I've eaten and enjoyed, and the ones I plan to in the future. Happy giant, gluttonous sandwich day, y'all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Family Sunday

So, I know last week I talked about how I have NOT been cooking up a storm ... well, this is no longer true, I'm happy to say. Family Sunday was a massive hit, and definitely will be a repeat event.

We started off the morning with a run to Best Yet, a little supermarket in Oakdale near our house, that carries a pretty good selection of local produce and goods. My family was coming over for the first time to come check out the house (as opposed to peeking through the windows of the empty place, which they'd all done after we put our offer in ... 2 months ago!). A run to the deli counter got us some fresh-sliced Boar's head Virginia ham, Ovengold roasted turkey, and low-sodium American cheese. A run to the dairy section got us a dozen large eggs. A segue into produce (because I apparently have no self control and cannot be trusted in a supermarket) got me a big bag of mixed bell peppers for a dollar, a bag of three bunches of asparagus for a dollar, a length of fresh-cut broccoli on the stalk as long as my arm for $1.50, and the biggest cauliflower I ever did see. Seriously, this thing needed to be chopped in half in order to even fit in my refrigerator.

Then off to the bagel shop. We live up the block from a place called The Bagel Doctor, but being house-poor makes your bargain-hunting skills a bit more keen, to say the least. So I made my way over the other side of Sunrise Highway and went to B&B Bagels and got a deal that was so good, I actually called the day before to make sure they'd honor it. I found a coupon in the local Pennysaver type community publication for a dozen bagels for a mere $2.95! This is pretty much unheard of, and on a Sunday morning, when bagel shops are at their busiest, it definitely seemed to awesome to be true, especially since their dozen usually goes for $9.60.

It wasn't! I waited on line for a really short amount of time, especially given that the line snaked out the door, and placed an order for a fresh-baked, hot, spongy dozen. The place smelled fabulous, and definitely did bagels the old-fashioned way -- boiled then baked. But they took it a step further, baking the bagels on hot slate ... delicious!

I was really impressed with their selection, which ran the gamut from the basics like plain, everything, egg, cinnamon raisin, and et cetera to practical specialties like no sugar (in plain and everything -- I got one of these for my diabetic grandma), whole wheat, and multi-grain. They didn't have as many "adventurous" bagels at some other places, but did have French Toast, powdered sugar and all, and egg and bacon, which I never really trust to have anything better than Bac'n Bits (I get these for my dog).

So back at my kitchen, armed with bagels (thrown in the oven to stay warm), eggs aplenty, center-cut bacon, and cold cuts, we were ready to get down to business, and a lovely breakfast smorgasbord was had.

The day got even better, though, since after my family left to go on about their day, Boy's family came over for football, dinner, wine, and mojitos. I made one of my specialties, a 7-layer eggplant parmesan casserole, and preceded that with my own take on the fabulous roasted pear salad I had at Vintage in St. James on my birthday.

The eggplant dish was prepared the day before, since frying eggplant makes the house smell and feel like oil (not pleasant for guests ... unless they're like me and are really, really fat inside), it's time-consuming, and messy. I make the breading myself and bread in three steps, so this was a step best taken in advance so that the entire night isn't spent in the kitchen. But nerd that I am, I wouldn't have minded too much. I mean, seriously, look at my kitchen!

Crushed garlic, fresh onions, plenty of tomato sauce, skim milk moist mozzarella and ricotta cheese, parmesan of course, and generous sprinklings of herbs and spices made this a 45-minute wonder as my GE Profile stove quietly baked one of my most in-demand dishes.

The salad was comprised of organic baby spinach leaves, fresh local mesclun greens, candied pecans, fresh strawberries, sliced thin, and in-season Bosc pears. Instead of roasting, I did a quick saute in olive oil SmartBalance spread (half the calories, better for you, and actually pretty buttery) with the thinly sliced pears to warm them up and break up fibers and bring out the sugar, and threw in a generous hand of Gorgonzola. Tossed with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and voila! Salad was served.

Boy's brother brought over a lovely bottle of nice champagne, and his mother came bearing a big bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was definitely a great complement to the vegetarian theme of the meal. My future sister-in-law is a borderline vegetarian, so she was able to eat her fill and enjoy herself, which made me really happy. But food-lovers, don't judge her by her inability to eat or enjoy dead animal! She's helping out with the next Family Sunday with her absolutely fabulous Beef Wellington ... and not eating a single bite. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: The Simplicity of a Sandwich

So, after a long hiatus from the blog and a long not-so-hiatus from (you know, that thing that gets in the way) LIFE, I've finally somewhat rejoined the ranks of the Normal Folk. The people who kind of have some time to breathe, the people who have an address and a place to call their own, the people with a KITCHEN.

Yes, my friends, I've finally moved into my new house and have settled into the glory that is a gourmet kitchen. Custom white oak cabinets! Black GE Profile appliances! Charcoal gray and peach-kissed sparkly granite countertops! Pull-out pantry! Stainless sink with pull-out hose and high-pressure faucet! Huzzah, and such!

So with my brand-spankin' new All-Clad Emeril pots and pans, my contemporary Oneida flatware, and my sweet square white plates, you'd think I'd be cooking up a storm, right?

Um, yeah ... you've given me too much credit.

Actually, what with the crazy busyness (and business, really) of closing, purchasing, moving, and shopping, I haven't had a moment to cook! I'm working on restocking my pantry, but right now, necessities like Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, Saran wrap, and et cetera are still kind of MIA. And with roofers banging away above our heads and siding ordered, awesome foodstuffs for later preparation has almost literally been put on the back burner. (Though only ALMOST literally because I really like a pristine, streamlined countertop.)

So for mealtimes, we've been falling back on an old-fashioned favorite: the sandwich.

Now, you need to know me in order to read that right, because sandwiches, to me, are happy foods. Okay -- fancy sandwiches are happy foods. And we say that as "delicious sandwich" with a lot of emphasis or as "sandwiiiiiiiiiiiich" in an annoying singsong voice.

Many parts of my transition back to New York were very difficult as you can tell if you've read past entries, but one of the things that has made it more bearable and even a little enjoyable is the sandwiches here. I have an entire album devoted to Corner Heroes (formerly Campus Heroes, one of my favorite places in the world), but haven't had the spare time to talk about them. That time, however, is still now now, and I digress.

What makes sandwiches made in New York so special is the combination of fabulous cold cuts and fabulous bread. I'm leery of "house" cold cuts (Turkey rolls! Chopped ham! Bologna! *Shudders.*), and was overjoyed when Boar's Head brand finally made its way down to New Orleans. Here on Long Island, it's a staple at the delis the state is famous for. The meat is flavorful to its core, consistent every time, and distinctly un-slimy and un-rubbery. You may laugh, but to me, a texture reminiscent of my dog's licked squeaky ball is not appetizing, and that's what some other brands have for offer.

As for the carb portion of "delicious sandwich," New York bread is a horse of a different color than New Orleans crusty, crumbly, light and airy French bread. Our hero rolls are studded with sesame seeds, punctuating a messy crust that crumbles in flakes rather than crumbs. Kaiser rolls are moist (I couldn't get a decent Kaiser roll to save my life in New Orleans, to tell you the truth) and liberally sprinkled with poppy seeds that burst so satisfyingly on your molars. Soft, white interiors are sweet, simultaneously dense and airy due to air pockets that leave some parts hollow, while the rest stays cool and doughy. New York delis notoriously pack about half a pound of cold cuts into each sandwich, plus whatever toppings, so these sandwiches are Pretty Serious.

So my fridge may be lacking in my usual stuff, but my kitchen is ready to do duty when it's time to make a sandwich. Here's what I've done so far (no pictures -- sorry! We're really, really hungry by the time we find mealtime unavoidable ...):

  • Medium-rare roast beef with deli-sliced mozzarella cheese, toasted together so that the cheese melts on top. Onion roll or poppyseed Kaiser, liberally smeared with garlic mayonnaise. Frickin' fabulous.
  • Low-sodium ham and low-sodium turkey with deli-sliced American cheese and a slice of deli mozzarella, topped with sliced red onion, some oil-and-vinegar dressing, olive oil mayonnaise, and organic baby Romaine lettuce leaves. I make it slightly healthier by using a whole wheat Kaiser, which, by the way is also delicious. It doesn't come available with the poppy seeds, but has a little bit of a richer, earthier flavor without sacrificing the texture.
  • Two fried eggs with low-sodium ham, low-sodium deli American cheese, and olive oil mayonnaise. Don't scoff -- ham with mayo is good; eggs with mayo is good; eggs, ham, and cheese are good. All four together? Exponentially good. Sesame seed Kaiser for this one.
  • Low-sodium turkey, center-cut bacon, sliced grape tomatoes, spring greens, olive oil mayonnaise, whole wheat bread.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: Caloric Overload -- Half Off!

Everybody loves food that's bad for them, and the case was never more true than the affair I had with Applebee's boneless buffalo wings. Half off after 10 PM, and in a sizable portion, who can resist at roughly $5 a pop? I couldn't, and got in the habit of using the carside service during lunch every day. In Bohemia, there's not much to choose from in terms of lunch options, and I figured, "Eh, chicken and Tabasco-based hot sauce ... and celery's not bad for me! It has negative calories!"

Well, binge-eater that I am, I got into a kick where boneless buffalo wings from Applebee's were all I wanted. So I ate them every single weekday for two weeks. I wondered to myself, "Why are my pants getting so tight? How am I getting fatter?"

Ends up that crunchy fried nuggets of white meat chicken, breaded and rolled in a thick, tangy, acidic buffalo wing sauce is far worse for you than you'd think. I looked up the calories, and one plate is a whopping 1724 calories ... which is a mere 276 calories off the average daily caloric intake! Add the usual 600 calories a home-cooked meal is, and say 450 calories for your morning bagel with butter, plus another 200 calories for the odd drink or two throughout the day, and you have ... umm, totally screwed-ness happening.

Needless to say. since my enlightening but less-than-awesome discovery, I've gotten off my kick and quickly out of necessity. Good-bye, normal pants; hello yoga pants. *Sigh*

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Promises ;-)

Certain people have expressed an interest in the completion of my tales in Bennington, Vermont, and Williamstown, Massachusetts. Fear not! They're coming, since good things come to those who wait. But what with harassing my evil underwriter (... still don't understand why she's holding my house and life hostage ...), writing content for the gourmet market in White Plains, The Iron Tomato, beginning a new article for St. Charles Avenue magazine (yay!), and in-office work, my metaphorical plate has been rather full. Actually, my physical plates have been pretty full, too, now that I think about it, considering I went on an Applebees boneless buffalo wing kick ... and two weeks in and five pounds later, found out to my utter horror that each serving was 1764 calories!

More on this and other things later!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gratuitous Sexiness: That Which Restores the Good Benedict Name

Benedict Arnold may have been the most notorious traitor in American history, but his given name restores its honor in a heavenly mess of Hollandaise sauce, smoked, grilled, and charred fine Canadian bacon, split English muffin, and slick poached eggs. Blue Benn, you fabulous railcar diner, you were definitely worth the trip from Massachusetts into the "wilds" of Vermont.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Indian in the Mountains

In a small college town like Williamstown, whose hub is centered around two short but picturesque streets, you expect the food to be either rapturously amazing due to the rolling acres of farmland at the restaurants' disposal, or mediocre because they can be, since they'll still survive because people will eat there out of necessity. In my humble opinion, there's not too much in between.

Upon arrival in Williamstown, Massachusetts on Saturday, Boy and I were STARVING from our 4.5 hour drive, and ready to get down to business. Naturally, we headed to Spring Street. This was our destination of choice for two reasons - a) we'd passed it on our way to the hotel, so we knew where it was, and b) my little sister talked about eating on this street all the time.

With that in mind, we just drove down the street until we found parking (before our discovery that there was a big FREE parking lot at the end of the block ... more downtown areas should incorporate this!) and found ourselves in front of Spice Root, and Indian restaurant. The hilariously named Sushi Thai restaurant was right next store, and pad thai for $6.50 had its draws, but it'd been a while since I've had Indian and Boy loves the stuff ... so for once, I let him have his way.

We were catching the tail end of the lunch hours, and were excited to find that we made it for the weekend lunch buffet. $10.95 for all you can eat! And believe you me -- we can eat.

However, before we move forward, I have to issue a disclaimer here, lest you think me a total fool or bad at my job: I know literally NOTHING about Indian food. Zilch, zero, zip, nada. I don't know what anything is called, I barely know what it's supposed to taste like (except that when it's cooked by the mother of the author of, it's one of the most amazing things EVER), and have no familiarity with the spices, flavors, or anything whatsoever to do with this particular type of ethnic cuisine. Anything I say after this is pretty much a guess, so I do apologize for my ignorance. But on this blog, I like to tell stories, so this is my (less descriptive than usual) story of my experience.

So, the place was small and cute, walls painted a slight variation of the Williams colors (apparently gold and purple; the restaurant's interior was a golden orange and deep violet), and cheerful lights strung up all over. A nice little bar stood in the far right corner, and a pint-size L-shaped buffet station was set up in the far left. There was a regular table up against the wall with desserts and cold items, a metal buffet station-type table with a hot water pool keeping the dishes heated, and another small table with a separated metal chafing dish.

I was happy to find that everything was clearly labeled, but disappointed that many items had run out. The selection was largely chicken in many different forms, one dish of lentils in some kind of sauce, and other vegetable dishes. There were no other types of meat, though. I waited for over an hour for the fabled Eggplant Fritters, but they were clearly not to be. Tandoori chicken didn't come out until halfway through the meal (I got up to pounce), and the nan was gone by the time my first plate was half empty.

Service was obviously not the best, and I found out from Williams College students that Spice Root actually has a reputation for really apathetic service. They were busy and understaffed, and I sat at the table with an empty goblet for about 10 minutes before getting up, walking to the bar, and getting my own water.

However, although service wasn't the greatest, after one plate, you could easily see that this wasn't a local favorite simply for lack of better options. The food was delicious! The chicken tikka masala, cut in generous chunks of juicy white meat, in a beautiful bright orange sauce, was addicting and fabulously good. Often, this dish is too spicy or too creamy, but the balance here was just great -- slightly creamy but not too rich, thick but not gloopy, and SO good. I couldn't get enough of this.

Rather than pairing this with nan and the regular, standard Basmati rice, they offered a garlic Basmati rice, chockful of peas, seasonings, some sort of fragrant bud (I didn't like these, though - it tasted like I was eating a candle), and of course, roasted garlic. This was the best rice I've ever had the pleasure of eating in an Indian restaurant.

The tandoori chicken was pretty standard, cut up in smaller more manageable chunks, sweet and slightly smoky, and the wings were nice and spicy, but the other two metal chafing dish things never materialized, so I can't say how good those other chicken dishes were.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the yellowy spinach dish with the mixed vegetables in it, a rich, earthy flavor to mix into my garlic rice. The texture of this was also really great in comparison to what I've had, like a thick but not chunky creamed dish that was subtly grainy. In fact, it was really similar to an awesome dish of creamed spinach, just flavored more exotically.

The mixed veggies in the reddish-orange sauce, I was less a fan of. The unidentified veggies in it were tangy and acidic, and the cauliflower was kind of squeaky, if that makes sense. Like hard, but in a shiny way. Also, if that makes any sense at all, either ... which I'm starting to question as I stare at those words.

The chicken in another form of masala sauce (or was it just tikka?) was also delicious, more tender, less creamy-tasting, and slightly spicier than the tikka masala, and that was also faboosh, but not as delightfully addicting as the tikka masala.

I was finishing up my third helping of garlic rice and chicken tikka masala when one of the servers came and plopped down two long, tall glasses of something orange. She let us know they were mango smoothies and on the house (probably because of the service earlier), which is normally really awesome news, except that at this point, we were super full! The mango "smoothie" seemed to be nothing but pureed perfectly ripe mango, which is tasty ... but very filling. Mango has a substantial heaviness and deep flavor to it, and so it was quite a shame that we were barely able to make a dent to the "smoothie."

Spice Root, poor service notwithstanding, was an excellent start to our time in Williamstown in the Berkshires, and we left there feeling fat and happy. For $11, you really can't get a better deal and *ahem* bigger portions. Who doesn't love a tasty lunch buffet? You don't feel half as bad as if you go to a dinner one (at least you can tell yourself you'll go for a walk after lunch and it may actually happen), and you eat a smaller dinner if you're a normal person and not me.

And now I'm going to conclude with something that may anger some people, but it must be said: Spice Root kicks the ass of Nirvana on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Their service may not have been as good, their selection not as wide, and they may not have the fried onion and pepper thingamabobs, but damn that chicken and garlic rice was amazing. I've never left a clean plate of Indian food before, where all the sauce was greedily sopped up, except at Spice Root. I may have to go back to visit my sister again soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Williamstown, Massachussets - a.k.a. Stars Hollow, Connecticut

Small-town life can either be considered depressing or idyllic. It used to have a kind of more negative connotation until the ever popular (and one of my favorite shows) Gilmore Girls showed how much character, individuality, and just how FUN living in a tiny town could be. I wondered to myself all those years watching that show where on earth such a cute, quirky town could be found in real life. Could something so utterly adorable simply be a figment of imagination?

Seems that it's not.

My baby sister has been attending a tiny college in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for the past couple of years called Williams. It's a little-known school to the masses, but among the elite of high education, it's a prestigious institution (ranked #1 consistently for liberal arts colleges in the U.S.) well known for its fun quirkiness, innate preppiness, and complete and total disregard for giving a damn that anyone that can't get in has no idea what a purple cow is.

But back to the point -- like I said, baby sis has been a student of this school nestled hidden in the hills for the past two years. However, for those two years, I've been living in New Orleans, and thus, heading to the obscure foothills on the corner of Mass and Vermont was never part of how I thought of spending my vacation days. Well, no longer! This Labor Day weekend past, I packed a tiny bag, Boy, and little Baxterbear and drove up to visit the mountain village of Williamstown, Massachusetts. Little did I know, I was about to find out that Stars Hollow DOES exist.

Beautiful mountainscapes met beautiful mountainscapes in gorgeous panorama, as puffy clouds in pure blue skies -- the brightest blue I've seen in a long while -- cast shadows over the leafy green valleys. Clean, pure air, local spring water that tasted crisp and fresh, and great farmhouses on rolling fields that were peppered with horses and cows all made me feel invigorated at the total purity of the land. This was Very Cool.

I know that latter statement may cause some confusion, as I'm always raving on and on about cities. Here's the thing -- I proclaim myself a city girl, and I have a deep affection for them, but I also do love the rural landscape in all its rustic simplicity and erstwhile unspoken glory. There's something just wonderful about the novelty of cleanliness, organic, natural smells, and colors more vivid than can be found in any man-made landscape. It makes you feel good and brings you back to a more domestic frame of reference, where husbandry is actually a career path, and time slows down. In short, I am both a country girl as well as a city girl, but despise the urban sprawl, generic commercialism, and depressing facades and Stepford architecture of suburbs. I am anything but a suburban queen.

Anyway, I just wanted to devote a post to the charming, idyllic village in the mountains of Massachusetts and its picturesque -- albeit also tiny -- downtown Main Street, USA, Spring Street.

This town is Williams College central, where all the students get their grub on in little boutique restaurants, the one bar, the beloved and cute Lickety Split ice cream shop, and the somehow funnily named Sushi Thai. Little coffee shops, a Williams College clothing and memorabilia shop, colonial New England style post office, and et cetera fill the picturesque storefronts, and a public parking lot at the end of the one-way street made going "downtown" stressless. There's also a Water Street that's similar as well, but as of this writing, I hadn't been there yet (I'm time-delaying this post since no one'll be reading this Labor Day weekend! And my lengthy Nautical Mile post is a good read ;).

Another cool thing about getting away to the rural small towns of New England, other than its obvious charm and novelty, is the presence of B&Bs. I always feel better about giving my money to the Mom & Pops of the world, since my stay makes a difference. I mean, yes, they're probably making good money as a successful bed and breakfast, but I can pretend to myself, at least, that I'm contributing to a family's welfare in return for a personal service well-rendered.

I got a great rate at the Clover Hill Farm, a beautiful horse boarding facility and farm at the top of a hill with 360 degree views of an absolutely stunning vista. Steep drops into lush fields with lustrous animals switching shining tails can be seen through every paddock rail surrounding the farm, and the village of mismatched ducks and geese is just adorable. There are also a few beagles in residence (they're a pet-friendly inn), but since we're not staying in the main house, I didn't get to meet them.

Anyway, they have a cash-only policy on their obviously prosperous farm (the main house is absolutely beautiful) and so I secured the apartment over the garage/wood-working shop for a night. It looks like a dormered cape, and has a wonderfully open floorplan from an open kitchen with breakfast bar into a large dining area and a living room that opens up off onto a raised deck. With a twin bed, a queen bed, and a sleeper in the living room, it sleeps five comfortably, and I just love the high ceilings. It's really a surprisingly considerable amount of space -- if I were single and living out here, I'd rent it out as an apartment!

No breakfast, like some of the other charming and also pet-friendly establishments in the area, and I opted for this farm since they said I could leave Baxter unattended in the room while we went out. Unfortunately, this made no difference since within half an hour of being there, in his panic at being left behind, he broke a vase and we were obliged to take him with us for the rest of the day -- thank God it was cool out today!

I'm not too concerned about not having a home-cooked breakfast; plans for our second and last day include a visit to someplace named the Apple Shack or something, where apple cider doughnuts are the specialty. Who needs eggs when you can have something that seasonal and novel? I mean, why not? Hiking up these hills are burning more calories than I've even attempted since moving back to the Northeast, and so I can justify further fattening my fat ass that way. And finally, I can exert my energies in scenery worth exerting it for.

Wholesome weekends, I've decided, are restorative and cute. Next time, though, doggy's staying home unless we bring the crate for Mr. Abandonment Issues!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: And We Venture West, or Seafood and Mosquitoes on the Water

One thing I have to concede is that hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood in search of the ideal abode really helps to open your eyes about a place. You see the good (houses you can't afford), the bad (houses you can afford), and the ugly (houses you can afford with gang symbols graffiti-ed onto your potential neighbor's house). But along with all the residential findings, the commercial findings can be rewarding in itself. By exhausting yourself during the househunt by not imposing too many geographic restrictions on desired properties, you really learn a lot about the hidden nooks and crannies in a place.

It was in such a manner that I learned of Freeport's Nautical Mile. Boy and I actually almost bought a gorgeous industrial style loft condo in the SpaHa-type downtown neighborhood in Freeport until we found out that the taxes would fuck us. I wasn't too put off by the demographics of the neighborhood, considering that we'd just moved from a place that was self-styled as the "Chocolate City" and held one of the highest murder rates in the country. I always felt safe there and think that these titles are all hooey.

But anyway, Boy had been working really hard over the past month or so in making sure we got the dream house we'd had our hearts set on. This place is seriously just perfect -- a contemporary loft master suite, soaring ceilings, recessed property, 8 skylights, patios galore, and a fully updated kitchen with custom oak cabinets. *Swoon.* And the icing on the cake? It's two blocks off the mouth of the Connetquot River in Idle Hour in Oakdale, Suffolk County, Long Island, the prestigious and exclusive area that used to be part of the Vanderbilt estate. So, umm, yeah, Boy's been stressed with pushing this deal through, since it's the opportunity of a lifetime.

But I digress, as I tend to do.

Point is, I decided that enough sulking was enough! We were getting our frickin house come hell or high water (which, judging by the flood insurance rates, is more likely than the former), and I was going to enjoy living on Long Island, damnit! Or at least give it a more fair go.

So as a reward for Boy's perseverence and to help bring down his stress levels, I decided to show my appreciation by way of a nice night out. I thought it'd be more adventuresome to venture away from home grounds, and it struck me that maybe instead of considering the jam-packed East End for entertainment and dining options, I should mayhaps head WEST.

As a native Suffolk County-er, this is revolutionary thinking.

I asked around my office, my creative director actually being a resident of the waterfront community of Freeport, and received some good recommendations. After Googling and searching the sites of said recommendations, I settled on J.C. Cove for dinner. The prices seemed reasonable, the food tasty, and where else better to get seafood than by the sea? After an hour mulling about waiting for our *ahem* "punctual" Dupree, Jared (yes, Jared was invited to date night. He is a vital part of our relationship; as my little sister says, he's "the fun part" lol), we set off for destinations unknown (... to Boy. I was keeping this a secret date.).

J.C. Cove is a bit far down the strip, almost to the end by the sightseeing piers -- which is a gorgeous sight all lit up in night-tinged cerulean blue in the evening. The restaurant was distinctive in that there was a totally popping bar with a big-screen TV outside playing some kind of sports game (I'm not activities-inclined, so I wouldn't know what was on ...), and hordes of people just swelling throughout the place. I valet-parked my car, a service the restaurant is so kind to offer, given the masses that were convening on the Nautical Mile, making parking sparse, and we hopped on out.

At first glance, the restaurant seemed awfully promising. The interior was clean, modern, with beautiful wide-planked walnut-stained floors, and plenty of candles. The breeze blew through the open doors that led to open-air dining on the waterfront deck that overlooked the inlet, and the docked boats were pristine and picturesque.

Naturally, we asked about sitting outdoors. I mean, why not? It was a beautiful day, this last weekend of summer, and the temperature was temperate and the humidity level very comfortable. Our hostess was obliged to inform us that it was "very buggy" out, which promptly made me agree to sit indoors. The boys went to hang out on the deck for a hot minute first, but ultimately decided that a table inside would probably be a good call.

Umm ... it wasn't.

We sat down at a nice table towards the front window of the restaurant, and Boy, on his big fancy date night, was promptly bitten all about the ankles and feet by what I'm convinced was an orderly flank of mosquitoes. They hovered, attacked, and retreated like militants at battle, swarming about our heads in a buzzing cloud of voracious demonspawn, divvying up me and Jared when taking breaks from poor Boy.

At first, I tried to ignore it. I really did. But after being bit on the arch of my foot, and my underarm, with the bumps swelling into big, hard nasties, I was seriously considering running back into the car and continuing my nice dinner in a sweatshirt. Instead, I decided I would chill out and eat some mini baguettes, which were dusted with flour, a little hard but not crunchy, but on the whole, somewhat nondescript. But I never turn down bread, and so I enjoyed.

That enjoyment wasn't long to last. Reaching up to move my hair out of my face, I pulled my hand back with a gruesome discovery. The tips of my fingers glistened a bright ruby red in the candlelight with blood. My blood. From my head. Possibly also from the bloated belly of a mosquito.

Now I've eaten at Jacques-imo's and thought it was worth the stray palmetto bug crawling up the walls. I've dined at places where a horsefly has bitten me on the nose mid-meal. I've also had meals at restaurants with the filthiest floors and gnats circled above your head like vultures. But never once, until last night, was I forced to flee to the bathroom in a panic because my forehead was covered in blood.

Now I'm not a one to try to run around and get as much free shit as possible, but when your customer asks for bug spray, you say no, and they let you know they are BLEEDING FROM THE HEAD due to pests in the restaurant, you comp them something. Just sayin'. But no. Our extremely rushed and unfriendly server offered no such thing, complained that he was itchy, too, and ran off yet again, eyes darting back and forth like someone on some kind of speed. Yeahhh, not exactly the type of service you'd expect at a nice seafood restaurant.

I was tempted to leave, but we were awfully hungry and the menu DID sound good, so we stayed, mosquitoes notwithstanding. I did end up eating my meal with my Tulane hoodie wrapped firmly around me, and this all would have been alright if the food made up for it. But it definitely fell short of my expectations, considering my standards for seafood were set in New Orleans. That's really all I need to say about that.

It's not to say that the food wasn't GOOD. It was. It just wasn't spectacular. In New Orleans, it would have been considered fair, whereas here on Long Island, it was considered excellent.

We started off with two appetizers, the fried scallop croquettes and the baked clams J.C. My first disappointment was that the baked clams were tiiiiiny. From seafood stores with prepared chopped baked clams, nice family Italian meals, and other lower-end restaurants I've been to on Long Island, I expected baked clams to be at least the size of a small oyster. These were, out of the shell, little bigger than a quarter each. Granted, there were about 10 of them, but I'd rather have 4 giant, juicy ones than 10 tiny, shrunken ones.

The flavor was good -- a white wine formed the base of the liquid steaming off the bottom of the plate, lemon already flavored the clams, and outside had a nice baked layer, and whole clams are always a pleasant surprise. But again, nothing to write home about.

Fried scallop croquettes were the next up. On a zigzag pattern of some type of remoulade-reminiscent sauce their panko-crusted crisp was delightful. The potatoey goodness was also all kinds of good. But the scallop part? I could barely detect it. So great -- there goes $12 for 3 crunchy potato sausages. I mean, they were tasty, but not very complex, imaginative, and certainly not worth what we paid for them.

I still had high hopes for my entree. I'd ordered what they called the Lump Crab Crusted Tilapia, which was served on a bed of saffron rice and topped with a creamy citrus buerre blanc. Sounds awesome, right?

Well, actually, it WAS pretty damn good! The fish was very, very fresh, which you can always taste, firm, perfectly cooked, beautifully mild, and the fillet was a generous, thick piece. The citrus beurre blanc was only slightly tinged with an orange zest-y flavor, but it was overall really nice, especially when accompanied by a forkful of fluffy yellow rice.

However, it wasn't perfect, nor as good as I'd imagined it. Like I said, the food didn't 100% redeem the uncomfortable service (by "rushed," I mean he asked us if we were ready to order 3 times within 7 minutes of sitting down) and the mosquitoes. The downsides to my meal were that
  1. the corn in the saffron rice was oddly off-putting, and, more importantly,
  2. that the tilapia was in fact, NOT encrusted with lump crab meat, thus making the naming of the dish a big fat FAIL.
Yes, there was a layer of crabmeat on top, but it was on top of HALF of the fish; not the entire fillet. This would have been forgivable, were it not for the fact that the layer was made of either completely shredded-beyond-recognition lump crab or, more plausibly, claw meat. It was presented as a soft rendition of your standard Red Lobster crabmeat stuffing, minus the insane amount of breadcrumbs that biscuit-totin' chain adds to their stuffed anything. What a shame.

Boy got the lobster ravioli, which was generously covered in large chunks of lobster in addition to the filled pasta, and in an orangey sauce that looked and -- surprise, surprise! -- tasted like lobster bisque. Creative, eh? Again, they took liberties with naming the dish; it was called a "roasted toamto fennel cream sauce."

That's all fine and everything, too, but Boy was disappointed in a few things:
  1. the pasta was obviously not house-made, which means ...
  2. the ravioli is obviously not as fresh as we're accustomed to.
  3. The loose lobster meat was chunks of claw meat, and
  4. this lobster meat was rather chewier than it should have been.
*Sigh.* This ain't no lobster ravioli topped with red and black caviar, Brennan's Bacco-style.

However, the big winner of the day was Jared's entree, the salmon. This was actually named accurately, going by "Hickory Roasted Wild Salmon." Delightfully charred with a subtly smoky salt edge to the char, and moist but firm, this was actually really delicious. The salmon was mild as salmon goes, and obviously fresh. The pureed sweet pea sauce was more asparagus-y than sweet peas-y, but it provided a nice shock of color against the peachy, rust-browned flesh of the fish. The vegetable base of the dish, consisting of mushrooms, corn, chopped asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and tomatoes, was superb as well, and the entire dish was well put-together from bite to bite.

We didn't stay for dessert or drinks, but instead made our way down to the end of the Nautical Mile, grabbing a very strong drink from extremely amply bosomed bartenders at some trendy spot on the water. This was really nice up until the time a mosquito got caught and squished by my watchband as it was siphoning blood out of my wrist. Ew.

Anyway, although dinner was not as good as I'd hoped, I feel more optimistic about life on the shore, since in reality, I now will be living on the shore. I'm not a middle-of-Long Islander -- I'll be making my home on the water, making a weekend mission out of exploring the haunts of other water-dwellers and making them my own. I'll find new spots with less outrageously priced drinks (seriously -- $24 for 3 mostly-ice drinks??), deeper flavored food, and maybe, just maybe, places that make their own pasta.

And why not? Life's different on the shore. And if all else fails, I'll be back in New Orleans for my wedding anniversary in May.