Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vacation Edition: OBX, NC

Seafood Spectacular! That's right, folks, I got down with my bad, raw bar self. I also ate enough shrimp to satiate a small whale. My foodcation continued, perhaps without the same level of success as the Cape, but there were still many good eats to be had. I ate 15 oysters in one sitting! Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar had huge, fresh and flavorful oysters (and didn't skimp on the portions), but the spiced shrimp were a little, "meh," and the bartender in the upstairs lounge seemed a little inexperienced. (In Arthur's defense, I tried the spiced shrimp at Dirty Dick's Crab House, by which Arthur's suffered in comparison. More on that later).

In the lounge, I ordered a Blue Moon to nurse while we waited for a table. The bartender said they didn't have any orange slices, but would I like some orange juice? -- Do people do this? - I paused for a minute and said, "Sorry, I was confused. I thought you just offered me orange juice with my beer." To which he replied, "Yeah, I did." It was just too ridiculous, so of course I responded, "Oh, yes, I'll have some." (?!) There was a split second when I contemplated pouring the shot of orange juice, which was served in a paper, 8-ounce Dixie cup, into my beer, but opted to just carry the thing awkwardly around with me until we were seated. Am I missing something? Was I meant to sip the juice as a chaser with every drink of my beer? Please, if you know, pass that knowledge this way. Moving on...

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I was warned it might happen. The signs were there all along the way. But I couldn't help myself; I got crabs at Dirty Dick's. OK, so the real shocker here is not my little confession, it is the gift shop in the restaurant, which sells - at eye-level with small children - thong underwear, printed with pictures of sultry, well-endowed lady-shrimps with the words: "Peel me. Eat me." W-O-W. Is there anything left to say? The King crab legs were good (I'd never had them before) and the spiced (peel and eat) shrimp was very tasty, but the atmosphere was that of an ice cream parlor in hell, with a huge, blue-lit bar in the center and checkerboard tablecloths on the tables. This place really needs to decide if it is a lame, dirty joke, or a purveyor of family-friendly-fish-fare. Needless to say, it did not merit a picture. Whew.

Tortugas' Lie
Delicious! Our last night my boyfriend and I stumbled on this "local favorite." We split an order of Conch fritters, because I had never had Conch. It was a little hard to tell whether or not I like Conch, with all the friedness it was coated in, but I think I did. Sadly, I can't be any more descriptive than that. However, my entree, the Coco Loco Chicken, while also fried, was full of flavors and textures. The chicken was covered with flakes of coconut and served with an addictive lime-curry dipping sauce, freshly complementing and cooling the hearty crunch of the fried coconut. If the chicken looks a little funny in the photo, it is because, yes, I had to have a bite before I took out my camera to capture this chicken macaroon. Like many of the dishes on the menu, the chicken came with rice, black beans and salsa, which I enjoyed stirring together and covering with my remaining lime-curry sauce. Delish!

Now that I have spent a large portion of my disposable income for the summer, it is back to home cooked casseroles and cakes. Fortunately, I have finally settled my dispute with Bon Appetit and new additions will be rolling in monthly. Additionally, I have a few cooking classes in the fall, which should provide new directions, even if it is in the dessert department.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vacation Edition: Cape Cod

Whew, I have just spent two amazing weeks eating myself silly, first down the Cape, then on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first stop on my cuisine tour of the East Coast was the Blue Moon Bistro . Growing up, this location was a superb breakfast place called the Snow Goose. The place was a staple of my young summer diet. Since the Snow Goose departed, the location has been several different things, but I sincerely hope that the Blue Moon Bistro is here to stay. I started with a cup of the Gazpacho, which was thicker than I make, but with a very satisfying hint of spiciness. For my main course I tried the Butternut Squash Ravioli, which was heavy (obviously), but I was delighted that the accompanying cream sauce was light and flavorful, balancing well with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the packed-to-capacity ravioli. This entree is offered in a smaller version, which looking back, I should have ordered, but only because there was bread pudding on the dessert menu, which NEEDED (we have discussed this) to be tasted.

My parents both had a swordfish special, which I am sure was fresh and delish, but since my seafood intake is strictly limited to raw bars, sushi and most crustaceans, I didn't save room to try a bite. My only reservation was that the bread pudding could have been zippier, as it has a grandma's-homemade-from-what-was-in-the-pantry feel. Personally, I feel that bread pudding is such a staple, the excitement of eating it comes from combining interesting ingredients (banana, caramel, liquor, croissants) while maintaining the comfort-food appeal. All in all, a basic raisin bread pudding still hits the mark.
If you love the Cape, as I do, and are looking for something a little more interesting that the basic family-friendly-(read: fish stick)-fare, I highly recommend the Blue Moon Bistro (even though I will always miss my precious Snow Goose.
My other notable stop was The Red Pheasant Inn, dining at which I regard as a personal, foodie victory for two reasons. One, I ordered the duck, which I have never had before. Two, the Red Pheasant has always been the parents'-night-out dinner spot, for which the kids (my brother and me) were left with a stack of VHS and a take-away pizza, while my parents wined and dined down the street. Not that I blame them. I wouldn't want to spend nearly $30 on an entree my child would merely poke at before becoming too anxious to sit still and go running under the feet of the wait-staff. Therefore, I find is doubly rewarding that my literal and figurative entrance into the adult dining world of my childhood should be greeted with a dish of which I have never partaken.

The duck(ling). There was some debate on the onset, between my father and me, as to whether or not the mouthwateringly melty layer of fat on the top of the duck should be eaten. Having never eaten duck before, I was somehow convinced that eating the fat, with the meat, was a crucial part of the duck-eating experience. Despite the fact that my father didn't agree, I followed my instincts and was back-of-the-knee-tinglingly rewarded. I was fortified by a passage I read in Bill Buford's "Heat," in which Mario Batali feeds very thin slices of pork fat to Bulford's dinner guests, while telling Bulford that at his restaurant it is served as "prosciutto bianco" so as not to upset the lardo-phobes. I usually fear an excess of fat, as it is often accompanied by grizzle (yuck!), but eating this dish whole was possibly a life altering event. I promise never again to fear the presence of fat on my plate. Cross my heart.
More to come (with pictures!): Vacation Edition: Outer Banks.