Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Wedding, A Lobster Roll and Grilled Cheese

Ahhhh, wedddings. Who doesn't love a wedding? Other than me, for instance. I mean, getting dressed up in a suit, tie and "fancy" shoes isn't really my cup of joe. And then being forced onto the dance floor because, you know, you have to dance at a wedding...sign me up! And oh boy, that catering hall food - boring filet mignon and overcooked chicken breast...ooops, I mean paillard and pardon me - yummo!

The whole wedding schtick just isn't for me...or for Significant Eater either. After all, she and I took our vows in Las Vegas - at the county courthouse - with only our moms and dads as witnesses. Followed by a delicious meal at the late, great Jean-Louis Palladin's Napa Restaurant. And then gambling. How bad could that be?

But every once in a while, if you're lucky, you get to go to a great wedding. Something different. Something special. And this past weekend, Significant Eater and I got to do just that, partying ferociously into the night (although not as far into the night as the kids, I'm sure) at our niece Rebecca and her husband Sean's (heretofore known as Shivery McPickles and Fred Swayze and don't ask) awesome, effing Cape Cod wedding.

Of course, a wedding on the Cape means something else too...lighthouses (that's the Cape Cod Light above), lobster rolls and fried things like clams and scallops. A busy schedule only allowed for a few tastings, so let's get right to it. First stop, Eastham and...

Arnold's is a much touted place on "the boards" and the line out front stretched a good 30 people deep, but we're troopers, so we hopped in line and ordered a light lunch...

And it was disappointing, to say the least. The fried clams, big fat bellies as beautiful as they look, were a bit soggy and their breading was tasteless. I guess that's what happens when you serve hundreds of people a day - you get to rest on your laurels. The lobster roll looked great...

It just didn't deliver. Also in need of some seasoning - you've heard of salt? And resting on a bed of iceberg can't do anything but detract from the flavor of the lobster, no? Yes - it does, but it seems to be the way they make 'em on the Cape...Cape Cod, that is, because iirc, they were a bit different on Cape Ann. Anyway, onto our hotel, where the view from our room, looking out over the dunes towards Provincetown, was spectacular...

Up early the next morning, Sig Eater and I checked out P-town and then Wellfleet for lunch at Mac's at Wellfleet Harbor...

This was more like it. First of all, there's a lobster truck parked out front. Then, there was this...

Perfectly cooked lobster, nicely seasoned and dressed lightly with mayo nestled on a bed of green leaf lettuce, perhaps the best lobster roll I've tasted in a long time - and at about $12 a relative steal. And the fried scallops, up in the corner there, were a revelation. Sweet, succulent, not often ordered, but just great. Go to Mac's, skip Arnold's, and you'll be just fine.

And then...the wedding. On Cape Cod. Yes, indeed. Dress - picnic fabulous - so I got to wear short sleeves and sneaks and be really happy. Food - sausages, deviled eggs, oysters, pickles, 3 kinds of soup (including one of the best gazpachos I've ever had), 4 different grilled cheese sandwiches (of which I ate way too many lobster/bacon combos), creme puffs, cannoli, cookies, wedding cake, bourbon and beer - and need I say more?

The happy couple just moments after the big event...

The totally awesome grilled cheese wedding cake...

So I'm convinced. A wedding can be fun. The food can be wonderful. The dancing can be great and hot and sweaty. It can move even the most curmudgeonly amongst us. This wedding was all of that and more. It was families and friends coming together on a beautiful Cape Cod night. Seeing joy and love expressed in a very special way. For two people that are special to Significant Eater and me. Doesn't get much better than that, does it?

As a matter of fact, SE and I were so overjoyed by the weekend's festivities that we had to have one more delicious meal before she headed back to DC for a short work week...

Arturo's - you're special too. Just in a different way.

Congrats - Bec and Sean - we wish you all the best for ever and ever.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pasta Duo...and Lupa and DBGB Too

Yesterday, I was feeling kinda lonely after Significant Eater headed back to DC on the 10 AM. And since I had, with all good intention to cook, stocked up the kitchen with farmer's market goodies and then failed to cook any of them while she was here, I decided to invite some friends over for Sunday dinner - thereby forcing myself to use up that lovely produce.

Oh, don't feel too bad - it's not like Sig Eater and I starved the 3 days she was here. Just the opposite, as a matter of fact. On Friday, we ate a Vietnamese lunch which was totally pedestrian at An Choi and don't you love it when your server seems to be put out by the simple act...of service? Maybe she was thinking about her next tattoo or piercing; perhaps she was communing with the flying insects, which were in abundance. Never again, because this place has been on a steady downhill, in my opinion.

That night though, we had a delicious meal at DBGB, grabbing some seats at the bar early on; and don't you love it when the food is good and the service is even better? Finally, on Saturday night, we met a friend at Lupa, again grabbing some prime bar seats just ahead of a huge rush, and enjoyed outstanding cured meats, great grilled sardines, a gift from the kitchen of perfectly fried stuffed zucchini blossoms, 3 knockout pasta dishes and the same dessert we've enjoyed since day one, the frozen tartufo. Oh yeah - the service - as always - perfectly wonderful and wonderfully perfect. After dinner the 3 of us padded our way across Houston St. and finished up with a nightcap at Pegu Club, elbowing our way past the Snookies and the rookies to knock back a Saz or two. It's always a treat to watch the experts behind that stick handle that crowd with aplomb.

But back to the kitchen. I was staring down a giant bunch of basil, a couple of pounds of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, garlic, cucumbers, the first apples of the year (Granny Smiths) and various other pantry odds and ends. Of course, pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes is a classic Italian dish. Then I figured what the heck? Why not make a raw tomato sauce with those heirlooms, and serve a duo of pastas. Easy enough. I put the potatoes on to boil and blanched the green beans while prepping the basil for the pesto and saving some of it for that raw tomato sauce. I peeled, seeded and cut up the heirlooms, saving their lovely juices and putting it all in a bowl with a chiffonade of the basil and a few glugs of olive oil in which I had warmed a cut up clove of garlic. When the green beans and potatoes were cooked, they went into another bowl along with a good half cup of the pesto. Now all I had to do was cook the pasta and add it to each of the bowls.

When my friends arrived, I mixed up a batch of Manhattans, put the pasta water on to boil and threw together a simple salad of endive, cucumber, Granny Smith apple and parsley leaves, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. It got raves. Then the pasta came out of the water, tossed with each sauce, tasted for seasoning and plated like so. The only thing that would have made it better? Significant Eater...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Almost Open

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's bloggers who find a need to breathlessly post about the brand newest, most hottest places that the rest of we mere mortals haven't even figured out have opened. That's the game of the blog to many, I suppose. But not me. However, I did want to let you know about two just opened spots in the neighborhood that I got to peek into last night.

Last week, I received a breathless email from Thrillist...one of the major perpetrators of what I mention above, though I'm sure they don't consider themselves a blog (for one thing, they make money). That email stated, in part:

For a father-son team kicking barstaraunt ass, check out L'Oubli... In addition to standards, cocktail specials'll also rotate in threes (one original, one modern, one classic), with opening night exhibiting the absinthe & champagne Death in the Afternoon (classic), the modern Grand Marnier Smash (titular liquor w/ lemon & sugar), and an original blend of corn whiskey/mezcal/Averna topped w/ white pepper & root beer they call the Movie Theatre Classic, a potent mix helpful for anyone attempting to watch classics like Dersu Uzala.

Now, I'm both a fan of cheeky emails and Dersu Uzala, so off I went. L'Oubli isn't fully opened yet - no food and a limited cocktail menu. Good looking space at the northernmost end of Suffolk Street. Unfortunately, the Movie Theatre Classic wasn't on the cocktail board - but a Black Manhattan was...consisting of bourbon, sweet vermouth, Averna and bitters. Brave soul that I am, I ordered one. I like Manhattans. I drink my fair share of them. Mostly rye based, because I like the spiciness that rye whiskey brings to the party. So maybe that's why this drink didn't knock my socks off. Or maybe it was the Averna. Or maybe...oh, who knows? Ben, the tender/owner, is a helluva nice guy. We talked bourbon and rye and he plans on bringing lots of brown booze to Suffolk St. I'm sure the place will be packed - it has that vibe. I only hope/wish they:

A. will use jiggers
B. make my cocktail colder
C. never make 2 drinks in the same mixing glass

That's all. And I'm looking forward to trying the food.

After a cocktail, a bite was needed. I'd heard from The Lo-Down that a new ramen joint had opened on Ludlow, and the next thing you know, there I was. Was the fact that there was only 1 customer inside intimidating? Was the fact that the 1 customer was actually one of the employees or an owner intimidating? No way.

Ramen Kuidouraku has opened in the old Chickie Pig's space, which used to house a Jewish burial society (no kidding), and was there ever a lousier name for a restaurant? Actually, this is the second branch of Ramen Kuidouraku, the first one being at 141 1st Avenue, which used to be Ramen Setagaya...and this whole ramen thing is getting too confusing for me. The Ludlow St. version appears as if it will also have a sushi bar; the aforementioned employee/owner was actually working on the cold case after finishing his dinner. It's BYOB for now, with $1 & $2 corkage fees on beer (a first!) depending on bottle size, and $5 for wine - bring a Methuselah and see what they say. I ordered sho-yu tsukemen, cold noodles with a soy based dipping sauce, and they were okay, if a little lukewarm. My oshinko was pedestrian, nothing I couldn't cut up at home after purchasing the pickles at Sunrise. It'll probably last longer than Chickies, but why?

I think tonight, when Significant Eater gets back to New York, I'll make Manhattans. Maybe have some dinner waiting. And the latest hot spot? Let's just leave that to some other blogger.