Saturday, July 3, 2010

what do you mean it's summer? it's started already? cool, let's have a picnic!

I swear, no one told me. I've spent so many back-to-back summers away, either in Ontario, Quebec, or Italy that I've forgotten what it feels like to experience an Edmonton spring followed immediately what I'm beginning to remember as Edmonton summer. I am guilty of falling victim to the intoxicating wafts of fresh blossoms and then greedily planting a garden before the Victoria Day long weekend. I also took a holiday in New York and didn't tend to my garden, as I should have in the days leading up to my trip. I was working extra hours at two jobs, training at one of them, and preoccupied with other writing I've been working on. So of course, bad things happened to the garden while I was away and shortly after my return. But I'm getting sidetracked. I'll tell you those stories in the next instalment of "planting a garden". The point is, I haven't written in a while nor have I been cooking, and so I must retrain myself to get back to those things, and to you, dear, loyal readers.
All right, yes, New York. It certainly felt like summer as soon as I got off the plane. The mercury did not dip below 30 degrees any day that we were there. At nights it cooled down slightly to around 25. That being said, it was rather difficult to maintain a high energy level to go go go the whole time. The vacation was a great deal about leisure, so we took our time. We loved choosing restaurants as it meant pouring over their online menus and dreaming of what kind of night might follow a meal at each place. Rarely did I find myself eating the entire meal (which was always at least twice as much as I could eat), but I didn't sweat it. One night we actually gave our leftover curry and rice to a homeless man on the way back to the hotel. Also, the heat made me realize that making sure we saw the 5 or 6 galleries, 2 museums, not to mention all the shopping,
Crab cakes and cucumber salad on the patio grill at the Boathouse in
Central Park

theatring, and fine dining as we could - not so realistic. There were a number of delightful food moments and memories, too many to share them all with you.

Some of the brightest food highlights (indeed in the darkest
places) I've captured with my Nikon D40. I've got a good old lens, but she's a bit broken and needs to be fixed. She kept conking out on me, so I was very happy to have had my friend's macro lens on loan for the trip. I've been playing around with that a lot since coming home and starting to cook again (!) I welcome your input and suggestions on updating my lens for my DSLR. I am thinking right now that I'll just send the warranteed lens away and pick up a well-made low price range macro lens too.

Wild blackberries that I noticed were growing on an island on the lake
in Central Park. I don't think the birds, ducks, and turtles will miss
these few we nabbed.

I want to tell you about this one meal I had though... I was given loads of advice and suggestions for where to eat and what to do while in New York. Thank everyone who offered me his or her precious info. One suggestion that I am particularly thankful for was from my sister who used to live in New York. Based on her recommendation I took my companion and another friend who now lives in New York down to Chelsea and we ate at August on Bleecker. It would be easy to walk right by it. In fact, our cab driver wouldn't pull over right away. Peering through the big front window, the restaurant appeared to be empty. I trusted my sister, though, so in we went. A shiny, hot wood-burning oven with endless piles of orange glowing coals was obviously the first thing I was drawn to. Soon after I looked around I heard laughter and tickling glasses coming from somewhere further into the restaurant. The sommelier (and I assume also an owner or manager) greeted us and took us through the narrow restaurant into the glass-roofed patio in the back. Large plants hung down and lights were suspended across the courtyard-like space.
The dinner menu was small, but the food was divine and wine list was sensational. Our sommelier friend came over when we asked our server a rather odd question. My friend likes Pino Grigio and I made the assumption that something called Fie Gris would be rather similar. Our server hadn't tried this bottle, so she called in backup. The sommelier began to describe the wine without seeming to be able to put his finger on just what it was like or could be compared to. He called it "rich", and kept repeating that characteristic over and over. "It's a bit citrusy, yeah, but it's just so... rich." It's indescribable, but he was exactly right. Not quite like anything I have tried before, but deliciously rich without being buttery and still with lots of nice fruit and blossoms. I must write to them and find out the exact name of the bottle. In all the deliciousness I plum forgot to write it down...
We also enjoyed some wonderful oysters from Saddle Rock, Long Island. Don't believe that old hoohah about only eating oysters in months that have an R in them. This dates back to a time when we had poor refrigeration. Besides, these were harvested not too far from where I was dining, even better!
I thought when I ordered the salad with arugula and lamb's quarters that I would be getting something with pieces of lamb meat... yeah, lamb's quarters are actually wild spinach, I have learned. It was still delicious, but because I had imagined some incredibly rich, heavy salad course, I was actually a little disappointed. The chefs at August made up to me, though with the stunning main course that was created as the nightly special. It was a sea bream grilled and served with fresh microgreens and tarragon in a light cream sauce strongly flavour with lemon. The brine from happy little green olives commingled with the sauce and the natural smoky flavour and oils from the grilled fish. It was rustic, inventive, and incredibly satisfying. I ate a whole fish. Minus the head and the eyes, which I secretly kind of want to try.

My dining companions each got one of the pizzas that were on special that night. Every sunday they have a pizza and beer deal. Something involving a bucket of beer, it actually looked pretty cool. My friends gave mixed reviews to their main courses. The one who eats meat said his was fantastic. I tasted some and it was pretty damn good. Lots of good quality Italian cured meats crumbled over a wood fired pizza crust with lots of fresh mozzarella. The one who is a vegetarian said her pizza had too much going on and it certainly looked that way to me - peppers, greens, and fava beans all sort of thrown "rustically" onto the crust without all concern for the mixture of textures and flavours.

We finished the meal with a couple of desserts which we all sort of shared. My veggie friend and I shared the hot rhubarb crumble with black pepper ice cream on top and the carnivore had a trio of gelato. We all had a contentedly (almost uncomfortably) full walk down to Union Square and after one more cold drink in the hot heat, headed back into a cab, uptown, and into the night.

1 comment:

  1. A very accurate account of the night! Mmm... pepper ice cream. If only you could document every meal I eat : )