Friday, May 25, 2007

Strawberry fields forever

I found these little guys peaking out shyly from my farm share bag yesterday. Slightly fuzzy like baby peaches, their tender flesh glowed flame red under the bright sun. Ahh . . . summer. This is the stuff of dreams.

These guys were so ripe, they needed no adornment. But I was in the mood for something particularly sinful and indulgent. So a few drops of a dark and sticky balsamic and a spoonful of tupelo honey found their way into my bowl. Along with a glass of crisp un-oaked chardonnay, I could almost see the endless strawberry fields from my balcony.

"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me. Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout. Strawberry Fields forever."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Soho meets Maui on Long Island (Restaurant: Blue Honu)

Before my trip this past week, the name Long Island brought to mind images of the barefoot contessa's fabulous house in the Hampton. Courtsey of the food network, I had virtually attended many a summer parties in her expansive garden with her well-to-do friends. Driving towards our destination of Melville, the roadside scenery looked decidedly different from the images in my mind. There were no well-manicured lawns surrounding enormous mansions or miles of yachts docked next to sandy beaches. What we saw in abundance were White Castles and Dunkin Doghnuts, the unmistakable markings of northeastern suburbia.

Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against White Castle, Dunkin Doughnuts, or suburbia. Back in those glorious days when I was blessed with a high metabolism, my stomach provided shelter to a respectable number of burgers and munchkins. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. I can no longer eat indiscriminately without consequences. I had to stop and think about fitting into those little dresses I adore almost as much as good food. I've evolved into a selective nibbler of the truly seasonal and delicious. And institutionalized fast food had fallen outside of my paradigm.

This is not to say that I wasn't ready to embrace suburban dinning. Contrary to popular belief, I do not subscribe to the notion that only fancy restaurant food qualifies as good food. Anyone who has seen me happily slurping noodles street side in small town China would never question my fondness for all good eats lovingly prepared. I was excited to explore the food scene in Melville. If that meant diners and delis, I am prepared to licked my greasy spoon.

As fate would have it, I was not destined to eat simple food in Melville. Instead, our work party marched on to the nearby Huntington in search of something grander. And grander food was what we found at Blue Honu, an elaborately decorated Hawaiian fusion spot on the main street. The decor screamed soho chic with its loft-like red brick walls and larger-than-life red lanterns. Some what out of place, live palm trees and billowy white curtains were placed amidst the modern furniture to achieve a beach side effect. While I found this combination a bit odd, I was nonetheless impressed with the grandeur of it all.

Often a restaurant as obviously concerned with decor as the Blue Honu, worries more about the scene than the food. Purely judging from the half empty dinning room, we could have easily assumed this to be true here. Luckily we also had as reference plates on the tables near the window. The food looked, at the very least, fresh. So we sat and were rewarded for our well-made decision.

Fresh was the overriding theme at the Blue Honu. The way-too-big seafood platter that we ignorantly ordered in pair overflowed with plump oysters and translucent lobsters. The oysters were so pregnant with brininess, it felt as if I was tasting the sea. If I had to find a fault with the appetizer spread, I blame our server for bringing the dizzying parade of plates with no regard for how they may spoil our appetite for anything beyond. Perhaps my appetite was spoiled, because my main course of halibut was rather lackluster. Slightly under seasoned, the delicate flesh of this fish was a bit overcooked. But no one paid much attention to my fish, not even me, for the true star of the evening was the 42 oz bone-in ribeye special my neighbor ordered. It's hard to imagine what a 42 ozer looks like without having seen it. The picture does no justice to the heftiness of it. All I can say is that any family, from my meat-rationed childhood in China, would have been overjoyed to receive that chunk for the week. Aside from whether it's insane to offer such a special for one person, I must commend the Blue Honu for expertly cooking the steak to precise medium rare perfection. The generous piece shared with me by my neighbor tasted exactly like any hearty American steak should.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The most tender tentacles (Restaurant: Kyma)

Right at the beginning of our friendship, E and I discovered a shared fondness for tentacles creatures. Over the years, we've ordered up plates of calamari and baby octopus all over town and on multiple continents. The only time our interests diverged was over a plate of pickled jelly fish in Hong Kong. For the first time, my undiscriminating Chinese palate stretched beyond the threshold of her Greek sensibilities. My point is E knows her tentacles and isn't afraid to tell you what's best.

Again going back to the beginning of our friendship, E had definitely declared the fried calamari at Kyma to be the best in Atlanta. As much as we eat out, for some odd reason, we never made it there for dinner. This week, E took the last law school exam of her life and was in desperate need of a good feeding. Without hesitation, I suggested Kyma.

She watched me closely as I chewed my first cluster of tentacles. I chewed for a long time. After all, my mind had quite a small mountain of taste histories to flip through to come up with a fair evaluation. Maybe it would have been more exciting if I disagreed with her, but my final verdict confirmed E's claim. Kyma's little bundles were the most tender fried tentacles in Atlanta! They yield so easily to the teeth, I had to try very hard not to swallow too fast. And judging from the pleased expressions on many of the well-aged and preserved faces around me, I suspect they may even be gummed successfully. :P

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A weekend of "mosts" in Vegas

The most gorgeous courtyard beckoned us to relax with a mimosa. Who knew such an oasis existed but twenty minutes away from the surreal life on the Vegas stripe.

The most number of transportation devices boarded within 5 hours.

The most spectacularly varied terrains beheld in a single day.

Last but not least, the most enormous and translucent (translation: fatty) piece of pork shoulder ever encountered in a French bistro. Despite the string of service hiccups, Keller's Bouchon is still at the top of its game in flavor.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Did you really eat that?

Yup. And it really wasn't bad. Roasted African silk worm makes good nibbler snack.