I wonder if some restaurants are just trying too hard. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania recently, I went to a restaurant called Pour, serving “Cosmopolitan Cuisine,” and sporting a beautiful atmosphere and attentive and smiling servers. The name sounded wine bar-ish, and I wanted a good glass of Pinot or two before reading at the open mic at the writer’s conference I was attending. Seems the restaurant’s name has more to do with craft beers than glasses of wine so my writerly friend and I shared a bottle of South African Chenin/Chard/Viognier, which did the trick. The menu had “plates” and I’m a sucker for a small plate or two since my stomach can’t usually handle a big ole platter of food, American style. But the food was well, odd. Odd because what came to table didn’t resemble our expectations of what the menu descriptions were:
ASIAN STYLE STEAMED COCKLES Chinese sausage, shredded vegetables, crispy fried bean threads, spice infused lobster stock, coconut cream
This was a bowl of steamed cockles in a flavorful broth, with no sign of sausage or coconut cream. The bean threads were raw and very hard to chew.
CRISPY SHRIMP ARANCINI Smoked tomato coulis, Summer pea and arugula pesto
OK, so we all have smart phones, is it now de rigueur to Google your food before you order it (and before you take a picture of it?) Arancini—what’s that?
Expectation: a yummy fried shrimp dish
Reality: a pasty rice ball with some shrimp in it, and some nice sauces, which did not kill the rice-y-ness
Our other writer-ly friends really enjoyed their peach gazpacho and mozzarella salad, so obviously all was not wrong with the meal. If in Lancaster again, I’d go back and try more off their menu. I was just a little bewildered, that’s all. Maybe I’m just an aged boomer who doesn’t know shit about food any more.
So, I’m sitting at the bar at an Irish pub in downtown Lancaster, on my last night of the conference, relishing the cream-dream sensation of a perfect Guinness (no bitter aftertaste—almost as perfect as in Ireland), post giving-an-editor-a-five minute-pitch-on-my-memoir, which nearly killed me. Another writer joined me, and eventually we got menus and used the candles to read them in the dark. And there was my small plate-mate:
Galway Shrimp: Sautéed jumbo shrimp, Pernod, roasted garlic cream, Madagascar green peppercorns, diced tomato & scallion on crispy potato cakes
My friend ordered wild mushroom ravioli with spinach and smoked tomato Alfredo sauce, and when the beautiful food arrived, we wholeheartedly dove into heavy-cream-comas. My shrimp dish awakened sleepy taste buds of eighties yore, when heavy cream was the queen of a great dish, especially shrimp, especially with Pernod, and the green peppercorns and crispy petit potato cakes made each bite end with a grand: touché! Wow it was good–and I didn’t have to Google a thing.
Been travelling a bunch lately, and recently was stuck at the Dallas airport for seven hours. Spending any more than an hour before your flight in the sucked-out atmosphere of an airport is akin to what hell must be. So, after a ten dollar Stella at the “Belgian Pub,” and a perusal though the Texas t-shirts, I decided it was time to tuck away my airport blanket and neck pillow and eat something.
Airport Food! Food court! Bwaaa! I settled on Urban Taco, and ordered pork tortas with rice instead of the torta. Your simple Styro box affair, and my expectations were low. Just sustenance, after all.
It was so yummy! A perfect balance of garlic, black bean, cilantro, lime with a hint of peppery bite, and the pork was luscious and porky and handfuls of chopped romaine added just enough crunch. Best nine bucks I ever spent at an airport, and on many meals I’ve had NOT at an airport. Who says I’m a food snob?