Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Untitled #10" or "Mildstone"...

"Oh c'mon!" Kelly says as we walk to the Central T stop. "It's great...get it, 'cause it's not really a milestone." "I don't know, hon'," I say, trying to think of a better title. I always hate titling my blogs because they sort of need to be intuitive for me. I was the same way when I was doing my poetry thesis in college...changing the titles as often as I changed my hair (hot pink to shaved to afro to red to shaved again...). We catch the 82 bus and then take the T to Park for dinner.

The restaurant has a retro vibe and antique tchochkes piled in the corners. As soon as we get down the stairs to the actual dining room, Kelly spots two or three people he knows. BFG, who I met at a Gin Event, gets us cocktails as we wait for our table. "Happy anniversary," I say and we clink glasses.

I still cannot believe that we have been together for six months. It seems like only a week or so ago that he was introducing me as "Matt" to impress me with his connections and spilling full glasses of water square into my lap. I can still see his face as he moved with those practiced steps earned in the industry to pat my crotch dry and then freeze with his hands only inches away. "I'm gonna let you do that," he said and hovered by his chair, too embarrassed to sit back down and more shades of red than what is found in the produce aisle.

Kelly orders a rose for the table, goes through the motions, and looks down at his menu already too aware of what he was getting. On our second date, I was told it would months before we could come here because he wanted to make sure I was the one before he "made sweet, sweet mouth-love to a platter of buffalo wings." I agreed whole-heartily because, really, you can't come back from that after watching the person you [insert sex act here] with suck the tender bits off of a drumstick, their face and fingers Oompa Loompa orange with sauce, if you're not committed.

We order a couple of platters of comfort food (one being the mythical wings, which are worth all the hype) and I enjoy the low-light and the choreography of dining with Kelly. Among the talking, pausing to eat when the other person takes up the conversation, I let him take both his water glass and mine ("Yours is nicer 'cause it still has ice," he says and moves my glass closer to him.) and watch as we move from wine stem to water glass to a double wine stem straight to water glass. The conversation dwindles a little and Kelly checks the movie times on his phone. Having done the uber-comfortable couch marathons for the past few dates, it's nice to do something special for our anniversary...even if it's as heteronormative as dinner and a movie.

Kelly pays understanding that I would grab candy and the movie tickets. I wet-nap my hands and the corners of my mouth as he begins the teasing over what I will inevitably grab from the nearby CVS. "You going to get your Werther's Originals?" Kelly asks behind my water glass. "They're bull's-eyes," I defend. "Afraid they'll break your dentures?" "Oh no, I made sure to use my Poli-grip for tonight." Kelly laughs and signs the restaurant copy. Taking my hand, we walk back up the stairs and into the balmy night.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The smell of baking spices in the air

It's raining and gray. The slightly humid air has the effect of a drunk's breath blowing against the back of your neck while you're wedging yourself up to the bar. But in all of this blandness, the oak tree outside my kitchen window has started turning school bus yellow.

Although autumn and spring are transition seasons that my body hates (spring pollen = sinus headaches; autumn mold = sexy phlegm), they're both seasons that I love. Spring is visually stunning with the new red growth on the trees and the first flowers pushing through the crusting ice. Autumn, however, has the best foods. Growing up in New England, autumn meant apples, cinnamon, ginger, cranberries, pumpkin, allspice, molasses..."Baking spices," Kelly says when I enthuse at the dropping temperature. "Cinnamon, ginger, they're a part of the so-called baking spices." I call them wonderful.

My love for autumn flavors expands from the normal (apple pie) to offensively fake (pumpkin spice latte) to the strange. Virginia, one of the few people I actually like at work, gushed with me during a necessary break from our respective computer screens. Together, we break down the logistics of making an unholy abomination of pie sushi. "You could use the pie dough as a nori roll," she says with her eyes alight, "and shred some apple for the rice. Ooh! You should wedge in raisins or walnuts in place of the veggie pieces...make one of those rolls where they make flower shapes when it's cut!" I don't know where the idea came from or how we got side tracked onto it--I just know that there are several golden delicious in my fruit bowl and a pre-made pie crust de-thawing on my counter.

Top 5 Autumn flavors that I will overdose on for the next three months:
5. Maple (I did go to college in Vermont, after all...)
4. Molasses (Boston Molasses Flood or no)
3. Pumpkin
2. Apple (Pink ladies being my favorite for snacking; Macintosh, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith for baking)
1. Cinnamon

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No. 9

Evie's boobs are so exposed that they are almost the fourth member of our dinner party. Her hair is still salon shiny and she nurses three drinks: a cocktail, an aperitif, and a glass of ice water. "I don't look too Housewives of Jersey, right?" she asks. Kelly and I assure her that she has stopped from reaching the HoJ point-of-no-return, but I can't help but keep looking down at the blue leopard print straining over her chest.

The day has been long and I'm a little cranky. Work hasn't been my favorite thing for a while, and I manage to go another day without (deservingly) eating someone's face or bursting into hysterics. Kelly rushing me to get from work to home to back into the city in record time didn't help, but (as always) he has the best intentions. I would have felt horrible making everyone late for our dinner plans...the nine-course chef's tasting menu. The idea of so many plates makes my head spin and I think it is one of the major factors keeping me from said face-eating (I wouldn't be able to do all those courses if I filled up at work on face marinated in idiocy).

Course #1 - Cocktails
Although not an actual part of dinner, I have come to learn that liquor is often a parenthesis to eating. Taking a seat with Evie at the bar, she flirts casually with the bartender who pours the same aperitif for Kelly and I. For Kel, he makes a bubbly tequila concoction. I get some strange, frozen potion with lemon and absinthe...a little green fairy for the fairy.

Course #2 - Chilled Maine Lobster with matsutake mushroom, Burgundy truffle, and corn jus
We take our seats and stare out into the park. Just before the Statehouse, the street is gorgeous in the late evening and the city blinks to make up for the lack of stars. The waiters, who all know Kelly and Evie, charm us with some stories of a past wedding they all worked together and bring over rolls. "Don't fill up on bread," Kelly warns, but I'm starving. I down my cocktail, a roll, and watch as something bubbly and pink is poured into our flutes.

Course #3 - Roasted codfish with artichokes, preserved lemon, and pickled peppers
The lobster is okay, but shellfish have never really been my favorite. The plates are cleared and I'm asked to approve the white. I stare up at the waiter. "You're kidding, right?" I ask. It's like having someone colorblind assess a Degas or Monet. I try to remember all the steps, but Kelly giggles to himself when I take the four quick, successive sniffs so I know I've forgotten something. The white is poured ("It tastes like fresh band-aid," the wine geeks agree and I shrug. I think it's great.) and the codfish is served. I stuff it quickly into my mouth and use the flake of skin along the top as a pita for my artichoke "burrito".

Course #4 - Whole wheat bigoli with littleneck clams, heirloom tomato, and bottarga
I have no idea what a "bottarga" is, but the pasta is nice. Set into a massive bowl, the center that holds the carb nest topped with tomato is no larger than my fist. I've been dreading not being able to finish, but I polish off the pasta and (like a good Sicilian boy) tear another roll to wipe the sauce off the bowl.

Course #5 - Prune stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, toasted almonds, and VinSanto
There's a choice for some for the fifth course, but I saw "gnocchi" as soon as I sat down and it was decided for me. "The chef here is known for her gnocchi," Evie says. "They switch everything off, but there was almost a riot when she tried to take it off the menu." Our waiter returns and begins to decant the red for the evening. Baring a bright orange eye (representing an apparent fire that ravaged the vineyard) Kelly is called to approve it. He goes through the motions and smiles wide. "Black tar!" he calls. "Oh I have to smell," Evie says and extends her goblet. The wine, a splash of red fresh from the vein, stains the glass and she swirls it expertly. "Black tar!" she calls back. The wine geeks call scent markers back and forth as I fend Kelly away from the gnocchi plated before me with my fork.

Course #6 - Assiette of rabbit with pistachio, baby carrot (kind of sick, right?) and vincotto
The plate seems huge since the rabbit pieces are each no larger than a quarter. The waiter kindly points out the belly (essentially rabbit bacon); loin (agreeably the tastiest part); and the ribs, which look like miniature pork ribs. It takes me a whole two minutes to suck the rabbit off of the ribs and all but lick the plate clean.

Course #7 - Calotte de boeuf featuring petite frites, arugula, and braised short rib
Another huge plate with teenie meat, I can almost hide one of the calottes under the stack of frites. I pop the entire bundle in my mouth as Kelly and Evie's eyes widen. "It tastes like raspberry compote!" Evie squeals as she sips the now sweeter red. I try to see for myself, but the liquor has caught up to me and my small portions. I sit as straight as possible, convinced that if I give just an inch that I'll be a giggling mess under the table. Kelly assesses me with an arched eyebrow (I hate that he reads people so well) and shares a secret smile.

Course #8 - Artisanal cheeses
The cheese expert, Brie, (I can't recall if they have an official title, but I'm sure they do) is a long-time friend of both wine geeks and our dinner conversation degrades to Kelly singing "I think we're alone now", much to the delight of the woman next to us who claims that particular song as her Karaoke jam. The three of us each pick a cheese and two others are selected by the professional Brie. "You know I used to go to school near the Von Trapp Farmstead," I slur to Brie, who claps my shoulders in a hug and laughs. "Too cool," she says and moves her cart onto the next table.

Course #9 - Chocolate marquis with roasted white chocolate, basil, and anise hyssop
The dessert is a little strange, but I drunkenly shovel it into my mouth. As it is a belated birthday celebration for Evie and Kel, theirs come with knobby candles that they blow out carefully as to not smudge the chocolate writing on the plate. I down the rest of my ice water, hoping to end the inevitable hangover before it comes, and give myself the hiccups instead. The night ends and Kelly and I kiss Evie good-bye, slinking back to the Park St. station giggling and satisfied.

2007 Panevino Ogu Isola dei Nuraghi - A delicious red that actually does have a slight asphalt taste that softens as it aerates. I feel the need to point out that one of the scent notes discussed was baby diaper (not here, but it has apparently appeared in the past). To quote Kelly, "Poopy diaper is the best!" Who'd have thunk it?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sari, I thought that was my plate...

"Do you want to go back to my place, or go out?" Kelly nudges me with his knee. "Let's go out and eat quickly," I say with a sigh, "So that way we can come back for wine and not have to burn down your apartment afterwards." He smiles wide and gives me another jostle of his knee. "That's why I love you," he laughs. We gather our things, he straightens his spine--steeling himself--as he locks the door behind us, and we walk down to the restaurant. I hold his hand to keep him calm, and Kelly takes a deep breath to prepare himself. It had been his suggestion, true, but I know deep down he was hoping I would say "Oh no, hon', we don't have to go there." Outside, he composes himself quickly and holds the door open for me.

I have eaten a lot of weirdish things before and after I started dating Kel. Quail, rabbit, goat, pheasant...okay, well, weirdish for me and other non-foodies. (I know plenty of people who don't like lamb, let alone billy goat's gruff in a tangy yogurt sauce.) I've had raw shellfish every way possible. I've eaten skinny steel-colored fish deep fried like fish fries. I've expanded my pallet extensively and gotten a chance to feed my tongue's travel lust. By this point I've eaten most of Europe, some of the Middle East, and a large portion of Asia. Central America has been visited by way of Mexico (chocolate covered ants and bad take-out), but I haven't gotten a chance to expand into South America despite the Brazilian barbecue in my neighborhood. After I seriously started dating Kelly, I thought that it'd be a chance to find the perfect places for my wander-taste...and it's been true for many. Best sushi places, great steaks and cheeses, his friend Myra Ellen runs the best sandwich shop I've ever been to...but my favorite cuisine has been brushed over until that night.

Despite the rampant poverty and other less-than-savory issues, I've always been fascinated by India. The language, the religion, the customs, the culture...and the food. I understand that, unless my friend Shyam is making it for me, the samosa that I'm eating isn't really Indian, but it's close enough. I almost put out a personal ad for an Indian boyfriend just so I would be kept in naan for the rest of my potentially carb-overloaded life. His mother could have called me the "white devil subverting my precious beta, may he burn in hell for all eternity" to my face...I would have gladly answered to it and still washed the dishes so long as she threw a buttery slab in my direction.

According to Kelly, many industry people have issues with Indian because of the strength of the spices used. Cumin, cardamom, exotic smells that I think are heavenly apparently burn out any wine-person's nostrils and make their eyes water. It makes sense, I suppose, if you focus your senses to a laser focus that a handful of curry could be a bad thing...but I just can't see it.

The restaurant is fairly new and set up a little cramped. The two women speaking Spanish at the table touching ours sniff as we sit down and complain loudly about the girl dining behind us talking about the Swiss economy and human rights violations. Kelly agonizes over the least offensive item as I switch from staring down the entirety of India in every meat offered. I finally pick the lamb Vindaloo and rub Kel's knuckles across the table. "Thanks for doing this," I tell him and he nods. Suddenly, a light hits his eyes and he licks his lips. "What's that?" he asks the waitress, pointing to the bright orange, creamy drink someone at the Swiss violation's table sucks through their neon straw. "Mango lassi. You want one?" He nods excitedly and I smile, glad to have found at least one offensive item to bribe him with at a later date.