Sunday, July 01, 2007


    In the summer, I can never eat enough gazpacho. Whether it's chunky, pureed, served with a dollop of sour cream, loaded with cilantro, spicy, or mild, I want it every day, multiple times a day. Along with the taste and variation, I like that it's a refreshing, light meal, though sometimes I crumble in some baguette or cornbread to make it heartier.

    My all time favorite gazpacho is served at G&M Cafe in Charleston. I've been eating there since high school, and even though I only manage to go once a year or so now, I think about it often this time of year. These days I prefer my gazpacho a little spicier than G&M's, but for the familiarity and comfort level factors, theirs is still my number one. It has a superb, small chunkiness that's made slightly creamy by a dollop of sour cream, and it's chock full of peppers and tomatoes. I like to order a toasted, open-faced croissant with goat cheese and olive paste with it, and alternate bites of each -- the slight tartness of the spreads gives the soup a greater flavor depth.

    Around the corner from my apartment, I recently tried The Mermaid Inn's honeydew and cucumber gazpacho with Maine lobster. There was a handsome sprinkling of cilantro, which, with the cucumber, countered the honeydew's sweetness. The soup was velvety, while the generous pieces of lobster were salty and juicy. It's served as an appetizer for $10, a lot for soup, but a pittance for soup with lobster.

    I've also been enjoying the gazpacho at Ruben's Empanadas.

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    One of the best meals I've recently had was a splurge at E.U. Yet another of New York's gastropubs (E.U. stands for European Union), it's not really pubby looking (there's exposed brick, porcelain fixtures, a lovely skylight, and a raw bar), but they do have a nice beer selection. Jon and I shared the tasting flight of five handcrafted artisanal beers, which come to the table on a butcher block. Surprisingly, the best was an apple-flavored Gouden Caralous. We also shared a charcuterie plate piled with cheese and juicy chunks of chorizo. Jon ordered the chicken and dumplings with brussel sprout fondue and chestnut gnocchi. It's gotten rave reviews but the small bite I had was a bit too chewy.

    I ordered the poached wild striped bass with endive marmalotta, shiitake mushrooms, and pistachio vinaigrette. Perfect for a night where Spring was in the air but hadn't yet settled in for the season, the dish found the fine balance between a light and old world, overly heavy preparation. The fish was very fresh, juicy, and clean tasting, and the endive marmalotta was rapturous. If I'm remembering right, the waiter said that a marmalotta preparation means that the endive was cooked with chicory, giving it a sweet, mildly coffee-like flavor. Each ingredient in the bowl was allowed to shine in a complementing manner, and each forkful was a slight surprise. I often find that I either don't see or taste some of the ingredients that are listed on the menu in an entree's description, but that was not the case at E.U.

    We had no choice but to order the stick toffee pudding for dessert, which is served in cake form (I prefer Bar Americain's parfait version), with buttermilk ice cream on the side. After, we pond-hopped to the couch for the rest of the night.

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    I'm in love with New York Magazine's Grub Street blog, in part for "The Annotated Dish," which shows a sumptuous photo of say, Per Se's Summer Steak Salad, with arrows pointing to each ingredient. You can mouse over the arrows for descriptions from chefs like Jonathan Benno: "We use a trio of radishes: red radish, icicle radish, and French-breakfast radish. We sous-vide them with sesame oil, rice-wine vinegar, crushed lemongrass, chile, ginger, and coriander seed at 83 degrees Celsius."

    On another food blog-related note, a few weeks ago at the end of a friend's fabulous wedding weekend, a wine-smart friend tried to engage me in a conversation about how foodies aren't usually all that wine-savvy. I agreed but had reached the end of my social graces for the weekend and could say no more. A bit more refreshed the next day, I emailed my friend Francis Lam, a contributing editor at Gourmet, to see what he had to say on the subject. See his thoughts here, on the magazine's blog.

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