Decided to focus on writing about food (obviously right?)
Been busy working on the base for a new blog. Stay tuned for that…
In the meantime, here is a picture of my nephew wearing his super lucky pomelo hat on Harvest Moon day. This was clearly the reason USC completely kicked Cal butt.
My vegetarian friends might be aghast at the sheer number of hapless mollusks and crustaceans that have been shucked, steamed, and deep-fried for my culinary enjoyment but they can unruffle their lettuce leaves and indulge in a little schadenfreude. (I can spell this word without looking it up. How cool am I?) Karma can be a bitch and I just got a full-extension, back-handed slap to my face in the form of a mild case of gout, or at least I think it’s gout. Either that or it’s early onset arthritis.
What is gout? Well according to wiki, gout is a condition where little crystals of uric acid have attached themselves to your joints and cause flashes of pain in those areas. This condition used to be more commonly known among the affluent, since excess consumption of protein and purine rich foods such as foie, lobster, crab, and even champagne can lead to gout. Hence, the term “rich man’s disease” or “disease of kings”. Yes. There can be too much of a good thing.
So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve woken up to random twinges of pain in my joints, namely, the joint of the middle finger on my left hand, and in my toes, making it slightly uncomfortable to walk sometimes. Gout does commonly strike the big toe. And just why my middle finger is afflicted is perplexing to me, but since I’ve matured beyond flipping people the bird, it doesn’t impede my forward motion. Just the matter of the toes and trying not to look too gimpy.
Though my symptoms clearly do not exhibit the acute pain and inflammation commonly attributed to gout, I’m fairly certain that the seafood weekend in CT did me in. Luckily, I find that the further away I get from my seafood adventures, the more the symptoms dissipate. Clearly I have swung the pendulum too far in gastronomic excess and now in an attempt to bring the yin and yang back into balance, I am declaring a veggie detox for the next couple of weeks to cleanse my temple and garner forgiveness from the gods of retribution. Shellfish can rest easy for now…
Here’s a little piece of trivial food fact: Did you know that in the old days, lobster was considered poor people food? Yes, according to lobster.org, Massachusetts had a law forbidding lobster to be served to servants and prisoners more than twice a week because a higher frequency would be inhumane.
*quick update* Unbeknownst to me, today is World Vegetarian Day and it kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month. How apropos.
The final day of our road trip saw us testing the limits of our stomachs and determining which roadside seafood stand to hit, Cove Fish Market or Sea View Snack Bar for our last seafood bonanza. Sea View was conveniently located next to Kitchen Little right on the main drag whereas Cove’s is further away and partially hidden by an island of trees and a big giant boat. Originally, we were just going to eat at one establishment but since they both had similar menus and similar mixed reviews on Yelp, it was obvious that our responsibility lay in swinging the pendulum decisively to one side. The only way to be definitive was to eat at both places. Plus, Mr. Yam was quite sure that Cove’s was the place where he and his family had the best clam chowder in the world a few years ago. When you proclaim that something is the best, we’re going to make you prove it.
But first, a dive into U.S. deep sea history with a visit to Groton, CT, (the self proclaimed?) submarine capital of the world. After cleaning up a few more plates of food at Kitchen Little, we headed out for a fascinating tour of the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. I’ve never been in a submarine before and now I understand why this service of the navy get the best food that our tax dollars can provide (though that’s debatable). The spaces are small and cramped, definitely not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. If you spend weeks underneath the water in a long, skinny tube with no where to get some fresh air, you should at least eat well. They must pick the most agile and compact of navy men/women for these posts because the passage ways are so narrow that only hobbits could get through with ease and don’t even get me started on the bunks, stacked one atop the other with maybe 18 inches of vertical clearance. Sardines in a can get more wriggling space. Claustrophobia aside, it was very impressive to see our country’s engineering might and underwater design. Jules Verne would have been proud.
After we got a dose of military history, it was time for the real battle at hand: Cove Fish Market or Sea View Snack Bar.
First up was Sea View where over the past couple of nights, we had seen throngs of people munching underneath florescent outdoor lamps and halogen headlights of SUVs. We wanted to be those people, slathered in butter and drowning in tartar sauce by the eerie glow of man made lighting. To get the full experience, we ordered a representative sample of cold lobster roll, fried fish, and clam chowder. The lobster roll was pretty good, certainly much better than what was served at the Seaport and the fried fish was light and crispy, an effect achieved by using no breading but perhaps just a dusting of starch. We were pleased but not wowed. The clam chowder was the test of true perfection and it was disappointing, lacking in salt and that je ne sais quois essence of fresh clam. No plate cleaning occurred here and we left a few scraps left for the birds.
Although we were partially full, we knew we had to press on to Cove’s Fish Market, whose reputation preceded it by Mr. Yam’s exaltation of its clam chowder. Once again, we hit the main points of hot and cold lobster roll, fried fish(cod) and of course, both clear and cream broth clam chowder. Hello jackpot! The lobster was tender and juicy, the fish was fresh and delectable. And…the clam chowder was hands down the best we had devoured the whole weekend and then some. It was well seasoned, clammy, creamy…Les was so enamored that she wanted to buy a gallon of the chowder to take home but sadly, they were out of the take home variety so we were only able to bring it back in the form of full, round bellies. The car groaned under our accumulated weight when we finally headed back to NY, sated and happy as clams.
The security lady at Liberty Park tells you to lift your shirt, points to the side of your pants and asks suspiciously, “What’s that?”
And your only shocked and amused response is, “um….my hips?“
Even pint-sized ones! What do you think his superpower is?
Our Sunday mission in Mystic was an ambitious one and by that I don’t mean the number of eating establishments that we wanted to visit but by the hour of day on the clock that dictated our schedule.
Les had read about a great breakfast joint frequented by locals called Kitchen Little on Chowhound, and the chatter was all about the tasty food and long lines because the restaurant is so named not just as a pun but for it’s size. We had cased the joint the day before and it was the size of a chicken coop. The order came down the chain of command: must be up by 7am and arrive at the restaurant at 8am. You might scoff at this but for the lot of us, getting five people with varying waking aptitudes out the door by 8am and on a weekend no less, would be a herculean effort. Thankfully enough, the need for beauty sleep was trumped by the fear of a long line and empty bellies and through fits and starts, we straggled to Kitchen Little at the appointed hour and got ourselves a picturesque seat by the river for an al fresco breakfast.
If the crisp coolness of a fall morning did not wake us up, the food certainly did. They had a scramble called Portuguese Fisherman which featured chorizo, linguiça, and jalapeño that was a hot, spicy mess. The corned beef hash and home fries were awesome, as was the crabmeat and asparagus eggs benedict. We were rolling over in eggstacy (that’s their motto), it was so good we made plans to return again the next morning, once again sacrificing sleep for food.
After breakfast, we headed over to the Mystic Aquarium to hang out with some fish and sea lions. Did you know that one of the differences between sea lions and seals is that you can see the sea lions ears? File that one away for Jeopardy. We also spotted Nemo and friends hanging out in a tank, trying to escape. They are so small and cute!
The other big thing to do in Mystic (besides eat) was the Seaport, which features exhibits about the shipbuilding and marine industries that was once the bedrock of Connecticut’s booming economy. It’s a fun place for kids with various olde tyme shops, a real whaling vessel docked at port and a giant half-finished ship. Part of the whaling vessel display included slabs and slabs of dried salted fish that the sailors reconstituted and ate while at sea. I know they were real because I picked one up and gave it a sniff. You can’t engineer the smell of dried fish for the sake of an exhibit. I wonder if there are visitors who actually sneak a filet into their bags and take it home. Disclaimer: I did not take home any souvenirs!! They were just lying out there in the sun and all the elements for who knows how long and manhandled by curious folks like me. No amount of cooking can erase that history.
Again, Mystic Seaport is mostly a destination for people with kids and people who like ships. I was really interested in seeing one of the old houses that still had the original furniture and other household implements. I had imagined old homes to be small and cramped but the rooms were rather spacious and bright. I could be happy in one of those homes provided they install indoor plumbing. But I digress. The real reason we went to the Seaport was for their Fish and Ships seafood festival which turned out to be really disappointing. There wasn’t much if anything in the way of fish/seafood or even a festival atmosphere so I’m not going to talk about it.
We ended up heading over to downtown and I took a brief stroll down along the river and was caught sight of the drawbridge being opened to allow boats to pass, which was really fascinating. My friends know I’m completely enamored with bridges of any ilk. It also just happened to be trending towards dusk and the sky was clear and the light had that lovely glow of fall that I love so much. Postcard perfect.
Dinner was, surprise, more seafood at a place called Noah’s in Stonington, a town just a breath away from Mystic. The food was great and supposedly the best dish of the night belonged to JN who ordered shortribs, the result being that he had a hard time keeping his wife’s fork away from it. Since he was seated at the far end of the table from, my own fork could not reach so I’ll just have to take Les’ word for it. Save room for dessert because they make it all from scratch and it shows.
So our last night in Mystic ended with another great meal and sweet dreams of good eats the morning to come.