Thursday, April 18, 2013

It’s so tasty, too!

LaSalle GrillLast night, we headed downtown for a “Flavors of the Mediterranean” wine dinner at LaSalle Grill. Ken is going on a business trip next week, and thought it would be a nice treat for us to do before he left. It came at a good time, because man, has this been a weird week, or what? And it’s not even done yet.

Anyway, LaSalle Grill is one of the nicest restaurants in our area. We don’t eat there often, because it is also one of the most expensive! This is the kind of place where you don’t take pictures of your food, do you get me? Every so often, they have one of their wine tasting or beer tasting dinners, though, and it’s a chance to experience several different kinds of food paired with appropriate wines or beers. It’s a culinary adventure! Join me, won’t you? [waving you over] Come on! It’s fun! (Sorry, I’m in a silly mood.)

Here is last night’s menu, so you can get an idea of the food they serve there.

Bacon Wrapped Date
Edamame Hummus, Harissa
Fenugreek Pickled Shallots

Big-Eye Tuna Crudo
Caramelized Fennel Salad
Crisp Sunchokes, Rosemary Sea Salt
2009 Contine Colosi, Biano Sicilia, Italy

Olive Oil Poached Monkfish
Grilled Zucchini, Olives & Radicchio
Light Balsamic & Tomato Broth
2010 Louis Jadot, Pouilly Fuissé, France

Spiced Lamb & Couscous Fritter
Green Cardamom Yogurt, Charred Eggplant Purée,
Fried Goat Cheese, Citrus-Cumin Vinaigrette
2010 Tres Picos, Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain

Ras El Hanout Braised Short Rib
Chickpeas & Lentils, Fava Beans,
Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate & Dried Fig Jus
2009 Chateau Teyssier, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, France

Walnut Baklava
Cinnamon-Anise Crème Fraîche
2007 Royal Tokaji, 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Hungary

I practically had to be carted out of there in a wheelbarrow. The wine portions are generous, and all told, I probably had about a half a bottle of wine. But what really got to me was the sheer richness of the food. The portions are small, but I still felt very full, enough so that I didn’t finish my dessert wine. I was like, “Okay. No more.”

We go to some decent places, and it’s hard to beat a good steak or a nice piece of fresh fish when we’re on the coast. But what is fun about this place is all the different flavors that you get to try, and the way they combine them. I’m not a big fan of anise, but oh man, that baklava was to die for! The complexity of some of these flavors made my taste buds do the can-can.

The bacon-wrapped date was so good, but gone so quickly! Two bites, and that little bit of deliciousness was gone. (I looked up the definition of “amuse-bouche,” and it literally means “entertain the mouth.” I love that! It is a one-bite appetizer, thus only the one date.) Probably my least favorite was the short rib, because that’s a piece of meat that is mostly fat. The flavor was delicious, though, and with the beans, it was very hearty. (And yes, Hannibal Lecter jokes were made about the fava beans!) My absolute favorite was the tuna crudo, which is the same as sashimi. The stuff just melted in my mouth, and the salad, sunchokes (AKA Jerusalem artichokes), and sea salt were just an amazing combination. I can still almost taste it.

We also laughed about the lamb & couscous fritter, because couscous always makes us think of something I said when our friends Kim and Steve were visiting us. We were talking about what we were having for dinner, and I asked, “Do you like couscous?” Steve said, “Yeah, it’s okay.” I said, “Well, we’re not having that tonight,” and he just burst into laughter. I still have no idea why I said it that way...I think I had recently made some and didn’t care for it much, and I was just wondering if they liked it. Anyway, it still makes me laugh.

The wines were perfectly paired, as always, with light, citrusy whites starting us off, a hearty red with the short rib and beans, and a sweet, orange-y wine with the dessert.

LaSalle Grill may be expensive, but they earn it. I love trying different things, and the way they combine the tastes and textures is just amazing. A wonderful treat, one to enjoy on an occasional basis. Thanks, Honey!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Daryl Dixon: To arms! To arms!

Norman Reedus arms3It’s still too soon for me to write about what happened in Boston yesterday. I just...I can’t words. I didn’t turn on the news today until this evening, and I’ve avoided most online articles about it. I’m trying hard to not let the rage and despair overwhelm me (Remember me writing about my intense emotions lately? Right.), and I know when I need to step back. A little time will restore my words, and I’ll write about it.

But not now. Instead, I’m just going to go total fangirl on you and write about something fun. Not the Stones this time, believe it or not!

Most people know that I’m a huge fan of “The Walking Dead.” I was hooked from the very first episode. Let me channel my Inner Stefon and say, “This show has everything. Zombies, katanas, crossbows, eyepatches, and a human plumb-bob.”

“What’s a human plumb-bob?”

“It’s that thing where a zombie dangles from a rope down a well and then gets torn in half and....”

Okay, you get the idea. I love the show. I get a little discussion thread going on Facebook every week after the show, and call it my Dead Thread. (I’m sure others have used the term, too. I don’t claim that it is original to me, although I had never seen it before.) We talk about what happened, what might happen, and what we hope will happen. It’s fun. I had never read the comics, so I have no expectations of what will be or what should be; it is impossible for me to be disappointed because the show did something different from the graphic novels.

One of the things that I love about the show is the way the characters evolve and change in response to “this sorrowful life.” Nothing is as it was; rules have changed or disappeared completely. It is not so much living as it is surviving, and sometimes, there are pretty dark decisions that have to be made. When the show started, I really dug the character of Shane. He obviously loved some people, but he took a real dark turn there—it happens in this world—and I was saddened by his necessary demise. It didn’t have to be that way, Shane, but you made your choice. This world does bad things to some people.

A more redemptive storyline has been that of Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus. It just astounds me to see the way his character is evolving, and to learn more about him. Daryl is probably the breakout character on the show, with a legion of fans vowing to riot in the streets if they kill him off. We understand that no one is safe, but NOT DARYL. Do you hear me, WD writers? NOT DARYL. Anyway, it’s a fascinating character study: abused as a child, looking up to his older brother Merle but kind of despising him at the same time, a true loner yet still wanting and needing to be part of the group, loyal to a fault. Daryl never gave up on searching for Sophia...maybe because he identified with the lost child and always hoped that someone would save him when he was a child? I don’t know, but he has proven to be a complex and fascinating character, and Norman plays him perfectly.

I had never heard of Norman Reedus before this show, so I was interested to find out that he’s apparently a pretty cool person in his own right. Artist, sculptor, photographer, by all accounts a super nice guy and kind to his fans. And he has a cat...a black one! Sheeba approves! I had heard of the Boondock Saints movies but didn’t know he was in them and I’ve never seen them. I just got them and am looking forward to watching. Anyway, nice to find out that he’s a good guy in real life, and not a douche.

Norman Reedus arms2I read a lot of stuff about the show, including interviews with the cast. He said in one interview that the writers were planning on taking Daryl another way. They wanted him to start taking drugs after Merle was split from the group, and he said no, he didn’t want to play him that way. Daryl loved his big brother, but he didn’t want to be like him. He wanted to grow up and be the person that others could rely on. Good instincts, Norman, because it makes Daryl all the more compelling. We’re rooting for this guy to be okay, because he’s really trying to be a better person. I really just can’t say enough about how much I like this character.

He also seems to be a good sport about the numerous fan sites that have cropped up for Daryl and for himself. His arms are absolutely adored. There are a LOT of women who are crushing on him in a major way, and his Twitter feed can be hilarious, with everything from pleas for him to follow them to marriage proposals. Some take a more “subtle” route...a friend and I are still laughing about someone demanding that he fuck them in the face. I’m sure he’ll get right on that!

Yes, I’m a fangirl. I agree that he has nice arms, but what I really love is how he’s made the character into someone that is...well, I think I’d  have to say “beloved.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so invested in a character, or so connected to a group of characters. “ER” might have been the closest one—I bawled like a baby when Anthony Edwards’ Dr. Greene died—but that doesn’t even come close to how I feel about these characters. I’ve gasped, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, and I’ve sat there in horror with my hand over my mouth...not because of the creepy zombies, but because these characters that I’ve come to love are in danger. One of the most devastating moments of the past season for me was when Daryl found his brother...reanimated. I said, “Nooooo, oh Daryl, nooooo,” and cried like a little girl. Well-played, sir, well-played.

So...can you tell I’m going through withdrawals after the end of the season? October is a long way away.