Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blast from the Past

Out of the blue last week, I'd heard from a friend I hadn't seen in months, saying he was at Mekong and thinking of me.

Why beer should bring up thoughts of me, a non beer-drinker, is beyond me, but I agreed to a meet-up.

He asked if there were any new restaurants in my neighborhood and I figured Pasture, at 3/4 of a mile away, counted.

When I got out of my car. a couple of guys standing on the corner turned around. They must have been desperate for some visual stimulation because they stared like I had two heads.

I wasn't shy. "Could you guys stare any harder?" I asked to break the ice.

"Uh, you look nice," one said grinning. Yea, that's it, I'm sure.

Because my last two visits had been on the first nights they were open, Pasture tonight felt downright civilized in comparison when I walked in tonght.

I could hear the music clearly. There were available seats at the bar. It was a whole new world.

Beginning with Cazadores, a tequila I'm always happy to see on a menu, I waited for my time-challenged friend's arrival.

Later, the bartender noted that it was a tequila kind of night with several other Cazadores drinkers besides me.

Once my friend arrived, he spent the first ten minutes talking to the kitchen staff and not me; this is the price you pay for meeting a restaurant person.

Since the last two times I'd been in the food was being served buffet style, this was my first chance to order exactly what I wanted off the menu.

And while I'd had many of the foods on it, they'd not been full representations.

We perused the menu, looking for things that we were both eager to try.

Neither of us had had the beet salad with hazelnuts, green beans, shallot and horseradish and his first take on it was the absence of oil.

Once he got over that hump, we both loved the combination of flavors.

Although I'd had the beef tartare, I hadn't had it with the quail egg yolk to add richness or the jalapeno chili ketchup for heat.

The pork belly had already passed my lips, but not with the yin/yang looking combo of apple turnip puree and black vinegar underneath it.

While my friend had been off talking to the kitchen about fishing, I'd chatted up some guys near me to see what they were eating.

They'd heartily recommended the  clams, a dish  I'd not yet seen, much less had.

A bowl of Old Salt clams with cabbage, bacon, butter and lemon was as good as they said it was.

We learned that the Old Salt clams were farmed just underneath the Old Salt oysters with which we were already familiar.

Dinner as learning experience

I raved about my memory of the Brussels sprouts, winter squash, preserved lemon and pecan dish until my friend gave in...only to feel smug when he loved it as much as I did.

We (okay, mostly I) finished with the chocolate candy bar, which I'd sampled repeatedly already, but it had since been tweaked to include caramel, a decadent addition to what already tastes like soft fudge with crushed nuts.

By the end of the night, my friend and I had caught up on each other's lives, the interesting parts at least, and he'd had the nerve to give the Chef a hard time about salt and pepper.

But he'd also been nicely attentive to me, so I had to conclude that there are worse things than being brought to mind in a beer joint.

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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