Monday, March 4, 2019

Pop Goes the Appetite

I had to reach back to the '80s for reference, but my hostess was orgasmic, so the results were worth it.

During the course of the weekend, my friend had come across a recipe she'd scored from BLT Steak, a restaurant with little appeal for me and loads for her. It was a recipe for Gruyere popovers, the kind BLT serves gratis to customers and she'd decided they were the most perfect food she'd ever put in her mouth.

So naturally, she'd gone right out and bought a popover pan and let is sit, unused, in her basement through at least three moves from house to house. Only finding that recipe today - mind you, printed on a tiny card about 4 inches across with microscopic print - motivated her to crave popovers suddenly.

And since she'd never made them and baking isn't her forte, I volunteered. Back in the '80s popovers (along with quiche and crepes) had had a moment and I'd bought my own popover pan and made them every now and then.

And sure, they were tasty, but basically because they were a vehicle for butter. I'm more of a crusty bread kind of a person honestly.

But I made the popovers, warming the milk and frothing the eggs, pouring the warm batter (it can't be cool or they won't "pop") in the preheated pans and topping them with grated Gruyere as stipulated. Then there's the 20 minutes of baking before you have to rotate the pan and bake them another 35 minutes.

So yea, popovers are work. What the hell is BLT thinking?

But my hostess had her Proust moment, flashing back to BLT and certain that they were as wondrous as those had been while my host slathered his with strawberry jam and then went back to binge-watching something.

Life continued with everyone happier and my popover-making skills refreshed.

The only catch is that popovers are filling and when we got to Preserve, a restaurant with a focus on pickling and fermentation, for dinner, none of us were particularly hungry. The place was charming enough with shelves of pickled fruits and vegetables on the wall. A series of four framed prints formed the sentence, "Lettuce Turnip the Beet." The servers were bearded and wearing skinny jeans, although not a one had any tattoos, so they seemed sort of alien to a Richmonder.

But since we'd braved the cold and rain and an Uber driver with a poor sense of direction, we decided to go ahead and eat what we could.

For starters, that meant no Restaurant Week menu because three courses sounded like too much food. If it's any indication, she and I didn't even finish the bottle of Reginato, a sparkling Rose of Malbec from Mendoza, although my host's glass of small batch Maryland bourbon was seemingly dispatched with ease.

Meanwhile, I did polish off a plate of smoked salmon over quark with onion mustard relish on thick fingers of pumpernickel toast and some fried Brussels sprouts, although I was beyond stuffed afterward.

My friend's Pennsylvania Dutrch chicken pot pie - which apparently means full of big, square egg noodles - also boasted chicken, saffron and potato and turned out to be the ideal dish on a cold, rainy night. New to him, roasted porgy with shrimp and grits in a bacon-piquillo sauce suited my host's attempt at a Cajun entree with a different kind of warmth.

Although no one was hungry for dessert, my love of butterscotch meant that there was no way I was passing up butterscotch mousse with a white chocolate cookie crust, even if the piece was big enough for all three of us. And still, we didn't finish it.

And not to sound unappreciative, but the mousse's flavor was a tad too subtle for me or maybe I just prefer a more robust butterscotch like Secco's butterscotch pudding, as perfect a butterscotch fix as I've ever had. The only tragedy is that it's no longer on the menu.

On the way home, our Uber driver regaled us with tales from the seedier parts of Annapolis, running on about places where he'd picked up passengers carrying guns, nearby convenience stores that had been held up at gunpoint and why you never want to collect riders from President Street.

If it hadn't been for the popover coma we were all in, I'm sure we'd have been way more interested.

Some things, like Richard Marx and popovers, may be best left to misty, water-colored memories.

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