I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted on my culinary adventures, but the truth is, I haven't had many homemade culinary adventures in the last month. I suppose that I get into cooking funks, where I won't cook for a while, and then bust out of the funk and cook fab meal after fab meal for a while.
So, in lieu of describing meals I've made, I'll tell you about meals others have made and served to me as I reclined on a chaise lounge, fanned with palm fronds by handsome young men in loincloths. OK, not quite. But actual meals in actual restaurants, nonetheless!
On Saturday, a chance meeting at the Farmer's Market with some friends led to an invitation to lunch at 29 South, a restaurant in Fernandina Beach, Florida. I stayed away from 29 South for a long time because they had nothing vegetarian on the dinner menu, and I usually detest cobbling a meal together from sides. But I went recently for dinner and the server and kitchen were more than happy to work with me to make a meal that felt more like a normal dinner than thrown-together scraps. At that dinner, I ate grilled romaine lettuce with walnuts and blue cheese as my appetizer, and a stack of breaded tomato slices and goat cheese (and something else, I forget) as my main course.
Grilled romaine lettuce- in my wildest dreams, I would have never thought of grilling lettuce. Eggplant, zucchini, even asparagus- delicious grilled. But lettuce?
Turns out, it was awesome, smoky and crispy in parts and tender. It went great with the cheese and walnuts. The tomato-goat cheese tower was delicious, too, but a little heavy after the appetizer. Still, I left happy.
So, back to lunch at 29 South- as it turns out, they have not one but TWO vegetarian options on their lunch menu: a falafel sandwich, and a veggie wrap. Both sounded good, but I went with the falafel because it's pretty rare to see falafel on a menu in Fernandina Beach, and I love falafel. (the best falafel I ever had was at L'As de Falafel in Paris. Be sure to check it out the next time you pass through France) . The 29 South falafel came out as a giant ball on a hamburger bun, with what I think was feta cheese, and a slice of tomato. I would have preferred a pita or wrap bread to the bun, but no matter. It was excellent- the falafel was fresh and fairly light for what can be a real belly-sinker of a meal. The cheese was a great accompanyment, and there was a nice mix greens salad on the side with a nice homemade dressing. I left feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
The very next day, my friend and I helped my friend out with a project related to her new book- shameless promo, www.agaggleofgeese.com- and to thank us she invited us out to dinner. There was talk of going to Chil'is, but I successfully blocked this most dreadful idea. I will go to Chili's if I have absolutely no choice, but having their defrosted black bean burger more than once a year is not my idea of a nice meal out. We ended up at Arte Pizza, another independant restaurant in downtown Fernandina Beach. Arte is known for its brick oven pizza, but I opted for what they called Eggplant Parmesean but I think is more aptly referred to as eggplant rollatini. It was strips of cooked eggplant, no breading, wrapped around cheese (mozzarella and I assume parmsean) plus four little strips of pasta stuffed with ricotta on the side, all covered with fresh tomato sauce. Growing up eating authentic Italian food, I have little patience for the Olive Gardens of the world, but this was the anthesis of Olive Garden. It was fresh and homemade tasting and really good. Our salad was romaine with Ceasar dressing, which was a treat for me because 99% of Ceasar dressing contains anchovies, but this one did not. It was great and I did my best to ignore the amount of calories and fat that the dressing represented as I chowed down.
Summer's almost here, and with the kids out of school/ballet/soccer and the chauffering that goes with it, I hope to have more time to cook and more time to blog.