Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Overheard at Morimoto

“I want to divorce you and marry this citrus crème freche.”
“Dude! A burst of chocolate just exploded on my tongue.” “You sound like a judge on Iron Chef.”
“The lobster claw was…like jell-o.”
“It’s soft, then crunchy, then the sweet of the mirin and soy, and then finishes up with the lingering aftertaste of tuna.”
“Just try the oyster. Trust me.
“Why am I even mixing wasabi for this nigiri? this real wasabi root??”
“Try this red paste…” “what the hell is that…miso mixed with…chipotle?”
“(giggles). It’s a baby beet…(giggles)
“This smells like something.”
“I’m sad because I know we’re getting to the end…”
“It’s so cute! It looks like it’s frolicking through the sea.”


Let me explain. No there is too much, let me sum up.
It was the best meal of my life.
If you ever dine at Morimoto, go with the omakase tasting menu and wine pairing.
If you can only afford one thing off of the menu, go with the whitefish ceviche.
If you can afford two things off the menu, go with that and the toro tartare
If you can afford three things off the menu, order a glass of sokol blosser Evolution with the whitefish ceviche.

I thought I liked sushi, that I appreciated sushi, but this experience opened my eyes. I never knew raw fish could be so…subtle.

Day 3:

I’m starting my fourth hour of dancing in less than two days. My feet should be aching but they're not. When the Philadelphia Funk Authority starts their final set of Musikfest, I am back on my feet, jockeying for position on the dance floor. I know from last night's gig that, if I don’t get up there now, there won’t be room for me.

George, usually the drummer, has come to the front of the stage for a song or two. Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” He’s a manic performer who knows how to work a crowd. The brass is bringing it. And we’re all singing it.

We’re so loud that—we find out later—the band can hear us up on stage. And they’re floored. It’s a perfect symbiosis of performer and audience. I turn away from the stage for a second. Even the thousand or so people in seats behind us, though not on their feet, are still bobbing their heads, swaying a little. It’s barely perceptible in some, but it’s there.


A big Thank You to Bruce Press for a. taking such awesome photos and b. for letting me use this one in my blog post. You rock, Icepick!

One of Us

East Coasters have a reputation for being inhospitable. I have no idea why.

Our waiter at Otto’s—clearly a local—treated us like we were his kid brother and sister. He gave us tons of info on brewpubs along our route, gave us an extra sample when he wasn’t 100% sure if our beer flight was right, and ran our brewer’s newsletter out to us in the parking lot after we left it on our table.

When we got into Bethlehem, wet and without our umbrellas, Donna didn't simply let us borrow hers. She walked us down the block, umbrella in hand, and escorted us back to her studio like we were VIPs. Then she let us have the umbrella for the entire weekend.

And don't get me started about the inhuman (but very humane) hospitality of George Hrab and his ilk. After George gave us the grand tour of his apartment, and we were ready to join the Musikfest fray, he says “please don’t use the port-a-johns. Come to my apartment if you need to use the bathroom. The door’s open.”

Then, right before the big concert, the icepicks (Bruce, Julie, Allie and Ben) show up with literally a car full of snacks for the after party.

Perhaps it’s because East Coasters are brusque, even blunt at times, and may be it's perceived as rudeness. But this isn’t the same as inhospitable. In fact, there’s something very genuine about the vibe. It’s “come on in, have a beer, join the party.” You’re just assumed to be one of the gang. These are true friends: People who will call you out on bullshit but also go to bat for you without a second thought.

Day 2: Blandfast & Lunchbeer

Pennsylvania is a freaking long state. Even though we crossed the border well before noon, we had another 6-plus hours to go.

It’s funny to see what the marketing department of each state comes up with as their slogan. We’ve got “Pure Michigan” and Tim Allen voiceovers. For Pennsylvania, it’s “Smile, You’re in Pennsylvania.”

We avoided fast food, but our approach to picking restaurants was haphazard. When hungry, we’d ask the locals for suggestions, and if we couldn’t find a place, we’d stop at the nearest pub or diner. This gave mixed results, as illustrated by our first choice, an all-you-can-eat buffet.

There are two things I expect from a buffet. One is variety. The second is speed. Variety they had. Speed, they did not.

There was plenty of food, but it was bland. Even the fresh-baked fruit pies were boring. The only two standouts were at the cold bar. There was some feta cheese in the potato salad, and the three-bean salad was a tasty balance of sour and sweet.

For a place where the food was hot and ready, which had maybe half a dozen customers, the service was glacial. We were invisible our first five minutes in the diner. In fact, we had to move tables before someone noticed us.

One last observation on the meal: The sausage and saukraut was disturbingly tender. If I applied any pressure with my fork tines, the sausage gave way. It was as if it was made for someone with no teeth.

Thankfully, getting some expert advice later in the day made for a much better meal.

Surfing the Web with my phone, I found a place near Penn State called Otto’s, which looked promising. Given our earlier meal, we wanted a second opinion. I tweeted a friend who’s a Penn State alumnus, and he seconded Otto’s. That cinched it. We took a 20-minute detour for beer and snacks.

We had fondue, crab dip, and two beer sampler trays. It was great pub fare: Not too fancy, but distinctive and delicious.

Otto’s brews their own beer on site—about a dozen varieties. The samplers were a great way for us to try many styles without getting sloshed.

The fondue was a beer-cheddar variety, served with chewy, crusty sourdough. I love this type of fondue anyways, but the added dill seed was unexpected and delicious.

Crab dip is so simple that it’s easy to mess up. This one was well-balanced: It started with a full block of cream cheese, plus a hefty portion of real crab, and a liberal amount of Old Bay. Spicy, creamy, crabby, and rich.

We left Otto’s, dreamily, our arteries leaden, the smell of hot mash drifting through our nostrils.

Day 1: MBC to Silent Hill, OH

The Mister picked me up from the office Wednesday evening. We did not pass go.We did not collect $200. We did visit Michigan Brewing Company, however.

MBC is the second largest beer distributor in Michigan, after Bells. MBC’s beer is better, too. Sure, it tacked an hour onto the trip, but since we were splitting the drive into two days, we had some time to enjoy the journey. It also gave me a chance to pick up gifts for the friends we were visiting and try a riff on the sea breeze called a Summer Breeze. It’s made with house-distilled Valentine Vodka, fresh squeezed citrus juice, and a bit of Badass Beer.

Yes, that's Kid Rock's beer. Although it's not bad, it's not quite Badass either. ("It's a canoe beer," says The Mister.)

Our hearts were warm, our bellies were full, and we were feeling fine as we entered the Ohio Turnpike.

“Do we have change?” I asked, fumbling around the center console.

“I’m sure they take credit,” The Mister slowed down and reached into his pocket for his wallet. Before he could grab it, the tollbooth light flashed green and the gate raised.

It turns out that our Illinois I-Pass, which we got for visiting my folks, works on other tollways too! I checked it out, and you can use the I-Pass/E-ZPass in 20 states in the Midwest and New England, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.

If you do any driving in that area, get an I-Pass. It saves you at least an hour from tollbooth slowdowns and you won’t have to scrounge for change.

It had rained most of the drive. The Mister doesn't love to drive at night, or in the rain, but he was a trooper and pulled the entire shift himself. It was about 11 PM when we reached the exit for our hotel just East of Cleveland. The rain had become a fine mist and fog had started to rise from the ground. We saw a nearly-deserted strip mall, windows sealed with plywood, one lone Dollar Store the last tenant. It was depressing, and more than a little creepy to see the same setup repeated just a few miles down the road, then a few miles after that. I started to second-guess our decision to listen to “Dead Beat” in the car.

We eventually found our hotel, which was clean, if not comfortable, and got on the road bright and early the next day. Thus ended our side trip to Silent Hill and the least interesting part of the trip.

It gets better from here kids, I promise.

Carrie P’s Excellent PA Adventure (Also Starring The Mister)

The Mister and I just got back from a trip to Philadelphia, PA on Monday. We wanted to blog the trip, but decided to wait until after the trip to write about it.

Strictly speaking, the trip is not 100% food-related. But we did make an effort to do the Road Food thing while driving, and a highlight of the trip was dining at a Very Good Restaurant. So, I think it fits for the most part.

I'll be posting every day or so, starting today. Entries will be mostly, but not exclusively, chronological.

For now, Be Excellent to Each Other, and Party On, Dudes!

Love, CarrieP and The Mister