Monday, October 10, 2005

Fancy Feasts

There is one day a year when I feel no remorse over eating anything I want, and that is my birthday. But there is only one day a DECADE that I can justify eating an entire meal of fried whole-belly clams two hours before my boyfriend takes me out for a delicious and huge Italian dinner, and that is my 30th birthday.

The day started out with a fast-breaking crumpet with cream cheese and some plum-lavender jam from Loulou's Garden, a Bay Area institution that I miss tremendously. My friend Betsy sent the jam, which happens to be my absolute favorite flavor that Loulou makes. Betsy said she knew it was because she was channeling me at the farmer's market. Blood sugar imbalance corrected, I got in the car and drove up to Middletown so I could have my REAL birthday breakfast at O'Rourke's. The one thing I do not understand about this Roadfood review is the short shrift it gives to Brian O'Rourke's breakfasts. The weekday breakfast menu is FIVE PAGES LONG. I was so flummoxed by the choices that I decided on the easy-way-out option: for $11 you can have Brian cook you whatever he wants to cook you for breakfast. The menu adds that "trust is key here", since Brian is known for making bizarre concoctions like raspberry quinoa marmalade and parsnip-pinenut fritters and things like that. And indeed, my breakfast was bizarre. But it was a small price to pay for getting Brian's attention, and for having him come over to talk to me at length, and continue to address me from across the restaurant as "Miss Librarian", and for him to come over to ME and ask ME what I'd had for breakfast. I did okay on the little quiz: he had made me some sort of deep-fried cheese ball with raisins and pistachios and wine (he added that it was goat cheese, and the wine was in the sauteed onions); a very thin omelet (my favorite) with a pretty recognizable tomato salsa; some Concord grapes; some fingerling potatoes with cheese, and some fried zucchini with some sort of pesto (my guess was walnut-parsley; it was actually broccoli rabe-pistachio). I bid him adieu, promising to bring him a New Yorker article he had missed, and drove up to Watch Hill in Rhode Island, where I could hang out on the beach all by myself and see actual waves, as opposed to the crappy ripples that pass as waves in Connecticut.

Andy had told me to meet him at home by 7:30, so I left the beach when it started getting cloudy and drove back down Route 1. When I got to Mystic, I remembered Christian telling me about an excellent clam shack near his old house called the Sea Swirl. I have eaten a LOT of fried clams in my day, and I am here to tell you that these are THE BEST, HANDS DOWN fried clams in the entire Fried Clam Belt (roughly the southern New Hampshire border to Westchester County, NY). Dear lord. They are like clam tempura, tiny and sweet and briny and perfectly crispy, even down at the bottom of the waxed paper bag. And a bargain at $13.95. My only complaint is that they would not do a mixed order of clams and scallops for me, not even on my birthday.

I was still totally full of fried clam goodness when I got home, but had to will myself to create room for the delicious Italian dinner that Andy took me to at L'Orcio. While it did not blow us out of the water, it was oodles better than all of the other overpriced Italian places in New Haven. And their Bucatini all'Amatriciana had huge pancetta chunks. And the dessert was had was incredible -- something I would have never ordered on a normal restaurant outing. It was this very dense-but-light chocolate mousse, chilled so that it almost had the texture of meringue, ringed with amaretto cookies that had been soaked in rum. It was totally unlike the way I had envisioned the dessert and 100 times better than I thought it would be.

Then we went home and drank 20-year port on the porch with Stephen and Moa. It was perfect.


At 2:39 PM, Anonymous sonya said...

so no cake? what gives?

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

I am waiting to share my birthday cake with yoooooooou.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Mona said...

Wow, that sounds like an awesome frickin day! So happy for you. I'm keeping note of that restaurant, my dad and mom (I'm slowly becoming one too) are fried clam FIENDS. Excited about a new place, even if it is a small hike from NC. We'll have to make a day trip of it. And love that word..Flummoxed-ha!!

At 6:38 AM, Blogger cindym said...

HAPPPPPPPY BIRTHDAY!! Clams sound like a great way to ring in the big 30!!


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