Monday, April 03, 2006


Well, this was quite a weekend. After a complete dearth of interesting eating opportunities, it was a breath of fresh spring air to have so many occasions to gorge ourselves, beginning with Friday evening in The Dean's Loft. There was a symposium at the Yale School of Architecture this weekend that we were invited to attend, along with the inevitable Martini reception afterward. What made it different this week is that Andy was also invited to dinner at The Dean's Loft afterward. He successfully finagled an invitation for me, too, and so the two of us processed over to The Loft with all of the other identically-dressed young, male acolytes, where we were served yet more gin and compelled to MINGLE before the buffet-style dinner was served.

We didn't mingle with a lot of success -- we did get talking with a bitter young Dutch architecture student for a while -- and the dinner was kind of bizarre. We ate with utensils and drank from glasses of The Dean's design, which I remembered all too well from my few short months of working at The Dean's firm. The food was incredibly eclectic. Actually, that is the nice way of saying that nothing went with anything else. We started with a black-eyed-pea and mango cold salad that ended up giving me bad gas for the rest of the weekend. Followed by cold asparagus spears; leaf lettuce salad with capers on it; seafood enchiladas; and brisket in a wash of barbeque sauce. Not exactly the kind of food that's easy to eat balanced on your lap as you lean against a windowsill, though we had it much better than the poor soul who, upon sitting down, totally blew out the legs of one of The Dean's Eames chairs. Oops.

Promptly at 10:30 we were dismissed from the loft with the command, "TAKE THEM TO THE ANCHOR!" Evidently we young kids were in charge of taking the older visiting speakers over to the dive bar across College Street. Which we did, for a while, with the conversation eventually drunkenly devolving into yet another discussion of where we all were on September 11th. I have this conversation no less than every three months, I swear. No one ever gets tired of talking about it.

After the world's second most depressing talk on Saturday -- developers are planning to turn our beloved Long Island City into a vertical suburb, and this time it's really going to happen -- we soothed our hangovers with hair-of-the-dog Martinis and a nap before I made up a very creamy and decadent version of kabocha squash soup, taking Deborah Madison's advice and adding a little pumpkinseed oil to finish it before serving. Mmmm! Then we went to a Purim (two weeks late) party at Uri and Shira's house, to which we wore some lame costumes, and drank beer and ogled everyone else's really great costumes, and ate Hamentaschen and hot cross buns.

But the real treat came yesterday, when we woke up without hangovers and with so much sun pouring in that we needed to open the storm windows for the season before breafasting on "chilaquiles" (a.k.a. "nachos with eggs to make us feel like it's a healthy breakfast"). Spring is here! And what better way to celebrate than a country drive out to a German beer garden? Stephen and Moa had told us about Old Heidelberg in Bethel and raved about their outside beer garden setup. By the time we got out there, it was a little chilly to sit outside (despite its hitting 70 degrees on our open-sunroofed drive along the Housatonic!), so we sat inside next to a birthday party that was (thankfully) just winding up. The beers we ordered were delicious -- light and crisp and floral and perfect for drinking when we go back in the full summer and sit outside. The salads were crisp and wonderful as well, especially the vinegar-and-bacon grease-soaked potato salad and the tart cucumbers with cream. Initially, we had both ordered the Wiener Schnitzel -- we had driven past a couple of fast-food joints on the way and the smell of fried food was just irresistable -- but after thinking it over a bit, Andy changed his order to the Pig Knuckle, which was billed as coming with a thick and crispy skin with lots of pork underneath. And thank GOD he changed his order, because just LOOK:

I mean, can you BELIEVE that? It cost us $23.50, but neither of us had ever tackled such a thing. It was worth it. Maybe not to the restaurant, because as I tried my hardest to cut some of the skin away from the meat, I completely lost control of my knife hand and hit my beer glass with such force that it toppled over and BROKE on the table. Oops, indeed. And after all of that, I am sorry to report that the skin was not that dazzling. It was too "crispy" to really chew -- imagine one of those dried-out pig ear dog chew toys -- and lacked any of the salty flavor I was expecting. But the meat inside the joint was truly unbelievable. It was like carnitas -- all dark meat (who knew that pigs had dark meat? I thought it was The Other White Meat!) and chewy/crispness and "deep, throbbing porkiness", as Tom Gogola of the New Haven Advocate might say. My Wiener Schnitzel was not nearly as satisfying -- I think everything on my plate lacked salt, and my table lacked a salt shaker, and after the whole broken glass incident I didn't want to call any more attention to myself by asking for one. The verdict seems to be that we'll go back for the beer and picnic tables but skip the expensive, underseasoned food. Unless they have a Pig Knuckle special again.

Then, as if we needed any more proof that we are utter gluttons, we drove into downtown Bethel for a dose of Dr. Mike's ice cream. We shared a "small" PINT of Chocolate Lace and Rich Chocolate ice creams with "just the tiniest bit" of hot fudge. God. The Mocha Lace is better at Wentworth's, for sure, but the Rich Chocolate pretty much tastes like pulverized chocolate bound together with just the smallest amount of butterfat. It barely even has enough liquid in it to melt! It stayed solid almost the entire time we were eating it, even after the hot fudge had cooled. That dish was enough chocolate to hold me for the next six months. I know it probably doesn't sound like it when you read this blog, but chocolate really isn't one of my favorite things, and I seldom crave it. But now I know: next time I do crave it, only a drive to Bethel will help.


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