Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sultry Summer Heat

Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
It's finally here, the summer we were all anticipating. As if it was our collective birthright!

(You know, right alongside life, liberty, the pursuit of the nebulous concept of happiness, and all that jazz.)

Wonder if all these vocal and vacant 'birthers' would grant those same rights to our Commander in Chief?

Anyhoo, this year we did our summer excursion thing at the tail end of the rainy season, which extended from April through the end of July here in New England. That translated into a drive up to Ogunquit, Maine by way of Boston and Revere Beach. It rained only one day (give or take) in Ogunquit, a place we'd not visited before and likely will not again, at least during the peak asshole season.
I tell you - it was teeming with tourists, and not in a good way. Think too many Disneyland-type families, but snobbier and more self-entitled. Yuck.
Plus, if you think it's hard to find flavorful and spicy food here in Little Rhody, do not venture farther north! I mean it when I say they think MILK is spicy. It became my mantra on the trip. I'd sit down to a meal with my man, and before I could even utter it, he'd say, "People here think milk is spicy!" Got to love that man...I sure do.

(Poor guy is suffering from some sort of summer sniffles and sore throat today. I've made him a big hearty pot of soup with a bounty of fresh veggies, plus some lentils and chicken thrown in for, you know, good measure and protein. I loaded him up with mega doses of Vitamin C and Sugar Free Cold Eeze, and put him to bed, tearing him away from his marathon of serial killer documentaries. For now.)

Back to the trip! We ate a lot of superlative chowder and lobster, but really, how hard is it to fuck up a boiled lobster? We had a couple of truly heinous meals, the worst offender being an escapade on our first night to a horrific excuse for a restaurant that I've come to believe is merely a fantasy forum for narcissism called Arrows. Oh my god, whatever you do in life, if you ever think about going to this place, just take a roll of hundred dollar bills and burn them instead. Seriously, it would bring you more pleasure, and the ashes would probably taste better than our food did. The biggest advantage to the cash burn would be avoiding the dozen of overly fawning, snobby, snooty, and stupidly self-conscious waitrons that 'took care of us'.
It says a lot when the first thing you're confronted with is a basket (a basket!) filled with 7 different choices of bottled water, accompanied with a speech about their sources. Wtf? Sparkling or still is sufficient, thanks. The grounds and gardens are amazingly gorgeous, but the entire experience just didn't come close to making that a worthwhile point. Anyway, I've said enough. I think.

The next day for brunch we were treated to a lobster roll the size of my pinkie at a place called Wild Blueberry Cafe (served by an uber-biatch of a waitress too, and accompanied by a sweet Bloody Mary).
Not so much.

We ate the best lobster-in-the-rough at a place called The Lobster Shack in Perkins Cove. So delicious! I suspect it's all in the water, which doesn't get changed all day, so the critters cook away in the crustacean equivalent of Babbo's pasta water. And the lobsters! They were just so fantastically fresh. The man and I each devoured one of our own, but then felt compelled by our inherent gluttony to share a third, which turned out to be the best specimen we'd eaten ever. So much roe, so much body meat. I could go on and on about that baby. The guys who were working there were very kind and cool, too.

The corn we ate in Maine was sweet and tender, much better than any we'd had here all season (until this past week when we found some from Barden's Farm (I think) at the Farmers' Market at Slater Mill on Sunday).

On our second day it poured, and we bought the biggest cashews of all time. That night we ate at an 'Italian' restaurant called Roberto's, primarily because it was directly across the street from our little cabin.
The service at Roberto's and the general feel of the place was very welcoming and homey yet professional. It was packed, but it was clearly well-run. The food was...good. I actually loved my meal, but I ordered a simply grilled piece of swordfish. We'd shared an antipasto to start, and while it was good, there were things missing that I consider basic ingredients for antipasto, like olives.
The man ordered the seafood fra diavolo, after asking both the bartender and our server if it indeed was spicy. He was assured that it was spicy even at baseline, but they could make it spicier if he so desired. He did, but guess what? It was sweet. SWEET! A sweet fra diavolo! I had to hijack a shaker of crushed red pepper. One other thing that bothered me about Roberto's is that the tables had green-tinted bottles of olive oil with what was clearly not green extra virgin olive oil inside them. Deception.

I'll stop there with the negativity, as I fear I've gone on too long as it is.

The best meal of the Ogunquit excursion was by far the place we stumbled upon, as fate would have it, on our final night. If we'd found Prime the first night we'd have eaten only there. It has only been open for a couple of seasons so far, and it's in a gorgeously renovated house that was many other restaurants before. Wood floors, open feel, freshly down to earth staff.
The menu runs to steakhouse, and isn't that big. We started with tuna tartar and a couple of Caesar salads - delicious. Then the man had a ribeye and I a tuna steak, simply grilled with the hot sauce on the side. Let me just say, we found our heat in Ogunquit. They even whipped up a special habanero jam for us which I slathered on without restraint. It felt so good to have my tastebuds stimulated after their long period of dormancy!
The sides at Prime stood out - way out. The man's carrots were stewed with onions and pork, the onion rings ethereally crisp and light. My asparagus was grilled to perfection, and my mushrooms were all umami. Yum.

GO to Prime. Go to Tapas and Tinis for a snack (I didn't expound, but we had a nibble there before our room was ready). Go to The Lobster Shack. Go to Cafe Amore for breakfast and great coffee, even though Rachael Ray liked it. But go early.
DO NOT go to Arrows, Wild Bullshit (er, Blueberry) Cafe, or The Egg and I.

We took the scenic route home and stopped at Woodman's in Essex, MA. I'd not been, but the man had vague but fond memories of childhood road trips there, complete with warring parents in the front seat. My parents tended toward the silent type of fights on road trips. We grew up so differently. It takes all kinds. Opposites attract.

Woodman's rocked, and yes, my Dionysian darling did devour most of that combo plate of fried seafood pictured. I had a scallop or 2, and I was force-fed a clam. I'm not such a fried food fanatic.
The place was packed at noon on a weekday. Great experience, and we even got to drive through Lynn on our way back to Providence. What a treat!

There you go, our summer vacation. The living was easy. The food was all over the place.

Funny thing - I had intended to write about how during my formative years my mother was always trying to change me while my father was (is?) always trying to change himself, and saw that self reflected in me, thus leading to angst and ultimately a breakdown in our relationship. But I think I made a better choice, don't you?