vendredi 11 septembre 2009

Sincere apologies to The Carnivore

We had a truly memorable meal on Whidbey Island last week (thank you, John and Luda) at The Oystercatcher, a tiny restaurant in Coupeville. Everyone agreed that I hit the jackpot with both the entrée and the plat principal. The funny thing is, they were both vegetarian options. I am not currently a vegetarian, although I was for awhile in another life. But I don't eat a lot of animal protein. It isn't that I don't like it. In fact, a good steak, cooked very rare (cuisson saignante - means bloody or bleeding, if you prefer), is my idea of heaven. As is a perfectly roasted chicken. But, like most heavenly things, a little goes a long way. And I don't feel that no dinner is complete without animal protein.

In fact, what got me off the vegetarian kick was moving to France in 1986. Try being a vegetarian in France. What a sad and lonely existence! Things are changing, as they must and do everywhere, but an exquisite French meal generally involves a lot of animal protein, always of the best quality and perfectly cooked. Who can resist foie gras? Not me. Tête de veau anyone? Shortly after I moved to France, I went to a vegetarian restaurant, the best one in Paris at the time, with my friend Nadine. She is the only French person I have ever met who is a vegetarian. Man, that place was sad. Just triste. No fun on the plate, no fun on the palate, and not a smile on a single face in the dining room. Yes, I know things are changing now that the vegetarian way has many chic adherents. That helps. By the way, the best vegetarian meal I ever had was in a buddhist monestary in China. But that's another story.

Back to our fabulous meal at The Oystercatcher... Luda and John had steamed Penn Cove mussels (entrée) and then scallops (plat principal). Walt had braised Berkshire pork shoulder with heirloom tomatoes and summer squash salad. I had the summer panzanella with peppers, currants, beets, squash, focaccia, and basil, followed by crêpes with turnips, fava beans, cherry tomatoes and other non-meat delights in some kind of mushroom sauce. It was divine. Everyone else realized it from the visuals alone. It was the kind of meal that makes you want to become a vegetarian - a gourmet vegetarian. If you ever get anywhere near Coupeville, eat at The Oystercatcher (which is open Thursday through Sunday - call ahead to reserve). If you click on the title above, you will find yourself transported to the restaurant's website. I should add that all of the desserts are made by Jamie, who is married to Joe, the chef. We had a nice chat with Joe about how to make crêpes, as Luda seemed to think sour cream was required and I found this to be a terrible idea. You need milk and butter. She wouldn't listen to me, so she asked the chef. Anyway, John and Walt wanted dessert and went for the flourless chocolate hazelnut gâteau with salted caramel and toasted hazelnuts and the frozen malt parfait with warm chocolate sauce. And when I say they went for the dessert, I mean that literally. I managed to get one bite of each, but it was tough. I was afraid of being injured by flying silverware or gnashing teeth.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to be a vegetarian again for three months. I laid down the gauntlet before The Carnivore and he said why not? - admittedly, without great enthusiam. I added that we could shoot for 80% of the time and have meat once a week or so and that he of course could have it any time.

Last night was the first vegetarian meal. I made a bulgur and chickpea salad (the two combine to form a perfect protein), with parsley, mint, green onions, cucumber and corn. The dressing was lemon, cinnamon salt, pepper and olive oil. I also made some swiss chard (braised in olive oil, with garlic, harissa and a bit of lemon juice at the end), one of our favorites. The Carnivore really enjoyed this meal, especially the thick, juicy sirloin steak he barbecued to go with it. Neko was happy; she got a few pieces of nearly raw meat.

As I was looking for bulgur at PCC, I found myself thinking that fall is the time of year when oatmeal starts to sound appetizing. So I bought some, the kind in individually flavored packets. The Carnivore really likes the maple syrup flavor, so I made sure that was part of the medley. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the box I chose was "wheat and gluten free." We decided to give it a try anyway. It tasted like sawdust mixed with hot water and maple syrup. It was hideously bad. We'll stick with good old quaker oats from now on, and add our own flavoring.