Tag Archives: restaurants

Da bomb

Did the F-bomb recently fall off the list of most offensive curse words when I wasn’t paying attention?

More and more, I hear it creep into everyday conversation.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m neither sanctimonious nor hypocritical. I’ll drop the bomb when I drop something on my toe. In the safe company of friends and family, I’ll throw it around when I’m throwing a tantrum.

But I certainly don’t use the F word in public, and never, ever in the company of a stranger. Call me an old fogey. Conditioned at an early age, I still bristle when I hear it (not as much as G.D., but a close second).

Recently my husband and I were sliding our plastic trays through the line at a rest stop carryout. The people in front of us were stopped, holding up the line. We waited patiently.

Wishing to go around them but not wanting to take cutsies, I finally asked the woman, “Excuse me, are you waiting for an order?”

She replied, “Why, are we f—ing you up?” (I believe the word she was looking for was “holding.”)

We scooted around the waiting couple and got the heck out of there. Yes, heck.

Saturday night, we were having dinner at the bar in a neighborhood place. The dinner crowd had ebbed, so it was pretty quiet.

All of a sudden, I heard the woman beside me lash out at her partner, in an outside voice, “You’re just so f—ing impetuous!”

What’s the world coming to, gosh darn it?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Rants and Raves

In Memoriam: Darrin Beachy

Of the special things we could truly count on in life, one was going to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware–and to Espuma restaurant–and having the great pleasure of being served by Darrin Beachy.  Every year for the last 10 years, my husband, friends and I have made a point of having dinner there.  The creative fare was about 40 percent of the reason.  Darrin was the other 60 percent.

Yesterday, when I told you about Darrin in my blog post, I had no idea he had passed away suddenly in June, at the age of 42.  Darrin might have been part owner at one time, or the business partner of chef Jay Caputo, but he was a big part of what Espuma does well–taking the highest quality raw ingredients, treating them with love and respect, and creating culinary masterpieces unlike any other.  The restaurant is tiny, so he also served patrons in the dining room.

As I said yesterday, while the printed menu is simple, listing only the ingredients, Darrin made the menu come alive.  Slowly and quietly, he took you through every delicious detail of how the food was prepared, in such a personal story that you were on that boat with the fishermen or in the fields picking the produce at its ripest moment.  When you ate at Espuma, you didn’t take leftovers, because you never left a morsel on your plate, but you always took a bit of Darrin with you.

When we went last summer, we were disappointed to learn that, because Darrin had won a series of bartending awards, he had moved behind the bar to serve his famous homemade cocktails.  We sat at the bar before dinner that night. Darrin’s Italian Mojito, made with his homemade limoncello and fresh basil, was the best drink I’ve ever had.  In fact, ever since last summer, I have tried unsuccessfully to replicate it and was planning to stop by in August and ask him to give me a lesson.

I cannot imagine Rehoboth without Darrin.  I just know when we go in August, it will feel a lot less Beachy.

Here’s to you, Darrin, my friend.  Thanks for giving us good times, good food and a bit of yourself.  If I could, I’d toast you with an Italian Mojito.


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, In Memoriam, Travel

Poetry for the palate

When I started this blog, I promised to share occasional samples of good writing, whether by poets, authors, journalists or songwriters.  Today I’d like to add restaurant chefs and the menu writers who staff them.  I enjoy good food as much as I do reading and writing, so any occasion to combine these interests is a welcome treat.

It used to be that the best restaurants were as creative in presenting their gourmet creations on a printed menu as they were in presenting them on the plate. 

One playful, alliterative chef might have portrayed his gnocchi as a “platter of petite potato pillows,” while another balanced his bounteous entrée with “braised baby bok choy.”

I tingle reading about tender young reeds of California asparagus and glistening flecks of pesto.  Once, at Janos in Tucson, I actually wept when mushroom baklava was paired with a demitasse of consommé, silhouetted on the dinner plate in pistachio dust.  Such artistic wonder could never be captured in mere words.

Things have changed.  It seems nowadays, fine dining menus no longer offer poetic descriptions.  The food stands on its own.

On one hand, omitting excessive verbs and adjectives puts the spotlight where many believe it belongs–on the food itself.  This is effective when exotic or rare ingredients might otherwise be overshadowed by flowery language.

Examples of a straight menu include:

Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Va. – Sautéed Sugar Toads with Glazed Sunchokes, Castelvetrano Olives and Espelette Pepper Aïoli.  Or Wild Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Custard with Roasted Morels, Porcinis, Chanterelle Foam Feuilles de Bric Crisps and Micro Beet Greens.

The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif. – Four Story Hill Farm Cuisse de Poularde, Kanzuri Mousse, Akita Komachi Rice, Broccolini, Cashews, Shishito Peppers and Sauce Japonaise.  Or Tartare of Japanese Toro with Sea Urchin, Razor Clams, Cucumber, Hawaiian Hearts of Palm, Thai Basil, Coconut and Lime Aigre-Doux.

Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago – Steamed Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Green Tea and Coriander Dusted Garbanzo Beans, followed by Meiwa Kumquats with Frozen Meringue and Cured Black Olives.

On the other hand, a straight menu takes half the fun out of the restaurant experience.  In my quirky circle of family and friends, we make a parlor game out of going around the table and doing dramatic readings of the menu. 

One of my favorite restaurants is Espuma in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the printed menu does the cuisine no justice whatsoever.  Rather, your dinner choices are brought to life by the waiter, who vividly recounts how fishermen brought in their fresh catch that very morning; how the afternoon sun fell upon, at an acute angle, the wild blueberries that are lovingly tucked into the shortcake (garnished, by the way, with an orange-thyme biscuit, cantaloupe carpaccio, citrus granite and EVOO); or how the Classic Three-day Berkshire Pork made it to the platter, in a day-by-day account of its journey.  Don’t even ask about the Duet of Hudson Valley Duck or you’ll be weepy for the rest of the night.

Do you have favorite menu descriptions that have remained in your memory over the years, or can you suggest any eateries that still playfully present poetry on their pages?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Food, Reading

Character study

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was delicious reading.

Last week, while my body was on a barrier island in North Carolina, my spirit was living in 1946, in the coastal town of St. Peter Port, in the Channel Islands, between France and England.  Fate takes the main character, a writer, to Guernsey, where she chronicles the stories of its people, who had survived—some not—the German Occupation of their island during World War II. 

It’s hard for me to shake a book.  Same thing with movies.  I linger in the setting for a bit, enjoying the company of the characters as if they were my closest friends, even adopting their speaking styles.  After reading the book, it was hard to resist the tendency to use “fancy” as a verb and utter words such as “twaddle” that don’t otherwise roll off my pedestrian American tongue.  I loved every page of this book and beg you to pick up a copy and dive in.

While on the Outer Banks I also enjoyed early morning coffee at the ocean’s edge and an occasional champagne at sunset.  I ate as much fresh seafood and key lime pie as humanly possible.

Also on this trip, my husband and I undertook a social experiment.  When eating out, instead of sitting at a table, we pledged to eat at the bar of each restaurant we visited, and get to know the people on either side of us.  Sometimes we sat long enough to get to know several rounds of patrons.

Our dining practice did indeed spur some fascinating conversations. 

At one place, we happened to sit next to a man we had met the previous summer—a retired high school basketball coach from the county where I grew up.  We met a sober-looking woman who ordered a cocktail made of six different liquors.  Another night we were drawn into giggling group of women in their sixties, away for a girls’ weekend. 

At Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar, I struck up a conversation with a woman who had ridden to North Carolina on a motorcycle from Middle Tennessee.  I was familiar with Middle Tennessee because I have two very smart, clever and well-read friends from there.

This woman asked me where I was from.  I replied that I was from the Washington, D.C., area. 

She raised her eyebrows.  “Washington, D.C.?  Ain’t that where the president lives?”

Guernsey 1946 or Kill Devil Hills 2010, over potato peel pie or key lime, it doesn’t matter.  Interesting characters are everywhere if you just pull up a stool and ask, “where y’all from?”


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Reading, Travel