Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Springtime at the Summer Shack

When Frank left the Summer Shack, the eponymous sports bar became part of the Restaurant. Vinny has taken over and created a convivial atmosphere, as regulars come in to enjoy fresh oysters and a pint of beer. He greets every guest by name and always knows what they’re drinking. He also chatted with me, no doubt the next time I return, I will be a regular welcomed with a friendly “hello.”

The Summer Shack is not a restaurant I typically dine at alone, but on this night, as I cozied up to the bar to eat a clam roll and watch the Red Sox game, I felt quite at home. I was pleased to discover that the spinach salad had returned to the menu – fresh baby spinach with Maine shrimp, hard boiled egg, radish and bacon. It is the perfectly, balanced meal. And with the doughy, soft rolls, dinner is complete. Of course, a trip to the Summer Shack is not complete without some fried seafood or a lobster roll. So I ordered the clam roll. The bellies are full and sweet, the strips are just slightly chewy, and with a squeeze of lemon they are still crispy and balanced with flavor. The bread is superfluous, though it is perfectly toasted with a slight glisten of butter.

A few stools down were two gentlemen enjoying several dozen raw oysters, a selection from the bountiful offerings: Wellfleet (harvested by Pat Woodbury of Pat’s Clams fame), Malpeque and Kumomotos (a small intensely flavored oyster, briny and sweet). They were discussing production for the next few episodes of This Old House for PBS. They seemed engaged in conversation and work, but also adventurous eaters that might enjoy a Random App of Kindness. To them, I sent the Crispy Pan Fried Skate with Soba Noodle Salad. I had wanted this dish for myself, but with no one to share with, and the yen for fried clams, I decided to send to the gentlemen instead. Vinny was so good; he announced when he delivered the dish “You have just received a Random App of Kindness.” The recipients queried if it had come from the kitchen, but when the realized it came from a diner, they just enjoyed and did not ask more questions.

I would have been curious to learn more about their work, but they seemed busy and not wanting intrusion. So I let them enjoy their gift while I continued to watch the game.

As I continue to send Random Apps with New friends, the debate has surfaced as to whether the sender should acknowledge the gift. Some say no, as this takes away from the randomness and the spirit of giving. Others say yes, it’s a lovely way to connect with strangers and meet new people in a non-threatening way. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

Guest Random App at Match

Michael sends us the latest tale of Random-Apping… from a dining adventure we shared together last night

The Sonsie set has moved it down the block, populating Match, the successful reinvention of the funky space formerly known as the Blue Cat Café. The restaurant’s centerpiece is a dramatic fire “feature” in the wall of the main dining room, whose border of mosaics dapples the light, reflecting off the onyx walls. The tables are white, the placemats leather, and at the bar I could imagine a certain doe-eyed celebutante, sipping her fruity-tini and extending her 15 minutes of fame by dropping the ultimate compliment, “That’s hot…”

And what if you’re a mere reader, not a feature, of Us magazine? Well, Match has plenty to offer us too. Julia and I spent a very enjoyable evening eating, gossiping, and indulging her favorite act of supper sociology, the random app. of kindness. Match is the ideal setting for all three activities with a menu that equally balances cocktails on one page and appetizer-appropriate dishes on the other. While the menu does offer heartier fare such as a 10 oz filet, roast chicken, and pasta, its focus is its small plates, perfect for sharing, natch…

Spoiled for choices, we picked from their appetizer, mini-burger and side sections, over looking the main courses. The extremely attentive staff first served up the ginger glazed chicken satay. The chicken was cooked perfectly, delicious and moist, an impressive achievement. While the glaze was decidedly spiked with fresh ginger, it overwhelmed the unusually delicate and airy peanut sauce. Still, not bad, we both agreed.

Round two brought our trio of burgers on brioche- lobster, lamb, and sausage, accompanied by smoky asparagus swaddled in creamy procsiutto and a stack of thick cut onion rings. What do you do with such choice? Start with the lobster of course! Creamy on the inside, crisp on the outside, the lobster burger could have been mistaken for a crab cake, but who doesn’t like crab cakes? I wanted to super-size another. The sausage burger, a miniaturized version of the hangover-curing pepper and onion sausage sub, was probably too cute for its own good. How such a small burger could be so heavy was a mystery, but the crisp onion chow topping had the right flavor. And the lamb burger? To use such an un-interesting adjective as “interesting” to describe it is probably a cop-out, but hey, its flavor was interesting. Gamey and complimented by its Persian feta topping, a mini-burger was just the right size.

The asparagus was a carnivore’s delight; beautiful, perfectly cooked and, we imagined, grilled inches from the burgers and steaks given their aggressive smoky flavor. The procsiutto wrapping them was a decent foil, tender, lean and not too salty. Falling short, though, were the thick onion rings, served with BBQ sauce. Both Julia and I would have preferred a thinner, lighter version.

So moments after we had settled in to our dinner, we scanned the room to find that night’s random app recipients. The dining room was built for couples in mind, so we chose an attractive young two-some, who, we imagined were on their first date, surprising them with the mushroom pizza. Never having done this before, I joined Julia on her side of the table so we could discreetly watch the scene play out. When their unexpected pizza arrived, they looked a bit confused, but when the waiter explained, they gamely tucked in, high-five-ing each other for being so lucky. Not a crumb was left, so it looks like the thin crust pie was a winner. After dinner, they stopped by to offer enthusiastic thanks and promised to “pay it forward” the next time they went out to eat. Julia and I imagined our random app was a harbinger of unexpected good things in their future.

Monday, April 03, 2006

 

East Coast Thrill

My friend Maya was eager to try giving a random app of kindness. After all the stories, the experience sounded like more fun than she was willing to pass on. So we trotted over to East Coast Grill for an evening of lively conversation, delightful food and a little bit of kindness. East Coast Grill creates the perfect mix of casual dining and special occasion – with a menu ranging from BBQ to fabulously fresh fish.

We sat down at 6:30; an older couple sitting next to us, was already enjoying appetizers. They were celebrating her birthday. They dine at their at least 3 times a year… for her birthday, for his and for their anniversary. In fact they just celebrated 45 years! We talked about the restaurant, the food business and their children.

A few minutes later, a mother daughter couple sat down several tables over. We decided that they should receive a random app. We sent the #1 Tuna with Tostones and Avocado that we were already enjoying: perfectly creamy avocados tossed with cubes of super-fresh, raw tuna, seasoned with chilies salt and lime. The tostones, crispy twice fried plantains were perfect for scooping up.

The waiter brought over their dish and they nodded and said thanks. No curiosity, no amusement. They returned to their conversation and laughter. Maya couldn’t resist finding out how the story ended so she walked over to their table. The daughter was visiting the mother from Ireland. Apparently, in Ireland people send free appetizers all the time, so it did not seem unusual to them.

We continued our meal with a Greek salad: a brighter version of the classic dish, with roasted grapes and savory pita crisps. The grilled Bluefish was served with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and wilted Kale, a piquant sauce drizzled around the edge.

As we were leaving, the birthday couple was enjoying key lime pie and a chocolate torte… compliments from the restaurant in celebration of life and giving. I guess it was just that sort of night.

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