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Monday, January 21, 2008

Anybody listening?

I think I'm ready to start doing this again. I had originally intended to spiff the place up with a new address and design but I just don't have the time for that right now so the easy Blogger will have to suffice.

I haven't eaten much in Lincoln lately although a couple weeks ago I made a long overdue trip back to Super Taco and had the Peacock lunch buffet on New Year's Eve. Last week I ate a lot of food in and around Philadelphia. There were a few places that made an impression.

I had lunch on Wednesday at Fioravanti's in Downingtown, PA. It's a small byob bistro with a Zagat rating and a fiercely loyal clientele. For lunch I had a bowl of the seafood chowder (shrimp, clams, crab and a silky smooth sinful cream broth). At this point in the trip it was the best creamy seafood soup I'd ever had but that was eclipsed later. I followed it with a salad of asparagus, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp and greens.

The night I arrived in the area I went out driving like a normally do, just to get a feel. I was getting hungry and wasn't seeing anything that grabbed me. Then I turned into a mall parking lot and drove by all the storefronts and saw Devi which turned out to be a completely vegetarian south Indian restaurant. Many of the dishes on the menu were unfamiliar although I've seen a few on the lunch buffet at The Peacock in south Lincoln.

I ordered a bowl of rasam, a very spicy and sour soup with lots of black mustard and coriander seeds topped with one of the lightest, crispiest papads I've ever had. I wanted to try as much as I could so I got the appetizer sampler to go with it. It came with one big vada (a deep-fried lentil donut), an idly (a big ground rice cake, also deep-fried), a vegetable cutlet (cauliflower, potato and onion, ground with spices, battered and deep-fried), a standard samosa, and a bunch of cabbage, cauliflower and onion pakora. It was like what one would order in a Indian sports bar while watching an interminable cricket match. The best part was the sauces. In Lincoln you get one kind of chutney, the standard mint-jalapeno yogurt mixture. I got that but the appetizer platter also came with coconut chutney, tamarind chutney, onion-mango chutney, tomato chutney and a small cup of sambar. I wanted to try more on the menu but the appetizer plate and soup filled me to bursting. I intended to go back but wound up driving to Atlantic City on Wednesday night and couldn't leave without eating the stupid Trump Taj Mahal buffet.

Thursday was the best all around food day I had in suburban Philly. For lunch I hit the The Blue Cafe which was next door to a natural foods grocery. The Blue Cafe is a sort of hip coffee place that serves food you'd expect at a place like the old Crane River. I had an amazing bowl of crab chowder with big chunks of crab, not just little shreds. It was perfect with a few generous dashes of tabasco. I followed that with a greek salad with grilled shrimp added. The kitchen somehow forgot to put feta on my salad so I had to send it back but once it returned it was great. I was amazed at how many shrimp were on the salad for an extra two bucks.

That night I headed up to Ludwig's Inn and Oyster Bar, originally established as an "eating house" some time in the 1840's. I went because on Thursday nights they have freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell for a buck each. It was only five minutes from my hotel on most nights but Thursday afternoon was the first measurable snowfall in the Philly area. Once I got on the highway there was no way to turn around as it was bumper to bumper and no exits for miles. It took me a good 90 minutes to get there. The culprit was a big hill that a number of cars couldn't make it to the top of.

I wound up having 18 oysters of various types. Some were big and plump and sweet, some were small and salty, some were medium, sweet and a little salty. I found myself wishing I knew more about the different types of oysters found on the East Coast from South Carolina to Newfoundland. Since 18 oysters are only worth about 180 calories I also got the 3 soup sampler, a 6-ounce serving each of crab bisque, lobster bisque and Philadelphia-style snapper soup. The lobster bisque was absolutely amazing. Perfect creaminess and almost too sweet but not quite. The snapper soup had the look and consistency of chili but was unlike anything I've had. I'm still unclear on whether it was made with turtles or red snapper since the server told me red snapper but the internet tells me turtle. It was served with a shaker of what looked like vinegar but a quick taste told me it was sherry. Apparently you're supposed to shake a bunch of sherry into your snapper soup. It definitely enhanced the flavor of the soup but I had a gross sherry aftertaste for the rest of the night.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Count me as one "out of towner" that has been reading the archives for a couple of weeks. I will be coming out to Lincoln in the next months and I always like to know the food situation when I visit a new town. Glad to know I'm not doomed the chain restaurant hell!

1:48 PM  
Blogger Swoof said...

You're not doomed to chain hell but you'll have to do some exploring to avoid it completely.

4:02 PM  

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