Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pride Weekend Eats

There's a popular saying from Fran Leibowitz: 'If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with "Let's Make a Deal”' While I don't know about that - and while I'm flattered to think that could ever be the case - her quote sure as hell does not explain the culinary wasteland that is the typical gay pride festival. This is why it is so fortunate that at least the Pride Fest Block Party on Saturday is centered around Mount Vernon. There, the food is a bit better than the "crab on a pita drowning in melted cheese" I had at the Sunday festival in Druid Hill Park a few years ago, and which many people will have chosen again for this year's Festival in the Park. It's disappointing that Pride Fest coincides with the African American Festival at M&T Bank Stadium just about every year. I would hope that the food is a good bit better, and hopefully not of the "crab on a shingle" variety.

And so, because gay (truly, LGBT) pride is truly not a foodie event, you have to avoid most if not all of the kiosks and head for the restaurants. Which I did.

  • City Café - I must say, this is quickly becoming a semi-regular hangout for me. It's always a good place to go on a weekend night for a cappuccino and some sort of dessert. The problem for me lies with the entrées, because they're often pricier than I want to spend. (The expense in general is also why I don't eat out that much anymore.) But I did something different on Friday night and just had some appetizers, always a good idea if you're trying to save money and sample the food at the same time. I was not disappointed with the appetizers I got. The first was a fried green tomato with crab meat plate ($11): two slice o' green maters in sweet lump crab with a lemony beurre-blanc. It didn't look like much, but I did not exactly snarf it down. The coating on the fried green tomato was dark, dense and crispy. I found that it overpowered the nice sour tang of the green tomato just a little bit, but it was something I could deal with. It was a lovely dish, but what really stood out were the grilled lamb chops ($11): four small "lollipop" lamb chops with a limoncello glaze, sprinkled with pecans and dried apricots. the lamb chops were almost caramel-like in their sweetness, and packed a good amount of juicy, tender meat. Even these two appetizers together cost $22, but it's a bit cheaper than either one of these plus an entrée, which would set you back at least $30.
  • Lunch was a half-buffet/half-fixed menu outing at Indigma. They're trying something I've never seen at an Indian restaurant before: their "table side buffet". Here's how it goes: 1) Choose one of three prix-fixe lunches, veg, non-veg and mixed, each of which consists of eight Indian tapas in small square bowls (including the rice), with hot naan. You get as much as you want, but it may fill you up; 2) then go to the buffet, which includes salads, chutneys, raitas, pickles and desserts. I ordered the mixed combination for the surprisingly low price of $10, plus a ginger lassi for $4. The lassi was a little thin, and the ginger was subtle. Really, the lunch offerings overpowered it. My favorite among the tapas was their fenugreek (methi) chicken. It was so juicy and not at all tough or dry, with a nice color and texture. It was chicken the way I would always like to eat it. A potato fritter went all too fast (maybe I should've eaten another one) and the butter chicken had a nice, buttery sauce. There also was a lemon pickle I got at the salad bar that was very different from most Indian pickles I have ever had. The food was pretty good but for the price it was amazing.
  • Dinner was at Minato, where I met up with several friends, including my neighbor, for sushi. This time I let them choose what to get, and they made no mistakes. I just can't identify the rolls but we had the typical sushi-sashimi platters. My share was around $30 or so. That includes a sake and plum wine martini that gave me all the sake I needed without having to order my own bottle, and at $7.25 it was cheaper than most of the good cold sake they have. Again, I left satisfied. For me, Minato never disappoints!
Of course, the festival itself didn't exactly please me food wise. I got an okay crab cake sandwich for $7, and a cold sweet tea which, depressingly, was neither all that cold nor all that sweet. Add to that a $6 piña colada in a peensy plastic cup that had less alcohol in it than if I had just asked them to give it to me "dry" and hold all the rum in the first place. At least we in the Men's Chorus went out to Tamber's afterwards. I ordered the chicken tikka ($14) which tasted more like a barbeque fajita than anything Indian. But still it was so much more preferable to the eats at the festival in Druid Hill Park. Yes, even then my theory was confirmed: the typical Pride Festival is itself a culinary wasteland.