Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stalking Bourdain

Ever since catching my first few episodes of No Reservations and blazing through the addictive pages of Kitchen Confidential, I've sort of- like many- had an obsession with Anthony Bourdain. Well, an obsession with what he does (I couldn't handle being the shorter person in a relationship).

Anyway, the thought of getting paid seven figures to write, travel, and eat sounds like something I could definitely handle. Yeah, I'm sure it's not all fun. I know there are lots of takes, there is plenty of writers' block, and gastrointestinal discomfort abounds when digesting some of the things Tony puts in his mouth. However, being desensitized to monotony by an Atlanta commute, all-too familiar with writing woes (as evidenced by the crap I put on these pages), and a shameful penchant for Taco Bell, I feel primed for the "sausage making" and eager to bask in eating better than anyone I've ever seen in awe-inspiring places I've never seen. Toilets or no toilets. And frankly, it has to be more good than bad. Mr. Bourdain seems to have lost quite a bit of his signature snark.

A year ago April, the wife and I spent some time in Puerto Rico, and I made sure that we braved non-existent car-jackings and kidnappings to get to the mountains of Cayey to enjoy roasted pig and fixins at Lechonera Los Pinos (on that note: anything you read on Yelp! was written by a pansy. If you want to really enjoy a place beyond the inoculated surroundings of your resort, don't listen to these hamsters). However, there was a total devoid of English, but we scraped out enough Español to do as Bourdain did: gorge ourselves on the crispy skin and tender meat of the "noble and magical animal".

Fast forward about 18 months: the wife and I were roaming the streets of San Francisco's Financial District, 3 month old daughter in stroller, continuing our quest to eat where Bourdain has. We ducked into R & G Lounge, left the stroller with the hostess, and headed downstairs to a small eating area built around a bar and several fish tanks filled with critters both familiar (lobster, prawns) and unfamiliar (some fish that looked like grouper, others like bass). However, we were after crab. Dungeness Crab, local to the area, and it just so happened they batter and deep fry the critters at R & G. Southerners rejoice in unison.

While that madness was cooking up, the wife and I (with super baby sleeping in her car seat under the table) munched on crispy salmon & avocado egg rolls. Delicious, but nothing compared to the cocktail I've been dreaming about since that San Francisco episode of No Reservations. Seasoned with the perfumed, sweet white flesh of the Chinese lychee fruit, the eponymous martini was just about the most damned-refreshing alcoholic thing I've ever had to drink. Yes, including Keystone Light.

And- finally- the pièce de résistance:

At first, I wondered about the merit of the thin, crispy, salt & pepper batter on the outside of the shells. However, during the messy procedure that is deconstructing a crab, the bits got on my fingers. They got on my plate. And, of course, the succulent meat captured all sorts of the seasoned flotsam.

The meat itself was ridiculous. Boiled crab always seems to get cold quickly to me. That's fine and good, but something about the quick, hot method of frying kept the meat extra tender and hot, down to the last leg. And after the last leg, I was wishing there were double. Maybe I should have drank another lychee martini or two.

If you're ever in the Bay Area, knock it out. You can say you're stalking me. Of course, that means you'll have to hit up Taco Bell later.

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