I’m feeling totally underwater this week. While playing catch-up with groceries, laundry, and sleep after our week-long jaunt, it also happens to be a crazy week here, with multiple routine doc appointments, a double-shift of preschool co-oping, and a huge fundraiser this weekend for the school. I’m simultaneously trying to get us back into a normal routine while cutting time corners where I can — and this feels a bit like running backwards. To top it all off, my 18-month old has decided that napping is overrated — this started last week, when I could understand her not wanting to nap in a portable crib at an unknown house. But this week she has no excuse. And all I can think is, please, please, no. You’re officially not allowed to stop napping. Because then Mommy might actually have to start utilizing copious amounts of Nick Jr (“Copious” being the amount we’d reach after adding a little to the television she already sees, the very same television that my eldest didn’t lay eyes on until she was two.)
Anyway, I have photos. And a couple recipes on deck. But today, the easiest to share are the photos, which I didn’t take enough of while in Georgia. The week felt so hectic, there were multiple times that I just left my camera at the house, and other times that the light was so bad it wasn’t worth trying. The week now exists in my memory as bit of a sleep-deprived blur; but I do remember having a lot of fun, between the necessary stops for iced coffee, and stuffing myself with oft-missed and pleasurable food things along the way:
This was the french toast from Big City Bread. I mentioned that it was too sweet, and it was — we couldn’t even finish it. But isn’t it pretty? Pencil-thin baguettes cut on the bias. Will have to try, the next time I have a pencil-thin baguette (?).
Our picnic table, from a fun night outside with friends. My friend Kelly made her famous homemade calzones, stuffed with spinach, salami, peppers, and a few cheeses. We dipped them in marinara, ate a giant green salad, and drank spiked lemonade. I didn’t get a pic of dessert, but Caroline whipped up ginger ale floats with fruit sorbets melting into the fizz. Just the treat at the end of our first under-90º day.
These few photos are from our dinner at the beloved 5&10. The dinner which was a bit… (sigh)… disappointing — most especially since we haven’t eaten there in 9 months and have no idea when we’ll get the chance again. And I even telepathically implored for The Chef to make it an evening we wouldn’t forget. So much for my powers of telepathy. We hypothesized that he is spending so much time opening his new restaurant, that he’s let a few things slide at Ye Ol’ Bread & Butter. Just don’t let things go too long, Hugh. The good people of Athens won’t be pacified.
After starting off with the two best eats of the night — a slice of heavenly manchego with accompaniments of sweet things like quince paste, and a date/parmesan appetizer — we had a roasted beet and feta salad with carrots, spinach, and some forgettable vinaigrette. A solid salad, but not a mind-blower. We also shared a lobster bisque, which was the bomb (in a bad way) of the night: too spicy, with a one-dimensionality that left you guessing at a complete list of ingredients being lobster, heavy cream, and some heavy-handed shakes of Tabasco. Our entree was a butterflied fillet of trout, crisped and served over creamy polenta. We ordered the trout special because that was the fish we shared at our very first dinner with Hugh, over 7 years ago, and it changed our world. But last week’s trout was clearly lacking in imagination and presentation. Our dessert was a lemon curd layer cake with honey ice cream. But the ice cream and cake were served at opposite ends of an elongated plate, giving them a visual separation that carried over to their flavors as well. We ate them like two different desserts, the ice cream being the better of the two.
Oh, and those people up there? I have no idea who they are. We told our waiter that we wanted to get pics of our food — and since the sun was already going down, natural light in our dimly-lit dining room was not going to be an option. He first thought aloud that since it wasn’t a very busy night they might let me into the kitchen to shoot our plates. But after checking, my admission was rejected (c’mon guys… they let us into the kitchen at Bacchanalia), so we sent our server back with the camera. He shot our food, taking the photos above, and also shot some of the staff. Or maybe those were random people waiting in line for the bathroom. Either way, it was fine — he was a good server, and helped us out by shooting pics of our less-than-stellar eating experience, so that it might be recorded in perpetuity.
And then, there was Cali-n-Tito’s. Less than a mile down the road, at what could be considered the opposite end of the dining spectrum. Our last stop before we left town ended up being one of the best meals of the trip. This place is, in some ways, indefinable. From the photos, it looks like a beach, or some other carefree tropical local, yes? And when you’re there, listening to Latin party music pipe from the loudspeakers, drinking from your byob 6-pack (excepting this visit, since it was lunch, and we had 5 hours on the road ahead of us), and digging into your sweet fried plantains, you sort of feel like you’re somewhere across the border. That multi-colored bus is the one that acted as a stage for a man who blew fire from his mouth, shooting flames yards into the starry night, one evening many years back when I visited the eatery at its previous location. It’s a nonstop party, they only take cash, and halfway through our lunch the line to order was 40 people deep.
As if the atmosphere wasn’t reason enough to go, the food was probably the best we’ve ever had there. I had my usual fish tacos, with sweet plantains. The tacos are simple: fried fish, lettuce, and a spicy mayo-based sauce wrapped up in a soft shell. A squeeze of lime for the top, and it’s the perfect mix of salty, tangy, spicy crispiness. The plantains were optimally sweet this time — a relief since that’s not always the case. Tim ordered a pork tamale, a new (in the last 9 months) item on the menu. That’s what’s pictured above — not the greatest shot since we’d already started eating it. It might have been the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten tamales at some pretty reputable places. The only downside was the limeade, which for some reason tasted like it’d been spiked with garlic salt. But Tim complained (he’s good at that) and they switched it out for a non-garlic-y version.
And see that last photo of a guy and a bunch of girls? That’s my husband and some good friends who agreed to come meet us for lunch. The Wee One (hidden in the photo) and I both got sunburned sitting out there. Caught off-guard by the milder temperature, I was wooed into sitting brazenly beneath the noon-day rays, forgetting our arms couldn’t take the solar bombardment.
It was a great trip. Glad I had the experience, and also glad to be home. We returned to an Indianapolis where Spring has finally revealed her face, lighting up the bare branches with buds and bright flowers. There are tulips coming up in our yard, returning in random places from plantings of years past. At the health food store today, I picked up a few packs of seeds, getting the itch to grow something. But then I put them back, realizing that, until we know where we’ll be living after May 31, I can’t assume there will be ground to hold the plants. Until then I’ll have to be satisfied with the potted herbs I kept alive in our mudroom through the winter, watching them burst forth new growth outside under the recent rains and sunshine. And look forward to the goods that will come in this year’s CSA — all grown in inner-city garden plots — being thankful for new seasons, new food, and a city that now feels more like home than our last.