Saturday, June 27, 2009

Birthday Dinner: Portuguese

Since I was sixteen, on the day of my birthday-- or as close to it as we can manage, since my b-day tends to fall very close to Memorial Day and that sometimes gets in the way-- I go out with everyone I can get together, and we find a new ethnic food that I've never had before. last year it was more traditiona Japanese than just sushi at a place called Kokoro (there was ggoey rice!), the year before that was a new Indian place where I had tandoori goat, and this year it was Portuguese. A place called Taste of Portugal in Palm Coast.

The meal started with this lovely lentil soup: carrots, celery and onion in what I think was a beef broth with bacon or salt pork or something to flavor it. It tasted like bean with bacon soup like I grew up with, only better, and obviously home-made.

A and D ordered red snapper, L ordered this pork and mussel dish that seemed really interesting and had an amazing gravy, Auds ordered a red almost-curry with rice and C ordered paella that came with literally half a lobster as well as whole shrimp and clams and mussels. I ordered bacalao, because big white fish are in season, and I usually order chicken or salmon and I wanted something new. The fish was preserved, which I think is standard for the dish, so it had a different, firmer texture than usual fish, and it still had bones in, which the waitress was worried would bother me, and showed me how to get the meat out around them. It was sitting in garlic olive-oil with the mildest onions I've ever had, and amazing little roasted new potatoes and green peppers. It was pretty good-- the flavors were simpler and milder than Spanish cooking tends to be (at least that I've had over here), and I think it was meant for a higher-quality olive-oil, but overall it was very good and remarkably filling.

And it finished up with flan, because my Cuban genes do not allow me to not eat flan when it's available, as those flan-selling Hogar Boys know. As you can see, there wasn't even time to take a picture before I ate it all. It was amazing. Much thicker and denser than any flan I've ever had (and I've had LOTS of flans), but still somehow as creamy and amazing as it should be, and none of that grainyness that happens when parts of it cook faster than others, with both the cooked-on-the-bottom burnt sugar crust and this separate sauce that she spooned over it that I could live off of like a hummingbird with nectar-- it was the single best sugar-sauce I've ever had. I'd go back to this place just for that flan.

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