How I’d like to survive summer

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Hello, summer.

How any of us musters the will to do anything at all in this sweltering, suffocating, New York city summer heat is beyond me. Showing up to work, going to the gym, running errands, riding the God forsaken moving sweat lodge that is the subway— I don’t wanna do any of it.

All I feel like doing from now till October is sitting in the shade with a frosty drink in my hand and a spread of summery food in front of me and some good company to enjoy it with. That’s not so much to ask for, is it?

It’s what I did recently at Red Hook’s Brooklyn Crab and let me tell you, it was pretty freakin’ spectacular. It was what every summer day should be like.

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THIS! This is how I wanna do summer.

A couple of friends and I sat on the top deck of the open seafood shack, where there was enough sun that we needed sunglasses but also a breeze coming off the water to make it bearable. We had frozen margaritas out of bendy straws, a cold pitcher of beer and lots of delicious, garlic-buttery seafood: a whole platter of Alaskan king, Snow, and Dungeness crabs, and lobster, too, with coleslaw, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and jalapeño cornbread to go with it. There were oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp and fried calamari, as well, because sometimes, well… it’s summer and you have to celebrate.

It’s too hot to do anything else, really.

A tasty mess

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Crab catching in Kep

Even though I love crab and lobster meat, I’ve never been a big fan of eating either straight from the shell. The whole business of cracking and shucking, slurping and mess-making just doesn’t appeal to me, especially since I’ve always felt that crustaceans are basically insects of the sea (and might I remind you, I don’t do bugs).

But while I was in the seaside town of Kep in Cambodia last month, I put all of that aside and had one of the best meals of my whole trip. Part of me going to Cambodia was to venture out of my comfort zone, and with a seafood cracker in hand and slippery bits of crab all over the place, I was definitely there.

During my stay in the sleepy riverside city of Kampot, a place famous for its pepper production, (fun fact: all of the pepper in Cambodia comes from Kampot… or so I was told. Fact check if you will.) I took a day trip to Kep, which happens to be famous for its crab market. Located right at the water’s edge, the Kep crab market is both a large open air market selling heaps of crabs and other seafood, and a collection of small restaurants that prepare the crab to be eaten right then and there.

Fried crab in Kampot pepper sauce

Fried crab in Kampot pepper sauce

My guide for the day, a funny little tuk tuk driver I hired to show me around, brought me to Kimly Seafood Restaurant, what he said was his go-to spot for cheap and delicious crab. I asked him what he thought was the thing to get and without a moment’s hesitation he said the fried crab in Kampot pepper sauce. He opted for the boiled crab, instead, which came out in all its freaky, underwater bug glory.

Boiled crab, creepy looking but tasty

Boiled crab, creepy looking but tasty

Both plates came out we each attacked our foods, one of us successfully and with all the finesse of a seasoned pro and one of us like a hot, wasteful mess. I don’t need to tell you who was who, but I’ll add this much: my guide turned parent when he had to crack all my crab for me, pulling out chunks of tender crab meat and tossing the empty shells aside, like I was big, dumb child.

The Kampot pepper sauce was creamy, and spicy, and a perfect match to the soft, sweet crab meat. It ended up almost up to my elbows, all over my face and on a thousand and one napkins littered across the table. It was an absolute mess but every bit as delicious as it was sloppy.

California love*

Happy camper, right here. So happy, in fact, I'm doing that face where I look like a cartoon.

California sun and a nice drink make for a happy camper. So happy, in fact, that I’m doing that face where I look like a cartoon.

I’m usually in a bit of a funk after I come back from a good trip somewhere. You know, the ol’ post vacation blues. But since coming back from California last week, where I spent a damn near perfect eight days, I’ve managed to not only not be mopey, but rather hold on to my vacation high!

Gorgeous weather in both Los Angeles and San Francisco (read: sunshine, cool breezes and not a single tiny bit of humidity), amazing friends who showed me the best time, and for the purposes of this blog: SO. MUCH. DELICIOUS. FOOD. Seriously, SO much.

Come think of it, if i’m still buzzing off my vacation, it could be that I’m actually still digesting all of the great things I ate. I know, it’s kind of a gross thought, but it’s true. I ate a lot of stuff.  Tasty stuff that I’m gonna tell you about a little at a time so as to not overwhelm anyone (myself included) with all of my California grubbing memories.

ceviche

Problems I like to have: too much delicious ceviche

To start off, let’s talk ceviche, which I looove.  Fresh, colorful, zesty, delicious ceviche, which is just the kind I had with my darling friend, Arlene at La Cevicheria in LA.  It was a no-frills kind of place, but the ceviche we had, both humongous bowls of it, was great. They were both different, but to be honest, in my hunger induced frenzy to wolf it all down as soon as it came out, I forgot to jot down what they were. What I can tell you though, is that octopus, shrimp and crab were involved, as were limes, avocado, onions, Worcestershire sauce and something I don’t remember ever having in ceviche before but loved, mint. Add a little dash of hot sauce and scoop a big heap on to a crispy tostada and you’re looking at a fantastic meal.

fish taco

Not surprising that a place that makes great ceviche would make fantastic fish tacos.

But because I tend to struggle with moderation at times like these, we also got an order of fish tacos. Each soft tortilla was stuffed with a fat, juicy hunk of crispy fried fish, shredded cabbage, avocado, tomato and cilantro.  Simple and perfect, one of the best fish tacos I’ve had.

It was my first time in LA, and even though I was prepared to not like it (because I imagined it would be the Miami of the west coast, and that’s an off-putting thought for me), I ended up loving the City of Angels.  It was the weather, the beautiful people (i.e. my friends) and yes, the delicious seafood I scarfed down that afternoon.

La Cevicheria on Urbanspoon

 

*Note: Yes, the title of this post is a Tupac reference, cause you know what, I’m a big ol’ Tupac fan.  Boom. Chew on that. 

Kitchen eating

Yes, I know that organic and locally sourced are the ways to eat, and sustainability and eco-friendly are words to incorporate into my everyday lifestyle and eating habits, but I can’t help it. When I hear too many of those tree-hugging, reduce-reuse-recycle words and phrases thrown together I can’t help but think of hippies and nature freaks, granola, steamed veggies and tofu. I know, I’m awful, but I can’t help it.

But never was that less the case than at ABC Kitchen, where I recently had dinner with a friend, after she managed to make a reservation at the consistently full restaurant. Everything, from the “reclaimed wood tables” and “soy based candles” to the “consciously sourced ingredients” was exactly the opposite of what I might have been hesitant about. I can’t say I was really surprised though. ABC Kitchen, located inside the massive ABC Carpet & Home store, is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, and really what doesn’t that guy make awesome?

Crab toast with lemon aioli

Because I was with a friend and not my allergic-to-shellfish boyfriend, I suggested we start with the crab toast from the market table section of the menu. A dark, nutty slice of toast was topped with sweet, meaty hunks of crab meat and a creamy, zesty lemon aioli. No tofu or granola in sight, just two very happy diners. Continue reading