06 January, 2008

Birthday Gastronomy-Part I

So yesterday was my 29th birthday and apropos for any foodie and person who used to weigh 400 lbs knows, it involved a great deal of food.

The beginning of the day was Asian inspired. My friend Jill took me out to an early Birthday lunch at Thai Pepper II in Aurora. I first experienced Thai food at "Festival of Nations" an annual international culture showcase at the University of Denver-from where I matriculated. At that event I tried the McDonalds of Thai cuisine-PAD THAI. I am so happy for this moment but at the same time I regret it. I feel in love with the Pad Thai and for the next eight years I would go to dozens of different thai restaurants and instead of branching out to different aspects of thai cuisine, I would only order pad thai. I have no idea what I was thinking. I discovered thai curries only a few short years ago but cannot get enough of them at all.

At Thai Pepper II we began with vegetarian pot-sickers. They were delicate and nuanced and apart from the fact that they had never suck to any pot and thus had no carmalization were a great opener to the meal. I next enjoyed a pa-nang chicken curry. I debated over getting the HOT or THAI HOT but the waitress informed me that the THAI HOT would just make me cry like a little child and I should steer clear. Now any strong, American man would never let a challenge like that go unanswered. Luckily I am not and I enjoyed the HOT to my satisfaction. Anyway, if I order THAI HOT, how can I add the all important Sriracha sauce that I need so much in any dish. I love the Sriracha or as I used to call it-COCK SAUCE because I had now clue how to pronounce Sriracha. Anyway its much better to say I love me some Cock Sauce to random people who already think you are gay but wont sleep with you in spite of it anyway.

Jill ordered the pad thai, poor neophyte. But in her defense she doesn't really like thai but I played the birthday card. If I had been thinking I would have tried the Japanese noodle house Tina had recommended the previous night but oh well. The pad thai was some of the worst i've ever had. I have found that over the years as thai food seems to become more popular, many restaurants are changing their pad thai recipes to accommodate the American palate. They are sticky, saccharine, without texture and without much character. Or perhaps it is just me who has changed. Who knows?

The restaurant served several dessert options-none of which we partook and I feel for good reason. They seemed to farm out their desserts to the Schwanns' guy with these preformed ring-molded desserts. Usually based on some form of mousse and very scary. Now they did have Green Tea Ice Cream and Im sure that would have been very good. I am all for blending of cuisines but they had Tiramisù on the menu. What the fundip? I don't know about that. Tiramisù used to be my favourite dessert of all time, but again I have changed with that. I just found these preformed desserts to be out of place at a thai restaurant. Stay local and do what you know how to do and ring molds? Is this 1988? Was it my 9th birthday am I 20 years off? Oh where is Ramsay and Bourdain when you need them to tear a restaurateur a new one for you?

We ended up leaving Thai Pepper II sated and overall pleased-well I did who knows about the poor Jill but shes a solid soldier and should not be underestimated in the world of the exotic. The ironic part of the whole day was that Meka didn't want her to take me to lunch (we had originally planned on playing tennis but the lack of any non-snow-covered courts and the absence of any Siberian Tennis Training, we opted for lunch. A month ago my friend Allyson had come up with an idea for Birthday Surprise '08. When Jill and I arrived home I discovered my surprise. I was about to play the AMAZING RACE! This is one of the best presents I have ever received in my entire life. We traveled all over Denver following clue after clue and at each I had to accomplish a task. It was great. The first clue led me to our local wine store where I was given free reign to pick any bottle of wine in the store for my birthday. Really a dream come true. It was so fun. I asked for some assistance in finding a resonably priced Bordeaux or a Super Tuscano Style wine. The wine guy directed me to an '01 wine on clearence that sounded amazing. A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cab. I cannot wait to try it. They said the keep it upstairs in a back room and that its been held well so I was okay buying such an old wine.

From there we went to Pho 79 for lunch. This was lunch part II after the mixup at the thai place but it was still wonderful. The next clue said it was a food place with three clues:
A Smashing Pumpkins song
A Bible Quote

Any guesses? I was thinking 1979 but the other two clues left me flummoxed. As it turns out gold has an atomic weight of 79 and the quote was Psalm 79 so eventually I figured out we were going to Pho 79 for lunch. This was lunch part II after the mix-up at the Thai place but it was still wonderful. Oh How I love Pho. I first had Pho at DU with my friends Elliott King and Kristi Arellano. It was unusual but lovely. I ordered a small #2 with rare steak. I used to only order the chicken because of my previous stupid dislike of any meat that wasn’t burnt. How ignorant I was. Now I love the delicately seasoned broth with the soft beef. It was heavenly. I made my classic design with the Sriracha (it was a big day for the cock sauce) and hosin. I even added in fish sauce which I started doing about a year ago after meka started making pad Thai at home. The food was wonderful as were the company of Meka and Allyson and Petyr Hathaway. I was worried about being too full so I decided against a Durian Daiquiri but oh well. From there we went to DU from a clue that Jill Jennings wrote and I got to tour my old dorm-so much fun. I hadn’t been there in seven years or more. We ended the day returning to our house where meka prepared an amazing feast. That will be the subject of my next post.


APason said...

I just wanted to comment on the pad thai issue--getting good pad thai now a days seems to be a challenge in and of itself. I, too, am surprised by the "Americanized" versions that (no matter how not you order them) still come out not quite as red as you would expect and certainly more sweet and sticky than any Pad Thai is meant to be. I have even tried some of the boxed Pad Thais from the Asian aisle in the market, only to find the same sweet, flavorless sauce at the Americanized Thai places.

At first, I thought it was just the Thai in Minneapolis that was to blame (because I did have some fab Pad Thai at a little mom and pop joint on Downing in Denver once), but glad to know it might just be the damn Americanization of all these wonderfully ethnic.

Other Pad Thai stories?

+M said...

i too have found pad thai issues. it's the equivalent of ordering sweet & sour anything at an overly westernized restaurant chinois. don't get it twisted about chinese restaurants as i loves me some crispy, lightly sweet, fragrant orange chicken as much as the next person but still...ordering something at a chinese restaurant that they serve in chicken nugget fast food form at mcdonald's is not cuisine.

regarding pho 79, i always get the #2 medium...delicious.