Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mussels for Lunch

The other day I went to Kokkari for lunch. It is a lovely Greek restaurant in the Financial District that I used to frequent quite often when I worked close by a number of years ago. Now that I am back in the neighborhood, I have been excited to return to some of my old haunts.
The one dish that I am really looking forward to returning to come this summer is the Fresh Peach Salad. Now I cannot remember the exact ingredients to this salad, but I remember there was some soft goats milk cheese and either arugula or watercress as the base green. This was just the best salad imaginable, mostly because there is pretty much nothing better than a ripe peach at the peak of the season. Matched with a glass of champagne, this was my typical self-indulgent Friday lunch with a girlfriend.
Well, my experience this past Tuesday was not quite the same. I ordered the mussels in a tomatoey broth. I don't know why I ever order mussels. It is quite strange actually. I sometimes crave them, yet when I am eating them I usually find them a bit disgusting and always feel a little ill afterwards. I think that this occurs because there is often a lot of butter in the broths around them, especially in French restaurants. Or maybe mussels just "don't agree with me" (what a lovely euphamisn that always is). So I had the mussels, and way too much bread (they have great bread there and really fruity olive oil). I was a bit stuffed upon my return to the office, yet incredibly hungry about two hours later.
And then it occurred to me, why I like both mussels and oysters. I think that I do not actually like the sea creatures themselves, but when it comes to mussels, I love bread with garlicky, buttery oil, and I have a strong affinity for mignonnette. So am I allowed to continue to order these dishes simply for the sides that come with them? Are there culinary rules against this? (In a side note- I have realized the same thing about escargot. Yeah, the slippery little snails are okay in their own right, but what I really order the dish for is the little pockets of garlic butter that I get to dip the bread into. Mmmm, nothing like it). But is it fair of me to have between a half dozen and a dozen tiny animal bodies on my head just because I like the taste of vinegar?? Gosh, eating can be complex sometimes.

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