trip to Martinhal) and the other right here in the country club in our little town of Davidson, NC. Martinhal was looking to expand their lunch menu for their casual beach and pool restaurant and our country club was looking to hire a new chef. Both food committees were small (10-14 people) and I was honored to have been invited to both.
I was expecting both experiences to be vastly different. I expected the tasting in Martinhal to include intricate hues of sophisticated tastes and did not expect as much complexity here in Davidson. I was surprised. In Europe, there seemed to be a return to refined simplicity, with basic herbs and simple flavors of garlic and olive oil bringing out the best in high quality seafood and meat. In the US, there is a burning desire to encompass the entire world of taste in one sitting. "Make it pop! Where is the burn? I want a full flavored meal! What is so creative about this dish?" Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed and cherished both tastings, like one would cherish two very different children.
There was one overarching theme though, the folks who organize these tastings don't necessarily want to know if YOU like the food, they want to know if you think everyone ELSE will. In Martinhal, the one question that was asked a few times was, "but will the Portuguese like it?" The answer? "60% of our clientele are British..." The question raised here in Davidson was,"yeah, this guy makes excellent seafood. But how many club members enjoy seafood?" I love seafood, so I swiftly changed the subject both times this question was asked.
Here are some of the highlights of the food tasting in Martinhal.
Tender, fresh from the sea, succulent Portuguese sardines in vinegar and olive oil with slices of garlic.
Medium rare steak with clams - plenty of garlic, olive oil and rosemary. Fan-bloody-tastic! A nice red to wash it down! (Chilli Padi, please send me the name of the wine...)
Shrimp. Whoo boy. Garlic, garlic, garlic, olive oil, olive oil, flavor flavor flavor! Yumm.
Superb lobster dressed in a cotton dress to show its true beauty. So no heavy white sauce with melted cheese to cover it all up!
What were we served in North Carolina?
Top rate sushi! This Mexican chef of Japanese and Italian descent had driven 120 miles to the NC coast to get the best fish for our tasting.
He was indeed creative. This was a lunch salad with a grilled cheese sandwich and fried egg as the main components. One of the best salads I have ever had.
Steak with prosciutto and tomato dressed with a vanilla-bean sauce. I have only had this type of sauteed tomatoes in Indian food. This was the winner that night.
Rack of lamb served Osso Bucco style. Hmmm, I would rather have rack of lamb grilled or real Osso Bucco... But it looked good and it made a statement about his creativity.
My final favorite - Salmon Made Three Ways.
So, that's all folks! If you would like to invite us to other tastings, Cinnamon and Truffle would be happy to oblige!