Last week, I took the train to Ann Arbor to meet up with Mark so we could enjoy the lobster bisque from Le Dog, a soup and hot dog stand run by a man who seems to pattern his surly demeanor and delectable soups after the Soup Nazi without the catch phrases or ambiguous ethnicity.
For the first couple years of college, Le Dog was a mystery to me. It always appeared to be closed and it seemed incomprehensible why anyone would buy lobster bisque from a shack. But one taste of the velvety sherry and cream and the plump, generous chunks of lobster and I was hooked.
The portions are abundant and each order comes with a hearty slice of peasant bread all for the shockingly low price of $6. In college, it seemed fairly reasonable and now it seems like an absolute steal. You could put half an order in a bowl at a restaurant in New York and charge twice as much.
We took our soup and bread and walked over to the house we lived in senior year of college and enjoyed our little feast on the porch swing. Afterwards, we drove to Mark’s house and went for a swim. After a couple hours of swimming and lounging around, we started to get hungry and decided to make ourselves a little snack of Spanish tapas.
After our quest to find Serrano ham turned up an unappetizingly greenish prosciutto and little else and we found the manchego cheese to be exhorbitently priced, we decided to improvise. Mark found a reasonably-priced Halloumi cheese and suggested we make saganaki. Who doesn’t like fire? Saganaki is up there with cherries jubilee for the thrill and flamboyance factors. It’s the cartwheel of the kitchen: a way to show off without too much skill or difficulty. Or so we thought.
Mark put a few slices of cheese in a skillet and poured in a little brandy and took it outside to light it on fire. Opa! Except nothing happened. No ignition. No burst of flames. No squeals of delight. Nothing. It took several other people including Mark’s parents and more than a little brandy for us to realize that we first had to heat the cheese before we set it on fire. Meanwhile, Mark had already started to grill the other slices and they were quite tasty, albeit prepared in a less dramatic fashion.
Other tapas included:
-A typical Sevilla dish: dried dates stuffed with shrimp wrapped in bacon. We decided to add fresh sage and these were scrumptious. Mark made a vegetarian version that was stuffed with brie for Andrew.
– Artichoke hearts (these were the marinated kind readily available at any grocery store but we liked the fact that they had stems)
– A simple quasi-fattoush salad made from diced cucumbers, tomatoes, purple onion, crushed pita chips, lemon juice and raspberry vinegar. We didn’t have parsley and I wanted a wine vinegar, but it was still quite tasty and made from fresh vegetables from someone’s garden.
– Avocado slices topped with lemon juice and Hawaiian black sea salt, which has an amazing depth of flavor and a surprising sweet note at the finish. Mark got it on sale at Williams Sonoma and I’m definitely going to pick up some when I get back to the city.
– Polenta rounds with sauteed garlic
We also made some sparkling white sangria. We poured some cava into a pitcher and when we realized it wouldn’t be enough to suit our particular needs, we added some riesling, which I normally find revoltingly sweet but ended up doing a lot for the very dry cava in our little sangria experiment.
We added nectarine slices, raspberries and fresh mint. Why not? Some purists might object, but we were already eating Cypriot cheese, Italian polenta, a Middle Eastern salad and Latin American avocados topped with Hawaiian salt. Why be nationalistic with tapas? (And judging from recent embarrassments, perhaps certain Spaniards might benefit from a little exposure to other cultures.)