Oh my. It's been so long. I may have to send out an 'i'm still here' memo. Well, after that month-long blogging hiatus (of being busy and eating mostly boring food, oh god, no, wait--the month of june was when the berries came into season in Oregon! so ripe! so rich! so delicious! Oh brother, more on that later i guess...) I've taken to the road for the summer, zipping from city to city until Labor Day.
So, I kicked off the tour in New York, temple of American Gastronomy. Wierd thing was, I wasn't focused on food when I arrived there. Friends made excited suggestions of where to have breakfast and dinner. But I had no desire to go to a cute new cafe, or one of Molto Mario's alway's perfect Italian places. It was hot, Portland has indeed fed me well, and thus, the only thing that I really wanted when I got to THE CITY was sushi.
Most eveyone I know has heard me rant about Portland's (shocking) lack of good sushi places. No, I haven't tried that infamous one with the ever present line out the door (but I've heard that the pieces are grotesquely enormous, which has fairly deterred my interest). But I have tried places that are regularly recommended by local guides and acquaintances, and have been consistently dissapointed. The restaurants are no better than what you can get in a supermarket sushi case. It took me a while to even except this, since, based on the fact that the Pacific Northwest is known for it's fresh seafood (locally caught salmon, dungeness crab, oysters, etc.). Yes, Portland is technically inland, but only a couple of hours away from the coast-- a coast that is the very headquarters of the state's commercial fishing industry. I've been to Newport, I've seen the boats, smelled the haul, tasted that fish. So, it makes no sense to me why you can get great sushi all over the desert of Los Angeles, but not in Portland. Of what is offered, and ordered by naive Portlanders, is discolored tuna (it's not supposed to be an opaque pink and mealy looking, people) mostly salmon, which, no doubt (because I ask) isn't even wild salmon, but farmed. And I NEVER knowingly eat farmed salmon, because it's basically toxic, raw or cooked. I've done plenty of reading on the toxicity of farm raised salmon (yes, wild salmon is sooo good for you), and basically they are raised, over crowded, in a tank, eating their own waste, becoming ill and therefore medicated, and the end product is a nice carcinogenic filet. Gross!
Then there's the mercury poisoning dangers of eating TOO much fish, but I tossed those out the window when I arrived in New York, determined to satiate my craving. I don't get enough rice in Portland. The Asian places are mostly Thai and Vietnamese, and I can only take so much spice. Anyway, I had also decided a few days before I left Portland to be a vegetarian for the rest of the summer, but, well, the sushi glistened, and I threw in the towel. I'm going to try though, try my hardest otherwise.
So, on the first night, my friends took me to Bond Street sushi (favorite of the stars, blah blah blah). We sat in the candle lit lounge downstairs, and had a few quality rolls and some sake. The rolls were pretty standard but definitely fresh. I got a spicy tuna roll the way I like it, with red pepper and shiny minced ahi. Over the next couple of days I went back to loose vegetarianism (I did have to have cream cheese on my bagel--it's New York for crissake!), so I had an inari (sweet fried tofu)/avocado/cucumber roll) after laying in the sun with my friends at the Chelsea Piers juicebar. It hit the spot. The next night I had the same for dinner from a cheapy neighborhood place close to the apartment where I was staying. I wanted to go to Momoya, which a good friend cannot stop talking about--it's new, it's delicious, and it's across the street from where she lives. But, on that rainy, balmy Sunday night when all of my friends were in the Hamptons, and I had to stay back in the city alone for work, they were closed.
So we went to Momoya on my last night there. "Momoyeah," or "Momoyum," whatever you call it, that place is good. Really fresh, really sweet servers, and just great food. The glass garage door was open to the street, it was clean and white, and packed with patrons from the neighborhood. We had glasses of a Veramonte 2005 Sauvignon Blanc while we waited, a smooth one with a lot of passionfruit on the palate (and I've been to their winery in Chile, which is cool and ultra modern as well). We had shrimp shumai, which instead of being wrapped like a little purse, was wound with won-ton noodle ribbons, a different presentation, and very tasty, with noteable chunks of tender shrimp. I had a piece of wild copper river salmon sashimi, that deep, brick-terracotta color, with a little bit of a smoky flavor, and a hamachi roll, which was perfect, a balance between the buttery fish and the sweet beads of rice. Dessert was surprisingly wonderful (it's uncommon to get a great dessert at a sushi place)--warm chocolate cake, green tea ice cream (the real stuff, extra creamy with that green/beige/grey color, not the mint-green one) a couple peak-ripe rasberries, served with a shiso syrup. Shiso leaf, used in japanese cuisine, has a distinct flavor, sometimes with a hint of anise or licorice, so I asked for the syrup on the side. After I dipped my fork in it, we poured it all over everything--it had such a delicate minty flavor, not too sugary, just fresh and green. Momoyum!