this past labor day weekend my friend brian and his fiancee lane visited us. brian and i spent 10 months together in ghana when we were 20 years old and juniors in college. we lived on the campus of the university of ghana, in legon, a town just outside the capital city of accra. we shared a lot together in those ten months and in remembering it, there are a lot of food memories. brian loves food. in ways that are different and similar to me, but he loves food. this vague memory came back to me of taking a long taxi ride to some unfamiliar corner of accra for pancakes. brian was in heaven and i think i remember him making some very homer simpson-like noises as he devoured his pancakes. as anyone who has spent an extended time in a land with very foreign food knows, the simple pleasure of a familiar food can be so very comforting.
he also frequently came to my dorm room for dinner of pasta with red sauce. living in the dorms in ghana was both similar and different to living in dorms in the us. there are cafeterias but they only serve lunch, so students set up make-shift kitchens on our porches to cook. on my wobbly table i would chop tiny onions and garlic cloves. i owned one pot and an electric hot plate that had only one setting -- very hot. once the onions and garlic were sizzling in the oil i threw in tomato paste, imperfect little fresh tomatoes, and lots of salt. when the sauce was done i transferred it to one of my few bowl and boiled water in that same pot for the pasta. i can't remember what i would do if the water wasn't running. take it from my bucket stored full of water for my bath? once the pasta was cooked and drained, i poured the sauce over it and heated everything up. brian loved it. and truly its really the basis for the marinara sauce i make today. i even considered making brian my much improved spaghetti and meatballs while he was here.
instead brian and lane wanted to treat us to dinner as a wedding gift. we chose fore street. i have been wanting to try this restaurant for some time but it just hasn't been in the budget. so when brian emailed me a list of restaurants to consider, i told him i was dying to try fore street.
our reservations were late: 9:30 on a sunday night. we decided to head over there a little early to have a drink and see if they could seat us early. we were in awe the moment we walked in. the decor with the exposed brick and open duct work and all the wood is just beautiful. the hostess said she thought a table would be available early and so we headed into the beautiful bar to get a drink to start. before our drinks even arrived our table was ready and the hostess let us know that our drinks would be brought to our table for us. we were seated at this amazing table right by the window with a view of commercial street and the harbor.
brian, lane, and seth all got special cocktails and i had a glass of shiraz. the wines by the glass were really reasonably priced and there were quite a few choices. brian picked out a great bottle of wine to go with dinner and he said that there were a lot of price points to choose from on the list of bottles.
for appetizers seth and i shared a beautiful salad of rocket and fresh tomatoes as well as a charcuterie plate with fois gras, duck sausage, and sweet breads. both were amazing. seth made an observation that the serving sizes on the charcuterie plate were perfect, because if you eat too much fois gras you are asking for a stomach ache. lane thought she really wanted to try some maine oysters but didn't want to miss something spectacular on the appetizer menu. so she asked the server for his favorite and he said he could eat the oysters any time of day. lane loved the beautiful briny and slightly sweet damariscotta oysters.
i actually ordered the pork chop for my main dish at first because i was so interested in the idea of a pig from berwick, maine. but then before the server could leave i changed my order to the pan seared duck breast. this was definitely the right choice for me. while i know my own pork chops probably don't compare to chef hayward's pork chop, it is something i can and do make a home. duck on the other hand is a protein that still scares me a little as a home cook. i love the dark rich meat and order it out when ever i can but i'm still a little shy about making it myself. this duck breast had a thick layer of fat that was seared crispy and was served with transcendent white beans that were firm to the bite and just kissed with the taste of sage (sorry to use such a word but the beans really did bring me to another level).
the meal was wonderful; the company was wonderful; and in the end this was one of our most memorable wedding gifts.