Sunday, 8 February 2009

Land of plenty or Big it up USA style!

Well I returned a few weeks back from the capital of big food and now I cant seem to eat any of the usual things Ive been satisfied with. I will share with you some of the things we ate and things we made in our 14 days jaunt around the East coast of Florida. The main crazy unforeseen mania - and one I should really keep quieter for all my obsessions with healthier fair- was for Buffalo wings! My little cup cake even grew a great fancy for them, even at their spiciest!

The thing most notable is the portion sizes ; Id forgotten how big they were, & big = good in USA!! With one of the largest obesity problems in the world, (& interestingly the West coast faring better than the East), I'm glad there's some headway for a new culture driven towards more healthy eating & away from serving big, greasy and overloaded, bring on the raw is all I can say! Due to such an inbred relationship to fast food in American culture, its like steering a large ship on a new baring! In the end all we could order from menus was some starters to share with extra sides of vegetables and salads, as we just couldn't stomach seeing that much food in front of us. Granted as we were with the girls most of the time, we frequented the more touristy old USA type haunts, so we were bound to come upon the more traditional, old school food ways!

Take The Cheesecake Factory for example, walking through I noticed people tucking into creamy cheesy salads served in dishes that would feed at least 5-6 people, but the upside was that they had a section on the menu for weight management with calories listed, so that's alrighty then!

Now after all that can you believe, I for some reason was compelled to order one of their famous cheesecake slices (well I did have to, didn't I?) and oh my gawsh I had two mouthfuls and that was it, I was done in . I'm hoping they expect you to share something that's the size of an air brick or do some of you guys really eat the whole lot!?

I wouldn't say this was a trip planned around fine dining , well not with 2 mini me's in tow. I wasn't prepared to munch in lovely romantic candlelit surroundings with my 2, err not so quiet ones! We did however get one evening to ourselves and had a booking at China Grill in Miami. The meal started with such promise, with a beautiful and delicate sushi amous bouche type dish . The the portions , even though it was stated at the beginning would be smaller as it was the"tasting menu" , (not the eat everything menu!) , got bigger and bigger, more clunky and heavy, until quite frankly we just didn't really want to eat any more. By the 6th dish and accompaniments, we just felt bloated! Which was a shame as the flavours were good and the combinations really packed a punch in your mouth. We just felt some delicacy and pairing down would have gone a long way to increase enjoyment of the meal rather than the pile it high & sell it not so cheap!

Dim sum in a savoury sour quite moreish sauce

lobster pancakes -stir fried with wild mushrooms, red chili, scallions & coconut milk

Halfway through I needed to cleanse my palet , of course with a strawberry lychee daiquiri! It was at this point we got served a variation on a Cesar & oriental salads , atop a rectangular plate in 3 huge mounds!

Large shrimp with black ink pasta & smoky cream sauce.

Famous Teriyaki steak

From a distance this looked like a frozen box of some berry fruit - that would have been really wow- , but it was actually a large Brandy snap , full of chopped bananas & cream ! Nice as it was , I wouldn't say it really sold me on their patisserie abilities! Hehehe Im difficult to please with food aren't I!!

In Key Biscayne , we tried Peruvian El Gran Inka ,a wonderfully different flavour experience to the normal American menu. We started with a beautifully tasting (although not as nice on the eye), ceviche , but even then the corn was larged up here too (I believe its a speciality in Peru)!! The rest of our meal was a combo of spiced grilled fishes and sweet potato dishes. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to photograph the rest , but it was all very well put together.
On our way into Duck key , we stopped at the Hungry tarpon for a quick snack and tried the Key's famous Conch chowder,a spicy tomatoey thick gloop full of bits of , well conch! It was like stepping back into old time USA, a bit grungy, with staff a bit niceish/snarky and food a sorta sloppy Joe style. Quite tasty though it was!

Whilst in our Villa on Duck key we made some time to go to Publix & got ourselves some great ingredients. He the mans as you know is rather partial to a Rib eye , so we got a lovely nice juicy one, & yes BIG one , to share that is!

Back in Miami we did make a rather special purchase of Demi Glace beef from William Sonoma and used this, (along with Rose wine as this was all we had, for De glazing the cooking pan) , to make an unctuous brown jus to pour all over it! To serve with it, inspired by a similar salad eaten at Toms Harbour Hawks Cay , I dry roasted some chopped pecans in sugared Cinnamon to add a spicy crunchy to my watermelon side salad.

We still managed to sniff out some really good sushi & went to Kaiyo in Islomarada. The flavours although not traditional , were very much enjoyed . We had a feast of fruity spare ribs , sashimi platter, miso soup, crispy dim sum & a lovely simple citrus salad. I also had to have my favourite Ikura , I cant have my sushi without it!

In the hotel in Duck Key we also enjoyed a kind of Latin tapas at Alma of soup, plantain chips & fish cakes and somewhere on he the mans Blackberry are our photographs from that night. When I eventually get round to working out how to download them, I will show them on here & tell you more of what I thought of that meal.

Our last meal was a lovely end to our trip , shared with our girls, sat on a veranda at the Butterfly cafe at the Hotel Tranquility Bay . My gals and I had a lovely sweet and savoury Cuban Grilled Pork Chop, served with pineapple & plaintain crema.

I finished off with a chocolate fondant creation as a little indulgence for the last night. It was rich velvety and very sweet and like with all these desserts I order I can never finish them , most friends think that's strange, I call it sensible!

Overall we had a good experience , gained some new thoughts on food i.e that I don't need to eat that much to be satisfied and also got some new ideas on how to combine flavours & textures to create a more layered taste .

I don't think I noticed this as an issue with food as a child when I was lucky enough to see Florida back in the 80's or even as a teen , it was much more a novelty seeing food in such abundance compared to the UK, but now most of the modern world pretty much is the same , yet USA still is up there on food as fanfare and size being the main point.
Ive always been fascinated with American culture and being fanatical about food, it makes for a lot of good combined mulling over: Do you think there's less value in food if it isn't abundant on your plate? Is it always expected ?Would it not feel right if it wasn't served this way? Even many of the servers agreed with us on portions and advised us to not over order, so why the perpetuation of largess? Its a huge dichotomy in total loggerheads with the medical problems of over eating : On the one hand you go out , have served to you enormous plates of food, (its very tempting and very easy to do). You then go home and see umpteen diet adverts , work out systems, pills and equipment to buy , that removes it all!

I never knew I had these passionate feelings about it all , till this holiday and it just blew us away, so Ive gone on a bit of a soapbox here!

Anyone reading this Id love to know your thoughts?

Oh and don't get me wrong , I still had a lot of fun eating out ! Ive been to all sorts of places with my relationship to food and I'm sort of swinging just in the middle of the pendulum right now. Its just that sometimes, we got surprised and almost disappointed faces when half the plate went back! "Did you not enjoy it?"


Chloe said...

(wipes drool from chin)
It sounds and looks absolutely divine.
I have to say that I always expected or liked to see alot of food on my plate.
At the weekend we tried M&S's valentines meal deals. It consisted of a starter, main, side dish and pudding. When I picked it all up I thought there was no way it would be enough for two of us. How wrong I was. We had the most amazing pate to start, beautiful tasty tender sirloin steaks with big fat hand cut chips for our main and a chocolate mousse to finish off.
We both felt satisfied and comfortably full.
If the food is right then there is no need to go overboard. You definately appreciate it more when there is less IMO.

Hana Mi said...

ahhh so it is drummed into us to expect it, an old generational thing passed down from the food habits of our grandparents I feel!

I never thought about it up until may be mid 20's and it didnt bother me to see a plate filled to the brim with meat, 2 veg and gravy!

Now I definately enjoy a meal more if theres small portions of each course.

Do you think about what your combining at all? carbs-protein etc? Do you finish the whole plate?