I was veging in front of the TV when my cell phone played the merry little tune that it plays when I have a new message.
It was Clark Mitchell:
"Any interest in lunch at lobo?"
Lobo is a Tex-Mex place in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. Its queso dip touches some place in Clark's heart that he enjoys having touched. He's from Arkansas, a state that, as you may know, borders on Texas, and Tex-Mex food reminds him of home.
My Mexican-food heritage is slightly different. Being from Colorado (which almost borders on Texas but not quite due to intervention by the Oklahoma panhandle), the Mexican food of my childhood had a bit more of a New Mexican influence (New Mexico being due south of Colorado), so, less queso dip and Frito pie, more green and red chile.
But something would have to be seriously wrong for me to decline to break bread with Clark, and so we met for margaritas (three apiece), chips, salsa, queso dip and a sauce that was hot enough that we both fairly gulped our second margaritas. He also had fajitas, and I had a combination platter involving various things filled with other things and topped with cheese.
Clark derided those who posted comments to web sites deriding Lobo for not serving real Mexican food. It's a Tex-Mex restaurant, of course they don't serve Mexican food. Tex-Mex is an entirely different cuisine, and a perfectly legitimate one.
Conversation drifted to the Beard House. Was I going on Tuesday? No, but I was there on Friday. Oh, who was there?
Hotel Hana-Maui chef David Patterson was there with the hotel's pastry chef, Ben Tabios, featuring Hawaiian products.
It only occurred to me after Clark asked more questions that the Hawaiian chefs were doing the unexpected. Clark assumed (quite fairly), that they would be using a lot of macadamia nuts and pineapple and so on. In fact, Maui, and Hawaii in general, has enjoyed a blossoming in recent years of farmers growing a whole slew of temperate-climate items for chefs who had grown tired of shipping their lettuce from California.
Here, in fact, is what I was served on Friday:
Hana Bay Sashimi Tasting with Big Island Wasabi and Cucumber-Ogo Namasu
Thai-Spiced Ahi Tuna with Kula Sweet Corncakes
Pohole Fern Tempura with Meyer Lemon and Molokai Black Sea Salt
Hana Saketini — Sparkling Cold Sake with Plum Wine and Umeboshi
D&D Ishii Farms Baby Greens with Kula Fennel, Caramelized Pineapple, and Vanilla–Black Pepper Sour Cream
Weingut Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spätlese 2004
Hana Onaga Tartare with Upcountry Radish Crudités and Passion Fruit Aïoli
Oroya White Table Wine NV
Roasted Mahi-Mahi with Coconut and Lime Braised–Kipahulu Taro Root and Tops
Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2004
Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with Hawaiian Pumpkin Purée, Braised Big Island Pork Belly, Hamakua Mushrooms, and Sage
Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2000
Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Truffle Cake with Ka‘u Coffee and Coconut Cream
La Face Cachée de la Pomme Niege Apple Icewine
Oh, and speaking of Hawaii, that reminds me of something else. Last night when I had dinner at Tsukushi, one plate they served was two little shumai-like dumplings that were encased in rice, so they looked like two scoops of rice, next to a scoop of macaroni salad. It reminded me very much of a Hawaiian "plate lunch," which includes some type of protein (chicken teriyaki, salmon, a burger) on two scoops of rice and macaroni salad.
So what do you think? Did this restaurant take it from the Hawaiians, or is the Hawaiian plate lunch something adopted from what the Japanese already had?