Friday, July 11, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Last night I went out for dinner with some friends. It was great. Great conversation, great fun, great everything. The only thing was I couldn't figure out what to have for dinner. The problem was two-fold, or three-fold, depending on how you count.

First, there was the "What do I want?" question. I was hungry, and ready to splurge, but nothing on the menu appealed to me. Part 1 of this problem was the menu seemed heavy for the summer. It was probably lighter than I thought, but fried chicken livers and July don't usually go together for me. The other reason I couldn't decide what I wanted was because deep down, all I wanted was a huge green salad lightly dressed with excellent olive oil, lemon, and sea salt and a humungous chocolate bar. Maybe some ice cream for a protein. Really. That was it. And they didn't have that. At least not for dinner.

So, not knowing what I want - that's a problem. The other problem was none of us could figure out what we should have. Like, is halibut OK to eat? The halibut was Pacific halibut, is that the same as Alaskan Halibut? And if it was, was it OK? I ended up ordering Atlantic Stone Bass. Is that ok? The waiter said it was "a big fish" and all I could think was, "But how fatty? Is it chock-full of mercury? And is it completely overfished?" Can you order fish without contributing to the fish crisis? And if you only eat out a few times a year, is one order of fish that bad? Since any order contributes to the general sense of popularity of certain dishes, maybe any fish order contributes to over-fishing?

Then there were the food miles to consider. I don't think that's the term, food miles, I know, but I had a lot of red wine last night, so it'll have to do and I'll trust you all know what I mean. After listening to the fish conversation, one friend, N., who now eats a primarily vegetarian diet because meat production requires so much grain that it's become a big factor in the food crisis, decided she'd have the Long Island raised, grass-fed strip steak. It was the most expensive item on the menu, but it came from within 300 miles (maybe even 100), was ethically raised, and she wanted it to boot.

In the end, N. loved her steak. Me? Honestly, I usually don't order fish because I find most restaurants over cook it. My fish wasn't over cooked, but, because I'd made a fuss about over cooking, it was slightly under cooked for its thickness and the texture was not so appealing. The pureed sauce, though, was terrific (I don't know what was in it, lots of cilantro, I think), so I ate it all up and ignored the fish's texture. It was good, but not all that satisfying. Still, if only they'd had some Brooklyn-made dark chocolate sprinkled with Atlantic sea salt, then all of my dinner problems would've been solved.

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