Sunday, April 20, 2008

Belated Awkuns

It’s been almost a month since the food genius arrived in Southeast Asia, and I have to apologize profusely for not having shared the culinary delights of this part of the world yet. But before I delve full-throttle into revealing the exciting new world of fermented fish, duck embryos and tarantulas, I have many belated food awkuns, xie xies, dankes, grazies, mercis, etc., to give.

First, allow me to recognize the that I probably wouldn’t be blogging at all had it not been for the kindness of my new favorite corporation: FUJIFILM . I bestow upon them abundant kisses for being not only the manufacturer of the best ever digital point and shoot for low light, but also for being so kind as to give me a brand new Finepix F30 after mine mysteriously disappeared. This model is now discontinued, and since other people have now also realized what a gem it is, the selling price for used ones on eBay far surpass the original price of a new one. Fuji's customer service team was nice enough to find a refurbished one for me and send it along with all the fixins. Almost all the pictures on this blog as well as all my flickr pictures , have been taken with the F30, and I really don’t know what kind of life I would be leading had I not been reunited with my digital love. Arigato Fuji; you've got one fat kid customer for life!

I was able to use the F30 to capture some highlights from a delicious goodbye meal at Merkato 55, a creative new African restaurant in the meatpacking district. This very nice treat was generously sponsored by Jim Kingston, father of my good friend Darin. Even though he was not physically able to partake, we made so many toasts in his honor that if you look closely enough you can see his spirit. Ondapandula unene from all of us Jim!!

Darin studiously reviews the menu in order to construct...the perfect meal.

Though the owner was born in Ethiopia, Merkato 55 serves cuisine from all over the vast continent of Africa. As our greedy hands converged upon a first course of apricot blatjang chutney, apple coconut dip, long bean sambal, tuna tartar, and shrimp fritters, I felt like we were playing a game of edible African Risk.

Fresh raw oysters are perhaps one of my favorite things in the world. Merkato serves them with harrissa mignonette and melon granite – original and refreshing, a would-be perfect treat for a hot day in Africa.

Pork belly is also right up there on my list of favorite things. The succulent meat brimming robustly with flavor, coupled with the radish and green mango accompaniment, made this dish my favorite of the night.

For recently vegetarian Steph, these chickpea dumplings served with spiced butter and marjoram did just the trick.

Steamed Snapper in banana leaf, fennel and barberries - a little dry for my taste, but still very good.

The winner in the desserts category was this simple and colorful citrus salad with tapioca. I'm pretty sure in-season blood oranges can make any dish luscious and divine.

Unfortunately, I did not use my pal the F30 to record the wonderful and delicious goodbye dinner that Ned and Susan Regan hosted right before I left – I wouldn't want to interrupt such a classy evening with my obsessive and constant shutter-bugging. Ned and Susan are two of the most incredible people I know and represent what I hope to be like "when I grow up.” I’m so fortunate to know them. Susan also happens to be an amazing cook and made us all very happy by bestowing her talents upon us. She is also my friend Rafi’s mother. Rafi is the head of the U.S. operations of interrupcion*, the organization with whom I had my first internship in college. It was an experience that I'll never forget and which which introduced me to the field of social entrepreneurship. Considering what I am in Cambodia for, this delightful evening with such special company was a very fitting send-off for me. Awkun Ned and Susan!