Friday, October 29, 2010

On Your Marks & Spencer, Go!

Food in ridiculously plentiful quantities is undoubtedly the most important thing to The Rock. Take many of its inhabitants to a three-star Michelin-rated restaurant in New York, and I guarantee that (irrespective of the deliciousness and creativity of their meal) most of them will complain about the itsy bitsy, teenie weenie servings. The problem is Cypriots are spoiled; for twenty Euros a person, they walk into a tavern, gorge themselves with enough meat to feed a destitute village of fifty in the Andes, and two hours later need a gurney (rental not included) to carry their bulging bellies back home. Tavern meals, locally known as meze, include anywhere from twenty to forty dishes ranging from yummy dips and salads to a boiled lamb's head and grilled gonads. So in honor of the island's sinful relationship with all things edible, I present my Top Five Culinary Moments (in no particular order) since the day I set my previously tight booty on The Rock.

1. The discovery of grilled halloumi. Gotta eat it to believe it. As I tell everyone, The Rock's greatest contribution to humanity after The Wife, Ph.D., and (maybe) Cat Stevens.

2. The day I found babaco (I bought three) and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (I bought two cases for, gulp, nearly $100). I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day not too far from today these items will be as abundant and cheap as the feral cats that hump into the night and overpopulate our city's streets.

3. My first tavern experience. I had just landed. I was a novice. No one warned me that eating on The Rock is not unlike a marathon, a steady, slowish pace is preferable to an uncontrolled dash for the finish line. I ate lamb testicles and chicken livers. I needed a few bottles of Perrier to digest it all. Bloody memorable.

4. Plantains are fundamental to my existence. I first tracked them down in a small African shop where the owner, a plump African woman who seemingly focused most of her business on hair braiding, kept boxes of them hidden behind the counter for select customers. Funnily enough, she said most of her plantain-purchasing clients were Latinos.

5. I am obsessed with Mexico and its food. So when I came across jars upon jars of salsa verde at Marks & Spencer, I felt relieved I wouldn't have to give up my career (whatever that is), return to school to get a degree in agronomy and find the best possible way of growing tomatillos on The Rock.

Of course, I usually opt to wash all of this food down with a good bottle of island wine.

Marks & Spencer Nerello Mascalese (Sicily) 2008 - Nice bouquet with hints of licorice, chocolate, sour cherries and mint. Medium length, starts off with the fruity flavor of sour cherries but leaves you with a strong alcohol aftertaste. A tad too acidic. The first time I drank this wine I served it chilled and I could feel an explosion of cherries inside my mouth. This bottle (served at room temperature and consumed with The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier) was not as memorable as the first. 84/100.

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