Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scamp Food, Sort Of: Last Night, at Revolver

Last night, my dear friends AMR and FDR and I went to Findlay to Revolver for dinner. I know it's their favorite restaurant, but for me, Revolver is more than a favorite restaurant. It's the place where my concepts of food became something completely different. It's not that I'm a picky eater, but I grew up in rural northern Minnesota, the land of meat and potatoes. It's not that I didn't like kale, but I just hadn't ever had it before. My concept of cheese didn't much go beyond Kraft singles or the parmesan in the green can. But then I started watching the Food Channel. Found myself in love with Jamie Oliver, which did wonders for my culinary skills. Then, in the last couple years, AMR and I got to be better friends--and since we only live one street away from each other, we started trading food. And my culinary horizons expanded again. Our philosophies of locally-grown food (not just vegetables, but meat as well) found harmony and our trips to the Toledo Farmer's Market during the summer were more than grocery shopping trips--they were exercises in possibilities. I never knew about heirloom varieties of tomatoes, or any other vegetables--and how cool are purple potatoes? And Revolver was a place where I saw those kind of things on the menu, like they were nothing out of the ordinary.

When we sat down in the coolness of Revolver's dining room--I love the blue and the white--we pored over the menu, wondering what they would have for us. One of the reasons AMR and FDR love this place so much--over and above the amazing food--is that Revolver uses local ingredients, organic whenever it can get them. Our amuse bouche was a warm popcorn soup that I'd had one other time when I'd been here and like that time, I wondered if anybody would notice if I licked the bowl clean. Our server brought out Revolver's amazing rolls, with butter and sea salt in the middle. Michael, one of the owners, came out to talk to us, since he and AMR and FDR are friends, and we wanted to know the difference between a "dry aged" steak and a "dray age" steak--and he laughed, knowing that there was a typo when he printed the menus, but not willing to print them all again. I told him not to feel bad. If three English teachers didn't catch a typo, we didn't deserve to eat.

So among our starter options last night were locally foraged morels, sauteed with something or other, and then layered over brioche. The mushrooms had just been brought in that day, which is why they weren't on the menu. FDR and I had those, while AMR had a salad of organic greens, with bleu cheese, beets, and pistachios. She said it was amazing, but it couldn't possibly have been as good as the morels. I'd never had morels before, but it was one of those moments that was more of an "of course" rather than a "why not?" Seems like a great approach to life, I thought, in the kind of hindsight that brings a philosophy not a part of the original thought.

For our entree, AMR and I both got the dry-aged New York strip steak, which came with their creamy polenta (to die for) and we both got brussels on the side. FDR got goat, which he was really excited about. I can say that steak was the best steak I've ever had in my entire life. No exaggeration. And combined with the polenta and the brussels...a writer and English teacher finds herself without words. I couldn't eat it all--underestimated how filling the morels would be--so I'm excited for the leftovers. (I also wondered if I could do brussels in a hobo, so I might have to experiment with those.)

I didn't really have room for dessert, but this might be my last trip to Revolver (ever), so I decided that I might as well have no regrets. I had the chocolate creme brulee with sea salt and AMR had the Elvis ice cream (a scoop of peanut butter ice cream, a scoop of banana ice cream, and bacon toffee bits). Both were stupendous. FDR and I reminisced about last year's AWP in Chicago, where he had a waffle that had bacon mixed right into the batter, and we gave that waffle the moment of silence it deserved. Sweet, salty, crunch, and smooth. Never underestimate what contrasting flavors and textures can do.

AMR and FDR also gave me a going-away present--and I'm not the most outwardly emotional person, but I'm not sure how I got through that bag without bursting into tears. (And here's the real reason why this post is on a Scamping blog, beyond the out of the box thinking about food that I hope to take camping with me this summer.) The Ohio-shaped cookie cutter was brilliant. I love that. Next, a paper-wrapped package that seemed fragile: it was a teacup and saucer, Royal Albert Orange Blossom pattern. I have an extensive teacup collection, most handed down from my great-grandmother, but all my teacups are different. My great-grandmother got a teacup as a souvenir whenever she went somewhere, so she could remember a specific place each time she used a specific cup. AMR didn't know this. But I'm so thrilled I can hardly stand it. I already know it's going to be one of my favorite cups and it's going to go well with my Belleek teapot. She also included a StoryPeople book, Going Somewhere Soon, knowing how fond I am of StoryPeople (even though she doesn't like them). :)

But there were also two tiny bottles in the bag, from The Olive Tap. Last year, AMR had given me a bottle of red wine vinegar from them in my Scamp Survival Kit, and not only was the vinegar amazing (and got me away from thinking of vinegar as only the stuff Mom used to keep under the sink), the vinegar made the Scamping food much more interesting. It was the key ingredient in the Amazing Tomato-Onion Salad. This time, I'll get to experiment with "Wild Mushroom and Sage" extra virgin olive oil and "Sicilian Lemon" balsamic vinegar. I looked at the tags and was speechless with the possibilities. Wowww. Who says you can't take the special oils and vinegars camping? What'll happen to the Tomato-Onion salad if I use lemon balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar? What happens when I use this mushroom and sage oil in my hoboes?

The possibilities are making me hungry.

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