30 July 2013

"Real People" Dinner

At a Discussion Dinner for my program, I was making a point and rambled that we first pilot test our food/solutions in our lab, and then, after approval, "give the test to real people." This phrase became the butt of a handful of jokes later in the discussion, and I am now ostensibly the lab assistant of a lab that has "non-real" people. On a related note, AK distinguishes "real people" food and lodging from college kid living conditions. "Real people", for example, have vapid paintings on their walls, and don't eat ramen-with-poached-egg. In a clutter of spontaneity and thoughtful planning, we managed to have a remarkably posh "real people" dinner on the porch of his house, complete with neither tablecloth nor napkin. Actually, apart from the food and sunset, everything else was rather "college kid"-style (including Christmas lights). However, the food is the only thing that matters and it's neat choosing not to pay for perfect plating and swanky music.

Unfortunately, as is frequently the case this summer, I didn't have my camera, so these phone pictures will have to suffice.

The Menu
Not-Crusty-Enough Baguette with Camembert
8 Oysters (4 Chesapeake, 4 other)
Ribeye Steak with Mushrooms and Steamed, Buttered Spinach

The Oysters
Oysters are really expensive to order at restaurants. At Simeon's, oysters are $37.50/dozen (I think). At Wegmans, however, they are only $1. Although this sounds perfectly ridiculous (because an entire box of mac and cheese is $1), consider ordering 6 cooked-from-frozen mozarella sticks for $7.99+tax+tip from a generic casual-style restaurant. And they revel in it.

The woman at the Wegmans seafood counter was very nice and explained to us that one of the oyster types was more briny than the other. However, I don't remember which was the more briny one, and I don't remember the name of the other oyster type either. Suffice it to say that 4 of the oysters looked more textured and wavy while the other 4 looked neat and tidy. '50s conservative, vs. '60s whoot-whoot, if you will. Although the two types of oysters came in different nets, I ended up mixing them due to a memory lapse. In another memory lapse, I put the oysters in the freezer, only to realize 20 minutes later that oysters should probably not be frozen because the oysters were still alive (maybe?) and that frozen scallops (and other seafood) have a terrible texture, so why not oysters? So, they were promptly moved to the fridge.

However, obtaining oysters is not the main problem. Opening them is. I didn't see the point of purchasing a $20 oyster opener, and I was confident that we could pry them open somehow. The woman at the counter suggested using a screwdriver. She also said that legally speaking, she could only tell us to eat them cooked. I found this humourous.

We tried using a butter knife and another sharp knife to pry open the oysters, before AK found that a 3/8-inch drill-bit (flat) works perfectly as an oyster opener! You gently poke the drill-bit between the bottom (corner?) of the oyster, and then gingerly wiggle the drill-bit around the perimeter of the oyster.

After a short amount of time (much less than the time taken to get to a restaurant, order food, and wait for food), we had our oysters! They sat in the fridge on ice, covered with a plate, for about an hour until we ate them.

The camembert was good because the rind was bland. That's probably not how it's supposed to be, but is agreeable towards my preferences. The steak was good. There were chunks of fat in it, and little blobs of mushroom and garlic. The spinach was made by steaming in this collapsible colander/steamer (like this), which I think is super nifty device!

This was so fun!

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