‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Portuguese Sardines

You may want to stop reading right here.

I've been VERY annoying lately. It's taken every ounce of self-restraint to not call up everyone I know and say "sorry, can't talk right now. I'm covering a food festival and have important samples to eat. Did I mention I have a PRESS PASS?" Okay it's true, I did break down and call my sister to say that. And then my phone battery died. Which is good.

I have done nothing, no NOTHING that does not somehow relate to food in the last 72 hours. It has been heavenly. I'll have more details (mud! plungers! press passes!) on CLASH (Cape Land and Sea Harvest) soon.

Until then, I will tell you about our dinner last night, which did not require a press pass.

Chris and I went out WITH NO CHILDREN to Terra Luna, in Truro. It has been on our Do This Right Now list for quite some time, and we just realized that time is running out. Seasonal restaurants, why must you tease us so?

Our friend Tony is the chef there and he was kind enough to come out and chat with us while we licked the menu. I think maybe the waitress went and got him and asked him to come tell us to stop. It's not our fault. Everything looks really, really delicious.

He asked what we were looking at, did not approve and then announced that he was sending out the sardines. We were not sure if he was sending them as enforcement, or what. I pictured him going into the kitchen and shouting "release the hounds!" and someone would open the walk-in and sardines would flip-flop their way to our table like herrings in the spring.

This is not what happened. They arrived on a plate, completely unanimated and looking every bit like a painting. There were two, six inch long dead fish, criss-crossed on a plate with agro dulce onions, pinenuts, raisins and some kind of green that was maybe meant to be eaten but I'm not sure. Chris began eating the onions, trying not to make eye contact with either of the fish.

I kept looking toward the kitchen, hoping for some help, and finally had to request a tutorial from the waitress. She was brilliant. I always knew there was a trick to eating whole fish and now I know it. Ha ha! I will look so suave! Chris was still unconvinced and hid behind the bread basket. We did not discuss the fact that our vital-organ-eating chef friend just recommended our entire meal. We were not afraid. Okay, Chris was a little afraid. I resisted the urge to chase him around the restaurant with a half-eaten sardine.

Tony expects the sardines to be a "cult favorite," and he tells us how popular they were over the summer. I can see this, now that I know how to eat them. I think it's a little like knowing how to pronounce Welsh words - something to be a little smug about. So you would say, "when you go to Terra Luna you simply MUST have the sardines" and then be smug knowing that they will probably do it wrong and by doing it wrong they will know that you did it right and are therefore That Much More Cosmopolitan than anyone else they've ever met, ever.

Also? I don't know what agro dulce onions are, but they were delicious.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, our entrees arrive and we all swoon - dead fish included. You've never seen a dead fish swoon? It is something, believe me. Chris had the grilled duck and I had the wild mushroom ragu. Oh, they were divine.

We left just enough on our plates so we could say we had left room for dessert. Which was a lie, but we had it anyway. Chris taught the cobbler a lesson it shan't soon forget, while I horded the polenta and blackberry custard. I can do a lot of damage with a spoon if you get too close to my polenta custard. Just so you know.

And then we let the excellent staff go home for the night. It was past our bedtimes by the time we finished and sleep was closing in fast.

Terra Luna, thank you for a perfectly perfect night out.


How to eat a Portuguese sardine:

Lie the sardine on its side and with your knife, scooch off the very top edge of the spine. It will come off in strips. Then if you tip the fish upright, you'll see an indentation. Slide your knife into the indentation and the fish will fall away from the bones. Do this on both sides. Things get very boney from the fins toward the head, so you might leave that well enough alone. People do eat the tail.

This works for any whole fish. Anything with scales, don't eat the skin. Sardine skin is fine.

Don't be squeamish, now. It's worth it. Trust me.

Terra Luna is open Fridays and Saturdays for an undisclosed short period of time. If you miss them now, you'll have to wait until May.


JAbel said...

I'll never forget my first fresh grilled sardines at a place in Santa Monica.What a world of difference from the canned ones not that I don't like those but these fresh grilled sardines were heavenly.

The Man (allegedly) said...

Coming soon, a new website.. Photo essay of Susan and her edible adventures!
No, really.

Susan said...

jabel - yup, world of difference. I had never seen anything like them, and they were indeed heavenly.

the man - those had better not be pictures OF Susan, mister. I have my veil of mystery to uphold, after all. But I do think a website should be devoted to my edible adventures. It would be riveting. I'm sorry, have you nodded off?