Monday, January 11, 2016

How I Inadvertently Became a "New York TImes Food Critic"

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big joker.  I will often say wild things with a straight face to get a laugh.  (Ha ha, you're a pisser, no harm done.)  The problem is that when I travel I sometimes forget that the person I'm joking with doesn't know me. The results can run the gamut from shocking to ridiculous, leaving me to explain myself.  (Ha ha, you're an idiot, no harm done.)

In my most recent case of miscommunication, however, I found myself trapped in the web of my own silliness.  Uh, oh. What do I say to this?

Indochine restaurant in Wilmington had been recommended to me by my real estate agent.  Judging from the full parking lot and waiting line when I arrived, I knew she had steered me right.  Solo, book in hand (there's a tip for you - you'll never feel uncomfortable about dining alone if you have a good book for a companion), the hostess offered me the choice of sitting at the bar or waiting twenty minutes.  I opted for the bar.

The place is decorated with objets d'art from all over Asia and local paintings with Asian themes.  Anywhere you look your eyes will land on something colorful and interesting. All of it is for sale if you inquire.  Because of the crowd I wasn't able to get good shots of the interior but here is a photo of the LADIES' ROOM.


The bartender introduced herself as Lolo.  A very pleasant woman, she was doling out drinks and conversation with equal energy.  When I told her that the place had been highly recommended she said that she was the manager and proudly proclaimed the food to be absolutely fantastic. I replied: "Really?  Well I'll let you know what I think because I'm a New York Times food critic and I know food."  Ha ha!  Ummm.  Ha ha.

Uh oh.  

I immediately got the impression she had taken me completely seriously.  I was about to explain that I was joking when a waiter arrived with a drink order and distracted her.  Worse.  She introduced me to him as "a special person here" and suggested he discuss their many and varied curries with me.

Now I'm in it.  It was deer-in-the-headlights time.  The mouth opened but it didn't know what to say so I listened to the waiter and accepted his recommendation of the Penang curry.  Then I ordered a drink to loosen up my inhibitions about carrying on a charade with these good people.


One Night in Bangkok - a mix of Tequila, raspberry Schnapps and pineapple - was strong and delicious.  I'm a lightweight with booze and sipped it with a lot of reserve while I waited lest it turn into One Night in the Gutter.

In spite of the full-to-capacity house, my curry arrived without an overlong wait that was made to seem even shorter by Lolo's conversation, my yummy drink, and a side of crunchy Thai cabbage salad I was given to munch on.  

The curry came garnished with a sprig of parsley and a conical carrot curl, chicken and vegetables swimming in a fragrant yellow sauce served in a bowl so large it looked as if it might have fed three people.  I couldn't wait to dig in.

Oh wow.  Was my little lying mouth ever happy.  It was creamy with coconut milk, perfectly hot (mouth warming without burning the taste out - exactly the way I like it), fragrant, and tasty with a melange of spices.  Instead of the ubiquitous vegetables I've experienced in Thai curries all over the world (not exaggerating  - from the US to London to France to Singapore and beyond), this curry contained green beans and sweet potato that added delightfully smooth and crunchy textures to the dish.  If I had actually been a food critic I would have given it five stars.  Seriously, I wanted to lick the plate after I had stuffed myself with two portions that left me with enough leftovers for two more.

By now I hoped that my unintentional prevarication had been forgotten, but that seemed to be unlikely when I was offered a free sample of their smooth, creamy, house-made coconut ice cream and a free side of rice for my doggie bag.

When they brought the owner over to introduce me I was absolutely certain that I was still in up to my neck. I gave my effusive albeit non-professional praise of the food to Solange, a Vietnamese woman whose biographical blurb on the menu is so heart-warming you want to hug her after you read it.  You could tell she was very proud of her business.  And she was sweet and sincere - unlike stupid writers who like to joke around and tell people they are food critics.

I'm going to hell.