Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lucky 32

I have to get the word out before Lucky 32's summer menu leaves us. Summer has already slipped through my fingertips, but if I have to wait a whole 8 months before I can have this again, I think I’ll just die. The second I read the description for the Whimsical Watermelon, I was sold. Juicy, perfectly ripened Watermelon serves as the base of a unique salad, featuring Country Ham (which was a bit more like Prosciutto than the warm, crispy country ham I’m used to), Mint and Housemade Ricotta. This flavor combination danced in my mouth, and has an incredible depth of savoriness. The use of vinegar is remarkable and so much smarter than just table salt. This is a quintessential summer dish.

To continue my a la carte lunch, Beans and Kale Greens trick you into eating something healthy, because it's so darn good. You'll think you’re eating vinegary Collard Greens since the kale is cooked and seasoned perfectly. This is another wonderful savor-bomb. Don’t fear kale, especially when roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper – but that’s for another blog. All dishes are served with homemade wheat bread. Spread a bit of soft, salted butter on and you’re in heaven.

The only other dining experience I've had at Lucky 32 was with the Carolina Cobb Salad, a classic "ladies who lunch" meal. Roasted Chicken, Blue Cheese, Avocado and Egg are wonderful to dip in Buttermilk Herb Dressing. Again, the crispy Country Ham that I’m used to was missing and was quite similar to Prosciutto (and there was a heavy hand making my salad that day), but the dressing is something to return for.

I hear the Fried Chicken rocks the house, and luckily that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Chef Jay Pierce came over to say hello to my dining partner, and was as pleasant as he could be. I look forward to his fall creations which, if I'm lucky, will feature an exquisite pumpkin dish.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Taste of Thai

 Located near two other Greensboro favorites (Cleopatra's Restaurant and Saffron Indian Cuisine), Taste of Thai is a peaceful, flavorful escape into the exotic cuisine of Thailand. The restaurant is rather large, yet maintains an atmosphere that's intimate. Attentive service, outstanding dishes and modest pricing make this an obvious new favorite.

Four tender, juicy chicken breasts comprise the popular Chicken Satay appetizer. The chicken is served on skewers and drenched with a Coconut Peanut Sauce. A small dish with sliced Cucumbers, Red Onion, Jalapenos and Vinegar comes as a condiment - my kind of condiment. The vinegar was a nice cut to the slightly sweet sauce, and the seeded jalapenos provided just enough heat to warm the back of your throat without murdering your taste buds.

My dining partner and I opted for the Taste of Thai Delight, which seemed to be the best bang for our buck. In fact, it seemed too good to be true. For $10.95, you get enough food for 3 people. Though the starter salad was doused in a creamy peanut dressing, we didn’t need it anyway. We had way more to look forward to. Beef Kung Pao is pot roasted, fall off the bone tender, sprinkled with scallions and peanuts for a lovely crunch. Thai comfort food. Chicken Curry with Coconut lacks the traditional heat you find with curry, but gives you a pleasant sweet note from the coconut milk. The mound of white rice soaked up this sauce beautifully.

My favorite, the Sweet and Sour Vegetables with Tofu, is an umami dream. The broth tasted like it was made from water chestnuts, in the best way possible. It was too good to let one drop linger in the bottom of the bowl. Pineapple, Onion and several other exotic vegetables were delightful bites. It’s always fun to try unusual Thai veggies that I’m not familiar with.

My dining partner deemed the Chicken Patty with Mild Pepper Sauce the “Salisbury Steak of Thailand.” Partly a mystery meat, and almost like a good, homemade veggie burger, the patty consistency was odd, though the flavor was good. The Pepper Sauce was like a tangy and sweet Hot Pepper Jelly. This would be good on my leftover Thanksgiving sandos. Because there had to be a weakest link, the Shrimp Salad with Lemongrass and Lime Dressing was my least favorite. The lemongrass was so potent it tasted almost artificial. I also would have preferred the shrimp to be warm, as opposed to chilled. Green Beans were a nice crunch and palate cleanser, but not necessarily essential to the meal.

Sweet Sticky Rice with Egg Custard.
Don't judge it til you try it.
I’ve been on a huge Sweet Sticky Rice kick lately. I can’t get enough. This variation came with an Egg Custard on top, as opposed to the traditional Mango. The substitution kicked ass. The sweet rice suggests notes of toasted popcorn, and the Egg Custard was reminiscent of a Pumpkin Pie Mousse. This is a flavor and texture combination I would never have dreamed of, and I can't believe I'd gone my whole life without experiencing it until last year. Though my favorite serving of this dessert is at Bangkok CafĂ©, words seriously can’t do it justice. It’s in my top 5 favorite foods of all time.

There are several Thai restaurants in Greensboro, but this one stands out. Go on the condition that you’ll get the Sweet Sticky Rice. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spring Breakers

Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Gucci Mane
Director: Harmony Korine
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rating: R

If you’ve seen the 1995 movie “Kids,” you know exactly what it means when I tell you that the same guy wrote and directed “Spring Breakers.” Inappropriate, filthy, suggestive, hypnotizing, hilarious, disconcerting – I felt kind of ridiculous watching it, not knowing if my occasional chuckle was right or wrong. You end with the same sick feeling in your stomach as you do at the end of “Kids.” “Spring Breakers,” however, is not necessarily a warning or a story of redemption, it just ends and you feel kind of at a loss. Writer/director Harmony Korine really likes to make a statement, but the message isn’t totally clear here.

Four college friends with idle hands head to St. Petersburg, Florida for SPRING BREAK to let loose and get away from their mundane daily surroundings. We immediately get the feeling that three of the four girls are a little off. Vanessa Hudgens appears to be the most far gone, almost without a conscience. Selena Gomez is the naive friend, leaving behind her prayer circle group in an attempt to reconnect with her childhood pals. There is a lot of awkwardly overlapping dialogue in the first 20 minutes of the movie. At moments, the acting seemed exaggerated and overdone, but it’s obvious that we’re definitely not supposed to like these characters.

Realizing they are short on cash for their trip, three of the girls decide to rob a diner. We first see the robbery from the outside, and it's as if they are just running amuck. When we view it the second time, we go inside with them. The brutal and vulgar things they shout at people would scare anyone to death. The ease with which the girls do this is remarkable.

Finally they make it to paradise, though it is short-lived. Enter James Franco as gangster rapper Alien, who bails the girls out of jail when their partying goes awry. (Side note – the girls didn’t even have time to find a cover-up before going behind bars, and appeared in the courtroom in bikinis.) Franco is unrecognizable. Repulsive. Comical. It’s really unclear why he comes to their rescue, because his initial intention is not to pimp them out. The relationship he has with these girls is disturbing. Is he a father figure? Is it sexual? This is such a departure from Franco’s usual characters, and he’s awesome in this role. He is the comedic relief without trying to be, though his Southern accent could use some work. I’ll be happy to tutor him; he’s in Asheville all the time, isn’t he?

Photo Courtesy of The Superficial; NYU Local
Robberies are juxtaposed with Britney Spears songs, Gucci Mane stars as Franco’s rival, and the idea of dreams vs. reality vs. nightmare, is played with a lot here. Skrillex is also played a lot, which I very much enjoyed. Every party song that you want to hear is sampled, and you’re both disgusted with and envious of the freedom these 18 and 19-year-olds have.

Perhaps people are so shocked by this film because two of the main stars are former Disney Channel princesses (Hudgens and Gomez.) Any time a loveable young actress plays a suggestively sexual role, we’re upset. (See Dakota Fanning, Hounddog, but that’s honestly a different level.) You’re in for a ride with “Spring Breakers.” You’ll want to turn it off halfway through, but you won’t be able to look away.