Vivent les Oursins!

This month has been marked by a series of short junkets. I guess they are sort of a warm up for the very busy May and June to come. Early on I had the great pleasure of travelling for a day with friends Jean Anderson, and Fran and David McCullough to the Cypress Grill in Jamesville, North Carolina. This is an old fish camp on the Roanoke River that only opens for the few months of the shad and herring run each year. This place is quite remarkable for several reasons. The building itself reminds me almost of a stage set for a Mayberry episode. It is right on the water and you have to drive down a boat ramp to get to it. The clientele included a large percentage of older people who were dressed as if they were going to church. We tried a variety of things. I had the “cremated” herring- fried so crisp that you could eat almost all of the bones and fins. Sort of like salt and pepper shrimp. I grew up in Eastern North Carolina and I had never heard of this place, but it’s been around forever. There once were many similar restaurants I’m told.
Then I did a quick run to New York to have dinner at the James Beard House. We’re doing a dinner there in June. Chef friends that I had met in Louisville were cooking so I went up to look over their shoulders and to check out the premesis and neighborhood. I hadn’t been in that kitchen in probably eight years and I had forgotten how small the actual kitchen is. It wwas a wonderful evening with wonderful food. It began with Old Fashioneds made with Van Winkle’s 12 year old Bourbon and hand-sawn ice.
The neighborhood grocers include Chelsea Market where I encountered fresh uni from California. I think that uni has become my favorite food, replacing both soft shelled crabs and fois gras. When I think about it I get a sort of pang of addiction. This used to happen when I thought about angullas- those baby eels served in northern Spain. The ease of finding unagi these days has alleviated this craving somewhat.
Lastly I need to briefly mention a class the Moreton Neal and I gave at A Southern Season. It was for old times’ sake and the subject was bouillabaisse. Straight out of Julia Child. We rounded out our French dinner with the inescapable chicken liver mousse, an endive vinaigrette and a “gateau victoire”

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