Mesa Grill, Meat… and the Lack of It

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On Day Two in New York, the lunch destination was Mesa Grill, one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants.

Mesa Grill, outside

I’m from Texas, land of beef and all things meat. I was actually quite surprised that a restaurant owned by a man well-known for grilling (and Mexican food, which is something else I’m used to) excited me.

There are a few things that made my time at Mesa Grill very significant in my New York journey — first, Mesa Grill was the only restaurant where we, rather my mom, actually ordered from the Restaurant Week menu (which took place between July 16 through August 10, 2012). Second, Mesa Grill had the best service out of any restaurant I went to in New York. I’ll never forget the wonderful waiter we had — he was so personal and friendly, it was great!

On the restaurant week menu was a spicy salmon tartare as an appetizer, wild striped bass as the entrée, and a vanilla bean custard for dessert. I ordered the Mesa Burger — which had the usual lettuce, tomato, and cheese, but also included grilled Vidalia onion, horseradish mustard, and Southwestern fries.

Mesa Burger

It was actually quite good! It was definitely filling, but I did my best. I’m by no means a “carnivore,” unlike most people I know. Honestly, if the world’s supply of bacon were to disappear, a lot of the people I know would go into a long, spiraling depression.

The Mesa Burger was the only “meat” we had on our table — the only other thing close to meat was the wild striped bass, which my mom really seemed to enjoy. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of striped bass, but the visual part of me was definitely attracted to the many colors on the plate.

Wild Striped Bass

I loved the bright, vibrant yellows and greens included in the plating. If there’s one thing I remember from my Culinary Arts class over the summer, it’s “always plate well.” Before you seduce the tongue, you have to seduce the eyes. I can definitely say the food at Mesa Grill enthralled me — if not for the taste (which was still quite good), it was for the visual appeal. The yellow roasted corn sauce and jalapeño pesto added a nice dash of color, and the charred corn-tomato salsa added to the Latin flair.

I’d have to say my favorite part of the meal was the appetizer: the spicy salmon tartare. It was… really tasty. It helped that the portion was smaller — very different from my giant burger — and my mom wasn’t too unhappy about me sharing with her!

Spicy Salmon Tartare

The tartare — finely chopped, seasoned raw fish normally shaped in small cakes — was a new food that I discovered in New York. It’s always been sitting under my nose here in Dallas, but I was always afraid of it. I didn’t know what it was. It was unfamiliar, and I didn’t want to try anything new. But in New York, I was willing.

The tartare was served on a crisp hominy cake, but the piquillo pesto and cilantro vinaigrette gave it most of its flavor.

We ended the meal with the vanilla bean custard.

Vanilla Bean Custard

The custard was served with a berry salad and sauce, leaving the palate cool and refreshed. Refreshing. That’s definitely the word to describe this vanilla custard, its sweet taste mixed with the succulent, sour taste of the blackberries and the raspberry sauce.

Leaving Mesa Grill, I felt stuffed, content, and happy — probably the same feeling a fat kid feels after eating a big ice cream sundae. I’m actually surprised I was able to walk at all when I left the restaurant!

It feels kind of strange writing this post, but I guess I need to have some sort of “last hurrah” before the New Year. What’s so significant about the New Year? My New Year’s Resolution, which may or may not last very long, is to begin transitioning toward vegetarianism. Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those crazy people who wants to limit the kinds of food I eat.

The keyword was transition. I’m not ready to give up meat entirely — I still love chicken, especially chicken adobo. I’ve already started giving up red meat, which is a sin worthy of eternal damnation here in Texas, mostly because of the bad health effects of eating red meat and the bad feeling I get after I eat it. (Yes, pork is red meat according to the USDA and I can give up bacon.) The only thing that stops me from trying to go vegan is sushi. I love sushi too much to go vegan.

…Are you still there? For those of you who didn’t leave out of total disgust for my plans, I just wanted to say that I found a compromise so that I can still eat better, and indulge in foods like sushi and fish now and then. It’s called “weekday vegetarianism,” and I first heard about it through Graham Hill, owner of the environmental website TreeHugger.

The idea is that you go vegetarian from Monday through Friday, while being able to eat what you want on the weekends. Now, technically, you can indulge on burgers, steaks, and bacon on Saturday and Sunday, but then what’s the point of that? To make it worthwhile, Hill says you should swap out fish for that burger, which is something I’d love to do.

I actually had my first official “vegetarian” meal on Saturday… at Pei Wei.

Japanese Teriyaki Rice Bowl w/ Tofu and Vegetables

This is a Japanese teriyaki rice bowl, served with tofu and vegetables instead of meat.

The part that’s hardest to get used to, though, is that I was automatically assumed to be a “vegetarian” when I ordered a vegetarian meal. (Truth is, I only ordered it because I was craving tofu.) The cashier asked my mother “if she was vegetarian too,” which I thought was kind of funny. I mean, I’m not technically vegetarian… at least not yet.

I’ve looked up lots of recipes for both vegan and vegetarian food in the past few weeks. I try to think about it as a chance to eat healthier, not just a chance to “restrict my diet.” Even if the “no meat on Monday through Friday” thing doesn’t work out, I hope I’ll be able to stop eating processed foods, genetically modified foods, and other unhealthy “food” being pushed by America today.

Mesa Grill on Urbanspoon

~~~~~

Thanks for reading!

Midterm exams start today for me — AH!

Be sure to follow Kuya’s Notebook via email, and you can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram! Links are in the sidebar to the right! I’d really appreciate it! (Besides, you want to be updated via email, don’t you?)

See y’all soon!

Joshua

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