Steve, bless his heart, got his days mixed up and thought November 6 was a Saturday, meaning he accidentally arrived at an oil pipeline protest 24 hours early and made delightful anniversary plans for us for a day that was not our anniversary.
What it basically meant is that I got a multi-day anniversary extravaganza celebration weekend of delight :D And get ready, cause we did some serious, serious eating. In one weekend, we did a year’s worth of eating to celebrate a year’s worth of being together, essentially.
One of the fun things we did was the Appalachian Trail! Stove was very excited. (And, for the record, requested that I take this dorky picture)
We embarked at Sky Meadows, a park with great views that I’ve visited many times. It’s particularly dazzling this time of year with the foliage and whatnot.
Also, I knew for a fact there was an actively-fruit-producing apple tree adjacent to the parking lot, having scaled it and harvested some on a previous visit.
This time Steve did the honors.
Chomp chomp! This was a surprisingly sweet and delicious even late in the season. Yes, clearly it was a little cold.
Butt, warming me up quite nicely with some serious cardio, the first hour of the hike was almost entirely vertical, so I was quite happy when we took ourselves a break to refuel.
I’d packed sammiches.
TJ’s whole wheat flax tortillas; smear of fava bean dip; sprinkling of that awesome Arab cheese I was raving about; shredded carrot; arugula. Smashing.
I also had a few bites of buffalo jerky I’d picked up at the farmer’s market (chipotle flavor was better than teriyaki) and the roasted sweet potato (why not?) that Steve brought. He dominated those items, though :D
We ended up spending three and a half hours on the trail, reveling in the sunshine. Steve’d been excited to hike the Appalachian Trail because it’s generally nice for a Midwestern boy to experience actual changes in altitude and there’s just a whole cool mystique surrounding the Appalachian Trail.
It was beautiful up there, but with the signs that go, “West Virginia- take a left and walk for dozens of miles” (okay I’m paraphrasing) you really do kind of get the interstate feeling. A big, pedestrian highway on the mountaintops.
Anyway, we were deliciously tired upon the completion of our hike, and ready for serious eats.
Steve looked at me imploringly and said, “Can we go to the all you can eat Korean place?”
Ladies and gentleman, the delicious and troubling named Il Mee.
I had told Steve about it, he had salivated, I had wanted to save it for a day when I’d gotten a serious quantity of exercise.
Seriously, what ISN’T this place?
You arrive to a table with a grill on it, so you know there’s the traditional cooked-tableside Korean barbecue.
Sure enough, a wide variety of meats and seafood in various marinades.
But you look at the action-packed buffet through the pretty dark wood booths and realize… this will be so much more.
There are scads of covered hot dishes. If you are interested in sort of the food court experience, you can get every typical Asian thing- spring rolls, pork, noodles, and the like.
I am always drawn to the uniquely Korean selections like thin crepe-y pancakes made of seafood and/or kimchi
And the local specialty of Korean double fried chicken (!) and something I’ve only seen here- glazed Korean sweet potatoes, which are paler in color than American
Totally unique kinds of fish I’d never even heard of
And an absolutely epic display of kimchi and other pickled vegetables. By far the most unique and exotic part of this buffet.
But lest we forget…
Oh. My. God.
So. Much. Sushi.
All kinds of dazzling selections of sushi, with unique toppings (slivered almonds?!) and shapes (lookit the lovely cucumber rolls!)
Wash it all down with exotic beverages, sweet rice or cinnamon flavored. Some so-so fruit…
A baffling but entertaining soft serve machine!
Obviously, we were going to get our eat on.
Okay. So let’s suffice it to say that when I eat at an all you can eat buffet, I really eat all I can eat.
This happens for several reasons
1. I want to get my money’s (or, after tense negotiations over the past several days, Steve’s money’s) worth
2. I am an indecisive Libra and want to try everything
3. How often does one get to eat enough sushi. Sushi is so expensive a la carte!
4. I was a genuinely starvin’ Marvin, having hiked for three and a half hours with a smallish lunch
5. I am addicted to food.
With that in mind, Plate #1, a mixed bag. Things I thought were old friends were less great on being reunited.
The mussels were fat and pretty good. The green beans were in an excessively thick and sweet sauce (they were at the bottom of a pan that was later refilled; perhaps party of the problem). The kimchi and oyster pancakes, usually one of my favorite Korean foods, were SO disappointing: bland and cornstarchy. Barely ate any. The glazed sweet potato slices (the mahagony colored cubes) were also something I had fondly, fondly remembered from my previous visit to the restaurant and were a whole lot of blah. The tempura was the saving grace of the plate. I mean, I only ate a bit, picking out the hot peppers. But dang, hot peppers in tempura batter? Count me in.
Next: sushi plate. Now we’re cookin’. Now we’re feeling good.
Everything on this plate? AWESOME.
You will never in a million years get me to describe every roll, but I will tell you that I basically tried one of everything- minus ones that included fake crab, since I don’t like it; and that the highlights included any of the ones that contained pickled veggies (the Korean trademark!)
^^and that shooter thing in the cup which tasted- I swear, fish, fish roe, pickled veggies, zippy sauce and all- like a taco.
Plate 3, slowing down but not daunted:
A few more nibbles of some of my favorites on the sushi; the green beans, which were better and fresher once the tray was refilled; a tempura shrimp; a mini-crab cake with a tangy and spicy soy-based sauce drizzled on it; a squid ring, a tofu strip, and in the center:
The most curious rice cake blob stewed with veggies. Totally great.
While you’re all judging me for the amount of food that was, let’s check in with the boy, shall we?
He also enjoyed healthy helpings of sushi and buffet items, but he experienced true joy right at our table, watching the barbecue happen.
Spicy marinated beef, pork, chicken and squid went onto the grill raw…
And came off it smelling amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. And tasty, too :D I tried a bit of each thing (more than a bit of the very tasty beef and squid, which I greatly preferred to the fatty pork and dry chicken).
Vastly overestimating his need for condiments, Steve went a little nuts by the pickled vegetables.
Tried to help him finish them off—they were all super tasty. That stuff in the lower left hand corner seemed to be, to the best of my description… pickled omelet shreds? Like, someone had cooked a flat pancake, thin sliced it, and tossed it together with a spicy sauce. It was totally great!
Back to my consuming and consuming :D
I enjoyed cups of both of the drinks, cinnamon and rice. Both were quite sweet and quite tasty.
Then I thought I was nearly finished but I happened to pass by the hot pots that I thought merely contained steamed rice and observe someone helping himself to PUMPKIN SOUP!
So I went crazy on that.
Tasted rice-y, somehow. Hmm. Oh and great, too, obviously. Love all pumpkin always forever the end.
And some mediocre fruit (ate only the soft white parts of the melon) and I thought that might be a sweet red bean rice creation but it was only a regular red bean (and slightly undercooked at that) rice creation so I tried a bite and headed off.
The evening concluded with a riotous impromptu 90s dance party (it all began when Steve burned me an anniversary CD featuring a 90s dance remix of Total Eclipse of the Heart, one of our karaoke signatures).
Okay, actual anniversary.
We swore to each other we wouldnt’ plan something fancy, as we both get a little neurotic when something becomes an Occasion and a Big Deal and there are all these high expectations and it gets a bit competitive and we liken it to an “affection arms race”.
So we kept it casual and just hung out at Steve’s.
But then I felt compelled to dress up cause my boyfriend so often sees me dressed like a bum. So then he felt compelled to look nice.
He also did a snazzy ‘round the back movement while setting the table.
On the menu Steve decided to cook one of his favorite things I’ve cooked for him (and everyone else on earth; it’s one of my favorite summer recipes): corn and basil cakes. Agh it’s so good.
Even in November. With frozen corn :(
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I use cooking spray… and Steve fries it in butter!
Quite beautifully golden, eh?
He also made some olive-oil heavy roasted asparagus that was marvy
And roasted sweet potatoes, an ingredient Steve didn’t know could come sans marshmallow topping til he met me.
Here’s to many more, Honey Badger.