Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lent in the Gump: Week 2 (Continued): Dinner at Central, Lunch at Green Papaya and the COA Men's Prayer Breakfast

Best breakfast for $2 in Gump is served here every Thursday.

As my mind clears from the effects of abstinence, I am more convinced that the practice of giving up "vices" for Lent is more ego-centric than it should be.  "Look at me," I say to the Cornbread Carp, "I have given up whiskey for Lent! (at least so far)."  Cornbread looks at me and replies with his trailer park wisdom: "Lent is not about you Allpots.  Have a beer."

"My word man, its 8:30 a.m.!" I say.

To which the Carp, cocks his head and raises his eyebrows and asks: "Scotch?"

Actually, I learned to think about this more clearly at the Church of the Ascension Men's Prayer Breakfast which occurs every Thursday at 7 a.m. in Ascension Hall.  It is relevant to these pages if for no reason other than it is where you can enjoy the finest breakfast in the Gump for $2.  Fresh biscuits, grits, sausage, cheesy eggs, all the coffee you can drink and some thoughtful conversation at no extra charge. Each visit confirms my belief that common men (i.e. untrained amateurs) are experts at only one meal: breakfast.  This one is cooked by attorneys, accountants and like-minded professionals and it is always delicious.  For $2 it cannot be beaten.

Yes, this is the River Jordan...which is nowhere near Lake Jordan.

Anyway, seeing pictures of the actual "wilderness" and the Jordan River brought home to me that 40 days in a desert is a true challenge and that the Jordan River looks a lot like Pintlala Creek except that after 40 days in a desert it would appear to be a most welcome sight. Giving up alcohol for Lent pales in comparison, although I do feel a tinge of joy as a walk near a bar.

Central decor compares with fine restaurants anywhere....
Speaking of which, on Thursday night I received a call from Precious (my new girlfriend), who invited me out to dinner at the new "Central Restaurant" in the Alley Station area of downtown.  I had previously received the following report from King Cotton about his visit to Central:

"Ladies and Gentlemen (and you too Allpots),

The missus and I went to Central last night.  It is the new restaurant downstairs at 129 Coosa (which is where we were married).  They have done a great job of decorating using old wooden beams from the building to make all the tables and such.

The atmosphere is dark but there is a good bar and a way to look into the kitchen from your table...seems to be the rage now.  We saw a lot of folks we know there...seems everyone is trying it out.  A Balch Bingham attorney was eating at the bar...he had been working late and had come over...his office is in the same block.

Entrees priced about comparable with other places in town.  Drinks were fine.  I had the hamburger which was okay.  Of course, the nice thing about a dark atmosphere is you can't see their mistakes.

We inquired about being able to seat our group and there are two on the main level and one downstairs in the cellar which could be fun.  (Very clean and we saw no mice)

I would call for reservations 517-1155 and the preferred seating would be tables 52-56 which are round banquettes on the side where you can see everything going on.

I am amazed and encouraged by the rejuvenation downtown centered around the Alley.  The restaurant has an entrance from the Alley and now there is also a cut through from Coosa St. to the Alley.  As for how this restaurant compares to the other options in the Alley area...I would consider it the best place downtown...definitely better than Olive Room (and cheaper)

King Cotton"

Even on a Thursday night, this place was very crowded and it was fortunate we had reservations.  I tried to make an American funny (in homage to Yogi Berra) and said to Precious "Nobody comes here anymore, the place is too crowded."  But my remark soared over her head into oblivion. She looked puzzled and replied.  "Looks pretty popular to me."

Popular and cramped compared to other restaurants in Montgomery (except perhaps the bar at Chophouse VY) but I like cramped. It is the way restaurants are in Dublin, New York and New Orleans.  The decor here rivals restaurants in any of those cities.  What about the food?

Well, the food is a work in progress, as is the service.  But I must say there are clear signs that the food will soon exceed expectations at very reasonable prices.  The complimentary bread was warm and the butter/cream cheese spread was different and delicious. Precious had the beet salad and raved about it. I chose the "wedge" (which is actually about a 1 1/2 slice of lettuce laid on its side) which had a very nice bleu cheese dressing with fruit slices on top.  Much easier to eat served in this fashion rather than when you receive a wedge-shaped quarter of a head of lettuce.

Precious was concerned she had made a mistake ordering Amberjack because it is not her favorite fish to begin with.  However, she devoured the ample portion and gave the presentation and flavor high marks.  It is easy to overcook Amberjack and she reported it was perfectly prepared.

I ordered my favorite dish in general: The duck breast.  As for temperature I ordered "chef's choice" because I find the usual requests for medium or medium rare do not do duck justice.  I was not disappointed. The duck breast came sliced to reveal the tender red center which turned out to be the perfect temperature for that particular duck breast.  The potatoes were also prepared well.  So, as far as the food is concerned, we were very pleased and the tab (she had one Martini and I sampled the non-alcoholic and freshly prepared Ginger Beer), came to a rather reasonable $72 without dessert.  Thankfully, she picked up the tab although I reached with T-Rex arms in a show of possible payment.

The only real negative point was that conversations (and you know I am not a great favorite of having them with women) sounded like this:

"How was your Amberj...chowder is not right?"

She looked up and said: "It's delicious...send it back."

You see, the seats for two are so close together that your conversations combine with those around you to they form a cacophony of babble.  The couple next to us overheard Precious tell the waiter the decor reminded her of a restaurant in New York she had just visited and the male member of the couple began having a conversation with Precious about other neighborhood restaurants in Soho.  Of course, I tuned them out and pretended to focus on my duck so as to avoid having to speak with the woman next to me who could not possibly hear the conversation from her vantage point.

Next time I will take King Cotton's advice and request tables a little further apart.  However, there is no doubt I will go back to Central and may,  I said may, actually offer to pay.

Central on Urbanspoon

Green Papaya offers a variety of Lao and Thai cuisine.

Friday for lunch the Gumphone rang for a gang visit to Green Papaya.  We have reviewed this popular Forest Hills restaurant before in 2010 and it was time for a quality control follow-up review.  The Younger and Squeak ordered staples like Pud Thai.  I however, saw the garlic pepper stir fry and went for it "Medium" spicy with beef.  What a meal. It cleared my sinuses and forced me to drink about a gallon of water during the meal but it was soooo good I ate every bit.  The group confirmed that we consider Green Papaya to be one of the best places for lunch in the Gump.

The only real problem was that Precious, whom I am almost sure has never actually smelled a goat, complained Friday evening while at her lake place that I, Chase Allpots esq., smelled like one.  After two showers and multiple flossings, the only thing that "cured" the problem was a large glass of milk.  I guess the moral is ...why I can think of not a single moral.  The point is that when they say something is spicy or has garlic at Green Papaya, they are not kidding.  Apparently Laotians don't play around.  Its the meal that keeps on giving, if you know what I mean.

Which gets me back to Lent in the Gump.  Week 2 almost in the book and so far so good.  I have stopped feeling sorry for myself and am looking forward to a Sunday respite from abstinence.

Green Papaya Lao-Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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