Monday, January 24, 2005

Dale's Special

I don't know who Dale is; he might have been the cook or the owner or a customer of Bayou City Seafood and Pasta at 4730 Richmond Avenue in Houston. I put that in bold because it's a plug for one of my favorite restaurants in Houston and I've eaten there many, many times. The menu is extensive and all the offerings look, sound and smell delicious. But, in all the times I've eaten there, over several years, I've eaten only a single combination:

A cup of seafood gumbo and a Dale's Special.

That's what I had the first time I went to Bayou City and that's what I had the 50th time, and two through 49 as well.

Why tempt fate? What if by the infinitesimally small chance (did I spell that right?), what if by the infinitesimally small chance I tried something else and it just wasn't quite as good as a Dale's Special? That would be like wasting a Dale's Special. Like ordering one and not eating it. I might go to my grave having had one less Dale's Special than I could have. People would talk.

"Crying shame, don't you know." "Coulda had one more Dale's Special." "Yep, downright sad it is."

So, what is a Dale's Special?

To be honest, I don't really know. I've tried to duplicate it because I know what's in it, but it never comes out "right." Close, but no ceegar. This doesn't taste like my mama's meatloaf. Needs more cowbell. More cowbell!

A Dale's Special has two parts. Part 'A' is rice. Easy enough to do. That part, Part 'A', I've got a lock on. Rice, I got.

Part 'B' is the seafood combination. Not easy to do. That part, Part 'B', I've got no clue. Seafood combination, I don't got.

Part 'B' contains shrimp, scallops, fish, lobster, crab and crawfish. Also onions, chopped tomato and (I think) fish stock. It's all sauted up and served next to the rice. The sauce is thin; butter, stock, something spicy. That's the part that eludes me to this day. I think it's cooked in a very hot pan very quickly. It's not something that's been sitting around all day and dumped on a plate, like a chowder or gumbo. It's fresh, hot and, apparently, addictive.

I have come close with myDale'sSpecial Version 1.2 beta, but it's still buggy. Not quite the same. Not the Real Thing.

Oh, and if you get a chance to visit Bayou City don't bother trying to order a Dale's Special. It isn't on the menu. Well, not by that name. They renamed it the Brigantine. I don't know why.

And that's it.

Geeze Louise I forgot the gumbo! Yeah, it's probably the best gumbo I've ever had. Did I tell you that I've tried to duplicate it at home. Yes, indeedy, true story, I've been stirring this roux since December and...

1 comment:

Andrew Purvis said...

I have never crossed the borders of Texas unless it was via overflight en route to another destination (I have no desire to land there unless I can be assured that DFW is not on the menu of airports, even in the event of being re-routed). Still, I wonder if I might be able to make a couple suggestions here.

I am tempted to suggest a spicy ginger oil, though that may not quite do it. The trick with authentic food from another region is that someone (Dale is a good suspect here) probably found a way to tweak authentic to make it better. Look at spicy fish sauce (you know, with the VietNamese characters all over the bottle) as the possible mystery ingredient. I have found that a startling number of kitchens love this stuff for giving dishes a little mystery zing.