Thursday, February 12, 2009

Local Food: The Athenian, Tona, Farr Ice Cream

Mommy was crazy today, so John stayed home and tended Pinga and Superman while I ran the errands that needed running, then he got a babysitter and took me out to dinner, because he's awesome like that. As with most parents, every so often I need to be done with my job for a while, and it turns out that this week ran my sanity reservoir dry. We've gotten better at sensing when these times are coming, so now I don't usually dissolve into a oozing, weepy mess of doomsaying before we get it dealt with. Anyway, today I ate two meals out of the home, both of them on 25th Street in Ogden. Number of stars symbolized with asterisks.
Four stars max. ****

The Athenian**
A cafe vibe, with a friendly but rushed hostess/server/busser. I ordered a gyro and a dinner salad with ranch, because: Utah. We go straight from breast to ranch here. The salad was limp and a little slimy, with a piece of lettuce that was full-on rotten and brown. There was probably a quarter cup of dressing on it, which didn't make me as happy as you would think. The gyro came with two small cups of bland tzatziki on the side, and mealy, out-of-season tomatoes. But! The meat and the pita more than made up for it. The lamb was delicious, hot, juicy and flavorful, and the pita was crispy on the outside and soft and slightly chewy inside. I devoured it practically without breathing, and I would happily eat another one right now.

The hostess promised us that it didn't matter what we ordered, everything was good. It sounded insincere, because Jack-of-all-trades and all that. For the appetizer we ordered the gyoza and the tempura, because we are boring. The gyoza were wonderful--soft, tender wrappers, not at all leathery, and good innards. The tempura was as good as tempura should be, somehow managing to be terrible for you and not taste like it. Light, crispy batter over perfectly cooked shrimp and vegetables--except for the onion. That baby was practically raw, and I like me an onion, but it made me cry a little bit. I felt like I was undergoing rhinoplasty. For our entrees I ordered the sashimi combo plate and the orange roll; John ordered the beef sukiyaki. The sashimi plate came with albacore, yellowtail, ahi, octopus, salmon and striped bass. It was perfect. The last time I had octopus it was in nigiri and was overbearingly sweet--this was mild, chewy and very good. I love sashimi when it is done well, and this definitely is. Cool, silky, and meltingly soft, tasting like the ocean (obviously minus the trash, oil slicks and fish poo). My orange roll had salmon, asparagus and tobiko. It was good, but unremarkable. John was quite happy with his sukiyaki--once he got used to the idea that he would have to do without the raw egg, he managed to judge it on its own merits and liked it a lot. The presentation of all the food was gorgeous, and there's nothing better than art food that doesn't taste like it. We enjoyed this the most of any Japanese restaurant we've ever visited. They get a tiny ding because the server was a little spacey, but oh well.

Farr Ice Cream***
I have never had anything but superb ice cream from Farr. In Provo Leatherby's is the place people seem to go for their old-fashioned ice cream parlor fix, and I was always dismayed at what those poor Utah County people had to call ice cream. The ordinary ice cream did not make up for the fact that the place always smelled like sour milk and feet. Farr, on the other hand, smells like cream and sugar and fresh-baked waffle cones--three of the major food groups--and, above all, CLEAN. They call it Farr Better because it is. I've gotten more flavors there than I can remember right now, but pumpkin stands out as a particularly delicious memory. Tonight I got a coffee ice cream shake with hot fudge, and John got a Bear Tracks* cone. My shake was so good that it was difficult to stop myself halfway through and leave some for tomorrow. John was very pleased with his cone--I didn't taste it, but he said he hasn't been able to find a good cookie dough ice cream for a long time, and he really liked this one. The scoopers/mixers were beyond spacey and well into sub-normal, but friendly, so there's that. And your interaction with them is so limited that it doesn't matter a lot. Also, I bet the weekend staff are a whole different crowd. (Tipsy--I saw the grape ambrosia and thought of you.)

*There are disputations among us as to whether it is really called that--it's something to do with tracks, is all I know.


tipsybaker said...

That sounds like a very restorative interlude; you've made me want sushi.
My kids still talk about Farr's grape ambrosia, which was the favorite flavor of a great grandmother they never met. Not much of a bond, but better than nothing.

Amy said...

Yes, I really want to love The Athenian -- family run business in Ogden's downtown that it is. But, the food always leaves more to be desired. The last time I ate there, my chicken was terribly dry.