When I'm not blogging about food, or doing my day job, I run. It was this running hobby, and the periodic races that I get involved in because of it, that inspired my folks to reward my latent athletic chops by treating me and Eric to a meal at one of the best Chinese restaurants in southern New Hampshire.
It was sunny, it was Sunday, I had just spent an hour running the Claddagh's Irish Classic 4-Miler, and my stomach was growling. After a quick trip to my parents' house to shower, Eric, my folks, my mom's friend, and I got in my mom's car and headed north.
Lilac Blossom doesn't look like much from the outside, as it's quartered in a late Eighties mini-mall in the middle of the boring, relentless schlock on the Daniel Webster Highway, but inside it's an oasis of clean white walls and the fresh, teasing scent of ginger and garlic. There had been some confusion with the reservations, but we were quickly lead to a table and asked if we wanted anything to drink.
I ordered my usual white wine, but I was still a little dehydrated by the run, and by the end of a cold, so I don't really remember if I drank much of it or what it tasted like. I spent most of the meal drinking water. Not that that was a detriment to the meal, in fact, I could better taste the delicate flavors that followed because I stuck to cool H2O.
We started with steamed vegetable ravioli (pot stickers to non New Englanders). They were chewy, but not unpleasantly gluey or sticky, and the mushroom, spinach, and caraway seeds whetted my appetite for more food. We then moved on to the two types of tofu we ordered: fried tofu with spinach, and spicy Szechuan-style bean curd. I have been a vegetarian for nearly thirteen years, but I am a newcomer to liking tofu, and I have never figured out how to cook it well. If you are also a newcomer to liking tofu, Lilac Blossom's fried tofu with spinach will make you an instant tofu fanatic. The tofu, deep fried and covered in garlic sauce, has a doughlike texture that is completely unlike the eggy consistency of silken tofu as it is more often prepared and served. The spinach was fresh, and managed to be simultaneously crisp and dripping with garlic sauce.
The next dish, the spicy Szechuan-style bean curd, did use soft tofu, but was sufficiently loaded with pepper fire that the soft tofu was a welcome reprieve from the delicious burn instead of a bland entity in an otherwise wonderful dish. I have to admit I wasn't all that crazy about the vegetable lo mein, although it was also delicious. I tend to prefer my lo mein pan fried, and this lo mein was not, and therefore a little too squidgy for my taste. However, it was nicely flavored with ginger and a little sesame oil, and there was no objective reason for not liking it.
We were given orange slices and fortune cookies to finish off the meal, and we drove back down Route 3 well fed and happy.