If I were a little better-versed in the ways of the Deep South, I might open with something cleverly Cajun...but I'm not, so you're going to have to just assume I'm talking like Emeril right now (except for the fact he's kinda from Massachusetts instead of New Orleans, but whatever).
In any case, Todd and I were out on St. Patrick's Day (did you expect anyone else to be out with me on a Saturday night than my beloved Dr. Watson? I mean, unless he's Holmes and I'm Watson, but he's going to be a doctor, and I'm taller anyway). We were off to catch a flick and a quick bite at some chainy place (Bahama Mama? Biscayne Breeze? Whatever, it was rubbish), but luckiliy we opted to head home and check out the newly-opened Bryn Mawr wing of Carmine's Creole Cafe. The gumbo-and-blues joint is nestled inconspicuously (except for a rather garish, but not tasteless, sign out front) between a lousy Vietnamese place and an arthouse movie theater. Please note, I refer to the Vietnamese joint as lousy because the last time Geoff, Todd and I ate there Todd got the "Beef Deluxe," and apparently "deluxe" was a mistranslation of "every part of the cow, including the cat's tongue lining of the scrotum, which I thought was reserved for fan belt production. But yeah, that's another story. Carmine's...
We rolled in on a Saturday holiday at about half seven, which in the real world would equate to no table and an eye roll from the hostess. I mean, we got the eye roll and halfhearted offer for seats at the bar, but we held out, watched the last of a basketball game I can't remember, and were then ushered begrudgingly into the front dining room. Our waitress (server?) Kara brought us cocktails and crusty rolls accompanied by a bowl of oil-soaked garlic cloves. As some of you may know, the way to my heart is with garlic, so I had a good feeling about this joint.
Under advisement from the sage Kara, Todd and I opted to both start with a cup of seafood gumbo and the pork chop and crab cake, respectively. As we waited for the food I sampled one of the house martinis (odd to have a specialty martini list at a creole place...but I wasn't complaining), the Swamp Water. To the best of my sense of taste (and with a little help from the menu), I detected a couple ounces of Grey Goose (Finlandia maybe? My sense for tasteless alcohol is a little off these days), a generous splash of Tabasco, a Tanqueray float, and a couple of blackened shrimp mingling at the bottom. It really did resemble water from a swamp. DELICIOUS water from a swamp, mind you, but the look was a tad off-putting. I slugged it, and it was like a handful of fire for about two seconds followed by that deliciously shrimpy-Tabasco aftertaste I like to accompany all my culinary experiences.
The food came. The presentation was lovely - my mountainous crab cake sat amidst a gentle valley of whipped mashed potatoes, craggy lump crab meat boulders toppling down its perfectly-formed sides. And the taste? Out of this world, definitely in the top five crab cakes I've had. Todd's pork chop obviously came from some mutant, ginormous porcine creature, because it was amazingly big. And delicious (I always insist on eating some of Todd's food, if only to make sure it isn't poisoned). The chop came with an oddly delicious (and rather strangely shaped) brick of cheddar cornbread, which had that almost-done texture without being gummy. All in all, the entrees were wonderful. And yet, somehow, we still had room for dessert...
Two words, my friends: bread pudding. This, however, was not your mom's bread pudding (unless your mom either makes amazing bread pudding or works in the kitchen at Carmine's, in which case I retract). This was a heap of delicious, perfectly-baked, carmel- and fresh whipped cream-topped goodness that melted in your mouth and let the stomach feeling like an overfull bag of groceries (in an awesome way).
I couldn't even finish my coffee, it was so good. I'm not sure there's a good way to end this post...Carmine's I'll call you, and I loves ya, girl.
Carmine's Creole Cafe and Blues
818 Lancaster Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010