Day 271 – National Shrimp Scampi

Today was the day that I probably came the closest to just skipping the celebration part of the day. At the start of this journey in my list of rules (or guidelines), I allowed myself a few Mulligans throughout the quest where I could take a day off. I figured that over the course of a whole year there would be times when celebrating a day would be difficult if not impossible. So far however, I’ve been able to do it every day and now more than ever, its driving me to keep going. Although today was a challenge. It was a long day. I woke up at 5:30 because I had a case of hamster head (that’s a term that Lola  uses to describe when your head keeps spinning, like a hamster on its exercise wheel). I had to go to work at about 9 am, I had a few things that I have to get done before Monday that were on my mind, and to top it all off, we have a little issue with a leak in our basement that I am working on. With all that dancing through my head, I was up at the literal crack of dawn. Then when I went to work, it was busy and as they say in the business, I got my ass whooped. I didn’t get home until almost 7:30 and I was exhausted. Then I had to think about shrimp scampi because it was National Shrimp Scampi Day. I had to dig deep for this one. At that point, all I really wanted was a cold beer, a peanut butter sandwich and to call it a night. But I pushed myself. The quest must go on.

Lola had an equally exhausting day and when I got home, she was in the shower. I had texted her on my way home to see if she wanted to go out for scampi, but she wasn’t really feeling it. Truthfully neither was I, but if she got motivated to go, I would motivate me to catch my second wind. With going out off the table, I thought about making my own which would have meant going to Clement’s Market and getting all my supplies, prepping all the garlic and shrimp, cooking it and then cleaning up after myself. Scampi is fairly easy to make, but because it was late and I was tired, it wasn’t in the cards. That would have meant we wouldn’t get down to eating until about 9 pm which would not have been good for anyone. That’s where I almost said screw it and just ordered a cheese pizza for us and called it a night. But I pushed myself to keep looking so online we found a few local spots that carry shrimp scampi on their menu. Eventually we decided on getting it from a place in Bristol called Leo’s Ristorante. The streak would still be alive.

The name Shrimp Scampi is a bit of redundancy because Scampi are actually tiny, lobster-like crustaceans with pale pink shells (also called langoustines). A traditional way of preparing them in Italy was to sauté them with olive oil, garlic, onion and white wine. When Italian cooks came to America, they substituted shrimp for the scampi, but still kept the full name.* I always thought that scampi was just a delicious sauce of garlic, butter and wine; I had no idea it was actually a crustacean. I love the sauce part of this dish but I have never been a very big fan of the shrimp. No real reason just that shrimp don’t really taste like anything to me. But, because of the quest, I figured I could choke some down in the name of celebration. And again, there was the sauce to look forward to.

If I were to celebrate Shrimp Scampi in my most ideal way, I would have Lola’s sister Cherie cook some for us. As I mentioned before, she’s a good cook and Shrimp Scampi is totally her jam. It would probably be her marquis recipe and she’s nice enough to bust it out on occasion for us. Lola is a huge fan of it. I still get skittish about the shrimp part, but I will always sop up every bit of that garlic sauce until the very last drop. I’ve watched her make it before and I think she uses the standard fare like butter, garlic and white wine, but I think she also adds in some shallots, some Worcestershire sauce and naturally cheese. It smells so good. Cherie, and most of Lola’s family, are huge garlic fans so it’s easy to see why this is a fan favorite. Cherie could actually sell hers at fine restaurants – it’s that good. Plus she makes a garlic bread to accompany it that’s out of this world (and she likes to serve it with an always delightful Caesar salad too). Cherie’s cooking is definitely a “pro” when it came to marrying into this family – a definite perk of the Mellow life. Unfortunately though, Cherie was working tonight so I knew Cherie’s Shrimp Scampi couldn’t happen. I actually saw her coming to work as I was packing up to leave. She was all decked out in her bartender clothes and I forgot what Cherie the Bartender looked like. She’s a natural in any restaurant.

We called in our take out order to Leo’s and at this point, besides being tired, we were starving. Bristol is only a ten minute drive away (or 45 minutes if there’s bridge/Fourth of July traffic), so I hopped in the car. It was actually one of those oddly magical rides where I seemed to catch every light when it was green, the music on the radio was perfect, the night sky was still somewhat lit by the last glimpses of the setting sun and there was a pink hue to it all, and there was a full on fireworks display going off while I went over the bridge. It must have been something happening at Roger Williams University, but I had the perfect viewing spot from my car. When I got to the restaurant, there was a spot right in front and when I went inside, the order was just being wrapped up. It was about as easy a trip as you could possibly have. On my way back (which was still quick), I could still see the fireworks. When I got home, I unwrapped everything and I put our scampi into bowls to make it feel like we weren’t savages.

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If you like garlic, Shrimp Scampi is one of the best smelling dishes you will ever see (or smell). It wafts of that dreamy mixture of garlic and butter and it charges up your salivary glands. You want to dive right in. Leo’s gave us our choice of pasta and Lola chose wisely with linguine. That seems to be the perfect noodle to soak up all that garlicky goodness. It was chock full of garlic too (as you can see in picture). The cherry tomatoes were a nice touch especially because they were cooked just enough so they would gently burst open when your fork pierced the skin. There was some cheese on top too that balanced out the whole meal and the buttery sauce.  It was super good. I even ate the shrimp which were fine. Like I said, I can eat shrimp; I just don’t get what the big whoop is about. Lola thought the shrimp were slightly overcooked but that could have been a product of getting takeout. Shrimp cook very fast (and then slide into being overcooked just as fast). They probably kept cooking on the heat of the pasta as they were in transit from restaurant to home, so that could explain their overdoneness. Lola was happy enough though and our hunger pains were able to be satisfied and better yet, our quest notched another completed celebration in its expanding belt.

I selected Leo’s because they follow me on Instagram and I see their posts in my feed. They are kind of the first restaurant you see when you drive into Bristol. We have been there before and had a nice al fresco dinner overlooking the street. They actually posted a picture today for National Shrimp Scampi Day, so that’s what put them in my mind and why I thought about going there. I like to get behind anyone who acknowledge these special days.

I did it. I made it through another day and although I almost took the Mulligan, I persevered. That sounds overly dramatic because really all I had to do to persevere was eat a delicious buttery shrimp dish. That’s not exactly a problem that’s going to gather a lot of sympathy (nor should it). I guess some days I get caught up in the longevity of this quest and I overlook the simple parts of it. I am really here just to enjoy life and although it was a long day, it ended up with a nice garlicky twist. I got to take a nice relaxing ride and see a fabulous fireworks display. I got to take some quality time with Lola commiserating on our long days and enjoying dinner together. And I got to eat a meal that brings forth feelings of comfort and simple joy. Plus it was delicious. That’s a pretty nice celebration for any day, so I guess my Scampi celebration brought me the one thing that I wasn’t really expecting: gratefulness. (Plus lots of garlic. Did I mention the garlic?)

Next up: National Oatmeal Cookie Day and Lola’s Birthday! 

*From the New York Times

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