Custard's Best Stand

But wait. Research is a penny-pinching food nerd's best friend, because the next thing I did was haul out my copy of James Peterson's definitive book Fish and Shellfish, whereupon everything changed, forever and ever, because I remembered one important thing: Dealing with these pinchy fellows is expensive, and a major, major headache.

To wit, all the flavor is in the heads and shells, so if you're going to eat crayfish, you're going to want live crayfish. The first thing Peterson recommends is that you barge into the fishmonger's and start hand-sorting your live crayfish, holding them "face down by the sides (near where the claws join the body) so they won't be able to pinch--dead ones will hang limp, and live ones will squirm." Then, having done that, oh, 60 times maybe (there are as many as 15 or 20 crayfish in a pound, but they're only 15 or 20 percent meat, so plan on buying a good two pounds per diner), Peterson explains that one takes them home, whereupon more will perish, and the others will remain dangerous. "When you're ready to cook your crayfish, spread them on a counter and quickly sort through them to get rid of any dead ones. (Don't put them in a sink full of water, which will give them a distinct tactical advantage.)" By the time I got to the part about "Many old French recipes call for pulling out the crayfish intestines while the crayfish are still alive," I was so overwhelmed by conflicting emotions I had to crawl under the desk and weep softly onto my knees.

I know you care deeply, so I'll try to sort through the emotions for you: Laziness, of course, and perhaps above all--but also squeamishness, and incredulity. (My fishmonger, whom I'm so close to. Of course. With the live tanks. Who likes me to swing on by and dangle a lot of crayfish around by their butts. Because apparently I live in Louisiana. In 1912. Before supermarkets. Before lawsuits. Before the 1,000-hour workweek.) And dominant above those emotions: Hunger, and the desire to take advantage of the generosity of others.

Michael Dvorak

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Adele's Frozen Custard

800 Excelsior Blvd.
Excelsior, MN 55331

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Excelsior

Why, crayfish are delicious! I near plumb forgot. The last time I had all the crayfish I wanted, it was eight years ago beside a levee in Louisiana. And when is that going to happen again? Why, if I don't get down there, I'll have to wait another eight years! And this is why we never see the grabby guys--because of the butt dangling and the tactical advantages and all. Go, Aquavit! Pay all those kitchen people to spend their days doing battle with pinchy little claw-monsters and I'll be there! Taking advantage of your largesse! Popping off their heads, sucking out the meat from their tails and juice from their bodies, and laughing merrily all the way.

Speaking of penny-pinching, did you know Aquavit has been running a three-course, early-bird dinner bargain all summer? I didn't, so lucky for me this bargain is extending into the fall. Details: three courses, prix fixe, $32 if you're seated between 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. One recent menu offered two choices per course, starting with either watercress and melon salad or chilled tomato soup, entrées of seared salmon with potato-dill risotto and mustard broth or rib eye steak with garlic-roasted turnips and taro-root purée, and a choice of desserts. Um, is it just me, or does 7:30 seem like a perfectly normal dinnertime? When did Aquavit get so friendly?

According to general manager Tim Niver, Aquavit's $10 lunches have been such a success--nearly tripling lunchtime business--that Aquavit is planning on throwing bargains at Minneapolis's feet until someone makes them stop. "It was the only way we could beat that perception that Aquavit was all New York/martini lunch/rare-seared everything," he says. "Now people are coming here and understanding. Finally. They get the food, it's quick, easy and cheap, and they still get the linens, the manners, the whole experience." Seem too good to last? Don't worry, says Niver: The multi-course $10 lunch is here to stay, for all the foreseeable future. Aquavit, S. 80 Eighth St., IDS Center, Minneapolis; (612) 343-3333.

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