After 28 years together I know that the Chef and I are able to find the most exceptional food in even the most discouraging or lackluster surroundings, because it matters to us. This snack journey is a testimony to that. I had accompanied the chef on a work junket to UConn in Storrs, Connecticut with a stop in Hartford on the way in and Litchfield on the way out. All three places presented dining challenges, but here are some worthy finds.
Step into Earl’s Beer and Cheeseoff of Park Avenue and you enter a restaurant kitted out like a Catskills hunting lodge. Vintage illuminated rural scenes are set into the wall, and a stuffed buck presides over you, a little unsettlingly, as you dine. Also unsettling, in a different way, is the presence of ground up potato chips in my gorgonzola and ginger fig preserve sandwich ($8.00), but Earl’s Beer and Cheese has a canny knack for making the improbable ingredient the crowning touch.
Yellow cabs…Water towers…Anthora “We Are Happy to Serve You” cups: all of these items have earned a place as icons of New York City. However, I’d like to celebrate one under-the-radar (or make it underground, literally) item that deserves its place in the pantheon of “only in New York City” things: a bag of Bazzini Nuts ($1.50/ea).
It’s as big as a child’s toy football. The outside is perfectly golden and blistered. There’s no easy way to open it that will not result in oozy messiness on your paper plate. You take your plastic fork and punch the puffy crescent of fried dough, and a big blop of ricotta and mozzarella cheese glurts out (yes, I had to make up a word to describe this). There are pink slices of ham, strewn, like rose petals, within the cheese.
The Japanese are famous for borrowing from cultures and some odd mixing and matching when it comes to food. They have a tradition of eating buckets of KFC on Christmas Eve, college students chow down on comforting rice-filled omelettes topped with ketchup at exam time, and they like their donuts filled with beef and onion curry. Should it be strange, then to see a food truck selling sushi in crepes? Of course not!
In which I talk about the glories of seaside eating with a nod to the small, eccentric meals of Charles Arrowby in Iris Murdoch's, The Sea, The Sea and a stop at Watch Hill lighthouse with the Chef in Waverly, Rhode Island. As summer ends, I'll spend a few posts looking back on dining highlights.
In which I start with a date night to hear jazz at the Roxy Hotel and end up talking about the city's bao binge. Are gua bao buns as ubiquitous as tacos now? Some suggestions for where you'll get bao with the "wow."
In which the Chef becomes an American citizen in age of Trump, we eat Cajun food and visit my enthusiastic 89-year-old mother in her nursing home. More than a "snack attack," a meditation on what it means to become a citizen for my husband, for me and for my old American mom (with some thoughts on gumbo and po' boys thrown into the stew!