Pork rolling right into the weekend

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Ah, good morning indeed. 

If you looked at this first picture here and were thoroughly unimpressed, let me explain. That’s not the badly composed food pic you think it is, taken at a not-so-great angle with maybe not enough detail of the edible subject at hand and possibly too much uninteresting negative space behind it. Nope, that’s not it.

It’s a picture of a freshly made, just unwrapped, warm and toasty pork roll, egg and cheese about to get wolfed down from the comfort of a damn near magically comfortable hotel bed where I was burrowed underneath a fluffy white down comforter that because of the delicious powerful air conditioner in the room made every inch of it feel like the cool side of the pillow. THAT’S what that is.

And maybe because I’ve extended Meatless Mondays to be Meatless Monday through Fridays for about the past six months, or possibly because I never EVER eat in my room much less in my bed, or because this room was luxuriously cool unlike my room at home which even with the AC going only ever feels a degree below comfortable room temperature… but let me tell you, that pork roll in bed? It was DELICIOUS.

So what’s a pork roll and why was I eating one in a hotel bed? Well, it’s what they call a particular “processed pork product” (that’s per the interwebs) also known as Taylor ham in the fine and often maligned state of New Jersey, where the BF and I were for his birthday last weekend. It’s served on a big round Kaiser roll, which you can usually get seeded or not, and includes eggs and cheese. It’s the kind of thing you order at a bodega or a diner, a low budget, quick and easy eat, perfect for weekends and hangovers and enjoying in bed.

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When in Asbury Park, eat as the New Jerseyans.

The one in bed was from The Counter at The Asbury Hotel where we stayed for the weekend (and you should too sometime cause it’s a great little hotel and if you’re in NY, Asbury Park is a super fun, cute and easy-to-pull-off weekend getaway) but we also had one a different morning at Frank’s Deli & Restaurant, a great, no frills, old school diner near the beach. (A little fun fact for you: if you’re like me and still mourning the death of the great and so very sorely missed Anthony Bourdain, he ate here while filming a New Jersey episode of “Parts Unknown” a few years ago. And no, I didn’t know that before going. I like to think he’s just my spirit guide when I travel and eat out of town.)

I won’t eat them very often I don’t think, and even if the corner bodega started selling them in Brooklyn I certainly wouldn’t have them in bed, but the memory of enjoying them on a weekend away with the beau will always be delicious to me.

 

Yes, more of everything!

wn-everything-but-the-bagelListen, I’ll just come straight out with it.

I’m on a full blown kick— bit of a binge really—over Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. Yes, I know. I just wrote about everything bagels and everything bagel inspired doughnuts but one post ago. TJ’s seasoning blend isn’t anything new, either. I also know that. Some of you have been worshiping at the altar of everything-but-the-bagel for a while now, but I’m new to the game and if there’s anyone out there who still hasn’t been converted, I’m here to spread the good word.

During a recent rare visit to Trader Joe’s, (because side note: I would, for the record, exclusively shop there if I could, but the closest one to me is 1. not that close to me at all, and 2. a complete and total fucking nightmare. So I love from afar.) I saw the famous seasoning blend and tossed it in my basket. Once home, I looked at it and thought, “Ok, now what? What do I put you on?”

The answer is… EVERY-SINGLE-DAMN-THING. All of ’em. You put this stuff on everything.

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Good on everything but this might be my fave.

I’ve sprinkled it on all sorts of things while I cook: quinoa, salmon, asparagus, shrimp tostadas, even chowder. The other night, I roasted a big fat sweet potato, then sprinkled it with my new favorite seasoning blend, and shazam!—delicious dinner! When a softball sized rice ball from the deli section of my local supermarket ended up being less the arancino I was hoping for and more just a fried ball of very bland rice, everything seasoning saved the day and made it actually tasty. Even my seasoning averse boyfriend admitted an avocado was actually better after I sprinkled a little bit of everything on it. (This is my favorite, by the way. Something about the mix of creamy, buttery avocado and all those savory, crunchy crispy little bits just makes all of my taste buds dance!)

After I posted something about it on Instagram, a friend messaged me to tell me she loved it on oatmeal! Repeat after me: everything is good on everything.

Remember this great song? I mean, she wasn’t wrong.

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Ready for sunshine and lobster rolls

Knowing myself, I have no doubt that I will very soon regret ever having said the following statement, much less putting it down in writing, but I’m gonna go with it, regrets be damned: I am ready for summer.

:: Sigh ::

I know, I know. It’s not the oppressive humidity I’m ready for, nor the ever present trickle of sweat running down my back on the subway on my way to work, nor the aggressive growl of my AC window unit adding to the cacophony I already deal with, and it’s definitely not the constant stench of garbage baking on the sidewalk. I’ll never be ready for any of that.

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Is it summer yet?

But after a recent sunny (yet still crisp) early spring Saturday spent walking around Red Hook, I’m ready for something other than grey skies, heavy coats, and frigid gusts of air drying out my eyes and turning my nose into a cherry.

I want long afternoons and late dinners after sundown. I want to hide behind sunglasses and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to throw on a dress, slip on some sandals and be ready. And after lunch at Red Hook Lobster Pound, I want frosty beers to wash down pink, perfect hunks of lobster meat toppling out of warm buttered buns. I want to lick seasoning spices, butter and mayo off my fingers, and think, “Mmmm, tastes like summer.”

Red Hook is one of my favorite parts of town, mostly because be it summer or winter, it always feels quiet and far away, a break from the rest of the city. When you do find a pocket of people and activity, it still feels laid back, cool without trying super hard. That my favorite lobster roll in the city is also found there just makes Red Hook that much better.

While I know I don’t have to wait for summer to go down there and have that buttery, delicious lobster roll, if there’s one thing to make that experience better, it’ll be just a smidge of summer, a warm, sunshiny day and maybe a light breeze. Yup, that’s what I’m ready for.

 

*Note: Yes, I did skip right past spring, because spring in New York is mostly just Winter Lite. It also lasts all of about five minutes, while summer stretches out and feels like an eternity by the time fall rolls around.

Eating to remember… and forget

It’s been almost nine years since I lived in Italy and almost six since I last went back to visit, and sometimes I miss the damn place so much.

Let me be clear, there’s a lot I absolutely don’t miss, but sometimes, like last night while eating a homemade dinner of gnocchi in an herbed tomato sauce with olives and capers, I just miss Italy in general. I miss the food, the pace of life, the “not this” of it all.

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Note to self: eat more gnocchi

With Plated‘s help once again (cause you know, I’d be lost otherwise), I made one of my favorite Italian meals, and an easy one to boot: gnocchi, those perfect little pillow-like potato dumplings that are even easier to cook than pasta. My favorite thing about them? You’ll know when they’re ready because they’ll float up to the top of the boiling water they cook in, only after two to three minutes. Bloop bloop bloop.

My recipe card walked me through making a rich and flavorful, deliciously comforting chunky sauce, made with oregano and rosemary, garlic and onion, fat, juicy tomatoes, crushed red pepper, plump, buttery Castelvetrano olives (my faves), and the tiny little bursts of briny goodness that make every dish with them delicious, capers.

It all came together quickly and easily, and the end result was so very good that I think my stomach couldn’t help but remind my heart of all the times I sat around similarly easy, delicious meals, and how they made all the not-great things about Italy tolerable.

Grubbing in Guatemala

I must’ve been a gypsy in a past life or rolled with some sort of nomadic tribe, because if it were up to me, I’d roam the earth and live out of a suitcase.

If I had the right kind of job, or the right kind of bank account, I would probably do just that but since I don’t, whenever I do get the chance to travel and go somewhere different, somewhere new, somewhere far, every particle of my being revels in it.

And in what will be surprising to pretty much no one, one of my favorite aspects of traveling is eating. Even in a city like New York, where the cuisines of the world are available to me, still nothing beats eating local.

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I’m always happy to go.

When a good friend decided to get married in Antigua, Guatemala, a Central American country I’d never been to, I was just as excited about being a part of his big day as I was about exploring and eating my way around town.

There was lots of good food involved over the course of the long weekend I was there, everything from junk food like Doritos with funny names and peanuty snacks called Double Nuts to elegant and delicious wedding rehearsal and reception dinners to some pretty serious drinks, like the hilarious-to-say Cuchurucho, a cocktail of tequila, rum, vodka, triple sec, gin, red wine and hibiscus liqueur. (The Guatemalan Black Out, if you will.)

But my favorite meal of the trip, due to price, ambiance, and most importantly food, was a casual lunch at Rincon Tipico.

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Chicken, potatos, and guac with a cup of horchata? Si por favor.

While most places took credit cards and dollars, this place only took local currency, the Guatemalan quetzal. A little inconvenient since no one in our group had any, but I took it as a good sign anyway.  Instead of a menu, the waiter rattled of  in Spanish the only three or four options. (Another good sign if you ask me.) The place itself just looked like the real deal. It was homey and colorful, hot under the midday sun and only slightly breezy from ceiling-rigged fans. A no-nonsense looking woman pounded away at fresh corn flour, grilling it into tortillas on a large flat top that was so hot I don’t know how she didn’t melt standing over it.

And when our food arrived, with baskets of warm, fresh tortillas and plastic cups of cool creamy, cinnamony horchata (all you can drink, by the way), I was smitten.

I went with the chicken option, partly because I could see a giant wall of splayed out  chickens roasting in the open kitchen, the fiery heat contributing to the temperature at the tables, and the smell was wafting around me and making my stomach growl. And when it came out, served in a sturdy, no frills, terracotta like plate, the giant chunk of chicken was roasted to a perfect golden crisp, the meat underneath plump and delicious. With it, a generous plop of fresh ground guacamole and juicy, roasted potatoes.

It was simple food and it was great, nothing wildly inventive or groundbreaking, but deliciously satisfying, comforting and filling. And with the bottomless horchata included, it also came in at just about $4.

Even in New York, I don’t know where I would have found that. So maybe I did have to travel 2,000 miles to properly enjoy it and I’m more than happy to keep doing it as often as I can.

When you just need/want noodles

 

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These noodles got me doodling hearts.

Ever have something so good that you’re still thinking about it days later, weeks even, and you stare longingly at the picture you took of it, wishing it was in front of you and you could just enjoy it all over again? No? Really? Just me, huh? Ok.

Well, I’ll tell you this much, a bowl of Xi’an Famous Foods‘ noodles will have you doing just that. I’ve been daydreaming about the deliciously spicy, chili oil seared noodles I had there a few weeks ago and really, I need to just go back and have them again, because at this point it’s getting distracting.

Every lunch I eat, usually boring and healthy, I think, “Why aren’t you noodles?” Every time I’m cold or stressed or bored or need a hug, I think, “Noodles. Nooooodles.”

They were just so…good. So freakin’ good. Simple, wide floppy noodles in a spicy hot oil that not only tasted great but cleared my sinuses and warmed my insides. Comforting, tasting, filling, warming.

I need more of this in my life. I need more freakin’ noodles.