Part of the deal I worked out with the devil in exchange for my boyfriend living in New York with me is that every year, for at least a couple of months, I have to release him back into the wild, back to that intoxicatingly ass-backwards boot-shaped country he calls home. (Kidding about the devil part, by the way.) He goes back to see friends and family and usually to go on some incredible vacation with the rest of Italy when they all go on their usually-month-long holiday in August. (Bastards.) In short, it sucks and I hate it, and part of it, truth be told, is because I’m always just a little scared that he won’t come back. (Yikes, this suddenly feels so much more “Dear Diary-ish” than I meant it to. Food’s coming though, promise.)
As we wind up our last couple of days together before another obnoxiously long (two and a half months to be exact) time apart, I’m squeezing in as many reminders that America, New York, and I (duh) are all awesome and very much worth coming back to. As part of my plan, I wanted to eat something really great, something I knew he couldn’t get back in the Old World, something to remind him that home was here too: comfort food.
We’d been trying to go to Red Rooster, the buzzy new American restaurant in the heart of Harlem, since it opened a few months ago, but never got around to making the trek up there. (And by we I mean me, since I’m the worst about going anywhere that I can’t walk to or get to in 10 minutes on the subway.) Now seemed like the perfect time to suck it up and hop on an express train.
The restaurant itself was bright and cheery, with a cool vibe and friendly service— exactly how I want the beau to remember the city while he’s away (even if totally inaccurate). We got straight to business and ordered an appetizer each to split. Flaneur, always attempting to be healthy, ordered the spinach and potato salad. I, being a complete carb-whore, ordered corn bread. (C’mon, when they called it comfort food, they weren’t talking about the salad.) The salad, however, was surprisingly delicious, a perfect starter for a hot first day of summer thanks to the zesty lemon vinaigrette tossed spinach leaves, peas, and varying kinds of potatoes. My cornbread was the absolute best corn bread I’ve ever had. It came in two, fat, cake-like slices and even though it was already moist and buttery sweet, there were two ramekins of honey butter and a savory tomato jam. Comfort, comfort, comfort.
For a main, Flaneur, in a move that might have surprised his fellow countrymen (who would never do this), ordered the macaroni and cheese, which on Red Rooster’s menu was called the mac & greens because of the mixed-in collard greens and the lush, leafy salad that came with it. The mac and cheese was a gooey blend of cheddar, Comte and Gouda with ribbons of dark green collards swirled throughout to give it an earthy, homey taste. The salad, which had chunks of cauliflower and magenta colored pearl onions, was fresh and vibrant in color and taste.
I, a fan of all things sweet potato related, went with the lamb and sweet potato hash. Underneath a perfectly fried egg, was a small heap of lamb, beets, and sweet potato chunks. When I poked the orange yolk, it burst and slowly oozed over everything, pooling at the bottom of the small skillet and practically begging to have the sweet chunks of beet and sweet potato and the hearty bits of lamb dragged through it. I’m telling you, if I was leaving for the summer, I would miss this plate. I would maybe even send it post cards and tell it I couldn’t wait to have it again.
Finally, even though we were both stuffed to the gills, we had to order dessert. Everything else had been so good, I couldn’t leave without knowing what the sweet stuff was like. With sweet potatoes still on the brain, we ordered the sweet potato doughnuts, which came in a cute little frying basket and with a side of fluffy, smooth whipped cream. Each fat little doughnut was sparkly in a coat of cinnamon sugar, and from inside each of them, oozed a creamy sweet potato filling. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, I couldn’t help but think of all the great desserts of Thansgivings past. (Ahem, another thing Italy doesn’t have.)
I might not have a boyfriend around this summer, but as long as he comes back in September, I don’t entirely mind relying on Red Rooster to be my go-to for comfort. Now if only it wasn’t so far away, but I guess that’ll be this summer’s theme.