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.

Born again sticky bun lover

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Sticky buns, where have you been all my life?

My first real job as a teen—first to pay me an actual check and not  involve tutoring church kids or reading mail to the legally blind old woman who lived next door—was as a cashier at a Panera rip-off in Miami.

As would become the pattern of my work life, I hated it. The ugly khakis I had to wear, upselling bread bowls, even the fact that my sister worked there, too. I hated all of it.

All of it except one thing. Even more so than my meager paychecks, the one redeeming perk of the gig was the pastries I rescued at the end of each shift. Muffins, cookies, croissants, cinnamon rolls, danishes—they were all up for grabs at the end of the night and I rarely left without a bag. (Shout out to the thousands of calories consumed without so much as thinking of working out. Ah, youth!)

There was one thing, however, that never appealed to me: sticky buns. All that shiny, sticky gunk reminded me of the rubber cement I’d used as a kid, each bun a tacky tar trap of molasses. And those nuts, stuck in the gluey goo? A warning to my teeth.

Maybe it was all those neglected sticky buns I left to be tossed, all those passed over pastries, that subconsciously drew me to the sticky bun at Little King’s coffee window a few weeks ago. Maybe it was divine intervention.

Normally a cocktail bar with a small menu, Little King recently opened a walk-up window, selling Intelligentsia coffee and Roberta’s pastries to L train-bound locals weekday mornings. Glad to have an option that wasn’t Dunkin or bodega brew, I stopped for a coffee one day, and on a complete whim, a sticky bun to go with it.

Palm sized and more popover shaped than the swirled rolls I was used to, these sticky buns from the hipster mecca Roberta’s, were airy and fluffy, all buttery brioche under their salt-flecked, caramel glaze.

I am addicted. I’ll drive myself into financial ruin buying these every morning. Sometimes, I wake up and count back to when I last had one, trying to justify if it’s been enough days to treat myself to another one. If I have a run planned later, I’ll grab one and chalk it up to carbo loading. I daydream of that soft dough and buttery, salted caramel.

I would say I’m sorry to all those sticky buns of my youth, the ones that got away and got chucked, but I’m pretty sure they were nothing like these doughy, sweet buns I now constantly crave. I can’t imagine there are any left over each day, but if by chance there are, I hope whoever’s in charge of clearing them away knows how very lucky they are.

 

Pura Vida

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Typical Costa Rican breakfast for a typical great day.

A month ago, sitting alone in front of a breakfast plate of rice and beans and a couple of fried eggs, staring out on to a mostly deserted Costa Rican beach, I thought of Kanye.

“Yea, sometimes I romance the thought of leaving it all behind…” he says on the song Gone from the genius Late Registration. (I don’t care what you say, that album is everything.)

:: Sigh :: Me too, ‘Ye. Me freakin’ too.

I have so little to complain about: a healthy body that puts up with the masochism of marathon training, a cute apartment in a neighborhood I love, the best roommate I could ever ask for, a handsome beau who — gasp! Wait for it — actually seems to like me, a job that affords me trips to sit on deserted beaches and contemplate Kanye lyrics. I have it pretty good, I know.

But yet sometimes, maybe because the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket these days, I really do romance the thought of leaving it all behind.

You know? Forget the midtown office job, the astronomical rent, the moronic subway riders, the bitching, worrying, complaining, hustling, stressing. To hell with all of it.

Just give me a quiet beach tucked away from the world and a desayuno typico, cause at the end of the day your girl’s still Costa Rican and can always go for a plate of gallo pinto (rice and beans mixed together). Well and maybe some company, too, so  people stop asking me why I’m alone and wondering what’s wrong with me.

Maybe chalk it up to me being a Libra — if you believe in that sort of thing — but I always crave balance. I want the madness of New York city but then also the peace and stillness of a place like Costa Rica. I want the whole entire world’s cuisines available for my breakfast options but sometimes I also just want gallo pinto, a fried egg and some tangy Salsa Lizano.

In Costa Rica, there’s a Hakuna Matata-like catch-all phrase people use for greetings, toasts, and thanks among other things: Pura vida. Translated literally it means pure life, but more than that it means enjoying the simple things, being stress free and happy, and appreciating what you have.

I gotta tell you, pura vida sounds as delicious as that beach side breakfast.

A great, gooey gimmick

No one does over the top, gimmicky food quite like New York. There’s the giant soup dumpling you slurp with a straw, the technicolor rainbow bagel, the cookie dough scooped into cones and eaten like ice cream. The more outlandish and calorie laden the better.

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Grilled cheese fantasies come to life

And while I occasionally roll my eyes at the line of people snaking down the block at any of the places turning out these food fetish creations, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had my share, and I too, have waited in some pretty stupid lines to get a taste of the moment’s food craze. (Cronut, I’m looking at you.)

When I heard about this next thing I immediately thought, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s absurd” followed immediately by “I must have it.” And so my roommate and I compared schedules, nailed a date, and off we went in search of Clinton Hall‘s Flamin’ Hot Doughnut Grilled Cheese.

Made of gooey, melted mozzarella pressed between two Doughnut Project habanero bacon glazed doughnuts in place of bread, the glorious and oh-so-gluttonous flamin’ hot grilled cheese sandwich is served looped through a hook and dangled over a bowl of thick, hot tomato soup for dipping.

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Worth every last calorie.

Even though doughnuts are involved, the sweet element is minimal here, with just the tiniest, subtle sweetness coming through the layers of cheese and butter and doughy, bacony goodness. The tomato soup, which I  often find to be too runny or acidic, was neither. It was thick and creamy, just the right amount of tomatoey sweet with a peppery kick, perfect to complement the grilled cheese.

Even though Clinton Hall only offers 20 of these per day Friday through Sunday, we showed up  just after noon on a Sunday and didn’t have to fight any crowds or freeze our grilled cheese loving asses off standing outside in any lines. A couple of tables had them and obviously there was lots of gawking and picture snapping, but that’s how it goes with these food fads. But if they’re as good as this sandwich was, I don’t really care who’s watching or taking pictures or rolling their eyes. I’ll be the one licking my fingers and doing the little happy dance.

Bone marrow freaking bread pudding!

Listen, before you recoil in disgust, ask me how I do it, or give me so much as a hint of shade over my eating habits (which I’ll remind you are only partially documented on this blog), let me say this: I began my Saturday in Charleston with an 8-mile run all up, down and around the peninsula.

Eight miles is not nothing. It’s a pretty exhausting bit of exercise actually. Let me tell you, you work up a good amount of sweat. So much so, that when other runners were wearing fleece headbands, windbreakers and gloves, I had peeled off my long sleeve shirt (mid-run, like the graceful swan that I am) and was running in a tank top, so sweat-drenched I looked like I’d crawled out of the river.

Why did I do it? Well, part of it’s that I’m training for a half marathon next month, but the real answer, the more pressing answer is bone marrow bread pudding.

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You just can’t capture this level of deliciousness in a photo

The MacIntosh had been recommended by a good friend and when I looked up the menu and saw those four magic words— words I’d never seen all together—I knew there was no getting out of that long run.

Now, I ate a lot of great food in Charleston, pretty much only great food, but hands down, the best thing I ate was the Mac Attack, a  hunk of bone marrow bread pudding topped with pork belly, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. Basically their version of eggs benedict, the Mac Attack was unbelievably good, all gooey and rich and packed with flavor. The bread pudding was almost custard-like, just fatty enough to remind you where you were but not so fatty that it felt gross.

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When bone marrow pudding is an option, you should always go with it.

I thought it was so exceptionally delicious that after, when the waitress came around to ask about dessert, I easily let her sell me on the Mac Attack’s sweet cousin, a take of sorts on french toast, this time featuring the same custardy bone barrow bread pudding smeared thick with apple butter now and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m a fan of mixing sweet and savory so this spoke right to the fat kid heart of me.

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You know what goes well with bone marrow bread pudding? Bacon.

My sister’s entree, a fancy variation of biscuits and gravy, was also delicious, the giant biscuit with butter and jam we split as an appetizer was scrumptious, and my bacon bloody Mary with its candied bacon salt rim was one of the best bloodies I’ve ever enjoyed, but that bone marrow bread pudding… ooooh, I’d run a full ass marathon just for a piece of that at the end.

Binging in the Lowcountry

Hot damn you guys, I just went on a serious biscuit bender. Almost three days spent in the lovely and oh-so-charming city of Charleston, South Carolina, and let me tell you: biscuits biscuits BIIIISCUITS.

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A biscuit fiend

There is many a mile to be spent on the treadmill in atonement in the weeks to come . Yes, weeks. That’s how much biscuit binging went down this weekend. I let southern comfort food snuggle me in its warm, loving bosom and it was nice. Real nice.

My sister and I hadn’t walked more than a few blocks down King Street, one of downtown Charleston’s main thoroughfares, when I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t even read the whole sign on the door but I saw “biscuits” and that’s all I needed to know before I looked at my sister and said, “Let’s go in.”

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits was just a small counter to order from and a narrow bar up against the biscuit themed mural painted wall, with people pressed in tight to get their hands on some homemade biscuits. There were small, slider-sized biscuits,  larger fist-sized biscuits, sweet ones and savory ones, filled and sandwiched. Biscuit heaven in all its southern glory, if you ask me.

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Southern Lovin’ at its finest

We got the gloriously messy Southern Lovin’ sandwich, made with a big ol’ buttery biscuit, a juicy, hunk of fried chicken, a perfectly runny fried egg, and a small sea of warm made-fresh-right-there, sausage gravy. With sticky fingers, crumbs everywhere and a losing fight with a plastic fork, we agreed this was not date food. But dates be damned, this was a sisters trip and that biscuit was phenomenal.

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Biscuits for breakfast, biscuits for dessert

As a slightly sweeter finish to the first of our biscuit feasts, we went with an order of two small buttermilk biscuits, stuffed full and oozing with dark, delicious blackberry jam. Obviously neater and less challenging to eat, these might’ve fooled someone into thinking we were just two nice girls taking a morning biscuit break.

Bless their hearts, they had no idea we were just getting started on a carb-fueled bender.