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.

Mojo between sisters

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You really do.

No one eats with more reckless abandon while on vacation than I do. Add my constant treat-yourself mentality and you’re looking at a lot of calories consumed on any given out of town trip. Case in point: my recent jaunt to South Florida.

When my sister announced we were having donuts for breakfast Sunday morning, I was fully on board and off we went to Mojo Donuts in Pembroke Pines, the otherwise barren desert of strip malls and gated communities.

While I’m a lover of just a plain ol’ French cruller or a classic Boston cream, my sister loves really over-the-top  donuts, filled with jams and custards, crusted with all manner of confections and drizzled with syrups and sticky, sugary things.

Mojo was one hundred percent my sister’s kind of donut shop, but you know what? I thought it was pretty great, too.

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You really do.

For a light breakfast to start off a day that would end up with me in a bikini by the pool, we went with a red velvet, banana cream pie, pistachio mousse chocolate, cannoli, guava and cheese, and Nutella and bacon assortment of donuts.

Completely over the top? Uhm, yea. Gluttonous as all hell? Duh. Finger lickin’ good and a perflectly acceptable way to bond with your sibling over your shared love of carbs and sugar when you have little else in common? Absolutely.

Rainy day beach feast

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You know, just a colorful day at the beach.

If I’m at the beach and the sun is out in all its glory and so am I, letting it all (or most of it) hang out in a bikini and sunglasses,  I try to watch what I eat. (Puppy belly’s not a sexy look for me.)

But if I’m at the beach and the sky fills with dark clouds and then bursts open with buckets of rain, the way it did last time I was at the beach with friends, the only thing to do is head for cover… and food.  Since we were near the cluster of food stalls on Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk at 97th St., that’s where we ran, huddled under umbrellas while the rain blew in sideways.

There were lobster rolls, arepas, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos, each stall sounding more appealing than the last, but it was the farthest one, the one tucked away at the very end, that we beelined to: the Bolivian Llama Party. (I told you I love llamas, no?)

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Nachos, Bolivian style.

First out were our Bolivian nachos, a gorgeous, colorful mountain of quinoa tortilla chips and plantain chips under and over pools of black beans, creme fraiche, cheese sauce, scallions, Llajua (a fiery Bolivian hot sauce) and magenta hued pickled onions. And to make a good thing great my friend added pulled pork. While I’m a fan of good ol’ fashioned lowbrow nachos, these were a fun twist, full of zest, flavor and spice.

To take our rain induced gorging up a notch (or three), we ordered the enormous triple pork sandwich, a delicious behemoth of tender roasted pig, thick-cut home cured bacon, and my favorite indulgence, pork belly, this one with just the perfect crackling edges to complement the fatty meat. Topping it all was a spicy mayo like sauce, shredded pickled carrots and cilantro, making this one of the messiest yet most-worth-the-juices-running-down-your-arm sandwiches I’ve encountered.

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A hot mess… in the sloppiest, best ways

For good measure, we also had a few orders of BLP’s papitas, or fries, some of the cilantro kind, crunchy and piping hot, tossed in garlic, white wine and pecorino and drizzled with a bright green sauce made from quiquina, a Bolivian cilantro, and then the queso papitas, also crispy and crusty, coated in a thyme, salt and aji mix.

We needed something to wash down all those delicious carbs and calories, so we also tried both of BLP’s homemade sodas, the golden maracuya, a bright, bubbly passion fruit lemonade and the I-want-a-lip-color-like-this mora-hibiscus soda made from blackberries and hibiscus flowers.

Sure, no one’s tan was any better than at the start of the day, and our hair was more rained-on frizzy than wind-swept beach wavy, but our bellies were happy and full, and mercifully hidden under our rain-spattered shirts.

Fat me and The Fat Elvis

Sometimes, when I’m bad, I’m really bad. And when a trusted source recommended I try The Fat Elvis burger at Atlanta’s Vortex Bar and Grill a towering behemoth of a burger topped with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas I knew it was time to throw caution to the wind and be very freakin’ bad.

The Fat Elvis

The Fat Elvis

The Fat Elvis, ever so appropriately named after the King in his later years when he was known to wolf down peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches, is as serious as the heart attack it’ll cause you if you eat too many in one lifetime. It’s a massive beast, definitely not for the faint of heart and certainly not for anyone with a delicate stomach. My sister seemed mildly disgusted by the idea and and when it showed up at our table, on a plate filled with tater tots (Cause what, was I supposed to get a salad to go with it?) she just looked appalled.

You have to bring your A game when ordering this bad boy.

You have to bring your A game when ordering this bad boy.

Sandwiched between two doughy, soft buns was a big ol’ hunk, a hunk of juicy beef (See what I did there?) cooked to just the most perfect tender pinkness, smeared thick with a melty, creamy peanut butter, deliciously soft, sweet fried bananas, and everyone’s favorite: thick, wavy, glistening strips of bacon. Clearly, there was no neat, civilized way to eat this thing. It oozed peanut butter out one end and all sorts of juices out the other. It was messy and obscene, a crazy mix of flavors and textures, and absolutely delicious in all the worst ways.

Will the Fat Elvis be filed under sensible meals or healthy living options? Nope, not ever. But like so many things that are bad for you, it was damn good.

Side note: in case you were wondering, my sister ordered a burger topped with a heap of blue cheese spread, which isn’t something I’m totally crazy about so no, there are no pictures. My attention was completely devoted to The Fat Elvis. Nothing else.

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Breakfast of (gluttonous) champions

Behold: the French toast bagel. Cue the choir of angels.

Behold: the French toast bagel. Cue the choir of angels.

Some people incorrectly believe that I live off a diet of pizza and Cadbury eggs. And hey, listen, I get it. I see how my endless blabbering would make anyone think I eat only the most unhealthy of foods, but those are really just a small (ok fine, medium) part of my diet. The other parts just aren’t as exciting, so I don’t talk about them much. Who really wants to hear about my spinach smoothies and undying love for steamed Brussels sprouts? No one.

But who wants to hear about the insanity of deliciousness, the monstrosity of gluttony, and the several thousand calories of over-the-top breakfast ridiculousness I ate this weekend in the form of a french toast bagel with maple bacon cream cheese from The Bagel Store around the corner from my place? Well, way more of you than want to read about green smoothies, I’m sure.

Let me repeat that so you can take it in again: a french toast bagel, stuffed no, oooooozing with thick globs of maple bacon cream cheese. A true beast of a breakfast. But so, so delicious.

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What you might call the antithesis of a healthy breakfast

The bagel itself was a big, round, doughy affair, slightly more yellow than the average bagel, and with a sweeter flavor, like the love child between a plain bagel and challah bread. Dusted on the golden-brown top crust was a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, and inside was an admittedly obscene amount of cream cheese, probably enough for at least one whole other bagel to be properly smeared with.

Just when you thought cream cheese couldn't get better. Bam! BACON.

Just when you thought cream cheese couldn’t get better. Bam! BACON.

So, let’s talk about this maple bacon cream cheese. It wasn’t bacon flavored, or speckled with crummy bacon bits. Oh no, this cream cheese had generous strips, huge chunks of actual bacon, what someone clearly cut very generously and threw into the mix. Was it a bit excessive? Yes. Did I care? Nope, ate every last bit of it, in fact.

But I followed it up with a green juice later in the day. I swear.

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The best, but really

Whenever something claims to be “the best” of its kind, I take it with a grain of salt. The pizza place in my neighborhood, for example, which claims to have the “best margarita?” Well, they’re just silly because a margarita, first of all, is a drink not a pizza, and second, if they were referring to the margherita, which is a pizza, then they’d be wrong again cause theirs is mediocre at best.

But I’m getting horribly off topic here (and unnecessarily hating on a local pizza joint, so sorry). The reason I’m bringing up any of this “best” claim business is because I think I may have had the absolute best grilled cheese sandwich ever this weekend and I need to relive it by writing about it.

The Bacon Cheddar Blue from Milk Truck Grilled Cheese

The Bacon Cheddar Blue from Milk Truck Grilled Cheese

The Bacon Cheddar Blue from the Milk Truck Grilled Cheese stand at Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg was intense and in my opinion, the best of its kind to ever meet my grilled cheese loving mouth. Perfection if you will: toasted rosemary pullman bread sandwiching New York state cheddar Wisconsin blue, sweet caramelized onions, thin spicy pickles and the power ingredient, thick sliced double smoked bacon.

The bread had just the right amount of crunch to complement the gooey, melted cheese oozing out, and the onions added just a hint of sweet jamminess, while the pickles, though not really spicy, lent a bright tangy flavor that I really enjoyed. The bacon? Well, c’mon, when is bacon ever anything but delicious? This bacon, all thick, smokey and juicy, was everything I could ever ask for.

I scarfed it down like it was my job and licked my fingers afterward, and now I’m here to pronounce it the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  And you shouldn’t take that lightly.