Comfort on the bucket list

In the almost four years since I first moved to New York I’ve made good progress on my New York bucket list.

          – Go to a Knicks game. Check.

          – Visit the Statue of Liberty. Check.

          – See a TV show taping. Check. (Letterman and The View!)

          – Visit all five boroughs. Check.

       – Meet Jay- Z. CHECK. (Ok, so this wasn’t on the list but it happened, so ha! Take that, bucket list!)

And now I can finally cross off one more thing, something that had long been sitting toward the top of the list: eat chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem. CHECK CHECK CHECK!

chicken and waffles

Amy Ruth’s chicken and waffles aka The Rev. Al Sharpton

But unlike visiting the Statue of Liberty or going to Staten Island, eating at Amy Ruth’s is something I won’t be content to do just once and be done with. No no nooooo. I want to eat at Amy Ruth’s again and again, until I can’t stand the sight of another fried chicken topped waffle, until all of that delicious southern style comfort food offers me comfort no more. And that day, for the record, I’m sure will never actually come.

Officially on the menu as The Rev. Al Sharpton, Amy Ruth’s chicken and waffles are a serious affair. The waffle itself is massive, probably about eight inches in diameter and maybe an inch and a half thick. Doughhy and pillowy soft while still maintaining a slight toasted edge on top (perfect for little pools of butter and maple syrup!), the giant waffle was topped with two large pieces of golden, crunchy-skinned fried chicken. Some people perfer to keep the syrup strictly on their waffles, but not me. I like to slow-pour it all over the chicken and the waffles, so everything gets a sticky sweet coating, and each perfect forkful is a combination of sweet and savory, juicy and crunchy, sticky and amazing.

My NYC bucket list still includes seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and going to a baseball game (Yankees or Mets, I don’t really care), but one thing I’m not crossing out is going back to Amy Ruth’s for more chicken and waffles.. I’m keeping it on the list as a fixture so I have an excuse to go back a million more times.

Amy Ruth's on Urbanspoon

Southern comforts

Going “home” to Miami isn’t exactly comforting for me. It can be fun, yes, catching up with old friends, seeing family (in small, controlled doses), hanging out in my old stomping grounds. If I squeeze in some beach time, Miami can even be relaxing, but rarely, if ever, is it comforting.

Comfort in a cocktail: Yardbird's tasty Watermelon Sling

But during the last visit to my ol’ hometown, between long stretches spent trapped in the car thanks to Miami’s ever-present traffic (reason number a billion to live in a city with actual, functioning public transportation), I was able to find some comfort. As it often does, comfort came in the form of food. (Sorry, family.)

Eating at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was one of only a small number of things on my “must-absolutely-get-done-while-I’m-in-town” list. I read about it a few months ago when it first opened and immediately wanted to go. when I read about southern comfort food staples like fried chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread. Miami may be south, but southern it definitely is not.

I loved Yardbird right away, with its country-cool, rustic vibe and a distinctly not Miami Beach feel. But when my Watermelon Sling came out, all sweet and refreshing with its crisp, clean mix of fresh watermelon juice, smokey borboun, lemon, orange bitters and a light, frothy cucumber foam, I was head over heels.

Then came the perfect follow up to my drink, melons and cheese, chosen from the small plates portion of the menu. Two fat wedges of bright, juicy watermelon were topped with a grilled cheese that the menu called farm cheese, but I thought was a lot like queso fresco, the white, salty cheese used in Mexican and other hispanic cuisines. Either way, it was delicious and further proof that mixing sweet (in this case, fruity) with savory, is always a recipe for tastiness.

Melons and cheese: win, WIN.

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Comfort me with corn bread

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.

Who needs Tuscany when you have this delicious corn bread? Not this girl (or at least that's what I'm telling myself.)

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