I came, I saw, I ate

For an introvert who spends almost an hour riding crowded subways every morning and then again every evening, has a job that entails answering emails, calls and in-person questions/requests/demands all day, works out at a gym where people hover around treadmills like sharks in the water, and who in the entirety of her life thus far has only ever lived by herself for six months, going on vacation alone is a deliciously selfish  indulgence.

Sure, I love traveling with my boyfriend, select friends, and for short periods of time even my sister, but let me tell you, my favorite travel companion is ME.

Traveling alone means I wake up when I want to, go only where I want to, spend as much time in museum gift shops as I want to, and best of all, eat whenever, wherever and most importantly, whatever I want to.

Last month, in a move that was part anniversary trip (ten years since I left a two year stint in Italy for NY) and part desperate need for at least a temporary change of scenery/weather/daily routine, I went to Puglia, the part of Italy known as the heel of the boot. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, in large part because of all the great things I ate… alone.

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All the company I needed. 

In Polignano a Mare, a beautiful little town perched up on the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic, I had one of the best meals of the trip, one that I’m pretty sure would have sent my boyfriend head first into the ocean had he been there with me.

The fried octopus sandwich at Pescaria had been recommended to me before I left but when I showed my boyfriend photos of it, he recoiled in disgust. He’s what I call a closeted picky eater (because he vehemently denies being one) and specifically refuses to eat octopus. (Something about the little suckers.) I, of course, couldn’t wait and went my first night in town, and then just because I could and had no one to even suggest otherwise, I went again the next day for lunch.

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It was huge, this octopus sandwich, with a thick smear of creamy ricotta, peppery turnip greens cooked in garlic and olive oil, fig compote, a drizzle of anchovy oil and several large, fat, fried octopus tentacles (suckers fully visible) bulging out from underneath a large, bumpy topped roll that resembled a turtle shell. I held it with two hands, my fingers spread wide to get a good grip, and with every bite, something delicious toppled out or smeared on my face.

With no one there to interrupt me with conversation, look at me funny because I had ricotta on my chin or a stray crumb in my hair, or judgily ask me if I was actually going to finish all that (the answer is always yes, ok?) I was able to happily wolf down my sandwich in peace.

Sure, there were times on this trip when I wished someone had been there with me to share a particular moment, but eating that fried octopus sandwich—both of them I should say— was not one of them. That meal required my undivided attention and I was all too happy to provide it.

Saltie state of mind

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The Captain’s Daughter

My mind’s been elsewhere recently, and until this afternoon, I wasn’t really sure where that was. I thought it might’ve run away in light of my recent apartment drama (yup, my roommate and I are moving. Again.) or maybe checked out after my latest pseudo romance turned out to be another dead end (cue the T-Swift playlist), or possibly just felt drained from the House of Cards binge I’ve subjected it to (woa, season 2, WOA).

Likely, it was all of those things and more that drove it away, but today at lunch, the second I bit into a beautiful, sloppy sandwich at Saltie, I figured out where it had been all along: on a seaside vacation.

The way a certain smell or song can trigger a specific memory, so can certain foods, or more specifically flavors, just as easily conjure a place in my mind. Today, as I chomped away on a lemony, garden-worth of arugula, plump, juicy sardines, briny capers, creamy slices of pickled eggs and a zesty smear of salsa verde, all between thick, golden focaccia flecked with sea salt, my mind immediately went to a sunny day on a coastal town somewhere.

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A tasty mess

The carefree ease I felt while eating (and making a mess out of) that sandwich, listed at Saltie as the Captain’s Daughter, made me think that’s where my mind’s been all along. Maybe it wasn’t a lazy beach getaway that my mind took. Maybe it’s just been hanging out at a small sandwich shop in Williamsburg this whole time. Either way it’s good to know where I can turn to get my head and my stomachand consequently my heart on the same page.

Really, I should’ve known a great sandwich would’ve made everything better all along.

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Getting figgy with it

The Figgy Elvis. Thank you Murray's. Thank you very much.

It was my day off, and with temperatures outside sizzling in the upper 90s, my only plan for the day was to hang out in my PJs in the comfort of my apartment, AC blasting, music blaring, no plans of venturing into the outside world.

It was a damn fine plan too, until I checked Twitter. That’s when I read a Tweet from Murray’s Cheese Shop advertising their special melt of the day, the Figgy Elvis. As I read the ingredients, my thinking went a little like this:

Crunchy peanut butter (yumm), bacon (double yum), mascarpone (oh heck yea, now we’re talking), and fig spread (that’s it, SOLD). Alright, where are my shoes?

I threw some clothes on and bolted out the door and down Bleecker Street to Murray’s, which thankfully is only about a 10-minute walk away. After popping in, ordering and then beelining back, I was once again home, this time in the sweet company of my new lunch, the Figgy Elvis.

It might not be pretty, but it sure made up for it in deliciousness.

Now, I’ve had sandwiches that combine peanut butter and bacon before, but this was nothing like that. Instead of being a dry, tongue-sticking-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth jumble, the Figgy Elvis was creamy and smooth thanks to the velvety softness of the fluffy mascarpone cheese. The fig jam, rich and fruity, was the perfect amount of smooth and sweet to play off the salty crunch of the perfectly cooked bacon (perfect bacon, in my book, is crispy, not chewy).

I love every ingredient in this sandwich but it’s not every day that I eat them all together. But the Figgy Elvis?  I could eat that one every single day it was so good, even on my days off when I want to just hole up in my apartment.

Sandwich love

I’m not what you’d call a hopeless romantic but if there’s one thing I believe in, it’s love at first bite.

This weekend, sitting on a bench at the pier, with the warm sun on my face and a cool breeze blowing through my hair, I absolutely fell head-over-heels in love the moment I bit into a sandwich from Il Cane Rosso, a small sandwich shop and rotisserie in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. It was one of those moments straight out of a movie. Time slowed down and I got all googley eyed as little cartoon hearts burst out of my head. Birds were chirping and there might’ve even been a full orchestra playing. But I couldn’t tell you what else was happening in the world around me because all I had eyes for was the beautiful and ridiculously delicious half of a sandwich I was holding in my hands, the other half still wrapped in brown paper next to me.

Beef brisket sandwich from Il Cane Rosso

Beef brisket sandwich, this is me professing my love to you. Where have you been all my life? Continue reading

Surprise!!

Unassuming and delicious

I generally don’t like surprises. I don’t like surprise birthday parties or when people show up unannounced or any other time that life leaves me blindsided. But every now and then, I get surprised and love it.

Last night, Flaneur and I had to be at a friend’s place in the West Village at 7:30. It was 7:10 and we were right around the corner from her apartment but since we were going to a show and hadn’t eaten dinner, we wanted to grab something quick, lest we get stuck with growling stomachs till close to midnight.

“Let’s just go here,” I said, pointing to a corner sandwich shop whose name I hadn’t even read.

Inside, a large black chalkboard listed mostly salads and sandwiches, all vegetarian and a few vegan, along with a few coffeehouse drink and pastry standards.

Brie, pear and arugula

We quickly decided and gave the bandana-clad girl behind the counter our order: Brie, pear and arugula sandwich with raspberry mustard for Flaneur and roasted vegetable Panini with arugula and goat cheese for me.

The ingredients all sounded good enough but I wasn’t really expecting anything great. I mean, no preparation had gone into this on my part. I’d never seen this place (whose name I later found out from the menu was ‘sNice), no one had recommended it, I had never read a review of it, and until five minutes earlier I had no idea it existed at all.

But then, I was oh so pleasantly surprised. Pleasant actually, is too soft of a word. I was surprised in a great big awesome “WOW! This is friggin’ great” kind of way.

Our sandwiches arrived via a scruffy, t-shirt-and-glasses wearing waiter and right from the start I thought, “Oooh! These look good!”

Roasted veggies, goat cheese and arugula

Each one came with a leafy heap of salad—nothing crazy, just some good spinach and radicchio, carrot shavings and a vinaigrette dressing. The sandwiches were beautiful, served on thick baguette-style pressed loaves. The cross section of mine boasted bright colors of roasted red peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, shredded raw cabbage, arugula and creamy white goat cheese. Flaneur’s, though slightly less colorful, showed off deep green arugula, creamy beige Brie and crisp off-white pear slices.

After swapping halves so we could try both, we got to grubbing. What these vegetarian sandwiches offered in good looks, they then tripled in taste. One bite into each of our respective choices we both stopped and looked at each other , totally surprised by just how delicious these sandwiches were.

The goat cheese in mine offered a perfect tanginess to go with the soft, roasted vegetables. Combined with the warm crunchy bread, this sandwich had me hooked. The Brie and pear combo was just as delicious, and fun to eat too. The smooth creaminess of the Brie, the slight crispness of the pear, the subtle sour zing of the raspberry mustard and the crunchiness of the bread made each bite better than the last, and made the last bite one to make you wonder why oh why do good things always have to come to an end?

We wolfed them down in part because we were in a hurry but mostly because those unexpectedly amazing sandwiches were just too good to put down. Now if only all surprises were this enjoyable.