Friday, April 15, 2011


Spring inflicts the nostalgia of grilling. For me, there is nothing like getting home early from work only to steal the rest of a sunny day. It's like getting tax free money from the government. You mean I can drink a few beers, grill on our porch, marvel at the yard I scaped and since it's early I can be ready to be back at work free of hangover the next day? Fuckin' A right man!

Within my internal clock, the lengthening days and plentiful sun provide the nostalgia of grilling with dad, miscounting beers, and waddling to the kitchen table, grinning because mom only thinks we drank 2 beers and is satisfied we insist on water with dinner(We are merely biding time until we can go back outside and start being boys again).

Time and time again, whenever I get that early slip out of the office, I find myself grabbing the $3.22 package of Chicken Thighs, Bar-b-que sauce, a can of baked beans, and a six pack of suds. It's a ten dollar meal with leftovers that spawn instant happiness. I slink outside, blaring music that was popular in the mid 90s thinking that was only a few years ago, and I get happy. It feels good, I feel free, the dopamine washes through my system and I think this is why we live to eat.

There are those however who find no adventure in food and often find new and unfamiliar food scary. "I don't like that, ewwww"...


The responses are predictable ranging anywhere from "It sounds gross", "I don't know, I just don't like it", "Long story, bad memories", or the tale of someone lovingly throwing together a Insert Name Here "Special" that ends up looking like dog shit twice passed and 48 hours old, generally with a pale yellowish color.

Regardless of personal reason, the intuitive central theme of disliking certain foods involve a negative memory. Instead of conjuring pleasure, food can cause pain. Fear, sadness, the deep rift in your soul you push away merely to move on to happier times.

For my father, Asparagus conjures up his wildly abusive step-dad making "Canned Tuna Fish with Canned Asparagus Omelets" and forcing them down the hatch with the gusto of a tyrant conducting mass genocide. For my wife, Bar-b-qued chicken resurrects the bad times in life...single mom, broken home, working 15 hours a day, and fixing the same meal of "Dry Chicken, Bar-B-Que Sauce, with Broccoli Cheddar Rice". My cousin once barfed all over the dinner table because her broccoli casserole touched another food on her plate. "EV-ery-THING needs to be separated on the plate" my Aunt reported, defending this heinous action (thanks for the heads up, and I still HATE Broccoli Cheddar Casserole).

Every time my mouth waters for bar-b-que'd chicken thighs, my wife denies with a child-like "Yuck". I feel like that secretive overly obese person who buys McDonald's and sits in their car crying in an empty parking lot as they eat...similarly I wait for my wife to work a night shift leaving me home alone...all the while I greedily lick my chops, happy to be alone and indulge in my own filth. I keep checking through the closed blinds, sneaking another juicy bite, making sure she isn't coming home early to catch me with bar-b-que face, dirty neck napkin, and bar-b-que hands (Remembrances of watching The Playboy Channel when I was 14).

Observantly through my posts you discern I'm an adventurous eater. But why? Was it because Mom and dad MADE me try everything at least once? I used to sob and gag at the table when dad would yell at me to finish my omelet (dry, cheese all eaten, nothing but bland grossness), often compromising at going hungry and sitting in my room as punishment. What made me change in some ways yet still abhor Broccoli and Cheddar Casserole?

Our preference for food is a microcosm of our life. Regardless of negative memory, some cope and thrive while some never recover. For me, the bad memories weren't all that bad and my palate changed. I grew to appreciate my father's berating at the non-appreciation of my mother's dry omelets and I pressed on to enjoy new ventures, appreciative that they always encouraged/forced me to try new things. Other fallen citizens never got up the gusto to conquer new territory, thusly falling into the category of eating the familiar for whatever comfortable reason it invoked.

Regardless the category of eater ("New And Exciting", vs "Just The Familiar Please"), I am convinced we all Live to Eat. And I still contend that when done the right way, in the right setting, and with the right person (just like anything in life), the fear of the dreaded ingredients can be changed. Thusly pushing away the fear, darkness, and pain, only to liberate our hearts with the pleasure of something new.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The New York Diary

Blow by blow, a tribute to the New York food scene is tedious and overdone. I don't want to be that New York hipster sneering at the latest craze. Instead, I will give you the running diary of the Jacobs's latest sojourn...

Thursday, April 7

4:45AM: Wake up, pack car, yell at wife, make coffee, need coffee, feed cat, apologize to wife.

5:55AM: Hop train, Meg goes right to bed. Me, I'm wired, delve into a book that inspires me to write in diary fashion (Thanks Bill Simmons).

10AM: Arrive at Penn Station, charge back into city life, check bags, head to David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar.

12PM: After telling the cabbie how to get there (this is a recurring theme and I don't understand why they need directions, they are fucking cab drivers in effing New York), we arrive at this little noodle bar. You can read your own reviews. But what transpired there was something new for us.

We have always wanted good Dim Sum, and in San Francisco we were sorely disappointed with greasy, salty, bloaty, and oft blandish lacking direction Dim Sum. Step in David Chang and we were welcomed with a soy soft boiled egg with onion crispies (a snack), move on with steam bun pork belly, pickled cucumber and kim chi, duck confit salad with poached egg, and blast your socks off ramen with poached egg and pork belly.

I'm an egg slut, he seems to be one too as just about every dish had poached egg on that with a great regional pilsner/lager list, and we needed a nap.

2pm: Goaddamn this hotel, nothing but slack jawed small towned Americans and deer in the headlight foreigner tourists, neither really speak English and have no sense of being self aware...they are in my way, I am very sleepy, and they wont let us check in until 3....

2:05pm: To the bar for a few more nap inducing cocktails?

2:55pm: After an act of congress, license, passport, credit cards, and promise of naming our first born Olga, the lady at the front desk is convinced I am actually who I say I am, and can stay with my wife and we get our room.

3pm: Did they really just give us a room directly outside of the elevator? Eh well, at least we're tired.

7pm: Woke up thinking it was 7am, disoriented, feeling a bit unpolished after those harmless cocktails, time to rally to the rooftop bar. We meet up with Meg's friend from Driver's Ed and proceed to imbibe a cocktail and head up to "The Plaza Hotel" for cocktail lounge/jazz action.

8pm: We just went through an airport style security check to see jazz? Guys are walking around with ear buds on and sunglasses, still remains a mystery as to who was there. Nonetheless we enjoyed some "great" 12 dollar Sam Adams (Budweiser for 10 bucks, what a deal) and a nice lounge act by a band named "Lapis Luna".

10:15pm: Again, the cabbie needs directions to "Babbo" which infuriates our friend Tina who is now a local. Take the fact that his culture's norm is to treat women as 5th class, and the fact that she was kind of raised in that setting and now she is all independent and shit...we have an old fashioned melee in the cab about why he shouldn't be driving and we should. I love how he keeps silent as we keep jabbing about how cabbies should know where they are going especially for the fact that they are CAB DRIVERS for cripes it how he suddenly became deaf or forgot how to speak English...

10:45pm: Tina heads to Brooklyn, we head into Babbo where our flamingly gay waiter "Vinnie" happily helps us and makes eyes at me. Nothing wrong with gays, it's just that my wife loves to watch the flamboyant ones make eyes at me due to the one mishap years ago when I was date rape french kissed after a night of platonic male bonding...she still giggles, I still cringe (I guess I know how a ton of girls felt in college when I pulled that same trick).

10:46pm: Meg still making Vinnie and Matty jokes...

11pm until...

Round after round of pasta, clearly indicating we were searching for that amazing comforting 11pm and a few cocktails later comfort dish. Yes, the Lambs Brain Ravioli were great, sure the Beef Cheek Ravioli were great....indeed so was the Guanciale(Pigs Cheek Braised with Ramps). And actually, at one point into the Guanciale, I reminisced about my grandmother's pot roast (When you do that to me you're doing something). Mario Batali has to be given respect, look at what he did for food over the last ten years. However, nothing blew us away. We can't wait to taste more Batali places, and we adore the book "Molto Mario" as it has opened our eyes making Italian food accessible to the home cook. He is a hero and forever will be in my mind as one, I just didn't love the food...such is life.

1am: Wobbly, I pose for a picture with my wife by the centerpiece of the restaurant. I saw the picture the other day and said, "When did we take that?" Oh Vinnie, you sly little devil you with your "half glass" pours.

1:20am: Drunkenly I take lobby furniture next to our door and place it in front of our door as if it will act as a noise buffer and double as a "Do Not Disturb Sign"'s my eff you to the hotel for their crap service and my annoyance with their tourist patrons.

Friday, April 8th

The point of the trip was to not eat at status fancy places and do New York on the one, New York 1, Jacobs 0...

9:30am: We vow to try and do it on the "CheapER"....

10:15am: My wife and I walk outside of the room and she says, "Ugh, who the hell would put this furniture in front of our door, effing hotel"...I shrug...

10:30am: (After an hour of my wife getting ready and me growing steadily hungry and staying steadily hungover) Ess-A-Bagel. You want New York in a bite of breakfast go here...surly yet helpful New Yorkers making and doing the Lord's work....Lox, Potted meat, Bagels, Pickled every kind of fish possible, Kosher, Non-Kosher. Two quick Bagel Sandwiches, couple of coffees, and we decided to kill time till our next meal.

11am-1pm: We proceed to walk about 5 miles exploring people, sights, and Central Park. I realize no one speaks English in this city, which really isn't bad since my Grandparents started that way. But I realized that it's not just American tourists who are dumb and's the whole fucking human race. Wanting to go into a crowd like Neo from "The Matrix" and start throwing elbows on "Mr. Smith"...

1pm: Salumeria Rosi...aka Meat Heaven. Lardo, Prosciutto, Pasta, Wine...Cesare Casella is a genius and god to me. We walked 2.2 miles home to make room for the next indulgence. Feeling less perturbed about tourists...

2:30pm: I just saw Kelly Kapowski from "Saved by the Bell"...she was pushing a baby carriage, looking a little plumper than I remember, hair a little longer, and wearing house slippers...but there she was. She froze and took an escape route when she saw me whip out the iPhone and probably loudly say, "It's Kelly Kapowski" (Hey, I just went to meat heaven and had a few glasses of wine, who cares).

I could give a shit about taking her picture, I was only calling Nicky Freitag, my old high school buddy and co-chair of the self appointed "Saved by the Bell Fan Club", devastated he didn't pick up I left a rambling 3 glasses of wine into the afternoon tall tale story of my run in with fate....he texts 5 minutes later his disappointment that I didn't accost her with one liners from the show like he did to "Mr. Belding" when he met him on a golf course.

Meg happily commented, "She looks a little busted, that makes me feel better as she was the standard of "Pretty" in high school"...true, but c'mon...she's Kelly Kapowski busted or not. I once dreamt she and I got married in place of Mark Paul Gosselaar on "Saved by the Bell Vegas Wedding". I think I was in my mid twenties then...

4pm: Nap

6pm: Collichio and Sons Tap Room...Ricotta Cavatelli, Brocolli, Parmesan, and Soffritto....that is what we were searching for...THAT was the comfort pasta dish. Drunken Onion Jam and Bone Marrow on Toast Points...and one of the best burgers ever with pickled ramps and bread and butter pickles (Burger = 70% Chuck, 30% short rib).

8pm: Dessert = Zepolle With Banana Malt Ice Cream & Butterscotch. Zepolle = Doughnuts of a higher calling!

10pm: Carnegie Club for jazz...imagine my delight when we find out it's a cigar lounge as well (Meg thinks I totally planned that). So we have a seat, light a stogy, and shoot the shit. All the while a semi familiar looking gent walks in with his wife and shares chat about just seeing the Charlie Sheen show/wreck/debacle, living in New York, and wanting to visit Annapolis.

We share some similar stories (food travel, etc), and I am temped to ask if he is a celebrity (cause he looks so damn familiar), especially after being on such a roll with my Kapowski sighting. Suppressing the urge, we hang out a little more and our new friend hands us his card and says, "Since you guys live in Annapolis and we've never been, shoot me an email of where to eat and go, we are looking to travel there in the near future." They exit stage left...five minutes later the bartender tells us we should make friends with this guy as he just picked up our tab.

Not a celebrity as far as we know, just a great and generous guy...less agitated about the idiots touring New York at this point.

12:30am: We decide to give it a rest, anxious to chase the night, but wise enough to let it can't chase a good night out. When someone pays your tab, you now are playing with house money. Fold the deck and move on...

1am: Back at the hotel, wreaking of poorly ventilated cigar bar, I proceed to go "Cookie Monster" all up and down my Carrot Cake Cupcake from "Crumbs".

1:30am: Still picking crumbs out of my hair.

Saturday, April 9th

10am: We too shall be tourists, after arguing and nearly having a hypoglycemic meltdown we settle into Grand Central Station and find solace in burnt coffee and Falafel from one of the many market vendors. What is it about street food that makes me really hungry even as I write?

12:30pm: We simulate the immigrants coming to America circa 1800/1900s by buying tickets to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. Here are the similarities, no English spoken, throngs of people, lines out the wazoo, people panhandling for money...just a little cleaner and less impoverished I bet. We sell our tickets to someone as we have no time for this (seriously the line was too long), snap some photos of our nation's landmarks and head up-town to "Craft Bar" by Tom Collichio with whom I'm in love with after last night's meal.

Nothing blow your mind good, but all around solid. Snacks, meatballs, drinks...

2pm: Let's walk to our hotel, grab a cab, and head home

3:45pm: We wait for a cab to take us a mile...

4:15pm: No cab...??? Oh, we are told it's change of shift, so we start walking and see a couple of the black Lincoln Town cars that love to gouge you and enjoy doing so without lube.

"How much to Penn Station?" My wife asks, "15 dollars." He replies..."Fifteen dollars, seriously? That's ridiculous"....The he starts with a condescending "Women are inferior" tone that sets my wife and me over the edge, "Fuck Off!" I say as we walk on...

Meanwhile it's now 4:30....25 minutes till train time, still not a mile within the station...enter warp speed walking, pushing foreigners out of the way, becoming ugly Americans and loving the adrenaline...

4:50pm: Hop on train

4:55pm: Train departs

5:05pm: Sam Adams, book, New York City Esq Pie as soon as we reach our doors.