Strange And Tasty

Kids can be bribed. Offer them some chocolate or candies and they become quiet or go away or stop torturing the cat/siblings/piano, depending on what you want them to do or let be. At least this works with most kids. It never worked with me. It became a family joke: “Offer her a bar of chocolate or a sandwich and bet on what she will choose.” It was never the chocolate.

Fast forward. I learned to appreciate a piece of chocolate now and then – dark, rich, bitter. Or mole negro, this Oaxacan delicacy which takes two days to prepare if done properly and where some real chocolate is involved, not this sickly sweet stuff. I also became very adventurous when it comes to food. Some of the things I ate might frighten the poor reader; not every time the experience was quite what I had had in mind, but then – life is an adventure.

And then I came across this:

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My first reaction was – eek, chocolate. My second – it does sound strange enough to give it a try. And try it I did. Résumé: In an odd way this chocolate is very lovely. Yes, there is a quite distinct bacon flavor (good). It is also salty (good). There is the barest hint of a dark chocolate taste, blending in with the bacon and the salt, but more like an afterthought. So that can be filed under good too.

It is definitely not a chocolate for the chocoholic. It is something one has one square of now and then. But that’s okay with me, because I really do not go for chocolate in a big way. To bribe me one has to give me “real” food. Then, I will stop torturing the piano.

Pastrami Sandwich

Years before I actually ever set foot on American soil I knew about pastrami sandwiches – from reading about them.

“Night had fallen over New York. Rain was pouring down, lashing at the windows. Nick Sharp, private eye, with his feet on his desk, took a bite from his pastrami sandwich and recapitulated what he knew about the case of the Blonde murdered the night before. Life is a bitch, he thought, and took another bite.”

You get the idea.

So I arrived in New York for my first visit (many, may years ago) with my little laundry list of things to do and places to see, with “have pastrami sandwich” quite high up on the list. On the second day I set off to go to the Carnegie Deli, like any good tourist. For some reason I arrived just at the time when the breakfast rush was over and the lunch crowd had not yet arrived and the place was quite empty. I placed my order for a pastrami sandwich and some pickles and mentioned en passant that this was not only my first time in New York but also the very first pastrami sandwich in my life. To this day I think that with the place being slow at the moment the waiter went the extra mile and thought: “We’ll show that tourist what we can do.” And show me they did. The sandwich was delicious, the pickles were to die for and the service was impeccable and extremely friendly.

Since then I am a fan of the pastrami sandwich. In Los Angeles that means – Canter’s. I’ve tried other places, but Canter’s always won hands down. Actually, any place does where I can stumble in at 2 o’clock in the morning, jet lagged from here to there and order a pickle and a coffee without the waitress batting an eyelid. Until now. Last weekend I found a new deli up to the standards I expect – Roll ‘n Rye in Culver City.

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One could not even say that the sandwiches are better than at Canter’s – they are different. Somewhat spicier, with more “oomph.” Plus one has the choice between five different types of mustard. Although the pickles at Canter’s win – they have the New York taste. At least, if memory serves me.

“The sun was shining in Los Angeles. I took a bite from my pastrami sandwich and recapitulated that life can be good outside of New York too.”

You get the idea.

The Good, The Bad And The Ridiculous

The Good: Nearly all of the states in the West of the US are Paradise when it comes to food. Whatever cuisine one has a yen for, whatever the time of the day one feels peckish, whatever ingredients one needs to cook up a storm to delight the palate (or shock same of some), one can find it without going on a lengthy excursion. From the 5-star-places (for eating out and shopping) to the delightful holes-in-the-wall (for eating out and shopping), eating out and shopping for food is fun.

The Bad: Even after all these years I have not grown used to the heaps and heaps of food one is served so often. Maybe it is just me, but heaps of food, no matter how tasty, do not appeal to me. I look at the plate and my stomach (S) and I (I) have a little conversation along the lines of:

S: You’re not going to make me tackle this, are you?

I: Gosh, no. Just a bit of it.

S: Why did you order this anyway? You know it’s too much for me.

I: Well, I thought it would be different this time, smaller portions, you know?

S: Geez, will you NEVER learn?

Actually, I did learn and pretty fast – the best friends of a person not used to eating until bursting are side dishes. So I learned to combine them to form a meal. Another lesson: the more upscale the restaurant, the smaller the portions. (We will leave all irony aside and accept that as a fact.) And there is always the trusty box for the leftovers – many a dinner has made a reappearance as breakfast the next day and oftentimes the leftovers of the leftovers even made for a nice nibble at lunchtime. In Entertainment Industry parlance that would be: Texan Barbecue, Texan Barbecue / The Sequel, Texan Barbecue / The Final Chapter.

The Ridiculous:

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The size of this… thing… was roughly 6″ x 6″ with a width of 3″ at the widest point (15 x 15 x 6 cm). And that was dessert. After a delicious meal in a top-notch restaurant where the rule “the higher the price the smaller the portion” just for once did not apply.

I assume it was delicious. I would not know, because my outlook has always been: “Cakes are cakes and carrots are carrots and never the twain should meet.” (But again, that is just me. And I don’t like sweet stuff anyway.) I know however that a slab of cake this size after a full meal is more than even the heartiest American can manage. I swear they can’t – I saw how defeat was declared. And I chuckled.

Yes, I know I. I shouldn’t have.

Culinary Curiosity…

…is a wonderful thing. The delights of the palate are numerous and, very often, highly rewarding.

However, I think I will pass on this questionable delight.

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