Tuesday, November 2, 2010

12 Things I Learned About East Coast Dude Food

Fifty-two meals. Three states. One grandmother.

I survived.

After an adventurous trek through the likes of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, I have finally returned home to the Golden State. My stomach though... he still yearns for the East Coast. Although muddled, I'm pretty sure the growls are saying, Can't we go back??? The answer is no, stomach, we cannot go back. You know why? I read on the internet you can actually die from eating too much. And if the internet says so, we must be careful...

That aside, the food of the Tri-State area really impressed this California kid. I gained some serious food knowledge back east, dude.

I shall now list the 12 things I learned from pigging out in NJ, NY and PA:

12. Searching for brunch in rural Pennsylvania? Do not grow discouraged if you cannot locate a single Yelp review in the area. Rural PA does not do Yelp. Just hop in the car and start driving. You may end up stumbling upon a hole-in-the-wall-converted-convenience-store-now-breakfast-stop-with-a-killer-Italian Scramble-that-got-rid-of-the-aisles-but-not-the-surrounding-refrigerated-glass-cases-and-spells-the-restaurant-name-differently-on-the-menu-and-the-sign-out-front.

11. My grandmother is the best cook. Now, I know what you are thinking. Oh, God, he's one of those guys? Well, I guess I am, but I'm not going to apologize for it. My grandmother really does make gold out of crap. It makes no sense -- outside of the moat of butter (how French of her, right?) she uses on everything, how does she do it? Her chocolate chip pancakes (you're never too old for chocolate chip pancakes)... amazing. She makes them from a Super Stop 'n Shop mix. Her brownies... amazing. Straight from a store-bought Ghiradelli box. Her chicken parmesan... amazing. She makes it with fucking panko crumbs! And Ragu! How could it be good with panko and Ragu? The best part? If you ask her, she says, "I'm a horrible cook."

DeLorenzo's Tomato Pie of Robbinsville, New Jersey.

10. The so-called "tomato pies" of New Jersey are way overrated. As the picture above demonstrates, the NJ tomato pies are very thin in crust, which results in a rather burnt taste. They also place the tomatoes atop the cheese. The overall combination, although enjoyable due to its variation from the norm, doesn't really hold up taste-wise compared to the the delicably floppy slices of New York City.

9. New Jersey and Pennsylvania do their turnpike service stations right. Almost every stop sold the two keys to every great road trip: Starbucks and these. Neither of which are easily accessible on any LA-SF trek, no matter which freeway you take.

8. The famed Primanti's of Pittsburgh is more than a gimmick. One of the best sandwiches I've had all year.

Horrible picture of a Pork Meatball Sandwich at NYC's The Meatball Shop.

7. Go to The Meatball Shop in New York City (East Village). It's hip. It's cool. It serves... wait for it... wait for it... meatballs! All different types of them. Chicken, pork, beef, vegetable. You can have them in sandwiches or atop spaghetti or risotto, or lots of other things. And with each ball order you get to pick amongst at least four sauces. I truly think the crappiness of my picture above exemplifies how much I enjoyed this meal -- I wanted to eat my chicken and pesto meatball sandwich and try my friend's pork meatball with spicy meat sauce sandwich so badly, I wouldn't take the proper time to snap a good picture. I said, fuck it, this looks awesome. And it was.

6. Also go to the Oakmont Bakery in Oakmont, PA (right outside of Pittsburgh). Have the pumpkin cake. Thank me now, thank me then, thank me never, but you're welcome.

A pastrami sandwich/tower at Harold's Deli in Edison, New Jersey.

The humbling Harold's chocolate cake and cheesecake.

5. The serving sizes at Harold's New York Deli in Edison, NJ are the largest I've ever seen. If nutritionists blame Cheesecake Factory for fatness in America, they most certainly should accuse Harold's for obesity. Gluttony 101, served between two fresh slices of rye, seven days a week from the former General Manager of Carnegie Deli. I ordered a "large" turkey sandwich (they're only available in large or extra large on the menu). At the restaurant -- even though I had skipped breakfast in anticipation -- I only mustered to eat half the sandwich. I took the remaining turkey home. I ended up using the leftover turkey in two sandwiches and one omelette. And even then, I ended up throwing a solid fifth of a pound away. Likewise, my grandmother ended up pleading relentlessly with friends to take her extra pastrami off her hands.

4. Attend a wedding in Pittsburgh, stop by the "Cookie Table." It is a Pittsburgh tradition and it is awesome. Dozens of families associated with the wedding party bake hundreds of their favorite/speciality cookie the night before, and then the day of the wedding all the cookies are proudly presented for your consuming pleasure on the "Cookie Table." Oddly enough -- outside of some solid chocolate chip cookies -- the most popular cookie was an Ohio favorite, the Buckeye, a delightful peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. Oh, and they still do wedding cake as well!

3. Los Angeles has Bay Cities. New Jersey has Dolce and Clemente's. Like most fine Italian delicatessens, the D&C glass deli case serves as a frame to beautiful pieces of art.

Real men eat Black and Whites. Not "Half Moons."

2. I had 45 minutes to make my bus at Port Authority. I was at 3rd and B. What did I do? I first took a cab 110 blocks for a fucking Black and White cookie, then rushed 70 blocks back to barely make the bus. But you would too, if you could have a Nussbaum & Wu Black and White. Or Brown (mocha flavored) and White. They simply are the best Black and Whites in the country. And I've eaten a lot of Black and Whites. So has my Dad. And this is a man who almost never completely agrees on anything with me. Nussbam & Wu? We agree upon. They are so good they make you so jealous of the Columbia students filling the place you want to punch them in the face. And then steal their Black and White.

1. This is going to come as no surprise to anyone, but the pizza in New York City is better than the pizza in Los Angeles... by a shit ton. Obviously LA has some amazing pizza (hello, Mozza, how are you?) and Los Angelenos loathe to hear New York is better at anything. I understand. However, it is hard to ignore how good the pizza is in Manhattan (and Brooklyn and Queens...). To really prove my point: on my walk to Motorino the other day a saleswoman from a decrepit pizza joint stopped me and offered a free sample. That free sample, from that decrepit pizza joint on a worn-down block of Manhattan... better than any pizza I've had in LA all year. Not sure if it's the water or not, but we need to start drinking it.

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    "Plain meat... Plain bread... how are we gonna sell this? Let's just make it ridiculously huge and hope nobody notices Quiznos next door."

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