Before we went to New York, JCrew asked if I wanted her to make me a list of restaurants.
"No," I said.
"You know this is kind of my area of expertise," she said.
"Uh huh," I said, relishing that incredulous look on her face. "Absolutely not."
"Just a few?" she asked.
Actually I didn't care if she made a list. But it's always funny to fuck with her about something she's super into. It would be interesting, but our tastes lean very differently. She is a sucker for Italian and an awesome appetizer. I'm more Thai and a rich dessert.
That said: She made sure our trip to Virginia in April was filled with mouth explosions -- Those Oysters, ohgod the oysters -- so finally I agreed and she made this gigantic list that included links and kept our location in mind.
Then, of course, we ended up not eating anywhere barely because our vacation was interrupted by that bitch Irene. So.
Regardless, here is what I ate on vacation. This includes New York and then Duluth -- because when we got home we still pretended to be tourists. Also: Before I started taking photos, I had Bahn Mi in Minneapolis when we met up with Fannie and her friend, which was good. I was making homemade Bahn Mi before I'd ever tasted real-live Bahn Mi. So whenever I can get Bahn Mi, I get Bahn Mi.
I've decided to not name the restaurants, but leave defining features and here is why: a) I don't want to be a "Food Writer" in a way that someone takes anything I say at all seriously, though I do want to write about food because b) I do like to be a reader of writing about food so it is natural that I would, on some level, want to do it and so c) It's totally not worth being Google-able about although d) I did name Prune because it's a celebrity.
VEGAN RESTAURANT, Brooklyn
This vegan restaurant was millimeters from our hotel. It was totally cute and had that sort of not-quite sterile vibe that seems to be the trend in vegan dining. A sort of "Oh. You want a clean fork?" eye roll. We sat in a booth covered in throw pillows.
I had a Spinach Wrap, which was a mix of sauteed garlic and spinach mixed with black beans and dairy-free sour cream and cheese, and salsa. It was gooey and delicious, such a simple entree. I'll be making this at home. We also both had Ginger Squeeze, a pint of ginger, lemon and apple juice. Super spicy. (I forgot that it is more aesthetically pleasing to take a food photo before you ram your fork into the middle of it).
For dessert we split Brownie Cheesecake, which was very rich and lacked that tell-tale tofu flavor that sometimes makes vegan desserts a little meh. It was not made in-house, but it did spark this rule of vacation: We will only eat dessert once a day if possible.
Chuck had Sesame Seitan and wasn't feeling it. It was pretty one-note and the noodles were not quite al dente.
Before dinner we got a small bowl filled with these squares of corn chip that were really thick and flakey and a couple dollops of fresh salsa. This trumped all.
STREET FOOD, Manhattan
I had an onion bagel with cream cheese from a cart. Bravo!
This one met JCrew's approval, as we both read owner Gabrielle Hamilton's food memoir at the same time in April and were curious about this tiny neighborhood restaurant she opened. (If you haven't read the book, let me assure you that there is a delicious scene involving a dead-maggot filled rat that she discovers out back one morning that makes the entire book worth reading).
I had a Caraway and Sour Cream Omelette, which was fantastic. Really creamy in the middle and served with some sort of homemade rye bread. Big love.
Chuck had Cold Salmon with Soupy Rice and Peas and found it a little bland.
For dessert we had a baked peach served in cream with candied walnuts. This was also really tasty.
Aside from that, the space is adorable. Very tight quarters with a retro chic bathroom and an open kitchen. No Gabrielle Hamilton sighting, which was for the best as I was feeling quite shy.
When we realized the fun factory was done-zo and that we were leaving town, Chuck wanted to cram some awful dripping mess of food into our faces. This place delivered the delicious.
I had a Grilled Holloumi Cheese, which included a Tapenade that was so flavorful and fantastic. He had a Grilled Hot Italian Sausage that was amazing and zippy. Plus, this place was super fun with half the restaurant opened to the sidewalk and diner style bar seating and a running soundtrack of rock 'n' roll. Perfect last meal ever fare.
SUN COUNTRY, somewhere over America
We got anemic-looking hotdogs that were microwaved in bun with packets of mustard and ketchup and plain potato chips. It was wonderful. I think my dad used to make hotdogs the same way, a little butter on the bun and into the zapper.
PIZZA PLACE WITH LIVE MUSIC, Duluth
This restaurant has existed almost as long as I have in Duluth, and I've gone through phases with it. For awhile we used to regularly order food to go from there. Fake Chicken Nuggets, Tuna Salad, or thick sandwiches on focaccia.
Back when I drank more than I do now I had trouble dining here. It's no fun to return, sober, to the scene of the crime.
But right now this is one of my favorite restaurants in Duluth. They have great brunch options with plenty of gluten free or vegan modifications. Plus the Bloody Mary Bar has a good mix of additions. I loaded mine up with peppers, tons of cubes of cheese and pepperoni.
I had the Pesto Eggs Benedict, which is always, always, always good. They use sausage rounds rather than Canadian Bacon and the Hollandaise is more of a Creamy Pesto Sauce. Zing!
SUSHI RESTAURANT, Duluth
Our local sushi restaurant never disappoints. My favorite thing on the menu is a hot appetizer, the Wasabi Shumai, these pork meatballs with a dash of hot hot wasabi that just bites you right back. (Chuck experimented with making these at home and did a damn-fine job).
I always get the White Tiger Roll, which includes tuna, yellowtail, salmon, crunchy, mayo, avocado and tobiki with tiger skin wrap. I love it. Although now that I'm missing a molar, it feels really weird when the roll falls directly onto my gums.
I also tried an Oyster Shooter, which was oysters and hot sauce in saki with small green onions. Verdict is still out on it, but I think now that I understand it I could learn to love it.
And with that, I shut the hell up about our vacation until we take a do-over.