A Waffle Does Not Make Good Sandwich Bread (and Other Thoughts)

I received a Groupon in my in-box this morning (why I still receive Groupons in my in-box is another conversation) for a place called “Red Maple Café”. A rather generic attempt at an Americana tavern/eatery type name (the trend these days). Obviously not drawing the people they expected, if they are putting out a Groupon.

The photo included with the Groupon was of an ill-conceived sandwich, a meat of some kind — probably smoked heritage pork belly — suspended between two waffles. Making matters worse was a sprig of cilantro sitting ominously close to the meat.

A waffle does not make good sandwich bread.

I was in Hollywood a few nights ago and passed the famous eatery, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. Fried chicken and waffles are a surprisingly good combination, although I do wonder if they weren’t somehow culpable for spawning sandwiches with waffles for bread.

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I actually purchased a Groupon awhile back for a poke bowl joint. I took my 8-year-old daughter, Imogen, for lunch there one day. The bowls were quite good, but there was nobody in the place. That’s because there are too many poke bowl restaurants. You can have a lot of pizza joints, but how many poke bowl joints can any one community sustain?

I was at the elementary school, walking Imogen to her class, and was chatting with her friend Myla, who was upset she didn’t get a pineapple backpack. “Pineapples are kinda the thing this year, aren’t they,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied. “They’re everywhere. And flamingos. Last year it was narwhals and rainbow unicorns.”

The food world has trends, too. The aforementioned American tavern/eatery, for example, serving pork belly bahn mi sandwiches and house-cured charcuterie with house-fermented pickles. I wonder what it will be next year in the food universe?

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I was busting up a cauliflower the other day to make some Indian pakora, when it occurred to me what a weird thing a cauliflower is.

“What the hell is this thing?” I said to myself, suddenly perplexed after a half century of eating them without even thinking about it. Is it a flower? It’s more like a mushroom than a plant. Cauliflowers have become quite a thing lately too. People are frying them every which way, much like I was for my pakoras. I’m not totally immune to trends.

I wonder if anyone is frying cauliflower and putting it on waffles for a sandwich?


Lamb Shanks Two Ways, and the World’s Rarest Pasta

Awhile back, I was reading Saveur magazine, and stumbled on an article entitled “On the Hunt for the World’s Rarest Pasta.”

Su filindeu — or “threads of God” — are a hand-pulled pasta the width approximately of human hair, served at the end of a 20-mile overnight pilgrimage through sheep country on the isle of Sardinia, a tradition that has dwindled down to two or three woman still able to make it. Here’s the article, a great read, if you want to learn more of the back story.

Sardinian sheep

The fine filamented noodle supposedly takes decades to master. Repeatedly stretched by hand, it grows thinner and thinner with each successive round. It is only eaten one morning a year, following a foot bath, in the Sardinian village of Lulu at the Sanctuary of San Francesco, boiled in a sheep stock and showered with grated sheep’s cheese. More

In the Spiritual Birthplace of Buca di Beppo

Boston is the birthplace of a lot of things. Benjamin Franklin, for example. Cream pie and the American revolution.

As I discovered recently staying at a sweet Airbnb next door to the 17th-century Copp’s Burying Ground in the city’s historic North End, it is also birthplace — or at least the contemporary ground zero — to a certain style of Italian/American dining best exemplified by the chain restaurant, Buca di Beppo.

Waiting for our table in the North End

Buca di Beppo, it turns out from 45 seconds of web research, was actually born in the basement of a Minneapolis building. But it is less the actual brand I refer to than a uniquely American approach to Italian dining. Witness La Famiglia Giorgio’s, a three decade-old institution noted by Boston magazine for its “giant portion sizes” and specialties such as “eggplant parmigiana and steak pizzaoila.” Or the similar Giacomo’s, located nearby, and known for “piles of butter-saturated garlic bread and heaping portions of chicken Parm and marsala”.

In other words, not exactly authentic, regional Italian cuisine. More

Eating New York

“Wait,” said my friend Scott a couple years back when I mentioned I’d never been to New York, “YOU have never been to New York??”

It was as if I had told him that I’d never seen a sunset or walked on a beach.

He was astonished that I — being the avid traveler and food and art lover that I am — had never been to the food and art capital of America.

“I’ve never had much interest in New York,” I said, which elicited a further jaw-dropped gape of astonishment. More

The Immortal Cheesesteak

Ah, Philadelphia. City of Brotherly Love, home of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, where Rocky ran up some steps waving his arms in the air. John Coltrane came from Philly. So do Tastykakes.

I’d never had a burning desire to go to Philadelphia. But I was deep in the midst of a David McCullough reading bender — having recently finished “1776” and being more than halfway through “John Adams” — and was going to be driving right past the city en route from Washington D.C. to our pal Jon’s family lake house in the Adirondacks.

Already on our East Coast vacation, we had seen important sights in D.C., would be staying in Brooklyn close to where Washington’s troops got whooped by the British, and lodging within view of Bunker Hill and the Old North Church in Boston. More

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