In the spring of 2005 I went to Memphis with some friends for Memphis In May. I'd originally planned to take pictures of the barbecue, but really I started taking pictures of everything I ate. (Although, to be honest, 90% of what I ate was barbecue.) Within a year I was taking pictures of all my food everywhere I went, even though it would be years before I started a blog.
The other day I was looking through an old hard drive for some files, and I came across a bunch of pictures I took years ago. I'm borrowing the title of one of my five favorite Van Morrison songs to show you some of the things I ate on vacations back before there was a blog.
Mountain Mike's Pizza (Sacramento)
I hadn't heard of Mountain Mike's but I was in Sacramento in October of '05 and staying at a motel. I wandered across the street to Mountain Mike's simply because it was the nearest restaurant with a television and I wanted to watch the Angels vs. Yankees ALDS game in HD. I ordered a pizza to accompany my pitcher of beer and was shocked to discover the closest pizza I have ever found to King Arthur's. The sauce was tangy, the crust was cornmeal-spiked, and the pepperoni was thick and delicious.
The next night I ordered a 20" "Mountain" sized pizza. (Check out my sunglasses or the Rough Guide on the table for comparison.) The menu claims that it serves 6-8. I didn't quite eat it all myself, but I put a pretty big dent in it.
A year later my brother had to go up to Sacramento to take a swiftwater rescue class on the American River. Did I go with him for the sole reason of having more of this pizza? I sure did. The day we left we picked up another one of these massive pies to eat the whole way home, though I think we finished it by the time we got to Stockton.
Horse Brass Pub (Portland)
Cracked Crab (Pismo Beach)
Bistro Le Steak (New York City)
By the time I got into the city it was 8 in the morning and I had not slept in over 24 hours. I crashed for a few hours and woke up in the afternoon. I went for a walk. The previous evening's scenario was a conflation of several things - a terrorist alert, union laws, a sporting event, weather, and probably other things I've blocked from my memory. The storm had been massive. But it had passed through and now suddenly it was an early-August afternoon in Manhattan with perfect blue skies and zero humidity.
I was making my first pilgrimage to Yankee Stadium that night to see my beloved Angels take on the Yankees. So I had to catch the train in a couple of hours. But first I needed some lunch. I stopped in Bistro Le Steak and sat at a sidewalk table. I had mussels and a turkey burger. I wasn't a big fan of the former but the latter was delicious, one of the better turkey burgers I have ever had.
White Castle (New York City)
I didn't dislike White Castle but I think I was expecting it to be something really special and it was not. If there was a location in Pasadena I imagine I would go there once or twice a year, but it couldn't compete with In-N-Out, Del Taco, or Popeyes as my go-to fast food joints.
John's of Bleecker Street (New York City)
The Sink (Boulder, CO)
On the trip back I stopped in Denver to see one of my high school friends and his fiance (now wife). In the afternoon I headed up to Boulder to have a beer at the Dark Horse, my single favorite bar in America, and get a pizza at The Sink. I ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza: chicken, barbecue sauce, red onion and cilantro. It was really good.
When I lived in Boulder a dozen years ago, I thought the Sink served one of the best pizzas I had ever had. As years go by and I try more and more pizzas (and my tastes change), I realize it is not the amazing pizza that I thought it was. But it's certainly above-average pizza and I do miss their house barbecue sauce.
I enjoyed taking the light-rail to Midtown and walking around, seeing some of the sites, and stopping somewhere to eat. On this occasion I stopped at Paesanos and ordered a Spicy Chicken Pizza: tequila-lime chicken, pasilla chiles, roasted green chiles, jalapenos, cheese and cilantro. I loved it. I wished there had been a little more of the jalapenos, but with a few shakes of dried chili flakes it was spicy enough for me.
The Forge in the Forest (Carmel, CA)
Montecito Deli (Montecito, CA)
Which is why, in 2007, when the two of us were on our way up to Santa Barbara to meet up with some friends for a wine tasting weekend - the weekend I met Elizabeth, by the way - and he said we had to stop by Montecito Deli to get sandwiches because "they make the best sandwiches in the world," I did not get my hopes up too high. I ordered a chicken sandwich with honey mustard, provolone cheese, red onion and roasted peppers.
The sandwich was fine. The bread-to-ingredients ratio was much too high for my liking, but at least the bread was fresh. As were the ingredients. I liked it but I did not love it and I told Murph so. "Yeah," he said, "now that I think about it, I can think of several sandwiches I like more." They really did break the mold after they made him.
Gladstone Street Pub (Portland)
Those friends I mentioned earlier with whom I ate at the Horse Brass in 2005 had moved into a house in Southeast Portland by the summer of 2007 when I went up there for several days for my friend Tom's wedding. Just a couple of blocks away was the Gladstone Street Pub, where they spent a lot of time. And after my first lunch there I understood why. We sat on the sidewalk for hours while I drank pints of Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale for $2.75 each.
When it was time to eat I ordered "The Grubber," a sandwich I was assured was awesome. And it was: Black Forest ham, smoked turkey, Swiss, cheddar, roasted red peppers and lettuce on grilled sourdough bread. There are very few sandwiches I have had in America that I have enjoyed more.
Rogue Public House (Portland)
To be honest, I have no memory of how they were. Looking at them, I'm guessing they were good but there was nothing special about them.
The Coast Starlight
For a long time I'd wanted to take the Coast Starlight, so after that Portland trip I decided to do it; I got myself a sleeping car, fell asleep in the middle of Oregon, and woke up in Northern California. This is how I spent the entire afternoon: in the Pacfic Parlour lounge, nursing Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and watching the California coast go by. The sun set when we were just north of Santa Barbara.
Thanks for letting me reminisce.