Monday, August 30, 2010

The Last of the New York Eats

The month of August has been a rundown of the things I ate on my trip to New York. It ends with this post, a photo collection of all the leftover pictures that I do not feel warrant a separate post. Thank you for for indulging me with the vacation posts this month; it's been a lot of fun.

I had been asked if I would cook for the bridal shower for Elizabeth's sister. I said I would be glad to. I wasn't nervous about it (especially since the bride requested tacos, something I have been making for a long time) but I was a little apprehensive, just because I had to provide a list for someone else to do the shopping and I wasn't going to see the ingredients until arriving at the party.

If this were taking place in Pasadena, I would have gone to King Ranch Market and bought carne and pollo with marinade, mini tortillas, chipotle sauces, all kinds of things. But I knew a small town in the Hudson Valley wasn't going to have an ethnic market like King Ranch. Still, I was able to give instructions on marinating the flank steak the day before the party, and it turned out okay.

I grilled the stuff outside. Of course that had to be the one day of the trip that it rained. Whatever. It was a warm rain and I had a mission to complete. I laid everything out on a table for the ladies to eat. I didn't think the tacos were spectacular, but they were certainly good and I received many compliments. And the bride seemed happy, which is all I really cared about.

Someone at the party (I do not remember who; I met about twenty women, including Elizabeth's mom and older sister, for the first time in the space of half an hour) made cupcakes. They were possibly the best cupcakes I have ever had. We took several leftovers with us and snacked on them for the rest of the week.

After the shower that night, we had pizza delivered from a local restaurant. I do not remember the name. It was good but nothing special; it was the only slice of pizza from the trip that I felt like I could easily get around here.

Elizabeth's mom had us take her by a market called Adams Fairacre Farms so she could run in and get something. We stayed in the car, but Elizabeth asked her to get a small container of macaroni salad, telling me it is the best in the world. I am often suspicious when I hear people make claims like this in their hometown. (A friend once took me to a sports bar in his town that he claimed made the best food of any sports bar in the world. It was one step above Hooters.) People often overvalue something when they've grown up with it. I am guilty myself.

However, this was the best pasta salad of any kind I have ever had. Simply phenomenal.

I was asked to get some beer for everyone at the house we were staying at. I got Sierra Nevada Summerfest and Abita Purple Haze, a raspberry-flavored wheat beer that is the only fruit-flavored beer I like. No one else, besides Elizabeth, had tried either of these beers before. Everyone liked them.

We had plenty of leftover lettuce from the shower, so the next evening I made some vegetable lettuce cups as an appetizer. In addition to green onions, cilantro, water chestnuts and carrots, I decided to add jicama. I had to get two people at the grocery store to help me find it; neither of them had ever heard of it. (I actually ended up showing them what it is and where it was, in a small section of Hispanic produce the market had.)

It's inevitable with any vacation that some of the memories fade. I'm not saying I necessarily forget things, but the details of a lot of things become fuzzy, the mental snapshots fade around the edges. But there always remain a few things I remember indelibly.

For this trip I would say it would be the wedding location, Eddy's Restaurant, the Ashokan Reservoir (where New York City gets their water supply, a truly pristine location), Crafts People, and Davenport Farms.

Davenport Farms is a roadside stand, in existence 50 years, selling fresh produce from their farm, as well as meat from a rancher less than half a mile away, fresh local coffee and homemade pies. Out in back they have a nice nursery. I doubt the store has changed much at all in the decades it has been open.

This is what I bought at Davenport Farms. Together it cost about six dollars.

The grill was out on the deck, overlooking the pool and the woods off in the distance. It was a wonderful setting in which to cook, and I gladly grilled vegetables for all of us.

Elizabeth has told me about her mom's cocktail sauce for some time, so when it was suggested that we have a shrimp cocktail and some beers around the pool, I did not hesitate to say "That sounds great." The cocktail sauce was very close to ideal for me: spicy enough to know there is plenty of horseradish in it, but not so much that it makes your nose run.

Okay, this one has nothing to do with food. I don't care, it makes me extremely happy. Elizabeth's dad was telling us about a country store that has a lot of old fashioned candies. I said we had to go. The candy selection wasn't as nice as I'd been hoping for, but what I did find was even better: a collection of Guillow's balsa wood airplanes. I have not seen these in a long time, maybe twenty years. There used to be a shop in Monrovia where I would buy these and fly them at my grandmother's house up in the canyons. I think the longest I ever took before destroying or losing one was ten minutes.

I bought the Fokker D7, the best $2.99 I have spent in as long as I can remember. It's a wonderful feeling to realize at my age that there are still things I come across for less than three dollars that make me very happy. I assembled it at home and took it out back to fly. I even named the pilot. I could have been 8 years old again. It took about five minutes before I flew it into the pool and another ten minutes before I flew the thing into the house and it broke. Oh well.

I would love for someone to explain to me why there are two Islands restaurants in Pasadena, three Del Tacos, and fourteen Stabucks, yet we can't have a Dunkin' Donuts. DD's donuts are passable, although not great, but their coffee is fantastic.

We went to a lot of restaurants during the trip, so one night, while everyone else went out to dinner, Eliabeth and I felt like just staying at home, grilling on the deck, watching fireflies, drinking cold beer and going for a nighttime swim. (The last part of that was aborted when a f**king bat kept dive-bombing us. I don't mind snakes, I'm the one who has to deal with spiders around our house, and there are even a couple Red Sox fans whom I can be nice to... but I hate bats.)

We had no plan for what to eat, so we went to the local store. As usually happens, we ended up with a hodgepodge of foods. There was a package of pepper steaks - beautiful, pink-looking cuts of meat with crushed pepper - for only $3. We grabbed that. There was a package of egg rolls that looked good, and in the middle of shopping I felt like hot dogs.

All of it was good. Elizabeth asked me how I was going to reheat the egg rolls and expressed surprise when I said "On the grill." I love using the grill for things like this. Obviously, you can't grill an egg roll if it hasn't been cooked yet, but when it's been fried and then cooled, reheating it on the grill is possibly the best way. The oil releases and the wrapper crisps up again, and if you do it at just the right temperature, you can get cool-looking grill marks without burning it.

Elizabeth said the steaks were very good. I did not try them, however I thought they looked tough, but then again that's the way she likes them. I loved my hot dogs in the split-top Pepperidge Farm buns. (Something else I wish we could get in Southern California.) Elizabeth's youngest sister, Kate, was going out with some friends but she hung around to have dinner with us first. She doesn't eat meat or poultry but loves fish, so I wrapped a piece of halibut in foil with some lemon and olive oil and cooked it on the grill for her. She said it was great.

While Elizabeth was getting her hair done for the wedding, after I ate at Dallas Hot Wieners, I wandered down the street and discovered an outstanding farmers market. There was a stand of Highland Premium Venison products. I picked up their brochure and read a little bit about them: their farm is nearby and their deer live in a pasture and are fed local hay and produce. I've never actually had venison jerky, so I figured why not. I bought a stick, as well as a stick of buffalo meat.

I sat on a wall outside the beauty salon while Elizabeth was getting her hair done. (When we'd arrived and asked how long it would take, the answer was ten minutes. I was worried I wouldn't have time to get my hot dog. But I did.. and I went to a used book store... and a guitar shop... and a pawn shop... and now a farmers market. More than an hour later she still wasn't done.)

So I unwrapped the venison jerky to have a snack. It was quite possibly the best jerky of any kind that I have ever had. I saved some for Elizabeth and she agreed it was fantastic, too. The buffalo stick was good, no doubt, but this venison jerky was amazing. I was going to go back and buy some to take home with me, but Elizabeth's dad pulled up just then and we had leave.

Keegan Ales is a local brewery that Elizabeth's parents had just gone to a couple nights before (while we stayed at home and grilled) and I'd heard their beers are pretty good. But, while walking around the farmers market, I saw their stand offering root beer floats. Something about a root beer float on a hot Hudson Valley afternoon sounded really, really good. So I bought one. It was great. Elizabeth, her dad and I took turns drinking it in the car on the way to the wedding location. We all agreed it hit the spot.

Since Virgin Atlantic was out of every food item that looked good, we had not eaten all day. We landed at LAX around 8:30 PM and my parents picked us up. We had them take us to In-N-Out. We had Double-Doubles, but what I was really craving were Animal Fries.

It was an amazing trip, but it was good to be home.


Fritos and Foie Gras said...

those fries look so glorious. NY has some great food, but we sooooo miss in-n-out. animal fries are heaven.

JustinM said...

If I moved East I would definitely miss the animal-style Double Double, but I don't think I would miss the fries at all. I like Five Guys fries much more.

Anonymous said...

Did you take your shirt off and grill in the rain just to look more manly?

JustinM said...

Nah, although I probably did make it seem like I was suffering a little more than I actually was. I had to have some fun with it, you know.

After lunch, when all the ladies started opening presents and joking around, I went for a long walk by myself. It was no longer raining, just misting, and I took some of the best pictures of the trip.

The Thirsty Pig said...

Looked like a good trip. The jerky looked and sounded tasty. Was venison gamey?

Anonymous said...

damn! a post for the ages, PP!

JustinM said...

Thirsty Pig: I would not call it gamey. It was remarkably tender and smooth for jerky.

Anon: Thanks. Glad you liked it.

Nosh Gnostic said...

Of all of the yummy looking things pictured in this post, the one that stands out to me is that cupcake.
Either you're a great photographer or that is the lightest, most delicate cupcake ever produced.
I'm not a liker of cakes of any sort - but that cupcake!

JustinM said...

It was the lightest, most delicate cupcake I have ever eaten, that's for sure. And you know what a masterbaker I am...

Nosh Gnostic said...

Hmm, yes, I've heard about you and your masterbaking. I won't let that mitigate the cumulus glory of the cupcake.