Monday, November 26, 2012

Rose City Rambling

My friend Andy and I went to lunch on one of my first days in town. We were going to try the new Umami Burger but it was too crowded, so we ducked around the corner to New York Deli. I've written about the place before, and I was curious to see how it stacked up now that I've spent eight months in New York.

It turns out, pretty damn well. I ordered the New Yorker: pastrami, corned beef, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing. As with other visits, I only ate half the massive sandwich at lunch; I took the rest home and snacked on it for the next 24 hours. I haven't been to Katz's yet, but I've been to plenty of delis, and this sandwich would not be out of place at any of them.

Almost as much as any restaurant, I looked forward to trying my friend Tim's stout. I have had many beers he has brewed, and never a bad one. This was no exception. The stout he made in 2011 was better than Guinness and this was its equal.

And, as any homemade beer needs, there were snacks. Salami, rosemary ham, bread, crackers, cheese with porter, and more.

Is there any better combination than good beer and grilled sausage? Maybe garlic and basil. Maybe. Earlier in the day I grilled some of Taylor's fantastic sweet Italian sausage. Tim reheated the pieces; they went wonderfully with the stout.

My friend Julie just moved to Pasadena, from England by way of Massachusetts. We went to lunch the other day and I suggested strongly that we sit somewhere outside. (It actually wasn't that strong of a suggestion; I said "Let's eat outside" and she immediately said "Yes!")

One of the my favorite patios in Pasadena is the one just below street level at Cafe 140 South - the restaurant that was known as Crocodile Cafe for more than 20 years and then changed its name while pretty much keeping the same menu.

Julie had the salmon salad, one of the day's specials, and she loved it. I had the barbecue chicken pizza, which I have been eating in this location for all of my adult life. It was very good. In my memory it used to be better, but I admit that may just be my mind playing tricks on me. I still ate all of it and was very happy.

My only complaint? It was 75 degrees and the overhead heaters were on. Seriously. I don't want to become one of those jackasses who comes back from the East Coast and says things like "This isn't cold, you guys don't know what cold is"... but there is a lot of room between doing that and pointing out that heat lamps are not necessary when the temperature is in the 70s.

Later on that same glorious afternoon I went out and had a Dos Equis. 

That evening I was watching basketball with Murph at 72 North and he asked me if I would have a slice or two of pizza if he ordered one. As I have written before, I have never said no to such a question. He asked if broccoli and red onion were okay. I would have said yes to anything, since he was the one buying the pizza, but I like both those things.

The first time I ever had pizza at 72 North was Christmas Eve a few years ago. That sentence sounds funny, or perhaps depressing, but it was actually a great evening. The pizza was amazing. My friend Dave, who grew up in the Northeast, thought it was as close to East-Coast pizza as any he had ever had in California. I agreed with him. We went back a week later to try it again and it wasn't as good. And over the years I have tried their pizza probably a dozen times, always hoping it would be like that Christmas Eve pie. But it never has.

However, their pizza is still good - and very good for bar pizza. 

On Thanksgiving Day, I picked up lunch for myself and my parents at Zankou Chicken, another place I have missed tremendously. My parents had never tried it before. My mom really liked the pickles and the garlic sauce, but thought the chicken was bad. I have to say, in scores of meals from Zankou, this was probably the most dry their chicken has ever been. (I still loved it though, smothered with pickled turnips and garlic sauce.)

I got a tri-tip shawarma wrap for my dad. "What do you think?" I asked him.

"This is too exotic for me," he replied. "I was going to have white bread for lunch."

So let that be a lesson: if your idea of a good lunch is a few slices of white bread, Zankou Chicken might not be for you.

The day after Thanksgiving, my young cousins were at my parents' house. I cooked several chunks of Taylor's sausage. My cousin Jonas said it was probably the best breakfast sausage he has ever had. I don't disagree with him: Taylor's sausage is delicious, and I don't remember ever getting a single solid chunk of fat in a bite. 

I made scrambled eggs with onions, mushrooms and peppers for my cousin Alex. 

One evening Murph got some beef skewers from Bar Celona. I had a bite - I didn't think much of the beef but I liked the chimichurri sauce. 

In September, I mentioned that I couldn't try Carl's Jr.'s "Memphis BBQ Burger." So I made my own.
One night I was pretty hungry and didn't feel like cooking, so I went by Carl's Jr. to try the burger. It was much better than I expected it to be. I imagine that's because the crispy onions, pork, and barbecue sauce overpowered the flavor of the beef patty, which I have never liked at Carl's.

Still, my version of the burger was much better.

Did I eat all 15 tacos from Taco Lita? No, but I felt like I could have. 

Tracie and I stopped by Mezban for dinner one evening. We started with papadums and mixed chutney. Next up was onion bhaji; Mezban's bhaji is one of my favorite things to eat in Pasadena. For the main course we had shrimp karahi with garlic naan and basmati rice. It was outstanding, as always. 

I've been missing La Cabanita a lot in New York City. Cochinita pibil (Yucatan-style, marinated pork) tacos for three bucks always hit the spot. I'm sure there's good cochinita somewhere in the city (and equally sure it's not in my neighborhood), but I haven't found it yet. So the other day I went to lunch with my parents and brother at La Cabanita. I had my beloved cochinita tacos, and the almost-as-good chicken enchilada in mole sauce.  

My mom had a carnitas tacos and chile relleno. My dad had two carne asada tacos. He hated them - he thought they were too spicy. (This is why he loves the bland food at Chiquita Bonita; to his credit he admits that's why he likes the place.)

It was my parents' anniversary (41 years) so I picked up the tab.

"Thanks," my brother said, "I'll get dinner."

Since dinner would end up costing seven times as much as this lunch, I was just fine with that arrangement. But more on that tomorrow.


ania said...

I'm glad that you had a chance to catch up with some of your old favorites and that you had safe travels.

Thanks for the super-packed post.

Banana Wonder said...

What makes Taylor's breakfast sausage so good? Does it have honey/sage in it?

JustinM said...

I don't think it has those things, but there certainly is a sweetness to it. And the flavor of the pork combined with the lack of nasty fat is great.