Thursday, July 25, 2013

Northeastern U.S. trip report

"What was so great about the crab cake?"
"It was just crab, held together by prayer."

The best dish I've had in months, pictured above, at Victoria Gastropub in Ellicott City, Maryland. This was our last night there, spending a few days with good friends who live in this suburb of Baltimore and D.C. We brought their three-month-old baby with us and he slept right through dinner, which began with duck fat fries and chorizo-blue cheese stuffed mushrooms, was punctuated with a delicious bottle of Falanghina, and ended with chocolate, as many good meals do. But the crab cake was the star for me, topped with lemon-basil hollandaise, sitting atop sliced fresh tomato and sweet corn in a shallow pool of creamy grainy mustard sauce. I raved about it and ate it slowly and my friend's husband noted aloud that I really, really seemed to be enjoying my meal. Dude, have you met me before?

I should note here that Chris and our friend D also raved about the swordfish special. I tasted it, and it was good, but the crabcake was something beyond good, more like fantastic. I would go back there tomorrow to eat this again.

"They don't have a small pie, only medium and large."
"We can always take some with us."

Spoiler alert: we totally ate the whole thing, despite the brutal heat outside. But this simple mushroom pizza, at John's on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, had such a thin and chewy crust and such a light hand with toppings and such a deliciously fresh-tasting tomato sauce that we each savoured our three slices. The room was delicious, too - years upon years of graffiti scratched into the worn finish of the wooden tables and booths, eclectic art on the walls, great tunes playing, and bliss of all blisses, working air conditioning plus ceiling fans. We lingered as long as we could get away with before braving the heatwave once more.

"Did you try a Salty Pimp, too? Those are great."

Down the street from John's, we stumbled across the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. I knew they had a truck, but I didn't realize they also had a storefront, and we couldn't resist the siren song of cool frozen treats with trashy names. Above, vanilla soft serve with Maker's Mark bourbon butterscotch sauce. Chris had a Thick Mint ice cream sandwich. Both were delicious and refreshing, and the atmosphere was fun and chill. We did not, alas, have room for a Salty Pimp. Maybe next time, New York.

"There, we can have lunch there, at Dean & Deluca. It's a gourmet food sho--"
"I know what Dean & Deluca is. It's where they worked on Felicity."

Respite on this day came in the form of icy cold artisanal Spindrift sodas (blood orange, pictured, and mango) and delicious sandwiches - a pressed Cuban (pictured) and an awesome chicken, harissa, manchego and roasted piquillo pepper concoction (which Chris was devouring just out of frame). Again, we lingered as long as was seemly, trying to get our core body temps down to something resembling normal. The glass-enclosed D&D allowed us to people-watch and even had a Muji right next door, for all your minimalist travel and stationery needs.

"They have pastilla on the menu."

We both had one of these beauties for dinner at Barbes, on 36th, for Chris's birthday dinner. The place came highly recommended by our friend D. in Boston, and we did not regret making that reservation - even on a Wednesday night, the place was packed (to be fair, it's pretty small) and buzzing. The pastilla was delicious, flaky and sweet on the outside, savoury and warm with chicken and nuts and onions and spices on the inside. Salad starters were also perfection - Chris's grilled calamari hit all the right notes, while my trio of vegetarian delights (hummus, chakchouka and za'alouk alongside fresh sliced tomatoes, marinated carrots and balsamic drizzle) blew my mind. I didn't even think to take a photo, it was so luscious and inviting I just dug right in. A long, lazy stroll back to our hotel along 5th Avenue and through Rockefeller Plaza rounded out the evening and helped us digest all these treats.

"I forgot to take a photo before I started eating."
"You could take one now. People will know it was really good." 

This is the only photo I have of our lovely meal at Bergamot, in Somerville, Massachusetts. Our friends highly recommended it, and we were not disappointed. From start, when I requested an off-menu cocktail and was rewarded with something I loved delivered with a smile, to sweet finish (the lemon mousse with wine soaked fresh cherries and pistachio financier shown above), this meal was delicious and perfectly paced, with quiet but attentive service in a pretty, not too noisy room. My griddled fish cake with cippolini onions, tomato jam aioli and roasted green beans (roasted! green beans! seriously, really neat and tasty) was not the crab cake of wonder, but was tasty, full of fish flavour and perfectly prepared. My main, a flatiron steak cooked to proper medium-rare over caramelized onion bearnaise with green garlic, grilled asparagus and the thinnest layer of uber-buttery Pommes Anna, was decadence itself yet well-portioned. I heard raves about the fresh fish dishes at the table as well as about the pasta dish and the beef carpaccio starter. All in all, an extremely pleasant and delicious evening.

Other tastes worth mentioning on this 12-day odyssey through the Northeastern U.S. included a killer diner breakfast in Lowell, Massachusetts; another terrific meal at Addis Red Sea on Tremont Street in Boston's South End, an old favourite which never lets us down (the doro alcha chicken stew and collard greens are personal faves) and a delectable, cider-fueled night at Burlington, Vermont's Farmhouse Tap and Grill, where we had seasonal salads with kale, pecans, blueberries and apples, a perfect burger and some terrific mussels and frites, and gorgeous desserts including a chevre and honey trifle with citrus cake and fresh blueberries. The cider was Citizen Cider Unified Press, and it was divine. We bought some to bring home.

Speaking of home, it's nice to be back, and the cats certainly missed us, but it was a wonderful trip filled with visits with many of our favourite people. We miss you all already.

"It's so good to be here."
"Yeah. I missed it here."


Jenn said...

You do realize that it has been nearly a year since you have posted. As one of your loyal readers, I demand better. ;)


Alison said...

Oh, I know. Bad blogger, no cookie. :(

Jenn said...

No....seems you get cake instead!