Yes, yes, indeed, it has been a long time since the Cod rapped at you here, in the TL;DR place, intstead of on the Twitters. But! For one thing, nobody reads or writes food blogs anymore, esp not now that Eater hired all of the restaurant critics. For another thing, any and all future meals I write about will all be at The Pig, in Chapel Hill, NC, where I enjoyed three exceptional lunches this weekend. The Cod will be taking all future meals there, until he is ejected, or dies of gout. Spencer put me on to the brisket, and I returned for pastrami and Vietnamese pork cheek. I die. Even brought some of their hotdogs home.
But! I digress. Guiteau Monday seems to be the only thing that gets this blog party started these days, which is a shame, but something like this makes it impossible not to:
"Brussels sprouts so good you'll... never mind, you already did." What else did you expect on a rainy March Guiteau Monday?
There is no shortage of hogs in NC, but very few of them are raised under groovy conditions, so it's hard to feel good about this feel good story without a little bit more reporting. If this is the model for tobacco-to-pork transitions, then huzzah, but if Tar Heel is the model, not so much.
There is exciting stuff going on in Durham, to be sure -- the limited love for Piedmont, and exclusion of Locopops are unfortunate, for example -- but the article manages to seem both patronizing and symptomatic of the incipient Panisseization of food journalism.
Anchower, I know. My grueling new administrative chores exciting new professional challenges have had me back on my heels, and off the internets. But I did not want to let too much time pass before sharing a vignette from the weekend -- a much anticipated wedding had us in the Triangle. In the interests of fortifying selves for the weekend, we stopped in for a Friday evening dinner at Watts Grocery, about which good things had been heard. It's doing a Fresh & Local & Southern thing, which when done well, is real good eating. In this case, the inspiration did not extend past the Hatch Show-manque looking menu w/ list of purveyors. It was as if they'd decided not to stock the resto from the Sysco truck, and then run out of ideas. The choices were uninspiring, and I went against my inclination and ordered the pork tenderloin b/c the accompanying blackberry sage sauce sounded interesting. Turns out, it wasn't or there was not enough to taste either blackberries or sage, but the dish did point toward a larger irony of the resto, and of the local food movement in general. The Watts menu states "we work with local vendors and artisans as much as possible." When one thinks of the agricultural productions most associated with North Carolina, hogs are high on the list. Sadly, the kind of hogs farmed locally are not the kind Watts Grocery, (or the Cod) want to eat. So, for this "updated, distinctive take on North Carolina cuisine," the pork is Niman Ranch, AKA, from Minnesota, Idaho, or Utah, or thereabouts.* It's a shame, that either there is no a) local, sustanable non neo-Jungle pork production, or b) the Niman label trumps food mileage considerations in the eyes of Watts Grocery proprietors/customers. *These are the states of the featured hog farmers. Niman HQ is in California. I have a query in to Niman as to the location of their pork farmers.
While the eyes of the college hoops world will be riveted about four hours south of Durham this weekend, the folks in Durham have found a way to keep warm. Local paleta savants Locopops, noting a soft market for Popsicles when it is twenty-two fucking degrees, are rolling out LocoCocoa this weekend, but only at the 2600 Hillsborough Rd. location. I will bet the farm it will be kickass hot chocolate. The paletas, after all, are the product of intensive research in Mexico, the land of the paleta, and the Mexicans know a thing or two about hot chocolate.
Reviewing the last week or so's worth of posts gives the impression that rather than cooking or eating, I hunch in front of my laptop clad only in Depends, hitting refresh on the Grinder and the Eater, and subsisting on smoothies from Jamba Juice. In fact, there are no Jamba Juices near my house.
That said, there has been food eaten. A stop at the Magnolia Grill produced a cromulent repast, but the room seemed to have a whisper of nostalgia for its Wall Street-era heyday that, in its ever so slightly long in the toothness, reminded me a tiny bit of the hotel in the Comedians. When the server checks in with you, you can't really say "yes, the food is fine, but I fear that the party you seat at the table next to me will include a woman wearing a garnet-colored blazer with giant shoulderpads." But that was precisely what I feared.
In contrast to fancy restaurants that still somehow feel like the check comes with mints labeled "Memento Mori," the cinetrix and I also visited a sandwich place that manages to triumph over sin and death, but more on that part later. A valliant effort to visit All Star Sandwich Bar at Christmas 06 was thwarted by Gary Turismo, but I vowed to make it happen in 07. Very happy I did. There are so many things this place does right, I was
practically moved to sing Dayenu. If they only offered 'Gansett on tap, that would have been enough. If they only had spicy deviled eggs at 3 for 99 cents, that would have been enough. If they only had the only remotely plausible poutine I've eaten in the United States, that would have been enough. And they will even cook you a Pearl's Kountry Klub Hot Dog, saving you a trip to the Summer Shack. But the place is called the "All Star Sandwich Bar," so you figure that's their, uh, bread and butter. The menu reveals the tricky premise inherent in the name -- they will make a variety of sandwiches associated with specific contexts -- Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, the past,* and make them all well. I had the Reuben, and cinetrix had the Cubano, in spite of the raves we'd heard from Rose's Lime about the Beef on weck. The sandwiches were very satisfying, though our eagerness to try the deviled eggs and poutine did take the edge off our appetite. If I were writing this place up for the Phoenix or some such rag, my editor would probably see the phrase "comfort food for hipsters" I just used and title the review "comfortably hip," but that would suggest a degree of smugness that was absent here. I felt well taken care of, even though a tight schedule meant we had to eat at tables in the entrance with our asses hanging in the breeze. Jim Economides is the name on the business card I grabbed, but this is also part of the Chris Schlesinger empire. I found our stop here more satisfying by far than the last few East Coast Grill brunches I've had next door. They also have a rotating weekly sandwich special, and I'd be delighted to try them all.
But to return to the question of triumphing over sin and death. We looked in on Sunday around noon, on the way to the airport. Recalling a nightmarish effort to escape Baton Rouge that was redeemed by a muffaletta from Central Grocery, we decided to grab an All Star muffaletta for later. Thanks to the good graces of American Airlines, "later" turned out to be about 26 hours later. In my rage at American Airlines, I'd forgotten the mufuletta had been with us, unrefrigerated, in carryon luggage, all along. I found the slightly oily bag as I shifted dirty laundry out of the Baileyworks to make room for Fessering supplies. I was famished, but skepitcal. Certainly, no sandwich could survive the sort of abuse this one had endured. I took a tentative bite -- the scali bread had held up, and the cold cuts, olive salad and provolone had matured into a more intimate relationship. In contrast to the sub place that will deliver inedibly soggy sandwiches to my office, this muffuletta simply transcended conditions that would kill most sandwiches. If you must travel by air, I urge you to keep some of these sandwiches on your person, and ASSB is the only reliable purveyor I've ever seen outside of the 504.
*The Past: If nothing else was right about this place, they would still get big props from me for resurrecting the Elisie's Roast Beef -- a staple of a long-gone Harvard Square institution swept away in the insatiable demand for more ATM kiosks and wrap places.
A few possibly related items, more sanctimonious than usual, as my apology for the many, many users of Google who came to the Cod over the weekend looking for Oscar picks and were dismayed by what they found.
A visit to Durham, NC, and Duke University, aka "The Niman Ranch of American Higher
Education" reveals not only that Fowler's is closed but also the
spectacle of a female undergrad ordering coffee at Foster's wearing nothing
but Uggs, tights, and, wait for it, a Duke LacrosseT-shirt. Evidently, the Kobe
jersey and the Augusta National polo were at the cleaners.
3) Meanwhile, Jane Magazine, Sassy's redheaded
stepchild, is pitching the likes of the Cod on their "hilarious reataurant prank":
Hi! There is a hilarious restaurant prank in the March issue
of JANE, on stands nationwide on the 27th! I have attached the
story and the March cover in case you were interested in doing anything with
this. If so, please link back to JANE’s website, www.janemag.com. Thanks! Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!