58-68/1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die
I’ve found so many new (and familiar) and delicious foods to taste over the last couple of weeks, including a few I found on trips to Chautauqua, NY and Missoula, Montana! These are from a bunch of different sections of 1000 Foods (which I’ll indicate).
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Grand Central Oyster Bar — American (58)
Described by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney in The Nest as being filled with “white lights that manage to make the space feel both lushly romantic and slightly antiseptic,” and described by Mimi as “the quintessentially New York experience of eating oysters underground in a train station,” The Grand Central Oyster Bar has been on my destination list since I moved here. I finally made the trip on the day after my birthday. The drinks were cheap, the water was cold, and the menu was long and varied. I don’t eat raw oysters anymore (adulthood is sad), but there was plenty to tempt me.
Opened in 1913 as a coffee shop, it was only after the place was relaunched in 1974 that it became home to a menu “dominated entirely by the treasures of the sea.” And what does one eat at such a place? Well, I had…
Gazpacho — Spanish (59)
Lobster Gazpacho. Red. And I was kind of hesitant, because I’m not huge on tomatoes, and it kind of looks like eating a bloody mary. But it was so hot that day, and chilled soup sounded fantastic. Plus, lobster. As Mimi says, “cool, biting, and acidic, it is very definition of refreshment and one of Spain’s top contributions to gastronomy.” And it was delicious! I’m a convert.
The day after my sojourn to the GCOB, I got on a train out to western NY State, for a workshop in Chautauqua.
Potato Salad — American (60)
At Chautauqua Theatre Company, where I had a fantastic workshop of my play TINY HOUSES, they fed us a lot. They fed us potato salad, which I usually don’t turn down, though it’s not exactly my favorite thing, either. In my family, the onions vs. no onions debate has raged for years (I’m pro-onion), but there is never any question about whether or not this dish will make an appearance at any and all family gatherings. I guess that’s why it’s kind of in the middle of the list of things I like to eat; I can pretty much take it or leave it. Pro cooking tip from the Meemster: “starting the unpeeled potatoes in cold water and bringing them up to a boil will ensure that the inside cooks at the same time as the outside, preventing the potato from disintegrating. And letting the cooked potatoes cool before peeling and cutting them into cubes or slices provides further insurance against mealiness.” Take note, all.
Watermelon — American (61)
I also found some watermelon to eat in Chautauqua. Because it is just the best, especially in the summer.
In the words of Mark Twain, “When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”
A Traditional Ethiopian Feast — Ethiopian (62)
Nobody had to twist my arm about this one. Ethiopian food (introduced to me by Miles when we started dating), is one of my absolute fave things to eat in this life. So I went to my absolute fave place to eat it in NYC — Injera in the West Village. As Mimi notes, the basis of a true Ethiopian meal is the injera: “a tangy, light, and spongy sort of crêpe that looks like a big ivory napkin and that serves as both bread and eating utensil.” In case you’re not familiar, there are no eating utensils in an Ethiopian feast; the injera is torn into pieces by hand and used to scoop the delicious dishes into your waiting mouth. I like to think of it as the Sham-wow of breads. You can’t go wrong in a restaurant named after bread, I always say.
My favorite dishes on offer are usually the ones made with berbere sauce, a mix of spiced butter and “the incendiary seasoning made with mit’mita, an Ethiopian spice mix based on bird’s-eye chilies.” You can see above that I had calamari in berbere sauce, as well a lentils and beets on the side. And of course, no Ethiopian meal would be complete without a class of t’ej, a mead-like honey wine (also seen above) with which I am completely obsessed. Mimi tells us that traditional Ethiopian feasts don’t include dessert, and I have to say, that even on menus where desserts are offered, I’ve never in my life had the post-feast room to order one.
Brioche — French (63)
You know what’s awesome about living in NYC? You can be leaving the Ethiopian restaurant, just strolling around the West Village, and come across a French food to check off the list, just sitting in the window of a cute little shop. Ô Merveilleux de Fred is actually best known for its amazing little meringue confections, called les merveilleux, but they also sell an assortment of heavenly pastries. Brioche was sitting in the window, and then sitting in my bag, and then sitting in my stomach. Mimi paints us this picture, “the airy, eggy, gently sweet bread-cake is a near second to the croissant as a favorite French breakfast… Its name is said to derive from broyer, or breaking up, referring to the heavy, steady kneading the dough requires to take in air and so rise to the occasion.” I’m happy to let Fred knead it, if I can stop in on occasion and buy it. And a perfect little merveilleux, too, for the road.
Halvah — Turkish/Israeli (64)
Halvah is one of the dishes in the book that I’d never heard of or tasted before starting this project. Now that I have the names of all 1000 foods in Google Keep on my phone, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the list when I come across a truly foreign foodstuff. Walking through Chelsea Market recently, I ran across a stall selling halvah, imported from Israel. It comes in flavors. It’s on the list. I had a sample. It is delicious. Mimi tells us that this treat has existed, in some form or another, since 3000 BC! She describes it as “a firm, almost buttery loaf formed of crushed sesame seeds and their gentle oil, most classically enhanced with sugar and vanilla–honey and a touch of rosewater are the only other additions purists permit.” I bought the marzipan variety and sampled a few of the chocolate ones. These “purists” don’t know what they’re missing. The man at the stall said to eat this flaky, vaguely crunchy delicacy alone, on bread, or sprinkled over ice cream. So far, I’ve been doling it out to myself in flaky, crunchy slices, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Truffle Burger from 5 Napkin Burger — American (65)
Now we come to a bit of sticky wicket.
Mimi opines that we must all try Chef Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Burger here in NYC. The Boulud Burger costs more than $30, and is comprised of a prime rib of beef, ground and stuffed with braised beef short rib, black truffles, and a “luscious glob of silky foie gras.” The ick-factor of the phrase “luscious glob” aside, I will not be eating this burger because I believe that the way foie gras is produced is utterly inhumane. I only eat meet that I can verify has been raised under humane, antibiotic- and hormone-free conditions, which makes eating any meat in restaurants hard enough. Humanely-produced organic foie gras is basically impossible to find. If you want to know why I don’t eat it, click here and scroll to #3 (this article contains no disturbing photos, which is why I picked it to link).
SO, that left me with a task — could I find a similarly decadent burger to sub in for the Boulud? One that’s humanely sourced? I recently landed upon my perfect solution: the Truffle Burger at 5 Napkin Burger. 5 Napkin is an NYC institution, and all their meat is “happy meat” (they also have a killer veggie burger and ahi tuna “burger” on offer). The most expensive burger on the menu, the Truffle Burger is a feast comprised of: “LaFrieda dry aged beef, taleggio cheese, porcini ketchup, fried egg, and truffle butter.” And at $24 a pop, it’s almost as decadent price-wise as the Boulud. Without the force-feeding of any animals. You should check it out. It’s amazing. I recommend the roasted brussels sprouts on the side.
At this point, I journey west to Missoula, Montana!
Also this month, I traveled to Missoula for a writers’ colony and reading of my play EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL at Montana Repertory Theatre. While in Montana, I searched high and low for Indian Fry Bread, but found none. Kevin Kicking Woman, a Native writer also attending the colony, let me know that you can only get really good Fry Bread at a pow-wow. So I left empty-handed, bread-wise, but did manage to find a few other out-west foods to check off the list.
Huckleberries — American (66)
At the Missoula Farmer’s Market, I ran across huckleberries. I might have had these before in my life, in a pie or somesuch, but I’m positive I’ve never eaten them on their own before. Apparently, they’re positively everywhere in the west. Mimi educates: “indigenous to the western mountainous regions of North America, huckleberries were used for barter before the settlers arrived. Though they are relatives of the blueberry genus Vaccinium, they have a far more intense, winey tang, and a pungent aroma that provides extra appeal.” Locals told me that huckleberries are nearly impossible to cultivate, and much easier to procure if you know where they grow wild. Mimi agrees, saying that the shrubs, “take up to fifteen years to mature and produce within the brief ripening season of July and August.” This, then, is a truly seasonal treat. And I happened to come along at just the right time to gobble them up by the handful.
Bulgogi — Korean (67)
Also at the Missoula Farmer’s Market, I happened to find some Korean BBQ. I know that sounds completely bizarre, but you can see for yourself in the photo below. Bulgogi is on the list, so when I saw Bulgogi on the sign, I had to pop over for a taco. As Mimi elucidates, “this Asian style of barbecue is cooked indoors as often as out, and derives the bulk of its flavor from a classic marinade of soy sauce, honey, sesame, scallions, and a generous quantity of garlic.” Since I was at the farmer’s market, I trusted the meat was happy. And at $4, the price was right. I was, however, somewhat underwhelmed. I ate some of the beef alone, and some in the taco setup. Meh. Perhaps Montana is not the ideal place to try Korean dishes. In the words of Roald Dahl, “One lives and learns.”
Migas — Mexican (68)
I was much happier with the Migas that I found at the Hob Nob Café in Missoula, however. Though I forgot to take a picture until after I’d already started eating it! Oops. Not so pretty in the photo, but you get the idea. I’ve had Migas before, and it’s pretty hard to screw up, I think. Mimi rhapsodizes, “properly prepared, migas is an addictive mélange of salty and savory flavors and complementing textures–the crunch of the tortilla chips, the softness of the egg, the sting of the chilies, and the neutralizing creaminess of the cheese.” I couldn’t agree more.
I leave you with this impression of my Montana trip…