Things I Ate In General

This is a food blog that isn't always totally about food.

If you listen to NPR at all you’ve probably heard the Roadfood people — Jane and Michael Stern — do a guest segment on The Splendid Table. (Or maybe you’re one of those people who listens to NPR but hates The Splendid Table. I’m not here to tell you how to feel about Lynn Rossetto Kasper. This isn’t about her.) For the past 40 years, the Sterns have been driving around the continental US, eating at little roadside diners and cafés, and writing about it. They’ve published a ton of books, written articles for publications like The New Yorker, Saveur, and Gourmet, and won a few James Beard awards.

The Stern’s website allows you to literally search the collective knowledge base of the community they’ve amassed over the years. It’s an incredible resource, especially when you’re interested in quirky local food. I used it to research where I should stop and eat while driving from Baltimore to Minneapolis. It’s how I learned about the Polish food at Babushka’s Table in Independence, OH and also how I became convinced that I had to eat a butter burger at Solly’s Grille while I was in Milwaukee.

I’d had butter burgers at Culver’s before, but they were nothing like this. Solly’s butter burger is a sirloin patty (I got mine with cheese) topped with stewed onions and served on a bun that’s spread thick with Wisconsin butter. The burger is served cut in half, and the butter that hasn’t melted into the meat pools onto the plate. I could have eaten two.

I looked over the Stern’s Wikipedia page before writing this post, and it reads (to me, at least) just like a fairytale. They met as grad students at Yale, got married, and, after working in film production and academia for a bit, got an advance from a publisher to travel the country by car, researching a book about American roadside food. Love, food, travel, creative partnership. They have it all! Then I got to the bottom of the page and learned that they divorced in 2008 and that Jane has "a little known but long-standing career as a tarot card reader." Sigh. The people you envy are actually unhappy and have weird, probably made up, hobbies. That’s life!

I was somewhere near Chicago in my drive from Baltimore to Minneapolis when it dawned on me just how spread out Midwestern cities are. I grew up in the Midwest, so this wasn’t news to me really, but I guess after 7 years on the East Coast I’d gotten used to how compact that part of the country is and forgotten how sprawling the rest is.
Chicago is actually pretty close Milwaukee, which is pretty close to Madison, neither of which are really destinations, per se. On this particular day, however, Milwaukee was my destination. Stopping there made sense geographically, but also, my friend Jazz lives there. (Or she did at the time. She has since moved to Columbus.)
I hadn’t seen Jazz since November of 2012 (after which I wrote this shitty post) and was really happy to have the chance to catch up with her before her wedding in July. She made a chicken korma stir fry with mashed cauliflower rice (that is, cauliflower playing the role of rice, not rice with cauliflower in it) for dinner and we drank wine and her then fiancé, now-husband Jeremy showed me a Game of Thrones conspiracy post on BuzzFeed that made me aware of the very simplistic mindset with which I watch that show. Afterwards I went back to my motel room and my cat slept under the covers, next to my feet, which is a thing she had never done before and has not done since. View high resolution

I was somewhere near Chicago in my drive from Baltimore to Minneapolis when it dawned on me just how spread out Midwestern cities are. I grew up in the Midwest, so this wasn’t news to me really, but I guess after 7 years on the East Coast I’d gotten used to how compact that part of the country is and forgotten how sprawling the rest is.

Chicago is actually pretty close Milwaukee, which is pretty close to Madison, neither of which are really destinations, per se. On this particular day, however, Milwaukee was my destination. Stopping there made sense geographically, but also, my friend Jazz lives there. (Or she did at the time. She has since moved to Columbus.)

I hadn’t seen Jazz since November of 2012 (after which I wrote this shitty post) and was really happy to have the chance to catch up with her before her wedding in July. She made a chicken korma stir fry with mashed cauliflower rice (that is, cauliflower playing the role of rice, not rice with cauliflower in it) for dinner and we drank wine and her then fiancé, now-husband Jeremy showed me a Game of Thrones conspiracy post on BuzzFeed that made me aware of the very simplistic mindset with which I watch that show. Afterwards I went back to my motel room and my cat slept under the covers, next to my feet, which is a thing she had never done before and has not done since.

In mid-April I packed up all of my belongings, loaded everything that would fit into my Honda Civic, put everything else in a storage unit, and spent three days driving to Minneapolis. On the first night I stopped in Independence, OH, a suburb of Cleveland. The next morning, after dragging my cat out from under the bed at the Red Roof Inn, I headed to Babushka’s Kitchen to get some Polish food before pressing on to Milwaukee. The restaurant has closed since I was there in April, but the pierogies and the stuffed cabbage rolls were decent.

"Yes I have to get up for work at 4:00 AM, but when I get to set I’ll get to have ________ for breakfast because ________ is doing craft service on this shoot." — A fun mental trick that I learned early on in my production career
One of the companies that often did crafty for us in Baltimore/DC was called Worker’s Chomp (I know, right?) and every morning they would do an amazing breakfast spread with bagels and cream cheese and lox and onions and capers and kumato tomatoes. And they always had a toaster, which is no small feat on set and made the bagels even better.
Whenever Worker’s Chomp was doing our crafty I would have a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese topped with kumato tomatoes and freshly ground salt and pepper for breakfast. I ate the bagel in this picture on my last shoot before leaving Baltimore. It was a Carmax commercial, and it was more than a little bit sad. View high resolution

"Yes I have to get up for work at 4:00 AM, but when I get to set I’ll get to have ________ for breakfast because ________ is doing craft service on this shoot." — A fun mental trick that I learned early on in my production career

One of the companies that often did crafty for us in Baltimore/DC was called Worker’s Chomp (I know, right?) and every morning they would do an amazing breakfast spread with bagels and cream cheese and lox and onions and capers and kumato tomatoes. And they always had a toaster, which is no small feat on set and made the bagels even better.

Whenever Worker’s Chomp was doing our crafty I would have a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese topped with kumato tomatoes and freshly ground salt and pepper for breakfast. I ate the bagel in this picture on my last shoot before leaving Baltimore. It was a Carmax commercial, and it was more than a little bit sad.

I was in Boston at the end of March for about 48 hours and I ate at Wagamama twice during that timespan. Chicken ramen on the left, chicken raisukaree on the right. I’ve been waiting YEARS for them to open US locations outside of Boston. It’s time, guys. It’s time.

I made this chicken liver pâté with the intention of making homemade bánh mì, but that never quite coalesced and I ended up with a bunch of extra pâté in the fridge and eventually had to throw it away. I still feel bad about this.

Meatloaf, before and after. This only merits posting because I ground the beef for it myself. Moving on.

Creamed chipped beef on a toasted brioche roll. I’m pretty heartbroken that you can’t buy chipped beef in Minnesota. You can, however, order it from Amazon!  View high resolution

Creamed chipped beef on a toasted brioche roll. I’m pretty heartbroken that you can’t buy chipped beef in Minnesota. You can, however, order it from Amazon

I started buying this Monte stuff when I was studying abroad in Prague during college because, I don’t know, I thought it might be a pudding cup? Well, not only is it a pudding cup, it’s the best pudding cup ever. Zott, the company that makes it, is a huge German dairy. This product, which is most definitely marketed at children, is a “milk-cream” with hazelnuts and chocolate. It’s silky and sweet and a bit runnier than your average pudding. It’s kind of like if panna cotta and Nutella had a baby, except way better than that.

We went to the big fancy Tesco near Národní třída on our last night in town to get a bottle of wine and a few snacky things. I grabbed one of these guys from the dairy section (the children’s yogurt subsection of the dairy section, if I’m being hones) and ate it in bed that night, all the while listing off ways it could be used in baking projects. I think my best idea was to thicken it up a little bit with corn starch or whatever and then use it as pie filling. It would also be great to spread between cake layers.

I’m not much of a collector. As a child I dabbled in stamp collecting and coin collecting, but those hobbies were both abandoned long ago. I have a few 3 ring binders that I use to collect recipes, but that’s not really the same as collecting elephants, like my mom, or wine, like my dad. I could write a little thing here about how I collect memories and experiences, but, really, if I collect anything it’s McDonald’s pies.

That’s been true ever since I first saw this photo list of McDonald’s pies from around the world. I haven’t had too many (it’s really hard in the US!), just apple, the infamous Holiday Pie, strawberry and crème, and this blackberry pie. It was very hot, very fried, and very full of something akin to sweet, chunky blackberry jam. A welcome addition to the collection.