Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Broccolo, my new best friend; sorry Pizza

                I personally think you need to know someone for a considerable amount of time before you’ll allow them to happen upon you and a dish of half eaten cavatelli and broccoli. Stay tuned for explanation. Perhaps your cavatelli and broccoli gentle reader involves a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a commitment to watch Gone with the Wind in one sitting, but regardless, this was one such time. I adore you Bill, but we’re just not quite there yet. Blame Vito’s.
                Last night while I trekked uptown enjoying this unbelievable weather which is unbelievably uncanny in light of the rain sodden afternoons we’ve been weathering lately, I sprinted into Vito’s deli conscious of the good fortune I have of living in a town where a place like Vito’s remains open well after 5 p.m. Inside, the “mutz” boys (much to my chagrin), let me down easy; no more rabe. I was too late. The early bird always gets the damn worm.
                Technically it’s too hot to be craving a heavier pasta dish like cavatelli – with its flour pasta and not-so-subtle helping of garlic and oil, but when you have a hankering, you have a hankering and I was still making amends with myself for having passed on the homemade cavatelli I saw next to the sausage and peppers at the Italian Festival South Philly hosted two weeks ago. I’d been too busy stuffing my face with tomato pie to notice the rabe when it was right there for the taking, well for the purchasing.
                I made eyes with the container then though, and the rest is history as they say. Homemade cavatelli and broccoli sitting in the corner – don’t the boys at Vito’s know better than to put baby in the corner? Patrick Swayze did. I do too. I paid the “mutz” men in what remains to be seen as one of the single best investments I’ve made since my relocation to Hoboken, and walked out of the store beaming – I was going to eat this “too heavy” cavatelli and I was not leaving from the table until I’d finished every last branch.
                Tonight in preparation of yet another Wednesday installment of how to learn Italian with a bunch of English speaking New Yorkers, I frantically rubbed soap and hot water on my crème colored skirt that now houses an unholy helping of leftover oil from the makeshift plate I made out of the container’s lid; a real triumph for the oil since I hardly came up for air in between bites. At this point my colleague and dear friend Bill emailed me to ask why I was still at my desk. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was stuffing my face so I did what any level-headed female would do who is in a relationship with food that she doesn’t want discovered – I told him in no uncertain terms was he to come down to the 4th floor, not now, not ever when there’s cavatelli present.  I didn’t want him to see me this way. I could not let him see me drenched in olive oil with the stupidest grin on my face, sitting beside what once was an entire dish of homemade cavatelli. My hesitance rooted in the fact that I personally think you need to know someone for a good amount of time before you’ll allow them to find you curled up in your cubby, your skirt a mess, your dish completely empty, and you in a “please don’t resuscitate” me kind of food induced coma.
There are no pictures to document this. Gentle reader you know why.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pizza; a girl's best friend

             There are days I am hungrier than others. On those days in which I crave comfortable clothes and a day off from work, I am not necessarily looking to plunge fork first into a prime rib cooked to medium perfection. Instead, I want only to pick at fresh hummus and pita, or to do the socially unacceptable thing my mother cringes at the idea of and eat ice cream and only ice cream for dinner.
            With these last few weeks for the most part behind me, I am regaining an appetite. Because of the past few weeks I understand that mealtimes can be extremely healing, especially when such weekends involve South Philly’s annual Italian Festival and overcast...
            On the crowded corner of 9th and Christian on Sunday, I shimmied to Dean Martin in between bites of my two-dollar slice from Lorenzo’s. A casual bystander might have encountered the two of us, my slice and I, and mistaken it for my last meal. This casual observer on Sunday beheld quite a scene; a day of misgivings and malnourishment swiftly revived with every bite of Lorenzo’s heartwarming and heartburn-inducing slice. Far be it from me to venture to the festival for helpings of homemade broccoli rabbe, sausage and peppers, and penne like everyone else, which sat idle in their trays while my foodie friends and I indulged what we perceived to be “human” bites of Lorenzo’s tomato pie because it was my first Sunday “back” from my freakish departure from my usual bouts with overindulgence and sheer foodie late-night dining in light of my recent personal and professional preoccupations.    
            It hit me on Sunday also that pizza heals late-night stoopers, day old cramps, helps to overcome breakups, and most recently chronic anxiety. Never an expensive date, pizza blends with a bottle of wine or easily transitions amidst a six-pack of a local brew like none other because it’s a girl’s best friend. In South Philly this weekend my best friend and I shimmied down Christian street like two fools in love, and my faith in food is and was restored instantly.

            Not to be outdone, I abandoned Lorenzo’s only momentarily to slip a five to a woman dressed like a baker who suggested I try the St. Joe’s cake; a delicate blend of ricotta cheese and zeppoli crust. Back at the corner closest to the DJ, I dug my plastic fork into the doily encasing my soft cheese sponge cake, smiling and singing Italian classics I remember fondly from my childhood, while all around me families sat eating, talking, laughing and ducking underneath awnings whenever the rain looked like it wanted to join in on the festivities for a bit. Luckily, we managed to have our cake and eat it without finding ourselves hovered underneath some unsuspecting neighbor’s front door, and luckily my love for food prevailed in spite of  a string of former pizza-less evenings.

Monday, May 2, 2011

hankering for a little piece of Southern comfort

            Fresh off the plane from Austin, tonight this Yankee had a big ol’ hankering for a little piece of Southern comfort. For the last three nights, I’ve eaten what the likes of Paula Dean fans cook regularly – chicken fried steak, collard greens and Mexican that rivals what’s actually being served south of our border. Somehow waltzing down Washington toward 12th, I couldn’t bring myself to sauté a Purdue chicken breast. Tom Petty said it best when he acted as my su chef - you don’t know how it feels to want to eat that which you can’t replicate. My remedy for tonight’s “homesickness” consisted of butter, bread, and Campbell’s.
            My best friend who less than a year ago moved to Rhode Island raved about the grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup her mom prepared for her when we were in high school. Admittedly, whenever Kate talked about these favorite lunches, the pairing seemed strange. Living in a house where olive oil was a staple, the heartwarming coziness of the cheesy bread was lost on my father’s birth certificate, and Nonna’s handmade gnocchi. Tonight though, armed with a box of cheez-it(s), I dipped, slurped, and savored.
            My playlist continued churning out feel good melodies, except that when the boss intoned about the streets of Philadelphia, I pictured “the legendary” Pappasito’s Cantina where only twenty-four hours ago, I satisfied my bottomless pit status with a platter of pork and cheese enchiladas. Suddenly my nostalgia for the city of brotherly love and what I thought had been my unparalleled relationship with Cuban food was compromised. Its nothing personal Bruce, you just don’t know how it feels to get introduced to a cuisine like Tex Mex only to return to chains like Qdoba on your quainter city’s corner.

            To go from eating chicken fried steak and homemade grits (even if the grits were a coronary waiting to happen), to entertaining the idea of settling for a fresh little tomato and mozzarella Panini felt absurd as I hauled my carry on up to my third floor digs. Tonight I spooned the Campbell’s soup into my hand painted soup bowls and toasted to Texas.