An East Coast Weekend: From Fried Green Tomatoes to Wiffle Ball


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I went home to the New Jersey to surprise my Mom for her birthday last week, and in between wiffle ball games with my brothers, I scavenged for food in the area, including a brief trip to New York. So, here are the food highlights… and then some.

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At Momofuku in NYC, the Fried Green Tomatoes with Anchovies, Chervil, and Kimchi was one of the most boldly delicious plates of food that I’ve had in a long time. The perfect bite involved the cold and spicy kimchi hitting your tongue first, followed closely by a piping hot wedge of green tomato that crunches open to let loose its almost molten interior, and then finished with the sharp salty tang of the slightly chewy anchovies and chervil. It reminds you how much flavor food can have. Even though most dishes contain elements of crunch/chew/salt/hot/cold, this was one of the few that made it seem special, like an elaborate balancing act. And now I much prefer the wedges of fried green tomatoes to slices; there’s more room for flavor and texture that way.

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Unfortunately, my Momofuku Ramen, which ironically came out in better focus than the FGT’s, was insipid at best. Everything in it seemed over-cooked and tired. During last year’s visit, my bowl had been perfect, bordering on transcendental.

And I got to sit at the counter directly in front of the cooks, which was great entertainment.

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The caramel ice cream sandwich from ‘Wichcraft in Bryant Park was boring and very sweet… though there was a ballerina for entertainment.

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I went to Columbus Circle to get something from Bouchon Bakery at 5pm on Sunday, but the prices stood out more than the small variety of food remaining ($4.75 for a donut, $3.75 for a linzer cookie??). I didn’t get anything.

I was amused that Per Se had ratatouille on the menu, echoing Thomas Keller’s involvement in the Pixar movie.

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Back in NJ, Umberto Pizzeria in Fair Haven is my pizza of choice. It’s a mom & pop pizza shop with a Sicilian pizza that has a gooey top, pillowy middle, and crunchy bottom. They don’t deliver, but we’ve been taking it out for years. Their NY-style is also quite nice.

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The Steak au Poivre at Avenue in Long Branch was velvety and juicy, and satisfied my steak craving.

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The restaurant is on the water above the beach that now has palm trees (!).

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I also wandered into my parents’ garden and yard, in search of any and all things edible among the beguiling greenery and flowers.

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I was delighted to discover that the cherry tree that I used to be only vaguely aware of is actually a sour cherry tree.

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My parents had already picked most of them for liqueurs, but I had plans to make a pie, or compote if need be, the next day with the rmg few… but they disappeared overnight! Either by the birds or spoilage, I guess.

At least this one will be forever in mid-bite…

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Then there were the black raspberries…

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And the wild black raspberries. The immediate gratification of impromptu berry-picking is one of the greatest pleasures I know of.

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There were blueberries in the making.

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And apples.

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And pears.

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And there are always more flowers…

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11 Responses to “An East Coast Weekend: From Fried Green Tomatoes to Wiffle Ball”

  1. FurryRabbits Says:

    Nice post. 🙂

  2. susan Says:

    you parents’ garden is gorgeous! i would love to have some backyard berry picking in my life..

  3. ChocolateApprentice Says:

    Lovely pics! I don’t think that they charge that much at Bouchon in Yountville… I’ll have to check it out next time I am there.

  4. emily Says:

    Love the pictures of your parents’ garden. I can pick blueberries, mulberries and boysenberries in mine, but I hope to have a bigger garden with a small fruit orchard someday. Are black raspberries worth growing compared to the regular red variety?

    I heard that Bouchon Bakery in NY has gone downhill recently, but who knows.

  5. Nina Says:

    FurryRabbits – Thank you!

    Susan – Thanks! I haven’t picked my own food in such a long time, and it was such a simple treat. I want to investigate farms where you can pick your own fruit in the LA area for an excursion this summer.

    ChocolateApprentice – Thank you. Eek, I hope I’m right about the prices (I actually didn’t write them down this time), but I think Yountville is cheaper. I looked on the web and found accounts in the past couple of months of the donuts costing either $3.50 or $4.25. So, maybe there’s some price variance and/or changing going on.

    And wow, your site brings back a lot of memories. Say hello to everyone at the school for me!

    Emily – Thanks! And oooh, you’re so lucky to have your berries! I’d stick with the red raspberries. The black are mostly good b/c they come in earlier, but they’re more bitter and not as lusciously textured as the red.

    Come to think of it, my last visit to the Yountville Bouchon was lacking, too. 🙁

  6. Non Cognomina Says:

    Nina,

    Great post. I, too, was disappointed by the ramen at Momofuku on my last visit last month. I lived right around the corner when they first opened–when you could walk in any old time. The Fried Green Tomatoes sound awesome, though. Brilliant description of the flavors, too.

    Thanks for the photo of the Per Se menu. If you go back into the city, know that you can go into the lounge for a drink even if you don’t have a reservation. Get a glass of champagne and enjoy the view of the park–and the dining room. By the way, have you seen the movie yet?

    Greetings from Yountville, and safe travels.

    =Non Cognomina

  7. Nina Says:

    Non Cognomina – While I was waiting for my food (for a rather long time) at Momofuku, I was able to watch the cooks closely, and the cook on the ramen station seemed a little uncertain… a little frazzled. I even felt bad for the cook… until I got my ramen…

    I didn’t know that you could have a drink in the Per Se lounge! That sounds terrific. I googled it, and someone said that they also serve complimentary canapes and flavored popcorn for those who stop by.

    I saw Ratatouille this weekend, and I was surprised that I didn’t like it. The concept is fun, but the story just seemed weak and aimless — with the heavy-handed portrayal of the critic, drawn out sequences, obligatory love story, and a frustratingly one-dimensional Linguini. It ended up wanting to have two good guys and two bad guys, but it didn’t examine their differences and similarities in service of the story in an interesting way. It relied more on simple knee-jerk sentiments than perceptive original thought — which was in especially stark contrast to its thoughtful and detailed visuals. Sure, it’s a kid’s movie, but even so, it could have been so much better than it was.

    hehe I did like Thomas Keller’s voice cameo though. 🙂

    What did you think of it?

    A funny thing is that the ratatouille in the movie looks more like the byaldi recipe in The French Laundry cookbook than the ratatouille dish on the Per Se menu… though I’d love to try either! 🙂

    Hope you’re enjoying Yountville! I miss being up there so much!

  8. Non Cognomina Says:

    Hi Nina. Yes, per se does have “bar snacks” like popcorn tossed in truffle oil, house roasted Virginia peanuts, and the like, but it’s not sitting out or anything. If you order a drink and hang out for a while they’ll bring some out. If you like gin and tonic, their version is worth a try. I remember something about quinine powder in the description.

    I did see Ratatouille. I haven’t made up my mind about it yet. I think I need to see it again. There was so much hype about it (especially in Napa Valley) that I’m willing to wait a while and go see it again. Yes, TK’s vocal cameo was a nice little treat, especially to hear him give a jab to “the old foie gras standby.”

    And you are right on about the byaldi recipe from TFL cookbook. Check out Chef giving a demo:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2007/06/28/MNGGIQNA7M1.DTL&o=2

    Enjoy the rest of your trip to the East Coast. Will you be coming back to the West Coast soon?

    Napa misses you, Nina. Did I mention I’m a Greystone grad, too?

    =Non Cognomina

  9. Nina Says:

    Funny, three Greystone folks associated with this post. Are you working in pastry now?

    And I was only in NY/NJ for 3-4 days, and then I went almost directly to Yosemite for camping. Being away from my chocolate and the farmer’s markets for 1.5 weeks made me feel so out of the loop. 🙂

    And I think I’d like the byaldi more than the movie — I’m going to give it a try. I’m surprised it’s not popping up on blogs, given the popularity of the movie.

  10. Gretchen Says:

    OMG. I want that Umberto!!! I too miss the winant garden….and the people who live there….well in the house that is there….ahahahaha…

  11. Nina Says:

    Gretchen – Hahaha Actually, my brother has camped out overnight outside in recent years. I’d be way too freaked about foraging animals to do that!!

    And I heard that the owner of Umberto used to have either a poster or a full-size James Dean cutout that had a picture of his face covering the original. Makes me love the place even more!

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