Friday, March 18, 2011


I had never eaten cheese curds. But, after inexplicably becoming surrounded by people from the Midwest where these succulent morsels of disguised fat are battered and deep-fried, I had to try them. We bought a plastic package of cheddar curds from the bagged cheese section of the COOP six months ago. I ate two or three, discarding the rest. Seriously, cheese curds? You were supposed to be delicious, not disappointing!

Maybe, I though back then, the only good way to eat them is at a state fair in a paper holder. I borrowed a deep fryer from a friend and was ready to test this hypothesis. Then, I discovered poutine.

as drawn by me in MS Paint.
I should qualify this picture by saying that John was wonderful and bought me a tablet for my birthday which was not used in the making of Anatomy of Poutine. I am, however, very very grateful.

Technically poutine is Canadian. The dish traditionally consists of fresh cheese curds on top of french fries, all doused in a healthy helping of (preferably thick and canned) beef gravy. I'm pretty sure I discovered this plate of disgusting awesomeness on This Is Why You're Fat, which doesn't appear to exist anymore, may it rest in artery-clogging peace. I kept my peepers peeled in our restaurant endeavors in case we should run into this snack south of the border, as it were. On our last trip to Montpelier for beer, we struck gold.

We had just returned from the farmers' market and Sean Lawson. After sampling some of his excellent beer and picking up some bottles, we were ready for an early lunch. Since Three Penny Taproom didn't open until one that day, we courted Rhapsody Cafe (which makes the best tempeh I have ever purchased in the states) and a couple of pizza joints before settling in at our old Burlington favorite, The Skinny Pancake. Before I could look at the regular menu, I spotted something on the specials list that I couldn't pass up:

Breakfast poutine.
Breakfast Poutine
Basically the same as regular poutine, but with sausage gravy and a poached egg on top. I was so excited at having found a poutine that I didn't notice the regular poutine on the menu until long after the food had arrived.
Run, yolk, run.
We also ordered the apples and brie crêpe (John and I are both on something of a soft cheese kick) and a Love Maker which, unfortunately, arrived without nutella. Probably for the best.
Brie and apples with greens.

Slightly less love making in this crêpe.
We didn't finish all of it, but the rat enjoyed some leftovers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

City by the bay part II

We left off at the end of my first night in SF. After the unreasonably late excursions, pre-sickness and touch of alcohol it is safe to say there were many reasons I should not be feeling in top shape the following morning. A had gotten to bed a handful of hours before me and was also a little groggy, but washed up nicely and went to meet Other A at a cafe across the street where I joined them. A cruller and some soybean milk and we were on our way to a morning of talks. Even though I wasn't feeling any better than when I woke up, I managed to drag myself into a taxi with P and V and head to Chinatown for some dim sum lunch. We got there early and the restaurant, whose name escapes me, had not started cart service yet. I managed to order some of my favorites nevertheless.

Taro fritters!
Shrimp dumplings! Not my favorite, but pretty tasty.
Custard buns (favorite)! Sesame balls.
 We walked off lunch up and down Chinatown's steep streets, enjoying the scenery.

I remember those.
These melons... they is not for you...
After a quick workout and a shower back at the hotel, I was feeling a little better and spent the afternoon productively conferencing with my labmates. We all went out to a Tex-Mex chain for dinner (I won't repeat the name here out of mild disgust) and A and I turned in early to freshen up before our talks the following day.

The final day, we got up and gussied up and ran straight to the conference, arriving by eight to hear a good friend's talk. A spotted an organic coffee bar on the way and we doubled back to it during the break for much-needed breakfast. Two ham, egg and cheese bagels and some lattes later, we felt much better. I ordered an apple, orange and carrot juice that spawned raw juice cravings for weeks afterwards. I figure one can't go to California and not hit up a juice bar. For lunch we joined arms with an adjacent lab group and hopped a few blocks down to the Whole Foods. No sooner had I walked in than I noticed the massive amounts of west coast beers. A frenzy of pictures ensued.

I don't see most of you back home...
Then, of course, I saw the Russian Rivers and all bets were off. Three hours later I would be dragging my carry on-sized but solid frame suitcase back to this Whole Foods, purchasing at least 10 bomber-sized bottles and taping, wrapping, and packing them in the eating area among wide-eyed locals watching me throwing my overflow of underthings and conference clothing into a strategically-brought duffel bag. But before that, I ate lunch.

I have had Whole Foods sushi before in both Chicago and Boston and, may I say, it never tasted this good.
A shrimp and a salmon roe are missing... in my belly.
Eel, we shared.
Rainbowish roll, also shared. Could I have eaten it all? Probably.
Ironically I only got a few bites of each platter before I had to run back to the conference to proof my talk. Everyone else enjoyed them immensely. The subsequent talks went off without hitch and we returned to the disappointing Tex-Mex chain for dinner before taxi-ing back to the airport. Our flight didn't leave until late so we all claimed a table at Perry's and ordered drinks to bide the time. This is where I met the Bench Pinot Noir.
The perfect end to the trip.
I will have a story about the Bench Pinot Noir later as I am now in the possession of what was 4 but is now 2 bottles and these bottles are technically not available for purchase.