May 29, 2006
NJ eats: Country Pancake House and Soda Pop Shop
I think I'm becoming more in tune with my New Jersey-ness. How?
I am...driving around. By myself. A smidge.
Driving is rather important in NJ because if you don't do it, you're screwed. You end up staying at home all day like I do, which isn't something I'd recommend since breathing in stale air is not so great at sustaining health. However, I hate driving, thus I'm extremely unfamiliar with what roads I live around or, hell, what towns surround my own. "Waldwick? Wuhzuh?" Bergen County has 70 municipalities; I can't keep track of that. I have to keep asking my mum for directions everywhere besides printing out multiple maps telling me exactly what street is where and where to turn and oh my god there's roadkill right there, must avoid the roadkill!
Anyway, since I'm writing this entry now you know I didn't die while zooming down parkways and 25 mph streets (the suggested speed limit, I guesss) in my "death pod", or what is popularly known as a "motor vehicle". I think "death pod" is more truthful. It may not appeal to soccer moms, but a macho guy wanting to reinforce his macho-ness may feel empowered to tell people that he drives a pod of death.
Uh. Food time. Guess where I went yesterday!
Country Pancake House, it appears that we meet again. People from out of town always want to go to the Country Pancake House. "Robyn, I want pancakes! Robyn! Wah wah! Pancakes! Etc!" Actually, they don't say that—my friends aren't that annoying.
Although I've eaten so many CPH pancakes in my life that I can't take them anymore, I have no problem directing others to the holy pancake haven that boasts over 100 types of pancakes that come in their standard ridiculous satellite-dish size or an even more ridiculous huger satellite dish size. You can get everything from "Italian Delight" (almonds, coconut, and amaretto) to "Carpetbaggers" (bacon, cheddar cheese, corn meal, ham, and a side of sour cream). There's also a diet pancake for the fool who is dieting and still wants pancakes. John asked me for my recommendation, so I said the banana ones were good. Unless you don't like bananas, in which case that just sucks.
John managed to down about two of the four pancakes before feeling like his stomach was going to explode. I find this mildly disturbing as I could've probably eaten the same amount and the bodily needs of my 5 foot frame aren't exactly the same as his 6 feet of tall-ness. There's a reason that I'm a bit pudgy. Dammit.
I went with the the "not ridiculously unhealthy sounding" sardine pita sandwich platter with a side of home fries (which I specified instead of french fries figuring they'd be mildly less likely to give me atherosclerosis). The sardines were larger than any other sardines I had ever seen. I'm not sure if that should've bothered me or not. While I like raw onions, I keep ignoring the fact that ingesting them results in my entire mouth-space to taste of onion essence for an uncomfortable long period of time, such as "all freakin' day." It's like the skin inside my mouth is actually emitting onion fumes, time released for optimum discomfort. Is this what happens to everyone? Overall, wrapping mutant sardines, caustic onion and crispy iceberg lettuce in soft pita bread made for a satisfying lunch. The potatoes weren't necessary, but they came with the platter, meaning that I "had" to eat them. AMERICANS LIKE POTATOES, OH YEAH! I'm down with that.
Unlike my previous visit, the complementary cornbread was obviously fresh and radiated with warmth and squishiness around its soft cakey soul. It's always a mistake to eat this since it just takes away stomach space from your main dish, but ye can't resist. Their irresistable quality is like that of a glowing electric bug zapper to a mosquito, except that the bread won't kill you...right away.
After eating enough to make sitting an uncomfortable position, John and I walked around the not-very-lively Ridgewood while enduring blasts of heat from the sun. This heat blasting triggered my thirst sensors, which tend to not work, and my thirstiness brought me to a public water fountain, which also tends to not work. Damn. In desperation I picked up a random soft drink from the nearby Japanese market (it's okay to drink unhealthy stuff if it's Japanese!) that contained 33 grams of sugar and tasted a bit like flat Mountain Dew and melted Jell-O or Gummi Bears. I forget what it was named, but the can had a few cute little cartoon bees on it (honey was one of the ingredients) and it proclaimed that it contained 10% of something, "something" probably being vitamin C. Or bees.
John is another good friend that I would add to the list of "cool people I became friends with on the Internet and eventually met in real life" (yesterday was the first time we met). He gets a seal of awesomness. The list of uncool people is currently empty. Perhaps I'm just lucky? DID I JUST JINX MYSELF?! Crap. I also met another cool person: Pete! I don't know Pete as well as John, but after meeting him I would also award him with a seal of awesomeness. I was very amused by his candy monster creature paper things. "Is that...candy corn?"
My lazy day ended with me at home accomplishing little. Mm, Sundays...so unproductive.
Soda Pop Shop
On Saturday I drove to Montclair for the first time by myself to eat with CJ (a longtime Internet friend made through a common Magnet interest; apparently the Internet is the only way to meet cool people in NJ) at the Soda Pop Shop. There were many instances when I was looking at my map instead of the road and put myself at risk for running over something. Like. A human. Thankfully, I managed to leave the roads clean of spilled blood. Do I get a gold star?
As you may have already suspected, the Soda Pop Shop is full of old-timey American charm, a throwback to something that may have existed 60 years ago, except that restaurants back then probably didn't display museum-grade soda bottles and cardboard cut-outs of pop-culture icons. Or maybe they did. [rubs chin Mr. Burns style]
The madness continues inside as you are bombarded with white and pastel pink walls and "I'm not really sure what that color is, but it's kinda turquoise-y" seats. Old cereal boxes, board games, records, and movie posters provide further retinal stimulation.
CJ went with the turkey club sandwich. A rather healthy choice, I think. So what did I get?
CHEESEBURGER. Crap. It's not like I'm even a huge fan of cheeseburgers, but...despite knowing what hamburger patties are made of (the uneasiness of which has a lot to do with acutally having no idea what they're made of), there's just something about them that says, "I shall thwart your attempts to eat healthily. Order me, you must."
While the onion rings were awesomely crispy and contained adequate oniony goodness, the burger left me wanting more. And less. More meatiness, less cooking time. I had been so spoiled by awesome burgers in NYC that I forgot such hockey puck-esque patties lacking in bovine juices existed. Who would eat such a thing? Oh...I did! Oops. The burger also could've used a lot more muenster cheese, say a few more slabs, and a toasted bun would've been much more enjoyable than the character-less bread discs that hugged the burger innards. Altogether, it didn't taste horrible, but I wouldn't want to eat it again.
But the "real" food isn't the star at the Soda Pop Shop. Nuh uh.
It's all about the ice cream. While I had my eyes on a pop parfait, my stomach felt too compacted to be able to fit a ginormous sundae. CJ went for the "Cookie Monster Meets the Doughboy" (cookies and cream ice cream, cookie dough ice cream, chocolate syrup and an oreo) parfait while I got a two scoop "Muddy Sneakers" (white chocolate ice cream, caramel, peanuts and milk chocolate flakes) hot fudge sundae.
Although the waitress said CJ would be able to finish the sundae after he asked how large it was, it was obvious when this tower of ice cream layered with toppings appeared that he wouldn't finish it unless he wanted to suffer the intestinally painful consequences. The freakin' thing moved like lava flows as he wooshed his spoon inside the cup. The ice cream...it churns.
Although I thought two scoops would be manageable, I soon wished I had only gotten one. It's a lot of ice cream! I'm not complaining, but the rule from now one should be to get a one-scoop sundae if a meal has already been eaten; otherwise, a larger one is feasibly ingestible. Refraining from any ice cream eating is not part of the rules. That kind of uncouth behavior will get you kicked out of my eating club.
If this sundae were a building, it would be a public hazard. The structurally unsound mountain of whipped cream sadly succumbed to gravity and transformed from "tasty ice cream accompaniment" to "goop on the table". When it flopped over I unintentionally let out a loud gasp that most people would only utter when witnessing something of utmost horror, like tortured puppies. That whipped cream obviously meant a lot to me. A little too much, perhaps. I salvaged some of the whipped cream, but a chunk of it actually fell on the table again when I attempted to move it with my weeny spoon. It just wasn't meant to be.
While the ice cream was airier than I'd prefer, I still enjoyed it. The description on the menu was a little off; I didn't come across any peanuts, but the chocolate flakes were actually chocolate chunks, which I thought was an improvement over flakes. If my stomach were more accomodating, I would've eaten the remaining spoonfuls of ice cream goop and semi-solidified hot fudge. Instead, I poked a tthe brown swirly remains while comtemplating the damage I had inflicted onto my body by eating a cheeseburger and ice cream for lunch. Jamie Oliver would not approve.
Overall, I enjoyed lunch and would return to the Soda Pop Shop if CJ felt like going (I live 40 minutes away, he lives 5...bastard). I leave you with a few take-away messages: sandwiches look more promising than the burgers, pop parfaits require an empty stomach, and whipped cream is best eaten in a low-gravity environment.
Too lazy to use google? Fine!
Comments are people too!
Jenny emailed me to ask for advice on restaurants in Tokyo. Unfortunately, I know nothing, nor do I have any friends who live in Tokyo. HOW ABOUT YOU? Hellllp ussss. If you have any suggestions, email Jenny, leave a comment, telepathically beam the information to my brain...ye know, whatever works best.
And I have a question for NYC-ers: where do I buy the best coffee beans? I want to bring some coffee to Morten, the friend I'm staying with in Norway. I've already figured out what cookies to get, but I'm clueless about coffee. Hellllp.
Thank you so much for your feedback on the last entry! I was surprised to get those comments since the entry was quite long, rambly, and food-porn-less, but the issue of school lunches (or Jamie Oliver) was something a lot of you could relate to, for better or worse. I'm too lazy to reply to everything in individually (I read em all and will continue to do so, of course), but I'll reply to some stuff here or rambly some more.
For those who didn't see Jamie's School Dinners, there's a part where he tries to win over the last few kids who won't eat his food by showing them how chicken nuggets are made. After showing the kids liquidy, pasty pink food-processed meat goo, they completely lose their appetites for little nuggets of chickeny parts. I'm sure there are people who would still eat chicken nuggets even after seeing how they're made, but its a good tactic.
Jamie's best tactic is to teach the kids about food and get them involved in food preparation. Giving the kids stickers seems to help too (hey, I loved stickers as a kid). In one segment, he quizzes the kids on vegetable names, a quiz that most of the students fail. To be honest, I'm not sure if I'd be able to name rhubarb as a 7 year old, but at the very least I don't think I'd call it an onion. ...Or maybe I would. Celery is closer, at least.
For those who haven't seen Super Size Me (which shouldn't be anyone reading this site because you should've seen it in theaters or DVD by now, AHEM ahem cough), there's a segment where Morgan focuses on the horrors of school cafeteria food and points out a school for "at-risk" kids that has implemented a healthier meal plan. Cathy describes it: "No candy, twinkies, or anything pre-packaged or processed. The teachers said they saw a dramatic difference in the student's behavior and performance, especially after lunch." I remember thinking how great it would be if my high school could have healthy meals not made by Aramark that would result in less asshole-y students. Or maybe half of the people in my town are inherently asshole-y despite what they eat. Hm. Well, it's still healthier.
Cybele points out the Food Network show All Star Kitchen Makeover on which Emeril transforms the kitchen at The Children's Storefront, an independent, tuition-free school in Harlem. I find that more interesting than making over just any one perso's or family's kitchen. Now to find a torrent...
In Jamie's School Dinners I was surprised that so many of the kids (seemingly all of them, although I guess if anyone said they didn't that part could be edited out) said they got chips at home. I thought it was mainly a treat, but it sounded like chips had the equivalent status of rice in my house as a staple.
OH oh oh I just remembered something totally random! I'm not sure if anyone could give me some insight into this, but one of my professors who's from Italy told us that in Europe (not counting Great Britain I guess), there isn't this widespread idea of "kids food", such as turkey twizzlers and chicken nuggets. Kids are just fed smaller portions of adult food. I guess he was talking about Italy, France and...elsewhere? This makes sense to me, as why would you feed your kids something that you may not want to eat (I don't think parents would really want turkey twizzlers)? I'd apply that same idea to pets. If I had a pet, I can't imagine popping open a can of mysterious meat parts and deeming that as food.
Georgia says that this show saved Jamie's reputation. I have to admit that I found him kind of annoying during certain parts, but the project obviously demanded a lot from him. It took time away from his family, time away from his primary job, time away from...sleep. He handled it well and made major accomplishments that make me feel like I'm not going to do anything with my life. I think he was 28 or 29 during the taping of the show—that's pretty young. Dammit! I'M GETTIN' OLD!!!
Elaine, I LOVE CHICKEN POT PIE! Oh god. Pie. Of chicken chunks and creamy sauce that has a real name, but I can't remember it so I'll just call it "cream sauce". I ate loads of chicken pot pies as a kid, although I never made one from scratch until two years ago during my cooking class. As for not eating breakfast, I don't eat breakfast either. For some reason (perhaps...all the execss baggage), I don't have much trouble eating my first meal in the late afternoon. It's good if I'm stranded somewhere, I guess.
Cat, I'd be interested to hear more about the school lunch change program!
Jessie, your classmates sound like douches! Maybe I was lucky that no one asked me if I was eating dog. :\ As for the three potato chips, my god that sounds so sad.
Bowb, it is pretty sad that ketchup is considered a vegetable. Here's an article from a few years ago about frozen fries being classified as fresh vegetables. Yaay, progress! I hate that schools rely on funding from food companies to sell snacks and soda. :(
Alright, this entry is finally over!
Posted by roboppy at 1:56 PM