I'm not finished packing and I haven't figured out how I'm going to drag two pieces of luggage, a laptop backpack (with laptop in tow) and a large shoulderbag that doubles as my camera bag without falling over multiple times. So I suppose I will fall over multiple times. Sweet!
If you have the urge to send me an email, please refrain from doing so until my next post (in Paris, hopefully). That way you'll know I'm alive and semi-settled down with enough brain power to answer emails. It should only be a few days...unless I died.
Okay, on to food-speak. Soon.
Tuesday was a dreary, rainy, gray, overall crappy day. I drove to Garden State Plaza with my windshield wipers on the highest setting so that I could catch split second glimpses of the road amidst the less helpful glimpses that made me feel like I was being followed by a waterfall. Alas, the rain does not keep New Jerseyans out of the mall; I could only find a parking spot on the highest, uncovered level. While there were all kinds of people shopping, the only ones I noticed were the young teens balancing multiple shopping bags on each arm with their tired looking mothers in tow. After a few hours of browsing god knows how many stores surrounded by people that reminded me of high school (a bad, bad memory), I only emerged with one pair of casual shoes that will hopefully not chew up my feet, one bra and one dress that I realize now is probably too summery for the weather I'll be enduring soon. Oops.
So that was fun. I slowly rolled home in the rain to avoid deathly collisions with other vehicles and then had to rush out again so that I could arrive in front of Chip Shop two hours later.
I had Chip Shop on my "to do" list for a long time. The thought of it gnawed away at my brain while whispering, "You...want...crispy food...borne forth...from large vats...of burning hot oil." (Yes, my brain speaks to me...very...slowly.) This is the stuff dreams are made of: golden, crispy, deep fried things, even things as simple as potatoes and fish. There's a high possibility that one will experience heart failure merely from being in the presence of such fatty delights, or even eye damage from the radiating yellow glow of the freshly fried foodstuffs. Delightful, no?
Under its thin, crispy, not likely to become soggy crust, the cod flaked apart with little fork poke-age. Of course, fish don't have much connective tissue anyway, but rarely does it go...floof! FLOOF! Kind of like that lamb I had at Cafe Mogodor, but in fried sealife form. I would have loved to eat every thick, perfectly fried chip, but there was too damn much for my stomach to handle. Seriously. In this case "fish and chips" was like "bucket of chips with some fish as a garnish" (and the fish portion was large). It's not a bad thing, nor is Chip Shop the only place that gives tub-sized portions of fries—I just wasn't used it. I felt disappointed when I could no longer stuff fat-ified chips in my mouth despite that my plate was still covered in a layer of them. If you and your eating partner want dishes that come with chips, I'd suggest that one person leaves out the chips ("Fish and ____") so that the two of you can share them from one plate and not feel like failures when you can't eat them all.
My two eating partners didn't want fried food! Gasp! The horror! John went for the lamb vindaloo with saffron jasmine rice and a side of naan (yup, Chip Shop also has a curry menu). The tender and spicy lamb curry tasted great, but the naan was a bit off. Methinks they don't have a tandoori oven. If you never had naan from an Indian restaurant before, you couldn't know what the flatbread is supposed to taste like. Otherwise, you would find it too dry and hard. Eh, bread is bread. I'll eat most of it unless it's stale.
Diana went with a vegetable Shepherd's pie, which like my fish and chips was heavy on the potato. Mashed potato! A whole pie! OF POTATO! (With some vegetables hidden inside.) Maybe she should've put the peas into the pies to make it more vegetable-y (well, a vegetable apart from the potato). I suppose the massive potato-ness of the dish resulted from the lack of meat that usually provides the bottom of Shepherd's pie. What do you replace the meat with? More potato!
I would definitely go back to Chip Shop. No, wait...I have to go back to Chip Shop, as I failed to get the most important thing: deep fried chocolate bar. Oooh yes, next time it's gonna be all about the desserts, baby. If I'm lucky I'll organize an outing with enough people so that we can order a gazillion items dim sum style and have our own British dessert (or pudding) buffet. Wipe out the whole menu in one go! That's my goal. It's good to have a goal, right? Even if it's not approved by health officials?
Part of the reason that we didn't get dessert was because we were planning to go to The Chocolate Room. (The other reason was that we were too stuffed with British food to eat any more British food.) Diana had a rare craving for cake. Ye know...the one we ate last week:
I found it funny that she was craving chocolate cake—isn't that what I usually crave? Aren't I the only with the "OMG NEED IT NOW!" cravings and tendencies to eat things full of sugar, chocolate and/or flour? She and I knew that her stomach could only hold about half of that cake, maybe even less than that. By the end of the night her plate held the frosting skeleton of her cake along with some wayward cake chunks. I helped her out a bit. HELPED. Withmymouth. Ahem.
But only after finishing my dessert. The exact description escaped me soon after the waitress recited it to the table (damn short-ish term memory), but the name definitely had the word "banana" in it along with a descriptive word (not "explosion") that implied that the dessert defied the boundaries of conventional banana action. It consisted of a small piece of chocolate cake on a light, crunchy peanut crust, topped with caramelized banana slices, accompanied by a scoop of coffee ice cream and banana flavored whipped cream. Out of everything, the chocolate cake was probably the least impressive (not that there was anything wrong with it; imagine a neutrally light and moist cake...with chocolate in it), while everything else was pretty awesome. Although I don't like coffee, light and creamy coffee flavored ice cream is fine with me. I already loved whipped cream; add banana and I'll like it even more. The best part to me was the light peanut crust, which was seemingly composed of a gazillion delicate peanut-flavored candy flakes that shattered in your mouth like THE BEST MOUTH-PARTY EVER (aside from Pop-Rocks, maybe). Is that like praline, or am I thinking of something else? It reminded me of a chocolate bon bon filling.
Sean, who met up with us at the Chocolate Room since his body wasn't ready to handle Chip Shop's offerings (maybe later after the other fried things drain from his system), ordered the chocolate pudding. Its flavor was balanced as far as chocolate and sugar content goes. Nothing overpowering—just smooooooth, comforting, colloidal liquidy solid pudding goodness. Colloids are so delicious.
Oh, if anyone's wondering, John got a root beer float. No chocolate! Aw.
After I parted from the other Brooklynites to return to NJ, the sadness of not seeing my friends for the next four months settled in. Waiting on the empty elevated subway platform while staring at the rain-slicked tracks and darkness in both directions felt more depressing than ever before. Eeeverrrr befooooore. :[ And then like all lonely crazy people, I started talking to myself.
But Robyn, you'll make new friends!
You don't believe in yourself.
You'll be fine! Everything turns out okay.
Actually, I guess it might not.
SEE, I KNEW YOU'D TURN ON ME!
I can't predict everything!
You need to lower your voice. French people don't like loud Americans. Hell, no one likes loud Americans. When you get excited, you tend to squeal.
Cool, I'll become a mute.
Nooo, you'll learn French, meet cool people, eat awesome chocolates and baked goods, and not want to go home!
...But who's going to hug me?
Thank you so much for your comments and birthday greetings on my last entry. :) Go to Shake Shack!...if it's not too crowded. And I'd like to take more photos of people, but I luckily had Diana's 50 mm f/1.4 lens over the past couple of days that takes much nicer people-photos than my lens. Ahh, we'll see.
Natalia tagged me for the "5 Things to Eat Before You Die" meme. 5 things? 5 THINGS? [breathes out] My list may not be so great, but I'll try anyway.
In No Real Order, Five Things to Eat Before You Die (Assuming You Won't Die Tomorrow)
Chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery. Oh baby. It's like eating dough. Except it's been cooked. Slightly. I'd say don't try to eat the whole thing by yourself, but I did it once and emerged unscathed! Over time you too can grow a special "Levain cookie" stomach where all Levain cookies go to die, untouched by less holy stomach acids that digest othe foodstuffs.
Chinese steamed whole fish. This is simple. The combination of flaky, soft flesh flavored with garlic and scallions and other things that go into Chinese dishes (look, ma, I'm too lazy to look it up!) is one thing I can't imagine getting tired of. (Granted, there are a lot of foods I can't imagine getting tired of, but they mainly reside in the "baked goods" department, not "things you find in aquariums".) The great thing about this dish is that you can tear away at the fish as its vapid eyes or gaping eye sockets look back at you! Heehee!
Unagi / Japanese grilled eel. From where, I wouldn't know what to specifically recommend, but...it's almost always awesome. Find a good restaurant and dig into sweet sauce-slathered eel. The meat should be soft as custard, except it's EEL FLESH, YO. (Yet the idea of eel flavored custard isn't appealing.)
Fried Chinese Sesame seed ball filled with bean paste. It's just one of my favorite things. You can have the bliss of crunchy, chewy, sweet, sesame, and bean paste all at once for about 50 cents.
Fresh produce, paticularly strawberries and peas. These are two things I specifically recall as tasting infinitely more amazing fresh from a farm than from a grocery store. My first taste of freshly picked strawberries came from Vassar Farm during the summer of 2004 when I was stuck on campus...working. A few of my friends in the same media studies program picked buckets of strawberries that were still warm from being hugged by nature as I popped them into my mouth (they went from being hugged to being digested...mm!), one after the other after the other times 100000 until I reached my end point of strawberry greed. I was horrified when I found out that they were going to make strawberry shortcake instead of eating them straight.
I'd tag people, but I'm too lazy. Ugggh! UGGGH! UUNGHGHG (wow, this sounds unpleasant.)