I wanted pizza; Amy wanted hiking. Jason, our mutual New Haven friend, was up for doing both.
But the sweating and labored breathing that comes from physical exertion (doesn't take much in my case) started before I even left New York. The rerouted J train from my Brooklyn apartment to Manhattan caused me run for the Metro-North train just minutes before it was to pull out of Grand Central. I ran/power walked towards the front of the train, skipping the crowded cars, until I realized the whole train was crowded—obviously, since it was going to leave in about 30 seconds.
I plopped my butt somewhere. Not in the same car as Amy, although that would've been convenient.
"Are you okay?" she asked on the phone. "Do you want to come up to my car?"
"I...uh...tired. ...Breathing funnily. I'll wait a bit." My words may have been more coherent than that, but not by much. And I wouldn't even blame that on the heaving, constricted breathing; I'm frequently incoherent even with normal oxygen intake.
And that's the most exercise I will ever get in a morning. I could never run like that in a controlled setting—it's the motivation to not have to wait another hour for the next train that gives my body that extra special boost, the magical thing that keeps me from crashing into walls or tourists as I try to find the correct platform. Who needs a gym membership when you can feel the burn, heart rate-increasing stress, and relief of barely catching a train? I feel like just repeating, "OH SHIT I'M NOT GONNA MAKE IT," over and over in my head burns more calories than a calmer thought, like, "That's a nice teapot."
...Yeah, I'm really out of shape.
And then we ate a lot
The first place that Jason took Amy and me to was Bar, home of the glorious mashed potato and bacon pizza and their own micro-brewed beers. The last time I came across Bar a few months ago it looked like had exceeded its legal capacity by about 200%. People may have been sitting on top of each other; it was hard to tell what was going on as all I could see was a dark, wriggling mass of human bodies.
But on this delightful Saturday afternoon, there was no one. Almost. Not surprisingly since school wasn't in session and if I were a New Haven-ite, I'd still be latched to my bed.
Amy and Jason shared this beer. This special beer. ...With special flavors. As I derive about as much pleasure from drinking as I get from staring directly at the sun, I didn't care enough to write down the beer's description. But if it means anything I actually took more than one sip. That is, two sips. It had an interesting multi-layered taste that didn't make me retch. Always a good thing.
And then it was time for bacon and mashed potato pizza, sans tomato sauce. We ordered a small to make sure we'd have enough stomach space for the rest of the day, but the small ended up being more like a medium, enough to satisfying three hungry people. For only $12.50, that's pretty sweet.
Pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes were plopped near the edge of the pizza and spread a little bit towards the center, and bacon clumps were sprinkled on top. Clumps. Clumps-o-bacon. The mashed potato didn't have much flavor, but it tasted good combined with the thin chewy crust, gooey garlic-enhanced mozzarella, and CRISPY CHUNKS OF BACON. While I may not be much of a fan of bacon on its own, I appreciate it when it lends its salty pork essence to other foodstuffs. Like pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes.
Next, I propose a mashed potato, bacon, and gravy pizza. ....That's not gross at all.
Bar's bacon and mashed potato pizza may not have been as good as the pizza from Sally's or Pepe's, but it's worth trying. Multiple times.
When we passed by Atticus, Jason and Amy saw a bookstore. But I saw scones. Millions of scones. Since 1981.
However, the bookstore/bakery only had one scone left. The gaziilion other scones must have already been eaten that morning.
Our hefty ginger scone flecked with bits of candied ginger was alright. Not bad, nor one of my favorites. It was a bit dry, although not in the way that made me feel like it was supposed to be dry, but that it dried out as it sat alone on the bakery counter...neglected...losing the will to live. The texture was a bit heavier than I would've liked. Or maybe I was too full from the pizza to fully enjoy it.
Never having seen a wine bar that served dim sum, I was amused to come across Chow a...dim sum wine bar. The combination kind of goes against why I like traditional dim sum—it's cheap, chaotically fast, and eaten with free, unlimited pots of tea—but I guess it's nice if you want to eat dim sum in a relaxed, upscale environment and pay a lot for it.
After passing out in Jason's apartment for longer than we had expected to (20-somethings need naps too), we went to Libby's Italian Pastry Shop for a pre-hike dessert.
I couldn't decide what flavor of Italian ice to get, or whether to try one of their cannolis (with atypical toppings such as Heath bar, crumbled Oreos, or M&Ms). After the long wait, I settled on getting both: lemon Italian ice and a hazelnut chocolate cannoli.
My lemon Italian ice in a small squeeze cup made for a pleasantly smooth frozen treat. Until it melted and I was sucking up sweet lemon juice from the wee lil' crumpled paper cup. But that was the sun's fault. It's probably more satisfying to eat with a spoon.
I saved the cannoli for later. Amy and Jason said it could be my end-of-the-hike reward.
Jason's hazelnut and pine nut gelato was "meh." Not much flavor. Stick with the Italian ice.
On our walk to East Rock Park along Orange Street, we passed by Nica's Market where I bought a Portuguese egg tart. They offered a variety of home-baked goods; I gravitated towards the egg tart because egg tarts are one of the best things in the world. Unfortunately, the initial excitement died off as soon as I bit into the chewy crust. Egg tarts aren't supposed to have chewy crusts. Epic fail.
On the upside, I bought a bottle of sparkling water to stave off dehydration.
This is where I burned calories
And then walked. A lot. And wished we had a car. But since the point of going to East Rock Park was to get exercise and fresh air and whatever it is that people did for fun before computers were invented, it would've been dumb to speed up the "getting there" process. My cursory calculations tell me that the distance between Libby's and the park is about two miles. Not that we knew that during our walk, which is why it seemed like we would never make it.
The "climb" up the rock was fairly easy; it just involved going up steep Mordor-esque steps made of giant rocks. I only took this one photo during the upward trek due to being distracted by the sensation that my lungs were going to explode. Ha ha. Did I mention I was out of shape? (Don't worry; I take Advair now. Take that, nature.)
Our reward for reaching the top was a beautiful view overlooking New Haven. Being surrounded by trees instead of buildings and trees was also nice. Along with the fresh air.
As we sat on a bench, I treated myself to the celebratory chocolate hazelnut cannoli that had been sitting in my bag for god knows how long. I don't actually like cannolis that much (whether freshly filled or not); I just keep eating them (I've had about five during my lifetime) thinking that I might like them someday. Libby's cannoli was nothing special—the thick, cheesy filling was kind of tacky and missing the advertised hazelnut flavor and, like every other cannoli shell I've ever eaten, I didn't like it. It's similar to my feelings towards choux pastry: I might like it more when it's fresh and crisp, but even then I still think it lacks any enjoyable flavor.
Pizza time, part deux
Due to lack of time, we passed the long lines at Sally's and Pepe's to eat at the line-less Abate.
Abate is nice if you want something besides pizza. Like french fries. Amy and I had a french fry craving and nearly filled up on the mountain of fat-soaked sticks of carby goodness before our pizzas could arrive at our table.
The eggplant parmigiana pie was alright. The last time I ate an eggplant parmigiana pizza was at Sally's, which makes for an unfortunate comparison because nothing would taste as good as that. Abate's pie wasn't bad—it was just boring.
The white pie with fresh tomato slices with garlic and basil was much better. It's all about the layer of sweet, mozzarella cheese meshing harmoniously with the thin crust. ...And the gobs of garlic. I prefer pizzas topped with whole tomato instead of tomato sauce, but I don't come across them very often.
The crust didn't have much flavor, but I liked its thickness.
Although Amy and I had to push ourselves to eat just half a pizza each (the fries may not have been a good idea), Jason managed to eat an entire pizza rather than see it go to waste, apparently without any stomach discomfort. It boggles the mind. I'm still impressed.
We took a cab to the train station—like hell we were going to do any more walking after the six+ miles we covered that day. Amy and I passed out on the train ride back to New York.
Since I wouldn't consider this trip a focused "fooding" excursion, I'll probably go back to New Haven sometime this year. There are people I have to see and things I have to eat. Like more pizza.
New Haven Food Tour: Part 1 (Modern Apizza and Ashley's Ice Cream)
New Haven Food Tour: Part 2 (Sally's Apizza)
New Haven Food Tour: Part 3 (Frank Pepe Pizzeria)
New Haven Food Tour: Part 4 (Louis' Lunch)
Atticus Bookstore and Cafe
1082 Chapel St
New Haven, CT 06510
Libby's Italian Pastry Shop
139 Wooster St
New Haven, CT 06511
Abate Apizza and Seafood Restaurant
129 Wooster St
New Haven, CT 06511