Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the Road Again...

So, as you may have noticed, my blogs have been less than frequent as of late. Traveling will do that for you. It will also provide lots of material about which to blog. So, a summary of my recent tour of five Eastern locales....

Lake Michigan's Eastern Shore

Ok, you're right, this is not so much a city, but rather a region. Indeed, it is the region of my roots. One of my favorite treats when returning home, apart from the plethora of breakfast-only diners that dot mine and other small towns in the area, is fresh water fish. Whether grilled, broiled, or fried, such varieties as bass, walleye, pollack, and bluegill are always scrumptious. None, however, compare to perch. After enjoying a plateful at the local Elk's Lodge for less than $10, this tasteful memory of my travels is the most vivid. If you ever find yourself in the Great Lakes region, this is a must.

Now, a short bonus lesson for you city-dwellers. In case perch ever adorns a menu around these parts (which sadly, it never seems to), remember this simple rule. Lake perch is one of the most mouth-watering delicacies you may ever enjoy; ocean perch is a overly salty, mushy excuse for fish. The distinction often seems lost in this area, but the difference cannot be stressed enough. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME - I'm talking to you, fish monger at the Maine Avenue fish market - you need to know the difference between perch from the Atlantic, Lake Michigan, and whatever you pointed out that had found it's nasty way out of the Potomac. Not all perch are created equal, but if you choose carefully, you will be rewarded.

On to the Windy City....

Chicago

There are two foods I always associate with Chicago - deep dish pizza and Polish sausage. Given that I was in town for a day and a half, I judged that my stomach lining could not handle both in close proximity, so I was forced to choose. I went with the deep dish. One could debate one deep dish joint over the next for years. Don't worry, Chicagoans will continue to carry that flame on our behalf ... Personally, I usually choose Lou Malnati's. There are several reasons for this - their sausage is served in large chunks, you can call ahead to order for purposes of reducing your wait time before that first bite, and finally, with so many locations, you're likely close to at least one outpost.

Really, deep dish is pretty simple. I mean, when we are talking about this many calories, it's bound to taste good, right?! What makes a Chicago-style crust different, in addition to the obvious increased depth, are cornmeal and lots of butter. Not too much sauce, not too much cheese. Keep those pointers in mind, and you are bound to find pure joy. Just one other thing to remember.... don't pretend to order spinach thin-crust and then place your grubby paws on my sausage pie. It will not end well for you!!

Philadelphia

With my whirlwind visit, I did not have a lot of dining opportunities. While I'd hoped to visit Morimoto, the timing just didn't work out. I did walk by, and the oddly-shaped nature of the exterior was not particularly inviting. In the end, I wasn't all that disappointed. Instead, I was treated to a catered hoagie lunch. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up a nagging question that has continued to bother me - Practically speaking, what is the difference between a hoagie, grinder, hero, submarine, deli sandwich??? Any insight would be appreciated.

Atlanta

A work-related trip took me to the ATL, land of strip clubs and CNN. While I wasn't generally impressed with the prices or offerings of Atlanta, at least in the city itself, we were able to locate a couple of finds. Our per diem for the week was spent at Richard Blaise's Home. On par with local destinations such as 1789 and L'Auberge Chez Francois, Home is Atlanta destination dining. Rather than going through a course by course analysis, I'd rather talk about our experience as a whole. It can be summed up in two words - Southern Charm. The ambiance in the wine cellar for our group of 15 was intimate and warm. The service was friendly, polite, and knowledgeable. We were even treated to a short visit with the chef, whose main concern genuinely seemed to be our pleasure with his food. Order heavy southern treats here, and you'll leave with a smile.

My only other stop worth noting was one of the least expecting. While out running, past several strip clubs mind you (notice the recurring theme?!), I was intrigued when I passed by Gladys Knight's and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles, and immediately decided to return. Reasonably-priced, this was a great treat. The name says enough - the fried chicken and waffles are the stars of this celebrity-owned show. And you can enjoy the offerings as well - there's a location in Largo.

Washington, DC

Finally, after altogether too much travel, including a 9 hour delay at O'Hare, I was thrilled to return home. Though I was out of town for most of restaurant week, we were able to fit in one reservation. I'd had Acadiana on my list for quite some time, so restaurant week seemed a perfect opportunity to try it out. All in all, I'd give it a C. If you've ever been to N'awlins, then you would likely agree that is far from authentic Cajun. The gumbo is not the Brennan family recipe, but that doesn't mean I left any on my plate. The turtle soup approximated what I had come to expect of the dish. The desserts were sweet and satisfying, but not memorable. What can I say? I have high standards for creole cuisine. That being said, this is the closest you're going to get in DC.

Ok, now I'm exhausted yet again. There's still more travel on the agenda (though Hurricane Gustav may put a kink in those plans), so look forward to more travel posts soon.

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