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I live to eat. Yes, I am an Asian Jew. My favorite meal is breakfast (oatmeal in particular). I'm only in high school, so I am a complete amateur. Some of my favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Japanese and Korean. I eat so much Chinese food that it's hard to say whether I like it or not... all I know is that I don't like what most of America seems to think of as Chinese food, Panda Express. I'm a pescetarian and love coming up with my own healthy fusion food.
Hey everybody, my blog has gone Wordpress!
The night before when we were wandering around Middletown, we spotted a tiny little diner called O'Rourke's. My mom, being the iPhone addict that she is, said that this was the only restaurant that was listed under best restaurants in Middletown on Urban Spoon. O'Rourke's was open for St. Patrick's day, but they didn't have anything remotely vegetarian-friendly, so we decided to head back there for breakfast.
This place was straight out of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Everything from the massive piles of hash browns crowding the skillet (the kind that covers huge amounts of surface area) to the old white guys sitting at the bar (obviously regulars, since the waitress kept saying stuff like "you're late today!").
Some Wikipedia stuff:
The diner was established in 1941 by John O'Rourke, who later brought the 1946 Mountain View diner car that anchored the diner's distinctive appearance into Middletown. His nephew Brian O'Rourke eventually became the establishment's cook and owner.
On August 31, 2006, O'Rourke's Diner suffered tremendous damage from a fire that broke out after a hamburger steamer was left on overnight. Because the diner did not have fire insurance, fundraising efforts were launched to cover the estimated $350,000 cost of repairs. By June 2007, $180,000 had been raised and preparations for reconstruction were underway. On February 11, 2008, following successful renovations which included assistance from the local community and Wesleyan University, O'Rourke's was reopened at 5:00 am.
The menu was huge. The last time I went to a brunch place it was a terrible experience... two words-- Bob Evans. Anyways, I learned from my past experience to try and order slightly less and not go overkill with pancakes and sugary toppings. Since the place was technically Irish, I figured their oatmeal must be pretty good. I ordered it with blueberries, bananas, and walnuts. I also ordered a scrambled egg on the side. I wanted to order a fruit plate too, but the waitress stopped me, informing me that the bowl of oatmeal would be HUGE.
She was definitely right-- I can stomach a lot of food in the morning, but not that much. I'm pretty sure the oats were steel cut, since they had a great chewy texture. My only complaint was that it had no taste... I'm so used to not having to sweeten my oats because I make them with bananas cooked in and then add in cinnamon and vanilla and a pinch of salt, but these had nothing. I added salt and some of the fruit toppings (aka SUGAR) from what my mom ordered, which was Irish soda bread French toast. She barely eats anything for breakfast, but the french toast came highly recommended. She didn't like the fact that the fruit toppings (raspberry, peach and blueberry) were already slathered on the bread, but she loved the clotted cream. I stole a dollop to eat with my oats.
My dad ordered one of those cholesterol busting egg breakfast (but thank god, not the 6 yolk omelette). It had some crazy name... Irish Ecstasy or something cheesy like that. Either way, it was something we'd never heard of, whose name I'm blanking on... it was basically mashed potatoes and cabbage. This was served with corned beef, sunny side up eggs, Hollandaise and brown bread.
The brown bread was amazing! So dense and wholesome tasting... it was pretty flavorless, but in a good way, like those monastic Chinese buns that have come back into style.
After breakfast it was time for the 9:00 Wesleyan tour!
They do sort of start to look the same after a while.
After Wesleyan, it was time to head to New Haven (Obviously to see Yale).
Amazing ethnic street food carts? How could anybody pass those up? Street food is definitely something Chicago is lacking. In addition to the Ethiopian cart, I saw a bunch of Indian stands, a few Mexican ones, a few Thai ones, and two Middle Eastern ones. I immediately headed for the Ethiopian cart and picked three dishes and injera, that spongy bread, for 5 bucks. Yes, 5 bucks. Well, actually 6, because I also got water. I picked spicy lentils, green beans and carrots, and spinach and potatoes. The injera came rolled in little scrolls.
I love the texture of injera... look how spongy it is!
My only complaint was that by the time I got to the bottom of the vegetables, there was literally a pool of oil on the plate. Other than that, they were amazingly flavorful and I couldn't believe how cheap everything was.
My parents both headed for the Middle Eastern cart. I would have, and Middle Eastern is still my favorite cuisine, but I eat it all the time. Still, my dad and I ended up sharing and I can say with confidence that his food was at least as good as mine. He ordered fish, which came with rice, chickpeas, green beans and carrots, and some kind of yogurt sauce. It was AMAZING. The texture was flaky without being overcooked, and whatever they put on it, it was so perfectly spiced that I'm making myself hungry just thinking about it.
My mom ordered chicken, which you think would be the same, but she said it had been already marinated in some kind of yogurt mixture (almost like tandoori chicken?) and cubed, giving the breast meat, which is usually dry and bland, a lot of flavor. She got hers with pita instead of rice.
Once we were done eating, we rushed to the information session. We didn't end up going on the official tour because we had to be back in New York by a certain time, but we went on our own tour of the place.
One of the reasons we had to head back to New York was that my dad was getting an award! A dinner was being held in his honor at the Knickerbocker Club (Ha, I know) on the Upper East side. I swear to god this was straight out of Gossip Girl. We were dressed up (I even wore heels, which is a feat for me) and as we walked into the club and climbed the carpeted spiral staircases, I saw waitresses in French maid outfits and actually thought to myself, "oh my god, it's Doroda!"
Dinner was a set menu. The main course was lamb, but I requested fish instead. Actually, correction: I said I could eat fish or seafood, and they said, "You want fish? Okay." I feel bad eating so much fish when I travel, but it tends to happen. In this case, I was lucky, since there was a more hardcore vegetarian at the table and they literally brought her a plate of vegetables.
If you can't read the font, the first course was smoked salmon and asparagus. I didn't think it was an especially original idea, but according to everyone, it was really good quality salmon. I was laughing to myself that it was served with truffle oil, because that's the most typical overly fancy and expensive condiment there is. In fact, the moment I walked into the club, I knew that among the hors d'oeuvres would be crab cakes and tuna tartare, and I was completely correct. There were even quail eggs!
I don't know what fish they served me or how they cooked it. All I know is that it was amazing and definitely not especially healthy. It was almost like scalloped potatoes-- lightly breaded with some kind of eggy, cheesy crust. It came with the same vegetables as the lamb (skimpy portions though): brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans, and what I like to call "fancy tater tots."
Dessert was an apple tart with vanilla ice cream (But of course, the menu had to point out that it was Tahitian vanilla). It was warm, instantly making it delicious. My philosophy is that anything warm with taste good with something cold mixed in (i.e. chili and sour cream). Of course, the ice cream got all melty... how could I not eat it? I ate the apples out of the crust but didn't eat the crust. I just didn't really feel like it, and there's nothing like apple pie crust for me.
I also had some decaf, just to feel cosmopolitan.
So to sum it up, fancy, expensive food. Very good quality, not necessarily imaginative.
What a long day! Every day on that trip felt like three. The day after we stayed in New York and ate at home (it was nice for a change... I even ended up eating cereal for dinner and loving it).
On to Amherst! I must confess, I fell in love with the campus. Not having an official tour almost made the experience better. I met up with my first ever piano teacher, who teaches there, and he spent at least an hour and a half showing us around. I swear, he was born to be a tour guide!
Anyways, backing up, I had a quick breakfast (we had stayed over at our family friend's, and I had a fun time scrounging through the cabinets to see what I could find). I came up with Ezekiel cereal (Basically Grapenuts with almonds), 2% Fage, a banana, peanut butter, almonds, and dried cranberries.
As we drove further and further from the city, I began to fall in love with the countryside. Who knew?
For lunch, my piano teacher took us to one of the many cute restaurants in Amherst. The fanciest spot was probably Chez Albert. I snuck a peek at the menu, and WOW. Apparently Amherst is so green that it's almost annoying, and they have a farmer's market right on campus. We went to Fresh Side, a Pan-Asian place. It was one of those joints where everything on the menu is appealing... NOT for the indecisive (aka my mom).
Luckily, my piano teacher is a regular there, and he helped me decide what to get. Fresh Side's specialty is their tea rolls, an original creation that I would call "Asian burritos." According to them, a Tea Roll is "Our Original Invention, A Combination Of Japanese Maki Roll And Cantonese Dim Sum. All The Tea Rolls Are Made With Paper Thin Wheat Flour Wrap. EachOrder Is made with Fresh Ingredients, And Accompanied With House Made Sauces."
My teacher and I ordered the same rolls: The Pad Thai Tea Roll W/Beancurd or Chicken. Warm Spicy Rice Noodle, Egg, Peanuts, And Fresh Cilantro. Choice Of Fish Sauce Or Peanut Sauce On The Side.
It came with peanut sauce (essentially diluted peanut butter), and was a tad carby for my taste (noodles wrapped in bread? what?), but I think the concept is really cute. The rolls were really fun to eat, and it was amazing to see all the different options.
I also ordered a miso salad with (you guessed it) more tofu. Interestingly, the tofu was the smoked kind, the kind known in Chinese as dou fu gan. The salad had romaine, cucumber, bamboo-shoots, shredded carrots, scallions, and a miso dressing. Very Pan-Asian, but in a good way.
After Amherst, we drove to Northampton. I loved it. What an amazing place. So liberal, vegetarian friendly, awesome thrift stores, laid back vibe. I would go to Smith just for the area that it's in, except for the fact that I don't want to go to a women's college.
In order to make the 9:00 Wesleyan tour the next morning, we had to stay in Middletown overnight. We drove there, checked in to the local inn, and walked down nearly the entire central strip looking for a restaurant. For a place with a reputation of being dead and empty, there were tons of restaurants. Maybe not the most epicurian, what but what do you expect? Lots of Italian places (and bars, lots of bars... and it was St. Patrick's Day), an Indian place, a sushi restaurant, a Thai restaurant, etc. etc.
We ended up going into what seemed like an Italian place, but was really American. The food was classic, and not cheap, but we had been walking a lot and it was late, and it was just what we needed.
I ordered the special, which was striped bass with caramelized butternut squash, fennel, and pine nuts. It had all my favorite foods, with the exception of some sort of leafy green. I ate all of easily, leaving only some of the pine nuts.
My parents continued to be carnivorous (beef for lunch and dinner? Oh my.)-- my mom ordered steak. She was hesitant because according to the menu, that hunk of meat was 12 oz! No way could (or should) anyone finish that. Luckily, it didn't end up being as big as she thought. It came with broccoli and asparagus, which I stole a lot of. She ordered it rare, of course.
Sometimes ethnic food isn't always the best option. It can be done really badly if it's cooked, well... badly. After this relatively rich meal (more so for my parents than me), we were ready to jump into bed. We slept, anticipating Wesleyan the next morning.