Life’s short. I was not gonna return. But we were in Wilmington again. One more try and one more disappointment, don’t go back. It must be a slow day for posting. Romano’s Macaroni Grill – don’t do it. The cooks are tired. On Broadway they change the cast to refresh the show from time to time. Someone needs to do it here. I had a wonderful meal in Jeddah. But two tries in Delaware were overwhelmingly disappointing. The chicken was a bit better – flatter. But it was not good. And it was definitely not worth the try and for sure not worth another glance. Go somewhere else. I will.
Another year, it’s complicated. The more family, the more places to be. You can only be in one place at a time. Tradition, it drives the day. You gotta have turkey. Then it’s complicated. There are a lot of traditional dishes. Too many to count means you need to decide and then there are new dishes. New, no, the familiar is what is demanded by one and all. This year we have a couple new worthy additions. I guess I’ve learned a new trick. It will be sour cream apple walnut pie and pumpkin mousse. Good stuff! I don’t suppose you remember my failed pumpkin soup. It spilled out all over the driveway. No five second rule there. I’ve made that soup again recently and was very pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. It’s a nice holiday. Too bad shopping has begun and the Xmas lights are already out.
It’s a chain – Romano’s Macaroni Grill. It’s struggling. It opened in 1988 and was sold as recently as 2015. Its value tanked in 2008 with the economic depression. There are branches around the world including Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Full circle. I was introduced to the restaurant when it opened in Jeddah in 2016. I’ve written about it. The restaurant is run by Filipinos. They don’t own it. They run it. Waiters and cooks, the Filipinos run the economy in Saudi. I’m not a fan of their ability to cook Chinese. But in this Italian place they did a bang up job. Great! The chain is in the US and upon returning, I located the nearest restaurant. It’s about 100 miles from home. We were traveling back from Boston and there was a restaurant in Hartford. Closed! Forever. The restaurant close to home was a bit out of the way and we arrived at 10PM an hour before closing. I know the chicken parmesan in Saudi. The cutlet is pounded flat and as large as your dinner plate. It’s covered in red sauce and mozzarella and cappellini pasta is layered beneath. The pasta is hot enough to burn you. The cutlet is crisp from the grill and the cheese is bubbling when the dish arrives at the table.
All of this explanation is the prelude to disappointment. Is it the local chef? Or did the restaurant quality control sheriff not visit recently. The cutlet was thick and dry. The dish was cold. The pasta was large spaghetti and covered with watery sauce. In short, this was a meal as unmemorable as I would expect from any fast food chain. Had I tried this restaurant location first I would never return. So to the sad new owners of Romano’s, wake up and pay attention to your place. You are failing. There are too many choices. And 100 miles is hardly a reason to make the trip. And I’m not going back to Jeddah. Talk to your Filipino chef there. He’s a lot better than your guy here.
The Little Pie Company makes a SCAW – sour cream apple walnut pie for which the recipe is intentionally left out of their cookbook. It is their signature pie. The apples are sliced, not wedged. The topping is brown sugar and walnuts in a thick layer of decadence. I’ve imagined this pie. And since I moved from NYC, it has seemingly been a pursuit to reproduce the recipe. We went apple picking. There was no better time to recreate the recipe. We looked in several places and settled upon the Silver Palate recipe. It utilized sour cream. The topping is described as a streusel. Our recipe tasted exactly as the Little Pie. The topping was too meager. It’s plenty sweet and tastes the same as the Little Pie too. It just needs to be thicker. After all this time, I have reproduced another recipe. Osso bucco was another recipe that turned out to be dead simple to make. Meanwhile, the secret recipe is really not so secret after all.
Imagine, all these years and I’ve never had any. At this point in life I hardly need a new sin. Kettle corn has not been on my radar. Those in the know recommend it. I’m hooked now. It’s hot and when the popping begins be sure to wear a helmet and gloves for protection. Sugar caramelizes on the bottom of a heated kettle. The coated corn is reminiscent of Cracker Jacks but less cloying. Add a little salt to finish and the product is hard to resist. May I have some more please?
What lamb in Arabic? If you don’t know it will not help you to sat baa. Ogden Nash wrote about the language of dogs. They bark differently in different countries. Woof is not universal. French dogs do not necessarily “bow wow.”
When I arrived in Jeddah I could not speak Arabic. And I still cannot. Thankfully all the Filipino waiters speak English. We tried a Malaysian restaurant the other night. Tried. Failed. The staff looked vaguely oriental which meant to me that they were likely Filipino. Nope. My nurses were embarrassed. They could not speak with or get a translation for the menu. We were stuck in a place with cuisine I was not familiar and with no one to guide us. We went to an Indian place instead. My nurses have never eaten Indian food. Imagine? I ordered us up some good vittles. Mmmm….
This picture? I was in the mall. I saw someone eating. It was a stew that was eaten with fresh made flat bread. I went to order up some too. And the Arabic speaker behind the counter was mystified. We could not speak. At all. I pointed. He shrugged He asked in Arabic. I pointed. I said baa. I said moo. He smiled and shrugged again. I got beef. They don’t serve pork. And I never clucked.
Now? I get on the phone to my assistant. I tell him and he speaks on my behalf. A lot of hospital staff have asked me for help and I use this method to be sure I am understanding the problem. No, I did not learn enough Arabic to be conversant. Yes, I am shameful. I still eat well. And mostly Filipinos wait on me. I am not learning a new language but I have adapted. Bow wow.
There is a style here. Dinner. It’s traditional. Which is to say that after the first several times I attended, it has a recognizable pattern. This typical dinner in my compound was attended by men. Females, even physician colleagues are not invited. A lamb is prepared – grilled – and then served over rice. Picking at the meat with your bare fingers to get to the succulent parts is an accepted norm. Eating with your fingers is common. Forks are provided. No knives. The usual dessert is a sweet semolina cake that has cream or mozzarella cheese in between the layers. In Mexico it’s called arepa. My friend Nasser – we call him Kideida – dressed in traditional formal garb in celebration of the occasion. I wore my golf shirt. Ha! I don’t golf.
I attended a welcome dinner. Two physicians joined our department. I live modestly in hospital housing. This was an opportunity to see how the other half lives. It’s a separation of sexes. No females were in attendance. Someone brought their son. Otherwise it was a banquet of males. Lamb is roasted on a skewer. Standard fare. The sides included lots of rice, salad, and fruit, followed by dessert. Afterward our host played traditional music accompanied by his son. From the outside, the walls are high and drab. Inside, the accommodations are quite the opposite. Elaborate and ornate, it reflected a long life of collecting the trappings of wealth and success. Me? I’m living in two suitcases, ready to go if it’s imperative. The bulk of it will be my dive gear. I’m of the opinion that you can’t take it with you…but…. you can sure store it somewhere else. To be fair, I’ve got a lot of junk sitting around somewhere else… Please don’t laugh too hard.
Ok, I’m stretching here. I’m desperate for a post? I have lots of images. Good ones. Great fish pics. I’m bored. Too much fish. My attention is wandering. Or I am separating? I will secretly admit that I do not prefer to eat fish. Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks with tartar sauce, is my most vivid childhood memory. Yes, I ate American cheese sandwiches too. And that’s not cheese! Geez! And, I won’t eat cheese whiz; it’s not real food.
Kale is one of the veggies not in my diet. I don’t and have never sought it out. We have lived apart and quite happily so all of my life until now.
The picture does not do the dish justice. I’m not a food photographer. And I was using available light. And well, you know, the food was too good to start styling it at the table. So the picture is not particularly special. But the memory, that’s a different kettle of fish. Fish? No, it’s just another American slang saying. Like… “I’ll meet you at the pass…” Don’t ask. But Jennifer knows.
Describe it? It’s deep fried. That is enough information right there. Stop! Deep fried? Yes! Stunning what you can do with leaves. The rest is history. There are dollops of mustard mayo and you can see the onions. But the crunch and the texture and the flavors are not translatable. You just have to eat this. The picture is a mere shadow of the real thing. Which is more important? The picture or the story? …you gotta try this!
…Chinese restaurant the I will never return to eat in again. I’ll start with an aside. I don’t eat sushi. But when David graduated from USC we had dinner where my niece’s boyfriend worked. It was the best sushi ever. Perfect. After that anything else would be downhill. Bonnie made a touching random act of kindness and invited me to dinner. She had told me the food was outstanding. It was. Even the rice was soft and fluffy. I don’t wax on about rice. But the very basic staple of every Chinese meal was done to perfection. The noodles are hand pulled. Or, as her husband, Daniel, said – “homemade.” Big difference. But same. (He’s German – language/translation ww) The noodles start as a ball of dough and then as a lump it is pulled into a single thin long noodle strand. The trick it is to find the two ends before you eat it. That would be “Chinese luck.” Suffice to say the meal was outstanding. Rosewood Hotel – Noodles – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. No, you can’t go either. Travel visas are hard to get. Which means that most folks will never get to eat there either. I don’t show you any food pics. It was not that kind of meal. The other gal is Jen, my OR nurse. We almost did not eat there. My colleague Farid was invited. He does not like Chinese food so we were almost set to go to a Lebanese place. But as it turns out, he had to go to parent teacher conference and the invitation was aimed at me. So, yay! We ended up in the best place I will never return to eat. No pictures of the food. What you really remember is the company. Now, read between the lines. When I was studying English and literature, we had to parse the meaning out of everything the writer was saying, analyzing what was not on the written page.