The reasons that Eric Ripert is my largest food-nerd crush are varied and abundant. The first is his mushroom broth recipe, which I will interpret for you now: 1lb of mushrooms, bunch of water, cook for eternity until it turns a rich golden color and smells like Earth and happiness. The second, his symbiotic, unlikely friendship with Anthony Bourdain. I've just discovered another one.
On 'Avec Eric' (which I just discovered thanks to Eater), Ripert has instituted a kind of pan-internet monthly dinner party focusing on the freshest and the simplest. I have already decided to participate, without even viewing the November menu (which will be published on the site on 10/27). Who's in?
Blurry, badly lit food photos will ensue, I'm sure (Mitch will back me up on this).
So, my sidekick and I just landed in Santa Fe at the end of a three-day, 10-state road trip. Along the way, I was exposed to a new phenomenon. It's called Waffle House.
Now listen, at heart, I'm a city kid. I know that everyone and their mother knows about Waffle House, has seen one from the highway on a roadtrip, but I've never been in one. We don't have Waffle Houses where I come from. While I'll concede that Albuquerque, New Mexico is not a booming metropolis teeming with excitement, there are no places in my home town that I can walk into, be recognized by the waitstaff on sight, and have my order put in without even asking for it. While my sidekick and I sat in this yellow and brown establishment, at least four regulars came in.
"Hi, Angie. Black coffee, sausage and egg sandwich and hashbrowns in a ring." I won't even go into the fact that eating at a Waffle House regularly enough to become a regular would surely stop your heart in a matter of weeks.
Let me say, I've seen Waffle Houses before. Once, when I was about ten, my family traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, FL to visit my great grandparents. The hotel that we stayed at was right next to a Waffle House. To me, at the ripe age of ten, Waffle House looked amazing. It was a bright yellow building, covered in windows, where you could sit and eat at a breakfast counter (eating at a counter has been, for some reason, the most appealing diner location for me since I was very young. I think it has something to do with the swiveling chairs.). It being summer, and Ft. Lauderdale having the climate of, say, a bubbling lobster pot, the bountiful windows were almost ALWAYS covered with a thick layer of steam. Ten year old logic being what it is, that made it abundantly clear to me that the Waffle House was some sort of secret meeting place for a secret society of people. And on Sunday, in a Waffle House in Huber Heights, Ohio, I discovered who the members of that secret society are: Hashbrown Lovers.
To say that I am a hashbrown lover is, as anyone who eats with me regularly will tell you, a gross understatement. We Jews have this traditional food called latkes that we eat on special occasions. They're hasbrowns. Lovely, oily, oniony, special-occasion-hashbrowns, but hashbrowns nonetheless. In a restaurant, if an entree comes with say, a yukon gold potato cake, or a rosemary potato rosti, or an ecuadorean mashed potato cake, you can always put money on me ordering it. Anyone who says that I am a complicated woman should pay more attention to how I eat. I am truly a simple creature.
Anyhow, it's this love for hasbrowns that has me supremely disappointed in myself. If I can call your attention to the picture at the top of this post: It's heaven. It's Mecca. It's a HASHBROWN MENU.
What I ordered, in my foggy, sleep-deprived, grease-deprived state was a bacon, egg and cheese melt on Texas toast, with a side of plain hashbrowns. Which was delicious, don't get me wrong, but what about "Hasbrowns All the Way" for god's sake? How did I not realize that those were hashbrowns with onions, cheese, ham, tomatoes, jalapenos, and the house chili (which I most certainly would have left off anyway)? I sat, eating my supremely greasy grilled cheese with egg and bacon, listening to the hilarious chatter of the three women manning the breakfast counter, pouring over the hashbrown menu. How could I have been so blind?
It took the meanest of the three waitresses/line cooks (they do both at Waffle House, amazing!) grumbling at another one for having wrapped the pork chops incorrectly in the walk-in to snap me out of my reverie and realize that I couldn't eat another bite. My stomach had literally reached critical mass. No room, for say, a dessert of "Hashbrowns All the Way".
But never fear, my friends. My sidekick and I are insane. Why is that pertinent, you ask? Because we've planned another three-day, 10-state roadtrip in two and half weeks, this time in a U-Haul (we're making the big move to New York). And on that trip, I will not be so swayed by the mention of Texas toast. Someday soon, "Hasbrowns All the Way," our day will come.