Culinary Highlights of the Past Fifteen Days
A Stomach In Hindsight
by Dave Lowensohn
Pismo Beach, CA
In the many years that Misha and I have been visiting El Mirador, their steak tacos have only made me throw up once, which I think is pretty good, considering. This is invariably the first meal of any major Speechwriters tour, being three hours north of Los Angeles by freeway, and the tacos are usually consumed just before sunset with a van full of both instruments and everything we own waiting patiently by the pier. This night was no exception – El Mirador, he who battles the ocean, came through.
Alex and Renee’s
San Francisco, CA
Alex and Renee are my old roommates from Claremont. We used to cook up these ridiculous Pantagruelian feasts on our balcony, the best example being a six-hour barbecue session in January featuring seven different kinds of meat. They’ve since moved to San Francisco, so we now have to compress eight or nine months of carousing into a single night whenever I’m in town. Thankfully, we all had early morning engagements this time, so we were able to leave the ski masks and bolt cutters behind and really focus on the food, which was exquisite: baked penne with some sort of dill salad, a custom-rubbed chicken, and fresh plums with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
That last bite just south of the Oregon border is always the hardest to get down.
My girlfriend waited on Death Cab For Cutie here not four weeks ago. I had the Puerto Rican hash and fantasized that I was using Benjamin Gibbard’s spoon.
It’s 3am, give or take. Four hours into our first all-night drive as a quartet. Jack has pulled into a service station and somehow managed to spray gasoline over the entire back of the van. I stagger out of the van and pump my arms in the air, getting the blood flowing and forcing my body to wake up and stay there for the next four hours. My leftover half of a Red Line chicken panini was just about the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.
We spent an insanely nice day hiking around Glacier National Park, not only avoiding the throngs of tourists but actually spotting the holy trinity of wild Glacier hairy things: a mountain goat, a weird mystery fanged cat, and an honest-to-God grizzly bear. As a man whose life has somehow become irreversibly twisted up with that of Timothy Treadwell, I was especially excited about that last one. Anyways, we finally came down from the Continental Divide and had buffalo burgers and they were incredible.
Chicken Parmesan, Steak And Fries, Pear Waldorf, Lasagna. All in pizza form, all finished ritualistically by dipping the crusts in a 50/50 mixture of Johnson’s Hot Sauce and fresh honey. I once spent an entire summer in Madison just so I could have Ian’s five times a week.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
We first went here three years ago, to celebrate the birthday of our then-drummer Matt Kolsky. Kolsky is/was from Chicago, and he’d been raving about this place for the entire drive out. I told him I’d never had an actual Chicago-style deep dish pizza before, and he just smiled with the smile of that older brother’s best friend who’s about to get you hooked on a very dangerous street drug. I try to drag whoever I’m with there every time I pass through Chicago, and on this particular day I dropped the guys off and spent a good 20 to 30 minutes trying to find parking, which I finally did, lightyears away and in the rain, and it was all totally, totally worth it.
Breakfast With Jesus
Crystal Spring, PA
The restaurant was actually called “Cornerstone,” but I think they’d do a lot more business if they changed it to “Breakfast With Jesus.” The proprietress wasn’t herself Amish, but most of the people who supplied her with ingredients were, so the buttermilk pancakes and handmade sausage were of a timbre and quality I hadn’t experienced since Intercourse. The meal ended when I purchased thirty cents worth of gummy teeth and the four of us were subsequently given a micro-sermon (with literature) that nearly made a Christian out of Nitzan.
Pat’s King of Steaks
We’ve tried the rest and Pat’s is still the best, hands down. Jim’s, you’re alright. First cheesesteak we ever had, with the Dr. Brown’s flowing freely, pleasant memories of both PJ Loughran and Adam Richman by the South Street gum tree, etc, etc. Gino’s, you’re also alright, but Jesus Christ, enough with the neon already. It’s your lack of class (and questionable politics) that keep us walking down Passyunk and into the open arms of Pat, who rewards us time and time again with piping hot steaks, sub-zero Cherry Pepsis, and cheese fries that have been clinically proven to infarct otherwise healthy lab rabbits at fifty paces. I really got to savor this last one, too, because I witnessed a hit-and-run on my way to the napkin dispenser, and had to wait around to confirm the guy’s license number when the cops finally came.
Thank you for holding my hand during this short walk down memory lane.