When I was a kid there was a small motel on the back of the block my grandparents lived on. Even though my grandma's fridges were always full of stuff to eat and drink, my cousins and I would beg for 50 cents so we could have the adventure of going through the back fence, though the alley and into the parking lot of the motel to the soda machine to buy our own pop. It was one of those Coke machines where you put the money in and then opened the door to pull out your glass bottle of soda. I remember there was Coke and Sprite and Orange Crush and root beer but I always got Grape Crush and to this day grape soda out of a glass bottle is one of my favorites. It is sweet almost to the point of being sickening, but the carbonation smoothes it out a little and the taste reminds me of summer and being a kid.
Today I was at the grocery store picking up some things for dinner and I saw a 6 pack of Grape Crush in the glass bottles and picked it up. After I finished mowing the lawn I was sitting out on the deck reading a book in the sun and drank one of them. It tastes just like I remember it from that old soda machine back at the Anchor Inn Motel in Blaine. And with the sun beating down on my face and the sound of the neighbor kids playing in their yard I remembered what it was like when the weather was just starting to get nice enough to play outside in shorts and my grandpa would give each of us two quarters to go get sodas and get out of his hair for a little while.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Growing up I spent a lot of time at my Italian grandmother's house eating just about anything she put in front of me because it was always something good. To this day almost all of what I consider to be "comfort food" are things I ate at her house and one of those things is good Italian salami. Sometimes eaten on an antipasti plate with pickled vegetables, olives, and cheese, sometimes with cheese and crusty bread, or sometimes just all by itself in thick slices. I love salami and although I don't eat it very much anymore because it is basically salt, seasonings and fatty pork - it never ceases to make me happy. So I was very happy to discover Salumi a few years back in Seattle. At the time my friend Darcy and I both were working downtown near Pioneer Square and we would frequently meet up for lunch. She had heard of Salumi from some co-workers and only knew it as some fantastic meat place with a pig on the sign. The first time we found it (no easy feat) we fell in love and it quickly became a favorite lunch spot. Although just about anything at Salumi is fantastic, it's the salami sandwiches that are the draw for me because they are just like my grandmother used to feed me...only better (shhhh, don't tell her that). Hard crusty bread slathered with a garlic and herb oil mixture (this is the part that beats my grandmother's sandwiches), fresh cheese (the fresh mozzarella is my fav, provolone is a close second), and then the star of the sandwich - the salami. My favorite is the oregano (pictured above) it's intense and flavorful meaty goodness. It's rustic and simple and probably the best sandwich I've ever eaten. The bread is good but not overpowering, the cheese does a good job of offsetting the oilyness of the meat and the herb garlic mixture, and the meat is something words cannot do justice. The sandwich brings it all together beautifully. I would stand in line forever for one and sometimes you have to because Salumi has become very popular.
The story has been told in publications, on the Food Network, and in books (like the one I just finished, Heat by Bill Buford), Armandino Batali (father of famous chef Mario Batali) left his job as an executive with Boeing, studied meat curing techniques in Italy for 2 years and then opened up a tiny shop in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle. Armandino is a master of cured meat and his products are raved about all over the country with good reason - they are beyond delicious. Salty, meaty, well seasoned and aged - perfect. As if the food is not good enough, one of the things that kept me coming back to Salumi once I discovered it was Armandino himself and his wife Marilyn. They were always so welcoming and quick to sit you down and start feeding you and pouring wine. Just going in for a sandwich I would often walk out having eated meatballs, cheese, sausage, salad, beans, soup, and the best treat - Marilyn's handmade gnocci. Like most Italian families they were always cooking and feeding everyone who walked in the door. Seating was at a large family style table and everyone passed around plates of food and enjoyed. It was one of the best ways I can think of to spend a lunch. Sadly all the great food attracted a lot of attention, critic write ups, Food Network, Travel Network, etc. and Salumi has gotten very busy. The last few times I've been there it's just been to get some sandwiches to go and Armandino and Marilyn were not in the store but the food remains the same hand crafted quality that it always was. I know I said the food I would talk about on this blog is not neccesarily 1001 things you need to eat before you die, but this is an exception. You must try some Salumi salami before you die, it's where pigs go when they go to heaven.
Posted by R at 10:44 PM
I've been thinking about what item to start this blog with thinking it had to be spectacular and amazing, some really unique and delicious food item in a great place, all the pressure was too much. So I thought I would start with something I experienced recently for the first time, well known, classic, and very delicious (especially on a sunny Friday morning when you are suffering from a hangover from a long night on Bourbon Street as I happened to be at the time). The Cafe Du Monde website has more info the chicory coffee they use in the Cafe Au Lait, which is a drink made with half coffee and half hot milk (or in my case, cold since I ordered the iced version). Basically chicory was added to coffee to give it body and flavor when coffee was scarce and it also adds a smoothness to the bitter taste of dark roasted coffee. Being a Pacific Northwesterner I like to think I know coffee and this is good coffee. I bought a can at my wife's request so that we can enjoy the cafe au lait at home, and I'm sure it will be tasty but it cannot compare to sitting on the outdoor patio at Cafe Du Monde drinking one with some fresh hot beignets. And what is a beignet? It's a fried piece of dough covered with powdered sugar, very basic and simple and very very good. As I found when I tried to get some to go earlier in the trip and eat them back at my hotel, these are best enjoyed hot. They are covered in a very generous amount of powdered sugar which will cover your hands and clothes no matter how carefully you eat them, but you really won't care because they are so good. There is a sweet crispness on the outside and doughy goodness inside, wash down with the cafe au lait and you have a perfect afternoon treat....or breakfast...or dessert. Cafe Du Monde is on a busy corner in the middle of the French Quarter and definitely a tourist mecca so it's not exactly a quiet out of the way spot but well worth dealing with rude and annoying tourists to experience the coffee, beignets and a little New Orleans history.
Posted by R at 5:04 PM