The sun is shining, I just dropped off Mrs. T. and our daughters at the airport (visiting her sister), and I am ready for a late Friday lunch.
I am a fan of Calvin Trillin’s writing, and I’ve always been inspired to do his suggested meal tour, a literal moveable feast. You go from place to place and sample a dish at each, much like the Spanish tapas scene.
First stop: Ellana’s Kitchen, which has both Venezuelan and Middle Eastern food. I spotted it on Yelp and have never been.
As mentioned, the key to the food tour is to order one small dish. An appetizer, perhaps, or a side dish. Off the bat, I failed and failed miserably. I over-ordered.
Fortunately, I have good reasons. First, I’m a fan of empanadas, ever since a Venezuelan friend served some to me. It has been a lonely quest to repeat that peak experience.
Given my existential longing for empanadas, I had to order one as soon as I saw the menu. I successfully resisted the urge to order two.
But, then, I chatted with the friendly proprietor and learned that their beef arepa is extremely popular and also is gluten free.
“Yes,” I said, softly and with resignation. “Yes, I will have that, too.”
Both were incredible. Run, don’t walk, to Ellana’s. Just go.
Now, a food tour with one stop is a lame food tour. It lacks ambition. Granted, I was feeling decently full at this point, but to fulfill the concept of the “tour,” I walked down the block to the second stop: Little Big Diner.
I know the menu, and this menu knows me. I wanted to try something new, and the shoyu chicken bánh mi just called my name. Plus, since I was below-budget on gluten, this seemed like a good call.
Alas, it was good, not great. The bread was soggy, and the dish needed more flavor profiles.
To be fair, I’ve had super-authentic bánh mi, and, so, I have a high bar. Plus, LBD doesn’t sell itself as an authentic Asian eatery. The ramen there is always excellent, however, and I will stick to that next time.
Sadly, the tour ground to a halt at this point. I was hoping to hit Jumbo Seafood for har gow, which would be just four small dumplings. Or, maybe a touch of ice cream with chocolate sprinkles at JP Lick’s.
But, the empanada-arepa-bánh mi combination proved to be formidable.
I drove back a happy man. Next week is July 4, and although it will be quiet at home with just my son and I, I am looking forward to that holiday.
The only question I have right now is: What’s for dinner?