You may remember a few weeks ago that I wrote about reasons why I was glad I no longer live in New York. In that post, I did promise to write about some good things about New York, and that time has come. I supposed when you live somewhere for five or so years there are certain things that you get used to. As I was making my list, I actually realized that there are quite a few things that I miss (not surprisingly, several of them center on food) so perhaps I will consider this just part one of a series of posts. As a disclaimer, some of these things are not particular to New York, and some may even exist to an extent in Portland, they just aren't as readily available to me now. So here they are:
1. The Corner Store. This is a great little phenomenon that I came to rely upon while in New York. We had one within steps of both of the places we lived in New York, and fact had two or three to choose from within a five block radius. The corner store is kind of like a 7-11 or a mini-mart but less clean and with more character. Some were as tiny as a cubicle but still stocked several hundred items. Most were large enough to include a deli with various meats and cheeses and a hot griddle for Delicious hot sandwiches and breakfast items. They aren't really a place to do a large grocery shopping, but they are indispensable when you are in the middle of cooking dinner and realized that a key ingredient is missing. Of course, it's always kind of a crap-shoot whether or not they store will have your particular item. And, the items stocked definitely reflected the neighborhood and specific population where the store is located. Some stores were open 24 hours, but those that weren't almost never had consistent hours. The one closest to us was open as late at 1am and closed as early as 9pm, all depending on the whim of the owner. The stores were independently owned and the owner usually worked the store most of the time. Since we frequented them, they all knew us by sight. (I suppose it helps that Jason and I were two of maybe 5 white people who lived in our neighborhood). We actually have a version of a corner store near where we live now, but it lacks the character and charm of those in New York, and it just doesn't seem to afford the same level of convenience.
2. The Breakfast Sandwich. I guess this is more of an East Coast thing, but I just don't see it much around here. In New York, nearly every deli or corner store, or even restaurant that served breakfast offered some form of egg and cheese on a roll. While this was the basic, you could get it with bacon, sausage, ham or turkey and on different forms of bread. My personal favorite was a bagel. The eggs are fried on a flat-top griddle (not microwaved as in chain establishments) and everything is made to order. The cheese is almost always American (think Kraft singles) unless you request otherwise, but really, why would you? The American cheese melts and makes the sandwich all delicious and gooey. I admit, not the breakfast of champions, but oh so fantastic. And cheap - depending on your location, the basic breakfast sandwich was $1.50. It used to be my little treat once or twice a month to help me on my walk to the Subway. Once or twice I've ordered some form of the breakfast sandwich only to find that it is about three times as expensive and not even half as delicious. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to save my breakfast sandwich cravings for my next trip to NYC.
3. Lizzy's Fajita Seasoning. OK, this one is going to seem pretty silly, but you have to taste this stuff to understand. We found this by chance in one of the less-than-stellar Bronx supermarkets when we were looking for something to season our fajitas. It is a very simple blend of garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper, but the ratios are perfect. We didn't just use this stuff for fajitas - it was the perfect seasoning for all meats and veggies. I don't know why, but it made pork chops mouth-watering. Just last week we used the last of our jar. It cannot be found anywhere in the Western United States, and even when we were in New York, we could only find it in a few sub-par supermarkets. Just to prove how much we love this stuff, I will tell you that we have asked a few of our New York friends to buy us several jars and we will reimburse them the cost plus shipping. It's just that good.
4. Dunkin' Donuts. Another kind of silly one, I realize. (Remember when I said that most of these things are about food? I wasn't joking). Here's the thing: You can find Dunkin' Donuts here and there around Portland, but they are as prevalent as Starbucks in New York City - maybe even more so. Their coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks (according to Jason anyway) and their hot chocolate is also fantastic. Plus, every now and again you just want a good donut, and Dunkin' Donuts doesn't disappoint. Jason mentioned the other day that all he really wanted was a Dunkin' Donuts so he could get cheap, good coffee on the way to work. I'm not really sure why there is such a discrepancy in the number of these stores between the two coasts. I guess East Coasters just like their donuts and coffee a little more old school.
5. Pizza. Yep, food again. It's true what they say about New York pizza being different. I didn't really get it until I lived there and now have moved back. Other pizza is all bread - the crust isn't so much crust as it is bread with toppings. The cheese is sparse, as are the other toppings. The slices are puny and are kind of greasy. Now, NY pizza is still kind of greasy, but not nearly as noticeably. The crust is think and dense and there is tons of cheese. Yes, tons. The toppings are generous, too. We used to order Canadian Bacon and Pineapple where the Canadian bacon almost covered the top of the pizza. The slices are hefty and usually one slice can serve as a meal. It is just all-around delicious. However, although I miss it, I'm kind of glad the pizza here isn't as good because now I eat a lot less of it!
Wow, I haven't even finished half my list. I guess we missed more about New York than I thought. We'll explore more of NY another time.