It's a texture thing. Sometimes yogurt makes me gag—not enough texture. And certain mangoes have that furry quality that makes my tongue feel rubbed the wrong way. I love the rough, graininess of jicama, but not the stringy thing about celery. The sliminess of okra chunks in gumbo: good. The slippery sticky film of meat that's been in the fridge too long: bad. Papaya and avocado are both silky smooth, but just firm enough to be sexy, not icky. The chewy crust of Sage Bakehouse's paisano loaf makes me want every sandwich to be on that bread. And I could eat a heap of deep fried chicken skins; there's something so decadent about the combination of crispy, crunchy top and soft, pale skin underneath. The lacy edges of an egg cooked in bacon grease are always divine, especially when swabbed with a little runny yolk. The crisp/creamy thing is a killer, too, like cottage fries dipped in queso, Lay's Classic chips in green chile dip, chicken-fried steak smothered in gravy. Oooh! Serve me flaccid pasta, crunchy risotto, too-fried refried beans or pasty potatoes and you're fired. Make my bacon just right—crispy but not so stiff it shatters, still tender but not soggy—and I'll love you forever. It's a texture thing.
First you, Graze, then you, Gulp. Or is it the other way around? Chef and restaurateur Jennifer James has unveiled her newest venture, a sophisticated lounge called Gulp, in the storefront next to Graze (Central and Buena Vista, 268-4729).
Let's face it, the Duke City is challenged in the sandwich department. I used to count on one hand the number of places that I'd go to for a sandwich, but now I'm going to have to use my other hand too, because that list just got longer. I finally ate my first New York deli-style sandwich at Deli Mart West. I had heard about the place from several friends over the years but, because it's "way over on the Westside," I only headed out to find it once, got lost and never went back. Truth be told, it's only 10.09 miles and 17 minutes from my house. That's about how long it takes me to get almost anywhere in the city. Barrio-centricity strikes again.
I know my ham. You got to know your ham. Especially if you're gonna order a big, fat deli sandwich stuffed with a dozen different pork products.
Country-style ham (also called old-fashioned or Southern-style) is dry cured by rubbing salt and spices onto the meat's surface and contains no added water. It is a specialty of the Southern states. Country-style ham is extremely salty and usually served in small portions, very thinly sliced.
Prosciutto is an Italian-style, salt-cured ham that is air-dried and is not smoked. It is aged between 10 months and two years before it is thinly sliced and eaten raw. Prosciutto has a sweet, delicate taste and adds flavor to salads, side dishes, entrées and appetizers.
So I'm riding in the car the other day, talking about Italian restaurants and how sometimes it doesn't make much sense to eat out when what you really want is a home-cooked meal. My buddy's going on and on about his garlic bread and this elaborate method for it, and I'm like, whoa! That's way, way too complicated. Here's how you make garlic bread. Take a nice, fat Italian loaf. Cut slices like an inch, an inch-and-a-half thick. Put the slices on a cookie sheet and throw 'em in the oven. Toast. Flip halfway through and you get crunchy toasts; don't flip and you get one crunchy side and one squishy side. I like the crunchy/squishy combo.