Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Toy Story

Without a doubt, my favorite movie of the year was Toy Story 3. It was a perfect way to end the trilogy, and pretty much signified the end of my "childhood" if that's what you call it. I saw it at midnight, the day of it's release, with all of my friends. And the next morning, around 8, I packed up my dad's car and moved to Madison.

I think everyone has their own "Woody". The toy in the movie. Not the dirty kind.

Think of something that you've owned for all of your life. It might be a toy, it might be a book, it might be a pet, or even a blanket or something like that. For me, it's Pig. Pig is a ratty old stuffed pig that I've had pretty much since the day I was born. He was the subject of countless "Show and tells" in pre-school and kindergarten. He is responsible for hours of daily entertainment when I was a kid. He is probably the reason for my irrational obsession with all things pork. And he is tucked underneath my arm right now as I'm typing.

It's funny how cyclical life is. For a while, the awkward years, you try so hard to break free of your own personality and be something different, something cool. For about five years, between the ages of ten and fifteen, I was the weirdest little shit on the face of the earth. I had the spikey hair, I wore the baggy shorts, I listened to the backstreet boys, and I even played football. Looking back, these are all things I probably should never have done. But if you were to look at me now, and look at me when I was five, you'd see pretty much an Identical match.

When I was back home for the week or so between Madison and CIA, I noticed a portrait on the wall that I;d never really taken any notice of before. It was a drawing of me and my sister, done by a family friend. We were little. Anna was probably six or seven and I was probably three or four. But I look the same. I've got the same fat head, the same haircut, relatively similar wardrobe, and I'm holding Pig, just as I am now.

I was obsessed with trains when I was a kid, and now one of my favorite things to do is ride the Subways in New York City. Or when I'm on the train from Poughkeepsie from Grand Central, I sit with my nose pressed against the glass looking over the Hudson. Just like I would do when I was in the car as a little kid. Every morning as a kid I would pee in my babysitter's front lawn... Things don't ever really change.

I am writing this today, because I just took Pig into my menu development class, a sort of "Show and Tell". People joked about it, as I sat there with a Pig on my desk. They teased me, but I just sat there and took it. I then stood in front of the class, presented my restaurant concept, described my obsession for pork, (that's where Pig came in), then went through my pig-centric menu. People teased me at first, but then they saw there was quite a bit of validity for Pig being up there with me, tucked under my arm. The class voted my menu, and my restaurant concept, as the best one, so now my work is going on showcase in the McCann center. And It's all because of Pig.

Here's my menu, in picture, but due to the shittiness of the camera on my phone, I also have the text copied underneath.


Blood “cake”, buttermilk biscuit, fried egg, cholula butter

Roast shank bone marrow, grilled bread, parsley and caper salad

Smoked-spiced jowl, pickled shallots, whole-grain mustard, rye

Small Plates
Crispy ear, iceberg wedge, lardons, smoked chanterelles, buttermilk bleu cheese emulsion

Spiced heart and kidney turnover, spicy ketchup

Braised-flash fried pigs’ tails, whole-grain mustard aioli

Soft-scrambled egg, pickled pig’s feet, chive, parmesan-brioche croutons, summer truffle

Main Courses
braised tongue, lard-fried fingerlings, confit shallot, cheese curd, foie gras pork jus, summer truffle

Braised cheek-potato-pleasant ridge reserve filled pierogies, caramelized onion, black garlic, house kielbasa

Potato gnocchi, sautéed liver, heirloom tomato ragout, garlic, capers, yellow-foot chanterelles, double cream

Crispy boneless trotter, sage pork stuffing, potato puree, foie gras cognac jus, chanterelles

Bacon fat confit-sautéed sweetbread, anchovies, orange-braised Belgian endive, truffled pork jus, summer truffle


Thick-cut house bacon, heirloom tomato, iceberg, brioche, aioli

House-cured coppa, burrata, olive oil, warm ciabatta

House-cured lardo, egg yolk, French bread, sea salt

Small Plates
Braised pork shoulder, wild rice, whole-grain mustard

Crispy confit shank, Tabasco, buttermilk bleu cheese emulsion,
tournée celery

Smoked, boneless spare rib, uni-creamed Indiana sweet corn, lardons, chive, crème fraiche

Smoked-cured ham, red and yellow watermelon, pickled red onion, Capri farm goat cheese, balsamic reduction

Main Courses
Pan-roasted-bone-in loin chop, Indiana sweet corn and jalapeno pancake, haricots verts, Black cherry and ghost chili sauce

Roasted, pancetta-cured belly, black mission figs, pistachios,
ciabatta panzanella, charred cherry tomatoes, grilled radicchio

Spit-roasted, lemon-sage-rosemary rubbed porchetta, confit onions, dripping-sizzled potatoes

Hay-roasted ham, rutabaga and turnip hash, cider reduction

Roasted-garlic pork sausage, bacon and trotter braised navy beans, Swiss chard


Cayenne spiced- crispy skin, maple Ice cream

Sour cream and jalapeno shortcake, grilled pineapple, carnitas

Rum-caramel simmered belly, poached banana ice cream

Apples, fennel sausage, hook’s 10-year cheddar crumble

Lard-fried beignets, maple sugar, bacon-scotch coffee semi-fredo

Who knows... maybe ten or fifteen years down the road you may stumble across a place called Tongue and Cheek. If you do... walk inside. You might just see the pig that started it all, painted on the wall.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Second Hand Fat

I have become a living legend of sorts. Tales of my epic journeys have been spread across campus, the country, and even the world (according to the stats page on my blog dashboard I have regular readers in Brazil, the UK, Ukraine, Russia, and Japan. Folks from all over have been contacting me... asking if they can be apart of my escapades. They want to experience hedonism at its most extreme. They want to see if they have what it takes. They want to sit in my aura and immerse themselves in the energy that radiates off of me. The energy I call Second Hand Fat.

In the way that those who take in second hand smoke from tobacco smokers are more likely to suffer the symptoms of a smoker, people who are in my presence are more likely to become morbidly obese. My constant weekend dining activities have been balanced by my nightly basketball games, and the fact that I usually sleep through lunch and only eat dinner on week days. But right now, as I sit in my bed, I am still amazed that I have survived this weekend. I may need a gastric bypass sometime soon. Or at least some insulin and a prescription for lipitor.

My victim for this week was Zach Schneiderman, a young man whose stomach rivals mine. He performed quite admirably... and has lived to see another day. But had it not been for his laziness I'm not sure either of us would have survived. We had planned on leaving by 9 and being in the city by noon. But because Zach had been up til 4 AM the previous morning, he decided to sleep through my seven wakeup calls. I'll have you know that I was in bed at 3 30 AM... but had no problem waking up at the agreed upon time of 8 30. So when I finally broke into Zach's dorm room and woke him up at 1... we were considerably behind schedule. Stops were cancelled, and whole meals were cut out of the fatinerary... (the eating agenda).

We made the 1 40 train, and were in the city by 3 30. And were forced to make a detour at a small park on E Houston Street while on our way to Kats' deli. We had stumbled upon a park... and at this park there were dozens of young people, predominately Asian college students, running with broomsticks between their legs around a basketball court turned Quidditch pitch. Their color coordinated outfits with matching capes were too much to pass up. Picture a bunch of awkward, uncoordinated kids running around trying to play a sport that is made ridiculously difficult by the fact that there are five foot poles sitting between their legs. And the "Golden Snitch" snitch was some weirdo running around in gold spandex. After our detour, we had made it to Katz' Deli by 4 30. Katz' deli is the site of the fake orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally", and a huge tourist destination. Despite coming at the between meals hour of 4 30, it was packed. A man hand carved our pastrami sandwiches on rye with mustard. And as he did, he slid trimmings from the still steaming cut of beef onto a small plate on top of the counter... inviting us to take a taste and see what we were in store for. It was so bomb. I washed my huge feat of sandwich architecture down with a "Dr.Brown's Root Beer," because Zach, who is Jewish, said that it was a jew soda, and the only acceptable accmpaniment for such a sandwich. It was ridiculously amazing.

The Sandwich

Our next stop was "Eataly". An Italian Market designed and owned by Mario Batali, Eatlay offers everything from fresh produce, to cheese and salumi, to wine and pizza. It was a beautiful building and the most stunning aspect of the market was the salumi and cheese counter. They had over a hundred cheeses, and over thirty varieties of Italian cured meats. The first ones that I laid my eyes on I had to have. I ordered a half pound of Mangalitsa Lardo (pork fat from a heritage breed of pork, cured in salt and herbs, and aged), a quarter pound of pancetta, a quarter pound of spicy coppa, and a quarter pound of speck (a smoked, spiced prosciutto). Then, the couple next to me had apparently asked for a taste of a certain cheese. The woman at the counter accidentally handed me a sample as well, thinking I was with them. I immediately knew the cheese. It was the cheese that I had been instructed to order on my first cheese plate on my first visit to L'Etoile. It was the cheese that I had eaten on countless croque madames at Graze. It was the cheese that I sold exponentially more of on Garde Manger, because I included it on every single "Chef's choice" order for cheese plates. It was my favorite cheese in the world, and the best cheese in America according to the American Cheese Society. It was Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Zach looked at my face and I smiled as I let it melt in my mouth. My face turned bright red and I got giddy. I immediately glanced down at the case and saw that white paper wrapped wheel of cheese with the golden label that I had grown to know so well and love so much. It honestly made my day. I didn't buy any, though, because I had already spent too much. But for sure, the next time I go to the city, I will be returning back to campus with a ten pound wheel of it. I turned to the couple and told them, "You have to buy this cheese, it's my favorite cheese in the world and it's the best cheese in America!" They did. You're welcome Uplands Cheese Company, I'll be expecting my commission check next week.

The magnificent Salumi Case at "Eataly"

But Zach and I were in a pickle. We had just bought forty bucks worth of extremely temperature sensitive meat, and were at least seven hours away from arriving back at school. We walked down the street, and I saw it like the North Star. The skyscrapers seemed to slide to the side, and I immediately was struck with joy. I would know that sign anywhere, along with the long strands of christmas lights. We had been lead by the gods to one of my personal Mecca's... Shake Shack. Zach, of course, had never been, so we stood in line in the cold (which was good for us because it temporarily solved our pork refrigeration issues). We ordered a burger each, and I got a root beer float while Zach got a shake. We sat in the cold, enjoying our Shake Shack goodies for a while, and eventually moved on to find a shop that Zach wanted to find.

Zach and I had previously decided that we were going to skip our other scheduled stops: the Spotted Pig, and Artichoke Pizza, due to time constraints and belly limitations. But as we were searching for Zach's store, I glanced at a street sign. 14th Street and 2nd Avenue... something clicked. My Pudgy senses began to tingle. I glanced to the right, and to the left, and I barked at Zach... "We're here." I took two steps forward and immediately Zach smiled and said, "Oh dear God." We had stumbled across Artichoke Pizza, the destination we had jointly decided against visiting. Zach looked dead set against it, but I was Jonesing. We compromised. We decided to split a slice. It was just as good as last time.

We decided to solve our meat temp problems, we would go to a walgreens and buy a bunch of cold packs from the pharmacy section. You know the kind where you shake them up, break the inner pouch and the thing turns ice cold for about two hours. The things that are extremely poisonous and instructed us to not ingest on the front of the box. But we wrapped two in plastic and stuck them in the Eataly Bag to last us through our final stop. We saved another two for the train ride home.

Then, the time had come. It was my chance to visit one of the places I want to work most. We had booked an 11 30 PM reservation at DBGB, a hip French Brasserie owned by Daniel Boulud. We arrived for our reservation an hour early, the restaurant was packed, but they gave us a table within fifteen minutes of our arrival. Zach ordered Head Cheese, and I ordered the Iceberg Wedge salad. Both items were incredible. But the Iceberg salad with bleu cheese, bacon, and tomatoes was just damn delicious. Then, for main courses, I ordered a crispy pig's foot and a side of Toulouse sausage ( a sausage stuffed with pork, duck, duck gizzards, and garlic.) Zach ordered crispy tripe and blood sausage. My pig's foot was perfect. It was a boneless pig's foot, rolled into a torpedo shape and slowly cooked until it was incredibly tender. Then it was breaded and deep fried. This is the kind of thing I just can't get enough of.

We left, and made the 12 40 train. A bunch of drunk college girls were screaming about birds shitting on them, and playing extremely crude (yet slightly hilarious) games of "would you rather" and keeping us awake due to their sheer volume. They were screaming and laughing and crying all at the same time... for an hour straight. Then when they finally got off the train, Zach moved to the row where they had been sitting and fell asleep... I, being the greedy sneaky fat man I am... silently cracked open the speck form the Salumi Bag, and began slowly enjoying slice after slice of salty, peppery, smoky, melt-in-your-mouth pork. As we arrived at the station around 3 15 AM, I walked over to Zach, and waved a piece of speck in front of his face until he woke up. We got back to campus by 3 45, and immediately went to bed.

This morning we woke up, around 9, and immediately went to Connecticut. Zach's dad owns an awesome little bakery in Ridgefield CT, a small town about an hour away from the CIA. We had one thing on our mind... free, fresh, awesome bread to take back to enjoy with our salumi. As soon as we got back, I met up with Taylor, my buddy from Texas who drove me to Adams, a gourmet market near school. We were going to cook a bunch of stuff just for shits and giggles. We bought chicken wings, duck legs, pork shoulder, and pork osso bucco along with your traditional ingredients for a tomato sauce, (crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, carrots, chicken stock, and chile flakes.

We had two dishes on the agenda. First, we were going to make a dish we had seen on the internet. Michael Voltaggio, top chef winner, has a dish where he lops the ends of chicken wings and braises them in cream and chicken stock for a few hours, lets them cool, then slides the bones out of the tender wings. Then they are dredged in wondra flour and pan fried. They turned out great. They were so good, so tender, so crispy, and so freakin cool. Our main project however, was "sketty bonognaise". We took the duck legs, peeled the skin off them, rendered the skin, and boned out the legs. Then we also rendered out our pancetta from NYC, then used both fats to sear off the osso bucco, duck, and cubed pork shoulder. We deglazed the pans and in one big dutch oven, braised the meats with tomatoes, red wine, garlic, onion, carrot, and thyme.

While both pots simmered away on the stove, I got out the lardo, and the fresh ciabatta bread from Zach's dad's bakery. I shaved the lardo paper thin and melted it on top of the pieces of ciabatta. It was ridicuous. After I had done that, I literally sat by the bubbling bolognaise sauce and dipped hunks of baguette in it. I must have eaten half of that baguette on my own. After about four hours on the stove, the bolognese was ready. We served 8 people, and it was a hit. So rich, so meaty, so flavorful. Definitely one for me to hold onto.

My Lardo, and my Knife.

It was my last trip to the city until after christmas though, which makes me sad. But I know when I get back, I'll go apeshit.

And after this trip to the city, more so than any other, I actually felt really comfortable with the idea of living in the city, I understand the geography of the city now. I know the main streets. I know the subways. And I was able to single handedly navigate my way around the city usung only the subway map on the back cover of my Michelin guide.

It's looking brighter and brighter every day.

And in my restaurant/menu development project is in its finishing stages. The final menu is due Thursday. I'm already done though, so I should be able to have the final details of "Tongue and Cheek: A holistic Approach to Pork" up relatively soon.

This weekend I'll be clowning it up in Connecticut with my second favorite dog in the world, Torey. Also, I'll be attempting to recreate dishes my aunt and uncle had at Roy Yamaguchi's restaurant in Florida.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Heart New York... Part Deux

So, for some freakish reason all of my pictures came back to my phone today. Not quite sure how it happened.. but I turned on my phone and all my music and photos magically reappeared. Strange, I know.

But I have some pretty sweet pictures I took while on my latest escapade in the Big Apple... so I figured I'd post them.

This is the first thing I saw when I got off the subway at Canal and Baxter... the window of my pork bun spot.

Pork Bun Before...

And After...

The Pho at Pho Grand... in all its' beefy, tripey, and tendony goodness.

When you eat as much as I did... as often as I did... gastrointestinal malfunctions were a commonality... alas, here I am in the bathroom at Milk Bar on twelfth.

This was the artichoke pizza at Artichoke... bomb diggity. Possibly the greatest pizza I've ever had.

The folks at Yakitori Totto had the foresight to put a can of febreez in the men's room. It was certainly a necessity.

This is Alex... with Donald Glover aka the rapper Childish Gambino aka Troy from NBC's Community aka the black dude from all the Derrick Comedy videos... "Your word... is N*****F*****."

Finally... The amazing view from Nicola's apartment on Times Square. Absolutely Ridiculous.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Heart New York

Its one in the morning. I'm sitting on a train on my way back to poughkeepsie. And Alex, my roommate from last year is snoring with his head in my lap. The little guy just couldn't keep up. All I can think of right now is what I'm going to do on my next visit. Today, was one of the best.

Tragically, for some reason, all of the pictures I took in the city today are no longer on my phone. Why? I couldn't tell you. I'm kind of pissed.

My day started at eleven when I woke up. I showered, woke up Alex, the only person I could get to go to the city with me. We set out to catch the 2 40 train, were in the city by 4.

I forgot the little things that I missed about the city. I missed subway music. But sure enough the first subwat we took there was a fat guy with an accordian bellowing Christmas music. Our first stop was the adidas store. Alex is a bit of a nerd and had to buy the some new special edition adidas star wars apparel. It was sold out... Then I took the reigns and it became a trip worthy of the title fat ass adventure. We made our customary stop at the same little chinese shop for pork buns. Its at the corner of Canal and Baxter in Chinatown. Whole sides of roast pork and whole roast ducks hang in the window. The Pork buns themselves, doughy baked yeast rolls with a honey glaze, filled with roast pork in a sweet sauce. They are possibly my favorite thing in the whole world. Without a doubt, they are one of my favorite things on the face of the Earth.

At six o'clock we walked into "pho grand". Its a chef hangout with pho, a vietnamese beef noodle soup that I love with all my heart. We both ordered large bowls of pho with beef round, brisket, tripe (stomach), and soft tendon. It was glorious. I sat there, tchopstix in one hand, chinese soup spooon in the other, grinning as I alternated between beefy noodle slurps, and sips of spicy anise tinged broth. The contrast of the hot busy room, the cold weather outside. My lips stung as I slurped the steaming hot noodles, but I kept eating. My mouth went numb because of the spice, the anise, and a touch of sezchuan peppercorn. When we left, I was so happy that I literally couldn't help but cross one of the busiest streets in New York, buddy the elf style. I hopped with two feet across a busy intersection making surte to only step on the white lines.

Our next stop was milk bar. A hip dessert spot with four daily soft serve flavors and a bunch of other goodies. We bought a sampler of the fous ice creams: donut, red velvet cake, horchata, and cereal milk. For the cereal milk they soak frosted flakes in milk, strain them off, and then use the milk for soft serve. It literally tastes like you're slurping the milk after you eat a bowl of cereal. Greatest ice cream in the world. We also had a piece of "crack pie". A gooey butter pie with a toasted oat crust.... To die for.

Our next stop was "artichoke". There I had the single greatest slice of pizza I've ever had in my life. It was a small shack. There were no seats (just like at all the places I love) and Alex and I split a slice of artichoke pizza. It was a hot slice of pizza, with a cream suace base, smothered with cheese and artichoke hearts. To die for. The single greatest vegetarian thing I've ever had in my life.

Our next and final stop, the whole goal of our journey. Yakitori totto. A little joint just south of central park. For those of you not in the know, yakitori is a japanese dining style in which skewers of protien, predominately chicken, are grilled over coals and served hot to diners. I had been craving yakitori ever since ed the fish cook at L'Etoile told me about his trip to San Francisco. You order by the partn and each skewer is about three bucks. Alex and I each had a japanese beer, and we ordered several skewers. I ordered a skewer of chicken skin, one of chicken necks, one chicken heart, one berkshire pork neck, one berkshire pork belly with ponzu and scallions, and to finish it off, one more skewer of crispy chicken skin for dessert.

My friend Mary's older sister Nicola just got a job working for Coach, the handbag company, in New York. She just moved in two days ago, so we stopped by her place to say hello. Turns out she lives in Times Square... Literally, IN times Square. Her building is right next to M&M world. We went up to her apartment, which has a full wall sized window looking over Times Square. Its a crazy apartment, and we stayed there until like 11 30: then it was time to leave to catch our train to Poughkeepsie.

And as I sat on the train, it hit me. If everything goes according to plan, this whole city, in eight month's time, will become my personal playground. Whenever I'm not working, or sleeping, I'll be out, taking in the sights and shoving everything edible into my face. The thought is so thrilling, that I am seriously considering dropping all my plans for every weekend I'll be at school, and going to the city, to just soak it up.

Visit... if you wish... you'll eat better than you ever have in you ever have in your entire life... trust me. You won't regret a second of it either. I promise

Until then... Keep it real.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Cook's Soul

I've had quite a bit of down time in between classes. Daytime TV sucks, video games get old, I've seen every movie I own fifty times, and Hyde Park is about exciting as an old boot. Did I mention that my computer is in for repairs at the Apple Store? I've been running through my personal library for the past few days. I've also been expanding it.I forgot how much I love all of my books.

There's Marco Pierre White's "White Heat", a book from the original culinary rockstar, filled with incredible pictures and stories and anecdotes from possibly the most badass chef of all time. There's the Alinea cookbook. Alinea is a restaurant in Chicago, that literally blows my mind. I don't understand the food there at all. AT ALL, but the pictures of the plates they have put out take my breath away. There's Medium Raw, by one of my personal idols, Tony Bourdain. I could literally read the chapter about the Ortolan over and over. I read my favorite excerpts from Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud over and over. And finally, after I had gone through all of these, I came across possibly the book that means the most to me. "Last Suppers".

Let me start off by explaining something that non cooks really don't understand. When I tell people about myself, the first thing they ask me, which pisses me off to no end, is "What's your favorite thing to cook?" or "What's your favorite food?". I smile, through gritted teeth, and act like I'm racking my brain for a definite answer, flicking through mental images of everything I've ever cooked or eaten in my life. While actually, cursing that person inside my own head for asking me a question to which they do not want to know the answer. I love to cook... I don't love to cook steaks, pork chops, pasta, or pancakes in particular. I love the act of cooking, the feel of a hot burner radiating against my fore arms, gently flipping a piece of fish, the sound of deglazing a pan.I love it all. But I do have tendencies, and a personal philosophy in regards to food. I hold food sacred, a life giving deity that should be respected. But if I had to tell everyone that asked me the question something along those lines, I'd come off looking like somewhat of an ass, Wouldn't I? So I smile and respond... with whatever the last memorable thing I ate or cooked.

Having said that, cooks play a game,all around the world. A game where we ask each other about what our death row meal would be. Not what your favorite food is, but if you could eat one last bite, before you die, what tastes and textures would you want on your palate for the rest of eternity. And for cooks especially, food holds a special place in our heart. for myself and cooks everywhere, nothing has the power to invoke memories of people, places, and times in my life like food can.

Which brings me back to "Last Supper". The author asked fifty famous chefs what their death row meals would be, where it would take place, the music that would play, what they would drink, and who they would spend their last meal with. It's a very emotional book. But it is astonishing how similar everyone's meal is. Don't get me wrong, there are a few guys who want 12 course tasting menus, extravagant meals with thousands of people. But what struck me most was the simplicity of the majority of the answers. Jamie Oliver would have pasta all'arabiatta (spicy pasta), on the couch with his wife while watching "Some garbage on the television". Eric Ripert, the Chef of the greatest seafood restaurant in the country, maybe the world, would eat country bread, grilled with olive oil, and shaved truffles, under a tree in a field somewhere. Tony Bourdain would have roasted bone marrow on toast. This book has made me realize that the food we eat, however good it may be, is only as good as the company and the setting with which we enjoy it. Some of my favorite foods, the ones I hold most dear to my heart, I enjoy not only because they are delicious, but because in them, I relive some of the fondest memories I have with the people I shared these meals with.

For example, My jamaican patty obsession is partially fueled by the association I hold between the patties and my soccer buddies. We would go there after summer workouts, cram 8 people in a four seater booth, and enjoy our patties. Pork buns remind me of my first trip with my cook friends to NYC. We went for dim sum, and at the end, we all ordered barbecue pork buns. We loved them so much that we went back for seconds, and now every time we go we buy a few dozen to freeze back at school. My infatuation with bacon is without a doubt associated to breakfasts my Grandma would cook me before school when I was little. I would literally wake up to the smell of bacon and the sound of eggs frying in a skillet. Natures greatest alarm clock. Every food I have ever eaten is associated with a certain memory, some greater than others, but I hold each extremely close to me heart. When I'm old and senile, I know that, while I won't be able to remember my own name, when I take a bite of a hot pretzel with mustard and widmer's cheese spread, I'll picture a much younger me, sitting at the bar at Graze, drinking a beer and getting nasty notes on the back of my order ticket from Nate, the sous chef.

My death row meal, would be a symposium of my greatest food memories. A greatest hits album of sorts, comprised of my most memorable dining experiences, each with the people I enjoyed them with. I would have bacon and eggs with my grandparents. I would have Broad Ripple Bagel Deli with my sister. I would have patties of Jamaica with all of my soccer teammates. I would have Pork Buns with my friends in New York. I would have rotisserie chicken with my Dad. Homemade chex mix with my mom. I'd have Lobster Mac n Cheese with my Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut. I'd have Noodles and Co with Mary. I'd have 96th Street Steak Burger with Ryan. I'd have Pizza King with the Harrisons. I'd have Mug and Bun with all my boys on the West Side. And I'd have Saigon Noodle with the entire staff from L'Etoile and Graze. I'd have tacos al pastor with the kitchen crew at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. But to finish it all off... I'd probably just wander around New york City... and eat whatever I wanted. But I'd be by myself. I like being alone... with only the food in front of me as company... that's how it'd have to end.