Off (and On) The Rails

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors! Sorry about missing last Thursday- my Halloween baking sort of pre-occupied my mind. Hope everyone had a fun, safe, delightful, and spooky Halloween!

Usually for Halloween, I try to make my spookier-themed pastries for parties, such as my Jack the Ripper and Elizabeth Bathory cupcakes. This year, I decided to try a couple new recipes- Fig and Bacon Linzer cookies, and a Chedder Cheese and Cider Apple Pie I had had my eye on for a while.

The pie crust was a little difficult to work with, and this is an excellent demonstration of the importance of having the proper tools for a recipe. The crust involved shredded cheddar cheese, and was meant to be made in a food processor. Since I don’t have one of adequate size, I went at it as I told you two weeks ago- with a handheld pastry blender.
Unfortunately, my little hand blender could cut up the cheese nearly as  small as a food processor could, making the dough very crumbly and difficult to work with. Fortunately, the pie came out splendidly all the same.

The second little adventure came in trying to make the filling for the linzers. The cookies themselves were no problem (and I was thrilled for the excuse to finally use my little Linzer cutters!), but the filling was problematic. This year was abysmal for figs, and there were no fresh figs to be found- leaving me with just dried figs to mess around with. I rehydrated some in water for a few hours, and put them through my mini-chopper for with four fried-up strips of thick cut bacon, some dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and some of the bacon fat to add a creamy texture. The texture was sublime, but the fig was very prevalent- I had wanted the bacon to be a bit more forward. Fortunately, I achieved some success by chilling the mixture and allowing a day for the flavors to meld. I think next time I might use a bit more bacon.

There- all caught up on my doings.

Right now, I’m cutting across New Jersey on a train bound for New York City. It is rather telling when you arrange travel (and particularly layovers) so you can get to a favorite spot that you ordinarily might not have a reason to visit. This spot, for me, is the Bridgewater Pub at 30th St.Station in Philadelphia. I got tickets for certain trains so that A. I would be at that station around lunchtime, and B. I would have a solid hour to eat. The food is usually fantastic, and the beer menu equally so.
My meal today was a fantastic beef brisket sandwich on brioche roll with a herby and peppery chimichurri, and a pint of Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout. I highly recommend both the place AND beer if you find yourself in the vicinity of either.

The notion of “destination” food is an amusing one to think about- the idea that some food or restaurant is SO good, SO desirable, it is worth traveling an incredible distance, altering travel plans, and often expending more money than you might believe, just for the experience of having it. A Chicago deep-dish pizza in Chicago, a Cubano sandwich FROM Little Havana in Miami… the kind of romantic, glassy-eyed gastronomic eroticism you’d expect from a foodie.

Absolutely ridiculous, yet completely reasonable at the same time.

Over and over, I’ve written about the way food holds the psyche- linking tastes and smells to memories and experiences. Sometimes destination food can hold a feeling of nostalgia. Other times it can fulfill a fantasy for the person, or re-enact a story for them from their family history.

Increasingly, I find my choices in “destination” food to be a combination of all of these- tastes of childhood to bring me back to a safe place from the madness of adult life, fantasies read about in books and travelogues or related to personal heroes, and sometimes just looking up places my parents told me about from before I was born, to see if they are real and as good as they said.

What’s destination food for you? Let me know in the comments! I have a long train ride, and full, happy belly to read them on.

Stay classy,