December 21, 2009

Comfort Food: American Style

I had an only in NY moment about a month ago with the awesome Carlota. She was working in her bar, and she invited me to stop by and visit. I was trying to be low-key, not wanting to get her in trouble or anything on the job. While I sat there nursing my water (I'd just come from a birthday party and was not up for more alcohol!), a striking blonde woman walked in and sat two seats to my left. I heard her Australian accent as she asked about the champagne there. Carlota recommended a martini instead, and the woman gamely picked that. A quick glance showed she an attractive blonde beauty rocking an amazing rabbit fur coat. I was still pretending not to know Carlota, so I didn't interject myself into their conversation. In fact, at one point Carlota told the woman "My friend and I are thinking about going to Iceland," and I didn't realize she was referencing ME! I was working on my Blackberry, pretending to be a total stranger and not at all involved--I probably came off a little distant at first! It slowly dawned on me that I was being brought into the conversation, so I quickly changed gears and started gabbing. A pretty easy transition for me. ;)

The next thing you know, the three of us were chatting like schoolgirls. The woman's name was Karen, and she was in town for a 2-week vacation--the previous week she'd spent with her girlfriends and doing some business--now she was on her own for a week and looking for tips. We were more than happy to help. Carlota, being a native New Yorker, had way more tips than I , but what I lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm. I couldn't believe when I looked down at my watch and HOURS had passed. It seemed like minutes! We all exchanged info and made plans to get together at least once before she flew home to Australia. Carlota & I agreed Cafeteria would be a great spot for some Comfort Food: American Style.

We headed off to Chelsea on a busy night--it was packed! There were no tables in the dining room, and the wait would be at least an hour, but the hostess told us we were welcome to go hang out in the lounge downstairs, which even had its own smaller bar. I was thinking "Why am I just learning about this place??" While Cafeteria can be very yummy, it's also a very loud dining area. I was thrilled at the chance for a more secluded place. We went down the stairs into a small room that held maybe 40 people. Lovely!

We started off with a carafe of the red wine sangria. Fantastic. It was not strong at all, but still tasty. I wish there had been bigger chunks of fruit--that's half the fun--but all in all, this was a good pick.

We quickly put in our order for the Mac Attack, the mac and cheese sampler (picture at top of post). Carlota & I regaled Karen with our tales of growing up with the powdered cheese sauce in the blue box, and how our tastes have changed over the years. Whatever you put in your mac and cheese, it's still a go-to comfort food!

Between 3 hungry gals, the mac attack was just a few bites each, so we also tried their meatballs, which came in a cast-iron skillet, floating on some delicious, savory red sauce (red sauce!!!!). The meatballs were delicious, just salty enough, delightfully soft and scrumptious. The crusty bread was perfect for soaking up the rest of that yummy sauce.

We also ordered something I'd never had before myself: chicken and waffles. I've known it was a classic pairing for some time, but it never really appealed to me because, waffles? Eh. When I tried this dish, though? NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!! I have never had such a light, delicious, fluffy waffle in. my. life. I could have eaten just that, plain, with nothing else. The fried chicken was excellently seasoned--holy cow. I can see now why this is such a hit!

For dessert, we wanted to try the peanut butter dessert with the crystallized bacon (which Sara & I shared a while back on my first trip there), but the server told us that was last season, and this season they had a different option: bacon glazed caramel popcorn. I think I may have looking slightly crestfallen at hearing it was now a slab of peanut butter pie with a cone full of the popcorn, but the server tried to make us feel better by saying the piece of bacon was pretty small anyway. LIAR!!! I mean... I disagree. It was a fairly sizeable chunk shared by Sara & me months ago--it would have been enough for the 3 of ust that night! We sighed and reluctantly ordered the pie instead. It was not great. It wasn't even really good. It was ridiculously rich--too rich. The popcorn was just so-so, and the bacon flavor was lost in it. It was a bit of a disappointing end, but we still had a great night of girl talk and cultural comparisons! Karen repeatedly invited us to come visit her in Brisbane. Bless her heart, I'm not sure if she realizes we are two gals who will SO take her up on that offer.


Kazstix said...

Quite a talent you have there missy! Loved the write up! The photo of the three of us will be going up (it is on my other card and I am yet to load it!). x

LKPheartsfood said...

I will send you mine!! It was such a kick meeting you!

glennpayne said...

mmmm love the chicken and waffles!! gaga had oprah's chef make that for her when she was on her show.

and if it's good for gaga, you know.

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