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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Best Of The Best Of

One of my friends had a life threatening illness and couldn't eat any solid food for six months. I asked him how he maintained his sanity and he told me rather matter-of-factly that he just sat at home and watched the Food Network all day just dreaming of when he'd be able to eat again. I guess I could understand it. It doesn't take much to get hooked on those shows.

My favorite is Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour. Now there's a guy who truly loves food! I also became a fan of a show called The Best Of. On this show, hosts Jill Cordes and Marc Silverstein travel around the country reporting on the best food and eating establishments they can find. I'm happy to report that there is now a book to go along with the TV series. Food Network The Best of the Best Of (HP Books, 2004) is a state by state offering of great food and the places that serve it. They describe it best: "part travelogue, part recipe collection, part scavenger hunt, part confessional .... this book showcases the breadth and variety of eating in America that is the hallmark of The Best Of. Every place has a story. And like any good story, we look for something unique that distinguishes each place, whether it's the setting, the characters, the history, or the lore."

Since I'm not much of a traveller and even worse -- I'm a very fussy eater -- it's unlikely I'll ever eat in many of these places. I've only actually eaten in two of them. A couple of times a year, I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to eat in Grimaldi's Pizzeria. Not only is it a spectacular pizza, but it's one of the few I've found that tastes almost as good as a leftover (important since I usually only eat three of the eight slices when I'm by myself). The second place I can vouch for is Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh. I'll never forget the Saturday when I had a tuna sandwich there. The novelty here is that french fries and cole slaw are piled on top of the tuna fish between the slices of bread. Words simply cannot describe how good these sandwiches are and though I've sworn off french fries, all that would be forgotten if you dropped me down into their dining room.

Along this line, I have two personal "best ofs" that I am always touting. For years, believing it was bad for you, I swore off peanut butter. It was only after a friend told me that he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich each day for lunch that I did the research and found that peanut butter was actually good for you. The best choice is peanut butter that doesn't contain any hydrogenated oils. I've tried them all and nothing even comes close to Wild Oats Crunchy Chunk Peanut Butter which only contains two ingredients: peanuts and salt. Even natural grind-em-in-the-store peanut butters can't compare and at $2.49 it's a real steal. Unfortunately, the Wild Oats stores are only in 24 states.

The second of my "bests" is a bagel from the bakery cafe chain, Au Bon Pain. For years I ate nearly every variety of bagel they made with one exception -- I studiously avoided the jalapeno double cheddar model. Then one day I tasted it and now I won't touch any of the other bagels! I pop the jalapeno double cheddar into a toaster over to crisp it a little more and it goes great with any type of meal. I don't think it would be possible to find a better bagel and the proof is that I always have them on hand. After a while I got to wondering what was in the bagels and was kind of fearful about finding out because I didn't think I'd be able to kick the habit if I had to. I finally broke down and checked their very informative website and learned that the bagel doesn't contain any partially hydrogenated fat (you'd be surprised how many do) and in fact only clocked in at six grams of fat (3.5 saturated). This comes in under my fat radar but sadly their scones (and everyone else's) do not. Au Bon Pains are not everywhere but there are 230 of them, including quite a few in South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

So have you read any of Anthony Bourdain's mystery novels? They get some good press.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Andy J said...

No, I haven't read any of the Bourdain mysteries. Maybe if I knew that he had a collaborator of your stature, I just might though. I do have his Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour books and would probably
buy the mysteries if I read a wildly favorable review. The trick now is not to read a review!

10:38 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Supposedly Bourdain's writing his own books. There's one called BOBBY GOLD (or something like that) that's a collection of stories, I think. Some of the fans think it's a classic. Others have hated it. I haven't read it.

6:41 AM  

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