I Just Ate One of the Best Meals of My Life…In Rural Ohio

OK, so over the years I've been a little obnoxious about Ohio. Mostly because it refuses to let me have my luggage and makes my family throw up, but also because it's freezing whenever I visit it. And flat. (And yes, it also has amazing antiquing and Quaker Steak 'n' Lube and all sorts of other things I love, but whatever: 10-hour journeys with children make me grumpy and trips to Ohio always involve 10-hour journeys with children, so I'm grumpy. Sue me.)

One unexpected byproduct of these trips: I've discovered that the rural and suburban areas around Cleveland have some seriously good food. (I discovered this because my father-in-law is deeply invested in the quest to cement his status as Awesomest Father-In-Law Ever Who Feeds His Daughter-In-Law Awesome Food.) Sure, I've had terrible, horrible garlic-pickled eggs and bologna-slab sandwiches at (the otherwise very cool) Lehman's Hardware Store, but I've also eaten artisanal pizza at Gervasi Vineyard, phenomenal seafood at the Main Street Grille in downtown North Canton, and perfect aged Swiss at Guggisberg Cheese. So I think it's safe to say that I'm respectably well-versed in how truly excellent the food around here can be.

I've also been lucky enough to have the chance to eat at some of the very best restaurants on the planet. Nobu; Blue Ribbon; Daniel; Blue Hill Farm. I may not really know what I'm talking about when it comes to *why* a restaurant is remarkable - I vastly prefer Burger King Whopper Juniors to Minetta Tavern's Black Label Burger, so it's safe my palate couldn't be called the "refined" sort - but what I can say is whether a restaurant's food is delicious. To me.


How To Make Sauce With Tomatoes From Your Garden

Here is an annoying thing I do whenever people come over to visit: I drag them to my side yard so that I can show off my tomato plants and loudly exclaim "how wonderful it is to have tomatoes straight from your own garden!"

Isn't that SO ANNOYING?! I can't help it. Before we moved to California I'd never grown tomatoes, and for whatever reason having everything to do with luck and nothing whatsoever to do with my abilities, the tomato vines that I plant every summer grow into freaking trees within weeks. I mean it: they are massive, and so heavy that they can't be contained by ordinary tomato plant container-things, and end up spilling out into the path, and it's all very dramatic and smells AMAZING.

The thing is, I'm soooo good at tomato-growing that I always end up with way more tomatoes than we can reasonably eat. I send my kids out into the yard to gather them up every night, but still: the branches are practically been hanging to the ground from all the weight. So the other night, I decided it was time to do something that'd use up massive quantities of them in a way that would still let their flavor come through, and made marinara sauce using a combination of heirlooms and cherry tomatoes - basically, whatever was ripe.


Bagel Snob

When I was growing up, New York City bagels were a "thing." You just couldn't get anything even approximating one once you left the boundaries of the city. People continue to act like they're still a thing, but by now Noah's and Einstein's and similar chains have made their way across the country, and while they're not anywhere near as good as an H&H Bagel straight out of the oven (I used to live a couple of blocks from the factory and walk over for a fresh bagel with cream cheese and lox on cold mornings, and oh my godddd), they're certainly acceptable. Even delicious.

But still: not the same. And since I don't have a solid bagel place anywhere within a twenty-minute driving range, I just don't really eat them very much anymore. This is obviously a shame.

Then my friend Alisa told me that she makes her own bagels. I mean...who does that? That is an insane thing to do. (I actually consider any bread-making an insane thing to do, since - as you may recall - I am oh, so very bad at it.) So she said she'd show me how she does it, using a recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet, and now...well, ok, I'm not going to make these myself, because I am wayyyyy too lazy and impatient for a recipe that involves yeast and waiting. But anytime someone wants to make them for me, I'll be right there, cream cheese in hand.


I Can’t Stop Eating Shrimp Rolls

It took me years and years to understand the appeal of shrimp rolls. I think this is because I tend to only encounter them at places where you can also eat lobster rolls, and...I mean...eating shrimp when you can eat lobster is sort of like eating white chocolate when milk chocolate is available, no? Like, why would you do that?

The answer, as it turns out: Because lobster is expensive, and lobster is really only great when it's fresh...but shrimp? Pretty cheap, actually - especially if you get it at Costco, ahem. And shrimp are delicious even when they've been frozen and defrosted, making them practical, as well.

I'm very particular about my lobster rolls - I need them to be juuuust the right combination of lobster meat and mayo, with very few other ingredients gunking up all that perfect simplicity - and it turns out I'm equally particular about shrimp rolls. Which means that when I tell you that the one that I have been making constantly these past few weeks is perfect, I mean it. It's perfect. (Did I mention that you can easily make it in large quantities for guests, as a much more swishy take on regular old hot dogs?

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