You know how we play this game, as Alex Trebek says.
What happens is, I go and inhale isolated, specific dishes that are very cool and perhaps off your radar - and tell you about it. Then YOU go eat it and you write in and say, "You're right, Rick, but is it really healthy to drink a whole bowl of sausage gravy like it was a glass of water?"
And I reply, "Probably not something Lance Armstrong would do, but you loved it, didn't you?"
And you say, "Thanks!" and the great shroud of the sea rolls on as it rolled 5,000 years ago. Or something like that.
Chili Fritos: Kamp Dog, New London
Ken Hochstetler over at Kamp Dog has roots, I believe, that go back to Florida.
This is why he was able to appropriate a certain Dixie construct called a Frito pie and place his own beautifully evil twist on it. What happens is, Hochstetler takes a bag of Fritos - the kiddie-lunch-box-sized bag - rips it open, ladles in a scoop of his homemade chili, then tops the whole thing with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and unleashes this greatness on the world.
First of all, there are physicists in think-tanks at the great universities all over the world who wish they could come up with a formula as perfect as: Fritos + shredded cheese.
But when you add Ken's chili, which is meaty, tasty and possessing a delightfully tangy bit of sneaky heat, to the mix, and the properties of the chili add a coagulative and intermingling gooey texture to the whole thing, well, clap yourself on the back. You've just made your life better. Plus: it's $1.50! Get six!
By the way, I should point out that my pal Dr. John Foley, a cardiologist who performs transplants, recently was introduced to Ken's Chili Fritos. It should be reported that Foley sampled it, immediately blew off years of medical school training - and wolfed down the entire bag in record time. So there.
Corned Beef Sandwich: Goldy's, New London
Since St. Patrick's Week - the celebration seems to have organically expanded beyond the 24-hour "St. Patrick's DAY" period originally allotted and now takes bigger chunks of time each year - I've been on a bit of a corned beef kick. (I know: you thought I was going to say I'd installed a keg of Guinness in my bathroom.)
Of late, I've been enjoying the corned beef sandwich at Goldy's on Colman. This is a bittersweet thing to write about since the patriarch of the popular restaurant, Sheldon Saul Goldstein, passed away last week.
Let me just say, though, I know he was proud of this latest incarnation of his establishment. They do many things well and they certainly churn out a very fine corned beef sammich. The tender, titular beef, surgically trimmed for maximum leaness and piquant with that blessed briny flavor, is piled skyward on your choice of bread - rye, right? (It's also available on a wrap.) I asked for Swiss cheese and that the whole thing be lightly grilled and served with Goldy's wondrous waffle fries. Beautiful for a reasonable $6.49.
Blackened Gorgonzola Burger: The Pub, New London
My pal Carl and I were standing outside Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul restaurant on Chartres in New Orleans several years ago, not long after the whole "Cajun blackened" craze started. The prices were, ah, pretty steep and we noted that Blackened Redfish was going for $30-plus as an evening entree.
"Great!" Carl snorted. "Here's $30. Burn a piece of fish for me!"
Well, it's true that, while way too many people over think the "blackened" technique, Prudhomme probably wasn't going to be one of them.
I remember that moment outside K-Paul's, though, every time I encounter a "blackened" option on a New England menu. Tread lightly, Ricardo!
I must say, however, that Rod Cornish and his folks at The Pub - the same locale where he'd recently experimented with Tex-Mex before opting to try "hand-crafted burgers, salad and prime rib" - make a pretty damned great hamburger. There are plenty of tempting options (although not a veggie variety, my Sainted Wife wearily points out).
But since Cornish handles spice with wit and creativity on his famous wings, I decided to try the Blackened Gorgonzola Burger. Well played! The mounded half-pound of beef was of glorious quality, and the Cajun spice was properly rubbed to ensure a crisp, thin bark of an exterior. Bite through and the perfectly cooked ground meat bubbled with juice and flavor. Crumbled Gorgonzola on top provided a bluesy counterpoint - and the buttered Brioche roll is an inspired choice of bread that absorbs and contains the ingredients of the sandwich without falling into ruin.