Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nice to Meat You

Vogue Meatball Sandwich:

Last night I was coming home doing around 70 on the 134 from Pasadena. A beautiful LA night, warm and breezy. To my left the Los Angeles skyline looking like an alien capital city, both a million miles away and impossibly close at the same time. To my right, a to-go box from the In-N-Out on Foothill Blvd, carrying my double-double with cheese and 400 fries. I had thought ahead while waiting to turn at the freeway on-ramp, and emptied every ketchup packet in an even layer over the fries, knowing I would be flying blind for the next 19 miles.

I rolled my window down about 30%, which is my desired amount for the 134 at night. Three great songs in a row came on, and I had a mini road trip love affair with my double-double, and 400 fries. I am one of 9 responsible drivers here in LA, which means I kept my eyes on the road, and kept my hand making the round trip from fries to mouth repeatedly over the course of the journey. Anyone passing me would have glanced over to see a wild-haired cruise controller, singing along manically, stopping only to take competitive eating style bites of In-N-Out, clearly fleeing a crime scene. But with a great soundtrack.

When I got home I had ketchup on my neck and pants, and a smile on my face. And while I wouldn’t have changed a thing, I was grateful for the economy sized bottle of Tums I knew was waiting for me in my bathroom cabinet.

For the record, I did not purchase Tums for my stomach, as I have heard people do. I am fortunate to pretty much never have stomach problems. I could digest a Tikki Hut. I bought them because I recently discovered how tasty Assorted Fruit Tums are, and sprung for an economy-sized bottle to round out my snack collection.

I actually should keep them in the kitchen, not the bathroom.

If there is a point to the In-N-Out neck ketchup story, it is this: I can’t help it. I simply adore meat. Meat ON BREAD is an unthinkably good combination, but Tartar or CharredCharred, I can’t get enough. I love vegetables! I love fruit! I love bread! The whole wheat kind, AND the stuff that tastes good! I love dessert!

But I swoon for meat.

Angelina Jolie once claimed the she would rendez-vous with a rotation of men in swanky hotel suites on a regular basis. Well, I have a collection of animal protein dishes scattered about the country that I have corresponded with from time to time.

There was a pork chop at Sepia in Chicago that I would have given it all up to run away with. But the cast-iron dish it was seared and served in was not ideal for spontaneous travel, as you can imagine.

And a cochon de lait pressed sandwich with cherry mustard at Luke in New Orleans that I spent a dark and rainy night with. Then we rode the streetcar down St. Charles. I made it home safely, but it met a tragic end somewhere around Audubon Park.

This Minetta Tavern burger and I never even actually spoke out loud that night in NYC. We just knew.

And one day, near the airport in metropolitan Burbank, I finally met THE ONE. And it goes by the name: INCREDI-BALL.

I believe that is a family name.

The Great Balls On Tires truck sat alone in the distance. Quietly, shy perhaps?

Instead of doing my taxes, I was doing this. It was wrong, this couldn’t possibly work. This would surely backfire. That pile of receipts wasn’t going to take this laying down, in date order or not.

My heart leapt, but I kept my cool. “My cool,” looks quite similar to an awkwardly paced run-walk, and usually is punctuated by my dropping something which rolls out of reach under something else.

Ground Kobe beef, applewood smoked bacon, arugula tasting like the evil spicy version of the color green, gruyere, a lovely subtle garlic aioli, on toasted brioche. In a three-bite size. Two of them. I find the three-bite size to be the best size for pretty much anything. One is over too quickly, two lacks closure, but three is the magic number.

My friendly host Clint, a damn cool guy. Maybe…TOO cool...   

He gave me not only the refined and perfected Incredi-Ball, but a Ballywood as well-a cooked to perfection garam masala chicken meatball with coconut madras curry, crispy fried onions, tomato AND cilantro chutney, over saffron basmati rice.

You know those long musical numbers in Indian movies, with all the lovely bright colors, and hand-dancing? If that were a dish, it would be this dish. Smells so good and spiced perfectly. I admire India so much for its alacrity to boldly spice food.

And because everybody votes.

Both were absolutely tax-ignoring worthy. Each ingredient so simple and well-executed, and working together to make a perfect bite. Which is important because, as I mentioned, you get a whole three bites. I loved each bite with a feverish impatience, and have not seen Chicago pork chop or Minetta burger since.

I did however devour this spaghetti and meatball dish that my adorable cousin made for me. It was too good to pass up, and I've never regretted it. And such a reasonable portion size.

But I did eventually do my taxes.

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