The old saying goes: you are what you eat, and in that case, I am a whole lot of stuff. I love so many different types of food, but sadly for my arteries and waistline, most of the stuff I really love is just no good for me. Doesn't it seem like all the best food in the world is the stuff you're supposed to stay away from? Don't get me wrong, I love a good salad every now and again, but it's not the type of food I'd go out of my way to get. That said, I'd like to stick around for a few more decades, so I try and take it easy. Like Cookie Monster said: some things are just a sometimes food.
So I do my best to not eat this crap to often, but there's just no way I can quit my favorites cold turkey. Hmm, turkey... how did that miss the list? And in November no less. Oh well, there is just so much great food out there. How does one narrow down all the gastronomical delights down to a list of only 10 of their favorites? Here's how:
10) Burrito. As a person proud of his Italian ancestry I have a hard time admitting that Mexican food is just about my favorite thing to eat in general. Specifically I can't get enough of a good burrito. Even more specifically I can't get enough of Roburittos right here in my home town. I opt for the burrito/quesadilla hybrid (it's better for the environment after all) known as the burritodilla. It is all of the things that come in a great classic burrito but folded and grilled rather than wrapped. It is also what I imagine god's sweat tastes like.
9) The Spiedie. It's hard for me to believe that I knew nothing of the spiedie as recently as July of '07. That is when XL and I first sampled this favorite sandwich of New York State's Southern Tier. Since then I've taken literally every opportunity to enjoy the finely marinated and grilled meat cubes both in Binghamton and at home. Mine are good, but I'd always rather have a domestic spiedie at Lupo's or Spiedie and Rib Pit.
8) Shrimp Cocktail. I love shrimp in just about any form, even enough to have downed a dozen or so with the heads on while down under. But for me there is nothing better than the classic: six shrimp, peeled and deveined, hanging off the side of a martini glass containing a ramekin of cocktail sauce resting on a bed of lettuce. It was the first thing I ever developed a love for as a kid that I couldn't have very often. Consequently, I always craved it, so much so, that more than once I took my parents up on their offer of substituting a meal for a shrimp cocktail and a side salad.
7) Hamburger. I don't know if there are many things that are more quintessentially American than a good burger. Not the crap they pedal at Micky Dee's or any other fast food place. I'm talking about a hand formed patty, on a great bun with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and real cheese. If you must get your beef injection over a counter than be sure to make it Five Guys, they are the finest chain burger in the land, bar none. Otherwise, there is nothing better than a finely crafted burger from a local joint.
6) Aussie Meat Pie. The beauty of finger food is the incorporation of multiple tasty ingredients into an easy to handle delivery system. There is no food that brings so much to the table (or the curbside in Sydney) than the meat pie. It's steak, gravy, flaky crust, potatoes, peas and more gravy all right there in your hand. The best one I've ever had was at Harry's Cafe de Wheeles in Woolloomooloo Australia. Since they don't deliver to my area code, I've found suitable versions in the Big Apple at the Tuck Shop and D.U.B. Pies.
5) Wings. It's been more than 45 years since Dom Bellissimo asked his mom to make some bar food for his buddies. But for just about every day since Teressa fried up some wings and tossed them in hot sauce, someone has been eating wings the way they made that at the Anchor Bar. They can be enjoyed so many different ways, but to date the best ones I've ever had were at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. XL and I ate our bucket of Quaker Steak and Lube wings with all the gusto of a lion trying to down an impala before the vultures show up. It kills me that the nearest QS&L location is two hours away, because I've been craving more of those amazingly crispy wings for months now. I make a pretty mean boneless wing, but it doesn't hold a candle to what I had that day.
4) Cheese Steak. As a guy who grew up in New Jersey I happen to like the kind of cheese steaks I used to sling in my pizzeria days. Steak fried in a pan with onions and then placed in a good sub roll, covered in cheese and baked in the oven. Once the cheese gets a bit brown it's pulled and then covered in lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. Perfection! But, if you can't make it to the Metuchen area for one of these, you can find a great combo of cheese, bread and steak just about anywhere. I've done the Geno's vs Pat's taste test in Philly and rocked just about every version of this masterpiece of sandwich making in the world. Hell, I even shrunk them down just to prove it could be done.
3) Pizza. I've covered this topic before, but when I say pizza I mean pizza, not Chicago style, which is fine, but not what I think of when I think pizza. I want thin crust with a great mix of whole milk and park skim shredded cheese and a thick sauce. Once again, my pizza universe will always center around Middlesex county New Jersey where I first learned how to eat the stuff and then learned how to make it to perfection. I'd do almost anything for a slice right now!
2) Hot Dogs. This is the hardest one to nail down, because unlike pizza, there are so many ways to enjoy a tube steak. I like em boiled, grilled, fried, deep fried or dipped in batter and fried. I like them with mustard, relish, chili, onions, sauerkraut and even though it seems to offend people, I even eat them with ketchup from time to time. I love them from Yocco's Grey's Papaya, Nathan's, Ted's, a ball park or a thousand other places. Hell, I even love them out of the twenty year old water in the carts on the streets of New York. While a meat pie may be one of the perfect foods to eat with your hand, a hot dog is the hands down winner.
1) My Dad's Famous Sub. I've blogged a few times about the pure unadulterated genius that is my father's sub, or "The Sub" as it's known around these parts. Given the choice I'd eat one of these combos of salami, provolone cheese, peppers, tomatoes and bread than a hundred dollar steak. Every thing in this meal is in perfect balance and proportion, just the way my old man dreamed it up. Then I did what all good son's should do and carried the ball a few more yards down the field for my dad and made perfection even more perfect.
If that list doesn't make you hungry you should just resign yourself to a lifetime of eating at Olive Garden or Shenanigan's. It was hard for me to not include a few of my other favorites like Ribs, The Turkey Bobbie, Crabs, Tacos, meatballs, The PEC, or chili just to name a few. I think I could open a place where I sling just these ten items and make a mint. I'd call it Greazy Tony's Top Ten. Would you like to make a reservation?