The back story: About a month ago, Boyfriend and I bought our very own piece of New York real estate, a one-bedroom co-op apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. The process of buying our home was exceptionally long and drawn out. We're extremely happy now that we've settled in, but there's more work to be done, namely, the kitchen.
I mentioned how we have an oven in our dining room at the moment, due to a whole mess of problems with the way the kitchen is currently designed. As we uncovered layer upon layer of problems and shoddy work, we've decided to prioritize remodeling the kitchen completely.
It will be expensive, and when the work gets underway, we will probably be without a kitchen for about three weeks (the contractor said, "two weeks, max," so I'm estimating three). But I'm hoping that those sacrifices will be worthwhile. I'm excited to get this work over with so we can start enjoying the payoff.
Although Boyfriend and I have been discussing how we want to remodel the kitchen, which cabinets and floor tile we like, whether we'll change the lighting, and so forth, we didn't know too much about countertop materials going into the design stage. After a little bit of research, though, I've fallen in love with Corian, a countertop surface material (made by DuPont, I believe) that's really cool.
Corian is easy to shape, so it can be built rounded or curved. Pieces of it fuse together seamlessly, so you never see any joints if you're building a complex project. You can even design a piece of Corian for a kitchen countertop so that the sink and countertop are one continuous piece.
The color is equally exciting: Glacier White. It's a flat white color, no speckles or natural-stone flecking simulations, but it is ever so slightly translucent... like a glacier. And because it's a non-porous material, it won't (or "shouldn't") stain. We'll see about that in a few months. A red wine ring is inevitable.
The downsides that we've learned about so far include the fact that it's a little softer than granite or marble, so it will scratch if you use a knife on it. But any scratches can be buffed out.
More important in the decision-making for the evening was where to dine, as The Olde Pink House in Savannah offers solo diners at least two excellent options.
A waiter showed me downstairs first to what he called his favorite room in the house, the wooden tavern. Dark, happy, but crowded, I asked to see the other choice for bar-side dining. He brought me back upstairs, then down a much smaller set of stairs to the very rear of the building where a bright bar featured a large mirror, giving me a view out the window behind me. A basketball game on TV seemed out of place for this setting, but was on nonetheless.
Everything about my experience at The Olde Pink felt similar to seeing that flatscreen TV hanging above my head: slightly out of place, but no one is quite paying attention to it. Ask about a dish, any dish, and the servers will answer that it's great without explaining how it's prepared or what "chaw-chow" is. And, worse, of the two dishes I ate, neither impressed me one iota.
The She Crab soup, so called for the roe supposedly used in it, gave off barely a wisp of ocean flavor. A thick milky broth (yes, milk and not cream, according to the bar staff) masked what little flavor might be coaxed out of the few strands of crab swimming in a wide and shallow bowl. The soup was lukewarm moments after arriving. I looked forward to my blackened oysters next, but decided to ask for bread first (none was provided), and I'm too glad I did because it was the highlight of the meal.
Two rolls, warm and crusted, can easily get pushed aside for the buttermilk biscuits and crumbly corn muffin. And water? When asked for, it arrived, but a detailed and attentive staff should have delivered it from the get-go. And onto the oysters, I forged ahead through the meal. Six bivalves slid around on a plate too large for them with toting to nest them in place. All the chutney, chaw-chow, and relish was dripping and running, their juices mingling with the char skid marks from the oyster shells.
Two bites in, tasting the sauces first, I was again thankful for the bread. I've had ice cream less sweet than those condiments. Each of them would have turned to jelly if I'd let them sit long.
The Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn St.
Follow bright, new, white and orange signs through the walkways, back put into the bright Georgian light of day, 'round the bend, and hit West Egg Cafe.
Far prettier inside than out, West Egg's spacious entryway almost intimidates. Dark gray paint on the walls brings fashionable confidence to the looming tall ceilings and doorways.
A bakery counter and espresso machines greet you first, and to the left, a host's station may or may not be manned. It was not when I arrived one Thursday morning, which made the room feel even more spacious, like people had gone missing in the expanse somehow.
The first order of the day for me was coffee, and the layer of lather on a sumptuous cup of cappuccino ($3) ("With whole milk, please." "Whole milk?") meet my desire. A single ginger snap cookie arrived on the saucer, a welcomed reminder of Europe, where a small piece of chocolate or a tiny biscuit (that is, a dry cookie) comes with your coffee, day or night.
Then the downer: no spoon. For me it's often these kinds of details that cause me to become overly critical of a restaurant or alternatively, fall head over heels for it. Two swizzle sticks and no spoon is not an acceptable way to serve a cappuccino, cookies or no.
The Menu and Service
Another area where restaurants either impress me entirely or undo all their good intentions is the menu. A thoughtful menu should offer choices, but be cohesive. I want some ingredients and prepapation methods to catch my eye, but not too many. I want to be swayed into a meal, rather than go in knowing what I want, but I don't want to feel too indecisive either. Crafting a great menu is a lot harder than it might seem.
West Egg Cafe's menu is spot on. The restaurant keeps breakfast open all day long, but the selection isn't too huge, even when counting the lunch items as well. Southern inflected ingredients are sprinkled throughout, but should you want a straightforward omelet or burger, it's there.
Though quick and attentive, the server didn't rush me one bit, even though I had a table for one. A sizable staff of waiters and busser kept watch over all the tables. Water refills weren't an issue because West Egg puts a clear bourbon bottle filled with water on every table, a nice signature. Another signature is that no one lays out the silverware, setting down instead a wood box containing napkins, knives, and forks. I still haven't figured out why they're hoarding their spoons.
I gravitated toward the Blue Plate ($6.25), a bargain meal of two eggs, a biscuit (the Southern kind), choice of ham, bacon, or turkey sausage, and choice of garlic grits or potatoes. The second choice was a no-brainier: grits, of course, because when am I going to be in the deep South again? When I asked about the turkey sausage and whether it was a patty or links (answer: patty), I opted for bacon, three strips of medium cut smokey pork.
Poached eggs, served in their own small bowl, weren't drained and blotted properly, so they swam in their own now lukewarm cooking water. And because spoons were MIA, I fished out the eggs with a fork, popping the yolks in the process, which dribbled into that disgusting cup of water. Bummer.
Luckily, the biscuit distracted me from the egg fiasco. Heavy yet flaky, barely crisp on the edges of the edges but creamy soft inside, I could have betaken all day to savor that biscuit, nibble by nibble.
Who knew grits could be spicy? Deliciously flecked with red pepper flecks, mild enough for even sensitive eaters, and a perfectly tame amount of heat at breakfast... I don't rightly know why they're called "garlic grits" on the menu, because garlic was hardly their highlighted feature.
With tax, a plentiful brunch for one weighed in at only $9.99. If I'm ever in Atlanta again, West Egg Cafe will definitely make my short list of restaurants and coffee shops, although next time, I'm definitely going to at least ask what's happened to all the spoons.
West Egg Cafe
1100 Howell Rd.
"Wow, this petit four tastes extra sugary, I mean, even for a piece of cake."
"There's way more sugar in this green tomato salsa than there needs to be!"
"You want me to eat these baked bean with a spoon? So I can drink the brown sugar sauce?"
"Is there ketchup in this spicy tuna roll? No, just curious as to what's giving it that ketchup-y sweetness."
"No. No, I do not want a sweet tea."
Here's the 30-second summary: PCMag.com does independent testing of mobile ("cellular") service providers across the continental United States by sending analysts out to drive across the country while collecting data samples.
This year, three cars are covering the east, central, and west. Nine people will take turns driving tag-team style (three people per region) so that no one person has to coverage too much ground.
My route this year starts in Atlanta, where I'll be meeting East driver no. 2, Jim. He'll have just traveled from Baltimore to Washington D.C. to Charlotte, all the way to Georgia. Lucky me, he's taking the data samples in Atlanta, so my work will be all but done by the time I arrive.
The real beauty of this trip, for me and the other food lovers who get the opportunity to participate, is I get one week of road trip eating on a $50 per diem. Last year, I had the honor of participating, too, and my food sampling ranged from Lebanese kofte at Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn, Mich., to a solo dinner at one of Pittsburgh's hottest restaurants, Nine on Nine (order the chicken livers), to the vege/flexi-tarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (an oddly outdated restaurant), to an upscale Afghani restaurant in Boston, The Helmand.
This year, I'm looking forward to eating a raw beef tartare "burger" with a fried egg on top, drinking a Cap'n'Crunch milkshake on the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Nads!), finding some roasted piggy bits on a beach off the coast of Savannah, finding some restaurant without a children's menu in Jacksonville, Fla. (I double-dog dare you to try and find one online), and feasting on a mess load of sushi in Miami.
And, being the thoroughly modern writer that I am, you can follow me and hear about where I am in real time on Twitter. Just look for the #FMNEast tag on tweets starting tomorrow evening (May 16, 2012).
We, Boyfriend and I, just moved in to a new apartment, the first piece of property I've ever actually owned. Before we moved in, we knew the oven needed to be replaced. The previous apartment owners knew it, too. The oven is dead, they told us. "The range works, but the oven is shot. We fixed it once before for a few hundred bucks, and now that it's broken again, well, you mentioned you might want to buy a new one anyway..."
It's a long story.
The gist of it is: The oven was supposed to arrive in late March. It did not.
We bought the piece from a retailer that doesn't do any installations. We had to. It was the only seller with this particular unit, and it's exactly the one we wanted.
The previous apartment owners were supposed to receive the oven when it was shipped and take care of installation and removal of the old oven, which they could not do because they oven was unexpectedly on back order.
In mid April, when there was still no sign of this oven arriving any time soon, Boyfriend and I accepted the fact that we would have to install it and remove the old oven ourselves. Easy enough, right?
Well, the old oven must have been placed in the kitchen prior to the most recent kitchen renovation, because it's sunk below the tiles and otherwise literally built into the room. Whoever did this renovation also built up the door frame so that it's only approximately 26.5 inches wide. Standard doorframes are a minimum of 30 inches wide. Both ovens are 30 inches wide, and between 27 and 29 inches deep.
So neither the old oven nor the new oven can go anywhere until we remove the door frame.
The tiles are another mess altogether. Again, more shoddy work and corner-cutting by whomever completed the last kitchen renovation: The tiles are built up so that the entire kitchen floor is raised about two inches higher than all the other floors in the apartment. My guess is they were saving money and time by building on top of the existing floor rather than removing whatever was there. And what is there? We don't know yet. We won't find out until we start ripping out the old tile (it's a horrible peach color anyway, but in very good condition otherwise). There might be gorgeous hardwood floors beneath, as the rest of the apartment has. There could be linoleum or other tile. There could be guts. I don't know.
But I am almost definitely going to find out soon.