Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Gluttony Gazette 2019-11-16

     For those unacquainted with my part of America: Long Island has three “zones,” broadly speaking. To the far west there are the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. These constitute the marches of the Big Cancer that dominates New York State commercially and politically. On the eastern end is the county of Suffolk, where I’ve made my home for more than five decades. Between east and west sits the county of Nassau, a forbidding place that contains a rough preponderance of Long Island’s commerce and, sadly, most of its better restaurants.

     Mind you, it takes a lot to motivate me sufficiently to journey westward, and a hell of a lot to get me to go into Nassau. Most points of interest in Nassau County aren’t conveniently accessible by the Long Island Rail Road. The roads are pretzelly, few are properly marked, and the traffic is awful. I need a really good reason for the trip. But not long ago, the C.S.O. discovered one.

     Yes, it’s a restaurant. A steak house, to be exact. And like all steak houses, it’s painfully expensive even to walk in and be seated. For example, a glass of White Zinfandel is $16.00 – and it takes quite a few glasses of WZ to anesthetize me against the cost of a meal there. The waiters are supercilious snobs who view you as an imposition on their time. They toss menus at you with a Frisbee-like flip, mumble the specials in a tongue that barely resembles English, and flee before you can order a drink or an appetizer, as if they were late for the fifth race at Belmont. And the steaks are nothing to write home about. Indeed, I found the filet mignon to be tough and chewy, which filet mignon is not supposed to be. But to go to a steak house and not order a steak is simply not done. Men have served long prison sentences for less.

     So what could motivate me to drive forty miles into the wilds of Nassau, a place I cordially detest, to go to this unnamed, multiply deficient restaurant – and not once, nor twice, but thrice?

     You’ll laugh. You’ll pitch a fit of hysterics. You’ll question my sanity...or at the very least, my priorities. Yet I could name several other persons who’ve done the same thing, and have overcome the same obstacles and dissatisfactions, for the same inducement.

     It’s the creamed spinach.

     This restaurant is home to the very best creamed spinach in the Milky Way. It accompanies all their entrees, a point of pride for the establishment and those who cook there. It’s so good, and so well known, that upon hearing that we were headed there, colleagues, neighbors, and friends have asked us if we might bring home part of our servings of creamed spinach to share with them. (“Just a spoonful, Fran. Please?”)

     No one has been able to reproduce it. The staff cooks at this restaurant are bound by a code akin to omerta. It’s possible that members of their families are being held hostage to guarantee their silence. The C.S.O. has tried to “reverse cook” the recipe, and has come nowhere near to the glory of the real McCoy. My own skills at the stove fall far short of the required level of expertise.

     So the day before yesterday, at the conclusion of an otherwise disappointing lunch there, we bought ten pounds of the creamed spinach. I plan to ferret out the nine best culinary detectives in America, to send each of them a pound of this precious stuff, and to plead for insight into its concoction. I’m thinking of offering a monetary reward for success, just in case the glory of the achievement isn’t sufficient incentive to undertake the quest.

     What do you think, Gentle Reader? Should I send a pound to the Food Network, and another to America’s Test Kitchen? Would they be as entranced and energized by the mystery as I? How likely would those glamor-boys and glamor-girls of the culinary arts be to crack the puzzle?

     For one way or another, I must know. Nature, they say, is an open book...but apparently, that book doesn’t contain the recipe for The Ultimate Creamed Spinach. The kings of the food sciences must be marshaled and galvanized to this investigation! Among other things, a reliable, home-reproducible recipe would save me the irritation of having to eat another unsatisfactory steak while fortified with insufficient alcohol to mute the pain.

     (What’s that you say? Why am I committing only nine pounds of this irreproducible delight to the pursuit of the recipe? What’s to become of the tenth pound? I’m going to eat it, of course. Slowly. Did you really need to ask?)


Jeff said...

Fran, trust me, you don’t want to know. Mystery delights in the absence of cold truth

daniel_day said...

What makes you so sure the restaurant won't fedex a pair of wet legless feet in concrete "overshoes" to all of the experts you apply to?

Sam L. said...

Go for the Test Kitchen! They'll figure it out and write 3=4 pages on what the did and how they did it, and give you the recipe!

Ron Olson said...

I'm gonna try this one. You made my mouth water.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Ree is pretty reliable, Ron, but this time I'd deviate from her prescription. Her recipe needs some grated Pecorino Romano cheese.