Thursday, July 29, 2010

Living in America........ Best and the worst meal

When you live in a town, a small town in America you tend to become a part of the town. In our case it was dearest wife Praveen, Detective An, and yours truly who stayed together in Pittsburgh for over a fortnight, while dearest wife Praveen pursued her Leadership Management (Full Bright Scholarship) at Carnegie Mellon University.

When you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit, similarly when you don’t do something regularly for 21 days it stops being a habit (profound isn’t it). Yes, I have not written for over 60 days and I have a problem getting back to it.

When the experiences are few and far, we tend to ponder, think and exaggerate and perhaps as a blogger record them. When the experiences are, varied and in fast consecution to each other, the choices then become extremely difficult.In the last two months I have passed through and visited Munich, Pittsburgh, Washington, Frankfurt, Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai. This one is about living in America. The most memorable and hyper varied experiences make it to my first record.

True to my grain, I am going to right about the salesman kind of places. Though my idiom in India Is Rs 100/-. Unfortunately, I think one has to re-calibrate in USA and call it eating under USD 8 (simply defined a burger, fries and coke at Mc Donald’s is approx Rs85-100, whilst in USA its USD 8). Will try to stick to the USD 8-10 budget. In no particular order, I am trying to capture experiences.

Most Memorable Meal:

Speaking to Sukku and Ritu (friends of my friend Rajesh Tewari our elegant host and friend from Discovery Channel), knowing my keen interest and food said, you have to try El Pollo Rico, the only place Anthony Bourdain wanted to go on visiting Washington DC. What when, where I had to do it we were leaving the next day for India. The next morning, Rajesh set the GPS for El Pollo Rico in Arlington and we were there. It looked like an ordinary diner or Cantina (Mexican) in a very ordinary parking lot.

It is famous for the Peruvian roasted chicken, that’s it, nothing else. Like India, Quarter, Half and Full Chicken with fries and coleslaw with two interesting sauces or chutneys a green spicy sauce and a pale yellow creamy cheesy sauce (can't get my finger on those sauces but delicious). Now the place, ordinary looking with a long bar and the Rotisserie behind it, with gringo like men smiling, the tables and restaurant was white light, ordinary. The main star is the chicken with subcutaneous fat, the skin charred crisp brown, the insides, meat coming of the bone though firm. I could go on and on and on…………. Using my most often used expression, the earth moved for me, it does, nearly once a quarter.

The price, we paid USD 13.50 (approx Rs 640), perfect could easily feed two hungry men or moderately hungry family of 3-4. Most amazing experience. You must check out the brief experience on YouTube (if you like. The basting of the chicken the crispness the spices and the flavors are hard to describe. I did sight a Peruvian Chicken Stall at the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon (near Delhi), but it looked like fried chicken far from the real stuff I had recently had. By the way goes great with Trader Joe’s Chardonnay (Trader Joe - a grocery/ supermarket has its own brand of wine, surprisingly well at USD 5 a bottle (Rs 240) we 4-5 of them over two days. Nice.

Most Disappointing Meal:

Pamela’s ( a Diner that everyone knows in Pittsburgh and it’s also been made famous by Pittsburgh famous visitor, Barak Obama, who has very often visited the diner for its famous pancakes. Even Pamela and Gale the owners and chefs have been invited to the White House to cook and lay out breakfast for visiting heads of states amd veterans on Memorial day. With this kind of lineage, we had to visit this place and visit we did, twice. Besides, it was well within the budget, i.e. the salesman’s budget extended taking the first world liberties of USD8-10. You can eat well, breakfast or Brunch at Pamela’s for that amount, in quantity, in quality, that’s a different story.

We were living in the Jor Bagh of Pittsburgh, called Shadyside area and the market at a stone’s throw is the Walnut street. Right in the centre of Walnut Street is the Pamela’s diner. Me and our little loving daughter Detective An (now called Cool Clouseau) decided to brunch at Pamela’s. We reached. Nice place gave my name Sam (a lot more convenient than Samil Malhotra), entered, black and white checkered tiles, apron clad wait staff.
A young waitress, what are you going to drink, we ordered coke and a pink lemon or ginger fizz. Absorbed the atmosphere, saw some caricatures of Obama. We ordered instinctively. A Hot Dog for the little one a Hamburger for me and Onion rings for us. Everything is enormous like everything in America, the wait staff the plates, the drinks, the onions in the onion rings, the steak in the burger. However it was, tasteless, even with mustard, Tabasco and pepper absolutely tasteless. Absolutely, bad experience.

Not giving in so easily, we went back, thinking it was a bad a day and a bad order, it’s a breakfast place we should order breakfast. This time three of us dearest wife Praveen, Cool Clouseau and me armed with determination. Praveen studying at Carnegie Mellon had heard great things about the place. With a 30 minute wait Sam was called. We are seated what are you gonna drink…. Etc later we order, Vegetable Omelet and home fries for Praveen and I went for the whole hog, Eggs, Pancake, Home Fries etc, the full shebang. The eggs are always four egged, it puts most of us at a disadvantage, the bacon to measly and dry, the pancakes (boy of boy, flat, neither sweet nor salted like bland wheat Chilla with no salt or sugar served with maple syrup which is another story). Cut to Praveen enormous eggs stuffed with raw uncooked vegetables, mind you she’s is used to the lovingly folded in a dainty pan by the head chef at the Taj or the The Leela, if she is eating an Omelet, kind of Omellete. This seemed like eggs and vegetables on wholesale. In America please do not repeat do not order any large, in fact most us can do with a kids meal.

Lesson learnt; do not eat where Barak Obama eats. I was tempted to try Ray’s at Washington Dc where he hopes across for a burger or Sandwich now a red light comes on which says stay away. The Commercials….. Costs us about USD 26 (about Rs 1230), the regret is we were hungry because we did not or could not eat.

Look Out For more Living in Ameriaca, The best Of The Pitt ( Pittsburgh), Beers in America , Alternate dining in America in this series.

Question, Which Head of State did Obama take to Ray's for the Hells burger ?

So Long !