New York is only a six-hour car ride from my home in western Pennsylvania – hop on I-80 and drive until it ends – but it’s worlds away in terms of food. I live in a town of 13,000 people, two McDonald’s, two Subway’s, a Taco Bell, a Long John Silver’s, an Arby’s, a Wendy’s, five pizza joints and a Starbucks (how that got there I’ll never know). Sit-down restaurants include Perkins, Applebee’s, a steakhouse, a Mexican restaurant, and a diner that doesn’t serve fruit or vegetables that don’t come from a can, but offers a “salad” made mostly with the white parts of iceberg lettuce and topped with french fries and served with a homemade bread stick the size of a loaf of Wonder Bread.
I’ve become an elitist food snob since I began losing weight almost five years ago. Put me in any restaurant before that and my options were unlimited. Now, I study menus like they’re textbooks and question wait staff like I’m a CSI agent. (“Can you tell me if the base of your vegetable soup is actual vegetable broth, or does your cook use chicken or beef broth?”)
It’s not easy eating out in Podunkville when you prefer your food low fat, your vegetables not swimming in salt and butter, and your salad dressing choices to include options other than Ranch, French and blue cheese. “Let’s go out for dinner” always sounds like a good idea, but it’s always followed with the question, “But where?” I can make whatever we’d eat in any of our local restaurants so much better at home.
That’s why eating out in NYC these last few days has been such a pleasure. While in Times Square, we ate in an Irish pub where the veggie of the day was mashed carrots and parsnips (I have to find a recipe for this somewhere, especially since my daughter liked it. LIKED it. That’s HUGE! We’re talking she ate PARSNIPS. I didn’t think she knew what a parsnip was. I was so proud. :**) …sniff…sniff…). And because of the ¾-mile hike to the subway, walking around Times Square, and in anticipation of the ¾-mile hike back to the hotel, I treated myself to a bit of spinach and artichoke dip made with gruyere cheese. I don’t regret a single bite.
While my daughter went back into Manhattan for the evening with a friend from school, Larry and I stayed in Queens and went to a small neighborhood restaurant recommended by the hotel staff. We walked there, of course, since parking spots are scarce, but it was worth every step in the rain. I had a warmed beet and apple salad with reduced balsamic, steamed cauliflower and green beans, and bread. Again. Crusty French with butter. It was fabulous.
It’s now time to shower and hit the road to Connecticut. Tomorrow, it’s back to Podunkville – a place I love to live, but hate going out for dinner. In the meantime, I have to see some divas about some wine…