When the sun started sizzling in May here in Jacksonville, I started planning my escape. This summer I meandered around the northeast visiting friends and family in the Adirondacks, around northeast Ohio, in Manhattan, along the Jersey shore, and in Boston. Thought I’d share some photos and quick stories about the meals I ate along the way.
When I heard my Australian flatmate Madi was coming to stay with me at my in-law’s place in the Adirondacks, I immediately began planning a week-long menu that incorporated as much Americanness as possible. When we lived together in Adelaide, Madi shared her family recipes and food stories with me and introduced me to many Australian eating customs. She always had a gallon-sized jar of Vegemite in the cupboard. She taught me how to make lamingtons and how to eat them with black tea. I wanted to return the favor when she came to visit. And that meant greeting her arrival with grilled hamburgers, hotdogs with mustard, macaroni salad, and, of course, corn on the cob.
It was the height of summer, so I had to make Madi my favorite American summertime meal. Tender grilled ribs slathered in my sweet-smoky barbecue sauce… slow-cooked baked beans flavored with molasses… gooey macaroni and cheese with a crisp and buttery breadcrumb topping… moist, sweet cornbread (Madi’s favorite)… and my mother-in-law Laurie’s perfect potato salad. We all ate in silence, licking sauce and crumbs off our sticky fingers before we sat back and carefully peeled the paper back from a box of ice cream sandwiches.
We had grilled chicken tacos another night. You don’t get much Mexican-inspired fare in Australia, so I threw together some garlicky, lemony guacamole and a batch of salsa using tomatoes at the peak of their summer ripeness. Surprisingly, I came across a basket full of gleaming poblano peppers at the tiny local market. I blackened them on the grill, chopped them, and stirred them into a bowl of lime-and-garlic-scented rice.
For lunch one sunny day we sat at pink gingham tablecloth-covered picnic tables on the banks of Long Lake and noshed on Jewish deli fare at the Lakeside Knoshery. One thing I missed most when living in Australia were American sandwiches. Especially those piled high so high with pastrami or corned beef that you could barely fit them in your mouth. The reubens at Lakeside Knoshery are fat and messy and classic and delicious. A potato knish with plenty of deli mustard and a trio of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce rounded out a time-honored American lunch.
We also lunched in Lake Placid, cozying up with glasses of California wine in an outdoor room overlooking Mirror Lake.
Madi ate bison for the first time. In the form of an open-faced sandwich topped with sweet, caramelized Vidalia onions and tomato-laced béarnaise.
And since we all know American lobster is the best lobster in the world, I ordered big meaty hunks of it with strips of salty bacon, chunks of avocado, and a lemon olive oil aioli on a brioche bun.
After a memorable lunch at the Brown Dog Deli and Wine Bar, we slowly made our way down Main Street, peeking in the shops and finally ending at a Sugar Shack that had freshly-baked key lime cupcakes perched prettily under the counter.
Our time together in the Adirondacks involved more than American food. Because my girlfriend Melissa brought me a bag heavy with orange-scented mate and sugared Spanish crispbreads from her favorite store in Hoboken. And Madi toted Maggie Beer’s cabernet sauce, nutty dukkah, my favorite brand of Thai red curry paste, Murray River salt flakes, chocolate-covered macadamias, and a stellar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon all the way from Australia. She also brought a box of chocolates from Haigh’s. Each shiny little morsel was filled with a native Australia surprise: glaced quandong, wattle seed, macadamia nuts, lemon myrtle. I think that one was my favorite. The lemon myrtle.
And she even brought a precious bag of dried wild quandongs, a tiny, tart native Australian peach.
We rehydrated them with water and plenty of sugar and carefully stuffed them into biscuits, using a handwritten recipe from Madi’s grandmother.
At dusk on one of Madi’s last nights, a group of us hopped into kayaks and canoes and paddled out into the middle of Long Lake. We tied our kayaks together, drank wine and beer as we gently swayed with the waves, and laughed and laughed until the sun starting dipping behind the mountains and we had to glide back to shore.
I saw Madi off to New York City, and I flew the opposite direction, to Ohio. To visit my family. I’ll tell you about that next.