Giving Thanks: An East Coast Odyssey
It’s been less than a week since I returned from New Jersey, and already I’m suffering from a head cold. I like to think this is the reason I was not quick to recap my holiday adventures, but also I’m lazy and sometimes busy doing other things. Nevertheless, I’ve got tissues jammed in my nostrils, my eyes can’t stop watering, and I’m stuck on my couch for the night so I might as well settle in and do this.
My flight from Los Angeles to Newark on Monday the 21st was a redeye. I took my usual sleeping pill 45 minutes before takeoff and was unconscious pretty much as soon as we left the ground. The flight was relatively smooth. We hit two little patches of turbulence over the Rockies and then again over Chicago, so both times I was startled awake. I was incredibly tired upon landing, so once I made it back to my mom’s house I passed out for a few hours. Once I was awake, showered, and dressed, she drove me to the new Wegmans in Hanover. As if I could have possibly started my vacation any other way.
Just a couple hours later, it was time to meet my father and my sister for all-you-can-eat sushi at a place in nearby Verona (home of actor/comedian Jay Mohr, who used to hang out at Verona Inn sometimes). My sister and I shared a bottle of vintage Brooklyn Quintaceratops to mark the occasion. If you haven’t already noticed, both paragraphs describing my trip thus far have involved food. That’s because — while a bunch of stuff happened while I was home — pretty much every interaction I had during my 7-day trip involved a table of some kind and food or adult beverages. Seriously.
From dinner my sister and I headed to Chatham to hang out with friends of hers. On the way we stopped at Bottle King, as apparently her closet filled with hundreds of bottles of beer wasn’t sufficient when it came time to decide what we should be drinking with her friends. She also conveniently “forgot” her credit cards so I had to foot the bill at the store for beers we ended up leaving behind later that night. There was a good amount of games played and a great amount of drinks consumed throughout the night, which extended to cans of Omnipollo Noa Pecan Mud Cake, some “Northeast Style” IPAs, Japanese Whiskey and shots of rumple minze peppermint Schnapps. So gross. The night ended shortly after I drunkenly (jokingly!) insulted a crying child, which soured the mood for everyone else at the party. For evidence of said sourness, see exhibit ‘A’ from the game we were playing:
The night ended with me drunkenly crawling into my mother’s bed in the wee hours of the morning to complain that my sister’s friends didn’t like me more than her. There is video evidence of this encounter, but I’d rather not share it. It’s pretty embarrassing.
On Wednesday I spent my morning slightly hungover. The lack of coffee consumed on the previous day only increased the severity of the hangover, so the main objective of my morning/early afternoon was to locate and intake as much coffee as possible. There was also shopping for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Then I had to get dressed for a fancy dinner in Connecticut. That took a while because I still wasn’t feeling 100%. Also, it turned out that when I packed my jacket and tie back in LA I forgot to grab a pair of dress pants that actually fits me, so I had to improvise my outfit and wound up looking like some kind of dork at a 90s bar mitzvah, according to my sister.
Dinner was at Thomas Henkelmann’s restaurant at the Old Homestead Inn in Greenwich, CT. It was an unexpectedly outstanding meal, highlighted by a trio of Hudson Valley foie gras (terrine, truffled mousse, and seared) and a delicious rack of lamb (tapenade and herb crusted) with pommes Anna and thyme-scented lamb jus. I even ordered dessert, which doesn’t happen often when dining out. The 20-year tawny port I had alongside my chocolate cake was divine.
Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was spent entirely in my pajamas, watching football, drinking and preparing dinner with my mother. My main contribution to the meal was a roasted acorn squash macaroni and cheese, but I also helped with the green beans (served chilled with feta cheese, tomatoes and toasted almonds with vinaigrette), picked out some cheeses to snack on during the day, and picked all the beers my sister and I consumed throughout the day and night. My favorite tastes of the day were the mac and cheese (obviously), the Kane Cognac Barrel Aged 1095, and a Captain Lawrence Rosso E Marrone from 2015.
Compared to years past, our Thanksgiving was a quiet and small affair. There were no orphans invited over. No one crashed the party later in the night. The three of us just “celebrated” as a family and spent the whole day together. It might have been tame compared to other years, but I liked it.
On Friday my sister and I headed back out over the Tappan Zee Bridge, but instead of Connecticut this time we went to Westchester County, NY to visit Ian. We came bearing gifts for his daughters, but it turned out that he had plenty of gifts for me, in the form of alcohol. There was a crowler of Hudson Valley Blue Hundreds awaiting me upon my arrival, followed by Grimm and Other Half IPAs. We decided to head over to a local spot for food and drink, and proceeded to drink way more than we probably should have considering the time of day while noshing on sushi, deli counter sandwiches, stinky cheeses and buffalo chicken salad. The best tastes of the day were Hudson Valley Multichorus, Tired Hands Only Void (Blackberry Raspberry Vanilla), and the vintage Bourbon County Brand Stout they had on tap, which I believe was 2013. More than slightly buzzed, I slept through part of the drive home and then had to meet my father for dinner at a new Italian restaurant in town. I ordered a veal dish but don’t really remember how it was. The meatball with the spaghetti stuffed inside it was fun. Friday was kind of a mess, but Saturday was even worse/better.
Saturday was another tough morning, which required a coffee and egg sandwich run by my sister before I could function. There wasn’t much time to nurse my hangover because we were due in Hoboken for a party at 2pm that was going to last well into the night and include a veritable fuck-ton of beer. I alone shipped six or eight highly sought after bottles just to bring to the affair, and everyone else who attended seemed to take the task as seriously as I did. Here’s a rundown of everything consumed (with links to some photos):
Tired Hands Ourison, Dionysus Berlinersfield (with Pink Guava), Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen Armand ‘4 Zomer, Bottle Logic Fundamental Summation, Bearded Iris Attention Please (Double Dry Hopped), Casey Jammy, Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen oude Gueuze (2015), Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Cuvee Armand & Gaston, AleSmith Velvet Speedway Stout, Bearded Iris Scatterbrain, Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation (2017), Almanac Valley Of The Hearts Delight (2015), The Bruery ISO:FT, OEC Brewing Antioch (Blend 1), Bottle Logic Number Crunch, Bearded Iris Homestyle, Dionysus Lil’ Miss Passionfruit (#01), Gueuzerie Tilquin Oude Gueuze a L’Ancienne (2013-2014), Kane 1460, Bearded Iris Ever Clever DDH, OEC Brewing Malefactus Matured In Amphorae (Batch 1), Backacre Sour Golden Ale (Blend 9), Bottle Logic Iridium Flare, OWA Yuzu Lambic (2015), Carton Boat Beer, Geuzestekerij De Cam Lambiek Special (2015), Brasserie Cantillon Fou’ Foune (2016), AleSmith Double Barrel Speedway Stout, The Bruery Hoarder’s Cuvvee (2016), The Rare Barrel Soliloquy…and then we switched to the hard stuff: Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16 Year Rye, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal (Special Cask Finish Series) and more. Honestly, I lost track of the whiskey at the end of the night. The food prepared by the hostess was amazing, the dog tearing apart the stuffed Donald Trump doll was hilarious, the bottle selection was impeccable, and the camaraderie was top notch. We’ll have to do it again next time I’m home.
No rest for the weary. The following morning I had brunch plans at Moonshine in Millburn. They have an incredible Sunday prix fixe brunch deal where you get a two-course meal for $20, or $30 if you want bottomless cocktails. I had a Greek-inspired avocado toast to start and then waffles with a crispy fried duck leg and duck gizzard gravy. In the afternoon one of Elissa’s friends came over to watch horror movies and drink. We later ordered my favorite pizza, and spent a lazy night in.
Because on Monday I had to go to Allentown (along with mom) for a meeting. It was a productive trip, and upon my return I met up with my father for dinner at another Italian restaurant. This time I had a chicken dish. Narrator Jack came over afterwards and we drank and watched fan-made Twin Peaks theories and old Howard Stern clips on YouTube. He played me some music he recorded recently, and we reminisced about ye olde podcast. Imagine if we were making The Best Podcast You Have now instead of in 2007. We might actually be able to make some money off it! Sigh.
Tuesday was my last full day in town. It also happened to be the same day my aunt and uncle flew into NYC for his birthday. Their plans were to eat some nice meals and see some Broadway shows, but mom and I weaseled our way into their plans by offering to take him out for a celebratory birthday dinner. We dined at Le Bernadin. I’ll post a full review of the meal later this week (probably tomorrow if I’m still under the weather), but it was a fantastic meal, and ranks favorably among some of the other 2-3 Michelin Star meals I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. Seriously. I’ve now been lucky enough to dine at four of the world’s Top 100 Restaurants, and several of New York’s 2- and 3-Michelin Star restaurants. I’d say Le Bernadin was better than Daniel, Jean-Georges and Marea. It’s neck-and-neck with Per Se…maybe slightly better (?), and just a couple notches below Blue Hill At Stone Barns and Eleven Madison Park. I was very impressed. You’ll see.
Wednesday was my last day in town, and I spent it running some last minute errands, packing my bags, and headed to the airport for my flight home. Speaking of which, I bet that fucking guy sitting next to me who was sneezing is probably the motherfucker who gave me this stupid cold. God dammit, I really hate air travel sometimes…
Happy Holidays, y’all. I hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyable.
Elephant Tree – The Call [MP3]
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