In the course of our adventures in the Midwest, Irene & I noticed that most of the buffets have the same cakes, cream puffs and mini-macaroons. Soon enough we discovered the source of these dessert items. Will you check out the froot loops on that piece of cake!? I wonder why we didn't see any of those at the buffets?
indigo schmindigo a high tolerance for repetition
Ah, home sweet home! The California sunshine makes everything seem hyperreal after all that gloomy rain in New York. I had a good time in NYC though; my awesome hostess, the famous Florence Yoo, took me down to Congee Village to repair my chopsuey-bruised Chinese-food identity. A few gingko nuts later I was almost good as new!
The aforementioned lettuce & my sweetheart both trump all, of course. I'm all about clicking those ruby slipper heels....
Tonight I had dinner and an enthusiastic menu-fest with Inspector Collector. That man is obsessed! He has some amazing cool old menus. Standout items: Chop Suey Soup & Chop Suey Sundae. Yikes!
Basically, back in the day it appears they called everything Chop Suey. He gave me a whole pile of menus, everything that he had extra of. Fabulous!
Serendipitously, my fortune cookie's little Chinese lesson tonight was: "May I have the menu, please?" Turns out the good Inspector has the same one taped on his front door.
I counted up all the Minnesota/Wisconsin Chinese restaurants & it turns out I hit 36 of 'em in my time there, 33 of which happened in the last 6 days with massively generous help from the multi-talented & hard-working Irene Chan, may the gods & goddesses of Chinese food always smile upon her.
Despite all this great progress out in the world, I am looking forward to going home, where the lettuce in the garden awaits in all its organic goodness, as does my sweetheart.
The only reason I'm here in Wisconsin Dells ("the tackiest place in America" according to some travel association) is because of *one* Chinese restaurant, which has not been open the whole time we've been here. Oh well! Otherwise we're having a great time.
There's a woman working in a Chinese restaurant in Hudson, Wisconsin who thinks that I "look like an artist."
There's someone at another restaurant in Hudson who hates restaurant work "with a passion!"
And there's someone working a buffet place in Eau Claire who is really happy there because he loves "very cold weather".
Scary rangoon sighting: "Crab Lagoon" on the menu of a Vietnamese restaurant in Minneapolis. Yikes... appears to be a pan-Asian phenomenon! Is no restaurant safe??
Well, I'm off to the fried-buffet wildlands of Wisconsin... wish me luck. The Anderson Center has been very luxurious & I'm sure the budget motels I'm headed for can only suffer from the contrast. But I'm looking forward to meeting up with friends along the way, & also friends' parents, notably the vintage-car-collecting dad of the illustrious Michele K-Tel. (Hey, a girl can only look at so many Chinese restaurants in a row without relief of some kind. Can I help it if I have a weakness for old-school autos?)
I'll blog along the way if I can!
Today I went & cased out the buffet at the third Chinese restaurant in Red Wing. Lots of interesting items like mac & cheese, apple pie, &c. but best of all was those little tiny weenies with bacon wrapped around em.
The weather has finally improved so I went out walking. The birds around here totally rock!
Just look at this terrifying recipe I found on the back of a supermarket bag of "Chow Mein Noodles", which are those weird crunchy fried things. Just to be on the safe side I'll call it Brand X instead of its real name:
ORIENTAL TUNA SALAD
2 6oz cans Brand X tuna, drained
6 hard boiled eggs
1 c. celery, diced
1 6oz package frozen pea pods
4 T. green onions, chopped
1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 8oz can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
2 cups steamed rice, cooled
1 cup Brand X mayonnaise
1 tsp. soy sauce
6oz Brand X Chow Mein Noodles
Toss together tuna, eggs, celery, pea pods, onion, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and mayonnaise. Combine rice and soy sauce, blend into tuna mixture. Serve salad surrounded and garnished with Brand X Chow Mein Noodles. Serves 4-6.
I swear it's a fucking miracle that I manage to walk around with the least shred of dignity, being downright surrounded & garnished with this type of thing.
Oh... excuse my language... I was driven to it... honestly.
We went to one of the other Chinese restaurants in Red Wing last night. This place has broccoli cheese soup on the menu! The waiter was a white guy in a black leather vest with an oddly Fonzie-esque haircut.
Reasonably decent tofu.
I watched a customer meticulously dripping that ubiquitous gooey red sauce on his egg roll.
Another table ordered the pupu platter; I didn't realize what a flaming production those things were.
You learn a lot by loitering around & eavesdropping at the front counter of a Chinese restaurant. Not that it's some big secret or anything, but that's how I found out about Asian Foods. I'm unreasonably thrilled about them... they say their "ultimate goal" is to serve all 34,000 Asian restaurants in the continental US.
What, there's only 34,000???
Probably doesn't take too much for you to guess my next burning question: how many of those are Chinese?
I forgot to mention that the high school kids also told me what that dessert is called: No-Bake Oreo Cake!
Off-topic again: A bunch of new trees went in the ground here today. They're called Rose Tree of China, a plum with very ruffly double pink blossoms.
I got to go talk to the art class today at Red Wing High School. Great bunch of kids & they all did my survey. Here are some good samples:
"My grandma and grandpa came to stay when I was about 7 and my grandpa went to get Chinese take-out from the Great Dragon Buffet. I was obsessed with the cream cheese puff things."
"In Minnesota most Chinese restaurants are the same, same food same type of atmosphere, unless you go to an expensive one. At least that has been my observation. Most Chinese restaurants, actually all of them, are buffets."
"My earliest memory was when my family and I were going to the restaurant and it was closed but we looked in and all I remember seeing was a pile of snow peas on a table."
I have seen the Chinese restaurants of Red Wing, Minnesota! One is brand new (opened last week!), one has a fairly photogenic (according to my own slightly twisted standards) exterior, and we ate at the third one. The most notable thing: I had never heard anyone say "Do you want more pop?" with a Chinese accent before. Also, the crab rangoons appeared to be made with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Weird! (No, I did not eat one.) But even weirder is that one of my partners in crime told me that she gets non-fried crab rangoons at her neighborhood "healthy Asian" restaurant in Manhattan. Not fried??? I thought that was part of the definition of crab rangoon. She wasn't sure if they were boiled or steamed or what, but they are most definitely not fried.
Woohoo! Here I am in Red Wing, Minnesota! The weather is nicer than it was at home before I left. This morning I saw a yellow bird that I had never seen before. And tonight I saw an Oreo-based dessert I had never seen before! It looked deceptively like a wedge of ice cream with crushed Oreos on the bottom & top, plus a dollop of whipped cream. But it was not ice cream! More experienced analysts around the table declared that it was probably some amalgamation (or should that be amalgam?) of gelatin and, what, cream cheese? Am I remembering that right? Anyway, I am having a true Midwestern experience & deepening my understanding of the Crab Rangoon Context. Tomorrow my cohorts have agreed to accompany me on my first foray into town for Chinese food. I guess I better decide which restaurant to go to first, since there are 3, maybe even 4 Chinese restaurants to choose from.