Jessy Randall: Now let's discuss pizza bagels. What I particularly like about the pizza bagels available at multiple Twelve Corners venues…
Daniel M. Shapiro: We should start the blog with "Now let's discuss pizza bagels," no preface of any kind.
JR: So to continue, what I particularly like about the Twelve Corners pizza bagels is that you get a little bit of flavor/teeth-glintiness of tinfoil in some bites.
JR: Not all bites, but some, because it's not like you're going to be able to remove all the tinfoil, because you are HUNGRY…
DS: You become a sort of trashcan rat for it, as if your life depends on getting every tidbit of cheese.
JR: And also you have only 18 minutes to get to The Bagel Shop or Murray's and back to school.
DS: Right. You're not going to go without cheese on account of foil.
JR: Which is pretty much my philosophy of life. So which are better, Murray's or Bagel Shop pizza bagels, and why? Obviously they are both GREAT, in the way that Shakespeare, etc. are GREAT…
DS: But this is probably too obscure—writing about food that was sold at a place that doesn't exist anymore. Or maybe that's the point: We love things that don't exist anymore.
JR: Well, the Bagel Shop is still there and I got a pizza bagel there in recent memory.
DS: Murray's was just the best, though. Bagel Shop didn't have a chance.
JR: What made Murray's better? We need concrete details here. We're not just fluffing around on our unicorn butterflies here.
DS: Burning hot—perfect for when you're freezing your ass off.
JR: Yes, you can eat them with mittens on, which probably also leads to the tinfoil situation.
DS: The bagels stayed crunchy; never soggy from sauce. The cheese overran the bagel, thus forming the tinfoil bond.
JR: OK. I am in complete agreement. Also, the macaroni salad there had little bits of black olives chopped up into it, which was really good, and you couldn't even tell what it was. I finally asked. I don’t think I ever would have figured it out otherwise. But let's return to the pizza bagels; we don't want to get off topic.
DS: You're telling me, but I didn't mention macaroni salad, did I?
JR: At this point we should insert Anna's recipe for pizza bagels.
JR: Did you try it? It totally works. My kids loved them.
Anna Primrose Bendiksen’s Recipe for Pizza Bagels!
Essentially the first step is to make garlic bread out of the bagels, but without toasting them as much as you would for garlic bread. This is how I do it. Crush some garlic together with a bit of kosher salt (I do this with a mortar and pestle but a garlic press would work) and mix into olive oil, then brush all over the bagel halves. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 5-8 minutes, or until barely browned. There are a couple of ways to make pizza sauce. Aage's way, which is more involved than mine and better when you're making a whole pizza, I think, is to sauté some more crushed garlic in olive oil and add a can of pureed or crushed tomatoes when the garlic is about to brown. Add pizza seasoning (Penzeys is very good) and simmer. My way—this is especially good for pizza bagels—is to take tomato paste and add a touch of crushed garlic and a lot of pizza seasoning. No cooking involved. At this point you have the makings of a very easy party menu that kids and teenagers especially appreciate. Lay out bagels, sauce and toppings and people can make their own. Place on a rimmed pan (the bagels, not the people) and bake, again at 400 degrees, until done. The whole wrapping-in-foil thing is something I do afterwards.
JR: Are we done with pizza bagels at least for now? Can we move on to Country Sweet chicken wings? Or is that too much Rochester and we need to mix it up a little? And is it true that someone from Brighton High School once drove 27 hours for Country Sweet and was that person Steven Kotok?
DS: Maybe the whole blog entry will be about loving Rochester.
JR: No, because that's boring ... right?
JR: I would have thought writing about food in general would be boring to the people who aren’t actually eating the food, just hearing about it. But then, there's the Food Channel, and so many food books and so on, so it seems you don't have to have the food in front of you to enjoy thinking about it.
DS: Steve might've driven from Minnesota, but it wasn't just for Country Sweet, I'm sure.
JR: I feel like someone drove a very long way, had some, and then drove back, maybe stopping to sleep but that's it. The story is apocryphal. We have no proof of it. It does, however, point to the allure of Country Sweet. And let me tell you, there's no point buying the sauce in a jar. Sorry Mom, I know you gave me a jar as a present, but it's just not the same. Part of the taste of Country Sweet wings is the plastic seat beneath your butt, the fluorescent lights, the slightly-sick look of everyone at your table. I think Daniel Pinkwater has a passage in the Alan Mendelsohn book that describes a similar eating venue (I don't want to call it a "restaurant"). I could dig up that quote and we could quote it. Oh, at some point in this discussion we should talk about made-up food in books that you've always wanted to eat, cuz that's literary.
DS: Have you seen Defending Your Life? The Albert Brooks movie?
JR: Yes, but I'm not sure why that is relevant. It was in Mother that we learn of the protective ice covering on ice cream.
DS: Because there's a scene in it where Brooks is eating with Rip Torn. There are several discussions about how some people in Judgment City use more of their brains than other people. Rip Torn eats this little tidbit of something, and Brooks nags him; he wants to try a piece. But Torn uses some large percentage of his brain, and to dumber people, the food tastes like crap.
JR: Literally like crap? Or just bad? What does the food look like in the scene? Maybe we can link to a youtube video.
DS: I think it's kind of small and nondescript, whereas regular people get to eat as much regular food as they want. I love the idea that smart people like crappy tasting food, or that if your brain isn't developed, you think it tastes bad. Kris and I are always quoting from that movie. One of my favorites: Brooks goes to a club, and there's a comedian on stage. Of course, all the people in the audience are dead, so the comedian's banter is odd. Plus, he's not funny at all. He asks Brooks, "How did you die?" and he says, "On stage—like you."
JR: I tried to read Albert Brooks's novel 2030 , which takes place in a future where health care has pretty much bankrupted everybody. It made me so depressed I had to stop. But the good thing about that was, I COULD stop. I’m allowed to stop reading a book if I want to. Anyway, that thing about smart people having different taste in food, that must come from things like caviar or fine wine, foods that don’t taste very good unless you “develop your palate” or some such bullshit. I'm sure we could make a list of foods that are bad when you're a kid and good when you're an adult and vice versa. Like, Spaghetti-Os are good when you’re a kid, and disgusting when you’re an adult (though Ross often eats the kids’ leftover Spaghetti-Os, which is just gross). Or seltzer water. I thought seltzer was horrible when I was a kid, but on the other hand, I remember when I lived in New York City I overheard a little kid in a stroller ask his mom for some seltzer. So maybe if you grow up in New York City you automatically have a more sophisticated palate.
DS: Stinky cheese, gorgonzola.
JR: I would have spit out seltzer in horror until the age of probably twenty. And here’s this kid, little enough to be in a stroller so three or four at the oldest, asking for it.
DS: I don't really like seltzer, even now.
JR: I also remember hearing a kid in New York whining "I want lo mein!" the way non-New-York kids might whine "I want chicken nuggets." But! We are being positive! We are talking about things we love! And I do love New York, and I love Eli's Bread in New York, those long loaves that are really chewy and oniony like a bagel crossed with a French baguette. It’s the sourdough onion bread in this catalog: http://www.elizabar.com/assets/pdfs/ebbroch2010.pdf
DS: I like quail. Kids don't eat quail.
JR: On another topic, but still things we love, I'm listening to Etta James right now.
DS: I listened to her album Tell Mama about 79 times in a row last year.
JR: She 's making me like the song "Stormy Weather" again. Should we talk about the Pittsburgh salad?
DS: I don't love those, though. I haven't even had a Pittsburgh salad.
JR: Okay, how about just the Pittsburgh habit of putting fries in things and on things. Don’t they put fries right on top of hamburgers? And a Pittsburgh salad has fries in it?
DS: Well, they do love fries here. At the ballpark, you can get a giant plate of fries with chili, cheese, jalapenos, etc.
JR: Celie asked me today, "Guess what I'm going to have to eat at my birthday party?" (Her birthday is months away.) So I made some guesses that were all wrong. I asked for a hint. She said, something that goes with fries. I said: hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches? Uh ... what? The answer was dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Of course. Changing the subject, the best pizza is Giordano's in Martha's Vineyard. The best donuts are at the top of Pikes Peak. The best iced coffee is at the little coffee nook in the student center of Colorado College.
DS: Mineo's pizza, about 3/4 of a mile from here, is the best.
DS: People have it FedEx'd to them everywhere.
JR: If you say so. Someday I will visit you and Kris and find out. A very good topping on pizza is thinly cut eggplant, fried in breadcrumbs.
JR: Yes. I think we might have had it while you were here. From Borriello Brothers? It looks like rectangles of sausage, but it's eggplant, and it’s really good on super-skinny-crust pizza.
DS: Ah. I just remembered something:
JR: That I'm right?
DS: How I judge the quality of a restaurant. I use the same dish across multiple restaurants, the dish that should be good at any decent place. For example, I judge Mexican restaurants by enchiladas.
JR: My decider for Mexican would be chile rellenos. But that probably wouldn’t work, because different places do it so differently. But on the other hand, since that’s definitely what I’m going to order, judging by the chile rellenos would work for me.
DS: I judge donut places by jelly donut. Some say glazed would be a better choice, but I disagree completely.
JR: That's all wrong. I don't like jelly donuts. Oh, speaking of jelly donuts, I'm reading Fat Men from Space to Celie right now, and she totally wants to get a tooth radio.
DS: You would have to have someone else try the jelly donut then.
JR: Yes, I'd have to bring along a ringer. Will would do it.
DS: Dunkin' Donuts basically sucks, in part because their jelly donut sucks. It's harder to be sure that they suck if you try just their glazed.
JR: When we were on the east coast for a vacation, we saw so many Dunkin’ Donuts shops that the kids had a game where they tried to hold their breath between them. This was not actually possible, but gives you an idea of how many there were. We don't have Dunkin’ Donuts in Colorado.
DS: I can walk to one in 3 minutes, but I prefer to drive to the place that has red velvet donuts with icing.
JR: The best donuts, besides the plain ones at the top of Pikes Peak, are the blueberry cake donuts from the Donut Mill in Woodland Park. They are only available ... I was about to say "seasonally" but that would be nonsense. They are only available sometimes.
DS: Right. But you haven't tried red velvet ones with icing.
JR: What is the big deal about red velvet?! WHY DO PEOPLE GO SO CRAZY FOR RED VELVET? It doesn't taste like ANYTHING. It's like eating AIR that has a lot of calories.
DS: It's damn good. It tastes like cake. And yes: I tried the jelly donut first.
JR: It is a complete WASTE of a dessert, a description I normally reserve for flan.
DS: No. It tastes like donuts, in a donut.
JR: No. Red velvet SUCKS.
DS: Right. And blueberry cake is super special.
JR: Godiva had a red velvet flavored truffle. Worst truffle they ever made.
DS: Well, it doesn't make sense to make a red velvet truffle.
JR: We're getting too negative, talking about flan, yuck
DS: This place also has a donut filled with chocolate buttercream.
JR: I was about to say something so grandpa-ish like "I remember when donuts were 35 cents!", but I will refrain from saying that.
DS: Assuming chocolate buttercream doesn't taste like nothing to you, it's really good
JR: Chocolate buttercream is not nothing! Can you name my reference? M.... Mo....
DS: Mötley Crüe.
JR: Moo… Moon....
JR: Yup. "Our marriage is not nothing."
DS: Mötley Crüe said that too.
JR: So anyway, what else are we going to expound upon? I would like to praise sauteed brussels sprouts with walnuts. I would also like to put in a word about the combination of beets and goat cheese. Also, we should have a lettuce-off. Radicchio! Arugula! Endive! MACHE!!!
DS: Arugula is inedible. It’s the weeds I pull out of my back yard.
JR: Have you had mache? It's a type of lettuce. It's seasonal (like the blueberry cake donuts). It's very soft.
DS: I will pass.
JR: It looks kind of like bunches of clover. It's very delicious, with a mild flavor. Is there any lettuce you would enter into the lettuce-off? Or am I going to have to run this whole thing myself?
DS: I am not inspired by lettuce, even if it's seasonal.
JR: Perhaps it would be appropriate at this juncture to link to my poem “The Lettuce Connoisseur,” http://morpo.com/index.php?c=display&vol=10&iss=3&disp=422.
DS: I think this blog should be called The People's Cort, by the way.
JR: Bud Cort.
DS: They were showing Harold and Maude at one of our theaters recently.
JR: I would gladly cook dinner for the Bud Cort of Harold and Maude and serve it through a strangely sexual sculpture.
DS: I expect not to be invited.
JR: You can distract Maude!
DS: Bud Cort was good in Brewster McCloud, too.
JR: No, he wasn't. Wait, am I thinking of the right movie? Is he a creepy monk?
DS: No. He's basically Harold.
JR: OK, what movie am I thinking of then? Was there a movie of The Chocolate War and he was in it? Yup. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001069/#Actor
DS: I never saw that.
JR: Don't bother. When this Etta James CD is over, I'm going to bed.
DS: Food is too broad a topic. Maybe we could just write about making pies. Or something more specific than everything.
JR: We could talk about making pies. The trouble is, I don't make my own crust, and that is shameful. But I still make pies, and nobody here complains, so shut up!
DS: The difficulty of making your own crust is overrated, even if you do it the way the crazy lady in my book does it. She suggests that you press foil into the pie pan, press the crust into the foil, bake the crust, freeze the crust, remove it from the pan (by lifting out the foil), remove it from the foil, and put it back into the pan before filling it. This sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually brilliant. Nothing will ever leak through the crust. Ever.
JR: Amy also says making the crust isn’t that hard. But no matter how easy it is, it’s harder than using the refrigerated kind of pre-made crust, and much messier.
JR: If I use refrigerated crust, I might make as many as two pies a month. If I had to make my own crust maybe there would be one pie per year
DS: There are pies I've refused to make because they're too easy.
JR: Well, that is just perverse. Do they taste bad if they are made easy? Is this a question for the ages?
DS: It's just boring.
JR: I see, you make pie for the joy of making pie, the challenge. Whereas I make pie because it causes Ross and Will to get those swirly-eyes that cartoon characters get.
DS: If I'm making it at my mother-in-law's house, I'll do it based on whatever she has. But on my own, I won't do pumpkin pie, or maybe I'll get the pumpkin without any of the spices in it.
JR: I am on my last Etta James song now.
DS: Which album?
JR: At Last! (It has the exclamation mark.) I say I'm listening to a CD but actually I'm listening to iTunes now that I have uploaded the CD, which came from the library.
DS: Try Tell Mama soon. It is my favorite southern R&B album, done in Alabama, even though most of her stuff was made in Chicago.
JR: I will.
DS: There's even an odd version of "I Got You Babe" on it; almost decent.
DS: My favorite song on there is "Just a Little Bit." "Security" is another good one.
JR: I sang "Respect" for the kids this morning because they were squabbling and wanted to tell them to treat each other with respect. Celie got really wide-eyed and was like "sing that again!"
JR: And then she asked if I'd just made that song up. So, that tells me I need to work on their music education.
DS: "Do Right Woman" is on Tell Mama. I think every female singer recorded "Do Right Woman" around that time.
JR: I love “Do Right Woman,” so I will get that CD from the library next.
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Daniel M. Shapiro is a schoolteacher who lives in Pittsburgh. He is the author of three chapbooks: The 44th-Worst Album Ever (NAP Books, forthcoming), Trading Fours (Pudding House Press, forthcoming), and Teeth Underneath (FootHills Publishing). He is the co-author of Interruptions (Pecan Grove Press), a collection of collaborations with Jessy Randall. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Chiron Review, Gargoyle, RHINO, Sentence, and Forklift, Ohio. His poetry website is http://littlemyths-dms.blogspot.com/
Jessy Randall is the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College. Her stories, poems, poetry comics, and other things have appeared in Asimov's, McSweeney's, Mudfish, Rattle, Sentence, and West Wind, and her collection A Day in Boyland (Ghost Road, 2007) was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. She has a new collection, Injecting Dreams into Cows, forthcoming from Red Hen in 2012. With Danial M. Shapiro, she is the co-author of Interruptions: Collaborative Poems (Pecan Grove 2011). Her website is http://personalwebs.coloradocollege.edu/~jrandall/, and she blogs about library shenanigans at http://libraryshenanigans.wordpress.com/. She lives with her family in Colorado Springs.