Then, call it coincidence or perhaps divine intervention, but when we got to the restaurant, there it was on the menu: Tater Tot Casserole. I ordered it immediately.
This dish is a decidedly grown-up version of the kiddie staple. The tots are cooked in duck fat, giving them a rich complexity, then sprinkled with the dust of dried porcini mushrooms. A warm pour of smoked cheese curds comes next -- trust me, you'll want to soak up every last morsel.
Then comes the smooth duck gravy. It's served on the side, ready for you to drench onto the tots just before you take a bite. And when you do, ohhhh, my. As your teeth break through the crispy outer layer, steam escapes from the soft potato inside. The blend of flavors is both intense and comforting.
It tastes like childhood but so much better.
Beachwood BBQ, 131 ½ Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 493-4500; www.beachwoodbbq.com.
Beachwood Brewing & BBQ, 210 E. Third St., Long Beach, (562) 436-4020; www.beachwoodbbq.com.