I've been out for a while dealing with some family stuff on the East Coast--you know I'm not originally from Califas, right?--and while it was pretty draining stuff, I did still have to eat. While the town I grew up in has turned into a bougie commuter paradise (they've got a fancy Wegman's, for crying out loud), I eschewed a lot of the newer stuff and did the greatest hits of all the things I can't get out here.
While I'm so glad to be home where vegetables are plentiful and cheap, here are five of the things I wish I could have taken home with me.
5. New Jersey-style Italian Restaurants
There's a set of dishes common to nearly every sit-down Italian restaurant in New Jersey that is hard to find out here. Clams oreganata, for example, are unknown here, and fried ravioli too; veal saltimbocca can be found, but it's not the same. The best part about NJ Italian restaurants, though, is that nearly all of them are BYOB--and don't charge corkage.
4. Eastern European Food
Even those of us who aren't Eastern European know what Eastern European comfort food is. The town where I grew up was populated by people with names like Yuhasz, Angeli, and Nagy long before it was populated by the Parks, Patels and Hernandezes of the world. Hungarian, Polish, Russian and Czech food are commonplace, and there's nothing like a kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwich on rye bread and a hot bowl of potato soup with pepper.
3. Portuguese Food
OC and Los Angeles are a wonderland of ethnic cuisines, but the one cuisine that is unequivocally absent is Portuguese. There's one Portuguese bakery in Sherman Oaks, but there's nowhere to get hearty meals held up by bacalhau (salt cod), pork, and rustic, but still great, wines. New Jersey is chock full of Portuguese people, and I fell in love all over again with the food.
2. Taylor Ham
If it's not the official state breakfast of New Jersey, it's only because Governor Chris Christie is too busy stuffing one into his face to get the legislation proposed: the Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll. Taylor ham, also called pork roll, is a spiced round pork product that gets cooked on a flat-top grill (it has to have one or more nicks in the side so it'll lay flat). It's addictive, with or without salt, pepper and ketchup, and it's not available even in New York City.
1. Appetizing Stores
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The one single thing I wish OC--or even LA--had is an appetizing store (a store that sells things you eat with bagels). The problem is that even in New York, appetizing stores are quickly going by the wayside. There are still a handful, but what I want is for someone from the Russ family to move out here and open a branch of their incredibly great appetizing store in, say, Newport Beach.