Monday, May 31, 2010

Harry's Bar & Burger

You’ll know it when you see the cow on the sidewalk. The cow will direct you into Harry’s Bar & Burger, at 121 North Main Street in Providence.

Harry’s is the kind of place I’ve been looking for. I’ve said to friends countless times, “I just feel like a burger and a beer.” That’s what Harry’s is all about. That, and a good game of beer bingo. Slinging brews is Harrison Elkhay, affable son of John Elkhay, Providence restaurant celebrity. Harrison owns Harry’s, and after 2 weeks, seems like he’s been behind that bar forever.

The location is the former home of Chinese Laundry. True to Elkhay form, if it doesn’t work, do something different. The space is small and cozy, yet hip. To get to the bathroom, you have to cross over a glass floor that reveals the room below. In the bathroom, I was treated to a showing of When Harry Met Sally, playing on the wall mounted, glass-enclosed television. No wonder the person before me took such a long time. At first, we asked for a table, and were sequestered upstairs into a tiny, empty, overly air-conditioned room. We quickly agreed to relocate to the bar, which was a fabulous move on our part. Harrison started by telling my friend and me that we both looked great – that got a few points. I was ready to like the place.

The beer menu is filled with unique craft brews, including my choice, the Old Leghumper Porter. Harrison also makes creative beer floats, like the Rogue Chocolate Float and something made with a Twinkie that I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around…

As for the food, the burgers are delicious and cheap. You get 2 sliders rather than one large burger. Harry’s also serves hot dogs, fries and a couple of sandwiches. My sliders were topped with cheese, pickles and crispy onion strings for a saltily-perfect accompaniment to my dark, smooth beer.

Harry’s has a small bar, which is perfect for getting to know the folks on neighboring stools. The great conversation, in concert with the good food and drink, and a fun atmosphere makes Harry’s a place I’ll surely return to.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Lobster

I have to preface this post by saying that I’ve never before been the person I’m about to describe. In high school, when we had to dissect a pig, I was right in there, knee deep in formaldehyde, cutting away.
But last Sunday in Purchasing and Product Identification, I cried during the lobster demo. A totally unexpected reaction. In Stocks, Soups & Sauces I relieved a fish of its eyeballs and used a Japanese butcher knife to hack it into sections. No tears. In Food Service Production, I watched with interest as we were shown the proper way to portion a whole chicken. No tears. But there was something about those lobsters…
Our large, handle-bar mustachioed chef wheeled out his specimens on a cart with a flourish. He said he had a special treat for us, as he gestured toward a form underneath a white towel. Had there been 2 lobster rolls under that towel, it would have been a treat indeed. But instead he revealed a live, 1 pound female lobster. And she was pissed. As he picked her up, flipped her over, prodded her with a pen, put her back down, picked her up, removed the bands from around her claws, put her down, touched her head, touched her eye, picked her up, put her down… she became even more irate. She began to foam at the mouth. Then he brought out another poor creature - a 4 pound male. He didn’t seem as angry. Maybe he thought he could intimidate with his size.
At some point during the demo, I realized my eyes were welling with tears. “Put them back,” I thought, “they’re afraid!” I knew that the fate of these crustaceans was to eventually be dunked in boiling water and served with butter and bibs. And really, I’m ok with that. I guess my hang up was that until the time they hit the pot, lobsters, like all living creatures that we’re going to kill for food, should be treated with a little dignity. After all, lobsters mate for life. If they have enough consciousness to choose a partner for a lifetime, then certainly they can feel the fear and anxiety of being treated like a specimen. And as a very wise friend said, when humans feel fear and anxiety, chemicals are released into our bodies. Are lobsters (and cows and chickens and pigs) releasing those very same chemicals, ultimately putting their fear and anxiety into the food products we eat?
I don’t know what this unexpected heart ache for a sea creature will mean to the rest of my culinary studies. I know that after watching Food, Inc., I’ve already made some major changes in where the meat that I eat comes from. I can’t imagine never eating another piece of lobster. I suppose this is just another lesson in taking responsibility for everything we choose to put in our mouths. Maybe not the lesson our chef intended with the lobster demo, but not a bad one to learn, none the less.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The first commandment of blogging, they say, is “Ye shall blog often.” Also somewhere on that stone tablet is “Ye shall not whine about being too busy to blog.” But what can I say? Life happens. Sometimes a lot of it. So while we’re out experiencing it, we neglect to pontificate about it here on The Internets. Forgive me, for I have sinned.
But while I was “life-ing” instead of blogging, some interesting things happened. One was a fabulous trip to Oregon. I joined John’s family for a whirlwind tour of Portland, Eugene and the beautiful Pacific Northwestern coast.

I came back from my trip to Oregon with 2 realizations:
1. East Coast folks are RUDE.
2. There is no bad food in Oregon.
Oregonians are lovely people. In stores, in hotels, in restaurants – nothing but genuine interest in how your day is going. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was refreshing or quite frankly, terrifying, but by the time I landed at Logan Airport at the end of my trip, I realized that there’s no need to be as horrible as we are here on the East Coast. How was your day?? Are you kidding me? Eff you. Get out of the way!

And the food. The food was wonderful. Stay with me after the jump.