Sunday, September 16, 2012

#7 -- My Lifesaving, Waitstaff Friends

When I talk about my disease of compulsive overeating, I speak not only of the actual eating disorder, but also the emotions and actions that go along with the eating disorder that do not actually involve eating. Just as an alcoholic can be a "dry drunk," so can I be an noneating overeater. Why do I take the time to explain that here? Because during my initial time in Italy, I was hardly the person I wanted to be. I was anxious, obsessive over my food, as well as my travel plans, and sometimes a very difficult person. I expected a lot, especially in restaurants, where I wanted staff to help me negotiate meals, and to do so in a common language -- they have no obligation to help me as I want, nor do they have any obligation to speak my language, as I am on their turf! In short, in my first days in Italy, my disease was giving me a whooping, even though I was not overeating.

Then, when everything seemed overwhelming, and part of me wanted to run home and hide, I was blessed with the gift of friendship and help from waitstaff. There were many I could mention, but in trying to keep with the theme of avoiding writing about food per se, the breakfast experiences I had seem most notable. There were my friends in Rome, pictured below with friends and food and the restaurant:

Below is my server, who took my email, and may contact me when she is in New York -- I hope she does!:

And my wonderful chef:

I had similar help in Florence:

Tina, my server:

Mario, the chef:

The restaurant:

I had "conversations" with Tina. Sure, they weren't complicated, but they covered the basics. She asked me what I saw in Florence. I detailed it all, and she responded, "Tutti!" Mario tried to give me an extra egg. I said, "No, no, no." He said, "Yes, yes yes." Eventually, he took it away, and I showed Tina my old picture, with my extra weight. She responded, "Ah, Enrico, solo due uovo per ti!" I ended up exchanging emails with Mario -- I hope he writes!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Nickolai, in Venice. In Venice, I couldn't find a breakfast restaurant serving the type of food I eat at an appropriate hour. So I ended up buying my food from a sandwhich shop -- salad and grilled chicken, prepared to my liking!

Here is Nickolai...:

And the restaurant logo:

The food was good, but the food wasn't the story. The story was friendships and conversations with others who saved my life! I tipped and tipped and tipped -- they tried to stop me, but I am persistent! I hope I meet my friends again!

Friday, August 31, 2012

#8 -- Relying on the Kindness of Others

Below is a picture of my meal at a fine dining restaurant in Florence, Buca Mario:

As usual -- my meal is pictured with the restaurant menu. That's a Florentine, T-Bone steak with my mixed salad. A good meal. But I told myself these top ten moments of Italy would not be about the food per-se.

So why this picture?

It wasn't taken with my camera.

I had left my memory card at home. I had no means of taking my customary picture. No way to document, in photo, this experience of eating an authentic Florentine steak. I needed help. I asked for a fellow patron to do it, and she kindly complied! I gave her my email, and she said she would send it to me. I could only have faith she would. I bought a round of drinks for her and her husband (I offered to her son as well -- soda for the young lad -- but he did not take me up on that). They saluted me, and that was that.

She sent it to my email before I was back in the states.

Traveling is about many things. One of them is meeting people, and doing service. But I have been blessed. I have relied on the kindness of strangers, as was said in the Tennesse Williams play, strangers who have taken pictures, or jump-started my car, or done all sorts of kind things. I thank my friend who who took the picture for me when I did not have a camera to do so, and for sending it to me -- my faith in this woman was validated! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#9 -- The Pisa Miracle -- The Hooker with a Heart of Gold

A friend of mine had told me that there were a lot of prostitutes in Pisa on the road to the leaning tower. I had also been warned about being robbed in Italy.

I have never been what you would call a "ladies man." So with the above information in mind, I knew that when I was approached by three women a short distance from the leaning tower of Pisa, who put their hands all over me, it wasn't because of my looks. I was afraid of being robbed.

I shouted for them to leave, and eventually they started moving away from me. I checked my pockets -- my wallet was missing! I started yelling at them, and running after them. And one of them handed my wallet back to me!

I checked -- I didn't know exactly how much money had been in my wallet, but there was enough left that a quick review of what I had spent was at least close to that -- I later made it add up. No credit cards were missing. Everything of value was still there.

I wanted to go up to the woman who handed me the wallet back and tell her she obviously was new at this pickpocketing thing!

In all seriousness, though, it's one of those moments that I'll remember forever. Like #10, I could feel embarrassed and stupid, but I don't. I look back on that moment with humor, and love for the moment. I even have some love for the fellow human being that was the woman who handed my wallet back to me. She obviously was no theif. Was she a prostitute? If so, she was the classic "hooker with a heart of gold." She had my financial life in her hands, and could have gotten away with it. Instead, she gave it back to me intact.

Maybe this is romanticizing the moment. If so, that, too, is a miracle for someone like myself, who, a few short years ago -- or is it months -- was so filled with resentment that a moment like this would be eating away at me. Instead, I laugh and smile warmly -- again, I experienced something new, lived to tell about it, and can even see the humor in it. Very miraculous indeed! I wish nothing but the best for the young woman!

The Better Half Goes International -- Top 10 -- #10 Well-intentioned service

On July 19, 2012, I boarded a plane for Rome, Italy, my first adult, intercontinental trip (I had gone to Europe with my parents and sister in 1985, when I was 14, but this promised to be much, much different). Having been to all 50 of the United States, I thought I was ready for this new adventure. I was wrong. There was so much I hadn't dealt with before. The combination of jet-lag, fatigue, a new country, new customs, a different language, plus all the normal challenges of traveling were overwhelming. Part of me wanted to run home and never travel again. But I remembered something my mother had once said to me...and to paraphrase, I had to start somewhere.

I lasted the whole trip. And, as someone once said to me, I didn't survive, I thrived, at times. By the time the trip was over, I had traveled to Rome, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Venice, Murano, and Burano. Once I learned how to order, and learned enough of the language to get the best suggestions, my diet was in order. But it wasn't just the food that was a success. Indeed, I didn't have any of the stereotypical, traditional Italian foods we hear so much of in the United States -- no pizza, no pasta, and no gelato for me. Meat or fish, plus a mixed salad at every meal. I focused on seeing the sights, and meeting the people -- locals and fellow travelers. My top 10 moments may have involved meal times, but no actual foods. And the number 10 moment involved something that might have been an embarassment to me, but of which I feel quite proud.

When I arrived in Florence, there was a woman curled up on the ground, with her hand out. I thought she was a beggar of sorts -- and although I didn't get a clear answer on this, this intuition was supported when I saw the same woman at different spots, all over Florence, and in Venice as well! :) But on the surface, I saw someone possibly in pain, and when I approached her, and she recoiled, I didn't know if she needed help or not. I asked someone, who told me she was fine, and I figured she was the beggar I had assumed she was.

Again, no one has told me for sure that this is the game of a beggar, so I won't accuse this woman. Whatever she was, I did my piece of service -- I tried to find help. I've learned that helping people and doing service is more important than anything I might see or eat. And if it cost me a little embarassment and a few mintues of time on my vacation, then I say it was a cost I'm willing to pay for the knowledge that I tried to do something helpful, as well as the the learning experience of another culture.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Going Dutch

I don't know why, but it seems like this has turned more into a "food critic" type of venue. That was never my intention with this blog! Nevertheless, I find this blog gives me a forum to thank restaurant staff that have been so helpful in my travels! Most recently, I was in Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish Country. I had a number of meals there -- each one of them was a positive experience! The staffs at these restaurants were so very helpful, and that deserves recognition.

My first meal upon arriving in the Lancaster area was at Gibraltar's. I so enjoyed my filet mignon salad! Pete, the owner, was very helpful in assisting me to pick out my meal, and the chef made suggestions that ensured it was scrumptious, while it still fit my dietary requirements. Here are the pics and the links:

Dinner that first night was at the Greenfield Inn. Here it was manager Joanne, helping me to decide on crab cakes -- an easy sell! My waitress was exemplary, anticipating many of my needs and requests before I could make them:

(I chose the above pic in honor of my dad, a lover of jazz).

Breakfast the next day was at the Bird-in-Hand Restaurant. That's a scrapple and cheese omelet! The Mid-Atlantic favorite is quickly becoming one of my own. The stuffed animals in the restaurant made it the silly enjoyable experience I love when traveling:

Lunch was at Carr's. I love a good cobb salad wrap, and this one had shrimp! A favorite with a pleasant twist, and they served fruit with it! A double victory:

Dinner the second night was at Fenz. Staff bent over backwards to help me, and the lady who assisted me in picking my meal was something of a dietary counselor. Beef stew and sald for me -- and the beef stew, something I have not had much of, was tremendous:

Breakfast the next day was at Leenah's. Another old-time favorite, crab benedict! It could not have been prepared better, and I was able to upgrade from potatoes to fruit for a minimal fee. An absolutely incredible meal:

My final meal in Amish Country was in Strasburg, at the Iron Horse Inn. I was able to experience another twist on a favorite -- crab crepes! That's sugar free orange sauce, with a side salad:

Finally, on the trip home, I had another old favorite in an old favorite. I made my third trip to the Americana Diner for my "usual" -- the buffalo chicken wrap. I have it with greens covered with balsamic vinigarette. I had the same server as on my second trip there, and, again, she went out of her way to give me the perfect dining experience:

I compensated my servers well with the tips, but it is also important for me to show my loyalty with this blog. Traveling is nice, and there were many wonderful, tourist experiences. There was Kitchen Kettle, a village of nice shops in Intercourse, PA. There were the farmland tours. There was the scenic driving. And I was "railroaded" in Strasburg, experiencing the Toy Train Museum, the scenic train ride, the Choo-Choo barn, and the Railroad Museum proper. These experiences deserve their own entry. But I needed to document the restaurant experiences. These staff memebrs who help me are going out of their way, and they are saving my life in many ways with their efforts -- that is no exaggeration, because my eating, if not planned correctly, can have tremendous health implications, negatively speaking. Thank you to everyone who helped at the restaurants in this process!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Annapolis -- More than just the Naval Academy

My most recent trip was to Annapolis, Maryland, home of the US Naval Academy. I was going to start there, but I realized that altering my schedule would allow for better travel. I started with lunch at Carrol's Creek Cafe:

Here is a link to the restaurant:

Along with my fried oyster po'boy and fruit substitute for potatoes:

Next up, I stopped at the Banneker-Douglas Museum, which documents Maryland's African American history. Here is a link to the museum, along with some pics:

Frederick Douglas, the man himself!:

Two pics of the featured artist, Loring Cornish:

My buddy Leron, who gave me an outstanding overview of the museum and its history, and made me feel like a welcome guest in his home:

I had time afterwards, so I stopped at the Maryland State House. Among other things, it is famous for being the site of where George Washington resigned his post as commission of the commander in chief of the US Army. Here is a link:

After checking into my hotel, and cleaning up, I had a fabulous dinner at The Rockfish -- a fish taco appetizer with a side salad. The staff was exceptional in helping me pick out a reasonable meal for my dietary concerns, and the food was scrumptious. Do not miss this restaurant when you go to Annapolis. I included a link and a picture:

My breakfast experience -- not meal, experience -- at Chick and Ruth's Delly (spelling intentional!) the next morning:

Revisiting old Mid-Atlantic favorites with my second ever scrapple meal, with eggs, and sliced tomatoes replacing potatoes:

Me and Teddy, the proprietor:

The link to the restaurant, another "don't miss":

The Naval Academy -- more than just an afterthought:

I learned so much of how the navy and maritime has shaped our country. As a sports fan, I was also taken by how sports are encouraged to build the concept of teamwork. This pic of David Robinson, NBA great, was one of my favorites:

Here is the link:

My lunch at Middleton Tavern afterwards -- Filet Mignon and salad, again picked out with the help of a very helpful staff. Yet a third "don't miss":

Here is the link:

I had tea at Starbuck's afterwards. So what? Well, this Starbuck's was a former speakeasy!

With a passageway that allegedly allowed politicians to discreetly return to the State House after their night out:

And some records:

My nice dinner at Harry Brown's -- Crab Cake and Salad, and they substituted fruit for desert, allowing me to have all courses in my diet:

 The link:

And my breakfast the next morning at Pusser's Carribean Grill -- a crabmeat omelet, again with fruit substitute for potatoes! The staff was so helpful in helping me pick out my meal. Catch that scenery by my table:

And the model boats throughout:

I had a nice chat with Jay, the general manager. A different, but equally outstanding experience compared to Chick and Ruth's, and don't miss this one either. Here is the link:

I left after breakfast for St. Michaels, which I will discuss separately. But Annapolis was fantastic! The history was incredible -- I was moved to tears by it! And the restaurant staffs were first rate. Make Annapolis one of your travel stops!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Local Eats -- Relaxing at Rockwell's

Another local stop that I enjoy is Rockwell's in Pelham, New York, an easy drive just a few miles from my home. Here is their link:

I have been there three times. The staff has very graciously answered all of my questions, and have been very understanding of my need for moderately sized meals. The first suggestion was their house steak. I have also had the steak and eggs brunch, and the Buffalo chicken finger wrap. All meals were extremely tasty. The house salad, which I had with honey mustard dressing, came with my first two meals -- the house steak and steak and eggs brunch meal -- and was particularly scrumptious.

The service was very much appreciated! I went there to watch my Jets in December, and was finished with my meal hours before the game ended. The staff allowed me to sit and drink hot tea while I watched the game, and was attentive to my needs the entire time. I felt very much like a welcome guest. It was a nice, relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the game with a good meal.

You can't go wrong relaxing at Rockwell's!