On day two and 2012 is already shaping up to be a good food year–warm, cakey donuts at Federal Donuts followed by a mouth-tingling dinner at szechuan palace Han Dynasty (the cumin lamb and dan dan noodles are as good as you’ve read about). But such peaks of pleasure only take on meaning in a larger world where food quality, shall we politely agree, is often hit-or-miss at best. So, in the spirit of the best of lists that fill our glowing screens at this time of year, let me offer my 5 worst food moments of 2011, in no particular order:
1. The Nuclear Banh Mi of Death: Cafe Nhu Y
This small storefront offers up a tasty menu of banh mi, including more than the usual number of vegetarian options. The bread, too, has a perfect crackling crust, complementing the fillings. Why is this otherwise delectable banh mi on my list? Because tucked into the round end of one half of a sandwich was a spice concoction that nearly made me cry. Imagine me, happily munching away when suddenly my mouth flames up. Figuring I’d just bit into an errant piece of pepper, I opened the sandwich to find nothing out of the ordinary. Oh good, I thought, must’ve eaten all of whatever that was. Wrong. One more tentative bite and the burning sensation that oozed its way down my esophagus made me wonder if I was going to hurl. Truly. I couldn’t eat another bite.
2. Raw (Fish) Deal: Tokyo Sushi
It wasn’t bad, really, but the sushi at Reading Terminal Market’s Tokyo Sushi leaves me cold. Overpriced, underwhelming. Leave these fishes on ice.
3. Rancid Red Wine: My House
Arrogance can be defined as a trait that causes a person to take unnecessary risks, believing that they are invincible to the hazards of life. When a friend offered me a glass of homemade red wine, which was stored in an old office water cooler bottle, “sealed” with a piece of tin foil and a rubber band, I should’ve paused. When he mentioned that he’d made it years ago, with the unspoken corollary that it had travelled with him in varying states and through various states and had probably been living in my basement, the temperature of which fluctuates between city morgue and Louisiana swamp, I should’ve passed. But no, I drank. And learned my lesson.
Thai iced tea is a wondrous thing–jasmine tea brewed with star anise and mixed with creamy sweetened condensed milk. Where better to get one than QT, the fantastic tiny Vietnamese sandwich shop in Chinatown that my companion swears by? Learn my lesson: eat the sandwich and skip the tea, which was a watery mess that tasted so sweet it might have been brewed from Hello Kitty. I threw it away after two sips.
5. Egyptian Betrayal: Alexandria
At the start of 2011, my companion and I went to Cairo to visit a friend. He was worried about getting food sickness, completely understandably since he’d contracted a pretty terrible bug long before I’d met him on a visit to Guatemala. I promised that I’d do my best to insure his health. On our first real dinner, we went to a wonderful seafood restaurant on the Mediterranean in Alexandria. Plate after plate of mezze came out–most of which were raw vegetables. After he began eating–after!–it occurred to me that eating salad was probably the least safe thing one could do. But since he’d already eaten it…..I didn’t say anything till later. Not one for understatement, he told me I’d betrayed him and I hoped that I’d get sick and not him. Luckily neither of us did. Oh, and then there was a revolution. #firstworldproblems.
Happy eating in 2012!