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Can’t Go Home Again

May 22, 2011

When I was living there, I couldn’t find a decent bagel to save my life in Berkeley. My favorite bagels came from a little bagel shop called the Bagel Hut in Great Neck, New York. This is where my Nana has always gotten her bagels. Let me tell you, she knows what is good.

The only passable place in Berkeley was an operation called Manhattan Bagels, but they weren’t close to the real thing in either texture or flavor.

But it’s funny. After enough time away from the great bagels of Long Island, slowly and surely the memory of what a bagel should be faded. And that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. It meant that I could order a bagel from Manhattan Bagels and be perfectly happy. However as soon as Nana showed up with her carryon baggage filled with freshly baked bagels from the Bagel Hut, I couldn’t so much as look at a Manhattan Bagel for months.

Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Other times absence makes the things you miss easier to forget.

I mention this because I’m preparing for a trip back west.

The trip almost didn’t happen, pretty much for that reason. As much as I miss my friends, as much as I miss my old California life, and as much as I miss the food I left behind, I was concerned that going back would just be too emotionally draining. I mean, I can’t even watch five minutes of Parenthood without getting misty eyed about Berkeley.

But my oldest friend, ADS and his wife are expecting twins, and their lives are really going to change. He was the one responsible for bringing me out to California in the first place, and he told me to come, so I’m coming.

Now I’m thinking about all of the food that I miss the most, and what I want to try and eat in the few days that I’m out there. Recently Kristi Gustafson asked her readers a similar question about what foods they would miss from this region should they leave. Here are a few of the specific dishes.

Golden Gate Bakery: Egg custards
Pearl City Dim Sum: Chicken & shitake sticky rice
Blue Bottle Coffee: Gibraltar
Arinell’s: Slice of pizza
Casa Latina Bakery: Carnitas torta
Vik’s Chaat: Cholle bhature
Gregoire: Potato puffs
Grand Bakery: Challah
Shan Dong: Hand pulled noodles

Some of these simply don’t exist here or have no equal. And this isn’t even everything that I want to try and eat while I’m there. Because you may notice that list has no Ethiopian or Korean places on it. And while it includes a trip to my favorite Mexican bakery for a torta on their fresh baked rolls, it does not include any burritos or tacos. I’d also like to sneak in a banh mi somewhere along the way.

And I’m sure there is a lot that I’m leaving out.

Like all of the places I liked to shop for food: Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market are the obvious choices. It would be nice to visit the Berkeley’s Farmers Market. Even a trip to Grocery Outlet would be a lot of fun, especially now since I could navigate their close out wines with my iPhone. I’d also be curious to see the new and improved cheese counter of the Pasta Shop at Market Hall, but it’s been such a long time since I was a regular there that I’m sure my old cheesemongers are long since departed.

Which is of course, part of the problem of returning. It’s no longer home. It’s been a long time since it was home. And while some part of me will feel like it is still home, I will be a tourist. Granted, I will be a tourist who has left his kids behind with the amazing Mrs. Fussy. And I’m very thankful for getting a break from my charming and delightful children.

But over the last couple of years I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with life here in Albany. I started this blog, and I’ve found a lot to love. And I haven’t been back to California since I turned that corner. I’m really hoping that this trip isn’t my Nana’s bag of bagels. Otherwise the next six months might be a bit more difficult than I expected.

Luckily, I’ll be coming back to my CSA, and perhaps I’ll be rejuvenated from the time alone with old friends. But I’ll do my best to keep blogging from the road. I leave crazy early Thursday morning, and get back ridiculously late on Tuesday night. So stay tuned.

I’m on the edge of my seat.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. StanfordSteph permalink
    May 22, 2011 10:50 am

    What’s a Gibraltar?

  2. May 22, 2011 6:40 pm

    There’s nothing I would call a great bagel in the Capital Region. At least I haven’t found it. Like your argument about the martini, I would argue many bagels shouldn’t be called bagels. Not sure what they should be called, but it isn’t bagel. Panera-I’m looking at you.

    Not exactly sure where you go in Connecticut, but there is a small chain, 2 or 3 stores, named Bagel King. Can’t speak for all of them, but my bagel of choice is from their Fairfield store. Good whitefish salad too.

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