Friday, December 21, 2012

An Ode To USA

The USA. The States. America. And for the just-relocated-from-the-pind crowd, Amreeka. Call it what you may; for me, the US will always be a food-and-fashion haven. No other country gets both right. Yes, Milan rocks the fashion world. But Italian food = monotonous and mostly one-note. Paris has its share of runway shows and trendsetters, but French cuisine = tiny portions of expensive, pretentious food. India gets the food right, but one look at the people will take all thoughts of fashion out of your head. 

Which brings us back to the US - where food and fashion both abound, and both are available in super-cheap ("economy") as well as break-the-bank variants. 

This past year, I was fortunate enough to live in a city replete with enough options to satisfy even my appetite (for food, not fashion; that's another story). Here, then, is a condensed list of my absolute favorites in this country - with both newly-discovered treasures and old sweethearts.

1. Korean BBQ nothing like its American counterpart (which I'm not a fan of). That sizzling plate of chicken bulgogi with sticky rice did indescribable things to my palate. It is a completely new flavor, unlike any other Oriental cuisines. I was an instant fan, and ate nothing but the bulgogi every single time we visited. It was that good.

Chicken Bulgogi lunch box, $9

2. Zaxby's
The (dare I say) superior cousin of the KFC, Zaxby's (a small Southern chain, only in 6-7 states) takes fried chicken to another level. The crust oh-so-crispy, and the chicken so tender it actually melted in my mouth. And they serve it with buttered toast, not biscuits !! Genius. Even though my loyalty to KFC remains, if I see a Zaxby's, that's where I'll be headed. Sorry KFC !

Chicken Finger Plate, $6
3. Cake
Just plain old cake. As some of you know, this year I traveled far and wide in search of the perfect red velvet. I found many versions worthy of a post by themselves, but the larger realization was that we're being cheated in the cake department in India. Cake can be so, so glorious ! A wonderful bakery next door (Strossner's) produced fresh, seasonal delights like strawberries-and-cream, pink lemonade, apple cinnamon swirl and German chocolate, while in India, our options seem limited to either those horrid white "pineapple"/black forest things or the sickly-sweet and done-to-death chocolate truffle. We deserve better.  

4. Cheesecake and cupcakes

'Nuff said.

5. Thai
Both the cheap, greasy, food-court version and the light, brothy, flavorful delight served up by the sweet old lady at Bangkok Thai. Why didn't I appreciate this before ??

From the local mall's food court, $5
6. Gourmet mashed potatoes
The lowly mashed potatoes have seen a culinary revival of sorts; they're popping up everywhere ! I used to be content with the "side" portion at KFC, but after tasting the magical chive-butter-and-garlic loaded versions at Liberty Taproom and The Meatball Shop, I now know what comfort is supposed to taste like.

7. Mexican !!
Another why-haven't-I-discovered-this-before gem, a good bowl of rice, refried beans, chicken, chipotle ranch and hot salsa became my go-to meal for days I wanted all the flavor without the calories. A small bowl (quite enough for lunch) at Salsaritas (another small, southern chain) ran me only 480 calories, and was so good I could've licked it clean.

Honorable mention - Sushi 
Used to hate it, now like it (haven't fallen in love yet).

Spicy crab roll, $10
Indians are known for quickly adapting to the latest in international cuisines, and I'm sure most of these will be very appreciated in desi-land. So now, I wait for these delights to make their way across the Atlantic. 

And drool over memories in the meantime.


  1. All of them sound yum! And I'll take care of your baked cheesecake cravings, dont ye worry :D

    1. Yay you ! Now all I need to do is open a franchise of Salsaritas in Bangalore. :)