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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Food Depression and Food Redemption

"I'm trying to figure out what stage of grief you're at right now," he says to me.

We're at our first attempt at Saturday brunch: the Old European restaurant in Pullman, Washington, which is just as kitchy and carpet-y as it sounds. There are signs about Jesus on the walls. In front of us are wobbly eggs that still have the shape of the bowl it was cracked in when they placed it in the microwave. We'd ordered them poached. His breakfast sausage was cold, and came back two minutes later, plate hot from another go in the microwave, bite mark still intact. The syrup is watery and I'm juggling the pourer around, trying to figure out how something that's supposed to be thick and heavy is sloshing around like dish water.

What stage of grief am I in? Well, it's certainly not acceptance.

Back in Brooklyn, we went to brunch every Saturday we could. Usually Brooklyn Label or Egg or somewhere hipstery where we'd wait forever on the hot sidewalks and groan about hunger. But then we'd sit and get our food and coffee and the mood for the weekend would be set. We'd have huevos rancheros and eggs benedict or sausage gravy and challah french toast. Then we'd set off for a day of museums or parks or art openings or whatever our friends were up to that day. We did this for eight years straight, and we loved it. And now here we are in a college town where slobby people rave about a place that doesn't seem to have a stovetop.

Again, it set the tone for the day. But this time, it was a mopey tone. 

Luckily, we're learning the ways of finding our own cheer. And we're learning our best bet for joy is seven miles away in Moscow, Idaho.

First, some coffee by the pound at the Moscow Food Co-Op. It reminds me of the Garden that was at the end of our street in Brooklyn, the only place for organic food and acceptable coffee.

Then a stop at the Camas Prairie Winery, where we picked up a bottle of red, a bottle of white and a bottle of beer. A consolation prize for when dinner fails. Or, a celebration.

But these were old tricks. Now onto our first dinner spot in Moscow: Maialina.

I had hopes for this place the first time I heard about it. It reminded me of Maialino, one of my favorite spots for Italian food in the city. Now of course I wasn't expecting fresh suckling pig over handmade pasta here. I'm not gonna read THAT much into the name. I just wanted affirmation that I could find artisanal pizza that reminds me of home. Just pizza. That's it.

I'm so glad it delivered and exceeded expectations. I wasn't ready to down all three bottles in sorrow tonight.

We started with some perfectly cooked mussels with white wine, garlic and guanciale. Guanciale! Rejoice.

And the pizza was fantastic, too. Puffed up at the crust, with a thin interior topped with mozz, fennel sausage and chili oil. It was supposed to come with rapini, which is supposed to be broccoli raab, but got kale. Rob asked the waiter, "Is this kale?" Waiter says, "Yes, good taste!" Ok, well, we can't all be perfect. 

I'm feeling huge relief knowing that pizza as good as Fornino and maybe even as good as Robertas is only a short drive over the state line. As good as Motorino? I'm not that far into the denial stage yet. And hey, instead of waiting for the bus or subway to come and take us home, we get pretty views of the Palouse as we breeze on by in our car. We have wine tonight and fresh coffee for tomorrow. We're good to go.

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