Just close your eyes or a minute and think back to your favorite childhood foods. Maybe your mind drifts to chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs or a Happy Meal. Maybe you think of Lucky Charms or Cotton Candy. If you’re anything like me, your childhood culinary memory isn’t about the food itself but the experience. I remember my mom making mountains out of my rice so I would eat it.
As an adult, my appetite is still more about the experience than it is about what ends up on my plate. Whether I’m cooking for one at home or enjoying a night out with some friends, I like to prolong my meals so that I can savor the flavor.
When food trucks started popping up in my hometown, I couldn’t wait to try them. I just knew that the food would be all about wandering from truck to truck to decide which would be best. Then, it would be about asking for recommendations from the owners on their bestsellers, followed by watching my meal be made in the confines of a truck. After surveying the trucks with a friend, we decided on The Street Grill, and I was automatically taken back to when burgers were my favorite food, but this was WAY better! I asked the lady taking orders what the bestseller was, and she recommended the Bourbon Street and Beale Street. I went with the Beale Street, mainly because it came with bacon, which was served with a side of BBQ homemade potato chips. (Talk about a slice of childhood!) I placed my order just as the lunch rush was coming in. I understood that good things take time, so when the woman behind me hollered about losing her job if she didn’t get her food and get back to work, I was taken aback. But I was also grateful that my friend who I was having lunch with that day didn’t mind the wait. Instead, we saw it as a chance to chat and catch up. (Remember, it’s not just about stuffing your face…it’s about the experience)
Let me tell you, this burger was BY FAR the best burger I’ve ever tasted. You can really tell the difference between a burger patty right off the grill and one that’s been sitting under a lamp for a while (I’m looking at you, fast food restaurants). The Beale Street had the right balance between smoky beef, crisp bacon and fresh veggies. And it was a good sized portion! No dinky burger here, and the last bite was just as good as the first. It was definitely a grown up version of the McD’s that came in my Happy Meals. But instead of a cheap plastic toy, I got a walk in the park with a good friend. And honestly, I could have eaten a whole bag of those potato chips. (I’ll have to try their salt and vinegar ones next time!)
But speaking of childhood tastes growing up, I had a flashback of a favorite comfort food just last week. After a morning at the Farmers Market, a couple of girlfriends and I stopped in at Cheese Louise, a local shop that sells cheese, wine and gifts (perfect for birthday gifts or secret Santa during the holidays!) for lunch. While they were looking for something light, I had just one question for the waitress, “Should I get the 12 cheese mac and cheese?” She looked at me and just said “Yes.” When it came to our table, I wasn’t disappointed. After all, what kid doesn’t like mac and cheese? This, however, was no out of the box noodles and powdered cheese concoction. (And instead of a glass of milk on the side, I had a glass of Argentinian malbec.) The top was nice and crispy while the inside was creamy and cheesy. It turns out that they use the crumbles of cheese that are too small to sell to make their cheese sauce. That means on any given week, you can have 5 cheeses or you can have 20 cheeses. That also means that you should check it out every week to make sure that it still tastes good. As soon as I dipped my fork into this dish, and the steam rose up from the inside, I knew I was in for a treat. The first bite filled my mouth with a light cheesy flavor, but as I moved into the center the sauce became smokier. What an adventure! I don’t know what possessed me to order a glass of wine to go with it, but if ever there was a mac ‘n’ cheese that deserved to be paired with a good wine, this is it!
I guess it all just goes to prove that the foods that we loved when we were young are still appropriate when we’re older. You just have to add a mature twist to it (like a glass of wine).