I just returned from a business trip. I went to Erie PA to do some computer geek stuff and made a couple of pit stops along the way. I had a very nice visit yesterday with my In-Laws, who were very gracious hosts. Knowing of my abiding love for malted beverages, they took me to the North Country Brewing Company. It was a pretty cool place. The decor was eclectic...it looked like it was designed by an elf on drugs. The beer was quite good, especially their Scottish Ale. Food was good too.
The other pit stop I made this morning on my way home. 4 or so years ago we met up with my then future in-laws for a Fathers Day weekend in Pittsburgh PA. While touring the historic 'Strip District' I ducked into an Italian grocery \ deli. I wandered around in awe at the shelves that were bursting with dozens upon dozens of types of pasta, olive oils, and other sundry dry goods that made my mouth water. Then I came upon a sight that has stayed with me all these many years. A deli counter, the likes of which I had never seen. Cheeses as far as the eye could see...salami's and sausages by the hundreds...and the Olives - enough olives to satiate EVEN ME...the man who loves olives as much as life itself. The name of this wonderland? The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. We were headed to a Pirates game that day, so I could not buy anything, but I vowed to return some day and bring a cooler. I did not think that it would take this long to get back there, but it did. Days turned to weeks, weeks to years. Attempts to return were foiled by major holidays (closed on Labor Day) and by the hours (closes at 2 PM on Sundays). But today I made it, and I brought a cooler. I made up for lost time by buying a passel of stuff, a veritable cornucopia of Mediterranean food.
My haul? Olives (three kinds), Giardiniera (the pickled veggies the Greeks call Toursi), 1 1\2 lbs of Greek Feta, 1 1\2 lbs Parmigiana Romano, 2 lbs of fresh mozzarella, flour for pasta, capers, white balsamic vinegar, a big bottle of very good Greek olive oil, two kinds of ruffled pasta - one of which looks like a dead ringer for trophie, a loaf of oh so crusty bread, and a handfull of what can only be called a 'salt loaf'...kind of a cross between a mini loaf of bread and a pretzel - with carroway seeds in it. Oh, did I mention that I scored a bottle of Truffle Oil? The secret ingredient to THE BEST SANDWICH IN THE ENTIRE WORLD?
I was in a great mood as I set my GPS and pointed the rental car towards home. This mood did not last, as every slowpoke, rubbernecker, and semi driver made it their mission to delay my voyage home at every opportunity. I did not stop for lunch, only for gas and soda. Thank goodness for the 'salt loaf' bread...the only thing that kept me from chewing on the steering wheel on the way home. After a quick stop at work to unload the car and turn in the rental, I scurried home as fast as my Jeep would take me.
What did I find waiting for me? Two tomatoes ripe on the vine. And I thought to myself, "What has two thumbs and 2 lbs of fresh mozzarella? THIS GUY!" So dinner tonight was a caprese salad, made with tomatoes still warm from the vine. With basil from the herb garden and fresh cheese from my trip to PA. Drizzled with my new olive oil and white balsamic. Heaven. Summer on the plate. Throw in the bread and olives to complete the meal.
Life is good.