Just three weeks left until the Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are hits bookstores (and e-bookstores!) near you. You can get your copy on November 1st, but you can pre-order right now!
Writing this book took an awful lot of traveling, cooking, and—no surprise—eating. Extreme eating. (Yes, more extreme than usual.) Today, we're sharing some of our favorite tales from the road and from the kitchen.
Race Across Wisconsin
This day started with an early morning drive from Chicago to Madison. We met some old friends, who grow the most amazing tomatoes and berries. They then took us to Batch, an unassuming but terrific bakery in a residential neighborhood. From there we went to the Dane County farmer's market, which was teeming with Badger fans on their way to a University of Wisconsin home football game. What we ate: tacky but oh-so-delicious cheesy bread, a walking artisanal cheese course, bread made by a baker who grows and mills his own wheat, and... I can't even remember what else. We had a cheeseburger and fries from Graze that was the equal of any I have had in the past year. (It tasted even better because we ate the burger and fries in a bus stop that we commandeered.)
We were still in Madison, and it was 1:45—and Carey was insistent we go Jake's, a Milwaukee delicatessen she'd heard incredible things about. Problem was? It closed at 3pm. And we were 80 miles away. So Carey grabbed the keys and we tore across Wisconsin, making it to Jake's at 2:57. Worth the trip. Jake's makes a hand-carved corned beef sandwich on rye good enough to have me thinking about moving to Milwaukee. It's in a neighborhood that used to be Jewish and is now predominantly African-American, and place was packed. (It happened to be Yom Kippur, and I was insistent that no self-respecting deli would be serving during the day on Yom Kippur; but now I think I get it.) From there, Solly's, North Point, Leon's, Maria's Pizza... Just another day of eating with the Serious Eats crew. —Ed Levine
Real barbecued ribs take a good four hours to tenderize. Brisket, up to eight. A pulled pork shoulder takes about six. With a single kettle grill to work with and at least a dozen iterations per recipe, this meant a whole lot of time devoted to babysitting meat on a grill to develop recipes for the barbecue chapter. The craziest day of book testing was when Dumpling and I clocked in 36 hours of straight barbecuing on my friend's deck, taking the occasional cat naps on the deck furniture but waking up every hour to log temperatures and baste. Yes, it was worth it in the end. —J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
The research trip I joined was something like boot camp--or hazing--just before I joined the team full time. I was thrilled to bring the Serious Eats crew to my hometown for a little food touring, but didn't plan on how much room we'd need for leftovers in the back of our tiny car. Our first day in Portland, we had a reasonable schedule: just a breakfast platter or four, a doughnut (well, a box of them), followed by one of the most impressive breakfasts I've ever tasted. Then some macarons, and as the rain started to fall, we huddled under the shelter at a food car pod to share a breakfast wrap, a meatball sub, and a chickpea fritter sandwich. After a detour for an afternoon beer break, we weren't exactly hungry by the time we got to Le Pigeon to nab their super-juicy monster burger, but somehow we managed to devour every sloppy mouthful. Of course, we didn't want to slack off, so all this was followed up by a second dinner at another pod of food trucks as the sun went down. Only Erin (the oatmeal maven) was hungry for an oatmeal breakfast the next morning. —Maggie Hoffman
Day Trip To... New Orleans?
"I flew to New Orleans and stayed there for just eight hours to eat a bunch of sandwiches." When I told people this, the response was usually, "What?" and then, "Huh?" But, surprisingly, it worked. Erin, Carey, Ed, and I managed to try po-boys (about 25 of 'em), beignets, fried chicken, and more from ten places in the span of a regular work day thanks to the help of Ed's friend and food expert Pableaux Johnson. It being the first day trip I took for book research, it set a precedent for all subsequent trips, that precedent being, "YOU CAN EAT EVERYTHING IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, or, more helpfully, if you make a good itinerary and have a knowledgable chauffeur." —Robyn Lee
12 Hours, 22 Eateries
It had already been a hectic week.
Y'know, the kind when workdays involve a 4am wake-up call in New York, two plane flights to get to Denver, renting a car, eating at four spots in Boulder and half a dozen in Denver before driving an hour and a half to Sedalia, CO, for a single burger, and then breaking all kinds of laws speeding back to the airport to hop one last plane and land in San Francisco at midnight local time.
It was a long day.
But that was nothing compared to two days later. The book was due in a week. And we hadn't made it to Utah. And I needed to correct that in as little time as possible. I flew to Salt Lake Sunday night and woke up at the crack of dawn on Monday to canvas the city with former intern Alison Herzog. Thanks to her local knowledge and champion stomach, we hit 22 places that day. Pretty sure it's an all-time Serious Eats record.
French pastries followed by more pastries, and more pastries, and breakfast, and breakfasts #2 and #3, and doughnuts. Sandwiches and Belgian fries and sandwiches... and sandwiches. Gelato, ice cream, pizza, sandwiches, ice cream, garlic burgers, pastrami burgers, garlic burgers... The details escape me a year later. I do remember getting a pastrami burger around "dinnertime" and staring it down for a good few minutes before I managed to take a bite.
My Foursquare was linked to my Twitter, which was probably a bad idea. I had ten people unfollow me that day.
Alison rushed me to SLC by 11pm to hop a 3-hour red-eye (I didn't know red-eyes could be so short) back to JFK, where I was straight back to the office. Needless to say, I wasn't hungry for breakfast. —Carey Jones
Beef on Weck Journey
Have you ever traveled 214 miles for a sandwich? Technically it was three sandwiches and some wings. We were already in Pittsburgh eating pancakes (and sandwiches and hot dogs, and there were those two pizzas), so what was another 214 miles to Buffalo?
This is the kind of rationale that shaped most book-research journeys. "Well, if we're already in X, what's another Y-hundred miles to Z?" It's a grand ol' country we live in and in order to cover as many pockets of it as possible, we sucked it up, rented cars and/or convinced friends to play hooky from work and drive us, and wound up with many doggie bags and boxes in the process.
Pittsburgh's itinerary was ambitious, as they all were: pancakes from Pamela's, french-fry-topped sandwiches from Primanti's, hot dogs from the Original Hot Dog Shop, a colossal fried fish sandwich from Wholey's, mung bean pancakes from the vendor outside, frozen custard from Glen's, pizza from Il Pizzaiolo, Mineo's and Vincent's Pizza Park. And that was just one day. And we were able to squeeze in a Penguins game that night!
Then off Carey and I drove to Buffalo... in a car quite fragrant of leftover pizza. (Ed had requested we save the extra bites.. it'd only be 36 hours before they reached the office). We looked out the window at a lot of Western Pennsylvania (a lot), waved to Erie, listened to everything from Katy Perry to Springsteen on the radio (heard some songs twice, as you do over 214 miles), and finally made it to our first Beef on Weck at Schwabl's. Then three more.
Thankfully, some of them were really good. Book-worthy good. Most memorable was the carved-to-order roast beef on a salt-encrusted kummelweck bun with nose-twitchy horseradish and all that savory beefy jus at Charley the Butcher. It's the sandwich you finish even after you're three sandwiches deep. (And there were those two Buffalo wing stops, not to mention the airport's mini Anchor Bar).
Going through security that afternoon at Buffalo Niagara Airport was fun. In addition to our normal person carry-on we had a plastic bag of wings, sauce on the side, leftover sandwich quarters, and remember that Pittsburgh pizza? The next morning at the office, Ed was ready for his breakfast. —Erin Zimmer
Read all about the tasty results of our travels (and cooking experiments) in Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are!