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My North American Eating Diary...

Posted by Nigella on the 24th November 2010

I blame it on the jet lag. I've been back for a week now and although I've been busy - which I like - there isn't really a good enough excuse otherwise for my not having posted my American tour eating update. I couldn't be happier, though, to do so now.

I am wistfully remembering - and salivating as I do so - the most sensational meal at Farmhaus in St Louis and, in particular, their version of nachos, which consist of sweet potatoes cut wafer-thin and fried to a crisp, served with bacon rashers, crumbled blue cheese, home made ketchup and jalapenos. It has to be tasted to be believed. I also discovered a wine (Heart made by Charles Smith) which I have since become utterly obsessed with. It is, I concede, expensive, but it is exceptional: I'd rather have a bottle of this every other month than a bottle of anything else once a week! St Louis was generous on the food front all around, actually, as it also provided - at Crown Candy - bacon of a quality and quantity that you could only dream of, a fantastic ice cream sundae, the Crown Sundae, which comprises vanilla ice cream (and I had a scoop of oreo ice cream too) topped with hot fudge and caramel sauce and a crunchy sprinkling of buttered roast pecans, as well as homemade peanut butter cups, with a layer of caramel in the middle.

I hardly had time to eat in Philly, but I do love an American steakhouse, and so made a pitstop at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and managed to put away a lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing and bacon and a wee t-bone steak; I did have to add my own Colman's English mustard, but then I always carry a tube in my handbag for just such emergencies. I also managed, while in the area, give or take, to buy an electric turkey deep-frying machine, but perhaps - given my Kitchen Gadget Hall of Shame, the less said about that the better.

Onto Chicago, where I feel it is a sin not to go to Table 52 and indulge in Art Smith's Southern grub - the goat's cheese biscuits (more like scones for English people), doughnut-sized onion rings and succulent pork chop dance in my memory - but I did manage to go to one of Rick Bayless's places this time, which I've long wanted to do, since I have all his books. I went to Frontera and had a high old time, aided by a couple of Blue Agave Margaritas. I always feel that one of the cuisines we really miss out on in England, is Mexican so I was in my greedy element. I didn't order, just ate gratefully, so I can describe the food, but not quote the menu word perfectly. But I can say that I was bowled over by the ceviche, the tacos and a 'black' rice with squid and prawns.

Believe it or not, I did manage one more meal in Chicago, and that was a quickly snatched lunch at Manny's, the place that Obama went for his first meal as president-elect, that serves huge portions of old fashioned deli food. If you take the Miss Piggy line that you should never eat anything bigger than your head, then you should steer away from the pastrami sandwich. I, however, was happy to plough my way through it, even if I couldn't quite finish it.

On the way out of Chicago going to Milwaukee, I stopped at Poochy's for the best hot dog I've had in my life ever, ever, ever, and once in Milwaukee, I had to same a frozen custard at Kopps. Unbelievable. I had the special of the day, which was Turtle Sundae flavour, as opposed to a Turtle Sundae, which was caramel-flavoured ice cream, rippled with caramel and fudge and loaded with pecans; you may have guessed this is a favorite combination of mine.

My last stop was Toronto, and Toronto just means Joso's to me: I went there twice, and each time I snaffled up their exquisite deep-fried calamari and shrimp, pasta with squid ink sauce and charcoal griddled fish and octopus. The fact that I wasn't charged for excess body-baggage on my return journey to England is nothing short of a miracle!