Vincent: But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just, there it’s a little different.
– Pulp Fiction (1994)
I can relate to the whole concept of being a stranger in a strange land. Being a New Yorker transplanted to California can take some getting used to. Well, not so much anymore, but when I first moved to San Diego in 1980, it was a bit of a culture shock. Back then, trying to find a decent bagel or an acceptable (from a particular point of view) slice of pizza was nigh on impossible. It got better.
But still, Vincent Vega’s words ring true, we’ve got all the same things out here, it’s just the little things that are different. Like Buffalo Wings.
Buffalo wings are pretty ubiquitous at this point…Served up hot with a side of blue cheese dressing and celery to help douse the flames. Well, except in California. In California you will almost always get tossed a container of Ranch dressing with your wings.
Ranch frakking dressing.
Don’t they get it? Don’t they understand the subtle chemistry involved in the Buffalo wings/blue cheese dressing equation, or that careful mix of elements designed to chemically neutralize the oils present in the Frank’s RedHot Sauce, and douse the flames? Ranch dressing simply doesn’t have the proper chemical properties to fully counteract the mouth cauterizing effect of properly prepared Buffalo Wings (Here’s the original Anchor Bar recipe.)
But, alas, Californians put ranch on just about everything…Along with avocados. I am no different, at this point, except when it comes to my wings, and then it’s time to pass the blue cheese.
Meatball sandwiches are another point of variation. I came across a really great little bistro in the Rockridge section of Oakland a couple of weeks ago, it’s called Southie, and the place is amazing. Went there for lunch, and then back for dinner (the pork schnitzel is to die for.)
What got me going was their meatball sandwich, called ‘The Balls’ (they have a pretty straight-up sense of humor in this place), made with Nieman Ranch meatballs and an artisan-baked baguette from La Farine, an equally amazing bakery just a few doors down. Best meatballs I’ve had since the last time I had one of Angie Spinelli’s subs back in Bayonne, NJ. Yeah, better than Momma Angie’s, they were that damn good. Oh, and the amount of garlic they put in the balls is enough to take out a coven of the undead. It’s simply wonderful.
But, again, it’s the little differences. Back East, when we did a meatball sub, it was either without cheese, or a meatball parmesan, with a nice topping of melted mozzarella on top. Everywhere I’ve been around here, they throw a slice of provolone on the sandwhich…It’s okay, but like ranch on wings, just not quite the same essential experience. I’d rather save the provolone for my prosciutto and melon.
Doesn’t really matter…I’ll keep going back. This is great stuff, and while it may not be from Angie Spinelli’s kitchen, it’s about as close to New York Italian as you’re going to get in these parts. We adapt…But easy on the ranch dressing, okay?