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Presents! Gifts! Toys! Decorations! Parties! Trees! Santa needs a ride to the dentist! Carol-singing! Gagging over but, yet, perversely, unable to turn away from Lifetime Network holiday movies!
This time of year, it never stops - which means a lot of meals are bought and consumed on the run.
You might be happy to read about a few fun things I've had to eat recently - and, yes, all of them were obtained in the context of various holiday duties, rituals or errands.
No sooner had I made and mastered the nuances of cooking on a tandoor oven than I heard of another Indian cooking implement called a "tawa." Yes, I know: you've all been acquainted with the "tawa" for several decades and I'm a moron.
That may be, but a tawa is apparently a deep, wok-style staple in Indian kitchens, and I'd like to go on record as saying that it by God does great stuff to tilapia - at least in the hands of chef Sanjiv Dhar and his staff at the gorgeous, tropically-colored and delightfully cozy Rasoi in the Blackstone Plaza in Pawtucket.
First of all, I don't normally associate Indian cooking with tilapia. Mutton? Yes. Tilapia, not so much. But Raoi, which features creative takes on regional cuisines from across the country, including certain seacoast regions whose styles are less known and more seafood-centric, have plenty of intriguing fish options.
Though extremely tempted by Mustard Salmon Curry, I ordered Tawa Fish ($15.99). It was a feast, both in terms of culinary artistry and presentation. A cluster of thick tilapia medallions were stage left, covered in a thick and aromatic tomato cream sauce. From a variety of side options, I'd chosen a heap of flavorful tender brown rice and a piquant curry of vegetables and sliced mango.
The fish, cooked with delicate precision, had been dusted and marinated in a sorcerer's potion of carom seeds, cumin powder, coriander and turmeric. Cut a flaky bite of sauced tilapia, run it through the curry and flake it with bits of rice and ... wow. Double wow.
ROAST BEEF SANDWICH,
Johnny Pastrami, American Auto Center
If you can't find an amusing present at Stuckey's, well, I'm sorry for you because you're a dolt of astonishing proportions. In fact, everything any human being has ever needed - short of what might be required if you're on a space shuttle for several months - can be found at Stuckey's. I challenge each and every one of us to take a $100 bill, head to Stuckey's, and buy an entire wardrobe for the New Year.
In any event, yes: I headed to Stuckey's for holiday gifts, and because it afforded me to chow down on a few Roy Rogers roast beef sandwiches. But wait! Roy's gone - replaced by something called Johnny Pastrami. This did not soothe me, for I find pastrami too fatty. A perusal of the menu, though, revealed Johnny also proffers roast beef in addition to burgers and, ah, fried chicken.
It's of foremost importance that Johnny's serves actual roast beef, as opposed to some fast food RB slices that look like a quilt made out of Upton Sinclair-ian meat scraps. And Johnny P's was nicely cooked, moist and with actual flavor.
And there was a lot of meat, too. It was a grapefruit-shaped mound of beef. I asked for a slice of cheese, added a bit of pre-packaged horseradish sauce from the condiments bar - and it was a truly good thing. Yes, I would leave one of these for Santa when he drops by on Christmas Eve.
HAMBURGER AND BLACK OLIVE PIZZA,
Green Onion II,
It's one of the great paradoxes of Life (in New England): so MANY pizza joints, which too often seem in lieu of other types of cuisine that are almost nonexistent up here. Still, you do what you do - and if you're a pizza cook, no point in opening a barbecue shack because a certain Texas transplant misses ribs and brisket.
Plus, I really do like pizza. In the course of a long day of errands, I found myself in North Stonington, and I pulled on impulse into the parking lot at Green Onion II. It's a small, friendly little place that was full of apparent regulars, and the scent of a busy oven, baking dough and garlic were seductive.
Observing a (presumably) large pie at a neighboring table, one that seemed even bigger than Miley Cyrus' ego, I asked for the large black olive and hamburger pizza ($15.25).
Enormous - even as a burgeoning Sizeable Person, I ended up getting three toothsome meals from this friendly giant. The Onion serves a thin, Greek-style pie with crusty toast-marks on the bottom. The cheese is balanced nicely by a tart, not too sweet tomato sauce infused with basil - and it's all absolutely slammed with toppings. The crumbled burger was nicely seasoned, and the sliced black olives were in contrapuntal abundance. The folks at Green Onion II claim actual New Yorkers make the trip for their pizza - and I can understand why.
Go forth and have a great holiday season. And eat robustly!
Rasoi, 727 East Ave., Pawtucket, R.I.
Roast beef sandwich
Johnny Pastrami, American Auto Stop, 273 Clarks Falls Road, North Stonington
Hamburger and black olive pizza
$15.25 for a large pie
Green Onion II Pizza Restaurant, 240 Norwich/Westerly Road, N. Stonington