The National Conference of Democratic Mayors sponsored an event that highlighted one of the great strengths of America’s cities — food. The group gathered the cuisines of 8 American cities and allowed attendees to taste what they had to offer. The cities were Boston, Chicago, Denver, Louisville, Philadelphia, Providence and Seattle.
What a perfect event for me! I love cities and I love food. I’m obviously partial to Boston, which offered Legal Sea Foods clam chowder and giant shrimp cocktail as well Boston Cream Pie. Numerous guests told me how much they liked the shrimp, the chowder and Mayor Menino who was in attendance.
Boston aside, here’s my view of the other cities’ fare.
Philadelphia — Philly offered only one simple dish, the Philly Cheese Steak. When Dan Kennedy and I were down in Philadelphia for the Republican Convention, both of us were bitterly disappointed with the dry, stringy steak offered to us at the vaunted Jim’s Steak. I remember thinking what’s the big deal, I can get a better sandwich at many sub shops in Boston.
What I got to try from Tony Luke’s completely dispelled my earlier perception of the signature Philadelphia sandwich. The meat was incredibly tender, and the hoagie — as its called down there — was lovingly made. Tony Luke was on hand with his son personally making the sandwiches. He said he made a personal commitment to Mayor Nutter to create the best food possible.
It’s interesting that while not gourmet in any way, Tony Luke’s fresh, crafted sandwich really stood out. Tony Luke told me his business really took off since defeating Bobby Flay in a Throw Down. He’ll be on Dinner: Impossible in September.
Providence — Mayor Cicilline, who is now the head of the NCDM, welcomed me and pointed me over to the Providence station. I sampled both a Sloppy Guiseppi (a version of a Sloppy Joe) and veal stew, which I noted would make for a hearty meal when the weather turns cool in a few weeks. The food was from the Old Canteen on Federal Hill, which offers a tremendous value menu, salad, main dish, dessert.
San Francisco — When I walked by San Francisco’s station, I almost passed right by. I saw a menu that looked like it came right from a public health agenda, heirloom tomatoes, peaches with a fresh mozzarella-like cheese and dungeness crab (which I didn’t get to try.) When I put some cheese and tomatoes into my mouth, I had a taste explosion. The tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and a few sprinkles of sea salt, were filled with flavor; the cheese’s freshness enhanced both the taste of the tomatoes and the peaches.
Mayor Newsom showed up and was far more inquisitive when meeting guests than I thought he would be. He gets a lot of national press, which is understandable.
Denver — Here the Rocky Mountain Trout Confit stood out. I was less impressed with the Buffalo “Loose Meat” sandwiches.
Louisville — I didn’t know what to expect from this Kentucky city. I wasn’t a big fan of their Hot Browns sandwich. I did like the Derby Pie, a pecan pie with chocolate added. The bourbon whipped cream was a little too bitter although their booth also offered a collection of Kentucky bourbons.
Seattle — Something of a disappointment. I was so excited to sample some poached wild Washington salmon. But then when I took a bite it lacked punch. Many guests, however, were raving about the more than 30 wines from Washington State available for tasting. I counted three guests ask for pinot noir only to learn that that grape is not a specialty of Washington state, cabernet and syrah are.
Chicago — Chicago set up several different cheese cakes. It made for a solid dessert, but I think they would have been better off with Chicago Dogs and Italian Beef.