Dinner for two. Quinn's Pub.
All week long I have been thinking about my upcoming trip - three weeks in Taiwan, Laos, and Vietnam. I have been worrying about a lot of things - work left undone, my apartment all a mess, what will I pack, and how am I going to choose which books to bring - but most of all, I have been thinking about what my last dinner will be before I leave. I think it will have to be a cheeseburger at Quinn's Pub. I will be going for more than three weeks without Western food, or at least trying to (although being former French colonies, the French food will probably be quite good in Laos and Vietnam), and in my book that is a long time to go without a cheeseburger. By the time I leave work it is still a bit early for dinner, but I grab C. and we head off in the rain. Only a few tables are occupied when we get there, and I only give the menu a cursory glance because I have been thinking about their cheeseburger all day.
Unfortunately, our server throws a spanner into the works by coming to the table and describing the evening's specials: a beet salad, and braised pork cheeks. Uh-oh. I love braised pork cheeks. I always order them (or beef cheeks) whenever they appear on the menu. But I had been thinking about the cheeseburger all day, if not all week. If I order one, I will regret that I didn't order the other. It will haunt me for the three weeks of my vacation, until I come back. C. rescues me from this dilemma: we will order the pork cheeks and the cheeseburger, and split the two. Perfect. I am glad I came here with someone, instead of alone, because it would have been impossible to choose.
Soon, our food arrives, and we are occupied with dividing things and passing plates back and forth. The pork cheeks are served with mushrooms and sliced Brussels sprouts on a pool of pumpkin puree, with a scattering of roasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top. The meat is tender but firm, rich and savory against the sweetness of pumpkin. I mop up a bit of the sauce with every bite of meat, and it is so good I could lick the bowl clean. Only after every scrap of the pork cheeks has been eaten, do I turn my attention to the cheeseburger. Still pink and juicy in the middle, layered with bacon and cheese in a soft pretzel bun, it is everything I had imagined, the perfect send-off before I head home to finish packing and get ready for my vacation. I eat a few fries - they have wonderful French fries here - and think about all the things I will be eating in the next few weeks. I'm ready for bowls of steaming noodles, of xiao lung bao and zhong zhi and hot pot and all manner of strange and wonderful things.