#233: The Jerky

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Here’s a chicken. You know what this is about.

Time to discuss one of my absolute favorite snacks, one that I’m currently munching on while I type: jerky. Whether it’s beef jerky, turkey jerky, salmon jerky, whatever is out there, I’ll probably eat it. Preferably without much sugar used, though I know that’s asking a lot sometimes. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to jerky is the amount of sucralose or excess, unneeded sugars sprinkled all over the dried meat to give it a sweeter taste. It doesn’t need that! It tastes perfectly great on its own, I’ll have you know! Seriously, I could just eat dried meat without any added shit whenever and wherever. It’s not difficult to imagine what that would be like, bringing some jerky to school with me or on the way to work. It’s a great morning, afternoon, and evening snack; no matter the time of the day, chow down on some tasty jerky without regret. That’s how I do it.

When it comes to memories of jerky, I have a distinct memory of driving to Trader Joe’s with Alex while we were still in Boston, picking up some salmon jerky, and leaving it in my backpack for months after we got back from there. I still had the salmon jerky in my backpack when I went to work one day, and after feeling especially busy and tired and famished, I ate it. It didn’t taste bad at all. In fact, I think it tasted good enough that I would recommend having it again. It was just that good.

Jerky, no matter what shape or size it comes in, is always special to me. So much protein, so much tasty goodness. Nothing really more to say about it than what I’ve already mentioned, I guess.

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#214: The Fish Tale

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Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, especially the specific restaurant in New Haven, has a special place in my heart. It’s special for resembling a spot where my family goes to enjoy cheap seafood, but it’s also special for being a spot where my grandfather liked to go to before he passed away. The restaurant wasn’t open for long before he passed away, but we managed to go a few times before then, and every time we went, he would ask to go back. It became kind of an expected part of the day; when he had an idea to go somewhere for lunch together, it was usually Lenny & Joe’s. I would order the fish and chips or the fried clam strips, and I forget what he typically ordered but I’m sure it was good.

When I think back to those years of my life, images of the restaurant as it used to look, the tables we used to sit at, the fried calamari appetizers we ordered and ate together, I feel happy and a bit sad at the same time. Sad because it’s passed and won’t be coming back, but happy that I was able to share a few memorable moments with someone I love before he passed away. I know it feels morbid to mention death on here, but I think it’s necessary to fully understand the gravity of this emotional place for us. I know it’s a chain restaurant, with multiple copies of it across Connecticut, but it’s still recognizable to my family for this reason.

Recently, I went back to Lenny & Joe’s with my mom, grandma, sister, and girlfriend. We had a good dinner together, I ordered lobster mac n cheese and Alex ordered the lobster roll. It was a lobster-palooza. The mac n cheese wasn’t as good as it is at Chowder Pot, so that was a small disappointment, but it was still delicious and worth getting. Just didn’t compare to another restaurant’s offering of the same dish. We sat a few tables away from the table we sat at the last time we took my grandpa to this place, and my mom pointed it out for us. Instantly, I remembered sitting there, where I sat, what chair I sat in, everything. I mean, times have definitely changed in the years since then; it’s highly possible they got new chairs or tables, and rearranged everything in ways that make it completely unrecognizable from what it looked like five or six years ago, but to us, it’s still the same restaurant it was then. It’s special to us.

#175: The Grocery Store

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Today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite grocery stores in the world, and perhaps one of the best and most consistently good spots in Stamford in general.

When Alex and I first started exploring the Boston-Quincy area a few years ago, one of the first places we went to was a Trader Joe’s, about 20 minutes away from her apartment. You had to cross a long bridge to get there, and the parking lot was vast and open, unlike the lot for Stamford’s Trader Joe’s store. There also wasn’t usually a line to get in. On the other hand, though, there wasn’t a Robek’s next door to this one. We would pick up turkey bacon and ghost pepper chips and dried mango slices to take home with us, and we started to expect those things like they were normal, everyday items. Even now, when we go to Trader Joe’s in Stamford, we still pick up the same items that we did when we were in Boston, except for the mango slices. We don’t eat those any more, at least not as much. Nowadays, we make occasional trips to Trader Joe’s to pick up whatever items we missed from Fairway. Trader Joe’s has the best name-brand items around, so it’s worth shopping there just to pick up the stuff you wish they had elsewhere.

Sometimes, small things like that stick with you, and the small things begin to resemble larger ideas. I remember when my grandma, sister, and I spent a week in California with our extended family, and during a grocery trip to Trader Joe’s, they bought me a buffalo chicken wrap. I ate it cold. Their house didn’t have much in terms of good food, so I was desperately hungry for something to sink my teeth into.

#172: The Smoothie Place

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Today, I’m going to discuss Robek’s smoothies, one of my favorite spots in all of Stamford. It’s truly inspired a lot for Alex and I, and without it, I’m not sure what our dinners would look like nowadays. They’d certainly be different from the usual.

Have I already talked about this place before? I feel like I have… a part of me is convinced that this is a repeat blog post, but Alex insists it isn’t. Oh well, time to talk about it any way.

Robek’s is a great smoothie place in Stamford, centered around the Bed Bath & Beyond/Staples plaza over on Summer Street. There’s ample parking all over the place, and it’s right next to the place where Alex got her eyebrows done once. It’s also next to a Gamestop, where I can get Magic: the Gathering cards. The options are limitless here!

Robek’s has inspired our smoothie fascination. When Alex got a smoothie blender, we immediately knew we had to try and recreate as many good Robek’s smoothies as we could. And for the most part, we’ve been able to successfully replicate them. The Mango Turmeric Madness, my personal favorite, has been recreated successfully in our own kitchen, and being able to have it for dinner or around dinner every night has aided in my healthy eating habits.

One time, while coming home from Robek’s smoothies, Alex and I were standing in the elevator going up to floor six when another guy walked in, saw our smoothies, and immediately knew they were from Robek’s. He commented on them and smiled. It was a nice moment that I still remember, considering it solidified to me that Robek’s isn’t just a random place that we discovered; it’s a real hot spot in Stamford that lots of people know about and enjoy.

#128: The Contigo

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Speaking of the simple joys of life, I’d like to talk a little bit about Contigo, the brand that’s single-handedly saved my coffee-drinking habit and made me a coffee-drinking addict instead.

Contigo is wonderful, known primarily for its steel canteens and water bottles that hold liquids for incredible lengths of time without getting too lukewarm. It literally lasts for about 8 hours, which helps make sure it stays completely hot and worthwhile for drinking. The Contigo that I’m currently drinking out of is almost a foot tall, and it carries enough coffee to keep me hydrated (or, technically, not hydrated) throughout the work day. I can sip on my coffee throughout the morning and not have to worry about running out until the afternoon, when I pop in one of my Keurig cups and refill my coffee to the top.

Speaking of Keurig, it’s been an absolute joy to have the Keurig cups with me at work. It means that I don’t have to worry about ever, ever running out of coffee throughout the day; I am a machine powered exclusively by hyper-caffeinated energy and adrenaline during the day.

And guess what? I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Not a half-hour goes by without my lips touching some caffeinated beverage. I have completely transformed from a coffee noob to an absolute coffee fiend. Work is incomplete without my Contigo coffee mug. I need it in order to survive the day, and sometimes it’s the only thing keeping me, let’s say, grounded.

Shout outs to Alex who regularly prepares coffee for me in the morning, knowing fully well that she has an exhausting day of work ahead but still does it for me. She’s a wonderful, amazing person, and I can already picture the smile on her face as she’s reading this!

#114: Claire’s

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Let’s talk more about a very specific type of place: Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven. It’s a wonderful, natural, vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu filled with lots of delicious, nutritious options that won’t make you feel bad after eating them (at least, most of the time…; more on that later.) It’s the perfect place to relax, unwind, sit down, and listen to the general commotion of New Haven.

I love the chipotle chicken sandwich, and Alex loves the meatloaf. We also order smoothies when we get there, sometimes a Power Surge, sometimes a Greener the Cleaner or a Mango Lassie. Other times, we order the black bean nachos and take it into the car with us, where Alex and I work together to feed each other. It’s a bit romantic, I guess.

One story Alex and I will never forget is when we went to Claire’s for one of our birthdays, I forget which. I think it was Alex’s, actually. We both ordered the mac n cheese after thinking about it constantly on the ride over. When we saw the mac n cheese in the “hot food” section of the restaurant, we fell in love at first sight and immediately decided to order it next time we were there.

Unfortunately, both of us ended up with terrible stomach trouble and had to rush into the Subway bathroom to take care of it, if you catch my drift. This is because we didn’t realize to order the vegan, or dairy-free, cheese. I don’t fault the restaurant at all for this, as it was moreso our usual idiocy at play. If it were any other restaurant though, maybe I would take a second to consider their role in this, but Claire’s is different. Claire’s is wonderful.

#105: The Coffee

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I’ve talked about the Keurig, I’ve talked about drinks and beverages, but I’ve never specifically talked about my fascination with coffee. When it comes to my favorite drink, coffee meets the criteria. I love drinking coffee regardless of what flavor it is, although I sometimes have a favorite flavor splash when I go to Dunkin for coffee. Hazelnut! Toasted almond! Caramel! No matter the type, I’m game. We don’t have flavor splashes at home, aside from the occasional sugar-free option. I don’t think we’ve had that in awhile, though. At least, it feels that way. I just love spending time with coffee.

But let’s talk about the beginnings of coffee in my life. It started in college, late in life, like most things. When I was in college, a friend of mine who I don’t really talk to any more introduced me to coffee. Prior to this moment, I had tried coffee in my mom’s cup once or twice and hated it. I hated how it dehydrated my mouth immediately upon my tongue touching it, I hated the icky, dry, tasteless feeling of iced coffee. But that changed when I tried hot coffee by myself, for the first time. My friend brought me to the cafeteria between grad school classes and we brewed a very simple, easy-to-make hot coffee from the machine. She taught me how to stir milk, the appropriate amount of milk in coffee, and how to sip coffee when it’s especially hot. Since that moment, I always stopped for coffee at the cafeteria station and filled up as high as it could go.

Some things don’t change from time to time, but other things grow and develop with you, changing like the weather. I like to think that the change I’ve experienced in my life, such as learning to enjoy coffee, is a sign that, with age, life changes just as much as it did when I was young.

#97: The Keurig

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Again, let’s talk about coffee. I’ve talked about this subject enough times on my blog that I think it’s gotten repetitive at this point, but this is centering on a different facet of coffee-drinking: the coffee-making machine. When I am waking up in the morning, the fresh, hot coffee Alex brewed from our fancy Keurig machine lifts me up and keeps me going throughout the long early morning of the work day. Shout out to Alex and her exceptional brewing skills, especially at 4:30am!

The Keurig we have now is fantastic. We got it for Christmas, thanks to Alex’s mom, and its variety of options still blows me away. It has options for literally all kinds of mug sizes, and a screen that changes color and design with the push of a button. As you can probably imagine, I’m easily pleased by these things! But honestly, after looking at the Keurigs at various work environments and offices, this Keurig blows the other ones completely out of the water. It feels like a 21st century invention, if you catch my drift. Like a hoverboard, except for coffee. I use it to prepare coffee at night for Alex and I, and I use it to prepare tea when I’m going to bed, so that I can relax with some nice chamomile sleepytime tea. It prepares every kind of hot or cold beverage you could ever need!

At work, I bring k-cups with me so I can refill my coffee in the office Keurig machine whenever it goes down. Another great resource.

I wish I knew the exact model of this Keurig so I could plug it here. Maybe I’ll go home, look it up, and update this post when I find out the model. Otherwise, just know that this is great!

#91: The Mac

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Mac n cheese is a small wonder of my life. Imagine the creamy, saucy mouthfeel as the hot pasta drips down your throat. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? I’m lactose intolerant, but I still find ways to enjoy mac n cheese, a perennial treat.

So many options to discuss here. Daiya’s dairy-free mac probably saves my stomach more than anything else, and it doesn’t skimp out on deliciousness or enjoyment. Alex and I both share a bowl each when she cooks up some of it. I’m glad we were able to find something enjoyable despite our diet restrictions.

My mom, who reads my blog posts here and is altogether wonderful, makes an irresistible mac n cheese recipe, complete with Velveeta and whatever shape of pasta imaginable. You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve had Alex try it, too, just to make sure she got the chance to experience a family tradition. It’s one of my favorite parts about returning home, whether for a holiday or just in general.

Also recently, I ordered food from a nearby deli called Roasted, which serves great sandwiches but also custom mac n cheese boxes and flavors, in respectable sizes. This was in lieu of going to Corbo’s, the neighboring deli I’ve spoken about in a previous blog post, because they were closed for Super Bowl catering. Their mac did not disappoint! It had one of the best, most authentic cheese sauces I’ve ever tried.

When I visit one of my friends who goes to UConn, I’ll regularly stop at DP Dough, a takeout place that serves custom-made calzones, and order a “Mac Ghatti Zone,” which is a calzone stuffed with mac n cheese, jalapenos, hot sauce, and more cheese. Needless to say, I end up on the toilet afterwards. It’s an inevitable fate that I welcome and accept, given the price I have to pay.

#86: The Coffee Spot

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Coffee. Coffee coffee coffee. Let’s talk about coffee, the caffeinated greatness. I’m drinking coffee right now, enjoying the frothy aroma and its heat in the early morning. Fulfilling the early morning duty of keeping me awake, coffee adds so much to my normal daily routine. Alex wakes up before me and prepares some coffee for me to take to work, which fuels me for the first few hours of the working day. Coffee motivates me to get up out of bed and into a new day.

When we first moved to Stamford, there was a nice place nearby called Coffee Spot, which I visited frequently during the summer for an iced chai latte or a macchiato. I’m pretty basic when it comes to my coffee choices, but I can’t deny flavor when I taste it. I love the gingerbread latte at Starbucks, and I love the caramel macchiato at Dunkin. Like I said, pretty basic overall. Some time in the past two months or so, Coffee Spot shut down and without much fanfare or notice. It just slowly disappeared, like the result of a Thanos snap. One day, Alex said that she walked by the coffee shop and saw the seats and books gone. I thought it was nothing at first, but it turns out it was actually signalling the end of one of my favorite neighborhood spots. I wish I spent more time actually sitting and reading there, instead of just going for a coffee and then dipping quickly. There’s more to the place than meets the eye. Unfortunately, nothing has risen up to replace the spot yet, even though it’s in a prime position for commerce and activity!

It won’t ever come back, but it exists in our memories. Nothing will replace Coffee Break from Quincy, when Alex spent two and a half months living there. It was the perfect place to read and relax inside. Maybe they’ll swoop by and replace it! A man can hope.