Sandwiches aside, some of the best food I've ever eaten (a great little Food Network show, by the way) was in restaurants in the US. From the superb garlic fries at the Federal in Durham, NC, to the deep fried oysters at Le Bistro in Roanoke, VA (which sadly seems no longer to be open), to the best ice cream in the world at Pop's Ice Cream and Soda Bar and the most inventive and delicious smoothies at Elderberry's both also in Roanoke, to the most exquisite (and probably expensive) five star food at the Georgian Room at Sea Island, GA, to the cheesiest, deepest and fullest pizzas at Paxti's in Palo Alto, CA, to the most authentic (apparently) burritos in the whole of San Francisco at El Metate in the Mission, to the most deliciously smooth, swirly frozen yoghurt with fruit and chocolate at Pinkberry, and the juiciest, most succulent steak with perfect potato mash and asparagus at Navio at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, CA. There were so many other stunning meals I ate that I can't write them all down because I'd be here too long and you, dear reader, would fall asleep.
So eating out is one thing, but eating in is also another experience that I miss and in fact my heart skips a beat when I think about the cooking I used to do in the US. Partly because I had a lot of time on my hands, but partly also because the variety of food you can buy is so amazing, I actually loved trying out new recipes and different types of vegetables that if you asked for in Sainsbury's you'd get a very blank look as the response (I imagine asking for a spaghetti squash would probably end you up in the pasta or juices aisle over here). I spent a lot of time watching Food Network. Ina, Paula, Giada, Tyler, Bobby, Guy and the Neeleys became my friends who would keep me company during the day whilst my ex other half was working long hours at the hospital. This was the time I discovered Bakerella's Red Velvet Cake Balls which became a staple, now sadly missed due to the UK's lack of chocolate bark, and heirloom tomatoes which make a caprese salad infinitely more interesting with a depth of flavours and colours unattainable with your standard plum tomato over here.
An heirloom caprese I knocked up for lunch one day.
Yams, yams EVERYWHERE!
Heirloom tomatoes. Aisles of them. Rainbows of them.
Peaches, plums and apricots - this made me want to try one of each.
Rows and rows of shiny, colourful fruit.
And to compare with the UK:
Waitrose's entire salad offering, wrapped in unnecessary plastic.
The potato offering. Only one yam in sight.
Now, bananas - bananas we do well. Except, they're of two types: Fair Trade and Organic.
It's not even as if the Berkeley Bowl is unusual in its presentation of its goods - pretty much every store I shopped in had its fruit and veg as beautifully laid out. I don't want this to seem like I am anti-British - I love being in the UK and wouldn't change that for the world right now. And we do cheese so well over here - I couldn't take the lack of decent cheese in the US: plastic is just not cheese as far as I'm concerned. But, the Americans do fresh food and restaurant food ('gourmet' as they often call it) very well and I really think we Brits could take a plum out of their tree.