My favorite comfort food? Cheese blintzes. Soft creamy cheese rolled in a hot crepe and gently browned in butter served with fruit preserves. Yum.
I think I first came upon them at a cheese store in Berkeley in the late 1970s. I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into, but I bought them home, tried them and it was love at first bite.
Later, I found them at a deluxe breakfast buffet at the classiest place in San Francisco -- the Garden Court in the Palace Court Hotel. The huge elegant room with the stained-glass ceiling used to be the horse-drawn carriage entrance to the hotel. Later it was enclosed and became the most beautiful dining room in The City. The tables were set with white tablecloths, gleaming silver, white china. Green potted plants stood in every corner.
Breakfasts are the most economical meal to eat out so on my many trips to San Francisco I always visited this morning buffet. I took many friends and relatives there over the years but the most satisfying experience I had was directing a stranger to have a meal there.
It happened like this: I was in The City for the weekend visiting friends, but I had some time to kill before meeting them. I decided to go on a walking tour of the public gardens hidden in the tall downtown buildings. One of the gardens overlooked the Palace Court. I pointed to it and I told the young woman standing next to me that the best breakfast in the most beautiful dining room was located right there.
The next day I got an email from her in a state of high excitement -- she had taken her boyfriend to the buffet and the experience – the food and the room – had exceeded all my promises. It's rare that someone actually follows your advice and I was happy to have steered her in the right direction. I wonder if she tried the blintzes.
I managed to find frozen blintzes in all the local grocery stores in my hometown of Davis, Calif., and never suffered withdrawal -- until I moved to Colorado. Suddenly, I couldn't find fresh or frozen blintzes anywhere. It seemed that no grocery store in the Front Range carried them. I tried special orders and it just didn't work. Yes, blintzes are easy to make and I fully intend on making my own ... someday.
But in the meantime I was suffering and I didn't want to spend a lot of money ordering frozen blintzes on line until I was desperate. Last week, I became desperate.
It turns out that Food Service Direct was willing to sell me 144 frozen blintzes (packed in dry ice) at just a little less than a dollar each and that UPS was willing to deliver them.
I wanted to say no. But our kitchen is being remodeled and there is no room to cook. If I could manage to find my electric skillet I could saute six or more in one go and put the rest in the freezer. I could always tell my husband that I was squirreling away frozen desserts so I could use them for the many potlucks we go to. So I placed the order.
When it got here, my husband was the first to unpack the box. Holding the packing slip in his hand he asked: "Why did you order 144 blintzes at a dollar each?"
It was a piercing question.
I could only say: "Because I needed them."
We had just returned from a trip to New Orleans where we had the best food in the world and some of the worst but very little French food and no crepes. They have something called a crepe pancake which is just a heavy, doughy pancake.
Believe it or not, we went to a coffee house one morning and I could find NOTHING on the menu to eat. This place offered, for instance, a kale, sweet potato and brown rice turnover. For breakfast. No beignets. No crepes.
Also, I should say that the last time I visited San Francisco, the gorgeous dining room at the Palace Court had been divided up into different spaces and was very unwelcoming and unattractive.
Really, I felt I had no choice but to order those blintzes. I was so happy when they were delivered that I got out my skillet, cooked up eight, gave my husband two and happily, happily ate six with a small side of cold multi-fruit preserves.
It was divine. The hot butter-soaked crepe held the soft and creamy filling together augmented with bites of the cold sweet preserve.
"Oh, my God! Aren't these great?"
"They are not my favorite," he said.
Good. I am delighted now more than ever because each of the 132 left will be all for me. None are going to potlucks. None are going to my husband. I will have something to turn to in times of stress, on cold rainy days, on dark nights.
That's why they call it comfort food.
-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at email@example.com
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