Grocery List: February 23, 2014 (An Ode to Altoids and a Raw Oyster)

list022314There was a period of time where I didn’t leave the house without my wallet, keys, phone and a tin of Altoids. For about 7 or 8 years, there was always a tin of the peppermint-flavored mints in my pocket, on my desk, at my press row seat in the Carrier Dome, or atop the kitchen counter. It got to the point where you could hear me walking down a hallway, not by my lumbering footsteps, but by the rattling candy-on-metal noise that came from my pocket. One year for our office Secret Santa at SU, a student intern bought me a Sam’s Club-sized box of them.

The supply lasted less than six weeks.

Then, out of nowhere, I stopped buying them. With a seeming flip of a switch, I stopped carrying them around, making noise and obsessively eating them.

Two weeks ago in New Orleans, one of my colleagues dug into her purse and emerged with a tin of wintergreen Altoids in hand. After plunking one into her mouth, she offered one to me. I accepted. It was like seeing an old friend after years of being apart. The cool wintergreen, followed by the immediate sting of the “curiously strong” mint, and then the feeling of it melting on my tongue. Smell may be our greatest memory trigger, but I didn’t need it. I remembered exactly why I loved these damn things.

During the break, I went to the hotel sundry shop and bought two tins. They were gone by the time our plane landed in Syracuse a couple of days later.

I dare say that I’m back on the Altoids train.


BIG news around these parts, or at least for those of us who know Phil LaBella. He and his wife are in New Orleans and went to Peche on my recommendation. In what can only be described as a monumental achievement, Phil — a finicky eater who would subsist on chicken parm if he could — ate a raw oyster. We here at Al Dente HQ salute Phil for breaking out of his comfort zone and going for some heaven on the half shell.

Also of note is Syracuse’s Downtown Dining Week. The 2014 edition is underway and runs through March 1. Most of the restaurants in Syracuse offer three courses — an app, dinner and dessert, usually — for $25. We ended up taking in two dining week participants on Friday evening: 317 at Montgomery and Bittersweet. The first is a sort-of-new entry in the local dining arena. The latter is a favorite of the The Wife and mine. We ordinarily skip dessert wherever we are and find ourselves at the bar for their menu of cakes, baked goods and wine. Their dining week special was a glass of wine or beer plus a dessert for $10, or those two plus a panini or salad for $18.

Friday evening marked the last time that The Wife and I will venture out alone for dinner until April. The In-Laws make their annual monthlong migration to Myrtle Beach. I wish I could tell you that our last dinner out for a while was a successful and enjoyable one. At least Bittersweet was good. More on that tomorrow.


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