Is It Something in the Water?
Countless New Yorkers insist the secret to perfect pizza and beautiful bagels lies in our H20. Others say it’s simply technique. One ex-Brooklynite seeks a definitive answer.
It was well after midnight one weekend a couple of springs ago when I reintroduced myself to the Jumbo Slice. There’s a two-or-so-hour window before the bars close in Washington D.C., when decision-making levels dim and food choices are limited. I’d seen the chain's chessboard-sized pizza boxes littered around my new neighborhood early on weekend mornings, and I’d sampled the gigantic slices during trips into the District in college. It was a good choice then; it seemed like a great choice now. In times like these, it’s hard to go wrong with bread, sauce and melted cheese.
It wasn’t until months later that I made a disastrous misstep: I ordered a Jumbo Slice during daylight hours. You see, this specific delicacy has a very limited shelf life. The D.C. Jumbo pizza slice is the culinary equivalent of a drunken vampire. It can only be enjoyed during very specific evening hours, say from about midnight to four a.m. depending on the circumstances. Its full “flavors” only come out if you first prepare your palate with an appetizer of various cocktails. I made it about three bites into the crust — which tasted like one of those ropes that’s already been climbed by scores of sweaty gym class kids — before tossing the slice. I vowed to never make such an amateur lunch decision again and went off in search of real nourishment.
The worst part about living elsewhere after living in New York is that some things just don’t taste the same. It’s not just that you can’t find a basement Japanese restaurant grilling beef tongue at three a.m. on a Friday morning, or a Mexican bodega cranking out fresh goat tacos in a back room just before the bars let out. It’s that even standard New York City fare like pizza and bagels just doesn’t seem to ever taste as good beyond the boroughs.
Take D.C., for example, where I relocated from Brooklyn more than two years ago. Last summer the District was aflutter in the run-up to the release of This Town, Mark Leibovich’s inside look at the Capitol Hill politico set and all of the backstabbing, salaciousness and douchebaggery that largely defines it. In a New York Times review of the book, David M. Shribman opened not with sanctimonious hand-wringing over the influence peddling, power grabbing and Congressional circle jerking described in the book, but instead with a one-two punch that includes a stiff jab at D.C.’s low-end culinary chops:
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