Monday, November 16, 2009

Patty Melt (Revised)

VB has revised this post as a result of a comment by the managing editor of Serious Eats, Adam Kuban.  The Boss Man always says VB is, "Not always right, but never in doubt," (meaning, of course, VB thinks she's a know it all) which, for some odd reason, really fits in here for an explanation too discombobulated to refine.

Apologies to Ed Levine and all the folks at Serious Eats.  Believe VB, she is seriously eating her words and pretty damned embarrassed about this.

VB likes to read food blogs. One of her favorites is called Serious Eats. It's a blog originally started by Mario Batali, Ed Levine (apparently he's been on a diet for quite awhile now). It went defunct for awhile, and then was reborn. It's now an amalgamation of various contributors. VB usually ignores most of the recipes, but was drawn to one in particular.

Recently someone posted a recipe for a Patty Melt. It appears to be based on a recipe from Saveur Magazine, VB's favorite cooking magazine. Anyway, reading this little post, and it's links brought back memories (you know, like those "fond" ones everyone talks about).

VB's parents owned three restaurants, at different times. A woman named Stella worked as a waitress in our first restaurant.  VB practically went through grade school with her, and she even threw VB a birthday party.  See!

We knew her and her family. Stella's husband owned some sort of fancy sports car and would pick her up from work (he always reminded VB of Jackie Gleason).   When VB's parents closed the restaurant (through reasons beyond their control) Stella went to work at a Toddle House. Stella's sister lived a few blocks from our new apartment, in a totally new  (and totally black) neighborhood where VB and her mom moved to (due to circumstances related to the aforementioned loss of the family's first restaurant.) We would visit Sella's sister (who owned a talking bird).  VB would play with the bird, while VB's mom, and Stella's sister drank coffee, catching up on the news (i.e. gossip).

Even though we kept in touch, after VB became an adult and moved away (far, far away) she would continually stop by the Toddle House on Clifton Avenue, to visit Stella.  The Patty Melt was VB's favorite dish there (besides breakfast after a very loopy night - Stella probably knew more about VB than VB's own mother)!    Stella made the perfect Patty Melt.   She could do it with her eyes closed.   At a Toddle House the waitress was also the cook, dishwasher, busboy and manager, particularly at night, which was when Stella worked. She was always good humored and laughed about everything.  And, because of her sense of humor and good nature, she had quite a few regulars.  VB remembers the night she visited to tell Stella that VB's mom had died.  At first it wasn't so funny, but Stella could pick out pieces of the past that reverberated in humor. VB and Stella sat, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes that evening.  VB has a hard time eating when she has a big lump in her throat.  One night VB showed up and was told, by another waitress, that Stella had passed away.  It was a sad evening.

Later, after VB's search for her own mom's past history (another, very lengthy story altogether) Stella's daughter gave VB some photos.  At this point both mothers had passed away.

In remembrance of my visits with Stella at the Toddle House, and her excellence in The Patty Melt, VB presents the following:

(Below): Two very old photos of Stella. The first inside VB's parents' restaurant, and the other outside. The Chinese Laundry next door (run by a real "Chinaman" with a long braid, who spoke extremely broken English, and who fed VB some sort of wonderful broth), where Stella is standing, got axed at the same time as the restaurant (this is what happens when you don't own the building / business, and you have a greedy owner.)

Below: VB's Patty Melt - it's a bit on the thick side.  It was delicious!  That griddle on the new stove The Boss Man bought VB is just short of amazing!  VB almost feels like she's back in the restaurant business all over again.

And, what'll you have?


  1. Hi! Adam Kuban here, managing editor of Serious Eats. Just wanted to make a bit of a correction here. Serious Eats was started by Ed Levine, not Mario Batali. Batali was an early contributor but quickly became too busy to continue writing for us. Additionally, Serious Eats never went defunct. We started in December 2006 and have been publishing continuously since.

    Glad you liked the patty melt recipe. That's one of my favorites, too!

  2. Also: Nice story. I'm even happier that the patty melt recipe brought back these memories for you and that you shared them here. Thank you!