This weekend I was very kindly invited to stay with my friends Pen and Clint in Summit, New Jersey. Apart from my quick sojourn over the George Washington Bridge it was the first time that I have left Manhattan since arriving six weeks ago.
On Friday night we went for dinner at Roots in Summit, which is a smart local restaurant. The service is formal, but not stiff. On learning that they brew their own beer we all started with a class of amber.
Rather than serving bread rolls they come round with freshly baked Yorkshire puddings, not at all greasy, and slightly beadier than those we get with roast beef at home. Unlike anything I have seen before, they were innovative and tasty. For main courses we all, unsurprisingly, had steaks that were wheeled to our table on a trolley. Possibly because they are too big to carry!
The steaks were beautifully tender and well seasoned. I had an enormous rib eye, and ridiculously over indulgently, about half of Pen's fillet which she could not finish. A move I have regretted since, as I am still feeling stuffed! All accompanied by a good bottle of zinfandel from an slightly over complicated wine list.
When we left the restaurant I discovered that I had been victim of a crime. Someone had stolen my umbrella! Which was ironic, as when I told a colleague at work that I was going to Jersey for the weekend, the first thing he replied with was that Jersey was full of beautiful little towns that had zero crime. And highly annoying, as it was raining I got wet on the walk home!
On Saturday morning we went for a much anticipated breakfast at the Summit Diner. It was completely different from Roots, but in many ways I enjoyed it a lot more. You can have a great steak anywhere in world, but the true diner experience can only be had in America. Especially New Jersey which is the home of the diner.
The Summit Diner is the stereo typical American experience. From the outside it looks like an old railway carriage. Inside it's small and atmospheric, with booths, stools at the counter, cooks in full view frying on the hot plate, brusk waitresses and chipped crockery.
After extensive research Clint had told me that the best order was corn beef hash with two eggs over easy, which is what we both ordered. To continue the stereo types the portions were hearty and the prices cheap. I enjoyed the hash, although Clint thought it was one of the weaker visits. I suppose diners are also about variation!
Summit Playhouse - Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
In the evening we went to the Summit Playhouse, which is a small and intimate theatre close to Pen and Clint's apartment. The theatre, which has been open since 1918, seats about 100 people. The stage takes up roughly half of the building and is the same size as the seating area. Giving a completely different perspective to any other play I have seen and means that you are very close to the actors.
I was very impressed with the production of A Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Ideal for the small theatre as it doesn't require a large cast or any complicated set changes. The play rotates around three central characters who all have lengthy monologues and I think were very well acted considering it was an amateur production.
The play first opened in 1955 and must have been quite controversial at the time with strong language and overtones of homosexuality.
Sunday: More Food!
The over indulgence continued on Sunday morning. As we headed to Summit's other diner, the Broadway Diner for lunch. It didn't quite have the style of Saturday morning, but did have the crowds with the locals out in force for Mother's Day. For one of the first times since arriving in America I had the will power to not clean my plate. I may yet avoid obesity, but I think it is going to require some concerted action!
On the walk home from the diner we stopped at the Magic Fountain ice cream parlour. I'm not really sure how to describe the Magic Fountain. It's open to 10pm each night, is something of a local hangout and reminded me of Happy Days.
Clint is a great photographer so I took my SLR along for the weekend. It feels rather strange having to wait for a film to be developed and not being able to immediately view your digital photos.