I was ready to do some celebrating today and I have to say that when I saw it was National Eat What You Want Day, I had a moment of excitement. Eat what I want? Anything? Really? According to DaysoftheYear.com, this holiday was actually created by Thomas and Ruth Roy of the now defunct website http://www.wellcat.com as a means to “help people break away from the frustrating health and diet trends of our times, if for only one day, and just let go and enjoy life a little.” It was designed to help people feel alright about having the occasional break from the rigors of their diet which is actually something most nutritionalists will say is ok. Forcing ourselves to eat only low-calorie, tasteless foods for prolonged periods of time is likely to lead to sudden gorges on everything in sight when we are faced with that temptation. This day is intended to make you feel ok about not depriving yourself. But this could also be a dangerous holiday too, especially for someone who lacks self-control, who is not on a low-cal diet and who is trying to make every celebration a big one. I had to be careful today.
As I thought about how I should celebrate today, I initially had the thought about a day of pure overindulgence. Potato Chips for breakfast, candy for lunch, ice cream for dinner – that kind of thing. Then I thought better. First, I’m not an eight year old boy left home alone and if I learned everything from Kevin McAllister it’s that even when you can eat whatever you want, you don’t have to eat whatever you want. But second, eating all that stuff wasn’t that fun. Sure it would have given me a good sugar rush, but from a blogger perspective, there’s not much story there. It’s just simple overeating. That didn’t really capture the essence of the day. No today had to be about eating something I wanted. Something that I have held off on and kept away from. Something I wouldn’t normally eat. That’s when I had an idea.
I pay attention to a lot of food articles and posts, especially local posts. I just keep my eye out to see what’s happening out there and to see if there are any new foods, restaurants or discoveries that deserve attention. I also just like reading about food. It’s interesting to me. So back in the fall, I read about a new restaurant that was opening up in West Kingston, RI (which is near the University of Rhode Island). It was getting some buzz from some of the local bloggers I follow. It was a simple concept – bringing the famous Philly cheesesteak to Rhode Island but with personal style and locally farmed resources. The pictures of their food looked awesome and made me want to try them. I stored that in my memory. A few weeks ago, I happened to go to breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law, and they told me about a new place near their house that I had to try. They said it was incredible and when they started talking to me about it, I realize it was the same place. I knew I had to make the sojourn there at some point to see what the hubbub was all about. Finally, a few weeks ago when Lola was traveling back from Florida, she had a layover in Philadelphia and when she was there, she took time to feast on a genuine Philly cheesesteak. She sent me the picture and I was salivating. She said it was the best sandwich she ever had and naturally I have been craving one ever since. All this was swirling in my head and when I was faced with the dilemma of eating what I wanted, I wanted those cheesesteaks. So for lunch today, we drove across the bridges to South Kingston.
I didn’t think Lola would be interested but I caught her at the perfect time. She was just on the verge of getting hungry, she had just some home from an appointment so she was dressed and ready, and she was game. We were also out to celebrate a little too after the ups and downs of yesterday, so that made the trip a bit more special. The restaurant is called Tilly’s Cheesesteaks. They are in a small brick building right on Route 138 which I have passed by a hundred times in my life. It used to house another restaurant that was family themed and always looked a bit empty. Tilly’s seemed to have found a good use for the place. When you walk inside, you are greeted by a sign that tells you to order at the counter and then they’ll call your number. I appreciate those kind of instructions because not knowing how to proceed in a restaurant always makes you feel uncomfortable. Inside was very clean and had a newness to it all. It had a high ceiling that was filled with a system of wooden beams that brought some character to the place. The walls and floor were hardwood and shiny. It looked comfortable and inviting. Some blues were cranking on the sound system which also added to the atmosphere. Most of the tables were full which was a good sign, especially at 1:30 on a Thursday. We stepped up to the counter. Then started looking at the menu. [Commence drooling.]
They had a specials menu which drew out attention and the first thing we saw was a fried chicken sandwich which was topped with a fried egg, some queso cheese sauce and was served on a grilled donut (an Allie’s Donut no less – a RI legend). Whoa! We needed to try that. Everything on their menu looked awesome and I only wish we could have tried it all. But we managed to control ourselves. We ordered the chicken sandwich and their Tilly’s Philly which is their classic cheesesteak served with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese whiz (which was actually a queso sauce). The girl at the counter asked if we wanted anything to drink. Then I suddenly remembered how my brother had said they had good milkshakes too, so I ordered a coffee milk milkshake and Lola went with a vanilla. Then we grabbed a slew of napkins, found a table and sat down to wait. I was excited like Christmas morning.
The first item to come out was our milkshakes which were freshly made. Mine was topped with whipped cream and also little pieces of dark chocolate that was mixed with toffee and sea salt. I took a nibble of the chocolate and I told Lola she had to try it. She had the same “wow” reaction. That was a pretty good start to this meal. The milkshakes were really good too. Nice and creamy, not too thick, not too thin, with lots of good flavor. Now I couldn’t wait for the food.
When the food came, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it over delivered. The steak was nice and tender and seasoned perfectly. We were worried that the caramelized onions would be too much, but they were actually perfect. They brought in all the delicious flavor of onions, but they were well mixed into the sandwich so you never got a clump of just onions. The cheese sauce was top notch too. Good flavor and not overflowing so you couldn’t eat the sandwich. For the bread, we had a choice of the regular roll, one with sesame seeds or some fried bread like a dough boy. I opted for the regular roll just because I feel you should always go with the original. The fried bread would have been interesting though. The sandwich was served with a pickled gardenia which I really liked, although Lola had no time for that nonsense. That meant I could eat hers. They also came with some tortilla chips that were seasoned with a spice like cajun seasoning. They were surprisingly delicious. Lola likened them to homemade Cool Ranch Doritos. A definite plus. I cut the sandwich in half and gave it to Lola in exchange for half of her chicken sandwich. Sharing is always fun.
This was messy, but so worth it. Let me walk you through what’s going on here. The chicken is your typical fried chicken although not really because it’s hand battered in a buttermilk batter and full of great seasoning. It was cooked perfect so the skin was nice and crusty while the inside was most and delicious. It was topped with a perfectly fried egg which started to ooze yolk all over the sandwich delivering that creamy goodness throughout. It was also topped with a queso sauce which brought another level of creamy, delicious cheese to the party. There were some scallions on there too which seemed trivial, but actually delivered a nice fresh onion taste to it all. The bun was a glazed donut that was cut in half, grilled on the flat side and then served inverted so your hands wouldn’t grab the sticky glaze. Like I said, the donut was from Allie’s and they make a great glazed donut. When you grilled the donut, the texture got a little firmer which made it easier to use as a bun. However it also changed the taste by bringing out that warm sweetness giving it a pancake or waffle-like taste. Then I realized that we were eating Tilly’s take on chicken and waffles. Well played, sir. Unbelievably good.
We muscled our way through it all. So good but now our bellies were full. We bid adieu to Tilly’s with the promise to come back again (it could become a regular stop now) and made our way back home. A food-induced coma was settling in fast and I’m kind of amazed we didn’t have to pull over and nap on the way home. We made it however and when we got home, we were still tired, so we took a minute to see how comfortable our couch was and took a little snooze. This is the true pain of eating whatever you want. After about 30 minutes, we both got up and tried to get back to normal. I went outside to mow the lawn and Lola stayed inside to finish some work. Moving up and down the lawn was not easy and I could start to feel some of the cheesesteak sweating out my pores. We were still so full. Later in the day, after the moon had risen, we both were in no mood for a big dinner. Instead we opted for a couple of bowls of cereal which in retrospect, was a pretty good way to end an Eat What You Want kind of day. Sometimes cereal is the answer.
If you follow this blog, you’re probably thinking does this guy really need a day to eat what he wants? He seems to be doing ok in regards to eating a variety of good things. Yes, that’s true. But that’s why I decided to celebrate today at a spot I have been thinking about for a long time. On a day I could eat what I wanted, I listened to that voice within my head that convinced me going to the place I had been craving would be the way to go. On our trip home, Lola said that our quest has once again taken us on a special little field trip and helped us discover a great new spot. That’s worth something. I probably would have gotten to Tilly’s eventually, but the quest was what drove us there today. It made this holiday, which could be interpreted in so many different ways, something special. It was worth celebrating. It wasn’t our typical Thursday and we allowed ourselves to go seek out one of my secret desires. That’s eating what you want. And if it just happens to be topped in some queso sauce, well that’s just an added bonus.
Next up: National Nutty Fudge Day