So my faithful readers, you may remember a few weeks back when I had this nifty contest asking What Would YOU Wisp for? I ran the numbers through Random.org and Corinne, with this comment, was the lucky winner. It was a little awkward making plans to have lunch with someone with whom I’d not spoken more than a few words in the past, but I brushed past that. After all, I’ve met lots of people through this wonderful thing called the internet. How bad could it be?
Given that I arrived a few minutes late (okay, 15) and Corinne was a little early, I felt horrible as I rushed into Grand Sichuan on St. Mark’s Place, but Corinne managed to not seem annoyed at all… which helped ensure we were off to a good start. (Well, it was terrible that I was late, and I apologized profusely, but it’s a testament to how laidback Corinne turned out to be as she didn’t seem in the slightest bit put out by my lateness.) We took a few minutes chatting and browsing the menu before finally settling on a bunch of dishes.
First up, pork & crab soup dumplings! I tried to teach Corinne how to eat these, the method taught to me by my grandfather when I was young, but I don’t think I did a good job of it myself. He told me to poke a hole in the top to make a ‘chimney’ for steam to escape, then spoon a little of the black vinegar that accompanies these into it to help cool it down. A minute later, you shove the whole thing into your mouth and slurp it down.
Okay, that’s a lie. Or a really poor memory of what he must have said to do next, because I know for a fact that my grandfather, rest his soul, would keel over – or slap me in the back of my head – if he saw me that day, shoving an entire soup dumpling in my mouth and trying to chew it. Oops.
In any case, I bit the top off, let it cool a little, and put some vinegar in there to cool it down, then shoved the whole thing in my mouth. I managed to lose a little broth in the process, but it still wound up being delicious. Yum! I will say that I thought these were Shanghainese (okay, that’s another lie, I KNOW they’re Shanghainese), but this Sichuan place did them pretty well. The skin could be thinner, but the insides were perfectly tender and juicy. Corinne gamely followed suit, and I caught a photo of her doing so… but I promised I wouldn’t post it 😉
Next was a dish that everyone seems to order at Sichuan places: twice cooked pork belly with leeks. Oddly enough, this came and had a few slices of potatoes in there. I thought it was waterchestnut until I bit into it. It wasn’t bad, per se, but I wasn’t expecting it. This dish was slightly spicy, but eating it with rice took care of the heat easily.
Next was the cumin beef, which I’d enjoyed a lot the last time I’d been to this Grand Sichuan. The beef was heavily seasoned with cumin (thus the name, genius right?), but the texture is nothing short of amazing; soft, so soft I am pretty sure that were I completely toothless and trying to gum on these morsels of meat, I would be able to break them up. Hmm, maybe that wasn’t an appealing description… but trust that I really enjoyed this dish again.
To get our veggies in (TT would be so proud), we ordered some bok choi cooked simply with garlic. Corinne snuck her chopsticks into the shot; I think she was tired of me taking pictures of food before letting her dig in 😉 This was cooked perfectly – still crisp, and the almost sweet veggie held up well against the savory and spicy dishes.
After eating all the lovely food, we walked out into the world, ready to bid adieu to each other as we continued on with our lives. Then brilliantly, she remembered what I’d mentioned in my email but hadn’t mentioned in the contest post: I needed pictures of us Wisping! See, eating stinky (garlic, cumin, etc.) food but then going on to hang out with other people, it’s only polite to freshen up. Wisp is so convenient in their little foil packs that you can just whip it out on the street, Wisp away, and not too many people will think you’re weird. Unless you have a stylishly dressed man aiming a semi-professional-looking camera at you while you’re doing it, which is how it happened for us. I have to say, having now used a fair number of Wisps in the past few weeks, they do an excellent job of freshening your mouth – my mouth tingled for a long time afterwards and I didn’t worry about having cumin or garlic breath as I shopped for a demitasse cup (you’ll see why in Beer Boor’s afternoon post today). (Fishs Eddy had an adorable one with landmark NYC buildings/bridges but for $13.95 for a single cup & saucer, I had to pass.) The only thing to keep in mind is that you may want to spit out the residue – I’m sure you can swallow it with no harm to you! but I prefer not to – so I had to run across the street to the nearest trash can to do so. In any case, thank you again to Corinne for being such a good sport and taking plenty of pictures with me Wisping in the middle of 2nd Avenue!!! I had such a fun time at lunch – conversation topics ranged wildly from, of course, food to so many other things far, far away (surgery in Thailand? Don’t mind if I do…). We will definitely dine again!
Before I forget, she also presented me with the loveliest of gifts – a jar of Fat Toad Farm (what a great name!) goat milk caramel (think cajeta). Oh em gee. I had some for the first time tonight (and you may be seeing it here soon ;)) and holy badoodies!!! I want to eat the entire jar in one sitting, but I really don’t think that’s a good idea. How sweet is that??? Adore!!! Especially because now I am going to buy lots of apples just so I have things I can dip into it and pretend to be healthy (instead of spreading it on toast every morning like I’d like to).
Thanks again to Wisp for sponsoring this contest and treating me to lunch with a reader – I had such a good time!
Please note that yes, this review was my own opinion; positive editorial cannot be purchased. Grand Sichuan had no idea that Corinne and I were eating on Wisp’s dime, and in fact, their service was more than a bit brusque (though I consider that par for the course at most Chinese restaurants, so at least they keep that authentic here!). I do want to thank Wisp for this awesome opportunity to meet a very cool Feisty Foodie reader again! Had a great time!