Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes it's tough to be a snob


I'm a snob of sorts.

Take coffee.  I use filtered water, a French press and I grind beans that are kept frozen until used.  For the most part, I don’t order coffee in restaurants because it’s not all that good, though that is changing. 

Then there are hot dogs.  Atlanta is a hot dog desert; and, don’t talk to me about The Varsity.  You can’t get a decent New York or Detroit Coney here.  None of the LA dog places have set up shop here.  Even if you were to reduce your standards and want a Chicago or Cincinnati dog, they aren’t to be found.  Barker’s up in Cobb County is about it for quality around here.

Here I’ll get in trouble; but, you’d think that here in the heart of the South, in the city burned down by a Union General over a hundred and fifty years ago (where in some circles you are looked at disapprovingly if you mention his name), you could get a good glass of iced tea.  But you can’t.

Some nomenclature is in order.  “Tea” isn’t the stuff you put in the water to make the drink.  Tea is the drink.  If you ask for Tea in a restaurant, you get sweet tea:  a jaw wincing mixture of a bit of vegetation boiled with a ton of sugar then poured over ice.   (I really don’t know how Tea is made other that a bunch of sugar is dissolved in a bunch of water.  I’ve never actually seen tea put in.) Think iced sugar water with a hint of another flavor that you can’t quite identify and you’ve got a handle on Tea.

If you don’t want the sugary concoction you have to add an adjective – unsweet.  Even in an Oriental restaurant, you have to put green or hot in front to get what you want.

I don’t really know why everyone in Atlanta serves weak tea.  Maybe it’s a result of the realization that it doesn’t make sense to waste money on leaves when all you’re going to taste anyway is sugar, with a carry over to making unsweet tea.  Whatever the reason, strongly flavored tea is a rare thing. 

Best glass of tea in town?  A kosher deli – Bagel Palace in Toco Hills.  Maybe the cook is a culinary refugee, unexposed to the horror of Tea.  But, what do I know – after decades down here, I’m still a Yankee to most.

9 comments:

Thomas said...

I'm a snob on two things: hot tea (I get all mine from Upton Tea), and mustard (I'll only use Inglehoffer's).

Dave said...

I'm more eclectic with mustard - it depends what it's going on. Plain old yellow is ok for a ham sandwich or hot dog. You need something with more kick for sausage or brats.

Dave said...

I just took a look at the Upton site. Maybe it's time to brew some tea.

Big Mark 243 said...

I think that I can be snobbish when it comes to music. As far as tea and coffee goes, it doesn't matter.

But Dave, for you, I will go downtown and eat a Coney dog. Is Lafayette good enough or do you have preference for American Coneys??

Dave said...

Don't know Mark. When I was a kid, we always went to the one on the left as you faced them from the sidewalk. American? I vaguely remember that they were run by the same people back then, though I could be wrong. I do remember that if it was slow they both would try to keep you from going to the other one, "we are much better, you won't like them."

Bill the Engineer said...

I had the best "unsweet" iced tea last weekend at Groucho's Deli in Columbia S.C. Groucho's is an authentic deli opened in 1941 from Jewish Penn. transplants. Sounds like a trend.

Sonja's Mom said...

I love good Ice Tea. I take mine with lemon - just a personal preference. Several years ago I bought a Mr Coffee Ice Tea maker so I can make it any way I want. It works great. Most tea you get in restaurants is the instant stuff with the bitter after taste so I never order tea out. Unfortunately, people with ulcers can't have Ice Tea so it's been a while.

Dave said...

I forgot about Snapple Peach, good stuff.

fermicat said...

I think that part of the reason iced tea is weak is that if it is fresh, it melts the ice as you pour and is instantly weaker for it. Lemon and sugar can help, but making it correctly (i.e. very strong) is the best solution.

I am a tea snob when it comes to hot tea, but wouldn't waste something high quality to make iced.