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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by leaving comments on posts and by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. To date, more than a quarter million people have viewed the blog and that's great. But every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Restaurant Review: Coppola's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Mt. Airy, NC

Best Pizza and Italian Food in ... Mayberry?

Words you never heard spoken on The Andy Griffith Show: “Hey, Barn. Let's skip the diner tonight. Grab Thelma Lou and we'll go get somethin' Eye-talian.” And yet, if you happen to be on Andy Griffith Parkway in his hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina – the town upon which aspects of Mayberry were modeled – you can, indeed, do just that.

Coppola's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant is not located in the touristy downtown part of Mt. Airy, where the Bluebird Diner, the Snappy Lunch, Barney's, Leon's and a number of other real or imagined Mayberry eateries are located. It's out on the highway (actually the intersection of US Highways 52 and 601) sandwiched into a strip mall anchored by a Food Lion on one end and a Lowe's on the other. It's where the real locals go.

The place racked up some good mentions on the online review sites that I generally avoid like the plague because they are largely populated by palate-numbed wannabes who wouldn't know authentic Italian food if it were dumped in their laps. But some of our friends had eaten there and gave it a mixed review. So, naturally, I had to go.

My wife and I went for lunch on a mid-week afternoon just past the peak of service. Nothing derogatory or exciting about the décor and overall ambiance. It's a typical Italian-American theme, complete with Italian pictures on the walls and Italian music playing through the sound system. But it's very open, welcoming, and clean. (On a side note, the health inspectors in this part of the Tarheel State must be really tough; I've not yet encountered a place rated higher than 97, which is the rating posted for Coppola's.)

The four page menu was quite extensive, but the third item from the top on the left-hand column of the first page almost caused me to head for the door. “Brushetta.” A-a-a-ar-r-rggggh! It's not bad enough when people say it that way, but, mio Dio, do they actually have to spell it like that!!? And that was so weird because everyplace else on the menu were wonderfully correct Italian dishes like Rigatoni Arrabbiata and Rigatoni Puttanesca and Linguini Pescatore – “brushetta” sticks out like a very sore thumb.

Anyway, service was prompt. A gentleman who did not offer his name was very friendly and helpful withal. My wife had previously perused a menu posted on one of the aforementioned online sites and had decided on the Shrimp Parmigiana, listed thereupon as a house specialty. Well....it's not on the actual menu anymore; another reason to be wary of the online sites. Our solicitous waiter attempted to see if the kitchen could whip one up, but, alas, there were no shrimp to be found. Rather than wait for the next truck, my wife considered ordering her standard Baked Ziti, but ultimately decided on the Meat Ravioli with a House Salad and Gorgonzola dressing.

I, of course, went straight for a pizza, my personal litmus test for anyplace that posts “Pizzeria” above the door. Coppola's boasts “New York Style Pizza” in large letters. They offer a Neopolitan Round and Thin and a Sicilian that is square and thick. They feature the usual butcher shop and vegetable garden ingredients with which most Americans overload their pizza, but I always like to go for the basic, classic pizza. If you put more than sauce, cheese, and maybe one or two toppings on a pizza, you've created a glaring mish-mash of flavors that overpower one another and destroy the basic concept of what a pizza is supposed to be. I topped my simple cheese Neopolitan with a little ham, prosciutto or pancetta not being options.

My wife's salad arrived. A very basic salad of lettuce, shredded carrots, slices of cucumber and tomato. Curiously senza formaggio, but a nice salad nonetheless. The dressing gave her a brief pause; she had expected the usual creamy Gorgonzola, but was instead presented with something that resembled a vinaigrette. Closer examination of the menu disclosed that it was, indeed, a Gorgonzola Vinaigrette. But she pronounced it good. She also heaped praise on her Meat Ravioli. A generous portion of filled pasta in a flavorful tomato sauce topped with a lavish supply of good, stretchy mozzarella.

In case you weren't aware, one of the principal ways to judge good mozzarella is by a stretch test, the simplest form of which involves nothing more than a fork. You just get a good lump of melted mozzarella on your fork and lift vertically. The cheese should string out for quite some distance before breaking. The longer the strings, the better the cheese. (A good cheese can stretch to eleven or twelve inches.)

But we digress. The tomato sauce was smooth and lovely with a fulsome tomato flavor not masked by an overabundance of herbs, spices, and seasonings. We were assured that it is fatta in casa (made in house).

My wife was quite impressed by the warm bread that accompanied her meal. I sampled it and found it to be very good for a commercially produced frozen and reheated product. The waiter confirmed my assessment of the bread, which left my wife wondering, “How could you tell?” To which query I merely smiled inscrutably. “I just can.” But the crust was nicely crisp and crunchy over a soft crumb that had a hole pattern and an overall texture that was reasonably characteristic of homemade.

The pizza was quite good. The crust was pretty darn close to the perfect Neopolitan model of being thin and crispy on the outside with a slight chewiness on the inside. I could discern that it was baked in a gas-fired oven rather than one that was fueled by wood or coal, but at least it didn't come off some contemptible conveyor belt like so many American pizzas do. It, too, was perfectly topped with the same delectable sauce and stretchy cheese that covered the ravioli dish. The thin sliced ham, although nothing wildly exotic, added a nice flavor element to a pizza that was well above the Italian-American pizzeria norm.

When asked, our server cited the Baked Ziti as one the restaurant's top sellers. (Causing my wife to roll her eyes, but she was still quite satisfied with her alternate selection.) Besides pizza and pasta, Coppola's features a number of classic Italian-American seafood, chicken, veal, and vegetable dishes as well as a variety of sandwiches.

The restaurant has a tempting dessert menu full of things like Chocolate Decadence Torte, Turtle Truffle Mousse, and the standards Tiramisu and Cannoli.

For a small place in a small town, an adequate wine menu is available as are a selection of domestic and imported beers.

Prices are very reasonable, parking is plentiful, and dress is casual. No reservations required or accepted. Coppola's is open 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday, 11 to 11 on Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 10 on Sunday.

Word of caution: for some reason unknown to any of the employees I asked, Coppola's address is listed incorrectly on most websites and even in the local telephone book. They are not at 1044 Old US Hwy 52 S. They are at 692 S. Andy Griffith Parkway, Ste 107, Mt. Airy NC 27030. The phone number, at least, is correct in these sources – (336) 789-8341.

Also, it should be noted that the Mt. Airy Coppola's is not affiliated with any of the other area establishments of the same name. “It's just a popular name, I guess,” was the best explanation I could get. I suppose so. After all, Francis Ford Coppola has done quite well with it for many years.

Bottom line, if you're looking for good Italian-American fare and if you want to eat where Andy and Barney and Aunt Bee and Opie and Floyd and all the rest would probably eat in the Mt. Airy/Mayberry area, Coppola's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant is a very good choice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fabio Viviani and "Chow Ciao"

For somebody who gets around as much as I sometimes do, eating in Italian restaurants all over the place and writing about food and travel, it still seems as if I don't get out much. That was my first thought when I heard that Yahoo! was launching Chow Ciao!, an online Italian cooking series featuring Chef Fabio Viviani. Who?

At first glance, Fabio's résumé would seem to indicate that he has made a career of losing. Let's see......according to Wikipedia, he's William Shatner's personal chef. For that, I offer him both my admiration and my condolences. Wiki also says he shills for San Pelligrino water, among other companies. But he lost when he competed on Top Chef, he lost again on Top Chef: All Stars, and after Bravo announced it was going to give him his own show, the network did a sudden about-face and dropped the project before it even started.

But to be fair, Fabio did make the final four and he was voted a fan favorite when he competed on Top Chef and after watching his cooking demos on Yahoo!, it's easy to see why. The guy is fun, informative, and very likeable. He packs more into five or six minutes online than many of his peers accomplish on their thirty-minute TV shows. And he's really Italian. Although a naturalized US citizen, he retains an accent that firmly establishes his Florentine roots. You know, the letter “y” does not exist in the Italian alphabet, and it doesn't exist in Fabio's pronunciation of “yeast,” either. But his presentation is so infectiously high-spirited and fun that you just don't care! The producers of his segments throw in little “translation balloons” when needed. After you watch him for five minutes, you just want to go out and cook something Italian.

Content-wise, Fabio sticks closely to the basics of Italian cooking – fresh, simple, uncomplicated food that tastes delicious. Generally good information, good technique, and entertaining presentations. What more could you want?

As of this writing, he's done five segments of Chow Ciao! for Yahoo! Through demos on olive oil and Caprese salad, Italian meatballs, pasta, tomatoes, and pizza, I can only find one thing with which I significantly disagree and that's his information on olive oil. Probably because he's on Bertolli's payroll, Fabio promotes “light” olive oil. Folks, so-called “light” olive oil barely qualifies as olive oil. There's no actual classification for it and it's largely a marketing gimmick. Made from the leftovers of extra-virgin and virgin olive oil production, it has to be mechanically, thermally, and/or chemically refined to even be deemed fit for consumption. Colorless and tasteless, it is usually blended with vegetable and/or canola oil. Its only value is as a frying oil because of its relatively higher smoke point. You could make your own “light” olive oil by putting a drop of extra-virgin oil in a quart of canola. Tastewise, the effect would be about the same. But, as noted, Fabio represents Bertolli and Bertolli makes “light” olive oil for the American market, so......

Like any modern force of nature, Fabio also has his own website, blog, and even an iPhone app. He has an e-book that he promotes on his site and cookbooks are in the works.

Yahoo! introduces new episodes of Chow Ciao! every Monday morning. You can find them at http://screen.yahoo.com/women/chow-ciao/. And, BTW, Yahoo!, I'm a little offended by the apparent relegation of Fabio's content to the “women's interest” section. But that's a fight for another day.

Check out past episodes at the link I've provided and stay tuned for more next Monday. Fabio Viviani and Chow Ciao! are easy addictions to acquire.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Me

Why are people ashamed of grilled cheese sandwiches? Why is it that they are so often relegated to the kiddie menu? Granted, I first started eating grilled cheese when I was a kid. But it's still a favorite of mine and at times I resent having to order from the kid's menu like some kind of culinary social outcast. “Look at that poor man! With all our double-decker Angus beef burgers and triple-decker turkey and chicken and ham sandwiches, all served with a veritable vegetable garden of toppings to choose from, he orders a grilled cheese!” Yeah, so what?

Let me give you a little backstory.

Growing up, I was the poster boy for extremely picky eaters. I had an uncle who predicted that, because of my ridiculous diet, I'd be dead before I turned eighteen. (I have, by the way, outlived that uncle.) But he could have been right. Until I was about ten years old, the only thing I would ever eat in a restaurant was French fries and a either a Coke or a chocolate malt. That's it. Period. No exceptions.

Oh, I'd eat other things at home, of course, and one of my favorite things to eat was cheese. A slice of good old plastic, processed American cheese would make me the happiest kid on the block.

It was my grandmother who started expanding my diet by applying simple logic to my unusual eating habits. And the first expansion supplied by that logic was a grilled cheese sandwich. “You like cheese, don't you?” “Yes, Grandma.” “And you like toast, right?” “Yes, Grandma.” “Well, why don't we try putting the two of them together and see how you like that.” Damn, she was good! And so was that first grilled cheese. I've been hooked ever since.

Now, I can't say that grilled cheese sandwiches are always among the ranks of kiddie fare. Cracker Barrel, for instance, has a killer grilled cheese – made with cheddar cheese on sourdough bread – right there on their regular menu. But most mainstream restaurants either put them at the end of the regular menu in fine print – like they're hiding them – or they list them on the kid's menu. Believe it or not, I was once refused a grilled cheese at a chain family-style restaurant because they were only served to those “12 and under.”

There are a few innovative restaurateurs who have developed eateries dedicated solely to the humble grilled cheese – although many of their creations are far from humble and, in my opinion, far from being grilled cheese. These offerings are euphemistically referred to as “adult” grilled cheese or “gourmet” grilled cheese.

All well and good, but a grilled cheese sandwich, made the way God intended it to be made, should consist of three elements; bread, butter, and cheese. The bread should be plain white bread. Put a slice or two of cheese on a lightly buttered slice of bread. Top with another lightly buttered slice of bread. Lightly butter the outside surfaces and put the whole assembly on a flat-top grill or in a flat-bottomed pan where you will toast it to golden brown, melted perfection. Ta-dah! That's a grilled cheese!

But when you start adding roasted vegetables and exotic condiments and unusual breads – well, you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I guess it's just because I like my sandwiches simple. They look at me funny at Subway because when I ask for a ham and cheese sandwich, that's what I want; ham and cheese. No onions, olives, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, cole slaw, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, vinegar, or any of the dozens of other extras they offer. Ham and cheese. On bread. That's it.

So it should be with grilled cheese. I mean, what does the name imply? A cheese sandwich on a grill, right? There's nothing in there about sundried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. If I wanted those things I'd ask for a roasted red pepper and sundried tomato sandwich with cheese.

Here are a few selections I found masquerading as grilled cheeses on a “gourmet” menu: Grilled Cheese with Butternut Squash, Onions, and Balsamic Syrup. How about a grilled cheese made with goat cheese, spinach and mustard? Or one with russet apples and gouda? Or brie and pears with red onions and arugula?

Thank you, no.

We all know the story about John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and his contribution to culinary history. And did he ask for two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun? No. He asked for a piece of meat between two slices of bread. Simplicity. And that's what a grilled cheese should be; a slice of cheese between two pieces of bread. Toasted.

Now, cheese on bread has been around for about as long as there has been cheese and bread. You can find references to cooked bread and cheese in ancient Roman cookbooks. But it wasn't until the early 20th century that the combination we now know as “grilled cheese” really came into fashion.

Prior to the 1920s, if you wanted to fix yourself something as basic as a grilled cheese sandwich, you had to work for it. First you had to build a fire in the stove. Then you had to haul out a chunk of cheese and a loaf of bread from the pantry and cut slices from both. Then you had to bring out the heavy artillery, aka the cast-iron pan. It was all very labor intensive. Progress, in the form of gas and/or electric stoves that lit with the turn of a knob, opened a lot of doors. Even so, early grilled cheeses were more along the lines of “cheese toast.” They were open-faced affairs comprised of a slice of toasted bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. But then along came more progress; pre-sliced bread and packaged processed cheese. All the makings of the modern grilled cheese were now in place. A second slice of bread was added to make the sandwich more substantial and … well, sandwich-like, and suddenly, even kids could create a satisfying meal with little effort and less expense.

And, unfortunately, therein lies the problem. Grilled cheese sandwiches became a kiddie staple almost from the beginning because a) kids liked them and b) kids could make them. I know. I started cooking at about age 7 and a grilled cheese was among the first things I learned to cook.

Now, I don't mean to say that upgrading the grilled cheese is a bad thing. I long ago stopped eating plastic American cheese. I sometimes make my grilled cheese sandwiches with different kinds and combinations of cheese. And since I bake my own bread, I haven't had gummy, store-bought white bread at home in years. But that just means I've improved the quality of the ingredients. I haven't radically altered the basic concept of a grilled cheese sandwich.

I guess it's all part of the American predilection toward excess. Somehow our national psyche still drives us to be bigger and better than everybody else, even in our food. By way of example, check out shows like “Man vs Food” someday. Simplicity, it seems, is equated with paucity, and we Americans just can't tolerate that, so we dump everything but the kitchen sink onto our plates just because we can. Look what happened to pizza once Americans got a hold of it.

So call me boring, call me pedestrian, call me dull, mundane, and humdrum. I'll continue to eschew “gourmet” grilled cheese sandwiches in favor of a simple comfort food staple made with a slice or two of cheese between two slices of bread. Serve that up with a bowl of tomato soup and some potato chips or French fries and you've got a cheap, easy, satisfying meal. Is it “adult?” Well, I'm an adult and I think so. Is it exciting and innovative and “gourmet?” Nope, but then neither is another of my favorites, peanut butter and jelly. And when it comes to the most important question – is it good and does it give you a warm, fuzzy feeling when you eat it – the answer is a resounding “yes!” That's all that really matters, anyway.

Mangia bene!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Parmesan Frico: Simple But Elegant -- and Delicious!

If you're looking for a simple but extremely flavorful nibble to serve with a glass of wine or to use as an elegant garnish for everything from a rich risotto to an uncomplicated salad – or if you just want a darn tasty little snack – may I recommend a Frico di Parmigiano?

In plain English, a frico is a cheese crisp. The roots for this delectable little wafer go back to the Friuli region of Italy, where it is commonly made from Montasio cheese. It can also be made from mozzarella, but my favorite version is the one I make from “the Undisputed King of Cheeses,” Parmigiano-Reggiano. The crispy, salty, tangy flavor is out of this world.

Variations of the recipe go back to the days of Maestro Martino, a noted 14th century Italian cook. But there's absolutely nothing complicated about making frico; all you need is a hot pan or an oven and cheese. That's it.

As noted, you can fry or bake your frico. My preferred method is baking. And I'm picky about the cheese. If you can't find – or afford – Parmigiano-Reggiano, a fresh domestic Wisconsin or California Parmesan will work, but avoid like the plague the cheese-flavored sawdust in a can most people identify as Parmesan cheese.

Start by grating up a quantity of the cheese. How much will depend upon how you'll be using it. I use a Microplane grater, which produces a fine, light grating that resembles snow.

Line a baking sheet with a silpat or with parchment paper. Portion out little – or not so little – round piles of grated cheese, then use the back of a spoon to slightly flatten them into circles. Again, the size will depend upon the application. The cheese will spread as it melts, so make sure you leave adequate space between the circles.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Golden and bubbly, not brown and nasty.

As I said, I prefer baking, but if you'd like to try frying, use a medium non-stick skillet. Some people add a little butter or olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. If you have a good non-stick, you really shouldn't need it, and I think it sometimes makes the frico a bit heavier. Just grate the cheese as in the baking method and evenly distribute a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat until the cheese melts and forms a light crust, about 3 or 4 minutes. Keep cooking until the edges set and a golden crust develops, about another 30 seconds or so, then, using a spatula, carefully turn the frico and cook the other side until lightly golden, about another 30 seconds to a minute.

If you're just going to use the frico as crisps or wafers for a garnish or a snack, let them cool slightly and carefully lift them from the baking sheet using a thin spatula. But here's a fun and elegant twist; form the frico into edible bowls and fill them with risotto or the fixings of a salad. Just let the frico cool enough to handle but not to set. Then mold them over an inverted cup or bowl – or in the cups of a muffin tin – and allow them to finish cooling into the desired form. They'll be fragile, so handle them carefully. And don't fill them with anything too moist; they are made of cheese, after all. I've used them to contain simple salads and as vehicles for various antipasti. And the reactions from your family, friends, or other guests will be well worth the effort, believe me.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Manicotti or Cannelloni: There IS a Difference

Distinctive Dishes With Unique Flavors And Textures

I wanted to make cannelloni the other day but I was pressed for time. So I went shopping and bought a box of manicotti shells. Actually, I really didn't buy “manicotti” shells; that's just what the manufacturer calls them.

Don't worry if you don't know the difference. Most “Italian” restaurants in the US don't either. And, obviously, neither do the people who make pasta for American consumption.

Manicotti – which roughly means “sleeves” – is a filled crepe rather than an actual pasta and is traditionally prepared in a special crepe pan. In Italy, one would be hard pressed to find “manicotti” on a menu as anything made from a crepe is likely to be called a “crespelle.”

Cannelloni is a stuffed pasta dish. And although the stuffing, or ripieno, can often be the same, the element that sets the two apart is the actual construction of the dish. In making cannelloni, you start with a pasta sheet which you stuff and roll into a tube. The word “cannelloni” loosely translates to “big reeds” or “big tubes.” Or you can buy said big tubes ready for stuffing. Except in America, they're sold as manicotti. Got it?

If you're going to make cannelloni at home, you can use a lasagne sheet or you can make your own pasta. You par cook the pasta sheets, lay them out on dampened towels or paper towels, put a couple of tablespoons of whatever filling you're using – cheese, meat, spinach, mushrooms, etc. – along a long edge, roll it up and place it seam side down in a baking dish already layered with your sauce of choice, usually either a tomato sauce or a bechamel. Pour a little more sauce over the top, sprinkle on some grated cheese, and bake it.

Or, if you're adventurous, you can use the aforementioned “manicotti” shells, but beware; stuffing a pre-made shell is not a task for the faint of heart or inexperienced of hand. Once you par cook the shells – and you do have to par cook them – the little buggers become both slippery and fragile. It's really easy to tear one in the process of filling it. And filling it is a process, for sure. You can try spooning the filling in – a technique almost guaranteed to tear up the pasta – but good luck getting an even filling all the way through. Piping in the filling from a pastry bag or its equivalent is a much better way to get an even fill, but here, too, you run the risk of popping the shell if you pipe a little too vigorously. It's faster, easier, and more authentic to do the roll up method.

And that's pretty much the same way you make manicotti. Same technique, anyway. Different building material. For manicotti, you need to start with a super-thin crepe. And I do mean super-thin. If your crepe is too thick or uneven in texture, you're going to have a hard time stuffing and rolling it. A decent crepe batter can be made with 3/4 cup flour, 2 eggs, 2 or 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 3/4 cup of milk, 1/4 cup warm water, and a little salt and pepper. A crepe pan is nice, but a good non-stick pan will work, too. From there on, it's a matter of technique. Getting the right amount of batter in the pan, swirling it around to get the right consistency, flipping it or turning it properly – if you can make pancakes you can do it. It just takes a little practice. Then you lay the crespelle out flat and fill and and roll it in the same manner as you would with pasta for cannelloni.

Most American cookbooks and recipe websites, as well as most Italian-American restaurants, use the terms “cannelloni” and “manicotti” interchangeably. But they really are distinctive dishes with unique flavors and textures. Try 'em both and experience the difference.

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Fun Food Holidays

Halloween is gone and the big food holidays are upon us. Everybody knows about the glutton-fest that happens on the fourth Thursday of November, the 24th this year, but what about food happenings on the other days of the Gregorian calendar's penultimate month? Glad you asked.

If you love peanut butter, have I got a month for you; November is indeed National Peanut Butter Lover's Month. It's also a month for aficionados of Georgia pecans, raisin bread, pomegranates, and peppers. November is National Good Nutrition Month, and, oddly enough considering all the celebration of turkey, ham, and a variety of dishes made with eggs, milk, and other dairy products that will be occurring near the end of the month, November is also Vegan Month. Go figure.

The first week of November is National Fig Week. And some widely varied comestibles also occupy the inaugural week of the month. Fried clams and vinegar are both honored on November 1, although probably not together. Deviled eggs, sandwiches, candy, and doughnuts each claim national recognition on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

Nachos are in the spotlight on November 6 and bittersweet chocolate with almonds – make sure it's with almonds – takes the day on the 7th.

Start the next week with a cappuccino on Monday, November 8. Or you may prefer a Harvey Wallbanger. No, I'm not kidding. The cocktail that is basically a Screwdriver with a half-shot of the Italian liqueur Galliano shares a day with the popular Italian coffee creation, cappuccino.

I'd go for the Harvey Wallbanger because the following day, November 9, is National Scrapple Day. If you've never enjoyed pig fat, pig hearts, pig livers, pig skin, flour, cornmeal, and spices all mushed up together and compressed into a loaf, then you've never enjoyed scrapple. I know I've never enjoyed scrapple. I may opt to celebrate the day's companion occasion, National Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day. Although scrapple seems to fit the bill there, too. I may just sleep in that day.

I'll be awake, though, for National Vanilla Cupcake Day on November 10 and I'll stay up for National Sundae Day on the 11th.

National Pizza With Everything Except Anchovies Day – I'm serious – is November 12th.

If you're a fan of British-style puddings served in a traditional New England fashion, then you'll enjoy November 13, National Indian Pudding Day. No, it doesn't make sense to me either.

How about guacamole and pickles? Both are celebrated on November 14. Again, probably not together.

National Raisin Bran Cereal Day happens on November 15.

Now, help me understand this one: November 16 – right smack in the middle of National Good Nutrition Month – is National Fast Food Day. Things that make you go “hmmmmm.”

Homemade bread and baklava share the day on November 17.

Nothing warms a late autumn day like a bowl of cold potato and leek soup. I guess that's why National Vichyssoise Day is celebrated on November 18.

Here's an occasion I can get behind; November 19 is National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day. As a non-coffee drinker, I imbibe my caffeine cold every day, but it's nice to know that my habit has an actual holiday dedicated to it.

Peanut butter fudge and gingerbread get back-to-back days on the 20th and 21st.

Don't eschew the cashew on its holiday, November 22.

Cappuccino and Harvey Wallbangers got to share a day earlier in the month, so somebody apparently decided that espresso and cranberries were a good match. National Espresso Day and National Eat a Cranberry Day are both slated for November 23.

Now, we've already established that Thanksgiving is November 24, right? However, if you aren't into the whole turkey and mashed potatoes thing, you can still celebrate a food holiday; National Sardines Day is also November 24.

You might think that turkey salad, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey casserole, etc. would be filling the remaining days of November, but no. The whole rest of the month is dedicated to desserts. Parfaits are preferred on the 25th, cake – no particular kind – takes the cake on the 26th. The 27th belongs to Bavarian Cream Pie. French toast is featured on the 28th. (Okay, so its not a dessert, but with a little cinnamon-sugar added, it could be.) Chocolates and lemon cream pie split the day on the 29th. And the month wraps up with a salute to foam in the form of National Mousse Day on November 30.

Ready for fruit cake and egg nog month? Just wait until December rolls around.