Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fries with Gravy



Burlington, VT, the late eighties - after going downtown and hitting the Last Chance, Rasputin's, What Ales You, Minerva's (later NRG later the Outback) or Hunt's we'd just about always stop off at Nectar's. We'd stop in for one last beer we didn't need and for fries with gravy we really didn't need.

Getting it to go from the take out window was not the way to go. You wanted to go in and order it from a thin man dressed in white with thick glasses. You wanted to say fries with extra gravy so you got gravy in a little heavy white bowl for dipping. You wanted it placed on a plastic tray or as my friend Thatchy once said, trastic play.

I haven't been back to Nectar's in years. I see the fries are called gravy fries on their menu, http://www.liveatnectars.com/static/liveatnectars/menu.php , but don't remember their being called that (otherwise I'd have to file this under G). Going back would be be like visiting a childhood home you had left ages ago. You go back and your memories of what was are changed a little bit by what is.

Just why did I like these fries so much? Al's Fries are awesome too, in a different way but I don't get all nostalgic over them. Nectar's were fairly soft, small steak fries smothered with a brown creamy gravy. You used a fork to eat them once you got to the ones that were completely covered and soft with gravy. Sometimes what makes a food special isn't the food but what comes with the food. You didn't want to get these fries to go in a big soft Styrofoam container and if you did you certainly didn't want to have them the next day when they'd be more like mashed potatoes than fries. You wanted to have them while they were hot and you were at Nectar's with the music in the next room with a Bud long neck. More importantly though, you wanted to have these fries with your friends. These fries are all about sharing. Three, four, five people in a booth or at a table sharing a large plate of fries going over the night's misadventures. It's communal like Thanksgiving and place-specific like sugar on snow. You could scoop up some snow, heat up some syrup and have it at home but there's only one place you should have that and that's in the sugar house while they're boiling. And Nectar's fries with gravy at Nectar's.

7 comments:

Sam Teigen said...

If you add cheese, the dish would have to refiled to P for poutine.

Homer said...

Then I'd be left writing about disappearing falafel balls.

Anonymous said...

When should we expect to see a blog titled Scotch?

Homer said...

My scotch consumption has fallen way off since I started ticking them off in Michael Jackson's Single Malt Scotch Guide. I have some tasting notes taken along the way but will leave a scotch blog to someone else - I may touch on it when I write about haggis though. Slainte!

e. said...

The "Trastic Play" night certainly lives in our memories, if only for that. I cannot recall anyother meaningful events from that evening. I would categories fries and gravy as companion food as opposed to comfort food. It was certainly something to be shared.

Patrick said...

At last, my computer is letting me comment on other people's blogs again! I've been wanting to write here for a while... yes, the location, and the company all help form the occasion, and a good one often becomes a precious ritual. I like the term 'companion food'. I have a number of dishes that are just never as satisfying if the context is wrong. Even coffee, which I will drink by myself, is always more fun if there is someone to drink it with. It doesn't surprise me at all that Nectar's fries must be enjoyed at Nectar's, with friends. I hope you get a chance to do that soon; don't let the fear that it won't live up to your memory hold you back. In my experience the occasion will be good, even if not the same.

Greg said...

I think I spent too much time on the other side of Champlain in the late 80s, when I was haunting Plattsburgh. But fries with gravy are big on that shore, too, if my dim memory serves.