Next Door by Josie, In Free Verse

Jonagold apples
Jonagold apples
F. Friesema

I saw the best chefs of my generation employed by gastropubs; Racer 5, wild game chili, dry-rubbed riblets with their calico slaw dragging themselves through the steel seats at dawn looking for artisanal grits, molasses-glazed bacon, with New Orleans spiced shrimp, beer-and-bacon caramel corn. "Yes it is that good," she says, yearning for the harissa-rubbed watermelon salad, pork belly, cilantro; the homemade Fritos; the dense, dry-aged prime beef burger with cheddar, thousand-island and mysterious bun #4.

Sweet potato fries, or shelling beans with pesto vinaigrette? Attic-aged country ham from Burger's in the Ozarks, also Burger's jowl bacon with penne and cream; bauernschinken from Schreiner's in Glendale (it's a kind of smoky ham); wet roast pork sandwich with crisply fried rabe and provolone, like a South Philly sandwich with an extra dimension or two -- and booze-cured salmon. Those French chefs (Josie LeBalch is a second-generation French chef) know something about charcuterie, about brandied chicken liver mousse, about the importance of having Chinon and Crozes-Hermitage by the glass for when the Saison Rue is just too much. Reservations? Not accepted! Lots of TV screens, on which to watch the Lakers, if the Lakers one day return.

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