For years the Combo C Beef at the now defunct Grand China was my go-to lunch. The waitress came to the table more as a perfunctory gesture to drop off tea than to actually inquire about our order, having already called it back to the kitchen.
Plagued with regular closures for health violations, Grand China was nonetheless a longtime mainstay for the younger me. (The one with the cast iron stomach.) Quality issues aside, I’m still a sucker for good “fake Chinese” though I’m never tempted to make it at home.
Years later comes the Spaghetti Salute which shared its name with the venue. Salute has since passed on to become Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 but for a time we would, at least once a week, slide into our table and await the namesake dish. In the same way a song can define a summer, the Salute would signify a period in my life.
Spaghetti Salute was a melange of chicken, black beans, hot pepper spiced oil and a bold commitment to garlic. Chris could tell I had Salute for lunch …when I came home for dinner. At lunch it would arrive at the table amidst cheers in a heaping pile as if someone was trying to smuggle a softball in my pasta plate. I was not alone in this love and we’d regularly arrive 4-6 deep, sniffing in derision at the poor misguided soul who would rather have the Pasta Fungi or Avocado Pomodoro.
But, all good things… I’ve since tried to make the dish at home – it seems simple enough after all – but I lack the culinary skills to tease out the true essence of the dish. I’m missing something, it never quite gels.
Years later and frustrated I start Googling recipes and following tangents. Eventually I run across a single line that credits Chef Ryan Terry with the original Salute. Even better he’s still in town! A few email exchanges and I’m off to visit him at his present place of business in Elmira – Flow Catering.
It’s been years but he throws it on the specials board and awaits our lunchtime arrival. It’s every bit as good as the original. The tomatoes are a tad sharper than I remember and the chicken comes out in large slices instead of the desiccated bits I remember. But all the bells and whistles are there. When I reach the oozy, oily bottom of the dish it’s pure nostalgic bliss.
In order to secure the recipe we’re looking to hire chef Terry for a catered evening dinner built around the Salute. As it is so tied to my time at CIGI we’ve thought to fashion it into a bit of a reunion. There is no shortage of co-workers that miss that distinct pasta dish. It’ll be nice to see some old faces wafting in amidst the aroma of garlic.