The Bissell House

The Bissell House Restaurant
Last Tuesday night we headed over to Vox, one of the two other restaurants in North Dreadful, only to find it closed. We forget that in this sleepy little town the only way small business owners can have lives is to do things like be closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Undeterred, we continued along Route 116 which crosses into Connecticut. I get haircuts and pet food in Connecticut and the Ridgefield area reminds me of parts of suburban St. Louis, where I grew up. I was pretty sure that on the main street in Ridgefield we would find an open restaurant.
Hand Stretched
House Made
Mozzarella
and Tomato Salad
The Bissell House offers outdoor seating and a busy little platoon of young wait staff. I believe that during our meal we were helped by no less than seven different servers, all of them trim, young, forgettable and slightly confused.  The server who took our order had not yet mastered the art of making a subtle expression of comprehension when taking the order, and I found myself reading her the entire name of the dish and pointing at the menu at the same time. I actually said, while pointing, “I’ll have the ‘Hand Stretched House Made Mozzarella and Tomato Salad,’ please.” I also had a fish dish off the sheet of specials: Arctic Char wrapped in something served over rice and broccoli and a bed of stir-fry veggies which turned out to be a mix of 20% I-don’t-know-maybe-squash and 80% julienned red bell pepper.
Ah, the bell pepper.
Bell peppers are so beautiful and colorful and this time of year they are plentiful. From home cooks to fancy restaurants people put bell peppers in salads and all sorts of dishes without bothering to mention that they are there. It only takes a little bit of raw or cooked bell pepper to make me quite sick to my stomach, beginning with tingling sensation in my mouth, followed by heartburn (and worse), and sometimes it lasts for a few days. It took me years of mysterious stomach aches to finally realize the cause. As long as they have not been pulverized, I can usually pick out the peppers, but I never order anything that features them as a main ingredient.
Arctic char tastes just like salmon
I must admit that I have been known to say I am “allergic to Connecticut,” and I sometimes go out of my way not to go there. This “allergy” is based on no specific event (like fifteen years of mysterious stomach pain), and I can say emphatically that I have met a lot of very nice and interesting people who live or work in Connecticut. I can say that in Connecticut drivers come to a complete stop at the end of the ramp to get onto the freeway, and all by itself this is a reason for folks who drive in the other 49 United States might want to avoid it.  
I will let you know if I manage to tease out what specific ingredient of Connecticut brings on the crushing malaise. It is certainly not unrelated to the fact that parts of it look like parts of where I grew up. Meanwhile, I have signed a lease on a New York City apartment and will be moving about half of our possessions into it on Monday.
The good news at the Bissell House was that I had room for dessert, even after a salad and a large piece of fish. We shared three flavors of chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches. I think they were ok.

Barcelona #5: Barcelona 3, Me 0

Finding the zoo was pretty easy. A change of train lines, from the L3 (green) to the L5 (yellow) was required. Emerging from the station we located the Parc de la Ciutadella, where the zoo lives. We found a sign and followed the arrow…to another sign, with an arrow pointing back to the first sign. It was funny. We distracted ourselves by exploring the gorgeous neo-baroque Cascada fountain and laughing at the fact that we could see the fence enclosing the zoo but not the entrance. Settling upon a direction, we circumnavigated the walls of the zoo, emerging at the entrance roughly 100 meters from where we entered the park. When we attempted to buy tickets, we were informed that the “animals are closed at 5,” by a woman who blinked at me furiously, as if to remind me how stupid I am.
My Traveling Companion announced that we needed to go back to the hotel. I insisted on Plan B: we could go to the MUSEU MARÍTIMDE BARCELONA.  One of my books calls it “the most fascinating museum in town.”  Another says, “These royal dry docks are the largest and most complete surviving medieval complex of their kind in the world.”  The third book describes it as “excellent…well worth the visit.”  The fourth, “one of Barcelona’s finest Gothic structures.” Nowhere did it even hint at what we were told when we entered the building, which is that it is closed for renovation for two years.
At this point I had lost all credibility with my Traveling Companion, to the degree that he wanted to take a taxi back to the hotel. I insisted on the subway (having at my advantage the view of the subway station and knowing it was on the L3 (green) line).
I dropped my Traveling Companion at our hotel and told him I was “going shopping” before dinner. Shopping is something I find difficult in all circumstances, and I am no better at it with the anonymity of being a foreigner. I did manage to buy some tights (which I badly need back home but have little need for here), and a pretty lilac linen scarf. I asked clumsily to wear the scarf out of the store despite the fact that linen season is still months away. I had not traveled much more than another block when I realized my mother would have liked it, and it made me sad.
My Traveling Companion suggested dinner in the hotel: a fine idea after a day of failures.  The restaurant is on the roof, with a limited menu and one charming staff member in attendance. I drank local beer and we stuffed ourselves on ham, followed by sandwiches and ice cream. At the end of the meal I asked my Traveling Companion what he thought we should do tomorrow, our second to last day. He suggested the zoo, but with a different Plan B.