Make Way for Dumplings
I went to college in my hometown, at the University of Virginia—a school famous for its party scene, its pretty buildings, and its founder, Thomas Jefferson (in that order).
I was an average kid when it came to parties: I didn’t spend Friday nights swinging from chandeliers, but I didn’t exactly knit afghans in my dorm room, either. I went out. I went to fraternity parties to drink cheap beer from a keg and dance my butt off. I flirted with boys (very poorly, I might add, and with little success). And I engaged in the age-old custom of going in search of fried food at 3 in the morning.
There were (and still are) a couple of grimy 24-hour joints near campus. One of them serves burgers with cheese and a fried egg on top. Another slings delicious sandwiches like “The Wild Turkey” (a pile of turkey with fried bacon, melted meunster and herb mayo) all night long. A relative newcomer, Marco & Luca, serves dumplings to order.
It’s the dumplings I want to talk about. They’re browned and crunchy on the outside, and steamy and tender on the inside. They come in a pool of thick, dark sauce that surpasses human description. Biting into one of them has a tonic effect, like the smelling salts and beach trips in a Jane Austen novel.
If you’re ever in Charlottesville, Virginia, you should try them. In the meantime, you can watch this one-minute movie about my attempt to make them at home. Mine were fine, but nothing like the originals. The originals–alas!–can only be found in Charlottesville, and in the saddlebags of unicorns, and in pots of gold somewhere over the rainbow.