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Thursday
June

30

2005
12:54 AM



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Food News, June 30, 2005 — The Times (via Luxist) has an article on Jeffrey Chodorow (which unfortunately we missed the window on so you'll have to read what Luxist has to say about it). This was the guy who battled with Rocco DiSpirito on the reality show The Restaurant. While it must be said that reality shows clearly edit their footage to tell a particular story independent of the reality that happened, if DiSpirito was anything close to how he was portrayed, then I don't blame Chodorow for being annoyed and getting rid of him. What I do blame Chodorow for is not insisting that DiSpirito's food be any good. Granted, I never ate it, so I'm talking out my ass, but even on TV it sure didn't look very appetizing, and from everything I've heard the actual experience of eating it wasn't any different. And shouldn't food generally look appetizing? I don't mean architectural, I just mean tasty.

The Strong Buzz is a weekly newsletter by Andrea Strong talking about where to eat and drink in New York City.

I am blown away by Culiblog. Since I haven't tasted any of the food pictured I don't know if it's any good, but if the pictures are any indication, I'm dying to try it.

I'm not necessarily a fan of food as art as much as I am food that is art. But I can't help but be super attracted to the incredible imagery here. This pasta in particular looks amazing.

We're going to Europe soon - Vienna, Paris, and Provence. This slide show (thank you Gridskipper) should get us in the mood. Recommendations on where to eat are welcome, especially for Provence and Vienna.

 

Tuesday
June

28

2005
12:54 AM



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Eating in a Small Town, Regina, SK, Canada, tasted on June 26 & 27, 2005 — I spent a couple of days in nowheresville this past weekend - Regina, Saskatchewan (that's in Canada for anyone wondering). This is a small city of just under 200,000 people. It's just a little bit smaller than the city of Rochester, New York for comparison purposes. OK. It's not like I was expecting some amazing food in Regina. And mind you, the internet is of no use in this regard as searching it for good restaurants there was kind of useless. But I thought to myself, this is not the big city, this is a small town, and you need to find their specialties. While Regina is small it is in (what seemed to me) like the breadbasket of Canada. It's the prairie with endless miles of fields growing food, and the raising of cattle. And these folks don't just eat cows. They like elk, and buffalo, and all sorts of things that walk around on four legs and are made of red meat.

We figured steaks might be good, but in fact, the various steakhouses seemed kind of Sizzlerish. Again, the internet (which I love and adore with all my heart) was really of no use. Finally we ended up eating at two different places: La Bodega, a "tapas" place and the Cortlandt Dining Room at the Hotel Saskatchewan. When I saw a sushi platter on the menu at La Bodega, I knew we were in trouble. Frankly, it was probably the hippest restaurant in Regina, but it also seemed thousands of miles from any body of water with fish I'd like to eat. So sushi was out of the question. We tried sticking to only things that were tapas-ish, except for two problems: the servings were over-sized almost entrees, and none had any flavor. The gazpacho for example was a nice consistency and texture, thick and full of tomato meat, but the only flavor came from the periodic pockets of cumin. As for the Cortlandt Dining Room, normally I stay away from hotel restaurants, but they had local Elk on the menu so we thought we might have a shot at trying something local prepared well. And for a moment I had hope. The salmon bisque came out so hot that it could have instigated a McDonald's style lawsuit. But once it cooled down, the flavor was actually quite nice. Kind of a buttery salmon. Not too strong, but definitely present, and the texture was nice and thick. Soothing. After that things went mostly downhill. The tempura'd veal was flavorful but kind of random. And the elk, well, I admit this was the best prepared elk I'd ever had. Of course it's also the only elk I've ever had. I didn't mind that it was a touch chewy. I did mind that it had no significant flavor. If the texture of the meet isn't going to stand out, the flavor better.

I'm sure some Reginan (is that what they're called) will write to me and tell me about the brilliant food I missed at some particular restaurant or market. And they may be right. But here's my sneaking suspicion. Most cities of this size, and almost all smaller cities simply do not have places to get consistently great food. Not at the scale of an entire menu from a restaurant. What they may have is a dish at one place, and a particular menu item at another that are local specialties that rise above the fray. It's understandable that a city at a smaller scale would have its quality food at a smaller scale. The blueberry pie at a local diner, the hot dogs at a particular stand, etc. That said, and I am sure there are exceptions, I don't know if small town food will ever be for me. The impressions of big city food are poor, and the local high quality items are too hard to find. And to be honest, once I were to find them, even if they were spectacular, they wouldn't be enough to keep my interest very long. Metropolitan Seattle has around 2.5 million people. And I find myself bored here. Next time I go to a small town I either find a local I trust to take me to the best Elk Jerky vendor in the province, or I bring a bag lunch.

 

Tuesday
June

21

2005
12:54 AM



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15-entomatadas.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

La Carta de Oaxaca, Seattle, WA, tasted on April 10, 2005 — I owe Mexican food an enormous apology. I spent 25 years of my life thinking it was shit. And I was simply wrong. And the worst part is that the only proper atonement would involve me making a short trip down the coast to eat some actual Mexican food. When I lived in Santa Cruz, California, and worked in Watsonville - an agricultural center with a large immigrant population - you could almost forgive me. But now I live in Seattle, not exactly known for it's high quality Mexican food. And let's be clear, I'm not really even qualified to judge. For most of my life I thought Mexican food was the refried bean laden heavy crap that was glued together with rubbery cheese and served at restaurants like Chi-Chis, On the Border, and Azteca. Since I've never been to Mexico I just don't really know what's what. That said, I do have passion around what I perceive as high quality mexican food. The ingredients are fresh, the flavors are clean, bright, and bold, and there's lots of yummy melted (non-rubbery) cheese involved on a semi-regular basis. And despite all those caveats, as best I can tell, La Carta de Oaxaca, a seemingly authentic Oaxacan restaurant in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard pretty much rocks.

The place was packed and we were lucky not to wait even longer than the hour we did. And while environment doesn't count much for me, the arrangement of the photos on the wall with some of them backlit and the design in general really was very cool in my opinion. We started off with warm and crunchy tortilla chips and an array of progressively hotter salsas (available self-serve at the bar) and pico de gallo. The chips were definitely not what you get at the supermarket. They had a freshness about them beyond the warmth. The guacamole was creamy, but didn't have huge flavor. We also got the Cocktel de Camarones. Everyone I talk to isn't in love with this dish but I found it enjoyable. I guess to me it was more like a yummy gazpacho with little shrimps throughout. I didn't really think of it as a proper shrimp cocktail. Maybe that was the difference. It's amazing how much expectations matter.

I ordered the Tacos Al Pastor (pork tacos), a benchmark in my opinion, of a good Mexican restaurant. These were smokey and sweet with some fire on the finish. Benchmark, met. The Molotes were potatoes and beef sausage wrapped in fried tortillas with all the requisite toppings. The were fresh, beefy, and starchy in a good way. They were still light.

Their signature dish was the Mole Negro Oaxaqueno. We had ours with pork. Mole is a sauce made typically with several kinds of chilies, a bunch of spices, sometimes nuts, and even chocolate. The recipes are passed down from generation to generation and vary in each region across Mexico. The sauce is dark, and thick, and (though I hate using a clichι like this) soul-satisfying. This particular dish was simply beautiful. The sweetness was not cloying but almost in the bittersweet category, but like some distant cousin of what you typically expect that to mean. The flavor was deep. Down in the depths of your stomach/close your eyes to enjoy it deep. And the pork that it covered simply fell apart as it was so tender. The mole was excellent.

The Empanadas (Chicken with yellow curry sauce grilled in a fresh tortilla) were very good as well. And as far as the Quesadillas Fritas, fried cheese with a crunchy shell? I'm in! The Albondigas, a soup with beef meatballs was not a big hit as I felt it lacked a ton of flavor. Debbie and Walter disagreed.

We also got another round with the mole as it was served with our square steaming tamale wrapped in a banana leaf. Walter did the honors of unwrapping this little treasure for us. The mole elevated anything it touched including my fingers as they tried to get every last bit into my mouth off of the gleaming plate.

And as much as I liked the mole, the Entomatadas was perhaps my favorite dish of the night. It was essentially grilled thin sliced beef (Tasajo) with tortillas in a tomatillo or red sauce covered with Oaxaqueno cheese, onion, and crema Mexicana (which seems somewhere between sour cream and mayo to me). We had the green tomatillo sauce and it was fantastic. The steak was among the best I've ever eaten. It was super juicy and savory. The tortillas were soft and delicious and simply full of flavor. Fantastic. I could have eaten three orders of this on my own.

Like I said, I'm not really qualified to tell you whether La Carta de Oaxaca is authentic Oaxacan food. Walter said he rated it worth the drive to Ballard (which if you live in Seattle you know is not a drive you choose to do often). For me, aside from accidentally spotting famous musicians (or someone who looks just like them) in the corner of my food photography, the food really reigned at La Carta de Oaxaca. And whether I could tell it apart from the food I might get down in this region of Mexico I didn't really need to know, as the deep and complex flavors and the fresh ingredients tasted as genuine as they could be to me. And that's all that really matters.

 

Monday
June

20

2005
12:45 AM



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Food News, June 20, 2005 — Gridskipper is a particularly enjoyable blog and part of the ever-growing Gawker Media empire. They have a few posts worth noting including: a writeup of dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong; and what constitutes vegetarian items in Vienna (where we'll be going soon).

Boing Boing also serves us well with both the sighting of God in a cup of chocolate and . Speaking of chocolate, here's a restaurant in Chicago to check out.

People are always recommending places I should go to dinner. The latest recommendations include Rao's Restaurant in Harlem, NY, and The Front Porch in Snoqualmie Falls, WA.

The Black Table has a write-up comparing 66 (the supposedly top high-end Chinese restaurant in Manhattan to Joe's Shanghai. I like the premise. Since I haven't been to either it's hard for me to know what to do here. I suppose going to both is the right thing.

Canada is fine as backyards go, but they do manage to produce things of quality once in awhile including the blog Seven Spoons. I like this recipe for zucchini fritters. I agree that zucchini has potential. I'm not sure I've ever succeeded in finding it though.

 

Tuesday
June

14

2005
12:18 AM



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10-sambal goreng kentang.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Puri Mas, Amsterdam, Netherlands, tasted on March 26, 2004 — Amsterdam has many specialties. Two particularly prominent ones when it comes to food are the legal marijuana and the Rijsttafel. And while I'm not suggesting that I partook of one before enjoying the other, I have to admit that it did occur to me that the perfect antidote to the "munchies" (as it has been described to me) would be the Indonesian "rice table" found in restaurants across Amsterdam. An endless series of plates of yummy asian meats, rice, and sauces in various interesting and delicious combinations. And frankly, even without the aid of mind-altering drugs the Rijsttafel seemed like a blur to me.

Indonesian restaurants offering Rijsttafel can be found all over Amsterdam. While I've been trying to avoid the tourist circuit, I think Puri Mas pretty much fits the bill. My Dutch friends seemed to look at it as more of a novelty than anything else. But still, endless small plates of Indonesian food seems attractive, touristy or not. Along with some interesting cocktails we ordered the Rijsttafel Royaal - the biggest and (of course) therefore best of the choices we had. We also ordered copious amounts of Bir Bintang, an extra light slightly bitter Indonesian beer that was helpful in cooling us down after some of the spicier dishes.

We started off at a semi-sedate pace. Veggie crackers came for us to snack on. They were yummy and savory with some complex (what I imagine to be) Indonesian spices. The brown ones had a tiny kick which made them extra enjoyable. This was followed by chicken curry soup (Soto Ayam) which was gingery and quite tasty. The warm hard-boiled egg added texture to the soup in the form of an egg "drop". There was also a plate of fried items - Martabak, Leompia, and Udang Goreng. These were a crispy seasoned pastry, an egg roll, and a fried prawn respectively. Each was golden and hot. The spicy sauce and peanut sauce that were served as accompaniments were helpful. Everything had a crispness and a spiciness that was super enjoyable. The meat filled pastry was quite good and there were middle eastern qualities about its flavor.

What followed really was like a hurrican of Indonesian flavors and dishes. Chicken satay (Sate Ayam), pork satay (Sate Babi), lamb satay (Sate Kambing), pork in a very spicy sauce (Babi Ricah), lamb in curry sauce (Gulai Kambing), chicken in spiced Balinese sauce (Ayam Bumbu Bali), various kinds of vegetables with peanut sauce (Gado Gado), spiced cucumber salad (Acar Ketimun), two kinds of rice - fried (Nasi Goreng) and seasoned yellow (Nasi Kuning), and fried coconut powder (Serundeng) which was very cool and tasty to put on top of our various dishes. The food came fast and furious and so did the flavors and textures: sweet sticky crispy chewy thick sauced peanut honey soy cinnamon coconut citrus and definitely spicy! All dishes were distinct under the umbrella of Indonesian flavors even though the meal echoed one large complex and flavorful note. And when the dishes were spicy, the beer helped. One particular standout was the bowl of essentially french fries Indonesian style (Sambal Goreng Kentang). They were crunchy and sticky sweet in a good way with a definite tomato flavor. Yum!

I'm sure hardened Amsterdam visitors and residents might scoff at our time spent at the Rijsttafel. And for all we know this may n0t have been the best one to try (though it was according to several sources on the net whom I know nothing about). The service was pretty aggressive. Certainly not bad, just kind of always there. And they were also dying to know what we thought all the time (or so they said). Well, we thought dinner was pretty good actually. While we weren't necessarily stunned, the parade of small Indonesian plates, and the strong nature of the spectrum of flavors and textures was quite enjoyable and unique at least in terms of our experience (as none of us have ever been to Indonesia). Unique and enjoyable seems good to me.

 

Monday
June

13

2005
12:02 AM



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03-steak tartare and an egg.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Broodje Van Kootje, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tasted on March 26, 2004 — We really only had 24 hours in Amsterdam before we came home to the states. And honestly we didn't have good intel on where we were supposed to be eating. After wandering around downtown and rejecting the recommendations that our concierge made (super touristy yuck  - literally they had a special menu for tourists) we happened upon a little fast-foodish chain called Broodje van Kootje.

This odd little establishment served what appeared to be Dutch street food (we saw many stalls serving the same kind of fare) - a variety of sandwiches with all sorts of different fillings. Each sandwich served on fluffy sweet rolls is served with a dollop of butter. I'm always pretty positive on any cuisine where butter is a baseline ingredient. We ordered a bunch of different sandwiches to get a sense of the variety and quality.

We got one with tiny prawns and mayo. We also had one with raw beef, onions, salt, and pepper. It was like yummy fast food steak tartare served (of course) with a hard-boiled egg. The sausage with mustard sandwich was simple and slightly spicy.

The pea soup with sausage was also hearty and quite good tasting. They had their own variation of pizza too. Debbie was (of course) at first freaked out by the carrot and celery - though she seemed to accept the fact that the main ingredients were ham and cheese. But once she took a bite, she loved it. The bread was chewy and light, and the sauce had a slight bbq citrus curry quality. Quite good.

Want a hot mashed potato (I think) croquette? How about as a sandwich with butter? This was also enjoyable especially when dipped in the Indonesian soy sauce that was like a concentrated soy sauce.

This little two location chain is cute and serves yummy street food under a roof. And if your tired of traversing the city, checking out the museums, or wondering why so many Europeans seem so stuck in the '80's musically, then stopping in to Broodje van Kootje is the right thing to do.

 

Saturday
June

11

2005
2:28 PM



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Bros chocolate bar, Tasted on March 26, 2004 — KLM not to be outdone in terms of recognizing constraints when serving food on an airplane, handed out little chocolate bars towards the end of our flight from Rome to Amsterdam. These Nestle mini-chocolate bars are the equivalent of the AERO bar from England (I think?). And honestly, they're great. Filled with bubbles of various sizes, these things are light and tasty. I know some people think it's silly to pay for mostly air, but when it's wrapped in chocolate, it's quite good. The texture is smooth and creamy. The chocolate doesn't have a super deep flavor, but that's not why you get it. It's yummy milk chocolate wrapped around air bubbles. Tasty.

 

Friday
June

10

2005
12:24 AM



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Disgruntled Food Blogs, June 10, 2005 — I love all the gossip sites on the web. I never get my fill of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, not to mention Tom Cruise's latest proclamations on Oprah. The food world has its own version of these sites and they even often mention famous people. These are the myriad (does five constitute a myriad?) websites from waiters and waitresses across the country reporting on their every day activities. Often these sites have a somewhat hardened tone. I'm not too surprised. While I've never waited tables myself, it looks like a thankless job to me. I try to be super appreciative by tipping well. In the meantime, I find these sites pretty entertaining.

I love this stuff.

 

Thursday
June

9

2005
12:14 AM



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03-chicken satay.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Eating in Maui Part II - Tasted on June 1, 2005 (Continued from the previous post.) — I really was prepared to accept pineapple as my one positive food experience on the island (and a damn good one at that) when we got hungry standing in line to see Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Yes, we were in Maui, but Steve, Kira, and Debbie hadn't seen the movie so we hauled out to some strip mall near the airport and bought matinee tickets to see the latest (and final?) Star Wars. And Debbie of course was hungry. She needed something quick. There was a row of seemingly crappy little non-descript ethnic restaurants in this outdoor mall. One of them was Thailand Cuisine II. Just the kind of place you'd expect to serve Thai food bordering on fast food. The Chinese place next to them was serving food from troughs under heat lamps. I didn't have high expectations. But what we ate that day, and then again two days later when we went back for a proper lunch, was pretty damn good Thai food.

What got our attention was the satay. We started off with one of each variety they offered - chicken, beef, and shrimp. The chicken was thick and juicy, with slight grill marks on the sides and incredibly buttery and savory. The beef was cut slightly thinner, had the same buttery quality, and also had this incredible subtle curry-like flavor. The shrimp was almost indescribable. Think shrimp-textured butter on a stick formed in the shape of shrimps. Everything was super delicious.

We got the fresh rolls (called Fresh Summer Rolls on the menu). I typically think of these as Vietnamese but I honestly don't know their origin. And given that these were light, tight, and fresh (hmmm...) with a nice hot and sour sauce I didn't care. We also dug into the Beef Salad (Yum Nuer) which was super spicy, robust, and had the unmistakable evidence of fish sauce. Yummy, The hot and cold contrast between the beef and vegetables was excellent as well.

The Chicken Larb was quite good as well. A very simple plate of ground chicken with cabbage pieces serving as scoops for the chicken. The ground chicken was super savory and juicy. The Thai Red Duck Curry was also a relatively simple dish but the contrast  between the creamy smooth coconut curry and the extra crispy skin on the duck, not to mention the meaty duck pieces, was really quite enjoyable. The portion was small in a good way and the dish was just a pleasure to eat. But all the dishes were a pleasure to eat. A simple pleasure. The Pad Thai (we got ours with shrimp) was no exception. There was nothing unique about it, but it was well done.

I know it's unfair of me to make judgments about an entire island's food options based on a few days' visit, and eating it a handful of places most of which were in tourist central. But my disappointment is less about Maui in particular (and to be clear, there's obviously hope as the tiny Thai place we stumbled into in a strip mall was quite delicious) and more about my own personal inability to pick good places to eat blind. I suppose of course, that's why this site exists in the first place, to try and cut through the standard sea of recommendations and just find the good stuff. And if you gave me a recommendation before I went and I didn't take you up on it, please accept my apologies. (I've heard disappointment from at least two people on this front.) But I admit that I was inundated with recommendations and my filter is simply not very good.

I'm embarassed that it's taken me so long to learn this lesson on more than an intellectual level, but I promise, from now on I take recommendations from people I know and eat with, not strangers, big websites (and some small ones), I won't be swayed by what "lots of people are saying". And most importantly if we can't find anything, we will just follow the locals and eat where they eat.

 

Monday
June

6

2005
12:33 AM



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Eating in Maui Part I - Tasted on May 28-June 1, 2005 — It takes me awhile to learn things. I suppose that's part human nature, and part me being relatively slow. I know that for example the traditional sources of food expertise in my hometown of Seattle commonly recommend places to eat as good that are simply not. I know that food that caters to tourists is likely to be of lowest common denominator. I know that I generally haven't enjoyed food in Hawaii. I know that typically restaurants at hotels are subsidized and while it's not scientifically proven, I tend to think it makes them not try as hard. I know all these things. But yet, when we went to Maui I seemed to throw them out the door. And I do this not just when I travel to Maui but when I travel to other places. And I throw out all this knowledge because I assume (typically incorrectly) that if there's a gem somewhere in the place I'm visiting, a true culinary find, then someone will have written profusely about it and I'll find that description on the web. The trouble is, there's so much crap on the web that it's basically impossible to know who to trust, which I guess is why I started this site in the first place. Still it has taken me forever to learn this lesson.

The food experiences we had in our short hop to Maui were overall, not good. Not good at all. To be fair, the Bistro Molokini poolside restaurant at the Grand Wailea made kickass Oreo Milkshakes and Lava Flows (yes I'm comfortable with my masculinity) - lots of ice cream. Ferraro's at the Four Seasons did actually try to make decent food, but overall things were uninspired. The sole exceptions being the artichoke spread at the beginning and the beef carpaccio generously doused in truffle oil. Still those weren't enough to carry the meal beyond just barely above average hotel restaurant Italian food. At one point we were so desperate for some good raw fish (we were on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for god's sake) that we went to the super market and bought some pre-done poke - raw ahi + soy sauce + other stuff. We gorged. It wasn't great, but it hit the spot especially after we were told that there were no sushi restaurants open for lunch anywhere on the west side of Maui.

We should have known the second we saw that David Paul's Lahaina Grill was located in the heart of super-touristy Lahaina that it wasn't going to be anything to write home about. The super mediocre pan-Asian, creole-influenced mish-mash was the typical mess that "adventurous" eaters in the U.S. like to call "good". I got depressed. This may all sound snobbish and I don't really care. It's not that a restaurant by definition sucks because it's in the touristy area. But it sure is likely.

And while I'm sure it's been clear to all of you for some time, almost by definition the traditional sources for food recommendations on the web are all geared for visitors. This is true of every destination, not just Maui. I admit this is pretty close to, if not actual, whining, but nonetheless, it is damn hard to get recommendations of good restaurants from people you really trust. I admit, I'm bad at judging where to go to eat when I've never been there before. At a certain point during our trip I wondered aloud if there would be any good food to be found on Maui. And then of course I bit into some fresh pineapple. Pineapple on Maui is pretty much the best you've ever eaten in your entire life. Fleshy, sweet, sour, crisp, and unbelievably juicy. Not syrupy in anyway, and closer to white than yellow in color. Pineapple takes on a whole new meaning when you eat it there.

(Stay tuned for our next post where this entry concludes.)

 

Wednesday
June

1

2005
10:00 AM



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Italy, June 1, 2005 — My coming of age around food happened really in the last few years. But even in the dark ages before I'd ever even tried sushi, I knew I loved Italian food. And I also knew that I needed to travel to Italy. Not only because I knew that it was going to be a beautiful country with stunning architecture, churches, etc. I knew that I had to eat Italian food in Italy. And though I had many opportunities to travel to Italy before this last series of entries, I said no to every single one. I said no as each opportunity couldn't be what I wanted - a longer trip, where I could travel to more than one city, and really get to know the country and the food. I guess I should be embarrassed to admit that I said no to going to Italy for years because I so wanted the first experience there to be as perfect as possible. If only I had applied this logic to every corollary experience in my life. Italy didn't disappoint.

I first learned of a culture that simply has a higher appreciation of good food when I traveled a few times to Tokyo. Italy is in the same league as Japan in that regard. I hate to generalize, but from my perspective, there is simply a higher bar for food among the bulk of the populace in Italy. And the marketplace responds. The number of random restaurants, osterias, trattorias, etc. that you could walk into and get a truly great meal seemed to me simply astounding. All told we tried at least 23 different establishments. And while of course we worked hard to target as many quality food experiences as possible, even correcting for our targeting, it sure seemed like the standards were just higher.

And the funny thing is that in our just over a week in the country we were barely able to scratch a tiny corner of the surface of what it has to offer. We only spent time really in Rome, Florence, and Emilia Romagna. There are so many more regions, and it's so clear that we really did cursory investigations at best of the places we did visit. Still, as you can see below, we still found quite a few gems. Click on each picture to get to the entire album and write-up for each experience.

 

 

06-macaroni.jpg 06-lemon.jpg 01-forno camp de fiori.jpg
04-macaroons.jpg 09-the sandwich.jpg 23-dried oranges.jpg
10-piposo di mauzo.jpg 09-pomodoro picante.jpg 08-spuma di mortadella e gelatina di balsamico.jpg
11-head cheese.jpg 11-endless variety.jpg 19-raviolo with parmesan and truffles.jpg
15-aging.jpg 08-tagliolini al culatello.jpg 12-ricotta and herb filled tortellini.jpg

 

Bottom line, Italy is a country to fall in love with when it comes to food. The Italian food in the United States while it has its highlights is the barest impression of an amalgamation of a variety of cuisines that span the Italian countryside. And yet, it's just enough to remind me that I need to go back to Italy as soon as humanly possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.


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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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