Archive For The “Travel” Category
You may or may not believe this, Fellow FoodBeest, but this crust-making business that has driven me crazy and that I have avoided like the plague is EASY. I have bought my last red cardboard package of Pillsbury pie crusts.
tTe world has changed. It is smaller. It is more sophisticated. It is more worldly. You can get iced in your iced tea in London. And mind-boggling world-class food in Chicago. And New York doesn’t look as special.
Except when it does.
Back in the day – certainly the first time I visited Europe after college – it was easy to spot an American aboard. We looked different. Cheekier. We dressed differently. More self-consciously un-self-conscious. An American could easily sell his (or her) jeans on the street to a Frenchman or a German who was eager for a pair of Levi’s – the more used the better. And their shoes were different. Chunkier. Sold working-man’s looking shoes with thick soles. Except for the Italian, of course, who wore shoes with very thin soles and very pointy toes.
And then there was a period where you could spot a European at glance because they were setting the trends. Hair colors not found in nature. Brighter colors. Bleeding edge fashion. We wondered at the syles and knew we’d be wearing them in six months or a year.
But you could tell at a glance who was European and who was American. No more. Just try to spot an American on the streets of London or Amsterdam or Munich. You can’t. Any more than you can spot a European visitor to any U.S. city.
There was also a time when New York was where you went in this country when you wanted to taste “really good” food. Dinner for the rest of us – especially in our pedestrian Midwest world – was meatloaf and macaroni and cheese (mostly from the blue box) or fried chicken with a side of vegetables from a frozen square box and a baked potato. Today we call that “comfort food.”
If you wanted “gourmet food,” you went to New York where you could get Chock-ful-of-Nuts coffee and exotic stuff like Cuban Chinese food. The rest-of-us knew that the food in New York was expensive, but it was special. My parents came home from New York rhapsodizing for days about Mama Leone’s Lobster Diablo. And there was Sardis. And the Carnegie Deli. And Peter Luger’s steak house. You couldn’t get that at home.
So there we were in New York yesterday – me and Mr. FB and his brother and sister-in-law – wanting to get that special New York approach to food. Just one day. Fewer than 24-hours. One lunch/brunch and one dinner. Maybe dessert after the Broadway play.
But we’re from Chicago. Chicago is where Grant Achatz thrills the (upscale and adventurous) world with astonishing molecular gastronomy at Alinea and sells tickets to NeXT where the food style and menu take a dramatic transformation every three months (Escoffier to Thailand to “childhood”). Chicago is where Top Chef winners and near-winners open their inventive and brilliant restaurants. It’s the city where Rick Bayless introduced Americans to regional Mexican cuisine that sent the corner taco joint reeling. Chicago is the home of Charlie Trotter (who started the whole thing there) and Tru and Everest on one end – and brilliant inventive gastropubs and little Vietnam on the other.
We we’re in New York together. Two Chicago chowhounds looking for culinary adventure and two vegetarians for whom food is a pleasant but unimportant necessity for iife.
I did my research as I always do before we travel. Picked out several restaurants as both lunch and dinner options and ran them past everyone to be sure everyone was getting what they wanted; what they needed.
Brunch rezies at Norma in the Parker Meridian for a classic, if whimsical and overpriced mid-day New York-style brunch before we hit the MoMA. Get the shrimp egg white frittata urged our waiter. It was fine. It was good. I just could get it anywhere. Mr. FB had corncakes with a fried egg and (Spanish) chorizo. B-I-L had $21 potato pancakes – three of them ($7 each?) with a pumpkin puree and pomegranate apple sauce.
Great breakfast/brunch food at home (Longman & Eagle, Jam, Publican, Bongo Room) that was indistinguishable from anything we had at Norma’s– except for the price and maybe the bragging rights.
Our original dinner reservation was for Esca, a Mario Batali fish restaurant. I’ve eaten there before and thought it was brilliant. But the vegetarians we love couldn’t find things on the menu that worked for them. so we changed to a place right around the block from the theater. Bearing in mind that the Times Square neighborhood is not the best place for great food in Manhattan, we wound up at a place called Scarlatto.
The good news about Scarlatto is that:
It was close to the theater.
It was inexpensive.
We didn’t leave hungry.
We didn’t get sick.
Don’t bother. Hundreds – maybe thousands of restaurants – around the country with comparably competent food. Nothing most of you couldn’t make in your own kitchen. Made it clear to me why most people don’t bother themselves much with food.
So the landscape has changed. New York is no longer the only/best place to
My first attempt was dense and heavy, but not a total disaster. It had a nice flavor and a hard, caramelized crust. But, I had rushed the process. The leaven was not ready, which meant that the starter was not ready.
Nearly everything you need on Saturna Island gets ferried across from Vancouver or Victoria. Everything, that is, except what is grown, raised, found, caught, hunted, fished or created by island residents.
Several billion people all over Asia eat congee regularly. It’s called congee in China and juk or jok in Thailand and Korea, chao in Vietnam, It is considered a basic breakfast, late supper, baby food, side dish, gentle nourishment for the sick, and a hangover remedy. It’s kind of the Jewish chicken soup of Asia.
Decades after my encounter with the dreadful tete de veau in Paris, FoodBeests du jour are raving about – and making – and eating veal cheeks. It’s not the same thing at all, but the recipe I used was too overwhelming for the delicate flavor and texture of the veal. Had this been Top Chef, I would have been told to Pack My Knives and Go.
For pennies, we were each served enough meltingly-tender pork on a paper slab to feed a good-sized family. Then servers came around offering pico de gallo, avocado, spicy pickled vegetables, cervezas, and fresh, homemade tortillas. We eagerly devoured every obscenely juicy morsel served on waxed paper, while we talked and listened to a local musician playing the guitar and singing.
The FoodBeest has been singularly disappointed with the so-called upscale restaurants in town: the ones with pretensions who over-reach, overcharge and under-deliver. And then there is this.