“I dream of the South, a huge moon, the sky reversed,
I am looking for the South, the open time, and its thereafter.”
– Vuelvo al Sur, by Astor Piazzolla
One may be inspired by the unlikeliest of sources, and sources of inspiration do not come much more unlikely than John Unsworth. John – Jack to his friends – is from Penistone, South Yorkshire. Inevitably, he came to be known to us as Jack from penis town, a moniker he bore with great forbearance. Skinny and pale, dour, but slyly humorous, and given to obsessions over cult movies and the quality of his tea-leaves, he was in many ways a typical Yorkshireman, particularly in his love of pies. Frequent were the conversations around the texture of the perfect lard crust, achieved at such and such pie shop in Barnsley. Sadly for Jack, these ethereal creations traveled poorly, forcing him to seek solace in the arms of Fray Bentos. Continue Reading »
Jul 8th, 2013 by Jonny & Amy
Revolutionary is a loaded term in the United States, especially in early July, but if the term can be said to have a single locus it’s perhaps the nation’s first capital and venue for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia. However, revolutions come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of milieux, and nearby, South-east Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley has witnessed plenty of such: politically, in terms of fisticuffs between the rebellious colonials and the crown, and in developments that moved the country forward economically. Continue Reading »
Apr 13th, 2013 by Jonny & Amy
“A smooth sea never a skilled mariner made.”
– English proverb
In the summer of 1997, two friends and I decided it would be a hoot to spend six weeks visiting a variety of countries that had recently emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. It turned out to be rather more of a hoot than even a trio of 19 year olds hell-bent on sampling every brand of cheap local vodka could have possibly imagined. In fact, during one particularly ill-starred episode, we were ordered off a train at gunpoint by a quartet of grim-faced Belarusian border guards. Oh, the mirth.
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Mar 17th, 2013 by Jonny & Amy
The world of social media seems to have been created for the sole purpose of allowing the general public to share its idiocy as widely as possible. Along with this opportunity also arrived the penchant for inventing ridiculous new expressions and forming them into one of the most odious aspects of modern life, the hash tag. It is for this reason, among several others, that we are rarely to be found on Twitter. However, the recent decision by Facebook to adopt these irritating little phrases to align themselves with the rest of the social media world seems to suggest that the hash tag is here to stay, at least until something twice as grating comes along. Continue Reading »
Jan 5th, 2013 by Jonny & Amy
Like the ghost of Christmas past, leftovers from rich holiday meals have a habit of malingering in the fridge awaiting an inspiration that is progressively less likely to arrive as the holiday season fades into memory, especially in the broadening context of one’s waistline, try as one might to conceal it beneath this year’s hideous knitwear gift from Aunt Hilda. In our household, it is usually around the second week of January that we finally face up to the fact that no one is going anywhere near what’s left of the nut loaf. Continue Reading »
Dec 24th, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
A typical Sunday morning (or afternoon depending on what time they crawl out of bed) for a New Yorker involves brunch. And what, perhaps, characterizes brunch in New York more than anything else is bagels, cream cheese and lox. However, few, if any, New Yorkers, I would guess, think about lox very much, probably because of its ubiquity, and are unaware of the age-old food tradition they have inherited.
Popularized in the city by its large Ashkenazi Jewish population in combination with cream cheese and capers, lox or belly lox (from the Yiddish laks/lachs meaning salmon), is brine-cured salmon that is almost always served in wide, thinly-sliced strips. Crispy toasted bagels, soft, buttery cream cheese, tangy capers, and smooth, salty lox is a fabulous combination and is one of the few fish dishes I can stomach as my first meal of the day, especially after a few holiday beverages the night before. Continue Reading »
Dec 20th, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
We have a confession to make. After eight enjoyable but increasingly long years in Brooklyn we jumped ship over the summer to the suburbs. We didn’t deliberately hide it, we just didn’t make a big deal of it on our blog. Okay, so there is definitely some weird foodie cachet to living in a big city known for its culinary diversity that we may have been slightly concerned about losing by moving to the “food desert” of the suburbs, if for nothing else than invites to foodie parties we never attended and offerings of freebie samples we rarely covered. And, given that a good proportion of our content focuses on some of the incredible diversity of the New York dining scene, it’s only reasonable for us to have been a little apprehensive about finding that elsewhere. Continue Reading »
Dec 3rd, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
In his rather witty book, French Lessons, Peter Mayle attends the annual Fete de Grenouilles (Festival of Frogs-Legs) in Vittel, France, and describes an episode at the festival banquet in which an attendee, elbow deep in amphibian thighs, tells him that if he thinks eating frogs is unusual, she had heard of an even more peculiar repast enjoyed throughout Britain, the toad. Continue Reading »
Nov 29th, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
Many among us, ourselves included, can be forgiven for spending a few wistful moments during the more tedious passages in our lives wondering what it might be like to wander exotic locales, rubbing shoulders with cultured types all while sipping fine wines over plates artfully decorated with exquisite regional specialties. When we come out of such reveries, we often try to convince ourselves that in reality this kind of life would be too much of a good thing, that after the novelty wore off it would be tiresome and, in all likelihood, downright unpleasant. Sadly, if the new book from Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, aka The World Wine Guys, is anything to go on, it really is as wonderful as you’d imagine. Continue Reading »
Nov 14th, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
For centuries, mankind and cuttlefish have had something of a difficult relationship, certainly from the latter’s perspective. Even prior to the development of the photographic tint known as sepia – a brownish hue that makes the late 19th century appear to have been an unusually dusty period – the ink of the cuttlefish was prized for its color-giving properties. In fact, this cephalopod’s dye is known as ink because that is exactly what much of recorded history was written in.
In an ironic twist, the plight of the cuttlefish worsened when enterprising fisherman saw that the inedible, but highly buoyant, internal structure, known as cuttlebone, could be used to manufacture floats which, when attached to fishing lines, resulted in an even more effective means of catching them. The concurrent discovery that the rest of the poor creature is exceedingly delicious, like a meatier version of squid, only increased humanity’s murderous desire, making its existence almost untenable in some parts of the Mediterranean until synthetic dyes and plastic floats allowed populations to recover in recent times. Continue Reading »
My guidebook assured me that 3 out of 5 Icelanders believe that faeries, mischievous sprites and trolls are real. Many, it continues, actively take precautions against them, refusing to set foot in the spots they are thought to inhabit. My first introduction to the country, the drive from the airport into Reykjavik, past a giant aluminum smelting factory set in a jet black lava field against gun-metal clouds, felt more like Bladerunner than the redoubt of spirits.
The snow-capped black mountains that ring it to the north and west, and the city’s jewel-box houses of green and red and white provided a rather Yuletide feel, even when illuminated by the midnight sun. A friend had told me that midsummer in Iceland was like an extended daytime drinking session punctuated by brief episodes of fatigue lasting all of about twenty minutes when the sun took its brief dip towards the horizon before rising again. His story went that during a week-long stay he had slept for less than six hours start to finish. A few weeks of this and perhaps I wouldn’t entirely rule out the existence of will-o the wisps either. Continue Reading »
Sep 25th, 2012 by Jonny & Amy
Back in the days before blogs were afforded any of the current grudging acknowledgement they get from “proper” writers, one of the sticks used to beat them with was that their content was all too personal and scatological, lacking reliability, depth and, above all, readability. That they have been one of the principal conduits for this here today, gone in half an hour news cycle only serves to convince critics of this format that they were right all along. By contrast, the popularity of blogs among the public would seem to undercut these naysayers, and paint them, along with, serious TV actors descrying the popularity of reality TV shows, as dinosaurs who failed to adapt to a major change in climate. It is noticeable that traditional media sources, in an attempt to brand their content as premium and superior to that of hordes of pajama-clad scriveners, have recently begun hiding it behind pay-per-subscription pages.
If an echo of this formal-to-casual paradigm shift can be found in the wine industry, it might be in the seemingly unstoppable rise of inexpensive and highly drinkable New World wines at the expense of well-bred, distinguished Old World bottles. What used to be pilloried by aficionados for their lack of refinement and the brashness of their marketing approach, has progressively taken market share away from wines steeped in tradition and terroir, pushing vintages with a decade of more of cellaring even further beyond the reach of the public. If this comparison sounds tenuous, then it should. After pensively rinsing our teeth in two heavy tomes on the world of wine, in which preposterous aroma-based analogies seemed more numerous than snobs at a Bordeaux tasting, we were in the mood to propose something controversial and highly suspect. Continue Reading »