roasted pork hock with parsley mashed potatoes

The largely unknown city of Compiegne, France, has the distinction of being the site of one of Louis XV’s most extravagant homes away from home. Under him, the Chateau de Compiegne became one of three distinctly opulent seats of government alongside Versailles and Fontainbleau. The latter French monarchs were hardly known for their desire to live simply as visitors to either of those other palaces can attest, and Compiegne is no exception, taking more than 35 years to complete with Louis constantly tinkering at the design to aggrandize it to his tastes. When finished it made the perfect departure point for forays into the nearby Forest of Compiegne, ancestral hunting grounds of French royalty, for some bracing sport. However, Louis was not into taking chances on returning with his game bag empty, and it is said that the forest was so well-stocked that a blind marksman could still expect to feast on wild meats. Continue Reading »

Baigan Bharta

One of the great joys of parenting is being able to do stuff with your kids, you know, like playing with them and watching them laugh. One of the great responsibilities of parenting is doing things with them because you have no choice, as this morning when I reached a stalemate with our 11-month old: either he needed to stop being so clingy for a few moments or I wouldn’t be able to get off the toilet. Depending on what kind of parent you are, you’ll find that one of these scenarios is more common than the other, and we’re totally not judging. Continue Reading »

*Sticky and Sweet Walnut Grape Bread

Roll out the red carpet, blow the shiny, loud horns, wear your fanciest dress (you too, men) – guess who’s back? Yes, I am still alive. Yes, Jonny has been keeping this blog afloat for a year now. And yes, I am ready to try to blog again. After a year of figuring out how to be a parent (and how to be comfortable being a mom and finally coming to terms with the fact that my life will never, ever be the same again) and learning to balance everything that comes with this new, crazy world, I finally feel like I want to write again. And what could be better to write about than the grapevine that not only GREW in the soil of our Brooklyn, NY, yard but even FLOURISHED and provided over 20 lbs of sweet, delicious Catawba grapes? Continue Reading »

veal brains alla milanese

Our good friend, of whom we have seen very little recently, but who persists as an unwitting gastronomic inspiration to us – Juan Camilo – struck again recently when we spied a mess of veal brains at our local butcher. [I’m not sure what the proper collective noun is for brains, but the term seems appropriate given their form, even if something like “florettes” might be more marketable.] We are forever indebted to JC for introducing us to and instructing us on Colombian food, but also for taking us to Ali Kabab Cafe, happily for him, just across the street from his Astoria, Queens, apartment. Continue Reading »

Pork belly puttanesca with homegrown tomatoes

Contrary to conventional wisdom, at this time of year when the garden is in a headlong rush to produce fruits, and you can almost watch the plants as they extend their sinewy tendrils into the air like a group of octopi doing the wave, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do with it all. This is a peculiar problem for us since hitherto we’ve been limited to the cultivation of one basil plant, one of chives, a miserable-looking tarragon, and a solitary pepper plant in pots on our fire escape, so were limited to harvesting only as much as wouldn’t kill the plant at any one time. In this context, the occasion of the annual pepper (singular) ripening was celebrated with champagne and confetti. Continue Reading »

creole steak with bewitched black beans (frijoles negras al brujo)

An oft-heard, anguished cry these days chez nous is “there’s nothing to bloody eat in this house except baby food!”. Never actually true and rarely even close to reality, this refrain was aired again earlier this week when, left to my own devices while Amy enjoys a well-deserved week at her family’s shore house, I returned from work and opened the fridge. Having recently watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, I was reminded that the more one looks at something the more curious it appears, and an apparently bereft fridge began to transform before my eyes into a chest of plenty. Continue Reading »

well-balanced lunch, Bathurst Arms, near Cirencester, GL
“A journey is a fragment of hell.”
– Prophet Mohammed

Regular readers will most likely know a handful of factoids about us WANF-ers and our proclivities, among them: one of us is English, the other Italian-American; we enjoy making a wide variety of dishes, many of which we’ve sampled on our travels; and we have a young child. The more perspicacious among you will notice one or more incompatibilities in the above, especially with regard to the child and love of travel. Upon our recent visit with our English family, these came home to roost and were amplified by an exquisitely-timed bout of gastrointestinal trauma. Not that this made for a disastrous visit – far from it, in fact – but it certainly hampered our ability to sample local specialties and, after having looked forward to the prospect of an honest pub lunch for around 18 months, it made such sampling as we were able to undertake an exercise in sweet frustration. Continue Reading »

pea and paneer curry

If the immense diversity of this city reveals itself in the faces of its people, and if, in turn, those faces can be said to reflect the myriad flavors of this world, then how should one interpret the wearing of “beats by dr dre” headphones by anyone north of 25 years old? With this eternal question in mind, I urge you to consider another conundrum for the ages, which may still puzzle some Hindu theologians: how to take enticing food photography of Indian food with its range of brownish-hued sauces? As we know only too well, appearances are crucial in the food world. Continue Reading »

roasted duck with celeriac-potato mash & shaved celeriac salad

It rarely gives me any satisfaction to work so close to Penn Station, especially in the summer when the areas less salubrious residents are at their most pungent, and, dare I say, because of the heat, most crazed. It is at this time of year that the legion of stupefied zombies, fiending smackheads and other unfortunates, leaning precariously outwards from urine-stained walls or slumped droolingly over mailboxes as they await the opening of the methadone clinic, seem to be at their most numerous, and the sight of two filthy, toothless skags scrapping over a trodden cigarette-butt is as common as blue sky days in the desert. However, contrary to conventional New York wisdom, even in this charming setting good food can be found. In fact, this part of the city – at the southern end of the area traditionally known as Hell’s Kitchen – is rather better than the several blocks further east, where it is just as ugly and congested, but, most importantly, where there is a dearth of reasonable lunch spots. Continue Reading »

Gwyneth Paltrow on June 2011 Bon Appetit Cover

Gwyneth Paltrow on June 2011 Bon Appetit Cover

I refer regularly to Jim Harrison’s collection of food essays the Raw & the Cooked because even though they were written more than ten years ago their relevance to contemporary culinary trends persists. In one such essay, Harrison writes about the tens of millions of chicken legs and thighs the US ships to Russia annually because the domestic market has a preference for the breast. Mocking America’s stupidity and wastefulness, he imagines the ship sinking and the surprise of a frenzy of sharks as they bite down on tons of frozen dark meat.

When in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit I noticed a side-by-side of features on Fergus Henderson and Gwyneth Paltrow, I recalled Harrison’s essay. Credited for his emphasis on Nose to Tail eating, the BA article features Henderson discussing the traditional British Sunday roast — something that he neither resurrected nor uses offal nor is seasonal for the June issue — and the feature on Paltrow showcases her new family cookbook My Father’s Daughter and the way it places her at the heart of domestic cookery. Continue Reading »

Pasta al Pastore (Calabrian Shepherd's Pasta)

I remember reading, though I forget where exactly, another food blogger had written words to the effect that any time you start getting a big head about how great your blog is, take a look back at your earliest posts and it will bring you back to earth with a bump. Great advice, though it could just as easily reinforce your view that you’ve come a long way. Indeed, many of us long time bloggers have done just that from those dimly lit, low contrast beginnings, paving the way, I like to think, for all those parvenues with their new cameras and fancier blog templates. Continue Reading »

chicharrones de pollo

While Queens may have the reputation for being the most ethnically diverse area in the United States, our very own borough of Brooklyn is certainly not bereft of global flavors. From the side-by-side Mexican and Chinese neighborhoods of Sunset Park to the century-old Italian areas of Carroll Gardens and Bay Ridge, to the more recently established Caribbean community of Crown Heights, there is rather more than a smattering of diverse flavors available to the curious epicure. Even gentrified Park Slope and Prospect Heights reflect the enduring presence of their Puerto Rican and Dominican populations with a wide selection of places offering “Spanish food”, a phenomenon which took me a while to decipher as it certainly isn’t Spanish in the European sense. Continue Reading »

chicken in tarragon cream sauce

Classic French cooking doesn’t get much more classic than chicken in tarragon cream sauce. This bistro menu stalwart has all the unctious elements you instinctively associate with Gallic gastronomy: butter, cream, wine and mild herbs. Likely originating in that blessed triangle just north of Lyon where the famous blue-footed chickens of Bresse neighbor the Cotes de Beaune wine region and abut the renowned mustard-producing region of Dijon, this dish can also be given a Norman twist simply by substituting the white wine for a dry cider. Continue Reading »

boudin noir, puy lentils, baby courgettes

According to British and Irish tradition, black pudding has an esteemed place next to the bacon rashers, sausage links, fried eggs, mushrooms, fried tomato and fried slice in an old-fashioned greasy spoon breakfast, but its almost complete absence from the American breakfast table is confusing, especially given our known preference towards an injection of cholesterol to kick-start the day. Continue Reading »

tira de asado (Argentine-style beef shortribs)
A little of what you fancy does you good.”
– British saying

The hardworking folks behind this non-award winning blog are enjoying a deserved warm weather break on Florida’s Gulf Coast right now. No offense to the locals, but we did not pick this particular destination for its well-known and highly prized food culture. Instead, it was selected as a fitting location for our first post-baby trip that would be easy to get to, easy to negotiate in situ and with guaranteed good weather, something we’ve been craving after a hard winter made tougher by a sleepless infant. Continue Reading »

Guyanese Chow Mein

Guyana, sitting on the top right of the land mass of South America, is among the least known and most mysterious of that continent’s countries, something that is almost as true today as it was when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used it as the setting for his 1904 novel, The Lost World. Home to the most intact and least spoiled rain forests in South America, Guyana’s biodiversity is simultaneously staggering and largely undocumented, and cascading from its mossy, permanently cloud-topped peaks, fall several of the world’s largest waterfalls. Guyana is also unique on a human-scale, having the distinction of being the only English-speaking nation in South America, and, perhaps because of this, of having been among the world’s largest producers of natural latex for the manufacture of cricket balls Continue Reading »

Pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines and fennel)

Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards, Garibaldi and his thousand, and finally hordes of tourists have visited Sicily over the milennia. Some stayed for centuries, some only for generations, but even those whose sojourn was comparatively brief played a role in the island’s blending of cultures and traditions.

If this human concoction can be distilled into a single dish, it might be pasta con le sarde. A strikingly simple plate of spaghetti, fennel, onions, and sardines garnished with golden raisins (sultanas) and pine nuts, but its layers of flavor and texture speak of Sicily’s multifarious heritage. Grapes, introduced by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, combining with the tradition of using dried fruit in savory dishes adopted from the Moors, the abundant use of saffron borrowed from the Spanish Bourbon monarchy, and the native reliance on cheap and readily-available ingredients of the highest quality in the onions, foraged wild fennel, pine nuts and the island’s golden olive oil. Continue Reading »

lunch at Ferdinando's Foccaceria

When you think of old-style Italian-American restaurants does red sauce spring to mind? Red check wax table cloths, family-style servings, a free salad with your entree, rotund red-faced guys with their sleeves rolled-up, going “ey!” and slapping each other on the back? Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s also close to the truth in a lot of places, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I, for one, love a classic east coast red sauce and meatballs joint, but it’s not the complete picture. Continue Reading »

Fabada Asturiana

Almost seven years ago I journeyed from Santillana del Mar to Santa Maria de Lebaña via San Vicente de la Barquera. So many saints, so much devotion, that it was little surprise to learn that beyond the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana and through the Picos de Europe lies the hallowed ground of Covadonga.

It was at the battle of Covadonga in 718 that Christian Spain under Pelayo, King of Asturias, began the reclamation of Iberia from the Muslim Moors. Nestled deep within the Asturian mountains, Covadonga is as important to the Spanish national myth as Hastings is to the British or Lexington to Americans. However, history defies such over-simplification – the linear narrative of one thing followed by another – and it is too easy to say that simply because certain events turned out the way they did there were no other possibilities. Indeed, a sentence stating that the defeat of a Moorish army by a Spanish king at Covadonga began the reconquest of Spain – which culminated in Ferdinand and Isabella vanquishing Boabdil, Emir of Granada, in 1492 – encompasses more than 700 years and glosses over seven whole centuries of war, shifting borders, switching alliances, inter-marriage, suffering and grief. Continue Reading »

caldo de costillas (Colombian beef short rib soup)

We understand from our Colombian friend Juan Camilo (who longtime readers may remember from this podcast) that the Bogota nightlife is on a par with any of the world’s party capitals, and that when it comes to late night boozing, the aguardiente-loving natives of Colombia’s capital are among the most experienced. It should come as no surprise then that they have also spent some time figuring out effective cures to the inevitable DT’s the morning after — something that I am sure Charlie Sheen, with his well-known enthusiasm for the odd briefcase of Colombia’s most famous export, already knows about. Continue Reading »

deep-fried baby octopus with fried eggs
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

– Hamlet

Emerging from the cool interior, the scent of carved stone and beeswax mingles briefly before being overwhelmed by the perfume of orange trees, and the holy silence is punctured by the mossy gurgle of a tiny fountain. Large white geese peck assertively at the ragged hands of ferns that decorate this cloister and I am reminded that oranges were brought here by the Moors and that geese make more effective security systems than dogs and fences. Incongruous? Perhaps. But not nearly so peculiar given the context in which I was reminded of this memory of Barcelona: an article announcing that Jennifer Aniston’s favorite country is Spain and Barcelona her favorite city. All of which would be of no interest whatsoever if she made better movies. Continue Reading »

Lamb Peratil curry with Malay fragrant rice

Though a resident of Singapore, then a part of Malaysia, during the early 1950s, I doubt very much if my father ever had much of an opportunity to experience its astonishing variety of cuisines. Confined mostly to the Changi district (now better known for its international airport) and the company of other expatriate British military families, his diet hardly differed from that of his older brother, Roger, who stayed in England at boarding school throughout the family’s four year sojourn in the east. Continue Reading »

Lomo Saltado

During his show on Panama, Anthony Bourdain observed that Chinese food somehow gets shinier the further west one goes. He might also have mentioned that it changes in other ways throughout the western hemisphere too, on the whole, becoming less and less Chinese-like. In a similar way to Panama, to which Chinese laborers flocked to help build the eponymous canal, Peru experienced large-scale immigration of Cantonese mine workers during the latter half of the 19th century too, and still has the largest Asian population of any nation in South America. Largely isolated from its home country for the intervening century and a half, the Peruvian Chinese community, like many New World immigrant groups, developed its own distinct peculiarities. Continue Reading »

foie gras and wild mushroom raviolo

There’s a show on public television here in America called “Moment of Luxury” in which the host very generously enjoys all manner of fine things on our behalf and then shares his collected pensees about the experience. Traveling around the food blogosphere lately has felt like a surprisingly similar experience for us since our three month old prevents us from experiencing any luxury ourselves.

Tough titty, I hear you cry. Fair enough, we have lived rather high on the hog these last several years and have been blessed with several unforgettable moments of luxury along the way, but like the princess and the pea, we are finding our current rather straightened circumstances somewhat uncomfortable. Continue Reading »

Lentils with chocolate and baked paprika spiked pork chop

Those of you who raised your eyebrows at the very idea of lentils mixed with chocolate might be forgiven for thinking that we have lost our tiny minds, that too long around infant children, cooing and a-goo-goo-gooing, has softened our already mushy brains beyond repair. Indeed, had we not gone out on a limb ourselves and given this a bash, I daresay we would be right there among you sucking our teeth and rolling our eyes, but, like many foods that turn out to be extra delicious, a small leap of faith is necessary. Continue Reading »

Food & Friends, Recipes and Memories from Simca's Cuisine

The culinary memoir has to be one of my favorite genres of both cookbooks and books in general. Combining anecdotes, family history and delicious recipes, and spanning literature and cuisine, there’s really nothing better than a cookbook that you can actually read, that’s not just a selection of quick and easy recipes by some personality-laden stand and stir TV show host, and from which you learn the context of the food and about why traditions and patience in food are important. With the holiday season upon us, I can heartily recommend you give the gift of a copy of Food & Friends: Recipes and Memories from Simca’s Cuisine by Simone Beck, to your nearest and dearest this year. Continue Reading »

On Parenting and Pumpkins

Pumpkin soup with chipotle and pimenton

It’s one of the ironies of being a new parent that even though we are spending more time than at any other point in our adult lives at home, we are finding it virtually impossible to do any cooking. Even when we do steal a few moments of quiet to get behind the burners, by the time the food is done, so is the nap our baby was taking. Of course, eating your dinner cold is nothing new to a food blogger – teasing the plating and getting just the right lighting usually takes a while – but at least we used to be able to eat our tepid meat and congealed sauce without the throaty vocal stylings of a five-week-old as an accompaniment. Continue Reading »

la bomba

Towards the end of what is, in my opinion, his finest work, Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell tells of the bitter street fighting he witnessed in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War when the delicate alliance between communist, socialist, and anarchist factions of the Republican army finally collapsed. While certainly not the bloodiest scene in a war that cost around a million lives, it was one of the most significant, sounding, as it did, the death knell for the Republican cause against Franco’s Fascists. Never after this internicene strife were the respective Republican parties able to trust one another enough to wage a successful war. Continue Reading »

paté en croûte d'Amiens

Every now and then I’ll sit through one of those “secrets of the ancient world” shows on the History Channel. You know, the ones in which they have modern experts try to “decode” how the pyramids or the hanging gardens of Babylon were constructed using graphics that make you feel like you’re watching B-roll from The Da Vinci Code, and where, before every commercial break, there’s some sort of cliff-hanger like “Coming up, how this building ought never to have stood!”

So it was this past week, when shortly after the birth of our son, I was rocking him gently to sleep with one eye on a TV show about how Europe’s gothic cathedrals were built. Focusing on the massive limestone spires of the cathedrals of Notre-Dame d’Amiens, St. Pierre de Beauvais and Notre-Dame de Paris, this show was among the more interesting of its genre as not only did it deal directly with how modern architects are trying to prevent these houses of God from collapsing under their own weight, but it also brought back memories of our trip earlier this year to the Picardy region of northern France when we visited the first of these. Continue Reading »

Haitian Griyo, sauce ti malice and rice n'beans
“Griyo is madd good. If you have neva tasted it, you are missing a lot.”

So much of what we think we know of Haiti is bad – from the massive human suffering and destruction caused by January’s earthquake, to decades of political and social unrest, to blood-curdling tales of voodoo curses and zombies – that one might be forgiven for wondering how the inhabitants of such a benighted country make it through the day. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s often the case that where there is the greatest suffering, there is also the most joyous celebration – think the wildly over the top bedazzled costumes and deafening samba baterias coming out of the most ravaged Rio slum at Carneval – and so it is in Haiti, and nothing says celebration to a Haitian like griyot. Continue Reading »

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