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 »

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