steak-florence-880

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 »

Chicken Involtini

In the very infancy of this blog, back when we had no appreciation for plating, lighting or anything else remotely aesthetic, my wife wrote about the first course of a truly memorable dinner we shared in the famous Florentine trattoria, Coco Lezzone. What she didn’t mention was that even though we were getting towards the end of our nearly month long sojourn in Italy that encompassed our wedding and honeymoon, by the time we wound up in that jewel of the Renaissance, we were feeling rather sorry for ourselves. Continue Reading »

Tonno Tonnato (Tuna with Tuna Sauce)

With the summer over (sad face) but the warm days of Indian Summer lingering on (happy face), this dish will be relavant for a few more weeks (for those who are super traditional about eating warm weather dishes only in warm weather). For me, this will be an excellent dish to eat after months of freezing winter weather and extra fat stored from weeks of heavy stews. It’s a mix of light and heavy, but, for some reason, it feels lighter than heavier. Maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself? Continue Reading »

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