Sunday, September 25, 2016

the time of adventures

a late arrival in budapest can sometimes begin with palinka and end with burgundy. the next morning, some of us awoke slightly the worse for wear. fortunately, we were not due in szekszárd for many hours. palinka is a highly alcoholic substance that should be consumed with discretion.

szekszárd is one of hungary's key wine regions. each year there is a fair featuring folklorical cultural activities including traditional dancing, customary hats and costumes, historical snack foods, and the sale and consumption of local beverages. due to the heat and humidity, hydration was our highest priority.

we closely observed local cultural practices and attempted—with some success—to penetrate the hermeneutic circle.

several hours later, we had somehow accumulated many empty beverage bottles.

the next morning, some of us awoke slightly the worse for wear. the hallways of our lodgings were decorated with the product of one woman's decade-long engagement with artistic practice. her work was informed by many genres of world art.

after the previous day, a calming itinerary seemed advisable. one that involved as little movement as possible. we went for coffee, fröccs, and peppers. and we met bob the dog.

then we visited the old family winery with its mould-covered fermentation cellar and olde tyme ornaments.

a brief stop in the family vineyard and orchard, then on to bean soup at a roadhouse prominently displaying the universal symbol for ice cream. an extremely sedate and calming day.

but after a post-prandial nap, old patterns reasserted themselves.

the next morning, some of us awoke slightly the worse for wear. fortunately, we were not due in budapest for many hours.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

explosión de mariscos

in galicia, the kitchen was serviceable; the view from the balcony was better.

the markets were amply provisioned, and there were many bottles; some of them were very tasty. the cooler came in handy.

we discovered the virtues of the can.

the town has a fishing co-op with a shop which opens twice a day to sell day catch from boats that dock right outside.

there were percebes. they were tasty.

some of the percebes were fractal. (still tasty.)

at a slightly fancy restaurant, we had remarkable scallops. note how little they have been fucked with. these were about the price of a mediocre plate of pasta in london.

there was also a lobster—that was quite messy. fortunately, i was wearing my lobster-eating shirt.

the oysters at the roadside lunch spot at which we waited for a late afternoon audience with The Knight of the Valley weren't messy at all.

but most of the time we cooked shellfish,

and regular fish,

and sat on the beach.

Monday, August 1, 2016

change and continuity

Root admires La Pyramide, on the whole, but he holds that no restaurant on a byway can be called truly great, since its clients come a long way way to eat its specialties and it need scarcely ever change its menu. The truly great restaurateur is the one who can please essentially the same clientele week after week without boring or disappointing it.
a.j. liebling, "the modest threshold," in between meals.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

around a watery city

stana era col fondo and cream-soaked rhubarb at la banchina; kenya v60 at copenhagen coffee lab; sweet and salty licorice and barley lemonade popsicle ("kung fu bar") from your usual corner bodega; sea buckthorn, red pitaya, and jackfruit ices from østerberg; vinegar-powdered fried chicken, pickles, and a biscuit at amass; unnamed but "surprisingly drinkable" danish regent rosé at rødder & vin.

some flavours unique to the northern latitudes are acquired tastes that are easy to acquire.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

the comfort zone


every restaurant in copenhagen that a noma alumnus starts has to make a point of not being another noma. sometimes, the tactics for doing this are broad stroke elements of presentation that are obvious and easily communicated in a photograph. at studio, the difference is subtle. torsten vildgaard's food does not push the eater beyond his comfort zone; there are no obviously exotically wild foods, no foods you obviously haven't eaten before. these days, restaurants showing such restraint are increasingly rare.

even during a short lunch, the kitchen brought me to areas of my comfort zone i'd not visited before. a slice of half-frozen pineapple, a snack casually sent out before the mains, mildly aromatic with some bright but unidentifiable flavour; this flavour (yuzu) made a simple piece of pineapple arresting, outstanding. and the kitchen showed me areas of my comfort zone that were, unknown to me, adjacent to each other. poached salt cod in a briny butter emulsion was concealed by cloud of raw shaved broccoli; its delicate crunch and subtle sulphur note filled this usually staidly rich dish with the feeling of spring. even the bread service was remarkable for its unassuming attention to detail and thorough perfection, the quickly fermented, gently lactic bread made from wheat milled on site (and a trace of barley from a 50kg bag gifted to the restaurant) and accompanied by a dish of freshly made, properly salted whey butter. it was a pyrotechnic-free lunch, and one of the best meals i've had in a long time.

for me, apart from the food, there was the added pleasure of seeing an old friend happy in his own kitchen. a chef with a clear point of view is rare, and one such who has created a kitchen, a restaurant, and a team which feels right is an even rarer satisfaction. for reasons unknown, the international press continues to fail to review studio—don't let this deter you from visiting.
havnegade 44
1058 københavn K, denmark
part of my incomplete list of nearly perfect meals.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

liquid link

How you are able to taste a glass of wine and travel in your mind to the place where it began, recall the way the place looked in the Fall, the way the air smelled, the palpable energy of a vineyard bursting with fruit. Beer cannot do that, nor anything distilled. Walk a great wine estate and the wines produced there never taste the same again. Wine connects us to our senses, and to the places we’ve been, and the trajectory of our life. I know of nothing else that can make that connection. Wine grounds us on this beautiful planet. Maybe if the world had more wine drinkers, we wouldn’t have ruined it so carelessly.
ron washam, HMW

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

learning how to eat

Eating is highly subjective, and the man who accepts say-so in youth will wind up in bad and overtouted restaurants in middle age, ordering what the maître d'hôtel suggests. He will have been guided to them by food-snob publications, and he will fall into the habit of drinking too much before dinner to kill the taste of what he has been told he should like but doesn't.
a.j. liebling,"just enough money."

Saturday, February 13, 2016


cocina vianey

take advantage of the free taster taco they hand you over the splashguard surrounding the butcher block. grab a table—remembering that passing cars can transfer the contents of puddles in the street to those sitting streetside—then start with mutton broth with a (self-administered) squeeze of lime, chopped onion and cilantro, and a spoon of rice. after the soup, call for tender-crisp bits of mostly (but not totally) rendered meat hacked from a sheep oven-roasted in a maguey leaf, and a lidded box of fresh corn tortillas. salsa borracha (toasted pasilla, onions, pulque) and more cilantro/onion/lime are necessary additions to the tacos you make; adding crumbled chicharrón gilds the lily, but that's OK. the sheep roasted here are raised on the family farm west of mexico city. another reason to get up early on a weekend morning.

cocina vianey
ernesto pugibet, 34
colonia centro
mexico df

Saturday, January 23, 2016

fruit of the new world

mercado jamaica, mexico city. in warm climates, as one discovers in oranges, citrus may ripen fully even when the skin remains green.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

taco sprezzatura

the best taco al pastor i've had in the last 18 months featured the correct cut of pork (the shoulder) spit-roasted to render much of the fat and bring the surface to a balance between crispness and char, then thinly shaved, precisely sauced, and topped with a baton of cold fresh pineapple, on a cal-scented and slightly scorched fresh corn tortilla. i did not find this taco on a street corner in mexico city, nor was it at the off-strip location of tacos el gordo in las vegas, nor was it at the tacos el gordo mothership in chula vista (which claimed but did not deliver housemade corn tortillas).

no, this best taco al pastor—which wore its fastidious attention to detail lightly—was from empellon al pastor in new york, the third mexican restaurant from alex stupak (once pastry chef at alinea and wd-50) and lauren resler (once pastry chef at babbo).

Monday, October 5, 2015

the search for soup

in mexico city, i hunted caldo de camarón. six bowls in five days. the oddest and least delicious was made from dried bay shrimp in a seedy cantina in colonia san rafael. as a heartlander, it disappoints me a bit that contramar's was the best by a wide margin—murky with prawn brains and garlic, red with achiote, refreshed by cubes of avocado and a liberal showering of white onion, cilantro, and lime.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

a good year for plums

the old english gage

by september, the cherries are over but other fruit have ripened to take their place. at the perry court farm stand, the fruit section is now a sea of plums. plums, plums, plums. martin fermor, perry court farm owner, orchardist, and apple enthusiast, said to me: "you won't regret trying one of these little ugly green ones that are a bit banged up." right on. "widely considered the best-flavoured of all plums," these old english gages are "a sublime taste experience when you get a good one."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

behind the scenes

behind the scenes

distinctive products often require distinctive equipment.

7 sanborn court, somerville ma 02143.