Snaps from last month's trip to one of the most photogenic and delicious places on Earth:
Morning at Hiiragiya Ryokan means gently simmered tofu, plump white rice and a mosaic of tiny, flavorful dishes, barely changed since the inn first opened in 1818.
The only regret from an afternoon in beautiful Arashiyama: not having booked a table at Shoraian Tofu, a little spot tucked into the woods overlooking the river...
Biggest takeaway from dinner at Kikunoi: walnut miso should be eaten A LOT, preferably atop roasted turnips.
Lunch at Oku is a mighty pretty, wholly delicious affair.
The brand-spanking-new Arabica coffee's got style (and damn good brew).
Why pay a visit to Wellfleet, Mass?
After a day of dunes and surf on the Atlantic-side beaches, you can gather oysters, clams and scallops on the shores of the bay (all you need is a permit and a pail)...
...and eat them with Cocchi Rosso or Carpano Antico spritzes (if you hit Main Street Wine & Gourmet in Orleans on the way to town, that is).
You can cook beachside fantasy feasts with stunning local seafood and produce procured from Hatch's (special shout-outs to the monkfish, squid, scallops, clams and albacore, plus the homemade ice pops from the outdoor produce stand)...
...or just eat damn-near-perfect fried scallops from Mac's on the Pier (also home to a solid lobster salad roll) every day.
You can rent bikes from Idle Times Bike Shop, have local-fish tacos down the street at Sunbird food truck, and then cruise along Ocean View Drive...
...or sling a tote with a pair of scissors over your handlebars and pilfer these beauties from the bay side's wildflower-lined inland roads.
You can start the day with oat-chia-flax muesli and hemp milk, made with oh-so-healthy ingredients procured from the Orleans Whole Food Store (which also stocks freshly milled organic flour and excellent Kimball Brook Farm organic cream from Vermont)...
...and end it with a little somethin' like this:
And while you're waiting for your flight from the Hyannis Airport, you can walk across the parking lot to Pain D'Avignon and drown your departure-induced sorrows in fat, garlic-marinated picholine olives and an arugula-fig jam tartine.
*Edible Cape Cod has a thorough list of other resources for shopping, cooking and feasting throughout The Cape
A week after a 10-day jaunt to Barcelona and Madrid, the cravings were hitting hard. Sherry, garlic, pimentón and jamón withdrawal were in full effect.
Fortunately there was a birthday to be celebrated, so we did it Spanish-style--with fat white asparagus, spritzes, almejas a la marinera, garlicky roasted potatoes, and a rack of pork from Dickson's Farmstand Meats with shallots cooked in Pedro Ximenez. For dessert, a golden cake rich with Spanish olive oil.
THE MENU // spritzes, jamón Iberico, Marcona almonds, olives and pimentos de piquillo // white and green asparagus with lemon vinaigrette and basil oil // almejas a la marinera // pork rib roast with PX shallots and salsa verde // garlicky roasted potatoes // olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and genmaicha ice cream
Aperol Spritzes are the drink del momento in Madrid. We decided our bottle of Carpano Antica would do, and set it out alongside slices of jamón Iberico, Marcona almonds, olives and piquillo peppers, sliced and tossed with olive oil and basil.
Next came asparagus, green and white, braised a la Patricia Wells, tossed with lemon and olive oil, drizzled with basil oil, and sprinkled with redbud blossoms plucked from an obliging tree on Bergen Street. A basil oil tip: If using any but the mildest young leaves, blanch the basil first (5 seconds in boiling water will do) to eliminate any bitterness.
There were almejas a la marinera, too, Long Island clams enveloped in a ruddy sauce of Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón dulce), white wine, garlic and onions (scroll down; voilà, recipe!). The dish is named for sailors, marineros, and I would consider a life as a Spanish sailor if these were promised daily. They're just that simple-but-craveable, thanks to the hefty dose of smoky pimentón.
As for those shallots, a quick brown in butter was followed by a long bath in a half-bottle's-worth of raisiny Pedro Ximenez, rosemary and thyme. They emerged from the oven sweet, aromatic and savory, lacquered with the reduced sherry. (The inspiration: An unforgettable dish of steak with pearl onions and grapes cooked in Pedro Ximenez, eaten in the heart of sherry country in 2006.)
A bite of genmaicha-honey ice cream at Van Leeuwen the day before inspired the dessert: Maialino's genius olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and said (also genius, I'd say) ice cream.
Almejas a la Marinera
Serves 4 as an appetizer
32 littleneck clams
1 bottle white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pimentón dulce (Spanish sweet smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon flour
An hour before cooking, soak the clams in water to get 'em to spit out their sand. Pour a few glugs of wine (a half-cup or so) into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. When it starts to simmer, add the clams and cover, peeking frequently so that you can catch them as they open. Stand with tongs at the ready so that you can snag just-opened clams and transfer them to a bowl. Pour the cooking liquid from the pan into the bowl with the clams, give the pan a quick wipe, and set it back over the heat.
Add the olive oil, onion and garlic, and sauté until the alliums soften. Pour the liquid from the clam bowl into the pan and add another half-cup of wine. Once it's bubbling vigorously, add the pimentón and flour and cook, stirring regularly, for 2 minutes or so, so the wine cooks down a bit and the flavors do their thing. Taste for seasoning (you might want to add a touch of salt), add the clams, and gently toss to coat them with the sauce. Sprinkle with a good shower of parsley and serve, preferably with glasses of sherry (Fino or Manzanilla) or a Spanish white like Albariño or Godello.
We ate 20 courses, we drank local herb and root tisanes, and then we hit the pond. Midnight fishing at Fäviken, as (casually) told to Yahoo Food...
In the small beach town of Troncones, as with many of the best small beach towns, eating is the main event. Sure, there are sun and surf and sand. But in this tiny dot on Mexico's central Pacific coast, they're mostly filler between meals. This is a place where beer is cheaper than water, seafood is dreamily fresh, and margaritas are made just as they should be: with tequila, lime juice and Cointreau; shaken; and served on the rocks.
It's a special place, one that's largely undeveloped and undiscovered. In its honor, a few (culinary) lessons learned on a recent trip, and then a few pictures:
* Key limes have transformative, nearly magical powers. They turn Pacificos and Victorias into the apotheosis of beachside thirst quenching. Freshly fried tortilla chips need little more than a squeeze of them and a sprinkle of salt. Pounded in a mortar with green chiles, they are the secret to the finest camarones en aguachile and tiritas, strips of huachinango (red snapper) tangled with slivered red onion.
* Pretty much everything tastes better when doused with mojo de ajo, especially grilled lobster.
* Walking 2+ miles from Troncones to the tiny fishing town of Playa Majahua for lunch at Doña Martha, a humble, open-walled seafood shack on the beach, is a excellent decision (see previous point and below lobster photo).
* When served within sight of the ocean, machaca -- shredded beef popular in Mexico's cattle-heavy northern states -- is made with fish, and studded with pineapple and raisins. The meaty, sweet/savory/spiced/tomato-y braise is served room-temperature, with tortilla chips, and wouldn't taste out of place on a table in Tangier.
* Fruity, gently spicy guajillo chiles + garlic = true love (aka "al ajillo," Mexican style). Slice dried guajillos into rings, sliver or mince a monstrous amount of garlic, and add both to a pan of olive oil over low heat. Let it all mingle and seep and sauté; as the garlic is just beginning to color, crank up the heat and add some shrimp. (If the shrimp are staggeringly fresh, butterfly the back and cook them with the legs and the shell on. The legs, once crisped and tangled with garlicky chile oil, are arguably the best part of the thing. If not staggeringly fresh, peel away.) Finish the pan with salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime, and serve, as most all seafood in this area is (rightly) served, with fresh tortillas and a beer.
Two of my favorite things -- Berlin's Turkish Market and oat-y, coconut-y Australian Anzac biscuits -- were featured among 98 others in this year's Saveur 100, the magazine's annual compilation of edible, drinkable, readable and visit-able inspiration.
That's all well and good, but the two favorites that didn't make the cut are so damn special that they must be sung about, blogged about and shouted from the rooftops as Massively Excellent Things.
First: summertime butter at Fäviken, Magnus Nillson's isolated and beautiful restaurant in a historic barn in the wilds of central Sweden. The pat of richly golden dairy that waits on your table in the lofted dining room -- after a parade of snacks begins the meal downstairs (flax crackers with pureed mussels, dehydrated lichen and the like, accompanied by sherry-like fermented rhubarb juice) -- is made from the milk of six cows owned by a family a few miles down the road. The family doesn't have electricity, so often the butter sits at room temperature for a few days (until there's enough to deliver to the restaurant -- so said the server). This fermentation of such pristine dairy yields spectacular results; the butter is a savory, funky, heady thing, tasting of grass and animal and earth -- a standout in a meal where near everything was special. In the court of cultured butter, Fäviken's is king.
Next: Leila's Shop in Shoreditch, London. Its charm is in its stylish plainness, simplicity and warmth: eggs fried in a well-buttered skillet and topped with a few leaves of crisped sage; red chard with plumped raisins, pine nuts and onions caramelized with saffron; all cooked in a homey open kitchen and served with big slices of Poilâne toast.
The shop next door is packed (jumbled, even) with local cheese and charcuterie, cured Scottish salmon, a rainbow of produce from France, jams, grains, and dairy. While there, I eyed a stack of burlap bags in the corner and considered making a nest (and never leaving).