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    Finnish May Day soda and funnel cakes-photo
    by Elsa Sandauml;andauml;telandauml;
    May Day, or "Vappu," is a special day in Finland. A carnival-like spirit fills the air, and typically reserved Finns take part in outdoor festivities across the country.

    The national holiday is a celebration of "worker's day," but it also marks the arrival of spring and the end of yet another long, dark winter. For kids, Vappu is all about visiting the outdoor May Day markets in the city, where knickknacks of every type are sold, from whistles to big helium balloons. No matter how old you are, May Day is not complete without tippaleipä, a funnel cake only sold around May Day, and a glass of sima, a home-brewed soda made with lemon and brown sugar.

    As I child, I was fascinated by the preparation of this bubbly concoction. The procedure itself is quite simple-mix water, sugar, lemon and yeast, pour into the empty soda bottles and let ferment for three to five days-but I always took this process with grave seriousness. My dad was really the one doing most of the mixing and measuring, but I was an eager spectator, taking pride in popping raisins into each bottle before the caps were screwed on and the sima was taken to our cellar for fermentation. The raisins play a crucial role: as they sit in the lemon mixture, the raisins soak up the yeast, and start floating up to the top of the bottle. Once all the raisins float to the surface, the sima is ready to be enjoyed. Simple as the soda-making is, it can also be very particular-too little yeast or too cold an environment and the mead turns out flat, while too much yeast or too warm of an environment and the bottles are at risk of exploding, due to the pressure created during the fermentation. We learned this the hard way: one year our cellar stairs became flooded with sugary fizz, and we had to settle for store-bought sima, which sadly tastes nothing like the home-brewed version.

    My family always spent most of Vappu at the markets, taking a break to visit my grandmother's office in one of the buildings facing the marketplace. I remember feeling so special as we would escape the crowds up to our 8th floor look out, where we were greeted with a bottle of sima and fresh tippaleipä, which my grandmother made even better by adding a touch of lemon zest to the batter. For me, this was the highlight of the day: sitting in front of the window, sipping my lemony beverage and picking apart the strips of funnel cake, while looking down at the buzzing market square, counting the number of balloons that had escaped the hands of their owners. I no longer live in Finland, but at the start of every spring I think back to this perfect May Day memory: family, tippaleipä, and sima.

    See the recipe for Sima»
    See the recipe for Tippaleipä»

        



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  • 04/26/13--02:00: A Dozen Things to Do in Maui
  • A Dozen Things to Do in Maui-photo
    by Maria Del Carmen Pottage
    Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, hasn't been nicknamed "the Magic Isle" for nothing. First, there is its surreal chromaticism: Avocado green valleys; ultramarine blue seas; amber poha berries, ruby red ahi tuna; vivid, rainbow-hued shave ice; and all those spell-inducing sunsets. The food is equally colorful. Hawaiian cuisine is an amalgam of the traditions of its Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, and Portuguese immigrants. It is a cuisine in constant evolution, and one that embraces both beloved snacks like spam musubi-a slice of spam on top of a block of sushi rice, all wrapped with nori-and refined farm-to-table dining that makes use of the riot of wonderful ingredients native to the island. The options, like Maui's charms, are plenty. -Maria del Carmen Pottage [Maria del Carmen Pottage lived on Maui for four years before moving to New York City to pursue her writing career. She still misses mango season and picking up guavas on her hikes.]

    1. Merriman's

    Set in Kapalua, one of the most beautiful bays on Maui, Merriman's has a stellar location with some of the best views on the island. Owned by chef Peter Merriman, the restaurant is known for its commitment to local, sustainable ingredients. Salads such as the "poke-cut ahi and avocado"-with butter lettuce, mango, beets roasted in Hawaiian sea salt and olive oil, tomato and tamari-ginger vinaigrette-taste so fresh and vibrant, it is evident ingredients didn't travel long to get on the plate. Kurobuta pork raised in Upcountry Maui at famed Malama Farm is used from snout to tail in various dishes, like the Kalua pig and sweet onion quesadilla served with kimchee and mango-chili sauce.
    Merriman's
    1 Bay Club Pl
    Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
    808/669-6400


    2. Mala Ocean Tavern

    This small oceanfront family restaurant in Lahaina is always packed with locals and visitors. Although they're famous for their cheeseburger-juicy Snake River Farms American-style Kobe beef, Maytag blue or cheddar cheese, sweet caramelized onions, and crispy smoked applewood bacon, all served in a housemade flax seed brioche bun-be sure to explore the rest of their eclectic menu, which features local seafood in dishes like seared ahi bruschetta served on flax seed toast over edamame puree and local Olowalu tomatoes, and amazing salads like the gado gado: brown rice, tofu, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and chickpeas, all dressed with a luscious coconut-peanut sauce.
    Mala Ocean Tavern
    1307 Front Street
    Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
    808/667-9394


    3. Monkeypod Kitchen

    In a shopping center near the resort area of Wailea, this bustling modern tavern slings handcrafted cocktails like the Pod Thai, an invigorating drink made with light rum, thai basil, crème of coconut, lime, and lemongrass-cardamom syrup. The food ranges from wood-roasted chicken wings with garlic, chiles, and rosemary, to pizza topped with Big Island lobster, Hamakua mushrooms and white sauce. Don't miss their exquisite chocolate, strawberry, banana, or coconut cream pies.
    Monkeypod Kitchen
    10 Wailea Ike Dr #201
    Kihei, Maui, HI 96753
    808/891-2322


    Credit: Zach Stovall

    4. Amasia at the Grand Wailea Resort

    Alan Wong's first restaurant off Oahu is named for the theoretical supercontinent that would be formed by the natural merging of Asia and North America. The name suits the food, which is global and surprising: Sweet potatoes are cooked on a Japanese robata grill and served with coconut-ginger cream; buttery Hawaiian Kampachi-sustainably offshore farmed Almaco Jack fish-is served raw in a Peruvian-style tiradito (thin sashimi-like-cut fish served with a bright, citrusy sauce spiced with Peruvian chili peppers); and a whole tomato is combined with a li hing mui (salted dried plum) dressing in a sweet and tangy salad. Desserts are also playful and technique-driven, as in The Coconut, a coconut pudding sorbet covered in a chocolate shell and shaped into half a coconut.
    Amasia
    3850 Wailea Alanui Dr
    Kihei, Maui, HI 96753
    808/891-3954


    5. T. Komoda Store andamp; Bakery

    In the cowboy town of Makawao, in upcountry Maui, this nearly century-old general store-slash-bakery is beloved for its glazed doughnuts on a stick and cinnamon-sugar dusted malasadas.
    T. Komoda Store andamp; Bakery
    3674 Baldwin Ave
    Makawao, Maui, HI 96768
    808/572-7261


    5. The Gazebo

    In a no-frills space set in a spectacular location, The Gazebo serves generous breakfasts featuring dishes like macadamia nut pancakes and Portuguese sausage fried rice. There is always a line to get in, but the wait is made bearable by a view of Napili Bay where, depending on the season, you can spot humpback whales or sea turtles.The Gazebo
    5315 Lower Honoapiilani Rd
    Napili Shores
    Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
    808/669-5621


    6. Main Street Bistro

    At this solo operation, located in an unassuming space in downtown Wailuku, chef Tom Selman dishes out outstandingly good plates ranging from rock shrimp burgers to grilled Poblano peppers stuffed with spicy chorizo, white stone ground cheese grits, and topped with avocado.
    Main Street Bistro
    2051 Main Street
    Wailuku, HI 96793
    808/244-6816


    7. Honokowai Ozakuya andamp; Deli

    In a small strip mall in Honokowai, this counter-service-only eatery serves some of the best lunch plates for take-out, perfect for eating in the park across the street. Lunch plates were created during Hawaii's sugarcane plantation era, when immigrant farm workers shared their homemade lunchbox meals at work, mixing the culinary traditions from their diverse homelands. Try the chicken katsu (chicken fillet breaded with panko breadcrumbs and fried) and the grilled mahi mahi in a lemon caper sauce, both served with white rice, and a side of steamed vegetables or macaroni salad.
    Honokowai Ozakuya andamp; Deli
    3600 Lower Honoapiilani Road
    Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
    808/665-0512


    8. Keanae Landing Fruit Stand

    One of the many highlights of driving on the iconic road to Hana-52 winding miles of narrow one-way bridges, sheer rocky cliffs, tropical forest, and hidden waterfalls-is Aunty Sandy's banana bread. Sold at Keanae Landing Fruit Stand in the Keanae peninsula off Hana Highway, Auntie Sandy's fresh banana bread, made from Williams bananas and Ke'anae-grown Apple Bananas, is moist and warm and perfectly sweet.
    Keanae Landing Fruit Stand
    210 Keanae Road
    Keanae HI 96708


    9. Sam Sato's

    Sam Sato's is way off the tourist path, with no ocean views or flashy umbrella drinks, whose "dry mein" have made it into a Maui institution. This ramen-like dish is served with a side of pork-and-beef broth, to be lightly drizzled over the noodles as they are eaten, or used to dip the noodles in, just like soba. The thick, somewhat chewy egg noodles are made in the Iwamoto Natto Noodle Factory in nearby Paia. For dessert, try Sam's manju, a baked pastry filled with azuki or sweetened lima beans.
    Sam Sato's
    1750 Wili Pa Loop
    Wailuku, HI 96793
    808/244-7124


    Credit: Lori Barbely

    10. Star Noodle

    A noodle shop with a distinctly Hawaiian sensibility. Big Island native Sheldon Simeon has created a menu loyal to the island's flavor that shines in pohole salad (Hana fiddle head fern, Maui onion, fried shrimp, sundried shrimp, and kelp), local saimin (house-made thin ramen noodles in bonito dashi, topped with spam, fish cakes, sliced omelet egg, and minced green onions), or its Filipino "bacon and eggs" (crispy pork belly served on a sizzling platter with egg, tomato, and onions).
    Star Noodle
    286 Kupuohi Street
    Maui, HI 96761
    808/667-5400


    11. Paia Fish Market

    On a corner in the quaint little town of Paia on Maui's north shore, Paia Fish Market's communal tables are always full. Set among antique stores, independent boutiques, coffee shops, and other small restaurants, super laid-back Paia Fish Market is most famous for its amazing fish tacos (diced mahi mahi and ono griddled with clarified butter and served with shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese, salsa, lettuce, cilantro and diced tomatoes served on corn tortillas), breaded mahi-mahi fish and chips, and burgers such as "The Obama", a sesame seed bun sandwiching cajun seasoned ono fish topped with wasabi butter, coleslaw, and grated cheese.
    Paia Fish Market
    100 Baldwin Avenue
    Paia, Maui, HI 96779
    808/579-8030


    12. Ono Gelato

    For the best sweet frozen treat on Maui, there is no place like Ono Gelato in Lahaina. Made daily from mostly Hawaiian ingredients like passion fruit, guava, Big Island roasted Macadamia nuts, Maui coffee, or local goat cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy, its gelatos are creamy and intensely flavored.
    Ono Gelato
    815 Front Street
    Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
    808/495-0203


    WHERE TO STAY:


    Four Seasons Wailea

    For those who want to be pampered the Four Seasons Wailea, on the southwest coast of the island, is the zenith of comfort. Resort guests can launch their day, just as earlier Hawaiians did, paddling into the Pacific Ocean in a 6-person outrigger canoe, followed by a breakfast buffet stocked with a wide variety of items ranging from miso soup to steak specials, and incredibly fresh juices made from local tropical fruits.
    Four Seasons Wailea
    3900 Wailea Alanui Drive
    Wailea, Maui, HI 96753
    808/874-8000


    Fairmont Kea Lani

    Also located in Wailea, the luxurious Fairmont Kea Lani resort features suites and villas with private balconies (with scenic ocean or mountain views). Kō, one of three on-site restaurants, serves dishes like zarzuela (a rich seafood stew in a saffron broth), all rooted in Hawaii's sugarcane plantation era, when local cuisine started to be influenced by that of its immigrant Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese workers.
    Fairmont Kea Lani
    4100 Wailea Alanui Drive
    Wailea, Maui, HI 96753
    808/875-4100
        



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    map of naples-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi

    WHERE TO EAT

    1. Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba
    Via Port'Alba 18 (39/081/459-713). While Naples' oldest pizzeria offers a full-service dining room, you couldn't do better than to visit the 183-year-old place, grab a small, folded portafoglio pizza wrapped in paper, and eat it while walking around the block, where you'll find an incredible selection of new and antiquarian bookstores.

    2. Di Matteo
    Via dei Tribunali 94 (39/081/455-262). Opened in 1936, this combination pizzeria-friggitoria (fried-food specialist) in the historic district is where President Bill Clinton wolfed down a pizza back in 1994 (and, boy, do they have the pictures to prove it). Here you can buy scrumptious fried rice balls and pasta-filled fritters to enjoy on the street, or settle into one of the quiet dining rooms for a superb pizza margherita.

    3. Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente
    Via dei Tribunali 120/121 (39/081/210-903). Run by effervescent pizzaiolo Enzo Cacialli, this two-story pizzeria just down the block from Di Matteo is a welcoming spot to sample some of the city's most beloved pies. Cacialli's talents are beautifully exhibited in his simple pizza marinara, its pillowy crust topped with sweet tomato sauce, garlic, wild marjoram, olive oil, and basil.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    4. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele

    Via Cesare Sersale 1-3 (39/081/553-9204). The purists at this famous pizzeria that first opened in 1906 serve only margherita and marinara pizzas. Both are spectacular enough to make one ask, why serve anything else?

    5. Pizzeria Capatosta
    Via Guglielmo Marconi 80, Recale, Caserta (39/0823/493-18). This homey pizzeria about 20 miles northeast of Naples in the scenic town of Recale features a large wood-paneled dining room brimming with trophies won by brothers Enzo and Lello Giustiniani for their pizzas. Those pies, as well as the excellent antipasti offered here, are worth the trip.

    6. Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo
    Via dei Tribunali 32 (39/081/446-643). This place is usually packed with locals, tourists, and students from the nearby University of Naples. One of the city's most lauded pizzerias since its opening in 1935, the shop suffered a massive fire last year. Happily, after a quick remodel, it's back in action with a cheery, modernized dining area and great marinara pizzas.

    7. Pizzeria Starita
    Via Materdei 27 (39/081/557-3682). Antonio Starita and his son Giuseppe fire up some of Naples' best pizza pies, from the classic marinara to the lightly fried Montanara Starita at this bustling pizzeria, the setting of the classic 1954 Sophia Loren film L'Oro di Napoli. Don't miss out on the rachetta, a tennis racket-shaped pizza-calzone hybrid lavished with cheese and mushrooms.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    8. Pizzeria La Notizia
    Via Caravaggio 53 (39/081/714-2155). In the high-end Vomero district, pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia serves beautifully rendered classics, as well as the whimsical pizza del contadino, a calzone stuffed with warm escarole tossed with sardines, pecorino cheese, and mozzarella di bufala.

    WHERE TO STAY

    Grand Hotel Parker's
    Corso Vittorio Emanuele 135 (39/081/761-2474). $129 and up for a double. Opened in 1870, this historic hotel in the residential Corso Vittorio Emanuele neighborhood is within walking distance of museums, shopping, and plenty of pizzerias. Elegant two-story rooms feature antique furniture and balconies overlooking the Gulf of Naples. At the hotel's restaurant, George's, chef Vincenzo Bacioterracino serves excellent Neapolitan dishes such as mozzarella di bufala tonnato, buffalo mozzarella in tuna sauce.

    Royal Continental Hotel

    Via Partenope 38 (39/081/245-2068; ). $180 for a double. This hotel located in Santa Lucia, a neighborhood filled with seafood restaurants and historic sites, offers stylish, contemporary rooms, a seawater pool, and a top-notch restaurant where chef Raimondo Cinque offers Mediterranean classics such as ensalata di mare con olio e limone, seafood salad with olive oil and lemon.

    Dinner for two with drinks and tip: $25 to $40

    For more information on visiting Naples, visit the Italian Tourism website.
        

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    map of galilee-photo
    by Gabriella Gershenson

    WHERE TO EAT

    Al Tanur
    Reina Junction, Upper Nazareth (972/046/014-948). Owned by the family behind Nazareth's El Babour, an old spice market and mill, this casual Arab restaurant offers one of the many fine meals in the region's best dining town. Try the stuffed lamb neck over freekeh, roasted green wheat.

    Goats with the Wind Farm
    Har Hashabi, Yodfat (972/505/327-387). Dalia and Amnon Zaldstein run this dairy and restaurant in the hills of the Lower Galilee. The Eden-like setting features cushion seating under carob trees for a rustic, seasonal meal that includes the farm's organic goat cheese.

    WHAT TO DO

    Erez Komarovsky's Galilee Cooking School
    Route 899, Mitzpe Matat (972/39/772-929; ). Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky teaches cooking classes out of his Upper Galilee home. His dishes- based on regional foods, including those he grows in his garden-are part of the lunch that follows. Register in advance for Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday classes.

    The Old City of Akko Market

    Marco Polo Street, Akko. The old city of Akko, with its serpentine alleys and Crusade-era architecture, is home to one of Israel's best markets. Get to know local ingredients, such as za'atar and St. Peter's fish, and taste exemplary Galilean-style hummus from Hummus Said, and sweets from Knafeh Qashash.

    WHERE TO STAY

    Efendi Hotel
    Louis IX Street, Akko (972/747/299-799). Rates: $350-$650 for a double. Restaurateur Uri Jeremias has painstakingly transformed two 19th-century Ottoman-style buildings into a hotel in Akko's old city. Restored frescoes, soaring ceilings, and views of Haifa Bay are all part of the luxurious setting.

    Pausa Inn
    She'ar Yashuv 63, She'ar Yashuv (972/546/904-434). Rates: $200 for a double. This small guesthouse run by Avigdor and Einat Rothem is located on a gorgeous two acres with an orchard and garden in Upper Galilee. The highlight is the Israeli-style breakfast buffet, featuring fresh cheeses and an array of just-picked fruits and vegetables.
        

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    Tucker's Restaurant Cincinatti-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi
    On a recent afternoon, Joe Tucker, a spirited man of Appalachian descent, stood behind the counter of Tucker's Restaurant in Cincinnati, a worn Bengals cap squeezed over his gray hair. He was working a flattop grill crammed with sizzling beef patties, eggs over easy, and thick slices of the beloved pinhead oat and sausage loaf known as goetta.

    "This one's for John, this one's for Kenny, and this one's for Mikey, okay?" he instructed a young waiter, then slid a plate of shrimp and grits, a steaming bowl of chili, and his famous double-decker Big Tucker burger across the Formica countertop. Alongside Joe, his wife, Carla, a tall, tough, sweetheart of a woman, prepped the ripe fruit, crisp greens, and garden's worth of herbs that help elevate Joe's dishes far beyond the standard greasy-spoon fare. She turned around, locking her eyes on a young Asian-American customer seated at a swiveling stool.

    "What the hell happened to your face?" she asked. The kid looked up from his coffee, revealing cheekbones outlined in black and blue.

    "I got hit by a car on Liberty Street," he said. "It's the third time I've been hit by a car in this neighborhood." He sighed. "I guess I just have really bad luck."

    "That's nothing," Carla said. "There's a guy who comes in here who's been hit by the Metro bus five times."

    Eavesdropping on their conversation, I thought about how Tucker's has always catered to Cincinnatians down on their luck-from the kid with the busted-up face to the homeless patrons who come in for free coffee to the old-timers who've watched this once-thriving block go from working class to working poor to downright poor. For more than six decades, Tucker's has remained here for everyone, come what may. It's the kind of place where you might find the mayor of Cincinnati, who pops by for a bacon cheeseburger, sitting next to some corner boys, in turn sitting next to a business-suited exec on a lunch break from Procter andamp; Gamble.

    The cheesecake was decadent, creamy, and, well, perfect
    "Tried the cheesecake yet?" Joe asked me, and before I could answer, there was a slice in front of me. Made by an octogenarian customer named Bernice, it was decadent, creamy, and, well, perfect. Washing it down with black coffee, I looked toward the back where the restaurant's 92-year-old matriarch, Maynie Tucker, sat peeling russet potatoes, occasionally lowering her eyeglasses to stare piercingly at Joe, Carla, and the waiters. A sign behind the counter read, "If we ain't working hard, go tell Mama."

    It was a January morning 12 years ago when my friend Jen suggested we go to Tucker's for breakfast. I knew of it, sure. I'd driven by the clapboard storefront practically every day in the early '90s as I made my way, bleary-eyed, to my opening shift at the downtown Starbucks where I spent too many post-college years.

    In the old German enclave of Over-the-Rhine, Tucker's occupied a forgotten strip of decrepit Italianate buildings that seemed as if they were dying alone. Growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs in the 1980s, I knew this part of town only from the evening news, when anxious-looking reporters stood before yellow police tape, detailing the latest shooting. Now, as Jen parked her Toyota, I practically ran for cover to the restaurant's front door. What I saw once inside would change my perceptions of Over-the-Rhine forever. There were old folks, gay folks, black folks, and white folks-even a monk from the church down the street-all eating and talking with one another.

    I had spent a lot of time fending off worries that my hometown was close-minded (we tossed out Robert Mapplethorpe on his ass, we let the KKK put crosses on our square); here was Cincinnati as I wanted it to be, a city where everyone got along.

    The juiciness sealed within the golden brown exterior of an Amish chicken breast, the richness of melted Swiss cheese, the earthiness of the mushrooms-it was the best chicken sandwich ever
    And then there was that spectacular sandwich. The juiciness sealed within the golden brown exterior of an Amish chicken breast, the richness of melted Swiss cheese, the earthiness of the mushrooms-it was the best chicken sandwich ever. The home fries deluxe, buried beneath meaty portobello mushrooms, sweet peppers, ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil, presented the perfect compromise between breakfast staple and summer salad. The berries on the side were so sweet that I asked for seconds.

    "They get their ingredients from Findlay Market," Jen told me as she scarfed down Carla's special Mayan Bake, polenta layered with beans and vegetables with a smoky chipotle sauce. She was referring to the century-and-a-half-old public market a few blocks away. But while that explained why everything tasted fresh, it didn't account for why Joe and Carla Tucker had bothered to elevate a menu of short-order standbys to such heights. And it didn't explain how this white Appalachian family had remained on this almost exclusively black block since the 1950s. How, I thought, could this place exist?

    The answer to that question takes us back to the 1940s, when Over-the-Rhine was still bustling with factories making everything from soap to potato chips. That's when Joe's father, Escom Garth, or E.G., and his wife, Maynie, arrived from Somerset, Kentucky, as part of a migration that took thousands to Ohio's cities looking for factory work after the Appalachian coal mines shut down.

    E.G. found work in a factory. Then he saw that a little restaurant was up for sale on 13th Street. He pleaded with Maynie to quit her job at the Baldwin piano factory, and in 1946, they founded the first iteration of Tucker's. (The family opened others in subsequent years, but now just one original location, run by Joe and Carla, remains.) Their diner served workers and families around the clock. The dishes were hearty workingman's fare-chicken and dumplings, chopped steak in tomato gravy-all made using the best ingredients the couple could afford.
    The dishes were hearty workingman's fare, all made using the best ingredients the couple could afford
    Joe remembers his dad driving around the back lots of Findlay Market at twilight, loading up with produce bought at end-of-day discounts. After that, he'd head toward the Ohio River, where the slaughterhouses sold scraps for nearly nothing.

    While E.G. and Maynie's venture was a success, prices had to stay low for their clientele, so the couple was always struggling to make ends meet. That didn't stop them from helping others. They gave away Thanksgiving turkeys, held fund-raisers for the uninsured, and set up tabs for customers they knew darn well could never settle them.

    "My parents used to bring me here when I was a kid, just to show me that someone still cared about us," Tucker's customer David McDonald, who grew up in Over-the-Rhine during its darkest days, told me.

    Joe, 54, had never planned on taking over. He spent his early days at the local rail yards working as a surveyor. But five years before E.G. died in 2003, Joe took the reins. It was Carla, however, who created the exceptional menu. After hearing students from the nearby School of Creative and Performing Arts clamor for vegetarian options, she started experimenting, whipping up a meatless chili, turning Joe's simple home fries into those home fries deluxe, piling as many fresh fruits and vegetables as she could on top of these and other dishes.

    Meanwhile, the block of Vine where Tucker's current location stands was as desolate as ever. Broken bottles, discarded needles, and the occasional dead rat littered the streets. Somehow the restaurant has remained. Despite the disturbing amount of crime that takes place around it, in its entire history, Tucker's has never experienced a robbery. When riots erupted here in 2001 over the cops' shooting of an unarmed black man, neighbors united with Joe in front of the diner to fend off would-be looters. "No one messes with Tucker's," McDonald told me.

    Two years ago, though, someone did. During the morning rush, a pair of men walked in and pointed their guns toward the lunch counter. Their target was a man seated at one of the stools, but they missed, spraying Carla with shotgun pellets and hitting an 18-year-old customer in the back. While Carla recovered, that customer will forever remain paralyzed from the waist down.

    My eyes grew misty in my Brooklyn apartment when I read about the shooting in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I thought back to all those news reports from when I was a kid. Had I never been to Tucker's, I wouldn't have been surprised.
    When Joe and Maynie reopened a few days later, they found hundreds of well-wishers, including the mayor, waiting for them
    But I had grown familiar with the place, and this shooting seemed inconceivable. I was relieved when I read about the response to the crime: When Joe and Maynie reopened a few days later, they found hundreds of well-wishers, including the mayor, waiting for them. "So many people showed up that Joe had to lock the doors at 1:30 in the afternoon because he ran out of food," Carla, who's still a little stiff from the wounds, told me.

    As I sat there at the counter eating Bernice's cheesecake that day, I fixed my eyes on Mama as she sat peeling her potatoes. I'd been told that Mama is sweet as pie, but I've always been afraid to approach her. Today, though, I gave it a try. "Sorry. I'm too busy to talk right now," she said in her syrupy Kentucky drawl. "Come back when I'm done."

    When I did, she told me about how she worked as a riveter "just like Rosie" during the war, how E.G. was on a date with her cousin when she first met him, but after tasting the cookies she'd baked he switched his allegiance. There was an awkward silence when she decided she'd told me all she cared to. "You ready to go home now, Mama?" Carla's sister, Michelle, asked her. "Well, I suppose I am," Mama said, easing herself up. As she exited, Maynie Tucker offered me this: "There's an old song I used to love when I was younger: 'Oh, I don't know where you came from, 'cause I don't know where you been. But it really doesn't matter, grab a chair and fill your platter-and dig, dig, dig right in."

    Tucker's Restaurant
    1637 Vine Street
    Cincinnati, OH 45202
    513/721-7123


    See the recipe for Goetta »
    See a guide to our other favorite diners in Cincinnati »
        

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  • 04/15/13--02:34: Diner City: Cincinnati
  • Hathaway's Cincinnatti-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi
    One of the things I've always loved about my hometown is its devotion to local diners and dives. Along with Tucker's Restaurant, my favorites include The Echo(3510 Edwards Road; 513/321-2816) in Hyde Park, on Cincinnati's east side (left). Opened in 1945, it's the kind of joint where waitresses are apt to stick around for a quarter-century or so, and where you can linger over corned beef hash, homemade pies, and satisfying meat loaf dinners. Of the same vintage is the ramshackle Anchor Grill(438 Pike Street; 859/431-9498), located just across the river in Covington, Kentucky, a nautically themed dive (center) where the booths feature mini jukeboxes, and you can sit down and devour a delicious Cincinnati-style GLT (goetta, lettuce, and tomato). Finally, on the ground floor of downtown's grand art deco-style Carew Tower is Hathaway's Coffee Shop(441 Vine Street; 513/621-1332), a 1956 landmark with two U-shaped counters and an aqua décor (right) that make you feel as if you're living in a Buddy Holly song. The food is no-frills but reliable: patty melts, turkey clubs, sundaes, and a fine cup of coffee. Some of the waitresses here even sport beehive hairdos-without irony.

    See Keith Pandolfi's story from the May 2013 issue about Tucker's Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio »

        

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  • 04/18/13--08:15: Anatomy of a Pizzeria
  • pizzeria starita-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi
    At Naples' Pizzeria Starita, the men who prepare the pizza include:

    THE MOSTO E DONDERO

    The man who keeps the trains running on time, the mosto e dondero is in charge of managing incoming and outgoing orders, making sure everyone's working in sync, and plating (or boxing) pizzas fresh from the oven.

    THE FRIGGITORE

    Neapolitan pizzerias are known not just for their pizzas but also for their angioletti fritti (fried dough strips), frittatine di pasta (pasta fritters), and other fried specialties, all prepared by this guy.

    THE FORNINO

    The baker of the pizzeria, the fornino wields a long-handled peel to transfer the pizza to the oven. As it cooks, he moves and rotates it a few times to ensure an even char, lifting it toward the flame-licked oven roof at the end of the process so the toppings emerge bubbling hot. A good fornino will cook a pizza to perfection in less than two minutes.

    THE PIZZAIOLO

    The executive chef of the Neapolitan pizzeria, this man flips and stretches and shapes the dough, adds all the toppings, and gives the finished product a final form-perfecting tug before pulling it onto the peel.

    THE ASSISTANT PIZZAIOLO

    Given the job of prying the dough off the baking sheet, then flipping it in semolina before handing it to the pizzaiolo, this understudy-often a pizzaiolo in training-takes over when the lead guy needs a break.

    See more pizza stories, recipes, tips, and techniques »
        

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    israeli feast-photo
    by Gabriella Gershenson
    About an hour outside of Tel Aviv, driving north toward the Galilee, the land tells me I am getting closer to my destination. I see neat plots of banana plants and rows of avocado trees. I pass hardy date palms and fish farms with shallow rectangular pools. A stop at a gas station reveals a carob tree growing next to the parking lot and tufts of za'atar, a type of wild thyme eaten throughout the Middle East, sprouting from the curb. When I enter the Upper Galilee, subtropical hills and valleys give way to a rocky green vista of olive trees with gnarled, ropy trunks, which could be hundreds of years old. It's good to be back.

    I've been to Israel before. I've seen the religious sites. As a Jewish American who spent my childhood attending Hebrew school, I anticipated having an "aha" moment in the old city of Jerusalem, or at the Wailing Wall, the holiest site for Jews. But it wasn't until I first stepped foot in the Galilee nearly ten years ago that I felt that visceral sense of the sacred so many others say they encounter here. The region, stretching from Lebanon in the north to the Jezreel Valley in the south, has been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. Somehow, the place itself telegraphs its antiquity.

    Dishes are executed with the freshness and simplicity that's a hallmark of Mediterranean cooking.
    The Galilee was the breadbasket of the biblical period, and more recently, the birthplace of the kibbutz, the 20th-century Jewish farming communes that harnessed the potential of this land, turning it into Israel's most fruitful region. It's also home to some of the most elemental and satisfying foods I've ever eaten: Israeli-style breakfasts of vibrant raw vegetables and soft goat's milk cheeses; specialties like hummus mashaushe, chickpea-topped hummus swimming in olive oil, and knafeh, a syrup-soaked cheese and shredded phyllo pastry, which I sampled in the Arab-Israeli port city of Akko. The cuisine here is influenced by Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins (see Original Galilee), and even by the Bible. There are flavors from the Jewish diaspora, from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Dishes are executed with the freshness and simplicity that's a hallmark of Mediterranean cooking. To me, it all amounts to Israel's most exciting regional cuisine.

    The meal I remember best from an earlier trip to the Galilee was prepared by Erez Komarovsky, who runs a cooking school out of his home. A celebrated Israeli chef, Erez left a thriving business in Tel Aviv to live in Mitzpe Matat, a wilderness minutes from the Lebanon border. I found his way with the foods of this place so profound that I couldn't imagine returning without seeing him.

    I arrive at Erez's on a Thursday morning in May. It's just before the harvest festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the bounty of the land. The hills are verdant after the winter rains, and the land is at its most beautiful. Erez, a fit man of 50, comes out to the road wearing jeans and a red T-shirt. He waves me toward his home, which is built into a mountain overlooking villages and valleys. I descend pale stone steps lined with fuchsia blossoms and follow him in. From his kitchen, Erez produces a pot of Turkish coffee and a lacquered roulade filled with crushed almonds and marzipan. The pastry speaks to his background-Erez rose to prominence with Lehem Erez, or "Erez's Bread," a chain that heralded the arrival of the artisan bread movement in Israel in the 1990s. "I wanted a simple, more satisfying life," he tells me. "Wild leaves, lambs and goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and lots of vegetables in my garden."

    These days, Erez lives in a paradise of his own making. As he walks me through his garden to gather ingredients for our meal, he offers me tastes of what he has grown. There is an abundance of everything: herbs and beets and chickpeas; a mulberry tree that we duck under like it's an umbrella.

    Credit: Eilon Paz
    Inside the house, the floor is covered in crates brimming with produce and firewood for the taboon, a clay and mud oven that Erez fired up for our lunch. His style of cooking is powerful and spontaneous. He uses just a mortar and pestle, fire, and his hands. To make a cherry and herb salad, he singes hot peppers to intensify their flavor, splits each cherry along its seam, tears cilantro, and breaks walnuts between his fingers. He does the same with eggplant, which he chars, peels in one motion, and plates with jagged halves of soft-boiled egg and zhug, a Yemenite chile paste.

    When everything is ready, Erez and I dig in. The cherry and herb salad is zesty and sweet. The recipe is from the Turks, Erez says, who occupied this land for centuries. The roasted eggplant, meanwhile, tastes smoky and fresh, the combination of nutty tahini, hot chiles, and garlic one you'd find all over the Middle East. "In the Galilee, the influences are not from abroad but from the Druze and Arabs living here," Erez explains. "The richness of the culinary knowledge that I get here is unparalleled to what you get in the big city." Here, Erez picks mushrooms with Jewish Moroccans and Kurds, makes goat cheese out of milk from a Druze neighbor, and buys the foods they forage. Because of the divisions inherent in modern Israeli life, and the tensions between Arabs and Jews, his culinary curiosity feels like a political act, one that emphasizes the way the land connects the people. Before I leave, Erez tells me, "Borders are politics. Borders do not cut the food."

    The following afternoon, I meet my friend Lior Lev Sercarz, a 41-year-old silver-haired chef who owns a spice shop in Manhattan but grew up in the Upper Galilee. When I found out he'd be here visiting his family, I convinced him to let me tag along. Today, we're going to "Parliament," a social club that Lior's father, Moshe, belongs to. Started 30 years ago by a group of guys at Ayelet HaShahar, a kibbutz near the Syrian border, the club is where the men, now mostly in their 50s and 60s, meet on Fridays to talk politics and farming, and to cook a potluck meal made from the foods they've grown.

    Thousands of years ago, farmers like him would bring the first harvest of the seven species named in the Old Testament as models of the land's fertility
    We arrive at the clubhouse, a crude stone structure with a tin roof and an Israeli flag flying on top. It's growing noisy with greetings and the thuds of wine bottles being placed on the table. Lior's father, a bespectacled man with wavy white hair, approaches us, clutching plump green figs that he offers me and Lior's wife, Lisa, saying they're the first of the season from his trees. I taste one-they're pulpy, fragrant. Moshe's gift carries special meaning. The holiday that starts at sundown tomorrow, Shavuot, is also called Hag ha'Bikkurim, the festival of the first fruits, and marks the beginning of the growing season. Thousands of years ago, farmers like him would bring the first harvest of the seven species named in the Old Testament as models of the land's fertility-wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates-as offerings to the temple in Jerusalem.

    Everyone gets started on the meal. There's an easy rhythm to the preparation-though some of the men no longer live on the kibbutz, working together is still second nature. Shlomo Razili, a bearded figure in a cowboy hat, fires up coals in the grill while Yoni Erez, in a black T-shirt, sharpens the knife that Gera Egozi, with a thick mustache and eyes creased into a permanent smile, will use to carve chickens destined for the grill. Behind them, two more men sit and chop green peppers, tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers, and onions into a typical Israeli salad. As they finish, Shlomo squeezes lemons over the vegetables, cupping his hand under the fruit to capture the seeds. Meanwhile, Dror Galili has been making poike, a stew cooked over fire in a cast-iron cauldron that layers beef with kohlrabi, turnips, and heaps of other seasonal vegetables. His father was so enamored of the region, he tells me, that when he moved here in 1935, he took its name for his own.

    Credit: Eilon Paz
    The meal progresses casually. Someone has brought a loaf of challah and labaneh, a thick yogurt-like cheese, drizzled with olive oil. We tear off pieces and dunk, and use the same bread to mop up the juices from the salad, which is refreshing and cool. The chicken is served as it comes off the grill. Someone passes a bowl of roasted potatoes; everyone takes them with their fingers. "We share from the same plate," one man says. "You don't mind?" Of course not-this is exactly what I came for.

    The last dish to come to the table is the poike, and the crowd exclaims at the tender vegetables and savory meat. Now Dror's brother Eli, an avid hunter, claims the grill to cook wild boar. I can't believe he's captured that animal in these hills. This place keeps surprising me. As we nibble the first cooked morsels, a passionate discussion erupts in Hebrew. I'm dying to know what it's about. Farm equipment and irrigation, it turns out. I should have guessed.

    A third Galili brother, an organic farmer named Moshe, passes bowls of his cherries. I think how wonderful it feels to eat this just-picked food among the men who lived together on this kibbutz and worked this soil. The open air and camaraderie are as nourishing as the meal. The mindfulness of this gathering, of the cooking and eating, embodies a reverence for the ordinary that I associate with this region.

    The following day, I arrive at Bustan Chaim ("orchard of life" in Hebrew), Lior's home on a remote plot of land near the Lebanon border, for Shavuot dinner. It's a holiday I've never celebrated before, but here, it feels right to do so. I ascend a steep incline planted with lemon, pomegranate, olive, and fig trees and approach a low-slung house covered with vines. Inside, Lior's mother, Aya, a no-nonsense woman, is frying chicken livers and onions. She was born on a nearby kibbutz to a Tunisian father and a Transylvanian mother, but explains that she grew up eating Eastern European dishes like this one made by the Polish Jews who cooked their communal meals.

    The table tells the story of age-old flavors, of recent migrations, and of fresh, new beginnings.
    While Lior goes off to gather ingredients from the orchard's trees and the plants that grow wild among them, his father shows me the grounds, which, like so much of the land here, are idyllic. "My dream was to plant the seven species here," Moshe tells me. Farming, he says, has transformed him. "From the first plant I put in the ground, I decided I had to live here." Moshe isn't religious, but the land has led him to the Bible for unconventional reasons. For him, the text is full of agricultural insights into nurturing this very earth. Lior returns with lavender and figs for our dessert; purslane, which he'll toss with feta cheese and cured olives; wild fennel, his addition to a Tunisian turnip salad; rosemary as kindling for grilling vegetables; and grape leaves for rolling dolma.

    As the sun sets, we gather on a deck overlooking the Galilee. The table is set. Lior's wife, his siblings and their children are here, as are friends. Moshe Galili enters with nectarines from his orchard and singing "Shalom Aleichem," a Sabbath song written by kabbalists in the Middle Ages in nearby Safed, still recited by Jews all over the world: Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

    Aya's Shavuot table holds riches. There's the Polish chicken liver. Lior has made chreime, a spicy North African fish and tomato stew using St. Peter's fish, tilapia from the Sea of Galilee. There are stuffed grape leaves and grilled pita bread with za'atar spice, both Arab specialties. And there are dishes Lior has improvised based on what's grown nearby-fennel bulbs, scallions, and zucchini grilled over lemon-wood charcoal, a salad of chickpeas with preserved lemon. The table tells the story of age-old flavors, of recent migrations, and of fresh, new beginnings. The combination, to me, is pure Galilee.

    See a gallery of scenes from the Galilee »
    Read more about ingredients from Galilee »
    See our travel guide for Galilee »
        

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  • 04/18/13--09:27: Original Galilee
  • Israeli ingredients-photo
    by Gabriella Gershenson
    Thanks to modern irrigation systems and other agricultural technologies, Israel's Galilee is a farming powerhouse that today yields everything from kiwis to avocados. But the region's culinary character has roots in ancient traditions that are still practiced here. According to Abbie Rosner, author of Breaking Bread in Galilee (Hilayon Press, 2012), before the formation of Israel in 1948, the Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze (an ancient religious sect) who make up nearly half the area's population "farmed pretty much exactly the way it was described in the Bible." In other words, they tended indigenous foods such as chickpeas, wheat, and olives grown from heirloom seeds. These native crops, referred to as baladi ("my land" in Arabic), are sometimes grown without irrigation, resulting in stronger, truer flavors. They form the bedrock of the Galilean pantry. For centuries, these subsistence farmers pressed olives into oil; ground chickpeas to make hummus; and transformed whole wheat into nutty flour, bulgur (cracked wheat, a main ingredient in tabbouleh), and freekeh, toasted green wheat. The prevalence of foods such as labaneh, a tangy, yogurt-like cheese, can be ascribed to the local Bedouin tribes, who, as herders, contributed dairy to the regional diet. Plus, the Jordan River on the eastern border, the inland Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean at the west have all supported centuries of fishing, still evident in the Arab-Israeli port city of Akko, where you'll find local species such as tilapia. And foraging in the wild is equally important for Druze, Arabs, and Bedouins: Countless greens such as wild asparagus and mallow serve as the bases for stews, savory pies, and other dishes, while za'atar, wild thyme, is dried and mixed with sumac (a powder made from tart red berries) and a variety of spices to make a type of seasoning that's consumed all over the Middle East.

        

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  • 04/30/13--22:00: Earthy Delights
  • Earthy Delights-photo
    by Todd Coleman

    Growing up in Germany, I looked forward to the spring spargel harvest. That's when delicate stalks of the white asparagus that grows throughout western Europe (and gets its ghostly pallor from a covering of dirt that prevents photosynthesis) would turn up everywhere from roadside stands to restaurants. Some would offer it puréed in creamy soups or marinated in salads. But the preparation I liked best was served in the dining room at our village's guest house, where it was blanched and doused in brown butter and lemon. I remember well its earthy, nutty flavor, and the crisp crunch of each ivory-colored spear. These days, in the States, I search my local farmers' market for spargel from April through June, when it's in season, hoping to find a stalk or two so I can relive the pleasures of those childhood meals.

        

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  • 05/01/13--01:00: The Allure of Beef Rendang
  • Worth the Wait-photo
    by James Oseland
    One of the most amazing things I've ever eaten was at a potluck lunch. I was all of 19, an American traveler on my first visit to Indonesia, and the dish proved life changing. It was beef rendang, a specialty of West Sumatra, an Indonesian province with a celebrated cuisine, and it helped seal my fate as a person whose life's work would revolve around cooking and eating.

    Why did rendang rock my world? The glistening meat, fall-apart tender, was coated with a thick sauce of such complexity that I was at first taken aback-and, a moment later, smitten. In it, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, chiles, and a host of other ingredients harmonized. I was accustomed to American-style beef dishes-stews, pot roast-made with just a few seasonings. They were more liquidy and less flavorful than this Southeast Asian preparation. I was left with such a curiosity about the dish that I had to learn to cook it.

    When I did, rendang amazed me even more. Instead of searing the meat before cooking it in liquid, as is done with a Western-style braise, I learned that I needed to reverse the process: I started with an aromatic melange including chiles, ginger, and fresh turmeric, all blended with coconut milk to make a sauce. Next came nicely marbled cubes of beef-in Indonesia, water buffalo is often the meat of choice-which I cooked in the sauce, ever so slowly. For hours the uncovered pan gently bubbled, sugars caramelized and fats rendered, until the sauce turned sludgy, the meat yielded to a fork, and the liquid had all but evaporated. Finally, the beef seared in its own fat and that of the coconut milk. It ended up as dark as chocolate, gleaming, and intense. I devoured it atop a hillock of rice, as the dish is eaten in Indonesia. There, rendang is a homespun preservation technique, used for everything from beef to chicken. The method is Indonesia's answer to charcuterie: The seasonings and salt cure the food.

    Though it's traditionally a dish made to travel with, I find rendang so delicious that I gobble it up as soon as it's ready. It's Indonesia's gift to me, the finale to a day spent blessedly slowed down.

    See the recipe for Beef Rendang»

        

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  • 05/01/13--09:00: Inside, Looking Out
  • Inside, Looking Out-photo
    by Courtney Balestier
    Generally, you don't see much Farsi in Pittsburgh. So the façade that marks the takeout restaurant Conflict Kitchen-candy-colored, kaleidoscopic, emblazoned in foreign script-seems like a portal to another land. And, in a way, it is. Every six months the three-year-old restaurant, located in the city's Oakland neighborhood, regenerates itself to highlight a delicious sandwich or dish from a country with which the United States happens to be in conflict. The current outpost, Kubideh Kitchen, serves a tender Iranian spiced beef sandwich, while previous iterations explored Afghanistan (bolani, turnovers with pumpkin filling) and Cuba (mojo-marinated roast pork). Each reinvention is marked by a new look and food wrappers featuring interviews with citizens and émigrés on subjects ranging from Iranian poetry to the treatment of women in Afghanistan. Wanting to promote political discourse, as well as some ethnic cuisines that are difficult to track down in Pittsburgh, co-founders and artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, along with chef Robert Sayre, a veteran of some of the city's best restaurants, hope Conflict Kitchen serves as a culinary emissary, and an impetus for conversations like the one about food and prayer Rubin overheard between Buddhist and Muslim customers eating Afghan bolani last year. Such food-fueled dialogue, Rubin says, "is an amazingly simple thing, but it's still rare."

    Conflict Kitchen
    Schenley Plaza,Schenley Drive and Roberto Clemente Drive
    Pittsburgh, PA
    412/802-8417

        



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  • 05/02/13--09:30: The Gold of Naples
  • naples pizzeria capatosta-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi
    It's a cool thursday evening, and Paolo Vitale dodges his tiny Fiat through the cobblestone streets of Naples like it's an escaped bumper car. We speed past crumbling cathedrals desanctified by graffiti and 15th-century apartment buildings flying tattered flags of laundry from wrought-iron balconies. Tiny shrines are embedded into building walls. Jesus Christ is everywhere. No sleep on the flight from New York last night, and I'm experiencing that sort of anxiety codependent travelers like me are apt to feel when we leave home without someone who loves us. I start to worry I won't survive this ride, that I won't get to experience even one bite of the iconic food I've come here to eat-a food I consider part of my heritage.

    Paolo is a 30-something policeman with a boyish face who smokes cigarettes and wears a black leather jacket. Despite these tough character traits, he's kind as can be, and an old friend of the other passenger in this car, Roberto Caporuscio, a solidly built Neapolitan expatriate in his 50s who owns two of my favorite pizzerias in Manhattan, Kesté and Don Antonio. I've asked Roberto to meet me in Naples, the hometown of my beloved but long gone great-grandfather, to help me learn about what I, at least, deem to be my ancestral city's greatest creation: the pizza.

    Strange to travel such a distance for pizza Napoletana, I know. These days so many American pizza makers are discovering Neapolitan techniques that you can't go a few blocks in a city like New York without passing a pizzeria with a woodburning oven. But in Naples, the pizza isn't just a technical achievement-it's an art form, a sacrament, a birthright. Here is where the fine, protein-rich Caputo "00" flour, the obsession of Italian pizza makers, called pizzaioli (or in the Neapolitan dialect, pizzaiuoli), is made right downtown at a nearly century-old family-owned mill. Here is where tomatoes flourish in volcanic soil beneath the warm Mediterranean sun, developing sweet, concentrated flavor. Here is where the water buffalo that provide the milk for moist, grassy mozzarella di bufala graze on marshy farmland. And here is where those iconic wood-fired ovens, whose blazing heat pulls these ingredients together to create the perfect pizza, are constructed by artisans out of brick and mortar (see The Building Blocks of Pizza). Here, pizza is just plain better.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    The Fiat lurches to a halt in front of our first destination. "Pizz-a-reee-a Star-eee-ta," Paolo announces like an Italian tour bus operator. Ah, yes, I think, the 112-year-old Starita, the historic location where Sophia Loren sold pizzas to smitten admirers in the 1954 classic L'Oro di Napoli, or The Gold of Naples, a film that is to Neapolitans what Citizen Kane is to Americans. So lauded is the shop that its third-generation owner, Antonio Starita, was once called to Vatican City to present a pizza to Pope John Paul II. Tonight, Antonio's 40-year-old son Giuseppe is minding the oven; I watch, mesmerized, as he builds a mouthwatering pie, layering thick, fat-studded slices of mortadella atop dough smothered with creamed pistachios. Suddenly it hits me. I am famished.

    Heading off to work the night beat, Paolo bids us buona sera as Roberto and I make our way back to one of the rear dining rooms. "I don't understand," Roberto mumbles, a look of panic in his eyes as he notices what I count to be just three empty tables. "It's usually packed by now." But he soon figures out why. "Ah," he says, pointing to a TV mounted in a corner where onscreen a cadre of men in baby blue uniforms sprint up a grassy field. "Team Napoli." Turns out the one thing that trumps pizza in this town is soccer. As soon as the game is over, a line of 60 or more people forms, all waiting to get in.

    Roberto orders us a bowl of angioletti fritti, fried strips of tender pizza dough, topped with a colorful salad of marinated grape tomatoes and arugula, and a plate of frittatine di pasta. Crunching through one of these golden fritters, I find a dense tangle of bucatini creamy with béchamel and smoked mozzarella, and studded with diced ham. It immediately becomes my favorite fried food of all time.

    A steaming hot pizza arrives, its craggy crust a deep golden brown, puffed and charred in places, its tomato sauce bubbling like lava
    Moments later, a steaming hot pizza, the Montanara Starita, arrives, its craggy crust a deep golden brown, puffed and charred in places, its tomato sauce bubbling like Vesuvian lava beneath vibrant leaves of basil. To make this special pie, Roberto tells me, a disk of dough is fried before it's topped with sauce, cheese, and herbs and set in the oven, where the sauce and cheese meld together. The process results in a crunchy crust with savory notes of toast and smoke. "You know," Roberto says, "it takes many years to learn to do this, many pies to perfect it." He should know; he trained here in his 30s, when Antonio would have him top his trial pizzas with cooked rigatoni-it's the same weight as mozzarella but less expensive.

    A warm feeling washes over me as I devour the pie with a fork and knife, as locals do. I gaze across the dining room, now filling up, and see a young boy reading the menu aloud to his be-suited elder. I think of how pizza, wherever it's been imported and however revised, has brought so many walks and generations together-fathers and sons, co-workers and co-stars, study groups and track teams-to eat our pleasurable fill. So seemingly simple yet so profoundly satisfying, this amalgam of cheese, sauce, and crust is a true food of the people. God bless you, pizza.

    The following afternoon, Paolo is back behind the wheel as we head to Via dei Tribunali, an undulating roadway in the city's center lined with churches, bakeries, museums, and Naples' most ancient pizzerias. As Paolo slows to look for parking, I notice two old men in newsboy caps gesticulating wildly toward each other. One reminds me of my great-grandfather, Luigi Caputo, who left this city around 1910 for Massachusetts where he married my great-grandmother, Maria. I wonder if Luigi had ever missed this place. He died before I was old enough to ask him.

    Our first stop is Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente, where the boisterous pizzaiolo Enzo Cacialli bursts toward us insisting we sample his pizza fritta. Fried pizzas are common here, a holdover from the days when many shops had no room for the dome-shaped oven that the pizza is associated with today. They're usually just lard-smothered dough topped with sauce and cheese, or stuffed calzone-style, but Enzo's decadent version features two fried pies sandwiching a filling of tomatoes, gooey provolone, ricotta, salami, and the delicious pressed pork loaf known as ciccioli. While Roberto and Enzo catch up with each other, Paolo and I, not knowing each other's language, sit silently together picking at the pizza. It's delicious but too rich to finish, at least if we plan on sampling anything else today. "Very goooood," he says to me. "Molto bene," I reply.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    Next up is Di Matteo, which, like many older pizzerias here, maintains its original friggitoria, a street-side window serving fast foods such as rice balls, frittatine, and eight-inch pizzas folded into fours called portafogli ("wallets"). Roberto tells me that it was only during the past half-century that many pizzerias of Via dei Tribunali started expanding to create dining rooms; before that, pizza's consumption was largely limited to the streets.

    That takeout tradition dates back centuries. While yeasted flat breads are ancient and ubiquitous, it's in Naples that they became pizza. I've thumbed through plenty of books trying to figure out why, but the answers are murky at best. All I know is that sometime, likely in the mid-17th century, Neapolitans started realizing that those ornamental tomatoes brought over by the Spanish weren't poisonous as had been believed. And soon after, the pomo d'oro, or golden apple, made its way into pasta dishes and atop the flat breads sold to the city's poor from small storefronts and pushcarts. By the 1800s, those tomato-sauced pizzas became known as pizza marinara, named for fishermen who nourished themselves with the handheld victuals before heading out to sea. Along with tomato sauce, the marinara was often topped with olive oil, fresh herbs, and salt, though more luxurious versions were sprinkled with meats, shaved dry cheeses, or sardines.

    Nearly 100 years later, in 1889, something magical happened that would change pizza's role in Neapolitan society forever. It was then that Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi slapped together a pie representing the three colors of the Italian flag-white mozzarella, red sauce, and green basil-and created the pizza margherita. The pizza was a special order for the visiting Queen Margherita of Savoy, who, tired of fancy French dishes, desired something more representative of the local cuisine. So pleased was she with the pie that she sent a letter of appreciation to Esposito. So flattered was Esposito that he named the pizza in the queen's honor. From then on, pizza became a dish fit for everyone, from the hoi polloi to the fanciest of diners.

    The rustic calzone, puffed up like a fairy-tale clamshell, is stuffed with warm escarole, anchovies, pecorino, and buffalo mozzarella
    Because this food of the streets found its fame in a highfalutin innovation, few Neapolitan pizzaioli are sanctimonious enough to not occasionally mix things up. At Pizzeria La Notizia in the city's affluent Vomero district, lauded pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia serves us the pizza del contadino, a rustic calzone, puffed up like a fairy-tale clamshell and stuffed with warm escarole tossed in anchovies, pecorino cheese, and buffalo mozzarella. Giuseppe Starita is another mastermind of whimsical forms: the porto e porto, creased-over dough with fresh ricotta in one side and bitter broccoli rabe in the other, with orbs of buffalo mozzarella in between; the pistacchio e mortadella, made with pistachio pesto and Italian bologna; and his pièce de résistance, the rachetta, a tennis racket-shaped creation, its calzone "handle" stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and mushrooms, its pizza "net" topped with more mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil, and olive oil.

    Given such lavish pies, I can do little for days beyond open my mouth for another bite. But I've come here seeking not just indulgent food, but food for thought, so Roberto takes me to the town of Recale 22 miles northeast of the city to check in on his friends, brothers Enzo and Lello Giustiniani, who own Pizzeria Capatosta. When we arrive, they are just firing up the oven with splits of beechwood and oak. Enzo tells me that the forno will be ready once the black soot along the sides turns white, at which point the oven will have reached between 825 and 875 degrees.

    With no one around, I ask Lello if I can get behind the counter and make a pizza of my own. Working at my side, he reaches for two mounds of dough: yeast, salt, and flour left to rise and develop flavor for 12 hours (some pizzaioli wait up to 48). If handled properly, he tells me, it will be light and airy when baked. He shows me how to press my fingertips ever so gently from the center outward toward the edges, flattening it gradually and forming a half-inch-wide crust. Then we flop the dough over our hands several times, gingerly stretching it until it's roughly ten inches in diameter. The hard part is manipulating it gently enough so as not to overstretch it, which results in a wet and flimsy pie, its bottom too thin to support the sauce.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    That sauce-tangy, fruity, and earthy all at once-amounts to nothing more than canned whole peeled tomatoes puréed in a food processor with some salt. I swirl on a ladleful, then sprinkle on shredded fior di latte, a cows' milk cheese that the Giustinianis prefer for its lower fat content, which makes for even melting. Finishing off with three fat basil leaves, I tug my creation from the lightly floured marble countertop onto a long oar-like peel, a process that stretches it so dramatically that I know I'm destined for failure.

    After just 90 seconds in the oven, our pies are done. While Lello's is perfect, mine comes out elongated, soupy, and downright ugly. "Eh," Lello shrugs. "It's your first time." I wasn't expecting great things here. It takes years of apprenticeship before one is considered a true pizzaiolo in Naples, and I'm just getting started. I carry my shame into the dining room to gleefully devour its imperfections. From the corner of my eye I see Lello's daughters Alice and Simona, who work here as waitresses, giggling at my failure, which is fine. I've just made pizza alongside a real Neapolitan pro. Nothing can spoil this.

    It is not until the next day, my last in Naples, that I realize my hero worship goes beyond the pizzaioli; in my pizza fetish, there is a familial connection to this city. Stopping in at its oldest shop, Pizzeria Port'Alba, opened in 1830, I order a simple portafoglio, its blistered, springy crust folded over the delectable topping. Devouring the saucy slice as I stroll, I let myself disappear into the crowd and think about how my great-grandfather might have ordered pizza from this very same place. Going in for my last bite, I imagine, for one moment, that I am him.

    See a gallery of Neapolitan pizza recipes »
    See more scenes from Naples, Italy in the gallery »
        



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    The Guide: A Dozen Things to Do in Houston-photo
    by Chris Shepherd
    Houston is the most dynamic culinary destination in the country. It's also a city that is close to my heart. It opens your mind, challenges your thoughts, and humbles your soul-all through food. Many cultures thrive here: Vietnamese, Thai, Salvadorian, Nigerian, you name it. I am asked all the time, "Did you grow up travelling a lot?" And the answer is no-instead I got to experience global flavors by exploring the streets of my own city. Some of my best moments in Houston have happened when I got off of the beaten path and headed for family-run restaurants, where people were willing to show me what they know. Many of those places are listed here. I hope that you come and visit them, and enjoy seeing Houston the way I see it. -Chris Shepherd

    1. Saigon Pagolac

    This classic Vietnamese place is hard to find, but it's worth it. Try the beef seven ways and the whole catfish. In a city where there is a large population of Vietnamese, these guys never seem to dissapoint.
    Saigon Pagolac
    9600 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX
    713/988-6106


    2. Asia Market

    At Asia Market, you'll be served up some of the best Thai food in the city by some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. You pull up to this little grocery store, grab a table, sit back and relax. I order the papaya salad, kee mao noodle, and whatever else they recommend.
    Asia Market
    1010 W Cavalcade Street
    Houston, TX
    713/863-7074


    4. Atkinson Farms

    Now open to the public seven days a week, Atkinson is our largest supplier of local vegetables. You can visit them in Spring, Texas or at any one of our local farmers markets.
    Atkinson Farms
    3217 Spring Cypress Road
    Houston, TX
    832-/381-8202


    Credit: Julie Soefer

    4. Anvil Bar andamp; Refuge

    Anvil Bar serves up amazing, innovative cocktails. I never order off the menu, I just ask them to make me something and I've never been disappointed.
    Anvil Bar andamp; Refuge
    1424 Westheimer Road
    Houston, TX
    713/523-1622


    5. Gatlin's BBQ

    Nicest family in the business, not to mention the best barbecue around. Just get there early because they are bound to run out.
    Gatlin's BBQ
    1221 W 19th Street
    Houston, TX
    713/869-4227


    6. El Hidalguense

    One of the truly authentic Mexican restaurants in Houston. Visit on weekend, and try their slow roasted goat and lamb barbacoa.
    El Hidalguense
    6917 Long Point Road
    Houston, TX
    713/680-1071


    7. Lucky Pot

    With a name like Lucky Pot, you would think the item to order would be a hot pot, but go for the crispy duck wings or the Peking duck instead.
    Lucky Pot
    9888 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX
    713/995-9982


    8. HK Dim Sum

    This family-owned place is always packed. They have classic, fresh dim sum, but don't expect cart service. Try the steamed shrimp dumplings and the pork ribs
    HK Dim Sum
    9889 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX
    713/777-7029


    9. Pho Binh by Night

    Bone marrow pho. Enough said.
    Pho Binh by Night
    12148 Bellaire Blvd #101
    Houston, TX
    832/351-2464


    Credit: Julie Soefer

    10. Revival Market

    These guys set the bar when it comes to cooking sustainably with local ingredients. They have amazing meats (they raise their own pigs) and are all around good guys-ask for Morgan or Ryan.
    Revival Market
    550 Heights Blvd
    Houston, TX
    713/880-8463


    11. London Sizzler

    London Sizzler has the best Indian food in the city and is run by some of the nicest people-my adopted Indian family, the Patels. Just go in and tell them to order what Chris gets.
    London Sizzler
    6690 Southwest Freeway
    Houston, TX
    713/783-2754


    12. Houston Culinary Tours

    If you're planning a trip to Houston, look into these chef-led tours: you get a ticket, and then see the city through our eyes.
    Houston Culinary Tours

    Midwest-raised Chef Chris Shepherd, a graduate of the Art Institute of Houston, opened his restaurant, Underbelly in March 2012, to feature locally-sourced food inspired by the ethnic diversity of Houston. Shepherd is committed to the farmers, ranchers and fisherman of the Houston area and buys only whole animals and underutilized fish from the Gulf; he is currently a finalist for a James Beard Award.
        



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    The Guide: 8 Great Things to Eat (and Drink) in Jackson Hole-photo
    by Jay Cheshes
    The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, the most famous spot to get a drink in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has a name that's only a little tongue-in-cheek. For decades, this remote mountain valley has been overrun by flush outdoorsmen, drawn by the astonishing beauty of the craggy high Tetons, by the ice climbing and extreme skiing in winter, and the fly-fishing, elk hunting, and whitewater rafting in summer. The rugged gourmands who've built extravagant log cabins up in the hills outside Jackson (a lot of hedge fund guys in cowboy hats) don't spend much time at the Cowboy Bar anymore-it's mostly full of tourists these days-but ski bum chow and a frosty Bud doesn't quite cut it, either. But as I discovered on a recent late season visit full of eating, drinking, and powder skiing, there are plenty of ambitious saloons and taverns to meet anyone's demands. Here's what to eat (and drink), and where to find it.



    1. Huevos Rancheros at Nora's Fish Creek Inn:
    The extra gooey huevos rancheros, copiously drenched in melted cheese and housemaid green chile salsa, helped Nora's earn a James Beard American Classic Award in 2012. The log-cabin greasy spoon, a breakfast institution for the last 30 years, is also known for its simply griddled local trout served with eggs however you like them, and great buttery biscuits drenched in a super-savory sausage gravy. Grab a stool at the counter just past the cigar-store Indian, and Nora's kids Trace and Kathryn-now running the place day-to-day-will keep your cup of Joe always full to the brim.

    Nora's Fish Creek Inn
    5600 Highway 22
    Wilson, WY
    307/733-8288


    2. Fresh Pasta with Elk Ragu at Il Villaggio Osteria:
    Head chef Paul O'Connor adds local game to the excellent handmade pizzas and pastas at this cosmopolitan osteria, modeled on Mario Batali's Lupa back in New York. Pasture-raised elk, so abundant in these parts, is ground up and cooked down into a heady argue, a sweet-and-savory stew that comes slicked onto delicate, fresh pappardelle. Co-owner Gavin Fine, a sort of mountain-town Danny Meyer, also runs a bistro, wine bar, brewery, and barbecue joint nearby, but locals insist that his slope-side Italian is the best of the bunch.

    Il Villaggio Osteria
    3335 Village Drive
    Teton Village, WY
    307/739-4100


    Credit: Jay Cheshes

    3. Steak Tartare Pizza at Snake River Grill:
    That an offbeat bar snack is among the most beloved items on the menu at Snake River Grill-and has been for years-tells you a little something about this fine dining landmark. Though the restaurant has long been considered the best spot in town for ambitious cooking, neither the food nor the space has any pretension at all. Chef Jeff Drew, a three-time James Beard nominee, serves gutsy, restorative fare in an upscale-rustic setting, with stone hearths and log cabin walls. His steak tartare pizza-showered in top-shelf raw sirloin cut with red onion, capers, and garlic aioli-is a triumph of contrasting textures and temperatures, and is best consumed at the bar with a frosty local brew.

    Snake River Grill
    4 E Broadway
    Jackson, WY
    307/733-0557


    4. Anything fried at Handle Bar:
    The fryolated bar snacks served at this slope-side newcomer-star chef Michael Mina's first mountain outpost-aren't your typical après-ski frozen junk. Instead, to accompany the impressive selection of American whiskeys (and the occasional barrel-aged cocktail), you'll find excellent, greaseless happy hour vittles made with top-notch ingredients. Pass around mini lobster corn dogs (filled with sweet crustacean sausage), tempura-fried maitake mushrooms, crisp-battered pickles, and pillowy sweet potato tots.

    Handle Bar
    7680 Granite Loop Road
    Teton Village, WY
    307/732-5059


    5. Marley Nachos at Spur:
    If you're feeling more grunge than gourmet after a long day out communing with nature, Spur is the place for your junk food fix. This new mountainside hangout replaced a beloved destination, but kept the old spot's biggest draw: huge platters of nachos. The expertly constructed mountain of chips, cheese, pico de gallo, and beans can feed a big hungry crew. Order them "dirty" with pulled pork, or "Marley" style with hacked hunks of jerk chicken.

    Spur
    3385 Cody Lane
    Teton Village, WY
    307/734-7111


    6. Wagyu Tomahawk at Westbank Grill:
    The meat-centric signature restaurant at the plush Four Seasons Hotel serves all sorts of great local game, including housemade buffalo jerky and peppery elk sausage, but the well-aged beef here is the real draw. The big-ticket Tomahawk steak, cooked on an 1800° infrared grill, is a meaty monster serving two diners at least. Sliced off its yard-long bone, its remarkably tender and gorgeously stippled with fat. Order it with fancy-pants sides like truffled potatoes and Brussels sprouts with dates and bacon.

    Westbank Grill
    7680 Granite Loop Road
    Teton Village, WY
    307/732-5000


    Credit: Jay Cheshes

    7. Cast-Iron S'more at Trio:
    Nothing quite makes you feel like you're out in the mountains like an old fashioned, messy s'more, with its campfire-blistered marshmallow and melted chocolate oozing all over your hands. Trio, a newish American bistro run by two collaborating chefs (there used to be three, hence the restaurant's name), serves a grown-up version you won't need to build a fire to enjoy. This fork-and-knife beauty, a double chocolate brownie (with melted chips folded in) topped with a fat marshmallow, emerges thick as a layer cake from the wood-burning stove.

    Trio
    45 South Glenwood Drive
    Jackson, WY
    307/734-8038


    8. Jackson Factor at the Rose:
    Not many one-horse mountain towns have a world-class cocktail bar. In 2012 Jackson Hole got its first, when star barkeep David Kaplan, of New York's esteemed Death andamp; Co., opened the Rose here with local partners. Never mind the chandeliers and plush tufted couches, Kaplan-who was raised in these parts-serves his top-shelf tipples to rowdy locals in flannel and fleece. The refreshing but potent Jackson Factor, developed just for the bar, packs a smoky punch, with its pineapple juice, mezcal and Nicaraguan rum served in a tall glass on crushed ice.

    The Rose
    50 W Broadway
    Jackson, WY
    307/733-1500


    Jay Cheshes, a food and travel writer based in New York, has covered North African food in Paris and market food in Jerusalem for SAVEUR. A former restaurant critic for Gourmet and Time Out New York, he also contributes to Travel andamp; Leisure, Hemispheres, and The New York Times.
        



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  • 05/08/13--22:27: The Authentic Batanga
  • Twist of the Knife: Tequila's Authentic Batanga-photo
    by Gabi Porter
    In the western Mexico town of Tequila, there's a small, nondescript cantina called La Capilla, which happens to be a major bucket list stop for the world's cocktail nerds. La Capilla (literally "the chapel") is the home of the batanga, a simple drink created in the 1950s by Don Javier Delgado Corona, the bar's owner. Now well into his nineties, Don Javier can still be convinced to get behind the bar to make a drink or two for tequila pilgrims.

    The batanga is simple: nothing more than tequila, coke, and fresh lime juice, served in a tall glass with a salted rim. But inside La Capilla's walls, it takes on an almost magical quality. I've tried to make the drink at home many times, but as Don Javier will tell you, the secret to its flavor isn't in the ingredients-it's his big knife, which he uses to stir the cocktails, chop up avocado for guacamole, chiles for his homemade hot sauce, and everything else he might need. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth trying to recreate the legendary cocktail for sipping at home throughout the summer months.

    To make your own batanga, start with a tall, sturdy glass. Cut the top off of a small lime and run the cut edge around the rim. Dip the rim of the glass in salt, preferably salt that's nice and chunky and crystalline, and squeeze the rest of the juice from the cut lime into the glass. Add plenty of ice, and then fill the glass halfway up with a good, blanco tequila, and the rest with Mexican Coke (the variety that uses cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup). Stir gently with a big knife, and enjoy.

    See Don Javier make batangas in the gallery »

        



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    A Hunger For Home-photo
    by Kaumudi Marathandeacute;
    Growing up, I moved all over the world with my parents, professors who went wherever the jobs were. Before settling in Los Angeles at 26, I never lived in one town for more than a few years, and I felt rootless. Food became a way for me to connect the dots between the places I had been and the ones I was going to. I'd known no one else who felt similarly-until I met the family of my husband, Sanjiv Bajaj. The Bajajs are Sindhi, a people from the Sindh in the Indus Valley, a northwest corner of the Indian subcontinent that became part of the newly formed Pakistan after independence from the British in 1947. While many Sindhi Muslims remained in the Sindh afterward, most Sindhi Hindus headed into India, never to return. Sanjiv's grandparents ended up in Mumbai, 900 miles from where they were born.

    In some ways, Sanjiv's family was like the one I grew up in; they, too, were uprooted. But the difference was that this family carried their home with them, in their hearts and in their cooking. Whereas my mother made beef Stroganoff and the food of Maharashtra, the state in India where I was born, with equal flair, Sanjiv's mother and grandmother cooked only ancestral foods. Chickpea cakes in a rich tomato sauce; kadhi, a lentil stew; cardamom-spiced desserts-these were dishes that embodied their identity. Though prepared in a kitchen in Mumbai, the Bajaj family meal always pointed northward, toward the Sindh.

    Credit: Ariana Linquist
    I had my first taste of Sindhi food at my in-laws' house in 1990. Sanjiv's mother, Madhu, made kadhi, a tart, peppery stew bolstered with okra and green beans. When we sat down to eat, the family showed me how to drench the rice in my bowl with just the right amount of soupy lentils. While Sanjiv, who was born in Mumbai and had never seen the Sindh, devoured his kadhi with gusto but without nostalgia, each spoonful seemed to transport his 74-year-old grandmother, Savitri, back to Shikarpur, the sleepy district capital on the Sindh's northern border.

    At this first meal and many more to follow, Savitri took me with her on flights of reminiscence, vividly recalling lush, green rice fields, swaying date palms, fish swimming up the nearby Indus River from the Arabian Sea. A tiny woman with a keen mind, Savitri had married at 14 and cooked for her family ever since. I spent many afternoons listening, fascinated, as she described the foods of her younger years. The Sindh's arid climate was ideal for drying foods to preserve them, she told me, and so the cuisine used ingredients such as dried morels, crispy lentil crackers known as papad, and sun-dried vegetables, such as squash and lotus root, deep-fried and heavily seasoned to add a crunchy, spicy element to meals. Beyond that, the Sindh's location on the Silk Road meant that over the years it was influenced by Iranian, Arab, and central Asian cooking. Muslim rulers had controlled the Sindh for centuries; their influence remains in the prominence that meat has in Sindhi cuisine. And given the Sindh's past as part of the Mughal Empire, the luxuriant staples of Persian cooking-saffron, rose water, dates, almonds, and pistachios-are prized for both sweets and savory rice dishes.

    My education wasn't confined to stories. Whenever I prodded Savitri for more information about a dish, she'd ask, "Shall we make it?" And a cooking lesson would commence. One of the first recipes I learned from her was for dharan ji kadhi. The golden bracelets on her arm jangled as she gently kneaded chickpea flour with cilantro, chiles, yogurt, and oil to make thick dumplings that she fried and then immersed in a delectable sauce of tomato, onion, and cilantro. For an appetizer, we made tuk, twice-fried potatoes that she cooked until just soft, then smashed with her palm. Right before we ate, she fried them once more. The chunks of potato, brightened with red chile and dried mango powders, were crisp and golden outside, steaming and tender within.

    Sindhis love these fresh greens, which have a pleasing, intense bitterness that the dried leaves don't
    Over the next 20 years of visits and cooking, Sindhi flavors began to feel like my own. After Savitri passed away in 1997, Madhu took up where her mother left off. Then Sanjiv and I had our daughter, Keya. Although married life proved more complicated than either of us had expected, I still felt the same obligation that the Bajaj women had felt toward me to pass on the family's traditions to my child, so I cooked what Sindhi dishes I knew at our home in Los Angeles and became even more deliberate in my quest to better understand the cuisine. Madhu urged me to visit the twin towns of Adipur and Gandhidham in Gujarat, in northwestern India near the Pakistan border, where some Sindhis had settled after Partition. "Sindhis there have kept up traditions in ways we have not," she told me. "I'm sure their food is closer to its roots."

    On my next visit to India, I followed her advice. I created lists of recipes to look into. I booked tickets. Then, two weeks before my trip, Sanjiv and I decided to separate, and in spite of all my preparations, I suddenly felt adrift. Planes to Gujarat flew from Mumbai, so I had made plans to visit Madhu before flying north. It was too late to change my itinerary; I headed to Mumbai anyway, wondering what this visit would be like now that my relationship with her son was changing.

    I needn't have worried. Madhu greeted me as she always had, laying out a lunch of sai bhaaji, sautéed mashed greens that included fenugreek leaves. Sindhis love these fresh greens, which have a pleasing, intense bitterness that the dried leaves don't. I'd grown to love them, too. I mixed fluffy white basmati rice into the dish, along with a dollop of thick homemade yogurt. My mind was still in turmoil, but my senses told me to relax: I was home.

    Credit: Ariana Linquist


    Over the next few days, we cooked all of the Sindhi dishes I'd come to love. Not once did Madhu raise the subject of the separation, but she let me know, through the zeal with which she tackled each dish with me, that we were still family. The last recipe we cooked together was Sanjiv's favorite dessert, malpura, delicate curd cheese pancakes soaked in cardamom-scented syrup. Creamy and thin, with syrup clinging to their lacy edges, they melted in my mouth. Although malpura are prepared in other parts of north India, Madhu's recipe yielded pancakes that were soft clouds on the tongue. When my visit came to an end, I was unsure of how to say good-bye, not knowing when I might return.

    Adipur and Gandhidham are 500 miles north of Mumbai. The plane touched down on land that was flat and dotted with thorny acacia trees.

    This, she explained, was sonta, a seasoning base from the southern part of the Sindh upon which countless cooked vegetable and fish dishes are built
    Through a friend, I had arranged to visit Kamla Sabhani, a Sindhi home cook whose family had settled here after Partition. Sabhani, a housewife in her 60s, met me at the door of her home with hugs before offering a traditional welcome of lentil crackers and water. She waved me into her kitchen where she was making pohp batalu jo pulao, a sumptuous dish of rice cooked in a tangy tomato and onion sauce, and seyal murgh, chicken simmered with onions in a creamy sauce, for our lunch. She started by grinding green chiles, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and pestle. This, she explained, was sonta, a seasoning base from the southern part of the Sindh upon which countless cooked vegetable and fish dishes are built. Sabhani used some of the sonta to make the pulao, sautéeing the paste before stirring in onions and tomatoes to make a sauce. To this she added rice and peas. At the very last, she blanketed the cooked rice with layers of chopped cilantro, sliced dates, caramelized onions, and fried potatoes. The rest of the sonta became a spicy base for the chicken.

    We tucked in, washing everything down with glasses of lightly salted buttermilk. The chicken, served with homemade sweet cilantro chutney, was tender and fragrant. The pulao, with its ornate garnish, was luxurious, with a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures that changed with every bite. While you can find pulaos all over India, they likely originated with the former Persian rulers of the Sindh, and the dried fruit-which I'd never seen in the dish in Mumbai-spoke to the Sindh's proximity to Iran and central Asia. It was an extravagant dish, and a gracious offering for a visitor. As I ate, I reflected that while Shikarpur, the home of Savitri's memories and the wellspring of the dishes that defined Sanjiv's family, was still many miles away, this meal was as close as I was going to get, at least for now. It felt close enough.

    My flight took off just past midnight, carrying me back to LA and an uncertain future. I dozed off, and when I awoke, a glance at the flight path channel indicated we were flying over Pakistan. I looked out the window. Below me in a magical starburst pattern of lights was Karachi, the capital of the Sindh, my first view of the paternal homeland my daughter might never see. She doesn't really need to, I realized then: As long as she knows the region's dishes, she will carry the Sindh with her wherever she goes.

    See a gallery of Sindhi Recipes »
        



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    Cuban Sandwich-photo
    by Gabriella Gershenson
    If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have told you that the best Cuban sandwich I ever had was in, of all places, Cambridge, Massachusetts. My sister and I were roommates at the time living in nearby Somerville. We used to hang out at a Franco-Cuban restaurant called Chez Henri, where we'd order mojitos and what amounted to one of the greatest foods we'd ever discovered: Buttery pressed bread, melted cheese, garlicky roasted pork, ham, pickles, and mustard, cut into two triangles, with ribboned plantain chips on the side. It left an indelible impression on us both, and we were pretty much convinced that a better Cuban couldn't possibly exist.

    My Massachusetts days are long behind me-I live in New York now, and my sister Shulamit lives with her husband and two kids in Tampa, Florida. There's no shortage of Cuban sandwiches there; in fact, you'll find signs at establishments all around the city flaunting the status of being the "birthplace of the Cubano." On my visits to Tampa over the years, I never took them very seriously, brushing the ads off the way I would any others that claim a superlative. But not too long ago, I made a long overdue visit to Ybor City, Tampa's historic Cuban enclave that at the turn of the last century was the cigar manufacturing capital of the world. There, I was forced to reconsider my skepticism about Tampa's Cuban sandwich. And I decided to eat a few, too.

    It turns out that in the late 1880s, Tampa was the recipient of a huge influx of Cuban workers who brought with them their tradition of cigar-making. Ybor City, a municipality named for cigar factory owner Vicente Martinez Ybor, housed the factories, their workers, and the restaurants and food traditions that sprung up around them. While Ybor became a polyglot community of immigrants from around the world working side-by-side in the cigar factories, the flavor of the place remained distinctly Cuban.

    Andy Huse, a librarian at the University of South Tampa and a self-proclaimed Cuban sandwich historian, explained to me that while eating establishments did feed workers, female factory employees were discouraged from visiting them, as they served alcohol and were generally considered unfit for a lady. The Cuban sandwich as we know it developed under these circumstances: The easily portable meal was one that men could easily carry with them from the restaurants back to the line, and that cafeteros, coffee carts that kept workers in cafe con leche and other refreshments, would shuttle to the female workers back at the factory.

    The Cuban sandwich wasn't always known as a Cuban sandwich: It most likely migrated to Tampa in the guise of the mixto, so-named for its variable combination of meats. (Pork and ham are mandatory; salami appears depending on where you live: It's an essential part of a Tampa Cubano and sacrilege in Miami.) But as it evolved, its components became codified: "Cuban bread, mojo roast pork, ham, salami, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise on request," Huse recites. He says that by the 1920s and '30s, the sandwich was everywhere in Tampa, the city's contribution to the growing American repertoire of portable, working-class foods, like hamburgers and hot dogs.


    Credit: Gabriella Gershenson
    Its cigar manufacturing days may be long gone, but Tampa stays true to its history: The city is home to an annual Cubano festival, and in 2012, in a brash challenge to Miami, Tampa named the Cuban its official sandwich. Clearly I had been wrong to skip over the city's Cuban offerings; the thing to do now was to sample them. I piled into the car with my sister's family for a field trip to one of Tampa's most iconic sources for Cubans, The Columbia in Ybor City, an over-the-top Spanish sanctuary and the oldest restaurant in Florida. There, they make their textbook sandwiches with generous quantities of salty meat balanced by mustard and pickle, all on bread from nearby La Segunda Central Bakery, which ended up being the sandwich's finest feature. La Segunda itself is an institution; it's been baking Cuban loaves with the fluffy interior and addictively flakey crust that I couldn't get enough of for more than a century.

    Next up was Brocato's, a raucous roadhouse of a sandwich joint that also specializes in another Tampa original, devil crab. Their claim to fame is that they roast their own pork, fragrant with cumin, for their Cubano. (Though that's a selling point today, Huse told me that it was the norm in the early days: "It was an all day thing to make sandwiches," he said. "Eight hours spent making pork, four hours making ham. There was a lot more to it than there is now.") Hoagie-like in its girth and with a refreshing snap from the pickle, Brocato's was the heftiest of the bunch, a Cuban for a sub lover.

    Though the relatively thick offerings at The Columbia and Brocato's were satisfying, when it comes to Cubans, I discovered that I fall into the camp of the slim, extreme-pressed, sparsely-filled Tampa Cuban. To me, the most craveable renditions capitalize on the flaky bread, and use the meat, cheese, and fixings as sources of flavor and moisture and little more. The honey Cuban from the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, a tiny cottage of a restaurant, exemplified this style, and hit the Golden Mean with its proportions-crispy, savory, tender, each bite compelling me to take another. I encountered a close second at La Teresita, a family-run Cuban diner with swivel stools and a takeout counter that offered a toasted, slender sandwich with just enough deli meat distraction. But the bread, again, was the star.

    Though the formative Cuban of my memory from Chez Henri might always reign supreme (it's hard to compete with nostalgia), eating Cubans in Tampa exposed me to a history I had originally questioned, and an unexpected pleasure I am so glad I now know-Cuban bread, as essential to this place as bagels are to New York or pizza is to Rome. And there's something to be said for getting a specialty at the source, for biting into the original. And let's be honest-no matter where you try it, a Cuban sandwich is going to be pretty darn good.

    Where to eat Cuban sandwiches in Tampa, Florida:

    Columbia Restaurant
    2117 E 7th Ave.
    Tampa, FL
    813/248-4961


    Brocato's
    5021 E Columbus Dr.
    Tampa, FL
    813/248-9977


    La Segunda Central Bakery
    2512 N 15th St.
    Tampa, FL
    813/248-1531


    West Tampa Sandwich Shop
    3904 N Armenia Ave.
    Tampa, FL
    813/873-7104


    La Teresita
    3248 W Columbus Dr.
    Tampa, FL
    813/879-9704
        



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  • 05/16/13--00:00: The Guide: Dubai on the Fly
  • The Guide: Dubai on the Fly-photo
    by Felicia Campbell
    As I prepared for my trip to Dubai, known for over-the-top opulence and Las Vegas-style theatrics, I wondered how I would be able to explore the place beyond its generic glitz in a mere three days. Sitting on the Persian Gulf just across from Iran, the city was not always the teeming metropolis that it is today: In 1883, when the ruling family Maktoum rose to power, Dubai was a just small pearl-fishing village. But in 1966 oil was discovered, forever changing the face of this desert town. By the 1980s the ruling family had made Dubai a tax-free zone to promote foreign investment, and in 2000 Dubai Internet City opened to lure in tech companies. The years that followed have been marked by unabashed displays of luxury, from the Burj al-Arab, the world's most expensive hotel housed on a man-made palm tree-shaped island, to a slew of outposts of some of the finest restaurants in the world, including New York-based Nobu and Frenchman Pierre Gagnaire's Relets Par Pierre. Despite the sudden-wealth and Vegas-like reputation, what I found was a uniquely Middle Eastern metropolis, featuring all the conveniences, trappings and surprises of a big city anywhere else, but with a distinctly diverse Asian flavor all its own. This nonstop, ever-changing town is an ideal destination for frequent trips, whether for urban-paced relaxation or adventure, for business or vacation, as I found out over the course of 36 hours.

    Enjoy Randamp;R on the Run

    Even when I'm on vacation (which is rare), I'm not one to totally disconnect. With its exquisite service, round the clock dining, strong internet connection throughout the entire property (a surprisingly difficult thing to find these days), and convenient location in the heart of the city, the Pullman Hotel Dubai Deira Center was perfect for my whirlwind 36-hour stay. On day one, I popped over to the mall attached to the hotel for a quick mani-pedi before heading to the Old City to explore the souks (open-air markets), and upon my return I had time to sneak in a facial at the hotel's fabulous spa before heading out to an evening business dinner. The rooftop pool and lounge area is wifi wired, so the next day I took in the views, had a drink and caught some rays while filing an assignment. Even walking around the hotel felt luxurious and relaxing thanks to subtle fragrances wafting through the central a/c and changing to match the decor (green apple on the green floors, lavender on the purple floors and lemongrass in the spa). The expansive international breakfast buffet includes prepared and à la minute options, perfect for customizing my breakfast of choice: cappuccino, fresh fruit, and lentil curry.

    Pullman Hotel Dubai Deira Center
    PO BOX 61871, at City Centre Mall
    971/4-294-1222


    Explore the "Other Dubai" in a Block

    There are fine dining restaurants and international chains to rival New York, London or Hong Kong in this town-with price tags to match-but what makes Dubai stand out among the world's other top food cities are the superb Asian eats, courtesy of an immigrant population that hails from Syria to China. In Dubai you can find some of the best examples of these cuisines outside of their native lands, and many of the most dynamic eateries are located on the stretch. Al Diyafa Road is chock-a-block with tables and chairs set up in front of restaurants that serve authentic Chinese hot pot, the ornate Iranian rice dish pulao, fresh-carved shawarma, and incredible Pakistani butter chicken, daal, and goat curry that I sampled at local favorite Ravi Restaurant, all for ridiculously low prices.

    Ravi Restaurant
    Satwa street and Al Diyafa Road
    Dubai
    971/4-331-5353
    Credit: Courtesy of SMCCU



    Have Some History with your Brunch

    If you want to try to track down a taste of the local cuisine but don't have an Emirati friend yet, head to Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in the old Emirati neighborhood of Bur Dubai. There you can spend a few hours at the Bastakiya house feasting on traditional local fare, including crepe-like, saffron-laced chebab pancakes with date syrup and fresh cream; and salty-sweet balaleet, a sweet vermicelli noodle and omelet concoction, while sipping tea and learning about the Emirati culture that predates Dubai's current sparkling skyline. Reservations are required, so visit the website to book a seat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or weekend brunch.

    Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
    House 26, Al Mussallah Road, Bastakiya
    Bur Dubai
    971/4-353-6666
    AED 60-95; $15-25 USD


    Sightsee While You Sip

    Check one of the major "must see" tourist destinations off your list while having a cocktail at At.mosphere Lounge on the 122nd Floor of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The views are truly unparalleled, so sit back, relax, and watch the city below transform as the sun sets and the sparkling lights come on.

    At.mosphere Lounge
    Burj Khalifa
    Downtown Dubai
    971/4-888-3828


    Start your Vacation at the Airport

    I was lucky enough to start my trip with a business class seat on Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, so I was able to dine on an incredible breakfast spread in their airport lounge at JFK airport in New York. Keeping pace with Dubai's food-centric, lavish ways, the new planes are equipped with inflight lounges for business and first class passengers. In addition to hand-crafted cocktails from the full bar, the rotating lounge menu features 342 different hot and cold hors d'ouvres options, like turkey bacon wrapped dates, saffron potato cubes with sesame, salmon nori rolls, Australian lamb roulade, nutella cones, baklava, and roasted turkey breast tea sandwiches. Standing at the swanky little bar, I couldn't help but feel that my holiday had already begun.
        



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    map of naples-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi

    WHERE TO EAT

    1. Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba
    Via Port'Alba 18 (39/081/459-713). While Naples' oldest pizzeria offers a full-service dining room, you couldn't do better than to visit the 183-year-old place, grab a small, folded portafoglio pizza wrapped in paper, and eat it while walking around the block, where you'll find an incredible selection of new and antiquarian bookstores.

    2. Di Matteo
    Via dei Tribunali 94 (39/081/455-262). Opened in 1936, this combination pizzeria-friggitoria (fried-food specialist) in the historic district is where President Bill Clinton wolfed down a pizza back in 1994 (and, boy, do they have the pictures to prove it). Here you can buy scrumptious fried rice balls and pasta-filled fritters to enjoy on the street, or settle into one of the quiet dining rooms for a superb pizza margherita.

    3. Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente
    Via dei Tribunali 120/121 (39/081/210-903). Run by effervescent pizzaiolo Enzo Cacialli, this two-story pizzeria just down the block from Di Matteo is a welcoming spot to sample some of the city's most beloved pies. Cacialli's talents are beautifully exhibited in his simple pizza marinara, its pillowy crust topped with sweet tomato sauce, garlic, wild marjoram, olive oil, and basil.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    4. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele

    Via Cesare Sersale 1-3 (39/081/553-9204). The purists at this famous pizzeria that first opened in 1906 serve only margherita and marinara pizzas. Both are spectacular enough to make one ask, why serve anything else?

    5. Pizzeria Capatosta
    Via Guglielmo Marconi 80, Recale, Caserta (39/0823/493-18). This homey pizzeria about 20 miles northeast of Naples in the scenic town of Recale features a large wood-paneled dining room brimming with trophies won by brothers Enzo and Lello Giustiniani for their pizzas. Those pies, as well as the excellent antipasti offered here, are worth the trip.

    6. Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo
    Via dei Tribunali 32 (39/081/446-643). This place is usually packed with locals, tourists, and students from the nearby University of Naples. One of the city's most lauded pizzerias since its opening in 1935, the shop suffered a massive fire last year. Happily, after a quick remodel, it's back in action with a cheery, modernized dining area and great marinara pizzas.

    7. Pizzeria Starita
    Via Materdei 27 (39/081/557-3682). Antonio Starita and his son Giuseppe fire up some of Naples' best pizza pies, from the classic marinara to the lightly fried Montanara Starita at this bustling pizzeria, the setting of the classic 1954 Sophia Loren film L'Oro di Napoli. Don't miss out on the rachetta, a tennis racket-shaped pizza-calzone hybrid lavished with cheese and mushrooms.

    Credit: Todd Coleman
    8. Pizzeria La Notizia
    Via Caravaggio 53 (39/081/714-2155). In the high-end Vomero district, pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia serves beautifully rendered classics, as well as the whimsical pizza del contadino, a calzone stuffed with warm escarole tossed with sardines, pecorino cheese, and mozzarella di bufala.

    WHERE TO STAY

    Grand Hotel Parker's
    Corso Vittorio Emanuele 135 (39/081/761-2474). $129 and up for a double. Opened in 1870, this historic hotel in the residential Corso Vittorio Emanuele neighborhood is within walking distance of museums, shopping, and plenty of pizzerias. Elegant two-story rooms feature antique furniture and balconies overlooking the Gulf of Naples. At the hotel's restaurant, George's, chef Vincenzo Bacioterracino serves excellent Neapolitan dishes such as mozzarella di bufala tonnato, buffalo mozzarella in tuna sauce.

    Royal Continental Hotel

    Via Partenope 38 (39/081/245-2068; ). $180 for a double. This hotel located in Santa Lucia, a neighborhood filled with seafood restaurants and historic sites, offers stylish, contemporary rooms, a seawater pool, and a top-notch restaurant where chef Raimondo Cinque offers Mediterranean classics such as ensalata di mare con olio e limone, seafood salad with olive oil and lemon.

    Dinner for two with drinks and tip: $25 to $40

    For more information on visiting Naples, visit the Italian Tourism website.
        

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