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  • 05/22/13--00:45: The Heat Down Under
  • Curtis Stone Grilling-photo
    by Curtis Stone
    My dad and stepmom have a small ranch in a country town called Woodend in Australia. It's only 45 minutes outside of Melbourne, but as soon as you drive out of the city you see sheep and cows walking around in paddocks. On a recent visit from LA, where I live now, my family and I celebrated my return the way Australians celebrate just about everything-with a barbie.

    Here, grilling is a way of life, something we do all summer long. It's a way Aussies eat day to day, and a way we mark special occasions. It's so much a part of the culture that in Melbourne most new apartments have barbecues built into their balconies.

    My dad has a nice barbecuing area, set up just under the ironbark trees, a type of eucalyptus. As usual, that day there was a good mix of friends and family: my sister in-law and her kids, my brother and goddaughter, and my dad's neighbors. I started a fire in an old oil barrel that my dad had cut in half and welded some legs onto, which makes a perfect grill. I tossed in some wood from fallen trees on his property that gave off a beautiful scent as it burned.

    My family grills so often that we don't want to stress about it. So we made sure to do as much as we could beforehand: By the time the guests arrived, the meat was ready to go, music was on, cocktails were flowing. I had some lobsters that I split in half and put in the fridge. There was compound butter I made with parsley, garlic, and chile flakes; it basically poaches the lobsters in their shells once it's over the fire. The Esky cooler was full of ice and cold drinks, and the table was set. After all that preparation, the grilling was the easy part.

    First, I seared some prawns on the plancha and put them in lettuce cups for a nice first bite. In Australia, one side of the barbie is a grate and the other is usually a metal flattop, which makes it easy to fry some eggs to put on burgers or cook all kinds of fish. Here we grill lots of seafood. I grew up close to the ocean, where there are picnic areas with coin-operated gas-fired barbecues that take 20-cent pieces. It's somewhat primitive, but I can't say how many times I've come back from fishing with my mates and cooked our food right there on the beach.

    Credit: Mark Roper

    Of course, we also have an obsession with lamb and can grill it a million ways: in lamb burgers, lamb chops, even a whole leg. Aussies love what we call a "sausage sizzle," literally a grilled sausage, which could very well be made of lamb, too. It's served in a buttered white bread roll, slathered in ketchup. It's still my guilty pleasure. I can remember that smell as a kid walking my dog: You stroll by every third or fourth house around dinnertime and smell those sausages blistering away. Now, as an adult, when I make a sausage sizzle, I whip up my own ketchup, too, which makes it taste even better.

    As the party got going, I grilled the lamb burgers and sausages and lobsters, and served them just as they came off the grill. While coordinating courses is important, we like to keep our barbies a relaxed affair. You want to be able to take a break and play with the kids. The meal went far into the evening, I'll tell you, until the sun was well gone. Of course, all the guys stood around and talked about how to build a bloody fire. It's a sign of being a man.

    Curtis Stone is the author of What's for Dinner? (Ballantine Books, 2013).

    See more grilling tips from Curtis Stone »
        

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  • 05/22/13--01:07: Art of the Parrilla
  • Grilling in Uruguay-photo
    by Shane Mitchell
    "Al aire libre." Loosely, it means "free air" in Spanish-the great outdoors. On a rocky hilltop in the Uruguayan countryside, this lyrical idiom caught my attention as asado cooks raked and shoveled hot coals from towering wood pyres into shallow pits where whole lambs, suckling pigs, chickens, and a heap of sausages sputtered on iron spits and tilted racks. Dripping fat and juices, the crackle of bones and crisping skin were deftly accomplished with searing heat from untamed flames and dying embers. Standing there among sun-scorched gauchos with blades thrust in their belts, I felt the macho spectacle perfectly suited to this wild, wind-blasted landscape.

    Credit: James Fisher
    In Uruguay, a country where nearly 80 percent of the land is available for grazing livestock, grilling is everywhere. The custom of asado, or whole-animal grilling on a cross or spit, and its slightly tamer parrilla variation, where cuts of meat are placed on a grill top, can be observed from the capital of Montevideo to dusty pueblos east of Río de la Plata. On a recent visit, I ate beef short ribs at El Palenque, a grilling restaurant in Montevideo's Mercado del Puerto; scooped shrimp from a cazuela of sizzling oil set atop a grill at an eatery right next door to the Atlantic; marveled at cooks at a rodeo preparing asado con cuero, a cow cooked with its hide attached; sipped tannat wine at a cattle ranch as cinders spiraled heavenward. With each meal I gained respect for asadors who could nudge russet coals into just the right position to crust up a rib eye, keeping its insides red and juicy, to be slathered with chimichurri sauce. It was this skillful manipulation of heat that impressed me most. Uruguayans prefer their grill tops to be canted at a 45-degree angle; along the sloped grate with its range of temperatures and proximities to the flame, they slowly, carefully navigate the relationship between meat and fire.

    Credit: James Fisher
    At a cookout in the rugged countryside with Francis Mallmann, a chef and cookbook author renowned for his asado, grizzled men lit hand-rolled cigarettes and leaned on iron pokers. Mallmann, who comes from Argentina but spends an abundance of time tending fires in Uruguay, offered me rosy cracklings from a pig just freed of its spit bindings. They were smoky, fragrant. "Patience is one of the most important ingredients," he told me. "You can never be in a hurry."

    Shane Mitchell is a contributing editor for SAVEUR.
        

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  • 05/25/13--22:51: The World on a Grill
  • Grilling in Mexico-photo
    by Steven Raichlen
    While writing my book Planet Barbecue! (Workman, 2010) I traveled across six continents (I skipped Antarctica, though scientists there grill, too) and 53 countries in search of the best flame-cooked foods on earth. Below, in no particular order, are my 12 favorite grill joints in the world.

    See the 12 best grilling restaurants in the world »

        

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    Mumbai and Adipur-Gandhidham, India-photo

    Where to Stay

    ITC Grand Central
    287, Doctor Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai (91/22/2410-1010; itchotels.in). $300 for a double. At this luxury hotel in the heart of Mumbai, amenities include butler service, a spa, and five excellent restaurants, among them Kebabs andamp; Kurries, featuring regional dishes from all over the country, and Hornby's Pavilion, a 24-hour coffee shop that serves a knockout south Indian breakfast.

    Hotel Shiv
    Grand Plot No. 32, Sector 8, Near B.M. Petrol Pump, Gandhidham (91/2836/238-911; shivhotels.com). Rooms start at $65. This business hotel offers comfortable Internet-equipped, air-conditioned rooms. The hotel's Mughlai restaurant, Celebrity, serves north Indian dishes such as kebabs, naan, and chicken tikka masala.

    Where to Eat

    Kailash Parbat
    5 Sheela Mahal, First Pasta Lane, Colaba, Mumbai (91/22/2287-4823; kailashparbatandheri.com). Moderate. This Sindhi restaurant, established in 1952, has expanded its menu over the decades (offerings range from Chinese to Punjabi), but it remains the best in town for Sindhi specialties like bhee tikki (lotus stem fritters) and tuk (twice-fried potatoes).

    Sindhu Pure Ghee Sweets andamp; Snacks
    3 Satguru Shopping Centre, Mumbai (91/22/2600-6664). Inexpensive. Originally opened in Shikarpur, Sindh, in 1902, this transplanted shop sells traditional treats such as tosha, fried dough rolls dipped in sugar, and lola, sweet bread cooked on a griddle.

    Maitri Road
    Adipur. Inexpensive. Adipur's main thoroughfare is packed with stands selling Sindhi food. Look for Jumdomal Nasta House, which serves chana dabulroti, spiced chickpeas with fried bread, and Kapta Nasta House, selling snacks such as sana pakora (chile fritters) and batata vada, potato croquettes filled with minced onions, chiles, and dried mango powder.

    What to Do

    Indian Institute of Sindhology
    Ward-A, Post Box No. 10, Adipur (91/2836/263-851; sindhology.org). This small museum exhibits artifacts like painted wood mortars, old grinding stones, and other kitchen implements, as well as more than 1,000 photographs documenting Sindhi culture.
        



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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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  • 05/30/13--22:00: Scenes from the Galilee
  • Uri Jeremias Fatmeh Wachesh-photo In the Galilee, biblical roots, rich agricultural heritage, and Mediterranean flavors give rise to Israel's most soulful cuisine. For our May 2013 issue, senior editor Gabriella Gershenson traveled to the region with photographer Eilon Paz.

    See the gallery of photographs from the Galilee »

        



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  • 05/19/13--23:16: Hearts and Minds
  • Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar (Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken)-photo
    by Felicia Campbell
    I landed in Kuwait on February 28, 2003, less than a month after my 19th birthday, as a private first class with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division. Two years earlier, after an aimless semester of college during which the Twin Towers fell, I'd filled out the information request form on GoArmy.com, looking for some direction in my life. I was thrilled when we were deployed to Iraq. It felt like my chance to do something important.

    I was among the first wave of American troops in Iraq; it would be months before military living quarters and chow halls and roads were in place. That lag time-and the absence of basic comforts like food and water-set my life on a path I couldn't have imagined. It fueled a hunger in me for something pleasurable and real, and drove me to cross the neatly drawn military line between "us" and "them." It was a journey I made stomach first.

    We were staged at Camp Udairi, a tent city in the desert on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Nineteen days after we arrived, a TV was wheeled into our tarp tent. President Bush appeared onscreen and said, "The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery." The war was on. We crossed the border under fireworks of Scuds intercepted by Patriot missiles and drove toward Baghdad. We pushed north hundreds of miles across a sea of sand, and when we stopped, we slept outside on cots where vicious biting flies woke us every morning. Until suppliers from the base in Kuwait could catch up with our convoy, we each made do with one MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) and two liters of water a day. Just enough to survive.

    All the MREs had the same basic components: a squeeze packet of peanut butter or cheese-flavored spread, tasteless crackers or flatbread, stale Skittles or cake, and an entrée pouch. To "cook" the entrée, we slipped the pouch into a plastic sleeve outfitted with a water-activated heating pad, added water, and closed the sleeve quickly. A violent boiling would shake it for a few minutes, then fizzle out with a nauseating chemical gasp. Entrées ranged from the fear-inducing Country Captain Chicken, a breaded gray lump, to the coveted Hamburger Patty. The latter came with barbecue sauce and was believably beef-like. We attempted to make other meals palatable, crushing crackers over pasta for texture and spreading peanut butter on dry pound cake. But mealtime on that convoy remained a disappointment.

    The warning signs went up, painted on plywood boards: "Unauthorized eating establishment, eat at your own risk"
    Eventually, the desert gave way to patchy grassland. We began to see people: women in flowing black garments, men herding goats and working in the fields. Our commanders had told us we weren't to trust any of them, so I kept my head down and my gun at the ready. We bypassed Baghdad, continuing north to a former Iraqi air force base in Nineveh. Qayyarah Airfield West was a tumble of bombed-out buildings stripped of electrical wire and filled with debris, but to us they looked like palaces; they meant no more sleeping outside under tarps. I could see foothills in the distance, and the sun was softer here. Most important, there were rumors of real food. One rubble heap was being turned into a dry goods shop that was also going to sell hot meals.

    The grunts from the 327th Infantry Regiment's 1st BCT "Bastogne," whose headquarters were across the road, had tagged the would-be shop with their insignia, a cloverleaf, so the place became known as "The Club." Pretty soon chips, sweets, and Coca-Cola cans adorned with squiggly Arabic lettering were lining its shelves. In a courtyard in the center of the building, a collection of plastic tables and chairs were set up like a restaurant, the menu limited to grilled chicken and pita. The Club was run by Iraqis. This wasn't a surprise at Q-West-about a month after we arrived, they started letting Iraqi nationals onto base to deliver water and other supplies-but there was always a divide between the Army's official and unofficial lines on them. The officers in Washington claimed that we were helping rebuild the Iraqi economy by supporting new businesses. But on base, as soon as the shop opened, the warning signs went up, painted letters on plywood boards: "Unauthorized eating establishment: Eat at your own risk. It is against military regulation to intentionally harm your body. Use discretion when consuming unsanctioned food."

    So I was nervous as I stood in line at The Club, my weapon slung over my back like a messenger bag, but I was also tired of eating tasteless rations. When I got to the front and saw the handwritten sign that simply said "$2" and handed over the money, I didn't look up at the owner of the brown hands that passed me a Styrofoam plate lined with thick, soft, warm flatbread topped with half a chicken.

    I was thankful that the food looked straightforward and safe, delicious even. The skin was crispy, charred-brown, and shiny with fat. I tugged a piece off the bone. It was as moist and flavorful as the rotisserie chicken my mom used to buy at King Soopers back home in Denver. But it was smokier, more complex, and bursting with flavors unfamiliar to me. I wrapped pieces of meat in the pillowy bread that was stained with grease from my fingers. I ate and ate, the flavors of cardamom, coriander, fenugreek and turmeric, cloves and allspice, pepper and rose hips striking my palate, many of them for the first time. They were the tastes of what Iraqis call bahar asfar, yellow spice, brought centuries ago from South Asia. They were flavors I grew to know well, and to crave.

    I thought about the people brave enough to be kind to me even as I wielded an M16-A4, prepared to turn it on them. Yet it had taken me countless cups of tea to simply meet the eyes of the men pouring them.
    I wolfed down my chicken and considered ordering more for later. But I didn't; as satisfying as it was to taste fresh food, something was missing. Unlike the countless times I gobbled an MRE solo, I suddenly longed for someone to sit and eat with me. The next evening I asked three other girls in my platoon to join me; we had spent little time together until then, but that marked the beginning of many nights we spent at The Club. We'd devour the chicken, followed by a packaged cake bought from the shop, and when I started requesting the tea I saw the Iraqi shopkeepers drinking, they smiled and brought it to us in their own chipped mugs, served extra sweet, with leaves swirling in the amber liquid. Despite the kindness of those men, I still didn't trust them or look them in the eyes. Ignoring our hosts, we would laugh loudly and tell dirty stories, smoking and drinking their tea into the night.

    Six months in Iraq and we had given up dreaming about going home; eight months, and Q-West had become home. The girls and I made our way toward the familiar glow of The Club through the hot summer nights and cold autumn ones. We were there during weeks of boredom and weeks when mortars rained down as intermittently as the winter showers. Even after the opening of the long-awaited chow hall, we returned every Friday for cake and tea. And I would go whenever cravings for the chicken hit me. As a soldier, I ate robotically, but in The Club, I dined like a human.

    Over those weeks, I began to do a dangerous thing for a soldier: I began to feel and I began to see. I finally started looking at the Iraqi men that served me-young, bearded guys in checked turbans. I thought about the people I had met on patrols: the women in the villages who had embraced me and kissed my cheeks as their children looked up from their sides; the professor who asked if we were going to free Iraq from Saddam or simply take his place, and the knot of guilt I brushed aside as I told him I didn't know. I thought about the people brave enough to be kind to me even as I wielded an M16-A4, prepared to turn it on them. Yet it had taken me countless cups of tea to simply meet the eyes of the men pouring them.

    Nearly a year after crossing the Iraq-Kuwait border, we were told it was time to go home. Things at Q-West were hectic as we scrambled to move out, and my trips to The Club became less frequent. On one of our last nights, I finally met the owner, a fat, boisterous man with a close-cut beard who tried to tell me about his wife and kids in a broken mix of Arabic and English. I searched for the word for "thank you" but wasn't able to remember it.

    In the decade since then, I have learned the word for thank you-shukran-along with thousands of others. And my life gained the direction that I was seeking back when I enlisted. I went to graduate school for food studies and became a writer with a focus on Middle Eastern cuisine. Though I have since eaten many meals in the Arab world, my cravings remain unsated. I continue to look for Iraqi chicken, not for the sumptuous flavors, but because it reminds me of that time in my life and those gracious men from The Club. I know I'm unlikely to ever see them again, but I still long to thank them for feeding me. With that simple grilled chicken, they nourished my humanity, so often the first casualty of war.

    See the recipe for Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar (Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken) »
        

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  • 05/20/13--00:39: Keepers of the Flame
  • Grilling in Turkey-photo
    by Ansel Mullins
    In the vast kitchen of İmam Çağdaş, a kebab restaurant in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Burhan Çadaş, the 51-year-old owner, looked on as his staff of 20 labored in perfect harmony. At one counter, a crew worked ground meat and eggplant onto metal skewers. Another cadre stood at a long grill, deftly rotating skewers of various meats and vegetables over glowing oak charcoal. In a corner, a half dozen men reduced cuts of lamb to a fine crimson paste with scimitar-like blades known as zırh, their rhythmic chopping reverberating like thunder. Hand chopping, explained Burhan, gives his cooks complete control over the texture of the meat, which should hold together on the skewer but crumble under the fork. Besides, he said, "Meat ground by machine has no soul."

    I'd come to Gaziantep to learn about the fine art of Turkish kebab making, and İmam Çağdaş was the logical place to start. Burhan is one in the long line of kebap ustas, or kebab masters. An apprenticeship at his almost 130-year-old restaurant is equivalent to an Ivy League degree in Turkish grilling, and the lessons learned on the job reach right back to the hand of the restaurant's namesake, İmam usta, Burhan's grandfather, a legend in the world of Anatolian kebab.

    Burhan hovered while a junior usta plated a dish for me to try-an ala nazik kebab of ground lamb on a bed of strained yogurt and smashed roasted eggplant-before drizzling melted butter infused with chiles over the meat himself. I dug in, savoring the spicy, fat-rich lamb, roasted eggplant, and tangy yogurt with every bite. As I ate, Burhan's 73-year-old father, Talat Çağdaş, shuffled past in baggy pants dusted with charcoal, taking in the scene with a nod of approval and saying, "It must be exactly the same as my father made it."

    ...a true usta is a rare individual whose hard-earned experience, old-fashioned principles, and humble nature render him an elevated culinarian.
    While you can find grilled kebabs all across Turkey, Gaziantep is known for the artistry and ancestry of its ustas, who work from childhood to master every step of kebab making. In this city you'll find ustas grilling everywhere from institutions like İmam Çağdaş to the bustling bare-bones eateries just outside the Kamil Ocak Stadium where people drop in for a quick kebap dürümü, skewers of chicken, beef, or lamb wrapped in flatbread. Wherever they are, ustas do more than just grill the meat-they also give each place its heart.

    The word usta may be stenciled on nearly every restaurant window in Gaziantep, but a true usta is a rare individual whose hard-earned experience, old-fashioned principles, and humble nature render him an elevated culinarian. His role goes beyond kebab preparation; he is the gatekeeper of tradition. Gaziantep's best ustas are local heroes, the pride of the city.

    "It's very hard to be an usta in Gaziantep, because everyone is an usta here!" Sirvan Payasl said, joking about the notoriously finicky and food-crazed locals he serves. He spent 24 years at İmam Çağdaş learning to cook the pantheon of Gaziantep kebabs-soğan kebabı, onion and ground lamb glazed in pomegranate molasses; alti ezmeli, tiny marinated chunks of grilled lamb stewed with tomatoes; and more-before opening his own restaurant, Şirvan Baklava Lahmacun ve Kebab, in 2004.

    As we spoke, Payaslı stood before an ornate copper hood with his name etched into it, peeling a dusky brown keme, a prized desert truffle, slices of which he alternated on a skewer with ground lamb and then placed on the grill. Moments later he handed me the result, a beguiling mix of smoky meat and tender, nutty truffle, a rarity even in Gaziantep, where, depending on the season, ustas might work quince or loquats onto their kebabs, and flavor the ground lamb with chopped tomatoes or pistachios.

    Away from these famous kitchens, in the backstreets there are humble grill joints that are just as beloved. At six o'clock one morning, at the insistence of a taxi driver, I visited a tiny smoke-filled shop called Ciğerci Ali Haydar Usta, just as the morning prayer crowd descended from the mosque across the street. Having selected prepared skewers from a pushcart out front, men jostled giddily around the usta as he laid the food on the grill inside, taking part in a local ritual: a breakfast of cubed lamb liver kebab served on flatbread with chopped parsley, raw onions, tart sumac, and a spritz of lemon. By 8 a.m. the gregarious usta, Mehmet Ali Gürbüz, was sold out.

    "I wear my customers like a crown; this relationship gives my life meaning," he told me. Then he closed up shop and headed to the market to buy the next day's liver, as he's done for the past 45 years and as his father did before him. -Ansel Mullins, co-author of Istanbul Eats (Boyut, 2010)

    See the recipe for Tavuk Kebabi (Mint andamp; Aleppo Pepper Marinated Chicken Kebabs) »
    See the recipe for Simit Kebap (Ground Lamb, Bulgur and Pistachio Kebabs) »
        

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  • 05/22/13--01:16: Fire and Water
  • Fire and Water-photo
    by Shane Mitchell
    All along Jamaica's southwest coast, dories row ashore loaded with the day's catch-grouper, amberjack, red snapper. Fishmongers hawk their offerings with calls of "de jack real fresh, jah mon." Some ends up at restaurants like Alligator Pond's Little Ochie, where fish is grilled over allspice logs. But many never make it off the shore. Walking along Galleon Beach one morning, a just-bought ripe pineapple in hand, I ran into my friend Dennis Abrahams, a boat captain, who was building a fire from driftwood on the beach. With nothing more than snapper fresh from his net, my fruit, a handful of Scotch bonnet peppers, and some seawater in lieu of a saltshaker, he cooked. As the fish sizzled on a metal saucer, he squeezed a chunk of pineapple in his fist, the juice splashing on the snapper's charred skin. He scooped a fish off the grill with his machete, plated it on some wide sea grape leaves, and handed it to me. The sweet-tart fruit underscored the clean taste of fish fresh off the reef. I ate with my hands. What did I care? The sea was right there, ready to rinse me clean.

    See the recipe for Grilled Snapper with Habanero and Scallions »

    Shane Mitchell is a contributing editor for SAVEUR.

        

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  • 05/22/13--01:27: Best Bird
  • Best Bird-photo
    by Andy Ricker
    One of the most delicious things I've eaten in all my travels to Thailand is gai yahng, grilled chicken, a specialty of Isaan, a province in the country's northeast. For this dish, cooks favor lean birds with hardly any fat on them. The chickens are split, splayed, and clamped onto bamboo stakes that keep them flat. Before they're grilled over charcoal, they're rubbed with herbs, spices, and aromatics: cilantro root, white pepper, garlic. Since Thai cooks want the flavors of these ingredients to shine, they avoid charring their birds too much, cooking them high up above a low fire. If the coals get too hot or start to send up flames, they'll sprinkle damp ash over them to cool the fire down. The end result is a subtly smoky bird that gets chopped into pieces you eat with your hands, dipping them in naam jim kai, a sauce of red chiles, garlic, sugar, and vinegar that's a perfect counterpart to the chicken's greasy goodness.

    Andy Ricker is the chef-owner of Pok Pok restaurants in New York City and Portland, Oregon.

    See the recipe for Gai Yahng (Thai Grilled Chicken with Sweet Chile Sauce) »

        

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  • 05/22/13--01:37: Garlic and Flame
  • Grilling Chicken-photo
    by Todd Coleman
    Driving down the Carretera Transístmica in Panama, I caught a whiff of smoke. Around the bend, a young woman swathed in billowing smoke caught my eye as she tended the grill outside a restaurant. Hypnotized, I pulled over and approached the cinder-block building as a dozen people, who I found out were her family members, looked on skeptically. This restaurant was their life, and after I complimented the char and aroma of the grilling chicken and asked for a taste, they warmed up to me. Grandma proudly sat mixing garlic, allspice, sherry vinegar, and orange juice, while her daughter, the grill master, made my plate. Eating juicy chicken straight from the flames, sighing with pleasure at each bite of crisp-skinned flesh dripping with garlicky marinade, we shared a moment of intensity and informality particular to the cookout, where the cook is part of the party and everyone is warmed by fire, smoke, and good company.

    See the recipe for Pollo Al Ajillo (Panamanian Garlic Chicken) »

        

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  • 05/22/13--01:42: Fire in the Belly
  • Fire in the Belly-photo
    by Lillian Chou
    When I moved to Beijing four years ago and started to eat my way through the city, I was struck by the absence of grilled foods among the canon of classic dishes. It seemed that food cooked on an open flame was considered barbaric-too crude for the emperor. Even so, grills do burn in China, most often in street stalls and spare dives in rough-and-tumble neighborhoods. Though grilling isn't a part of haute cuisine in China, it is a tried and true technique of regional cooking, existing in as many colorful guises as there are provincial accents. It turns out that Beijing is home to a vibrant grilling culture, if you just know where to look.

    My first lesson in finding it was to seek out the glowing red character 串 that illuminates some of the city's narrow, dark alleys. It's the symbol for chuan, a pictorial translation for threaded things, and a sure sign for the presence of smoky skewers. Beijingers go gaga for chuan, and many of the best chuan dian, or grilled food restaurants, are manned by Uighurs, a Muslim minority group from Xinjiang province in western China with a fondness for lamb. At these establishments, you're apt to find blue-eyed Caucasian Chinese aiming hair dryers at the coals inside a long, rectangular blackened grill to amplify their heat, while nimble fingers turn a line of yangrou chuan, skewered bits of lamb, like a game of fiery foosball. Served hot, these tender morsels require little more than a light dusting of cumin, chile, and salt. Chuan dian offer grilled vegetables, too, often flavored to the hilt. Garlic chives, scallions, or green beans on ladder-like double skewers are basted with peppery soy-vinegar sauce and sprinkled with sugar, salt, and sometimes even powdered chicken bouillon cubes for oomph.

    Among the city's chuan dian, there are places that specialize in grilled wings, which come seasoned in all the flavors of China and beyond: mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, sweet black pepper and honey, Korean chile paste, garlic, even wasabi. My favorite chicken wing joint, Kuan Dian, is set atop a shack in Xicheng district, near central Beijing. Here, a grill in a makeshift kitchen overlooks a maze of hutongs, the traditional alleyway dwellings unique to Beijing, and rowdy students clamor over chicken wings that have been smoldering over charcoal embers until the blistered skin resembles a crisp veil the color of mahogany. Tubs of hot chile flakes separate the meek from the brash. Each wing is dusted to order, ranging from a timid sprinkle to what some menus call "perverted"-a double dip that coats the meat in vermillion heat.

    Compared to the refined dishes of China's imperial cuisines, the method is heavy-handed and the seasonings are over-the-top, but I love this food: Eaten with bare hands, elbow-to-elbow with Beijingers from every walk of life, it's down and dirty and deeply comforting. Every time I go back for more tear-jerkingly hot wings, Beijing feels a little more like home.

    Lillian Chou is a Beijing-based writer.

        

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    backyard grilling spread-photo

    ON THE WEST COAST

    I had a sort of feral Northern California childhood, on Richardson Bay north of San Francisco. I would spend my days fishing for crabs until Mom rang the dinner bell. The Greek neighbors slaughtered lambs in their driveway; the Germans kept rabbits to eat. Everybody shared. My father always grilled the Thanksgiving turkey, in a brown paper bag coated in olive oil; staples were his closure of choice.

    Nowadays, I make wine for a living, so I'm in the town of Napa. But my lifestyle isn't so different from when I was a kid, at least when it comes to food; there's still meat from animals I've watched being raised and seafood straight out of the Pacific. Of course, there's also lots of wine. My friends and I are fairly young. Most of us don't own wineries. My label, Fama, is tiny; I make my chardonnay and red blend at a communal facility. So it's not like we have tons of money. But winemaking starts with farming, and in this abundant place with its long growing season, we're lucky to eat and drink really well.

    I throw tons of parties in my backyard. We set a long table on the patio surrounded by my fruit trees and raised beds and asparagus patch and bee boxes and chicken coop, and we grill on an old Weber kettle and an above-ground firepit that I "liberated" from the yard of an abandoned house nearby. Everyone brings their latest bottlings to show off.

    To make the meals affordable, we share and barter. We swap wine with a pig farmer in Petaluma. This year, eight of us split four Berkshire-Duroc crossbreeds. The Berkshire gives good intermuscular fat, and the Duroc has a nice long belly, which I cure for bacon. It's awesome wrapped around grilled tenderloin from the same pig, stuffed with spinach from my garden, a little feta, and garlic. The loin is pretty lean, so the fatty pancetta keeps it moist, and it adds great texture when it crisps up on the grill.

    Eventually, every part of those pigs gets used. I have a sausage stuffer, so I make links with the pork shoulder; I throw some roasted pasilla peppers and fresh cilantro into the mix and grill those spicy sausages up fresh. My buddy Christopher makes sticky sweet, spicy spareribs; that marinade of his-a kitchen sink concoction with hoisin sauce and cane vinegar and ginger and jalapeños-drips all over the grill, throwing up smoke and turning all crunchy and caramelly on the pork. It's a delicious mess.

    Credit: Barbara Ries
    For relief from the meat, we have plenty of vegetables, everything from the asparagus spears I've managed to grow to mushrooms we've foraged from the nearby woods. My friends and I coordinate what's in our gardens, so when we share the harvest, we don't just end up with 8,000 tomatoes. I grow lots of the greens. I'll pull up tight bunches of radicchio and brush them in olive oil and just char them quickly on the grill. Their bitterness balances out the rich pork.

    Because I grew up on the water, I always round out the meal with seafood. I toss meaty Dungeness crabs with garlic butter or smashed lemongrass and oil. They take only a few minutes on the grill, and I can serve them right away while other things are cooking. That's my kind of dish: fast, in season, and simply prepared. It's fun being together, hanging out, drinking wine. No one wants to spend the day slaving away in the kitchen. -Heather Munden, Fama Winery vintner

    ON THE EAST COAST

    My parents came from Brooklyn; they grew up in apartments and didn't know anything about grilling. They cooked indoors exclusively until they moved to the suburbs. When they did start to grill, they stuck to the basics: plain hamburgers, steak, chicken-all cooked on a hibachi.

    Me, I've lived on the south shore of Long Island my entire life. I've always had a yard, but I commute to New York City, work long hours, and with four kids my weekends are usually occupied. I seldom have time to get out back and grill. But when I do, I don't want to struggle with overly complicated recipes. So, like my parents, I stick to basics-but a little more jazzed up. My go-to grilling dishes: blue cheese-stuffed burgers with pickled mushrooms and onions, coffee-soy-marinated flank steak, and spice-rubbed chicken with duck sauce. The very first grilling axiom I learned came from my father-in-law: "Always make chicken," he told me. "It takes a long time to cook and gives you plenty of time to drink beer."

    For sides, I grill red potatoes in foil then toss them with olive oil, vinegar, and herbs to serve as a warm salad. I also quick-pickle cauliflower with peppers and raisins; the pickling gives the vegetables a nice tart flavor that's a perfect counterpoint to marinated meats. All the recipes are fail-safe, their simplicity masked by a depth of flavors.

    Of course, simple doesn't always mean short on preparation. The night before any cookout, I'm up late marinating steaks and chicken, then out of bed early to pickle the cauliflower and the mushrooms that top my burgers. Once my friends and family start to arrive, all carrying side dishes or beer, I head outside and the cooking becomes more of a collaborative effort-all the guys help me man the grills.

    The chicken goes on first. I build the hot coals up like a pyramid in the middle of my faithful Weber kettle grill, then place the parts close around the pyramid. Once they get a good char going, I move them to the outside of the grill, as far away from that blazing direct heat as possible, then cover the kettle and let them cook slowly and evenly, so the skin is crispy and the meat is nice and moist.

    Meanwhile, I get my gas grill going for the burgers. Unlike wood or coals, gas burns consistently at the same temperature. By timing how long the patties are on the grill, I can accurately judge their doneness without piercing them, which would release the meat's juices and dry out the burgers.

    Finally, when the chicken is cooked and I've moved it to a platter, I carefully lift the grate and knock the coals down a bit to form a pile roughly the same shape as the flank steak, leaving the flame as high as possible. The goal is to sear the outside of the meat yet keep the center rare. I hit that steak with the basting brush so often that somebody-usually my wiseass brother Tom-invariably shouts out: "Whaddaya think, you're painting the Sistine Chapel?" But all that basting really does help keep the meat moist while that tasty crust starts to form.

    When the steak is done, I let it rest for about 10 minutes, so the juices have time to distribute evenly within it. Then I slice it thin and at an angle against the grain. Of course, what we call the grain is actually just muscle fiber, which is really tough to chew. So this carving method of mine reduces the amount of fiber in each bite, making my steaks a lot easier to eat. After I slice things up, I serve my family and friends, put down my knife, and pick up a well-deserved beer. Why not? My work is done-at least until the kids break out the Jiffy Pop. -Greg Ferro
        

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  • 05/27/13--00:36: The Grills Are Alive
  • korean barbecue-photo
    by Francis Lam
    This is what happened the night I fell in love with my Korean barbecue waitress. Admittedly, things got off to a rocky start. The tabletop grill had fired up gamely, searing meat like a cattle brand, but then began losing its will. When our server arrived with a platter of raw garlic-studded pork belly, I began to worry. I pictured her laying that marbled meat onto the lukewarm surface, where the slab would settle into a deflated burble of steaming pork. I have, I'm sorry to say, seen it happen before.


    This is not how it's supposed to be. The primal pleasure I crave from Korean barbecue comes from searing and charring. Warmish grills are an affront to every cook and eater. Going out for Korean barbecue should mean sitting before a grate that's grown brutally hot over a bed of glowing coals. (Or, okay, fine, gas flames, but plenty of them, please.) Servers bring platters of sliced meat-old school places usually specialize in just a few cuts, such as beef short ribs or pork belly-sometimes covered in a marinade of soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. But marinated or not, the meat should hit the metal like a judgment, throwing smoke, before you wrap it in pieces of lettuce, swiping on salty bean paste and spiking it with spicy kimchi.

    Some cultures celebrate grilled meat in its naked, unadorned state, but Korean barbecue is all about harmonizing it with strong elements so that each little parcel of lettuce can be a different experience from the one that came before. This is its beauty: the interplay of sizzling just-cooked pork belly and cool sweet-sour cured daikon. The chew of beef, the crispness of pickles, the tenderness of greens. The bite of raw garlic, the trailing depth of sauces made from fermented beans, maybe a little dip in nutty sesame oil. And all bound together by the bitter savor of char.

    So what about my char? Would I not get my char tonight? Would the server throw our belly on to steam, rushing off to deal with her other tables? But then she shook her head and waved her hand, dispelling my worries in an instant. "I have another grill, hot, in the other room. Okay if I cook it there?" she asked. When she came back, smiling, she showed us the seared pork, its aromatic, sputteringly hot fat showering us in a fine mist. I had never felt more cared for, more understood. We picked up our lettuce leaves, ready to make magic.

    See the recipe for Kalbi (Korean Grilled Beef Ribs) »
        

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  • 06/03/13--01:30: Where We're Eating: Fork
  • Where We're Eating: Fork-photo
    by Betsy Andrews
    The venerable Philadelphia restaurant Fork, a trailblazer in farm-to-table dining 15 years ago, has been made over, to miraculous effect. The palm trees have been replaced with birch, the high green banquets with dark elegant ones, and vibrant murals by Fork waiter Anthony DeMelas have been added to the décor. And the cooking? Well, I loved former chef Terrence Feury, so the stakes were high-but Fork's new chef, Eli Kulp, comes from Manhattan's Torrisi Italian Specialties, and he's brought with him a huge amount of New York smarts and energy, as well as a newcomer's starry-eyed delight in the local Pennsylvania provender. It's a fecund place, and Kulp is gulping it up.

    Fork's current chef's tasting menu is filled with breathtaking moments. A duo of snappy-tasting icicle radishes is coated in beet-infused cultured butter and laid atop an umami-rich "housemade soil" of black sesame, bitter chocolate, anchovy, and lemon zest. Soulful "burnt grains" pappardelle is inspired by the the cucina povera of southern Italy, where peasants would burn the wheat fields after harvest, then gather the charred remainders to mix into their flour. And a sweet-tart rhubarb-strawberry consommé [pictured] is poured pretty and pink into a cut-glass bowl over a jewel box collection of spring newbies: petite pois, diced rhubarb, spring flowers, pea shoots, strawberry, and a strawberry-rhubarb compote. Kulp whipped up that soup via some complicated kitchen wizardy involving produce from Philly-area farm Culton Organics, sous-vide lovage-oil compression, agar clarification, robot coupe processing, and other bells and whistles. But all that is behind-the-scenes stuff; for us diners, that soup just feels like magic. I want to live in Kulp's woodland world with the strawberry faeries forever.

    Fork Restaurant
    306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
    212/625-9425

        



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    el palenque, parrilla-photo In Uruguay, a nation of gauchos and cattle, nearly every cook has a way with the grill. These travel photos, by photographer James Fisher, first appeared with Shane Mitchell's story "Art of the Parrilla."

    See all the photos in the gallery »

        

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  • 06/25/13--08:30: Jamaican Breakfast Recipes
  • Jamaican Breakfast Recipes-photo Jamaica's most beloved meal isn't a jerk lunch or dinner-it's breakfast. These hearty breakfast dishes, from ackee and saltfish to fluffy fried johnnycakes, are one of the world's most satisfying ways to begin the day.

    See the recipes in the gallery »

        



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  • 06/26/13--01:00: The Art of Paella
  • The Art of Paella-photo
    by David Rosengarten

    There's one thing that most paella enthusiasts in Spain seem to agree on: that the sunny, fluffy yellow rice dish served at Spanish restaurants all over the world, the version topped with red peppers and loaded with everything from shrimp to chorizo to lobster, is not the real thing. Real Spanish paella, which is to say Valencia-style paella-the dish originated in that eastern coastal Spanish city-is an altogether darker, richer, smokier creation: denser than a pilaf, drier than a risotto, and arguably more satisfying than either. But even in Valencia, as I discovered recently over the course of several visits, there's not much of a consensus regarding how this delicious dish, perhaps Spain's most famous, should be prepared and what should, or shouldn't, go into it.

    True, there does exist a widely accepted original recipe, for a dish that has remained more or less constant through the ages. The original paella valenciana (see Paella with Rabbit and Snails) probably dates to the early 1800s and consists of saffron-scented rice cooked with rabbit, chicken, local snails called vaquetes, and three types of beans: a broad string bean called ferraúra, a lima-like dried bean called garrofó, and a white bean called tavella (which is hard to find outside of Spain). And, not surprisingly, you can find versions of the original paella valenciana all over town. But to travel to Valencia solely for that dish would be a mistake. Many restaurants serve a long list of paellas, including ones stocked with seafood and others made with seasonal vegetables and meats. Most of them are delicious; a few are sublime. Tinkering, it seems, is inherent to the culture of paella.


    The earliest kinds of paella were products of purely local ingredients and eating habits. The dish exists because of rice, and rice has existed in Valencia and its environs ever since the Moors planted it there more than 1,300 years ago, in a lagoon called the Albufera, where the grain is still grown today. Saffron, that precious and earthy spice, brought to Spain by Arab traders in the tenth century, was the Moors' preferred seasoning for rice, and it remains a traditional paella ingredient. Local game like rabbit, and foraged foods like snails, as well as various legumes and vegetables, found their way into rice dishes during the Moorish occupation of Spain, but pork (which was prohibited under Muslim dietary laws) and shellfish did not. After the Moors left Spain in 1492, the Valencians' love for rice dishes lived on. As for that original recipe, one of the first printed versions of it appeared in 1840, but evidence suggests that the cooking of a rabbit-snail-bean-saffron "paella" (named after the wide, shallow steel pan in which such dishes were cooked) was by then a Valencian ritual; the dish was prepared in the countryside over an open fire of dried vines and orange-tree branches, usually on Sundays, usually by the men of the family while the women were at church.
    Paella remained a regional food for a good long while. Back when that original paella recipe was first published, Spain wasn't a popular destination on the tourist track, and its cuisine was little known beyond its borders. But the 20th century-the century of Picasso, Dalí, Buñuel-saw a burgeoning interest around the world in all things español. Epicures were eager to discover the country's rich, rustic flavors; in 1950, Elizabeth David, the cookbook writer who delivered England from its wartime gastro-dreariness, published A Book of Mediterranean Food (John Lehmann), which included a recipe for paella containing the hitherto untraditional combination of chicken and shrimp. (By this time, coastal cooks in Valencia were probably making seafood-stocked paella a la marinera, but that recipe never includes meat.) Before long, gourmands in England, America, and beyond were serving all kinds of variants of the dish out of brightly colored Dansk paella pans along with goblets of sangria.

    José Luis Gonzalez, the owner of L'Establiment, a legendary paella restaurant in El Palmar, not far from Valenica, told me one afternoon, after I'd polished off one of his superb traditional paellas, that what most profoundly affected the evolution of the dish was the tourist boom of the 1960s. Among the first things to change? The cooking method. Formerly a dish forged over open fires and endowed with all the advantages such cooking confers-crisp, flame-licked edges, smoke-tinged meat-paella became something that was made indoors, in a restaurant setting. Rather than cooking a few large pans over a wood fire and serving the dish family style, restaurant cooks had to make hundreds of smaller portions and answer to tourists who wanted shrimp, spicy pork sausage, and, heck, why not some lobster, too. Today you can find the odd wood-fire holdout at rural Spanish restaurants, at family gatherings, and at local festivals, but the heyday of the traditional vine-wood-fired paella is past.

    And yet, Valencia's cooks have found ingenious ways to replicate some of the traits of flame-kissed paella on the stove top. Adding artichokes, which darken the color of whatever they're cooking in, is one way. To echo the woodsy taste formerly imparted by smoke, they'll often toss in some smoked paprika or a few sprigs of rosemary (which appeared in many traditional paella recipes anyway). At L'Establiment, cooks start their paellas on the stove and finish them over a wood-burning fire. I've found that cooking a paella over a wood fire on my Weber grill works well, too.

    Still, there are a few old-fashioned paella-making basics that Valencian cooks don't mess with. All paellas start with a sofrito, or flavor base, of chopped vegetables cooked in oil-typically garlic and tomatoes, and sometimes onions and Spanish red peppers called ñoras. The longer the sofrito cooks, the darker and more intensely flavored the paella will be. Also indisputable is this: once you've stirred the rice with the cooked sofrito and the stock, you leave it alone, uncovered. When the rice is cooked through, after 20 minutes or so, some cooks blast the heat to create a flavorful crust, called socarrat, on the bottom of the pan.

    Rice, of course, is another constant, but what kind is a matter of disagreement. I'd heard that the short-grained variety known as bomba was the gold standard, but many Valencian chefs I talked to seem to be turning against it, pointing out that while it doesn't overcook as easily as most varieties, it doesn't soak up flavor very well either. Many chefs are turning to other Valencian varieties, like bahía and senia, which are medium-grained (and unavailable in the States; Italian vialone nano is a good substitute). Then there's the question of saffron. "One out of a hundred restaurants in Valencia uses saffron these days," José Fernandez, the chef of La Pepica, one of Valencia's most venerated paella restaurants, told me. It's much too expensive. Instead, many cooks color their paellas with paprika or a yellow powder, made mostly of cornstarch, salt, and food coloring, called colorante, which is sold in supermarkets all over town.

    After a few days of polling Valencia's chefs on the finer points of paella, I decided to leave them to their debates, to embrace the changing nature of the dish, and to focus on the singular pleasure of eating it. On this subject, most Valencians seem to follow a well-thumbed script: a pan is set on the table and diners scoop up their own portions with wooden spoons, making sure to get plenty of pieces of burnished meat or vegetables, and to scrape up some of the chewy, caramelized socarrat. The tradition is to start at the perimeter and work your way to the center. It's a convivial way to eat, no matter what's in your paella.
        



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    Hawaiian shave ice-photo
    by Leah Koenig
    Equally at home at the ballpark, the amusement park, and the sun-scorched summer sidewalk, syrup-doused snow cones are one of our favorite summertime treats. While the paper cups of brightly colored ice serve the single, sacred purpose of cooling us down, snow cones themselves come in an extraordinary variety of regional specialties, each cold, crystallized dessert boasting its own devoted following. From New Orleans's snowball, to Hawaii's shave ice, to the raspados found in L.A. and the Southwest, here's our guide to the United States of Snow Cones.

    Check out 8 varieties of regional American snow cones in the gallery »

        



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    Sweets and Snacks Expo-photo
    by Samira Kawash
    There are many benefits to becoming an expert in all things candy. I'm a bit of a nerd, so I get my kicks from researching candy history-interesting stuff, but sadly, you can't eat it. So I look forward to the annual Sweets and Snacks Expo, where I indulge in two sugar-saturated days of fieldwork-and it's all about the tasting.

    SSE is the biggest candy trade show of the year, held each spring in the biggest convention center in North America, Chicago's cavernous McCormick Place. Over 600 companies were there this year, from industry giants to little mom-and-pop ventures, all there to show off new products and new flavors. These can range from delightful to hair-raising. Stand-outs pushing the flavor envelope this year included Wild Ophelia's Beef Jerky chocolate bar; Hammond's Pigs and Taters chocolate bar -with bacon and potato chips, Jelly Belly Tabasco-flavored beans, and Brach's Chili Fiesta beans. But I'm more interested in the history of candy. I like candies with a past-the ones that connect me to the innovators that got candy to where it is today. At SSE, I dedicated my two candy-besotted days seeking out producers who were mining the past for great candy ideas.

    Credit: Sarah Becan


    One of my first stops at the show was the booth for Goo Goo Cluster, which was set up like an old-fashioned country store with candy bars spilling out of cracker barrels-impossible to resist. Goo Goo is America's oldest combination candy bar, going back to 1912. It is the quintessential candy bar combination: peanuts, caramel, nougat, chocolate. For a long time, Goo Goo languished in obscurity, and was almost impossible to find beyond its home town of Nashville. Everything changed in 2011, when the Goo Goo operation became an independent brand, modernizing its manufacturing and seeking more national outlets. Since Goo Goo has no chance of competing with mainstream candy bars on mass distribution, they are going for quality and flat-out deliciousness on a smaller scale. The bars are fantastic: creamy smooth chocolate, fresh-tasting nougat, and huge peanuts bursting with peanut-y goodness-a Snickers gone to finishing school.

    Credit: Sarah Becan


    Bosco syrup, with its own story of brand revival, was also at the show. I remember swirling the chocolate flavored syrup into a glass of milk when I was a kid.For a lot of people my age (ahem, undisclosed), Bosco is one of those iconic brands that's synonymous with the golden glow of the 1950s and 1960s, but I hadn't seen it in a long time and figured it for dead. I tasted it at SSE, and the syrup was legit, as was the man behind the booth: Scott Sanders, whose family runs the Bosco factory in Towaco, New Jersey, and have been making syrup since the 1920s, and bought the rights to Bosco in 1985 when its corporate owner (Corn Products Corp) let the brand languish.
    Credit: Sarah Becan

    New candies, too, are mining the past for flavors and candy styles. I've been obsessed with s'mores since I was a Girl Scout, and at last, the nation's candy makers are with me. At the booth of Annabelle Candies, a Hayward, California based company that has been around since 1950, there was the Rocky Road S'more, where they've taken their signature candy bar-the Rocky Road, a fluffy rectangle of chocolate-coated marshmallow and cashews-and added a graham cracker layer in the middle. The cracker loses a little bit of its crunch in the process, but it's still pretty delicious-and a big step up from the last s'mores bar I tried, back in 2003, which was based on "graham cracker bits" and a weird nougat that tasted nothing like marshmallow. At the booth of Brach's, makers of penny candy favorites like jellybeans and lemon drops since 1904, there are heaps of s'mores candy corn in gold, white and brown. But the best s'more candy of them all was Russell Stover's S'mores Big Bite. Russell Stover has been famous since 1923 for filled chocolates, but with the Big Bite they are edging into candy bar territory. Call it what you will, it's heavenly: a chunky, square of chocolate-enrobed marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cracker squares. As far as I'm concerned, it's perfect.

    Credit: Sarah Becan

    Marshmallow-the gooey heart of the s'more-is also making a comeback. One hundred years ago, marshmallow was enjoyed in its own right, as a type of candy. In the intervening decades, it became more of a cooking ingredient, but it's becoming a year-round candy again. Just Born, the company that has made Peeps for Easter since 1953, is rolling out novelty marshmallows for every holiday season. I love the bland sugar crunch of regular Peeps, but at their festive booth decked out like a lemonade stand, I tasted Peeps that were blue with colored sprinkles ("party cake Peeps"), Peeps that were pink and bubble gum-flavored, and Peeps that were yellow-sprinkled and tasted like lemonade. Further on, at the more modest display touting of Campfire brand marshmallows (around since 1917), there were Mallow Bursts, a new line of Lemon Meringue and Key Lime flavored "snacking" marshmallows.
    Credit: Sarah Becan

    As I neared the end of my time at the show, reeling from hours of wanton sampling, I noticed a small booth with an unassuming display: C. Howard's Violet mints, the foil-wrapped purple packages stacked in tidy rows on a small table. C. Howard's is one of those candies you're surprised to find still exists, with its grandma packaging and great-grandma flavors. No venture capitalists here, no brand builders or marketing consultants. Just brothers Ken and Arthur Pratz, who have been running the small company since the 1970s and making the same mints they've made since the 1930s. But fine mints they are, unlike anything else. Not too sweet, peculiarly satisfying. And after the bacon and Tabasco and curry and hibiscus and s'mores have played out their candy variations, the simple, clean, sweet, old-fashioned taste of violet is all the more appealing.

    Samira Kawash is the author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, to be published by Faber and Faber in October 2013. You can read more of her meditations on candy in history and culture on her website, candyprofessor.com. Her most recent story for Saveur.com is Basket Cases: The History of Easter Candy.
        

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