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Get authentic recipes and stories from around the globe.

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    Get a glimpse of Croatia's Dalmatian coast in these photographs of home cooking, outdoor markets, and sparkling vistas. These photos first appeared in our April 2014 issue with the story Splendor of the Isles.

        







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  • 03/23/14--12:35: Special Sauce
  • feature-special-sauce-remoulade-500x750-i164EnlargeCredit: Ingalls Photography I spent part of my late 20s living in New Orleans. And like most anyone who's lived in that city will tell you, it got inside of me, never let me go. Though I now reside in Brooklyn, on many a weekend you'll find me in my kitchen—Saints cap on my head, cold bottle of Abita beer in my hand—stirring a pot of chicken and andouille gumbo, or a batch of red beans and rice. But there was one New Orleans staple I'd never tackled at home—the Creole mustard-based appetizer known as shrimp rémoulade. Strange since I once loved the dish so much, devouring zesty forkfuls of it at New Orleans institutions like Arnaud's in the French Quarter, or the Upperline, where it is served on a bed of tart fried green tomatoes. Craving it on a particularly frigid day last winter, I started searching online for a recipe—a search that led me to a YouTube video of the late, great Warren Leruth.

    Leruth was the chef-owner of LeRuth's, one of southern Louisiana's most celebrated restaurants in the late 1960s and '70s. In the video, he shyly whips up a batch of his red paprika-laced sauce, which he then pours over a carefully assembled pile of shrimp. Jotting down the ingredients, I headed to the market, determined to replicate it.

    Like many New Orleans dishes, the origins of shrimp rémoulade are French. The word rémoulade is said to come from the French rémola, or black radish, perhaps because the mixture delivers the same kick as a radish, though other theories abound. The tartar sauce-like white version that appears in the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique is made by “adding mustard, gherkins, capers, and chopped herbs to mayonnaise,” sometimes with anchovies mixed in at the end. In France it was, and still is, used as a dressing for julienned celery root. But all this is a far cry from Louisiana's brick-red shrimp rémoulade.

    According to New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories (University Press of Mississippi, 2009), the turning point from white French to red New Orleans sauce came in 1920, when the famed Arnaud's restaurant opened. The chefs there, fueled by the spirit of innovation and eager to appeal to customers who adored sweet shrimp, riffed on a rémoulade base to create a dish they called shrimp Arnaud. With the addition of celery, paprika, horseradish, and grainy Creole mustard, a move that reflected the distinctive local love of piquancy, the preparation was indistinguishable from today's Creole rémoulade.

    Just as with gumbo, New Orleans' many versions of shrimp rémoulade vary from restaurant to restaurant.
    On Tulane University's Culinary History Project website, I found a chart listing all the different ingredients employed throughout the city. Antoine's uses ketchup spiced with horseradish; the Gumbo Shop tosses in pimentos; Paul Prudhomme adds Worcestershire sauce. But even the city's white rémoulades, like the one I found in a cookbook from Galatoire's, the French Quarter institution, get a fiery punch from Creole mustard, horseradish, and cayenne pepper.

    Returning from the grocery, I clicked back to Chef Leruth's video and followed along, boiling up shrimp and mixing Creole mustard with chopped onions, celery hearts, sugar, parsley, and Tabasco. I threw in paprika and watched the chunky mishmash turn crimson before drizzling in cottonseed oil. I took a taste. It all came together perfectly: the tang of the mustard, the nuttiness of the oil, the crunch of the vegetables. I poured it over my shrimp and placed them in the fridge to let the flavors jibe.

    Later that night, as I sat at my dining room table listening to scratchy Louisiana R&B streaming on WWOZ, I took a bite of my first homemade shrimp rémoulade. Its quintessentially New Orleans flavors, melding so beautifully with the cool, succulent shrimp, reminded me of long ago dinners in a city I won't soon forget.



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  • 04/11/14--08:28: Washington, DC: Park Hyatt
  • Though I grew up just a couple hours south of D.C., it had been years since I’d visited on my most recent trip to the capital. My outdated impression painted the place as a great city with vibrant culture where, sadly, a decent dinner was pretty hard to come by. But what I found instead was a burgeoning food destination, where I was pleased to be positively overwhelmed with delicious food at every turn—starting with my hotel stay at the Park Hyatt Washington.

    Located in the West End, the Park Hyatt is the sort of place that savvy people stay on business trips: close to downtown with quick metro access, but situated on a quiet tree-lined street and featuring cozy, restorative rooms and cavernous baths. As soon as I arrived, there was a bottle of wine and a miniature apple tart waiting for me in my room (one that I never actually ended up tasting due to overindulgence of cheese and cocktails, tea and pastries, and dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Blue Duck Tavern).

    From Blue Duck’s dining room you can watch chefs in the open kitchen preparing plates like seared foie gras, stone ground grits with smoked gouda, and plenty of dishes featuring their namesake fowl. At dinner we took full advantage of the wood-burning oven that Blue Duck utilizes for most of its menu and ordered roasted duck breast, wood oven-roasted bone marrow, and an assortment of sides from charred baby lettuce to duck cracklings.

    Dinner certainly knocked us dead, but my favorite meal of the stay was the tea tasting, an afternoon service the hotel offers where the resident tea expert will make selections from their cellar of more than 50 rare and limited production, single estate teas. After asking us a few questions about what we liked to drink and what sort of flavors appealed to us, he suggested a pu-erh tea and chatted with us a while about his time in China, his love of pu-erh’s deep smoky flavor, and how he sources some of his extremely rare teas (that run up to $300 for a pot). I left the hotel full, happy, and newly in love with the city. —Laura Sant
     

    In the area

  • Dupont Circle Farmers' Market This charming market is a short walk from the hotel; if the weather’s nice, pick up coffee at nearby Dolcezza and wander the aisles of bright produce, baked goods, meats, and cheeses. 20th St. NW between Massachusetts Ave. and Connecticut Ave. Open Sundays, 10 am to 1 pm (Jan. through Mar. 2014) and 9 am to 2 pm (April through Dec. 2014), freshfarmmarkets.org

  • Dolcezza Gelato Clean flavors and seasonal specialties are the rule here. Everything is made in small batches using locally sourced ingredients. Flavors range from market driven, seasonal treats like strawberry tarragon to evergreen favorites like hazelnut and mascarpone. Their love of coffee is also evident, with carefully brewed pourover and espresso drinks.1704 Connecticut Ave NW, 202/299-9116, dolcezzagelato.com

  • Union Market It’s not walking distance, but this collection of food and drink vendors is worth the metro trip. Everything from empanadas to spices to barrel-aged vinegars comes together in a massive warehouse space that echoes Manhattan’s Chelsea Market or San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza. Don’t miss Rappahannock Oyster Co., Red Apron Butchery, and the lovely tableware and cookbooks at Salt & Sundry. 1309 5th St NE
, 301/652-7400, unionmarketdc.com








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    The sausages and cured meats that Spain produces are a testament to the edible magic that results when a pig meets spices and a little bit of curing time.








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    EnlargeCredit: Laura Sant 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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  • 04/24/14--19:21: Rite of Spring
  • turkey, lunch, pide, flatbreadEnlargeCredit: David Hagerman As I walk along the cobblestone streets of Kars in northeastern Turkey today, snow can still be seen in the hills just outside the city. The sky is blue, and the cheerful sunlight makes even the most somber of Kars' sturdy basalt homes glow. Tea houses, which sat empty for months as residents waited out winter's last gasp, now have chairs and tables spilling out of them. Most are occupied by men in wool caps talking soccer scores and, in this dairy region, milk prices. Nearby, in an overgrown lot by the bridge, I spy a man sitting alone beneath a tree. His tablecloth is a newspaper, his lunch, pide, a Turkish flatbread, topped with a thick slice of Emmenthal-like gravyer, a cow's milk cheese. Of course there is tea too, his meal a solitary celebration of spring.


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  • 04/24/14--19:22: A Saucy Dish
  • bevagna, italy, lunch, bologneseEnlargeCredit: David Hagerman This afternoon, as always, I am preparing the ragù my father taught me to make. He cooked it with pork in the manner of Emilia-Romagna, where I grew up. When I moved to the town of Bevagna in Umbria, to the south, and opened my little trattoria, I chose to use beef as an homage to this region's prized Chianina, a breed of cattle whose belly has the perfect ratio of fat to lean to make a juicy, fragrant sauce. People ask if I use butter in my bolognese. I do not. I use olive oil because the aromas of the beef fat are delicious on their own. I mince the meat and simmer it on a low flame with olive oil; finely minced celery, carrot, and onion; a few tablespoons of a rich conserva that I make with tomatoes from my garden; and some local red wine, sagrantino. Its drying tannins contrast with the fat, and it releases the most extraordinary perfume. A couple of bay leaves, and the sauce is done. I prepare fresh tagliatelle every day. When an order comes in, as it did just now, I throw some pasta in a pan with the ragù, a little salt, pepper, and oil, and, for creaminess and a touch of sweetness, some well-aged parmesan. Then I garnish it with whatever herbs I have growing and send it out to the dining room. From the kitchen, I can hear my wife, Enza, wish the diner not “buon appetito,” but “buon divertimento”—have fun—because as they eat this dish, they can savor all kinds of beautiful aromas, and it's really a kind of adventure.

    La Trattoria di Oscar
    Piazza del Cirone 2
    Bevagna, Italy
    39/0/742-361-107


    See the recipe for Tagliatelle Bolognese »

    Filippo Artioli is the chef-owner of La Trattoria di Oscar.


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  • 04/24/14--19:22: Spice of Life
  • lunch in BaliEnlargeCredit: James Oseland Lunch at my Balinese husband's family compound in Ubud is served in the informal Indonesian style: Dishes are put out on the rough-hewn wooden table, and family members come when they like, fill their bowls with food, and eat in the kitchen or on the steps facing the compound's central courtyard.

    Today's early afternoon meal is a typical one for us, made up of intensely flavorful dishes that reflect the fundamentals of Bali's cooking: fragrant greens, meats fried with fiery spice pastes, delicious warm salads, and vibrant, versatile chile-based relishes called sambals.

    It's a standard lunch, but it sweeps me off of my feet just as it did when I fell in love with this island's cuisine on my first visit here some 30 years ago. There's jukut jepang, a mellow dish of sliced chayote simmered in coconut milk with a delicately pungent spice mix that includes earthy galangal, Indonesian bay leaves, Kaffir lime leaves, chiles, garlic, red shallots, and shrimp paste. That heady blend of spices and aromatics is a mainstay of the Balinese kitchen, and it's also used to flavor today's ayam jeruk, an addictive warm salad of grilled shredded chicken and roasted coconut tinged a bright yellow from fresh turmeric root, as well as the babi kecap, wok-fried pork whose savory-sweet depth comes from the liberal application of the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis.

    But it's the simplest preparation that I love the best—sambal goreng tempe. For this dish, tempeh, umami-rich fermented soybean cakes, are deep-fried until bronzed and nutty-tasting, and then tossed with a vibrant tomato-and-garlic sambal.

    As I fill my bowl, I make sure to take an extra helping of urab, a punchy salad of blanched amaranth. The greens were picked up just hours ago from the market a short walk away, then chopped and combined with crisp soy sprouts, fire-roasted grated coconut, and a spicy sambal goreng made with red shallots, garlic, chiles, and shrimp paste fried in coconut oil. And at the center of my plate, as always, I put a big helping of steamed rice, that anchor of every Indonesian meal, against which these lavishly spiced dishes shine like the jewels they are.

    See the recipe for Sambl Goreng (Fried Tempeh in Tomato Sambal) »
    See the recipe for Ayam Jeruk (Grilled Chicken and Toasted Coconut Salad) »


    Janet DeNeefe is the author of Bali: The Food of My Island Home (Pan MacMillan Austrlia, 2011).

     

    FACT:

    A staple food for more than half of the world's population, rice makes up 20 percent of global caloric intake. Myanmar consumes the most rice per capita (1.27 pounds per person per day), followed by Vietnam (1.03 pounds) and Bangladesh (0.97 pounds).
     


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  • 04/24/14--19:24: Coming Home
  • suzhou, china, loofah, vegetablesEnlargeCredit: Ariana Lindquist
    The kitchen fills with the scent of frying scallions, one of my favorite aromas in the world. My friend Zhang Qun, who is doing the frying, knows this because when I first met her at her tiny restaurant in Beijing, it was her glorious noodle soup drizzled with scallion oil that I loved the most. I raved about the green onions' fragrance, which wreathed every noodle. Now we're in Qun's hometown, Suzhou, the ancient Yangtze River city whose name means “heaven on earth.” Qun is here to show off for her grandmother and two of her aunts, who are hosting a mini family reunion lunch. Qun, who originally moved to Beijing to pursue a career in art, has kept one major detail of her life a secret from her family: None of them know yet that she has started a restaurant and is an exceptional cook. “In fact,” Qun told me earlier, “they think I can't cook at all.”

    Qun intends to prove her mettle with the scallion-infused noodle soup and her excellent version offu pi juan, tofu-skin-and-minced-pork rolls wrapped in bamboo leaves and simmered in chicken broth—both variations on Suzhou specialties—but also with a dish of her own invention: a whole roasted bream basted in extra-rich Japanese mayonnaise.
     
    Cooked with brisk, no-nonsense efficiency, their dishes are spare but wonderful
    While Qun works in the kitchen, her aunts and grandmother are in the other room, finishing a first round of their own preparations. Cooked with brisk, no-nonsense efficiency, their dishes are spare but wonderful: shrimp steamed with ginger, a mild soup of winter melon and cloud ear mushrooms, fish steamed in wine with a touch of sugar, and a delicious stir-fry of soybeans and sigua, Chinese loofah. Qun's grandmother, 98 years old and renowned locally for her cooking skills, even got in on the action at one point, shooing the aunts aside so she could make you zheng qiezi, eggplant that she browned slowly in a wok with salt and oil until its skin blistered and its flavor turned deliciously briny.

    Finally, Qun breaks the news about her career as a big-city chef and brings out her trio of dishes. The older women seem amused and pleased by the revelation, but Qun doesn't look fully relaxed until her grandmother lifts a spoonful of the scallion noodle soup to her lips, closes her eyes contemplatively for a moment, and, without further ado, makes quick work of the dish.

    See the recipe for Chao Sigua (Stir-Fried Loofah with Soybeans) »
    See the recipe for Fu Pi Juan (Steamed Tofu Skin-Wrapped Pork Rolls) »


    Georgia Freedman is a SAVEUR contributing editor.

    FACT:

    According to Buddhist tradition, lunch is the most important meal of the day. In the words of the Diamond Sutra, a fourth-century collection of Buddhist proverbs: “Dawn is when the gods eat; noon is when the buddhas eat; dusk is when animals eat; and midnight is when spirits eat.” By encouraging his disciples to have their main meal at midday, Buddha aimed to free their afternoons and evenings from thoughts of food, so that they might better contemplate the divine.


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  • 04/24/14--19:26: Picnic by the Sea
  • ireland, frittata, lunchEnlargeCredit: André Baranowski
    From my window, the only road visible looks like a distant S that's been stamped onto the hillside. To the left rises the great rocky Mweelrea, the highest mountain in my home province of Connacht in County Mayo, Ireland. The neighbors, all sheep farmers, refer to it as “the hill.” Rare is the day when the hill's summit, 2,688 feet up, appears below the clouds. On the horizon, I can see the choppy, glittering blue water of the Atlantic reflecting the clouds that race toward land.

    On this early afternoon in May, Charissa, my daughter, and I decide to take a walk along the headland, knowing from experience that we'll see something sublime. We've brought along a picnic of sorts, a frittata I made yesterday. It retains a memory of warmth, dense with potato, spinach, red peppers, onion, and parmesan.

    The sky at this time of day is like a watercolor paint box. So it will be no surprise if either a solitary shaft of sun picks out a spit of land, emerald green against the dull brown bog, or a black rainstorm funnels straight down from the clouds out at sea.
     
    As we walk, we are reminded that this is an edge-of-the-world place
    As we walk, we are reminded that this is an edge-of-the-world place. The islands we see from here—Cahir and Inishturk, Inishbofin and Clare—are marked by the last footprints humanity treads between us and the vast ocean. The crude physical landscape makes us feel slight. To reach the water, we cross a pasture where harebells and bog cotton grow, where in the midday dampness we find young puffball mushrooms, springy and white. We collect them in our pockets so we can take them home to slice up, dip in egg and bread crumbs, and fry in butter and garlic.

    Everywhere there are sheep nibbling the grass right down to the earth. Boulders stand like petrified animals from a distant age.

    Along the shore, as we follow black rocks stippled with sharp barnacles and mussels, seabirds wheel and toss like foam in the wind—gulls, cormorants, oyster-catchers, and a stray couple of herons with rapier beaks and their long Vs of wing. We see dolphins arcing in the bay, chasing mackerel. At the end of the jagged headland, we scramble up a rocky crest, and all is revealed.

    The view of desolate Thallabawn, with its band of pure gold sand below stretching apparently to infinity, is the most beautiful I know. There is the beauty you see for the first time and are swept away by, and there is the known beauty that works its magic on you again and again—a beauty that takes your heart prisoner.

    We strip down and jump into the breakers, then dry ourselves by running along the beach. Afterward, ravenous, we devour our lunch, holding the spongy wedges of frittata in our hands and savoring the interplay of sweet pepper and rich parmesan. We search the sand for tiny shells to stick onto shell boxes for Christmas. We ford the river that crosses the beach as it rushes out to sea. At high tide the water can come up to our shoulders, but right now we just roll our jeans to our thighs and stride across.

    Three hours from now we will arrive back home. Lapsang Souchong tea and carrot cake with a shock of mascarpone icing and flecks of lime zest will fill the hungry gap. We will savor the walk and store it in our memories until it's time to go back and nourish our souls again.

    See the recipe for Potato, Spinach, and Red Pepper Frittata »

    Tamasin Day-Lewis is the author of The Art of the Tart: Savory and Sweet(Random House 2001).


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  • 04/24/14--19:28: Tiki Time
  • cocktails, mai tai, tiki drinks, massachusettsEnlargeCredit: Oliver Winward The mai taiat Dragon 88, a scruffy suburban Chinese restaurant an hour west of Boston, is the color of tea. It's served over crushed ice, a plastic skewer spearing maraschino cherries and pineapple chunks emerging from a fine white froth on its top. Like all the best tiki drinks, this one possesses a flavor that is hard to place: fruity, tangy, tart, and boozy all at once. And while it's still the middle of the afternoon, well ahead of cocktail hour, no one at Dragon 88's battered wooden bar is drinking anything else.

    When someone orders one, the bartender shouts “Yessssuh!” like a native-born Massachusettsian—though his name is Dave Chow and he's from Myanmar—and he dips a ladle into a vat filled with golden liquid. He decants the concoction into an ice-filled mixing glass, tosses in a slice of lime, pops a Boston shaker over the top, and shakes with a curious delicacy: pinkie in the air, head cocked toward the glass, as if listening to a whispering child.

    The 88 in the restaurant's name refers to the year Dave Chow opened it. He had come to the U.S. 15 years before and perfected his mai tai while working at another area restaurant called Honolulu. He won't share his recipe, and after drinking quite a few over pupu platters with my husband, Amol, I can say with confidence only that it's got plenty of rum. That's fine because we're here to feel at home again, though we haven't lived in Massachusetts, where we grew up, for years. Tonight at Dragon 88 we can hang out and yell at the Sox on TV. We can let our accents creep back. You know how people like to justify an early drink by saying “It's five o'clock somewhere”? For us, that somewhere is Dragon 88.

    Dragon 88
    260 Shrewsbury Street
    Boylston, MA
    508/869-6558


    See the recipe for Dragon 88's Mai Tai »


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  • 04/24/14--19:30: Afternoon Delights
  • abu dhabi, grilled prawns, seafood, lunchEnlargeCredit: Ariana Lindquist Taken after midday prayers, al-ghada'a, or lunch, is something to linger over in the Arabian Gulf. Before me today at Al Arish, a traditional Emirati seafood restaurant in Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed Port, is a platter ofrubyan meshwi, massive grilled prawns slathered in a tomato and soy sauce marinade spiked with chiles and white pepper, as well as samak meshwi, whole grilled shaari—flaky, white-fleshed Persian Gulf bream—brought ashore this morning on one of the wooden dhows that still ply the waters off this booming port city. The fish's charred skin is redolent of cinnamon and black pepper thanks to besar, a heady blend of cumin, coriander, and other spices. My server brings out fragrant basmati rice and a dish of ghee to drizzle over the top. Al-ghada'a is a meal meant to be shared, but since I'm traveling alone, I strike up a conversation with the three men seated at the table next to mine. They're college pals who get together whenever they can, which, one notes, is less often these days. Over the past 40 years deserts dotted with Bedouin tents and coastal fishing villages have transformed into steel metropolises where Western-style workdays and fast-food chains have edged in on al-ghada'a. Still, as a waiter pours rose water on our hands to end the meal at Al Arish, the friends insist that lingering lunches are one tradition they'll try to maintain.

    Al Arish
    Mina Zayed Port
    Abu Dhabi, UAE
    011/971/2673-2288


    See the recipe for Rubyan Meshwi (Emirati Grilled Prawns) »


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  • 04/24/14--19:32: Modern Family
  • feature-modern-family-500x750-i165EnlargeCredit: Oliver Winward This afternoon I am less concerned with cooking dinner than I am with ensuring that my middle-school-age daughters, with their many and ever-changing activities, are not accidentally left by the side of the freeway. My car's Costco merchandise-filled trunk is our pantry, and our dinners together these days are more likely than not to occur at four in the afternoon—or as I call it, the Hour of Divorced Parents.

    As usual, I picked up the girls at three o'clock, and their dad will get off work at six, so he'll be delighted that they're delivered fed, at which point Mom will slink off for a vodka tonic and a marathon of old Breaking Bad episodes. Four o'clock is actually a good time for us to eat. While the hour of the wolf is generally thought to be four in the morning, I find my own inner wolf emerges at four in the afternoon, which I also call the Hour of the Precipitous Glucose Drop. Anyway, my 11-year-old and 13-year-old have been up since 6 a.m. and have long since traded their lunches for hideous “fun” foods like Takis (don't ask). They are ravenous.

    Where does one dine at four in the afternoon? At the Hometown Buffet family restaurant in Van Nuys, of course, or as we like to call it, the HoBu. “Let's make it a HoBu night!” we exclaim with mock TV cheer, flipping our arms as though we're actually throwing in the culinary towel.

    In truth, the HoBu is a welcoming oasis. As in a Las Vegas casino, the friendly waitstaff make no reference to time of day. Gentle 1970s hits (Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash) soothe us as we join the wide cross-section of humanity that also enjoys dining when the sun is still high. This includes eccentric folk of all stripes who appear to have just left their living rooms, wandering through the HoBu in their bathrobes, slippers, and pajamas.

    No matter. We're all just really, really happy to be here. It's not only the clown making balloon animals (oh, yes!) that lends a sense of congeniality. It's the fact that for just $14 we get all the salt and fat we could possibly want. Over there is the taco bar and pasta bar, and here, under glowing heat lamps, is the island with popcorn shrimp and all of its naughty brethren, and next to that is what I've dubbed “comfort food row”—fried chicken, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and mushy green beans, calling to mind the tasty TV dinners of my childhood. Beyond is the carvery, complete with the carver himself in crisp chef's hat and apron (all for $14, people! Just $14!), plus a full sundae bar and slushy machines. On Thursdays there's even a lady holding aloft pink and blue torches of fresh cotton candy.

    The Hometown Buffet is a defiantly joyous bit of Americana, down to the Norman Rockwell prints in the bathroom. It's like a county fair that never ends, right here in Los Angeles, the city of used car lots.

    I dig in with the girls, savoring crispy fried chicken wings, gooey mac 'n' cheese, saucy lasagna. As my daughters sprinkle M&M's and Oreos on their sundaes in these last few innocent years of slender teenhood, we are filled with HoBullience. It is late afternoon, a time between worlds, where we float along with the other gypsies, and we've made it ours.

    Hometown Buffet
    7868 Van Nuys Boulevard
    Van Nuys, CA
    818/787-6007


    Sandra Tsing Loh is the author of The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones (W.W. Norton, 2014).

     

    FACT:

    Named for the piece of table-like furniture that it was served on, the buffet as we know it was invented in France in the 17th century as a way for dinner guests to get an advance preview of the meal to come.
     

     


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  • 04/24/14--19:33: Life of the Party
  • florida, jeffrey jew, grouperEnlargeCredit: James Roper As a professional chef, there's nothing I love more than the challenge of a dinner party—especially when it's mine. Tonight, for an early dinner I'm throwing for a few friends, I'm making pan-seared wild-caught grouper, which I bought this morning at Sammy's, my favorite St. Petersburg fishmonger. After searing the thick fillets in butter and thyme, I decide to make the most of Florida's prized produce with a citrus sauce, which will contrast nicely with the fish's meaty, rich flesh. I start by reducing orange juice and white wine in a pan. Then, to offset the slight bitterness you get when orange juice cooks down, I throw in some sweet lump crabmeat and a few pinches of bright, tart sumac. At the last minute, I decide to add a final aromatic touch—pickled fennel—which I'll pile atop the fish before pouring on the sauce. Alongside the fish I'll serve baby kale salad with a lemon vinaigrette, toasted pine nuts, and pecorino.

    The meal will wrap up, I've decided, with a dish that will once again highlight Florida citrus: my version of lemon posset, an old-fashioned English dessert I learned to make when I was working at the Connaught Hotel in London. It's really simple, just heavy cream and sugar heated together, mixed with lemon juice, strained, and poured into ramekins to chill. When we sit down to eat, I know I will be surrounded by contentment.

    See the recipe for Grouper in Crab Sauce with Black Quinoa and Pickled Fennel »
    See the recipe for Baby Kale with Pine Nuts, Parmesan, and Lemon Vinaigrette »
    See the recipe for Lemon Posset with Pan-Fried Shortbread Crumbs »


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  • 04/24/14--19:34: When the Work is Done
  • Enlarge
    The pressure cooker rattles ominously on the stove. And I can't help wincing as 13-year-old Ana Laura blithely jams a butter knife under the lid to release a hiss of steam. The pork loin simmering inside is destined for one of her favorite dishes: cochinita pibil, the pulled pork of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula that is marinated in the juice of bitter oranges. This being an apartment in the middle of the biggest public housing complex in Mexico City, doing the dish the traditional way—slow-roasting the pork in a pit in the ground—isn't an option. So Ana Laura's mother, Susana Rangel Gutierrez, a youthful woman with boundless energy, has developed a quicker stovetop version. Cooking is Susana's livelihood. She works as a caterer and street vendor, selling tamales on a busy corner to passersby each morning as they head out to work. But now, as the day winds down, she is cooking for her family—and she's invited me to join them. Gerardo, her 22-year-old son, arrives with his girlfriend, Mariana, followed by his sister Monserrat, 23. Everyone gathers at a table in the living room. There's the cochinita pibil, tinted a vivid crimson by the spice achiote; sopa de nopal, a tangy green stew of tomatillos, potatoes, and strips of cactus paddle, garnished with crunchy shards of pork rind; and the centerpiece of the meal, a whole chicken stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and Manchego cheese and roasted to a deep golden brown. There are warm tortillas and velvety black beans laced with avocado leaf, which lends a mild anise flavor, plus a freshly made salsa. Susana's husband, a security guard, won't get home for hours. When he does arrive, there will be plenty of great leftovers waiting for him.

    See the recipe for Sopa de Nopal (Nopales and Tomatillo Stew) »
    See the recipe for Pollo Relleno (Chicken Stuffed with Manchego, Mushrooms, and Spinach) »


    Beth Kracklauer is the food editor of The Wall Street Journal's "Off Duty" Section.


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  • 04/24/14--19:35: Still Cooking
  • Enlarge My husband, Kokkiang, and I are Cantonese, but we both grew up in Malaysia, where we met. For years we owned a Malaysian-Chinese restaurant in Queens. But now that we're retired, we have more time to cook for family and friends. Tonight we are making a feast for our daughter Elaine and some of those friends. The dishes we like to cook are similar to the ones people eat in southern China but often with a Malaysian, Thai, or Indian twist. We try to make sour, spicy, sweet, and salty flavors harmonize. Kokkiang has prepared succulent braised pork flavored with ginger, star anise, aromatic cloves, and cumin. The dish is often called wang choy chow sau, which translates to “windfall of cash within arm's reach.” He's also made a steamed whole sea bass with a silky brown bean sauce that gets an extra dose of flavor from a red chile paste called sambal oelek. We always try to make our dishes look as beautiful as possible. For tonight's vegetable dish, we arranged bright green baby bok choy around the edge of a plate of enoki and shiitake mushrooms cooked in a ginger broth. And to garnish the braised pork, Kokkiang cut a red chile pepper to look like a blooming flower, or maybe a burst of fireworks, to put us in the mood to celebrate.

    See the recipe for Wang Choy Chow Sau (Braised Pork Belly with Ginger) »
    See the recipe for Nian Nian Nyu Wee (Steamed Bass with Garlic Brown Bean Sauce) »


    Helen Thong is a home cook in Queens, New York.


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  • 04/24/14--19:37: When Dinner Becomes A Diary
  • dinner, spaghetti, tarakoEnlargeCredit: André Baranowski I have never been able to keep a diary, and I've always been sorry about it. That's especially true when I run into an old acquaintance who tells me about the fun we had at some party I'm sure I attended but just can't seem to remember. At the very least I could have managed to keep a travel diary. I've been to so many places. And no snapshot could possibly convey what it was like to be in Afghanistan in 1970 or Prague soon after the Berlin Wall came down.

    The closest thing I have to a diary is food—that is, my memories of food. Luckily, my husband, Howie, has a stronger memory than I do. He has an uncanny ability to recall and re-create the dishes we've eaten together during the past 40 years. The meals he constructs have the power to evoke a particular moment in a particular place—to bring back sounds and smells and flavors that we otherwise might have forgotten.

    Like a diary, these dishes remind us of both good times and bad. One cold, miserable winter, I commuted three hours each way for a teaching job in Baltimore, and every so often—out of pity—Howie would accompany me. To cheer ourselves up, we'd splurge on dinner at the DoubleTree Hotel restaurant on the edge of Johns Hopkins University's campus that served an amazing grilled cod with clams on a bed of potatoes sliced paper thin with a mandoline and broiled until they were slightly crispy around the edges. That awful winter, that arduous job, are far in the past, but we can recall their saving grace over a dish of cod, clams, and potatoes.

    By far the best meals Howie makes are like the one we're having tonight—a single dish that corrals different memories from different locales and combines them in a whole new way. In this case it's tarako spaghetti, pasta with pollock roe, bread crumbs, leeks, and dashi. It's a delicious dish, but the pleasures go far beyond taste: It is like a lightning tour of all the places we've been that inspired it. Twirling each forkful is as good as watching a home movie of memorable meals, taking us back to the Italian town of Matera, farther south to Sicily, eastward toward Japan, then back here to our house in New York's Hudson Valley on this spring evening.

    Twirling each forkful is as good as watching a home movie of memorable meals
    In Catania, on the eastern coast of Sicily, we once ate lunch at a small restaurant with a view of a fish market that was sunny and beautiful, its aisles lined by narrow troughs running with fish guts. Now, as I eat, I can recall the fishermen who walked into the market shouting because they had a freshly caught tuna that must have weighed 150 pounds. Our waiter ran outside to join everyone else, all of them just standing there staring at the giant tuna. Then he came back in and served us the greatest pasta ai ricci, pasta with sea urchin, we've ever tasted.

    Digging deeper, we remember how, a week or so later, in the Mandralisca Museum in the town of Cefalù, not far from Palermo, we saw a Greek vase, painted four centuries before the birth of Christ, on which a tuna vendor was depicted, slicing into a giant fish that looked shockingly like the one we'd just seen in Catania.

    Howie has also laced the pasta with his version of the bread crumbs we enjoyed so much in Matera, the gorgeous biblical-looking city in southern Italy where Pasolini and, later, Mel Gibson made their movies based on the New Testament gospels. (You can stay in cave hotels there; it's one of my favorite places on earth.) In Matera they serve pasta with dried red peppers and bread crumbs and lots of olive oil. While fried bread crumbs are considered poverty cuisine, there they are raised to the realm of the celestial. And in Howie's dish, they add a pleasant element of crunch to the pasta, as well as the fish roe, which takes us back to Kyoto, where Howie discovered the life-changing powers of dashi, Japan's endlessly versatile fish and seaweed stock, which ramps up the pasta's flavor, delivering the perfect amount of sweet, sour, and salt to each bite.

    As a child, I did try keeping a diary. And somewhere in my house, most likely in a dusty filing cabinet, are several velvet-covered books embossed in gold script with the words “My Diary.” Inside they're all more or less the same: five, maybe six consecutive days of writing in the heartbreakingly perfect printing of my former self—“School was fun today!” “Bobby is a little pig!”—then a gap of a few days, then a day of writing, then a week empty, a few lines, then nothing. A fat little book with a broken lock. The dish we're eating now brings back something far more vivid: a market in Catania, a bustling trattoria in Matera, a restaurant in Kyoto. It also holds the promise of a future memory, of this very moment in time—a memory of eating a scrumptious pasta dish with my husband in our house in the country. 

    See the recipe for Tarako Spaghetti »
    See the recipe for Japanese Spaghetti »


    Francine Prose is the author of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 (Harper Collins, 2014).

     

    FACT:

    The 19th-century English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was an early fan of food memoirs, once writing that, “Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind, must like, I think, to read about them.”


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  • 04/24/14--19:38: My Belly of Paris
  • paris, bistro, Cafe des MuseesEnlargeCredit: Corentin Fohlen It's a rainy spring night, and I'm running late to meet my partner, Bruno, for dinner. My umbrella is broken, but I know it'll all be just fine once I get to the Café des Musées.

    I've been dining at chef Pierre Lecoutre's place in the rue de Turenne ever since it opened in 2005, and it's become my textbook bistro. It's where I go when I don't want to think about where to go to dinner—or where I send friends who say they “don't get French food,” which usually means they need to unlearn the notion that it's fancy. The lessons to be digested at Café des Musées are that great Gallic grub is incredibly fresh, it tastes of what it is, and there is no life without alliums. All of them.

    I get a glare from Bruno when I spot him in the dining room, but a minute later we're drinking crisp white saumur and sharing mauve slabs of cognac-infused foie gras and unguent chicken liver terrine with toasted country bread and mesclun. It's impossible to sustain a bad mood in this room, which is warm and busy and full of the sound of people laughing. Since Bruno is a frites-loving guy from northern France, his bliss deepens when his hand-chopped steak tartare arrives alongside a mound of some of the best fries in Paris. Few things make me happier than slipping a clove of roasted smoked garlic out of its skin to spread over my juicy échine de porc, a flavorful fat-veined cut of pork shoulder that's gorgeously caramelized from being cooked on the grill. This is the way the food tasted—earthy and vivid—when I first visited Paris as a teenager; it reminds me why I moved here almost 30 years ago.

    Café des Musées
    49, rue de Turenne
    75003 Paris
    01/4272/9617


    Alexander Lobrano is the author of Hungry for France (Rizzoli, 2014).


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  • 04/24/14--19:40: Down Memory Lane
  • palmyra, new jersey, stromboliEnlargeCredit: Oliver Winward Approaching the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge on a visit to Philadelphia this evening, I am flooded with memories. In the summer of 1982, before my freshman year at Yale, I worked as a toll collector on this old-fashioned drawbridge spanning the Delaware River from south Jersey to northeastern Philadelphia. I loved my job working the night shift. It started around that magical hour when traffic slows to a trickle. The whole world seemed to come past my booth then—bankers, politicians, prostitutes, Atlantic City gamblers, truckers—and every shift was like a moving buffet.

    One night I had just sat down when a well-muscled guy pulled up and gave me a strawberry-topped slice of cheesecake; it turned out he was an exotic dancer on his way home from a bachelorette party, and the cake had been part of his tip. Another night a Tastykake delivery man reached into the back of his truck and pulled out a whole box of Butterscotch Krimpets to give me. They were still warm from the oven in the Philadelphia factory where they were baked.

    But it was our staff breaks that I remember most fondly, when a few of my fellow toll takers and I would shut down our lanes before congregating for a meal in the break lounge, a bare-bones room with scuffed linoleum that was filled with the camaraderie of a firehouse. Our shift supervisor, Joe, big-hearted and bigger-bellied, used to heat homemade chili or spaghetti and meatballs on the kitchenette stove. The tomatoes for his red sauce were grown in his backyard in Camden.

    Another toll collector used to bring a giant cheese-filled stromboli with provolone and mozzarella cheese, red peppers, and broccoli rabe to feed the whole crew. An incomparably delicious cousin of the calzone, it came from the Pennsylvania side of the bridge, where there was a pizza shop, Romano's, that claimed to be its birthplace. Those meals, eaten in the dead of night, would keep me going until the morning, when I'd hop the jitney down to Atlantic City for a casino buffet breakfast and then sleep on the beach until it was time to head home and get ready for the next shift.

    Now, as the cars surrounding me wend toward the E-ZPass lanes, I choose to pay my toll in cash—wishing I had a box of Butterscotch Krimpets in the back to give to the attendant.

    See the recipe for Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, and Mozzarella Stromboli »

    Meryl Rosofsky is an adjunct professor of Nutrition, Food Studies & Public Health at New York University.


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  • 04/24/14--19:41: Into the Night
  •  feature-into-the-night-alley-food-1200x800-i165.jpgEnlargeCredit: David Hagerman
    It's muggy outside tonight, as I cut down an alley in Chengdu, Sichuan, and I'm hit with the smell of dried chiles frying in rapeseed oil. I follow the scent to a tiny nook of a restaurant where I see a man wearing shorts and a white paper cap working a wok set over leaping flames. At a table just outside the place, four men seated on stools hold bowls of rice in one hand and chopsticks in the other, diving into plates of corn with slabs of la rou (cured and dried pork smoked over pine boughs), mustard leaves threaded with scallion greens and studded with chiles, and mapo tofu showered with Sichuan peppercorns and bathed in red oil. As I leave the alley I snap a picture of a street sign, marking my coordinates for dinner tomorrow.


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