Articles on this Page
- 09/17/14--12:00: _Plains Food
- 09/19/14--19:00: _Eating in Tea Country
- 09/22/14--08:00: _Sweet Country
- 09/10/14--11:25: _Travel Guide: South...
- 09/17/14--08:54: _Scenes from Skyline...
- 10/08/14--16:00: _The Month of Kartik...
- 10/09/14--09:57: _Taste of Umbria
- 10/28/14--08:13: _Travel Guide: Umbria
- 11/17/14--14:00: _Rich, Savory Stuffi...
- 11/17/14--14:17: _Dulce y Salado
- 11/17/14--14:24: _Petit Café
- 11/17/14--15:18: _Mr. Boston's Legacy
- 11/17/14--16:00: _Sole Piccata
- 11/18/14--03:00: _Maple Pumpkin Brûlé...
- 11/18/14--07:54: _Winter Warmers
- 11/18/14--12:01: _Get a Taste of Than...
- 11/18/14--13:00: _American Vermouths
- 11/19/14--03:00: _Cranberry Salsa
- 11/19/14--08:00: _16 Brussels Sprouts...
- 11/19/14--08:00: _Menu: A Warming Win...
- 09/17/14--12:00: Plains Food
- 09/19/14--19:00: Eating in Tea Country
- 09/22/14--08:00: Sweet Country
- 09/10/14--11:25: Travel Guide: South Louisiana
- 09/17/14--08:54: Scenes from Skyline Drive
- 10/08/14--16:00: The Month of Kartik in my Mother’s Kitchen
- 10/09/14--09:57: Taste of Umbria
- 10/28/14--08:13: Travel Guide: Umbria
- 11/17/14--14:00: Rich, Savory Stuffing Recipes
- 11/17/14--14:17: Dulce y Salado
- ¼ cupsimple syrup
- 1 tbsp.freshly ground coffee
- 1 tbsp.kosher salt
- 1 oz.brewed coffee, cooled
- 1 oz.Castries Peanut Rum Crème liqueur, chilled
- 1 oz.cream sherry
- 11/17/14--14:24: Petit Café
- 1½ oz.coffee liqueur, preferably Galliano Ristretto
- 1 oz.green Chartreuse
- ¼ cupheavy cream, lightly whipped
- Pinch Demerara sugar, for garnish
- 11/17/14--15:18: Mr. Boston's Legacy
- 11/17/14--16:00: Sole Piccata
- 4 (6-oz.) skinless fillets grey or Dover sole, or any flaky white fish like turbot or tilapia
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- ½ cupflour
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, minced
- ½ lemon, thinly sliced
- ¼ cupdry white wine
- 2 tsp. capers
- 11/18/14--03:00: Maple Pumpkin Brûlée Pie
- Flour,for dusting
- ½ recipeFlaky Butter Pie Dough
- ¼ cupdark brown sugar
- ¼ cupgranulated sugar
- 1 (15-oz.)can pumpkin purée
- 1 cupheavy cream
- ¼ cupmaple syrup
- 2½ tbsp.potato starch
- 2½ tsp.ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp.ground ginger
- 1 tsp.freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp.ground clove
- ½ tsp.Kosher salt
- ¼ cupDemerara sugar
- 11/18/14--07:54: Winter Warmers
- 11/18/14--12:01: Get a Taste of Thanksgiving with Le Creuset
- 11/18/14--13:00: American Vermouths
- 11/19/14--03:00: Cranberry Salsa
- 11/19/14--08:00: 16 Brussels Sprouts Dishes
- 11/19/14--08:00: Menu: A Warming Winter Cocktail Party
See the recipe for Spicy Cabbage and Potato Curry »
Gautam Popat is a local guide with Kensington Tours.
I have lived in Assam my whole life. It may be best known for its tea, but its food is also exquisite. Central to Assamese identity is tenga aanja, sour fish curry (bottom right)—an invigorating lunch on hot summer days or the finale to elaborate dinners. The banana tree figures into many dishes, such as patot diya maach, fish roasted in banana leaf (top right), and koldilere rondha paro manxo, pigeon with banana flower (bottom left). We even use the trunk, burning it down to alkaline ashes to make an ingredient called kolakhar. It adds zip to khar, a class of starter dishes, including posolar khar, a banana stem stir-fry (middle left). The region is also filled with bamboo, which is worked into baanhgajor lagot gahori, pork belly with fermented bamboo (middle right) a tribal specialty. My favorite dish, however, is a family one: aitar manxor aanja, my grandma's mutton curry (top left).
At 4:30 p.m. in the Bengal village of Santiniketan, evening cooking fires belch smoke from kitchen windows. I pull my shawl a little tighter around my shoulders, waiting for the mishti garri—the “sweets car”—beside a row of small cement-walled houses in the narrow cul de sac near my family home.
Since I was a little girl, my grandmother has purchased the Bengali sweets known as mishti from Sukharanjan Roy. Referred to by all in the village as Sukharanjan-da—elder brother Sukharanjan—he was a distinctive sight, tooling around this quiet town on his bicycle with a glass-encased dessert cart in tow. Hearing him coming down the street, housewives would run to their front gates, steel tiffin carriers in hand for him to fill with gooey treats.
While every region of the subcontinent has its own sweets culture, no Indian state is as thoroughly dessert obsessed as Bengal. The northeastern region is renowned for its exquisite date-palm sugar, nolen gur, and visitors are always greeted with a cup of sweet tea and a metal saucer holding a mishti or two. Bengalis particularly adore creamy milk-based sweets, which are eaten at the end of a meal or even for breakfast, scooped up with the whole-wheat flatbread chapati. Sukharanjan-da’s piled-high trays reflect this predilection for dairy, with sweets made of creamy curd from local cow’s milk: fudgy shondesh, sweetened with date palm sugar; malai chom chom, smooth, white logs of curd bathed in sweet cream; and spongy, white rosogullas that squeak between my teeth. His kalo jam, dough made from semolina flour and milk, is fried until dark brown and dunked in sweet syrup.
For Sukharanjan-da, who is now 62 and a grandfather, mishti was more than a calling; it was a means of survival. Although I have known him for years, I only found out his story on a recent visit. He arrived in Santiniketan in 1968 as a teenager, with his mother and brother, as a bloody war was brewing in his homeland, the land that would become Bangladesh. With a family to help support, the young Sukharanjan-da needed a source of steady income. He had picked up mishti-making skills at a canteen back home and decided to throw in his lot with the town’s street vendors. Others hawked their snacks from wooden carts, but Sukharanjan-da decided his conveyance should stand out. So he secured a bank loan of 800 rupees ($13) and handed it over to a metal fabricator, along with a design he drew by hand for a rolling case that would offer customers a tantalizing glimpse of his luscious sweets.
The mishti garri was no get-rich-quick plan, but it earned Sukharanjan-da a decent living—enough to send his children to school and to build a brick house at the outskirts of town. His 28-year-old son, Pintu, followed in his footsteps, and now does most of the mishti-making and the daily rounds in the mishti garri, just as his father did for three decades.
On this day it was Pintu I hoped to see pedaling by as I waited on his daily route, but as the sky began to turn pink, I worried that I had missed him. I wheeled my bike deeper into the neighborhood and found a woman in a housecoat taking laundry from a line in her garden.
“Mishti garri khotay?” I asked, desperation creeping into my voice. Where is the sweets car?
“Sukharanjan-da chele,” she replied with a nod, referring to Pintu as he is probably doomed to be always known—Sukharanjan-da’s son.
She pointed down a side street, and from a distance I heard the rhythmic honk of an old-fashioned bike horn and Pintu’s droning call of the mishti-wallah cataloging the day’s sweets: “shondesh, chom chom, ladoo, lobongo latika... ” I jumped back on my bike and manically pedaled until I finally glimpsed the yellow-painted aluminum mishti garri.
He didn’t need to ask me what I’d like to take home to my family. He scooped a dozen pantua—teeth-achingly sweet cottage-cheese-based sweets, deep-fried and then soaked in syrup. He wrapped a dozen peraki—crunchy fried turnovers stuffed with oozing date-palm sugar—in pages from a Bengali newspaper, tied the package up with string, and carefully placed it in my bicycle basket.
Then, with the charm he learned from his father, Pintu handed me a still-warm pantua to sample. I devoured it, syrup dripping down my fingers, as I watched the sun set.
The gumbo trail will lead you all the way from New Orleans to Lafayette and all points in between. Here, our favorite places to eat and stay in South Louisiana.
WHERE TO EAT
Bread & Circus Provisions
258 Bendel Road, Lafayette (337-408-3930; bandcprovisions.com)
The hen and andouille gumbo served by chef Manny Augello is among the most rustic and delicious versions you'll find in Cajun country. Enjoy it with a side of his fried chicken skins.
1304 W Pinhook Road, Lafayette (337-237-0100; cafev.com)
At this elegant, button-down restaurant, chef C.J. Panthier (pictured right) and his team cook up excellent smoked turkey gumbo and seafood gumbo, along with a classic turtle soup.
1403 Washington Ave., New Orleans (504-899-8221; commanderspalace.com)
Chef Tory McPhail offers a luxurious smoked goose and foie gras gumbo at this New Orleans institution, located in the city's Garden District.
701 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans (504-524-4114); herbsaint.com)
Chef de cuisine Rebecca Wilcomb serves a “gumbo of the day” that might include shrimp and crab or fried chicken and andouille at this Donald Link—owned restaurant
Jolie's Louisiana Bistro
507 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette (337-504-2382; jolieslouisianabistro.com)
A lard and flour roux is the base for chef Gregory Doucet's seasonal gumbos. Also try Doucet's Louisiana drum fish crusted with local Zapp's Crawtator potato chips.
La Provence Restaurant
At John Besh's cozy restaurant on New Orleans' North Shore, chef de cuisine Erick Loos serves an elegant quail gumbo, with many ingredients sourced from a farm right out back.
Li'l Dizzy's Café
1500 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans (504-569-8997)
Located in New Orleans' historic Treme neighborhood, Dizzy's serves its Creole filé gumbo buffet-style, along with classics such as red beans and rice.
3480 NE Evangeline Thruway, Lafayette (337-896-3247; prejeans.com)
The dining room of this Acadian Disneyworld features Spanish moss-draped cypress trees and live Cajun music. But the main draws are the smoked duck and andouille gumbo and a seafood gumbo swimming with crawfish and crab.
WHERE TO STAY
1521 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette (337-235-6111; hilton.com)
The rooms are nice, the lounge is open late, and the location on West Pinhook Road makes this an ideal home base for sampling Lafayette's best gumbo restaurants.
130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans (504-648-1200; therooseveltneworleans.com)
This restored historic hotel features stately rooms and the Fountain Lounge, where chef Mark Marjorie serves a smoked chicken gumbo with andouille and tasso in a lost-in-time dining room.
Read more about where to go and what to eat along the Blue Ridge »
Virtually the entire population of Odisha becomes vegetarian during this period, when the pious and peaceful Odia people celebrate the destruction of evil by Lord Shiva, and as we grew up in our beautiful maternal home, for my family and our neighbors it was also a month long celebration of my mother’s kitchen which turned out the tastiest and most flavorful vegetarian Odia foods.
It was usually late afternoon when everyone was back from school or work before she started the day’s puja (prayer) and first offered the foods to the Gods. We sat down expectantly on little hand-woven mats before the puja room while she laid out large banana leaves before us. On the extreme right corner of the leaf would definitely go a tiny heap of course salt, a quarter slice of green lime and two glistening green chiles. Next, at the very center, would land a big heap of piping hot arua, basmati rice, that would make the leaf grow deeper green around the edges. We were cued to quickly make a moat of the rice mound to contain the watery moong daal, yellow lentil, garnished with finely scraped coconuts.
The heavenly aroma caused of the ghee and tulsi leaves, a kind of basil, which garnished the traditional Odia food habisanna, literally ghee flavored rice, filled the room. Around the mound of rice, she spooned servings of daal koshala saag, lentils with green vegetables, sprinkled with badi chura, small balls of crushed dried and fried lentils; green banana fries; ghanta tarkari, mixed vegetable curry without onions, garlic and the ubiquitous turmeric; all topped off with ou khatta, sweet and salty elephant apple or Dillenia indica chutney. When it all lay before us, like a necklace studded with diamonds, we dug into it with our fingers.
See the recipe for Ghanta Tarkari (Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry) »
I should have known better. I was standing amid vine rows heavy with fruit on a September evening a few weeks before the sagrantino harvest at Arnaldo Caprai winery in Umbria. I had arrived after a flight to Rome and a 2-hour drive north to the hilltop town of Montefalco. Now I craved dinner. So when Marco Caprai, the winery’s rugged-faced owner, suggested that we "go into town for a drink first," I was disappointed. Inside the winery’s kitchen, Salvatore Denaro, Caprai’s chef, was cooking for us, tucking just-stuffed pork sausages into a bed of simmering sagrantino grapes and moving a mountain of diced pancetta to a stockpot for ragù. I wanted to watch him work. What sort of lousy timing was this for a side trip to a cocktail bar?
Twenty minutes later, at Macelleria-Norcineria Tagliavento, in neighboring Bevagna, my fears of going hungry were allayed. In butcher Rosita Cariani’s shop, beneath dangling tail-on prosciutti, we stood at a counter and devoured salumi: porchetta, heady with herbs; salty-sweet spalla from the pig’s shoulder; buttery guanciale; prosciutto, smooth as silk; and chewy lonza, dry-cured tenderloin. To go with it? Caprai’s white wine Grecante, made from grechetto, an Umbrian varietal. Brisk and vivacious with a peach-blossom fragrance, it cut through the fat and met the pork’s sweetness straight on. Bingo. I never should have doubted the gastronomic impulses of an Umbrian.
I never should have doubted the gastronomic impulses of an Umbrian.
Located in the undulating cuore verde d’Italia—"green heart of Italy"—Umbria was a sleepy agricultural corner of the Papal States for 500 years, and the culture remains more retiring than that of showy Tuscany to its west. But though they are humble, Umbrians do have treasures to proffer. "We’ve always been a poor region," said prominent vintner Chiara Lungarotti when I visited her at her family’s Giorgio Lungarotti winery. "But we share what we have." Wine grapes are among the riches here: grechetto; the luxurious white grape trebbiano spoletino, which grows in some vineyards here on century-old vines; and Italy’s ubiquitous sangiovese. Yet none of these is more potent or iconic than Montefalco’s sagrantino.
It’s a tiny grape with a huge personality. Its thick skin is loaded with the polyphenols that yield the world’s most tannic red wine, and one of its most flavorful. Acidity, sugar, alcohol, and loads of fruit—sagrantino has them all, along with a mouth-drying bite like that of black tea. And with possible references stretching back to Pliny the Elder, it may have a pedigree as deep as its character. In the town’s San Francesco Church, a 1451 fresco shows Saint Francis with what’s said to be a jug of it.
The wine that Saint Francis used for the sacraments, and that lay people drank at Easter with lamb, was sweet. Sagrantino passito, as the original sweet version of the wine is called, is made by air-drying harvested grapes to concentrate their sugars. But those sugars are balanced by copious tannins and acid, which is why the wine can be sipped alongside roast meats as well as sweets like the cornflake-coated biscotti ai cereali that are popular in Montefalco.
In the 1970s, Marco Caprai’s father, Arnaldo, was among those who created sagrantino’s dry expression. Through relentless experimentation, the younger Caprai managed to make the dry wine sing. Today, protected under DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, it’s a serious wine, its shoulders broadened by an obligatory 37 months of aging, at least 12 of those in oak. But despite that resting period, its natural tannins keep the wine so clenched up that it can take years in the bottle to relax.
As a fan of lighter wines, I had come to Montefalco to see if I could love this beast. It was a task I may have found harder had the winemakers not done as Umbrians do when they want to make friends: They fed me. Happily, as it turns out, lumbering sagrantino plays nicely with food.
After dinner at Caprai, we set off for our third meal of the night, at the inn Villa Roncalli, where chef Maria Luisa Scolastra threw rosemary, fennel, and juniper berries into a pan of searing pork loin and served it with Caprai’s Collepiano. The sagrantino was at first as tight as a fine Italian suit, but its spice and leather snuck up on me, its earthy richness lingering. A muscular wine, it was made for dark forest flavors; had there been boar on hand, it could have easily replaced the pork.
Happily, as it turns out, lumbering sagrantino plays nicely with food.
"Cinghiale—wild boar—is typical with sagrantino. It’s very dark meat," Iacopo Pambuffetti, young and wild-haired, told me the following evening when he and his cousin Liù hosted me for dinner at his family’s winery, called Scacciadiavoli, "cast out the devil," a reference to a local exorcist. From the kitchen came other meat dishes: fresh, chewy tagliatelle draped in a goose ragù; veal medallions smothered in wild mushrooms and a black truffle sauce. With the dishes, Liù opened a few bottles that showed how sagrantino, though shrouded in tannins and dark fruit, could reveal different faces. I would have expected the older wine to be more mellow, but Liù’s 2007 sagrantino was softer and richer than the angular 2006. Still, with their brooding berry and balsamic flavors, both seemed fit for a winery with the devil in its name.
It’s the devil in the details, of course, that makes things interesting. The area’s blended red, montefalco rosso, is made primarily with sangiovese, but the wine gains its Umbrian gravitas from a dose of sagrantino. At Terre de la Custodia winery, I sampled one of these blends over dinner with the strapping, blond Giampaolo Farchioni, scion of a family that settled here from Austria in the 15th century. To a table set against sweeping estate views, Farchioni’s chef, Massimo Infarinati, sent out plate after delicious plate. There was a sweet pecorino flan with a bright, chunky tomato sauce. Then came tagliatelle dressed in a veal ragù aromatic with a dose of the winery’s montefalco rosso. I tasted that delectable pasta between sips of the wine with which it was made. The rosso’s currantlike sangiovese flavor gave in to the sagrantino’s mocha finish. It cleansed my palate with tart fruit and then eased it into the next bite with depth, proving that massive sagrantino could be a team player.
Sagrantino’s magnanimity bears out in the kitchen as well. At the homey Enoteca l’Alchimista in Montefalco’s main square, with a radicchio, pear, and pecorino salad as an intermezzo, I demolished a slab of cheese that had been aged in the wine, wrapped in radicchio and pancetta, and baked until oozing. The wine brought structure to the fatty preparation, bordering it in blackberries.
On my last evening in Montefalco, at Antonelli, a fourth-generation vineyard fringed in sunflower fields, I had the meal that truly made me fall for sagrantino. In the winery’s café, Giorgio Barchiesi, a chef whose good humor is as ample as his girth, cooked massive amounts of a local signature, gnocchi al sagrantino. Pillowy potato dumplings as big as apricots were simmered in a milky-purple sagrantino cream sauce that was lavished with butter, parmesan, guanciale, and silky caramelized onions. It was a wildly indulgent dish, but the sagrantino’s tannins kept the richness at bay. Like a strong man bearing a troupe of acrobats, the wine held the other ingredients in perfect balance.
I thought then about something I’d been told often in this town. Winemaker Daniela Adanti, co-owner of Cantine Adanti winery, had put it best. "Sagrantino is very Umbrian," she said. "It is a closed wine, but give it time to open, to be known, and you’ll appreciate it. It’s the same as the people of Umbria. They don’t seem open, but then, when you know them, they are very generous." I took a sip of the wine, blossoming now in its glass: berry, black pepper, cocoa, and oak. Beside the rich, tinted gnocchi, it was a generous pleasure, indeed.
See our favorite Sagrantino wines »
Travel Guide: Umbria »
WHERE TO STAYPalazzo Bontadosi(Piazza del Comune 19; 39/074-237-9357; hotelbontadosi.com), housed in a 15th-century fresco-filled edifice, is a calming place to stay on Montefalco's Piazza del Comune.
WHERE TO EATThe rustic wine bar and shop Enoteca l'Alchimista(Piazza del Comune 14; 39/074-237-8558; montefalcowines.com) offers more than 400 local labels to enjoy alongside fare like bacon cooked in sagrantino and sage.
Chef Maria Luisa Scolastra serves exquisite dishes like pork and juniper berries at Villa Roncalli(Viale Roma 25, Foligno; 39/074-239-1091; villaroncalli.com), an inn converted from a 17th-century hunting lodge.
WHERE TO SHOPIn the nearby town of Bevagna, the picturesque butcher shop Macelleria-Norcineria Tagliavento(Corso Amendola 15, Bevagna; 39/074-236-0897) is packed to the rafters with incomparable salumi, fresh meat, cheeses, and condiments.
WHAT TO DOWine tasting is a highlight of any visit here. The website of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco(consorziomontefalco.it) contains information on, and links to, its 47 member wineries. Many of them have restaurants or offer dining by reservation.
The Lungarotti family maintains the excellent Museo del Vino(Corso Vittorio Emanuele 31, Torgiano; 39/075-988-0200; lungarotti.it), displaying artifacts from Italian winemaking's roughly 4,000-year history.
Read our feature story Taste of Umbria »
See our favorite sagrantino wines »
It’s no surprise that Boston is at the forefront of American cocktail culture. …
After all, this is the home of the storied Old Mr. Boston Company, a distillery that operated here from the 1930s to the 1980s and created what’s often referred to as “The Bible of Booze,” Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide. Originally published in 1935, the constantly revised guide is still in print today. Mr. B’s influence continues to pour over the city’s cocktail scene, with libations such as The Marliave’s Boston Tea Party, a nod to the city’s most epic bash, and the Lillet Blanc–spiked Henry Marliave, a tribute to the restaurant’s original French owner. Meanwhile, Puritan & Company pays homage to another cocktail mecca, New Orleans, with its rye-infused Creole Cocktail. The fictitious Mr. Boston would be proud.
See the recipe for Boston Tea Party »
See the recipe for Henry Marliave »
See the recipe for Creole Cocktail »
1. Heat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ round. Fit into a 9″ pie plate. Trim edges and crimp; chill 30 minutes.
2. Whisk sugars and eggs in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add pumpkin, cream, syrup, potato starch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and salt; whisk until smooth. Pour filling over dough; using a spatula, spread into an even layer. Bake until just set in the center, 45–50 minutes. Transfer pie to a rack; let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
3. Sprinkle Demerara sugar evenly over surface of pie. Guide the flame of a blowtorch back and forth over surface until sugar caramelizes. Serve immediately.
From signature dishes to family traditions, this well-loved French brand celebrates Thanksgiving classics with time-honored recipes and holiday memories from some of the country’s most respected chefs. Learn more»
($27; imbuecellars.com) is bold like an Italian amaro, with pine and orange tea notes.
($18; archervineyard.com) is suffused with bitter orange and baking spices; it's reminiscent of cola.
($14; vya.com), redolent of mulled wine and gingerbread, works well in cold-weather drinks.
($30; ransomspirits.com) is fragrant with candied orange, lemon verbena, and vanilla.
($44; atsbyvermouth.com) cinnamon and caramel notes are ideal in a Manhattan.
($35; uncouthvermouth.com) uses all New York botanicals, with hints of lemon and celery.
Photo Credit: Ingalls Photography / Andre Baranowski
ingredients1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, halved
3 tbsp. sugar
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
Zest and juice of 2 limes
instructionsToss all ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Season with kosher salt to taste.