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Get authentic recipes and stories from around the globe.

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  • 12/11/14--11:30: Cook with Trash Fish


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    colmans mustardEnlarge I've always been a big fan of mustard; I often use dijon as a base for dressings, slather my sandwiches with honey mustard, and I'd never even consider eating a hot dog without plenty of American yellow mustard. But when I lived in New Zealand, I dated an Englishman who turned my mustard-eating life upside down. He'd made us roast beef, cheddar, arugula, and tomato sandwiches one afternoon with mustard; when I bit into one, I immediately noticed a heat that you don't get with normal American mustard. The unique kick was surprisingly good. The mustard? Colman's. Made with a blend of brown and white mustard seeds, Colman's English Mustard was first produced in England in 1814, and by 1866, her Majesty the Queen had deemed the spicy blend the "crown jewel of mustards" and it is now widely known as "The Queen's Mustard." Whether used in marinades, sauces, salads, or simply on a sandwich, this versatile mustard is a staple in my pantry, in both the powdered and prepared form. While my love with the Englishman has since faded and fizzled, my love of Colman's has been going strong ever since.

    Colman's Original English Mustard, $6 for 3.35 oz. at Amazon.com


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  • 12/11/14--15:13: Fireworks in the Fjords
  • Experience 6 magical nights in Iceland over the New Year’s period, including 4 nights in a luxury hotel in Reykjavik and 2 nights in a beautiful lodge in the heart of southern Iceland. Discover the highlights of Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. View the mystical Northern Lights and explore unique natural attractions including active geysers, frozen waterfalls, volcanoes and black sand beaches.  Relax in the warm, soothing waters of the geothermal Blue Lagoon. Discover the picturesque beauty of winter in Iceland on a dog sledding adventure, venture onto the Langjökull Glacier for a snowmobile ride or embrace the spirit of the Vikings with an Icelandic horse ride.  Savor culinary delights—a lobster feast, a tasting menu and a gourmet New Year’s Eve Dinner—while watching the dazzling fireworks explode over Reykjavik.  

    Exclusive to SAVEUR readers: tasting menu dinner at the Grill Market, one of Reykjavik´s most popular restaurants; access to the Blue Lagoon Exclusive Lounge, including private shower rooms, complimentary towels, bathrobes, slippers, light refreshments, skin care and a private lagoon.*

    For more information contact:

    Diane Eide
    Travel Experts
    diane@travelxperts.com | 480-759-8490


    <<View other Virtuoso Travel Offers

    *All elements are subject to availability. Itinerary is dependant on local conditions and is subject to change. 
     


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  • 12/11/14--15:19: Fireworks in the Fjords


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    December 2014 SelectsEnlarge
    JUICED UP

    Tweeting, photo editing, and Instagramming drains my iPhone battery in a flash. This sleek little battery charger gets me back up and running.
    Lipstick-Sized Portable External Battery Charger, $20 at Amazon.com
     

    SERIOUS BUZZ

    With this brand new countertop espresso machine, amateur coffee geeks can get their hands on a La Marzocco, the gold standard for serious cafés, for the first time.
    La Marzocco Home, $8,069–8,269 at La Marzocco
     

    FASHION-FORWARD FIRE

    I love candles, but find candleholders a little old-fashioned. This gorgeous glass piece from Portland’s Esque Designs brings them up to date.
    Wax Collector, $300 at Esque Shop

    Wax CollectorEnlarge

    A FLASK UPGRADE

    A good flask is a winter (and fall and spring and summer) essential. But the standard stainless steel version is bit ho-hum. My new go-to is this hand-made copper beauty.
    Surname Goods Copper Flask, $215 at Surname Goods
     

    GOING SOUTH OF THE BORDER

    With chefs like Rene Redzepi and Sean Brock getting in the game, Mexican food is trending right now. I’m going straight to the source with this big, beautiful cookbook of 700 recipes from Margarita Carrillo.
    Mexico Cookbook, $30 at Amazon.com
     

    BRIGHTEN YOUR STOVETOP

    This spring green Dansk stovetop pot is billed as a butter warmer, but the enamel-coated steel vessel is also great for heating up sauces, leftover soup, and whatever else fits.
    Kobenstyle Butter Warmer, $40 at momastore.org

    MARI UYEHARA, senior editor

    All-time favorite cookbook: I just adore Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. You can flip to whatever month it is to find seasonal dishes. His recipes are sometimes unexpected, but always doable, inspiring, and super delicious.

    The best restaurant dish you've had lately: Everything on the menu at Danny Bowien's new Vietnamese breakfast at Mission Cantina. A beautifully clean chicken pho, duck liver smeared on a crusty split baguette with fried egg, and lemongrass sausage patties with broken rice and fish sauce-lime dressing. I've been there three times in less than two weeks.

    Favorite winter ingredient: Pomegranates. Some people have a special trick for removing the seeds, but I enjoy the treasure hunt of plucking those little gems out by hand.


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    SERVES 6-8

    Ingredients

    • 8 oz. slab bacon, cut into ½" matchsticks
    • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 large head green cabbage, cored and sliced ½" thick
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    Heat bacon in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 7–9 minutes. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5–7 minutes. Add cabbage, salt, and pepper; cook until slightly wilted, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Season with more salt and pepper.


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  • 12/12/14--09:00: How Sweet It Is
  • Credit: Ingalls Photography In 1983, on my first trip to Bordeaux, France, my host paired chilled white asparagus with one of the region's dulcet sauternes. An improbable but dynamic combination, it had me falling for sweet wine. In ancient Rome and elsewhere, sweet wines were the most valued. It wasn't until the 18th century that glass bottles and corks, which keep oxygen at bay, allowed dry wines to gain quality and eclipse sweet ones. Today, with the interest in unique, local winemaking, sweet wines are making a comeback. The best seduce with aromas of honey and wildflowers and flavors of dried apricot, caramel, and candied lemon peel. They roll over your tongue like silk, but zingy acidity keeps them from seeming syrupy. Each has its own personality. France's sauternes and barsacs (from a town within Sauternes) are made mainly with sauvignon blanc and sémillon grapes, which are left on the vine to develop Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that concentrates their sugar, yielding an elegant, full-bodied wine that pairs well with savory foods. Made similarly, Hungary's tokaji aszú wines go back nearly 450 years. The sweetest, labeled “5 Puttonyos” and “6 Puttonyos”—120 and 150 grams of residual sugar per liter, respectively—are delicious with chocolate and, like sauternes, with blue cheeses. The Mediterranean's sweet-savory vin santo is made from grapes air-dried on straw mats or hung from rafters, the wine then aged in casks. I often use these wines to bookend the holiday meal. Sauternes is ideal for sipping with foie gras at the start of dinner; tokaji and vin santo shine later with nuts, cheeses, plum pudding, or an Italian panettone. But I don't just reserve them for Christmas. I've come to rely on this trifecta of luscious nectars when friends drop by on any cold night.

    See 6 of our favorite sweet bottles »


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    Sub Rosa Bread Richmond, VirginiaEnlargeCredit: Laura Sant
    Richmond, Virginia is a city close to my heart. I lived there for most of my twenties, and its small but passionate culinary community is what really ignited my lifetime love of (and career in) food. While there have always been great places to eat in the city, in recent years the culinary scene has exploded—it's now a dining destination that draws food-loving travelers from up and down the East Coast with its own food festival; world-class chefs like Dylan Fultineer, Jason Alley, and Peter Chang; and a supportive network of artisans making incredible products from the region's bounty of produce, grains, and locally-raised meats and seafood. Yes, you'll find fancified pimento cheese, biscuits, and shrimp & grits—all of it done very well—but there's so much more to discover here than updated Southern cuisine: Think top-notch Sichuan dishes, Liberian-inspired soul food, and bakeries sourcing heirloom grains and milling their own flours. There’s never been a better time to visit RVA.
     

    Mamma Zu

    Mamma Zu or sister restaurant Edo’s Squid is always one of my first stops when I get into town—often straight from the airport, having spent most of my time on the plane dreaming about their heavenly, heavy-on-the-garlic Italian food. It’s the kind of place you go with friends to eat pasta family-style and have loud, boisterous conversations over bottles of the house red. I always get the squid, white bean, and arugula salad, with perfectly cooked rings of squid, creamy beans, arugula, and slivers of red onion, all of it slicked with plenty of olive oil and garlic.

    Mamma Zu
    501 S Pine St, Richmond, VA 23220
    804/788-4205


    Sub Rosa Bakery

    From a seat in the sunny front window of this bakery in Church Hill you can watch baker Evrim Dogu churn out some of the best bread in the city. Everything comes from the wood-fired oven built right into the back of the shop, and they mill much of the flour they use themselves (often incorporating heritage grain from local farmers). For breakfast, nothing beats a couple slices of their chewy, lightly sour classic loaf (their take on a pain au levain, made with a natural starter Evrim himself began 4 years ago) dipped in a little olive oil and honey. Or pick up one of their seeded braids—strands of flaky croissant dough braided and topped with nigella and sesame seeds (a tribute to the flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, which Sub Rosa often merges with traditional Italian and French pastry).

    Sub Rosa
    620 N 25th St, Richmond, VA 23223
    804/788-7672


    Mamusu&#039;s AfricanneEnlargeCredit: Grant Fanning

    Chef MaMusu's Africanne

    A native of Liberia, chef Ida Daniels has been serving her fusion of West African, Caribbean, and Southern soul food out of a small café on Main Street for almost 20 years. She recently opened a second, larger spot on the south side of the city, which has table service and is open for dinner. Dine on sweet cornbread, jollof rice, curry-fried lake trout, greens, and more; wash it all down with sweet, housemade ginger tea.

    Chef MaMusu's Africanne
    3514 Forest Hill Ave, Richmond,VA 23225
    804/912-2812

     

    Peter Chang China Café

    Tucked away in a strip mall in Short Pump, a suburb on the western edge of Richmond, you'll find this unassuming spot serving high-quality Sichuan dishes. I suggest going with a big group of people; the menu is so packed with good stuff that you'll inevitably order more dishes than you can realistically eat. My favorites: a meatless version of the classic mapo tofu; lightly-fried bamboo fish dusted with cumin; and giant, hollow scallion bubble pancakes that arrive on the table looking like otherworldly orbs.

    Peter Chang China Café
    11424 W Broad St, Glen Allen, VA 23060
    804/364-1688


    Rappahannock RestaurantEnlargeCredit: Laura Sant

    Rappahannock Restaurant

    You could eat very well at Rappahannock dining solely on oysters and prosecco, but the oyster company’s Richmond restaurant has plenty more to offer, like irresistibly crispy wood-grilled octopus, braised lamb, and other expertly done plates by executive chef Dylan Fultineer.

    Rappahannock Restaurant
    320 East Grace St., Richmond, VA
    804/545-0565


    Ed Vasaio (also of Mamma Zu) and his team craft pizzas with chewy crusts and crisp edges at this tiny takeout joint in the heart of the city's Fan district. In addition to a small selection of red- and white-sauce pies you'll find antipasti, heroes, garlicky pastas, and entrées like eggplant parmigiana, but the pizza is the star. Order one to go, then stop by Video Fan, the independent video rental shop next door, to pick up a movie to watch while you eat.


    401 Strawberry St, Richmond, VA 23220
    804/358-8505


    Country Style Donuts, Richmond, VirginiaEnlargeCredit: Laura Sant

    Country Style Donuts

    For the best donuts in the city, check out the offerings at Country Style Donuts, a tiny shop located near Richmond's airport that's been serving classic cake and yeasted donuts for over 40 years. It's open 24 hours a day; at any given time on a Sunday, you'll see everyone from churchgoers to frequent fliers to college students come through for their weekly fix, ordering assortments of treats in flavors like buttermilk, maple, coconut cake, and peanut.

    Country Style Donuts
    4300 Williamsburg Rd., Richmond, VA 23231
    804/222-2466


    Lamplighter Coffee

    Richmond has its share of coffee shops and roasters, but my favorite is this little shop hidden a few blocks behind Main Street, in the heart of the Fan district. Named after the tall bicycles that were used to light lamps at the turn of the century, at first glance it seems like one of those impossibly hip joints where you’ll be sneered at by a barista. Thankfully, the only attitude you’ll get here is Southern—i.e. impossibly friendly. The food is good, but the real draw here is their excellent coffee, which they roast by hand in small, 10-lb. batches.

    Lamplighter Roasting Company
    116 S Addison St, Richmond, VA 23220
    804/728-2292


    The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VirginiaEnlargeCredit: Laura Sant

    Lemaire

    "Why wouldn't you want to drink in such opulence?" cried a friend of mine about Lemaire, the restaurant inside the city's historic, five-star Jefferson Hotel. If you want to feel fancy while you drink your Negroni, this is the place to go—thankfully, the quality of the drinks matches the atmosphere. Lemaire has a small selection of house cocktails like the River City Waltz, a mix of rye, green Chartreuse, amaro, and orange bitters, as well as a make-your-own Manhattan menu, where the bartender will suggest combinations from their menu of ryes and bourbons, seven different vermouths and amaros, and a variety of bitters. And don't miss the bronze alligators stationed throughout the hotel: they're a tribute to when real alligators, the abandoned pets of wealthy guests, roamed Palm Court.

    Lemaire
    The Jefferson Hotel
    101 W Franklin St., Richmond, VA 23220
    804/649-4629


    Saison

    Near the Jefferson you’ll find another of the city’s best spots for a cocktail—the bar at Saison. There, a team of talented bartenders presides over a massive list of expertly crafted—and artfully named—drinks. Go for a classic (my Sazerac was perfect) or try one of their custom drinks, like the Nimble Kitten Parade (apple brandy, rye, Cocchi Americano, MY amaro, Cynar) or the Alpha Black Lotus, “a magical gathering of rare complexity” that combines rye, mezcal, Cynar, Cardamaro, Jagermeister, and a habanero shrub.

    Saison
    23 W Marshall St. Richmond, VA 23220
    804/269-3689






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  • 12/14/14--10:00: Holiday Roasts
  • Celebrate the holidays with any one of these 35 impressive, satisfying roasts. From traditional pineapple-topped ham to roast lamb with rosemary or prosciutto-wrapped pork loin, you're sure to find the perfect centerpiece for your dinner table.






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  • 12/16/14--09:00: Christmas on the Coast
  • christmas in goaEnlargeCredit: Ingalls Photography It was a tropical Christmas, steaming hot and bright as an egg yolk. Mosquitoes buzzed, gray-backed monkeys rummaged through the mango trees. The geese that live in our front yard waddled over to the fishpond for some relief.

    I was in Goa, where I was born and my father still lives. It is a tiny palm-fringed coastal state in western India that was under Portuguese rule until 1961, when the Indian army stormed in and dramatically liberated it. As in other parts of India, the Portuguese brought with them vegetables and fruits that Goans had never heard of before, such as potato and pumpkin, papaya and pineapple; they introduced us to chiles from the Americas. The cross-pollination of food traditions that defines Goa today can be attributed in part to conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese general who encouraged mixed marriages between Portuguese men and local women in the early 1500s.

    Although two-thirds of the population is still Hindu, many Goans converted to Catholicism under the Portuguese, and Christmas remains a beloved celebration. We attend midnight Mass, set up a manger in the garden, and prepare elaborate meals. We like to hang a five-point Christmas star on the porch, and after dark our villages gleam like the night sky.

    Last Christmas my husband and I returned to Goa to spend time with my father, sisters, extended family, and friends. The holidays are filled with invitations to our relatives’ rambling old houses for dinner. These parties are crowded, loud, happy affairs. We can catch up for hours over wine, beef croquets, and prawn forminhas (canapés), before we finally sit down to dinner, which is always laid out buffet style on long oval tables covered with heirloom lace tablecloths. There are at least a dozen traditional delicacies, such as pork vindaloo and chicken xacuti, accompanied by stacks of sannas, fermented bread. The centerpiece is inevitably a sturdy suckling pig, roasted just right so that the outside crackles and the inside tastes like butter. After dinner my teenage cousins often sing for us.

    What I most look forward to is Christmas lunch at our friend Elaine de Lima Pereira’s house in Panjim, a 45-minute drive from my father’s village. The daughter of a well-known caterer, Elaine was practically raised in the kitchen, and last year she made a dozen dishes singlehandedly for 50 guests.

    In the back garden, a long wooden table with white tablecloths and red table runners held the al fresco lunch. Elaine set out a seafood stew, a spicy red pork balchao curry in an earthenware bowl, and crispy baked mussels in their glinting silver blue shells. The roasted duck was red with spices, and the ox tongue had been marinated for three days in ginger, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, and lime. Her wonderful chili-fried tiger prawns—a local specialty marinated in turmeric—were as large as my fist and redolent of the rich taste of fried tomatoes and onions. For dessert, there were walnut drop chocolates and rose-water-infused marzipan fruits. But the coup de grâce was the Bolo Sans Rival or Cake Without Rival, which we ate off plates balanced on our knees in Elaine’s living room, our ears buzzing with the sounds of music and children playing.

    This festive cardamom-scented staple also came to Goa with the Portuguese. Canopies of butter cream separate four layers of spongy cashew-meringue cake. The sides of the cake are covered with even more cashew nuts, and the top is scattered with silver metallic dragées. The Sans Rival, like Christmas, comes only once a year, but the glamorous confection is so intensely rich that even one sliver feels like a year’s worth of indulgence.


    See the recipe for Goanese Shrimp Curry »

    Sonia Faleiro is the author of Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars.






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  • 12/05/14--07:23: Why We're in Japan
  • Noma in JapanEnlargeCredit: Federica del Proposto We were somewhere in the woods of the Nagano Prefecture, following a mushroom prophet and totally enveloped in fog, when it finally hit me: We're really doing this. We are going to open a restaurant in Japan.

    It was the middle of October. We'd gone through nearly two years of planning for this adventure. But there was something about this moment, about digging into the dirt and not having any idea where the hell I was, that made it all suddenly, abundantly clear.

    I'd dreamt of something like this for years, since I was a young cook without the money to travel, much less a restaurant of my own. As my career progressed and I managed to get my first taste of those mythical islands, the desire only deepened. I wanted to get as close as possible to the country's mind-boggling culinary variety and the devotion to craft that fellow chefs from the West speak of in hushed and reverential tones. I wanted to go beyond being an occasional visitor and witness. I had to be a part of it and learn as much as possible.

    I sat for my first kaiseki meals, multicourse dinners steeped in history and more balanced than the long tasting menus some of us chefs are used to eating and cooking. Dishware and the design of the restaurant are adjusted to reflect the season. Time of year dictates everything. This ritual taught me so much about meticulousness, lightness, and what seasonality really means.

    Now think of what we can take from the ingenuity of the Japanese. Think of the humble kernel of rye, the staple food in my part of the world. Generations of Scandinavians have survived on this grain, morphed into the form of breads and porridges. It more or less stops there. You move to the East, and look at what a grain of rice has become here. How much incredible invention has come from this simple ingredient?

    To be truly inspired, I knew we had to be more than culinary tourists. Instead of just traveling and eating with my cooks, the plan evolved into a complete (though temporary) relocation of our restaurant. We were shutting down and going across the ocean for three months. Our little scheme had us taking every single member of our staff along for the ride, but we were going to leave our pantry at home. We resolved to apply our sensibilities to an unfamiliar landscape of flavors. Time to test ourselves, to start again from scratch.

    Which of course begs the question, why? After eleven years in operation in Denmark, we're fortunate to be able to say that people want to eat at our restaurant. Getting there was nothing short of an ordeal. We try every day to keep ourselves challenged, to work harder than ever before, and face failure after failure in order to constantly discover and better understand what we do. This trip, I think, is a way to shatter any groove that we may have established and truly humble ourselves.

    To be truly inspired, I knew we had to be more than culinary tourists
    It's a chance for my staff to meet a chef I know who sleeps in his restaurant several times a week so he can properly marinate a mackerel dish throughout the night. To deeply experience a culinary culture that makes our own look like an infant. To greet friends old and new in a setting somewhat surreal to us. To be together as a team and attempt something I don't think many in this trade have ever done. It's a chance to truly live the idea of omotenashi; the closest translation for this is “hospitality,” but it goes so far beyond what we are used to. It's a type of altruistic service-style, a spirit of generosity that is a foundation of Japanese culture. It's something you encounter everywhere here, whether in a service environment or a meeting of strangers on the street. And it's one of the things I hope we'll learn to practice at the restaurant in Tokyo and bring home to Copenhagen.

    Much has been written about the range and beauty and complexity of Japanese cuisine. But there's still so much for all of us, cooks and eaters, to learn from its examples. That's why we're in Japan now. That, and because being here throws us off balance. Who knows what will happen. Getting out of your comfort zone is an important part of being a cook. Give it a try sometime. Not knowing what will happen next has always led us to good things. And it's that uncertainty and adventure that we're craving right now.

    René Redzepi is the chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen.


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  • 12/08/14--10:24: Cook in the Wild
  • Francis Mallman, Cook in the wild, open-fire EnlargeCredit: James Fisher
    Francis Mallmann tossed fragrant logs on a pyre and lit the fires before dawn. The chef was setting up a fiesta for a friend, and we were on the desolate, still-cold plain east of Uruguay's Río de la Plata. Offering a cup of Lapsang souchong for breakfast, he said, grinning: “I like to start the day with this tea because it's smoky.”
    “I like to start the day with this tea because it's smoky.”
    Gauchos raked coals around staked sheep, sides of beef, an entire pig covered with cut lemons. By late afternoon, buzzards circled on thermals above us, enticed, as we were, by the smell of popping fat and charring bones. I sought shade under a stand of eucalyptus. Every now and then, one of the asadores would whip out a wickedly long blade and slice off chunks of meat for us to gnaw. Sun-scorched faces smeared with juices, fists full of blood sausages. This was outdoor cooking beyond the backyard, with tastes as intense and uncivilized as the landscape in this far latitude. Mallmann looked content. I wiped my hands, greasy with crackling pork skin, on my jeans.


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    Japanese new year&#039;s soupEnlargeCredit: Ingalls PhotographyThe sound of the mallet pounding
    recalls the end of the year
    in my yearned-for home town.
    —Keiho Yamanaka, 1940


    For Japanese immigrants, few things other than cherry blossoms are more nostalgic than the sights, smells, and sounds of mochi, sweet glutinous rice cakes, being steamed and then pounded in an annual New Year’s ritual known as mochitsuki. Shaped into smooth white orbs, the cakes are one of the principal components of the beloved New Year’s soup ozoni.

    As a six-year-old Japanese-American transplanted from California to the Japanese beach town of Zushi, I witnessed my first mochitsuki with a mixture of awe and fear. Young men in hachimaki headbands took turns with a wooden mallet, or kine, pounding on a sticky mass of rice placed in a granite mortar, or usu. Crouched next to the mallet-wielder, a woman with a white kerchief covering her head deftly slipped a hand into the mortar between each blow to turn the mochi. It was transportingly suspenseful theater, since one tiny slip in the rhythm of the pounding and turning would have resulted in a mangled hand.

    The performance culminated blissfully, though, when the finished cakes appeared floating in a rich dashi stock, along with colorful pink-rimmed slices of kamaboko (fish cake), daikon, carrot, and shiitake mushrooms.

    In Japanese-American communities across America today, mochitsuki are still held, bringing together entire church congregations or communities, though more often than not, Japanese-made electric mochi makers do the work of steaming and pounding, and volunteers shape plain cakes and fill others with sweet an, or azuki bean paste. At the Livingston United Methodist Church in Livingston, California, however, one community still hews to the old ways, steaming 500 pounds of rice in handmade, stacked wooden frames over oil-drum fires. The steamed rice is put through meat grinders to speed its transformation into mocha and is then finished with a mallet (handmade from local black walnut, olive, or pine trees) and mortar.

    The ritual ozoni, eaten on New Year’s morning, comes in many regional styles. In my grandmother’s hometown in Chiba Prefecture, a dashi (made with dried bonito and kelp) or chicken stock broth was favored. For the three days following New Year’s that it was eaten, my great-grandmother changed up the soup: with miso one day, Napa cabbage another, sometimes shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves) and almost always satoimo (taro) and morsels of chicken or pork.

    Though ozoni is said to bring good luck in the coming year, for me, the medium is the message: I feel instantly lucky to have this steaming, nostalgia-laden bowl in front of me, to be devoured in the company of family and friends.

    See the recipe for Japanese New Year's Soup »






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  • 01/27/15--05:49: Why We're in Japan
  • Noma in JapanEnlargeCredit: Federica del Proposto We were somewhere in the woods of the Nagano Prefecture, following a mushroom prophet and totally enveloped in fog, when it finally hit me: We're really doing this. We are going to open a restaurant in Japan.

    It was the middle of October. We'd gone through nearly two years of planning for this adventure. But there was something about this moment, about digging into the dirt and not having any idea where the hell I was, that made it all suddenly, abundantly clear.

    I'd dreamt of something like this for years, since I was a young cook without the money to travel, much less a restaurant of my own. As my career progressed and I managed to get my first taste of those mythical islands, the desire only deepened. I wanted to get as close as possible to the country's mind-boggling culinary variety and the devotion to craft that fellow chefs from the West speak of in hushed and reverential tones. I wanted to go beyond being an occasional visitor and witness. I had to be a part of it and learn as much as possible.

    I sat for my first kaiseki meals, multicourse dinners steeped in history and more balanced than the long tasting menus some of us chefs are used to eating and cooking. Dishware and the design of the restaurant are adjusted to reflect the season. Time of year dictates everything. This ritual taught me so much about meticulousness, lightness, and what seasonality really means.

    Now think of what we can take from the ingenuity of the Japanese. Think of the humble kernel of rye, the staple food in my part of the world. Generations of Scandinavians have survived on this grain, morphed into the form of breads and porridges. It more or less stops there. You move to the East, and look at what a grain of rice has become here. How much incredible invention has come from this simple ingredient?

    To be truly inspired, I knew we had to be more than culinary tourists. Instead of just traveling and eating with my cooks, the plan evolved into a complete (though temporary) relocation of our restaurant. We were shutting down and going across the ocean for three months. Our little scheme had us taking every single member of our staff along for the ride, but we were going to leave our pantry at home. We resolved to apply our sensibilities to an unfamiliar landscape of flavors. Time to test ourselves, to start again from scratch.

    Which of course begs the question, why? After eleven years in operation in Denmark, we're fortunate to be able to say that people want to eat at our restaurant. Getting there was nothing short of an ordeal. We try every day to keep ourselves challenged, to work harder than ever before, and face failure after failure in order to constantly discover and better understand what we do. This trip, I think, is a way to shatter any groove that we may have established and truly humble ourselves.

    To be truly inspired, I knew we had to be more than culinary tourists
    It's a chance for my staff to meet a chef I know who sleeps in his restaurant several times a week so he can properly marinate a mackerel dish throughout the night. To deeply experience a culinary culture that makes our own look like an infant. To greet friends old and new in a setting somewhat surreal to us. To be together as a team and attempt something I don't think many in this trade have ever done. It's a chance to truly live the idea of omotenashi; the closest translation for this is “hospitality,” but it goes so far beyond what we are used to. It's a type of altruistic service-style, a spirit of generosity that is a foundation of Japanese culture. It's something you encounter everywhere here, whether in a service environment or a meeting of strangers on the street. And it's one of the things I hope we'll learn to practice at the restaurant in Tokyo and bring home to Copenhagen.

    Much has been written about the range and beauty and complexity of Japanese cuisine. But there's still so much for all of us, cooks and eaters, to learn from its examples. That's why we're in Japan now. That, and because being here throws us off balance. Who knows what will happen. Getting out of your comfort zone is an important part of being a cook. Give it a try sometime. Not knowing what will happen next has always led us to good things. And it's that uncertainty and adventure that we're craving right now.

    René Redzepi is the chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen.






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  • 02/09/15--09:30: Love Cake
  • Chocolate Cake RecipeEnlargeCredit: Laura Sant As a teenager in Lahore, Pakistan in the 1990s, Valentine's Day wasn't supposed to mean much to me. The fact that my friends and I even knew it existed was exceptional, a symptom of our privileged exposure to Western popular culture—only now do I realize how, with our worldly knowledge, we were insulated from the rest of Lahore. Still, my mother hated it when we celebrated New Year's, Halloween, or had bonfire parties: "These are not our traditions," she would say.

    Valentine's Day was especially forbidden because it had to do with dating. At the all-girls school I attended, my best friend Zahra and I scoffed at romance all throughout the year, not just in February. Boyfriends were for American girls and lovers were only acceptable on-screen in Indian movies. So Valentine's Day would come and go, and Zahra and I would shuffle past the vendors selling heart-shaped balloons and the seasonal stationery stores with paper hearts in the windows, swarmed by the kids from the co-ed American school.

    But in the 9th grade, right around the time I started to read the dusty, used Sweet Valley High paperbacks that we quietly passed beneath the tables in class, to consume in secret as we would, in later years, with cigarettes—I met a boy. It was at our school’s annual bonfire in the middle of the netball field, a bit of a rager by Lahori standards: Jeans and t-shirts replaced school uniforms, and teachers allowed us a degree of independence by watching from the rooftop of the main building at the edge of the field. The party was a mix of self-conscious dancing, lip-synching to Madonna, and—most important, and most thrilling—awkward gawking at adolescent boys. They were the cousins, brothers, and family friends of students; their names had been submitted in advance to the school and after rigorous background checks (or so we were told) their attendance was pre-approved by parents and teachers.

    With sultry Jennifer Lopez playing over the sound system, I caught the eye of a lanky fellow in an AC/DC T-shirt, his dark hair stiff and shiny. Naturally, the first person to notice our attraction was Zahra. When the boy—Akber—and I were thrown in the mock jail next to the DJ booth, I knew it was Zahra's doing. Akber and I didn't talk much during our mutual incarceration, but by the time we were "bailed out" I was in love—or at least I thought I was.

    Countless secret email exchanges later, I was ready to declare my love, and I decided to do it the American way, on Valentine's Day. The Sweet Valley Highs and the foreign television reruns I watched religiously reinforced a belief that this holiday was the one day a year that it wasn't just okay to express your love; it was practically a requirement. I devised a plan: I would use my mother’s trusty chocolate cake recipe and bake Akber a cake, because that’s what Hariett always did for Jamie on Small Wonder. I would write my confession of love in a card like Ralph Wiggum did for Lisa Simpson. I would not, unfortunately, be able to dance with him in a red sari in the rain like Kajol from the Indian film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai—that would be too debaucherous, and only older, more cultured women wore saris on this side of the border. But baking a cake and writing a card I could handle.

    If my mother found out, it would mean no Simpsons for a month at least, and being grounded—maybe forever
    Zahra and I plotted the details of my cunning plan during school break-time. We would bake this love cake (a name she coined) together so she could say she was taking half of it home, when really she would drop it off at Akber’s house on her way. (If my mother found out, it would mean no Simpsons for a month at least, and being grounded—maybe forever. I had yet to test her on her no-boys rule.)

    The day came for the execution. My mom kept her imported cookbooks upstairs under lock and key, far from greasy fingers and oil splatters, but I loved the cake recipe so much that she had meticulously copied it out for me on a piece of paper years before. I dug through my drawer frantically until I found the dog-eared, butter-smeared, and stained hand-written recipe. It came from a book where recipes were constructed as proportions—flour was listed as a hundred percent and all other ingredients were listed as a percentage. I took out two pens and two pieces of paper, one for Zahra and one for me, and neatly copied out equations that would translate each percentage into weights. Then I asked Zahra to do her set as I did mine. “No cheating," I said.

    We came up with the same quantities, which was reassuring. I knew the hard part would be measuring the eggs. I had done this once with my mother when she first taught me how to weigh things, but not since then. I measured everything out with a precision I'd have brought to a nuclear science experiment. Zahra watched me without matching my enthusiasm. “I’m bored," she said. "Let me do something to help.”

    But I didn’t trust her with a project of this importance. I creamed the butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer, read the recipe over again, reached for the eggs mixed in with vanilla extract, and then put out my hand to take the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Zahra snatched it up before I could, and my heart jumped.

    “Not funny!" I complained. One hand still holding the mixer, I tried snatching the bowl of dry ingredients from her. After missing twice, I finally got it, spilling some flour in the process. She was testing my patience.

    “Can you stop? This is really important to me!” I continued mixing as she stared. “Can you stop doing that?”

    “I’m not doing anything," Zahra replied.

    “You’re staring.”

    “Because you won’t let me do anything else.”

    I was about to add the eggs when I remembered I had forgotten to turn the oven on. A perfect job for her. “You can turn on the oven, gas mark 180°,” I said, and she shot me a sarcastic look and complied.

    Sweet Valley HighEnlarge Finally, the batter was dark, smooth, and creamy. She held the bowl as I poured the batter in a round buttered tin and handed her the spatula to lick. “This is great,” she said, but I didn’t have to taste it to know. I stuck the cake in the oven and turned the light on so I could watch it bake while we made the icing. We were successful in avoiding any further escalation of tensions, for the time being.

    After twenty minutes I peeked into the oven through the greasy glass window to find that my cake hadn't risen at all. Horrified, I mentally ran through all the steps I had taken thus far. Did I forget something? Maybe the door was too greasy and I wasn’t seeing straight. I opened the oven and pulled out the tray. The cake was dangerously wobbly. The oven was a disconcerting lukewarm. I looked at the gas mark, set at 80°, and my heart sank. This cake was a disaster. Akber would never be able to love a girl who couldn’t bake a cake; my confession of love was doomed, our affections would die before even being realized. I would never get married or have children, let alone little Akbers. I saw my life unravel in front of me in a spiral of loneliness.

    Quickly, my teenage despair turned to anger, and I said things to Zahra that even now I don't wish to repeat. She stood there in silence; when I ran out of things to say, she simply walked out of the kitchen. I upped the oven temperature to 180C and spent the next hour closely monitoring the cake. The toothpick eventually came out clean and I started breathing again.

    I checked on the bowl of icing, which was just as I had left it. I placed a tablespoon in a small bowl. The cake had been rescued and it was time to make a peace offering. Zahra was in my room playing my 2Pac CD, the one she had given me—not a good sign. I walked in and handed her the bowl as she mouthed the words to Wonder Why They Call You B****.

    “Here,” I said, holding out the icing unceremoniously. It wasn’t cool to be sentimental.

    She shrugged her shoulders and didn’t take it, so I set the bowl on the table next to the couch and casually sat myself down at the opposite end. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading the latest Sweet Valley High books I had picked up until my mom called us downstairs for dinner.

    The silence between us was probably apparent as we ate chicken karahi and dal with my family and my brother’s older, cooler friend who was also visiting. When dinner was finished and my mother said, “Let’s try that chocolate cake you girls made today,” the spark of hunger in their eyes was unmistakable. We brought the cake to the table, and slice after slice was consumed. With each bite I saw my family take, my anxiety levels rose higher—it would all be eaten with none left for Akber! As the boys went in for seconds, Zahra’s first slice still lay untouched on her plate. My mother confronted her with the phrase we heard her say most often in life: “Sweetie, why aren’t you eating?”

    I didn’t care that she had almost destroyed my love cake. I loved her
    “I’m really full, just saving it for later,” Zahra said, without missing a beat, and then shot me a look that plainly said "you owe me." The plan was still on. At the end, not counting her preserved slice, little less than a quarter of the cake remained. “If you don’t mind, I was hoping to take some home so my parents could try it too,” Zahra said to my mother, and in that moment I didn’t care that she had almost destroyed my love cake. I loved her.

    “Of course," my mother smiled. "I’ll have the rest wrapped up for you.”

    Shortly after dinner, my mother received a call from Zahra's mother. Her grandmother was unwell and so she would be spending the night—a privilege we normally had to negotiate days in advance, but now, it was nothing short of disaster. “I can drop off the cake with Akber tomorrow on my way home” Zahra whispered to me awkwardly. But tomorrow wouldn't be Valentine's Day. I was surprised at how little I cared.

    “Don’t worry about it,” I whispered back. I knew she was uneasy; her grandmother had been unwell for some time. Zahra was the eldest grandchild, which automatically made her the favorite. We didn’t talk about it, but instead watched Grease for the fiftieth time together. We sang all the songs and took turns being Sandy and Danny, simultaneously playing Betty, Putzie, Doody, Sonny and all the others, staying up late into the night.

    Some time shortly before sunrise, we got hungry, so I brought out the cake. “We should really eat this.”

    “Are you sure?” Zahra asked, shocked, and I nodded, handing her a fork and taking a bite myself. The gooey, fudge-like icing stuck to my tongue, and I felt a jolt of regret at having kept this deliciousness from the both of us earlier in the evening. But we had it now—and we had all of it. I only broke the silence of our happy feast once, to say to my best friend: “Happy Valentine's Day.”

    See the recipe for Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing »






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  • 02/11/15--21:26: Alone with a Bowl of Gnocchi
  • GnocchiEnlargeCredit: Katie McBride I was eighteen when I moved to New York, and I missed my family every time I sat down to eat: in dining halls with people I wasn’t sure I liked yet, in my apartment with the roommates I slept inches away from but barely knew.

    At home, eating was always communal. Even if we were eating pop tarts in the morning, we were eating them together, and at night we always gathered as a family for dinner. Here, in this new city, I wanted badly to feel at ease eating by myself; in my mind, this would mean that I was really living on my own as an adult.

    Around dinnertime on Valentine’s Day that first year, my roommates went out on a double date with two ponytailed Israeli boys from a creperie down the street, and I started to feel that mealtime anxiety roiling around in my guts. I decided that if I was ever going to get comfortable eating alone, Valentine’s Day dinner was a good time to test myself, and I set out looking for somewhere to dine. I wandered up and down a street littered with bong shops and falafel joints and finally ducked into an Italian restaurant I’d passed by a thousand times. The waiters were as old as my grandfather and I could tell they felt nervous that I had forgotten it was Valentine’s Day—that I would be upset when I realized that everyone in the restaurant was paired off and gazing at each other through the candlelight.

    Allowing a stranger to take up space in your kitchen on Valentine's Day is kindness bordering on madness.
    I ordered a glass of Chianti and it tasted like a dusty basement but I drank it, grateful that I didn’t have to use my fake ID, thinking that maybe this was what good wine tasted like (spoiler alert: it’s not). In a strange turn of events that felt like a fever dream, a Mariachi band came barreling into the restaurant wearing sequined sombreros, and started performing tableside for each couple. I think they must have been hired by the owner to provide some Valentine’s Day ambience, and when I looked around I appeared to be the only person who was confused by it, so I didn’t ask any questions. When they got to my table they launched into a melancholy song that kept asking “qué tan caliente está el sol?”—“how hot is the sun?”—over and over again, and I smiled until my mouth twitched in order to be polite. When they were done I clapped and they said, “you need to pay us now.” 

    I ordered a giant bowl of gnocchi with cream sauce. Looking back on that night, my order is one of the things that tugs at my heart the most—when you’re young you eat without fear or inhibition, you eat exactly what sounds good to you at that moment. I never paused and thought, "maybe I shouldn’t," or, “maybe I should order a salad to balance things out.” I wanted the gnocchi, I wanted it with cream sauce, I ordered a side of bread to mop that cream sauce up, and never once did I second-guess myself.

    The chef, also my grandfather’s age and with a belly so round it looked hard to the touch, was walking by every table, wishing his regulars a happy Valentine’s Day and asking if everything was good. I told him the gnocchi was the best I’d ever had, because really, truly, it was. He told me to come back to the kitchen so he could show me how to make them for my husband someday (I also apparently hadn’t yet learned not to go into enclosed spaces with strange older men, but it all worked out fine). 

    It was the first professional kitchen I ever stepped into and I was awestruck by the size and heft and importance of it all. He showed me how to scoop the potatoes and mix in the flour, how to roll them under your thumb to make them look like doughy pillow mints. He let me try gnocchi with two kinds of tomato sauce, gnocchi with bolognese, with pesto, with clam sauce, and while he talked I scribbled down each step in a spontaneous kitchen shorthand that I didn’t recognize by the time I got home that night. It was the least far away I had felt from my family—from our noisy and warm and messy dinners—in months.

    I knew that this chef was doing something kind for me that night, letting me into his kitchen. Today, having worked in a number of professional kitchens, I know just how kind it really was. Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest dinner services of the year; allowing a stranger to take up space in your kitchen on that night is kindness bordering on madness.

    I left with a huge slab of tiramisu in a Styrofoam box and a scrap of notebook paper with a recipe for how to make 500 gnocchi. I still have it, stashed in a notebook—it makes absolutely no sense, in the way that recipes dictated by someone who has made them a thousand times often make no sense.

    In the eleven years since I’ve tried to recreate that dinner many times, but the results have never held the same magic as that night, when I was young and homesick and full of cream sauce and New York felt, for the first time, like maybe it was my home.






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    You haven't really tasted the pleasures of Hong Kong until you've been there for Lunar New Year, when, for 15 days straight—starting with the year's first new moon, usually in late January or early February—the city's markets, restaurants, and home kitchens kick into high gear. —Kit Yau

    Read more about Lunar New Year in Hong Kong »






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  • 01/30/15--15:28: Travel Guide: Chablis
  • FranceEnlargeCredit: Rodica Prato Where to Eat

    Au Fil du Zinc

    The young and talented Japanese chef Ryo Nagahama (formerly with Joël Robuchon) has joined forces with sommelier Fabien Espana to open what is widely considered the best restaurant in Chablis right now. Nagahama serves a menu of just three starters, three mains, and three desserts, including scallop tartare and rare game birds, along with back vintages straight from the cellars of the most progressive winemakers in France. 18 rue des Moulins; restaurant-chablis.fr

    Bistrot des Grands Crus

    This is the place to sample simple, old-fashioned, bistro-style Burgundian classics like oeufs en meurette or escargots de Bourgogne, especially when paired with a well-priced bottle of chablis by Vincent Dauvissat. 10 rue Jules Rathier; bistrotdesgrandscrus.com

    Hostellerie des Clos

    A formal establishment in the heart of Chablis, this restaurant offers older bottles of Raveneau wines and dishes such as French beans with slices of truffle and foie gras. Perfect for a fancy night out. Rue Jules Rathier; hostellerie-des-clos.fr

    Charcuterie Marc Colin

    This beloved local charcuterie offers prepared foods and cold cuts as well as an ultra-clean, AAAAA andouillette—the celebrated tripe sausage of France. 3 place Général de Gaulle; marccolin.com

    Where to Stay

    Hôtel du Vieux Moulin

    An excellently appointed boutique hotel in the center of Chablis, the Vieux Moulin has rooms that are big, clean, and modern—and the breakfast is smart, local, and seasonal. A stay at this former 18th century mill isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for in Burgundy. 28 rue des Moulins; larochewines.com

    Auberge du Pot d'Étain

    The rooms upstairs at this auberge in nearby L'Isle-sur-Serein are serviceable and neat, but the real draw here is the hotel's restaurant. It features an extensive wine list specializing in red and white burgundy. The cellar ranks among the best in the world in terms of back vintage rarities and, fortunately, price. 24 rue Bouchardat, L'Isle-sur-Serein; potdetain.com



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  • 02/24/15--07:58: Tasmanian Recipes
  • A tight-knit community of chefs, farmers, and foragers have chosen Tasmania, and its access to fiercely fresh ingredients, to create a rule-breaking food scene of their own. Here, six recipes from Tasmania's burgeoning food scene.






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