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  • 04/15/15--08:00: Travel Guide: San Francisco
  • San Francisco, Travel Guide, San Jalisco, Chocolate TourEnlargeCredit: Mitch Maher
    Ask a San Franciscan what her favorite season is, and chances are you won't hear pat answers like spring or fall, but rather "fava bean season" or "tomato season." This city is defined not by weather patterns but by what grows in the fog-dampened soils and swims in the ocean surrounding it. This is a town where 30-year-old men are known to herald the arrival of a pink radish; where midweek at 4:00 p.m., lines lengthen outside doors that won't swing open till 5:30; where sustainable sushi, fine-dining foraging, and farm-fresh cocktails have been defined. While the local music scene is barely a whisper, the kitchens bang out a tune, drawing groupies with a frenzy once reserved exclusively for bands. Food fanaticism has taken hold in these very hills, resulting in the birth of companies like Yelp, Foodspotting, and OpenTable.

    As expected, competition is tough for that coveted 7:30 spot for housemade ramen or grass-fed burgers, and diners often jockey for seats on the OpenTable app. Luckily, as websites optimistically proclaim, "Walk-ins are welcome!" But keep in mind that while these restaurants set aside tables for this, you may find yourself standing in a queue with dozens of others also tweeting away the time until a bar stool frees up. Be flexible about timing; or, even better, book your reservations months in advance.

    You can keep your dress casual when dining out. It is, as Guy Trebay once wrote, "the land that style forgot." And seriously, eat your vegetables. Or else.


    Where to Eat

    From a restaurant in North Beach, chef Daniel Patterson unveiled a new era of Californian cooking in 2006, awakening a dining scene that was slumbering under the spell of a Bay Area cooking style known as "fig on a platter." In Patterson's surreal world, tofu is mousselined, rhubarb becomes marshmallows, and overcooked-then-dehydrated brown rice is fried into puffed crackers. He recently added a tea pairing to the multi-course prix-fixe menu in a dining room enlivened with branches, pinecones, leaves, and tree trunks.

    373 Broadway, San Francisco 94133
    (415) 393-9000

    Tosca Cafe
    If espresso machines could talk, the 1919 model in this nearly 100-year-old cafe in North Beach would have tales. It saw customers through Prohibition with its "house cappuccino," expelling steamed milk spiked with brandy and Kahlua. The machine lives on in Tosca Cafe's new incarnation as a modern Italian restaurant, respectfully revamped by chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman in 2013. The duo behind New York's Michelin-starred The Spotted Pig swapped out vinyl banquettes for leather, brightened murals, and polished brass. Think San Francisco circa the noir era, and this is it—only now with crispy pig tails, meatballs, and firm bucatini. At the meal's end, out comes the house "cappuccino" with an upgrade: Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Dandelion chocolate, and organic milk.

    Tosca Cafe
    242 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, 94133
    (415) 986-9651

    Al's Place
    In chef Aaron London's new corner spot on Valencia Street, quince skin is made into kraut, fries are brine-fermented, and limes are dehydrated then ground for sunchoke curry. This inventiveness isn't so surprising when you realize it comes from the former chef of Napa's Ubuntu, who earned a Michelin star for his butchered vegetables. At Al's Place, painted in blues and whites and reminiscent, London's approach is playful. Cocktails are named after characters in Reservoir Dogs, and the menu calls small bites "snackles." One of them, trout head under a brick, is so popular that it sells out nightly. Meats are relegated to side dishes; don’t miss hangar steak with crab shell butter.

    Al’s Place
    1499 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
    (415) 416-6136

    For years business partners Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio ran this modern California tavern from a space the size of a shoebox in SoMa. Now, they've spread out in a cheerful bigger space, with penny tiles, marble-topped tables, and taxidermy on the walls. The race is on for a seat in the heated outdoor patio where practically every table orders the lemony Brussels sprouts chips and deviled eggs with pickled jalapeños.

    500 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107
    (415) 777-1413

    San Francisco, Travel Guide, Rich Table EnlargeCredit: Aubrie Pick
    Rich Table
    While dishes come and go with the seasons, there are two constants at Sarah and Evan Rich's farm-chic Hayes Valley spot: porcini doughnuts, with a side of raclette béchamel sauce; and sardine chips, accompanied by a horseradish crème fraiche. But that's the mere prelude to a menu of handmade pastas and mains that flaunt the skills of chefs who have done time at Coi and Quince.

    Rich Table
    199 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 355-9085

    Expect perfection in chef Corey Lee's sleek restaurant that earned three Michelin stars this year. The approximately 17-course tasting menu showcases Asian ingredients rarely seen in Western kitchens (sea cucumber, thousand-year-old quail eggs), and Asian preparations using Western ingredients (a foie gras xiao long bao). His signature faux shark fin soup interprets the revered Chinese dish without harming a single shark. Culinary pilgrims sit alongside those celebrating special occasions in this brick building tucked down a SoMa side street.

    22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, 94105
    (415) 685-4860

    San Francisco, Travel Guide, The Progress, Halibut Tartare with turnips and creme fraiche EnlargeCredit: Ed Anderson
    The Progress
    Chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski's follow up to the runaway success of State Bird Provisions is right next door, an airy space with concrete walls and an open plan with statement-making plants. The energy of the cocktail hour you'll find next door is swapped out for a more languid, family-style meal at The Progress. Each table in the two-level restaurant is tasked with picking six dishes from a menu of roughly two dozen, like porcini and Mt. Tam dumplings or grilled beef with mustard-miso oyster sauce. The big question: Can you get tickets to this sold-out show? While the bar does take walk-ins (you can order à la carte here), all I can say is: godspeed.

    The Progress
    1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
    (415) 673-1294

    Central Kitchen
    In what was once a sausage factory, a miniplex of Mission-style cool has assembled: The always-packed cocktail bar, Trick Dog, along with chef Thomas McNaughton's Salumeria and Central Kitchen commune in their respective niches. During daylight hours, Salumeria assembles hearty sandwiches and sells specialty grocery items. At dusk, Central Kitchen emerges from within the glass-enclosed courtyard, tea lights twinkling, a handsome bunch of people digging into ultra-refined dishes that are a romantic sonnet to California ingredients.

    Central Kitchen
    3000 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
    (415) 826-7004

    Chef Matthew Accarrino is a pasta savant who has most of San Francisco wrapped around his Italian-American finger, eager for his smoked fettuccine, saffron rigatoni, pork-filled millefoglie, and other seasonal pastas. Sommelier-owner Shelley Lindgren always comes along with a lesser known Italian grape pairing that knocks your socks off. This small, sophisticated spot in Lower Pac Heights attracts an older, better-dressed crowd than the usual San Francisco haunts.

    1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco 94115
    (415) 771-7779

    Lazy Bear
    Chef-owner David Barzelay's prix fixe menu is to pesky whipper-snappers what The French Laundry is to boomers. His following may have something to do with Lazy Bear's roots as a pop-up, Barzelay's charisma, or his nontraditional path to success—he was a lawyer with no formal culinary training. Regardless, this is a meal of delight for everyone: brown-butter brioche with cultured butter, sweet pea custard, squid yakitori, all enjoyed with strangers. After cocktails and small bites are served in an mezzanine lounge that resembles a midcentury lodge, everyone sits down together at two long tables facing the kitchen.

    Lazy Bear
    3416 19th St, San Francisco, 94110
    (415) 874-9921

    Trou Normand
    From his breathtakingly gorgeous space in SoMa, owner and legendary barman Thad Vogler is reviving trou normand, the tradition of sipping on apple brandy between courses to cleanse the palate. Although Vogler is known for his meticulous sourcing of small-batch booze, he’s also now an arbiter of good design (his other restaurant is the sexy Bar Agricole). Trou Normand, in the 1925 Pacific Telephone building, features a larger-than-life painting by Ebecho Muslimova, and a back room enclosed in glass, like a Victorian greenhouse. Chef Salvatore Cracco is a genius with charcuterie and salumi, using Mangalitsa pigs.

    Trou Normand
    140 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105
    (415) 975-0876

    San Francisco, Travel Guide, 4505EnlargeCredit: Ed Anderson
    4505 Burgers & BBQ
    If butcher Ryan Farr is barbecuing on a wood-fired pit and smoker, be there or be square. Farr is the sausage maker and chicharrones man behind butcher shop 4505 Meats. This shack next to a parking lot (turned into communal seating picnic benches) kills it. Farr follows no one school of barbecue, only his own, slow-roasting brisket with a smoky charred crust, and grilling the best damn (grass-fed) cheeseburger, as the menu claims. The most popular side, Frankaroni—deep-fried mac and cheese studded with housemade uncured hot dogs—may be evidence that Farr has got a bit of the devil in him.

    4505 Burgers & BBQ
    705 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
    (415) 231-6993

    State Bird Provisions
    Chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are rock stars of San Francisco. Every gig they play, they sell out. SBP is their first album: carts of Californian-Japanese hors d'oeuvres rolling around, dim sum-style. Tables have been so coveted that the reservation system was famously hacked. Four years later, and this is still the hottest cocktail party in town, where savory sourdough sauerkraut pancakes, guanciale chawanmushi, and green garlic steak tartare are shared among friends.

    State Bird Provisions
    1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco 94115
    (415) 795-1272

    Craig and Annie Stoll are the venerable godparents of the Mission District's food scene, credited with putting the neighborhood on the culinary map when they threw open their doors in the wild frontier years of 1998. They were one of the first to bring regional Italian to the city, and after all these years, they still do it best. As boring as spaghetti with plum tomatoes may sound, you can't miss this classic Delfina dish. From it, the Stolls launched a pizzeria (next door), more pizzerias around the Bay Area, and Locanda. The small space is nearly always packed with neighborhood regulars.

    3621 18th St, San Francisco, 94110
    (415) 552-4055

    Bar Tartine
    Many chefs today try their hand at pantry items: mustard, ketchup, pickles, compound butter. But chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns are DIY gone wild. Bar Tartine's larder bursts with their output, stored in mason jars lining shelves. Housemade spices, aged and fresh cheeses, cured fish, vinegars and oils, and other fermented goodies are brought to wooden tables with hearty slabs of buckwheat and porridge bread from Tartine. The weekend brunches are a rustic Scandinavian adventure in smørrebrød, lentil croquettes, smoked potatoes, and good-morning cocktails like carrot-orange-blossom-infused rice spirit with vermouth and mead.

    Bar Tartine
    561 Valencia St, San Francisco, 94103
    (415) 487-1600


    Where to drink

    When Bartender Kate Bolton makes a drink, chances are you won't duplicate it at home, as it usually has one inventive ingredient that's too labor intensive. The Hometown Vixen, for example, uses a housemade pistachio and black pepper bourbon that involves roasting pistachios, shelling them, and steeping them for weeks in Four Roses. Maven also pairs cocktails dead-on with food. The Corpse Reviver #598’s coriander gives a citrus lift to spicy mussels, and both use absinthe. The soaring space is a neighborhood spot for the lower Haight, with weekend crowds slightly changing the spirit of the place.

    598 Haight St, San Francisco, 94117
    (415) 829 7982

    Trick Dog
    While this Mission spot may, at first glance, look like others—retro lighting, bar stools, crowds—it is certainly not. Trick Dog is the work of the Bon Vivants, a group of bartenders who create some incredible cocktail experiences (15 Romolo, Kin Khao, Comal). At their own place, they change the themed menu every six months; the first played off the Pantone color wheel. Currently, their muse is the old-school Chinese restaurant. Remarkably, no matter the noise level and crowds, the bartenders are always attentive and hospitable.

    Trick Dog
    3010 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
    (415) 471-2999

    EnlargeCredit: Alanna Hale
    The 20-foot backlit wall of name brands shines like a beacon from the moment you enter chef Daniel Patterson's midmarket casual spot, whose focal point is the enormous Y-shaped bar. Techniques like aging and low-temperature infusion turn fresh fruits, herbs, and produce into bitters, tinctures, and liqueurs for Jason Beaudrow's creations, like the Curious George: smoked egg whites with whiskey, dill, and lemon. Because it's across from Twitter and Uber Headquarters, it skews SWM.

    Alta CA
    1420 Market St, San Francisco 94102
    (415) 590-2585

    City Beer
    Despite the city's close proximity to several famous wine countries, the appetite for beer is strong. Beer geeks have been journeying to this tucked away SoMa spot since 2006, well before craft beer hit its stride. Half of the below-street-level space is dedicated to retail, and they pack in hundreds of growlers. The other half is a dimly lit beer bar that pulls 15 rotating stouts, IPAs, saisons, you name it, from the taps.

    City Beer
    1168 Folsom St #101, San Francisco 94103
    (415) 503-1033

    During Prohibition, the only legal way to buy alcohol was with a doctor's note (remind you of another drug battle of late?). From that story, restaurateur and chef Dennis Leary has launched Rx in a back pocket of the Tenderloin. Drinks are broken into categories: stimulants, mood stabilizers, painkillers, and stress relievers. Ah, the relief of an amaro-based drink for ten bucks.

    701 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109
    (415) 952-0481


    Where to Stay

    San Francisco, Travel Guide, Phoenix HotelEnlargeCredit: Courtesy of Joie de Vivre Hotels
    Phoenix Hotel
    From the moment '60s singer Brenda Lee checked in, this motor court hotel has been a waypoint for all the cool kids playing gigs in town. R.E.M, Kurt Cobain, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linda Ronstadt, David Bowie, Sex Pistols. The rocker roots are evident in the in-room directory, which lists pages of musician resources (where to fix a guitar). The pool is the central gathering spot, with simple bungalow-styled rooms encircling it. This remake of an old motor hotel is not for everyone—only the cool kids who want to be in the burgeoning, yet still gritty, Tenderloin.

    Phoenix Hotel
    601 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94109
    (415) 776-1380

    Hotel Zetta
    This Viceroy hotel may be within a staid neo-classic building downtown, but its interior is nothing but 21st century. That means a game room for grownups (Nintendo, pool, Plinko). It also houses Jennifer Puccio's The Cavalier, which serves British pub food with an SF twist. Puccio, along with partners Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas, directs all food and beverage in the hotel. Room service by James Beard nominees? Yes, please.

    Hotel Zetta
    55 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
    (415) 543-8555

    Inn at the Presidio
    There's city San Francisco, then there's sylvan SF, which features ocean views, the scent of eucalyptus, and the tweets of real birds. The latter is up for grabs within a Georgian Revival that was once the Army's bachelors' quarters within the Presidio. Rooms are spacious with historical 1900s artifacts in each (old postcards and keys). Third-floor rooms command the best views. Within bugle-blowing distance of the dramatically wide front porch are mazes of hiking trails and Traci des Jardins' two latest restaurants, the Spanish-Californian Commissary and Mexican Arguello. Free shuttles go downtown.

    Inn at the Presidio
    42 Moraga Ave, San Francisco, CA 94129
    (415) 800-7356


    What to do

    Wild Food Walk
    If you’re looking to gather your provisions in the forest, not at the market, "Feral Kevin" is your guy, ready to point out all that you can eat within the city's green spaces. Not to worry—Kevin has a last name (Feinstein), and is on the grid as a guide for ForageSF. Tours, classes, and a series of pop-up dinners show the curious what’s edible right beneath their feet.

    Sourdough Starter Workshop
    The flavor and aroma most associated with San Francisco may be sourdough—which rises without the help of commercial yeast. The Mission's La Victoria Bakery teaches how to start, care for and maintain wild-yeast, naturally fermented starters in a two-hour class. Participants go home with a starter that will require regular feedings, just like children or pets.

    La Victoria Bakery
    2937 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
    (415) 509–1210

    Market on Market
    Food halls are the new popups, like the new Market on Market, on the bottom floor of Twitter HQ. It’s a much smaller version of the Ferry Building (with less architectural interest and tourists), with a food court that sells tacos and pizza and sandwiches. The highlight, though, is Azalina's Malaysian fare like her Penang laksa and nasi lemak. Also available are (pricey) market items to bring home and cook.

    Market on Market
    1355 Market Street, San Francisco, 94103
    (415) 767-5130

    Ferry Building Marketplace
    Vising San Francisco without stopping here should be a food crime. Yes, it's crowded, and the main hall with soaring ceilings gets bottlenecked by the indecisive. But this is the city's food scene in miniature in an 1898 building. All the choices make a progressive lunch possible, from Charles Phan's Out the Door and Traci des Jardins' Mijita to Sue Conley and Peggy Smith’s Cowgirl Creamery. Saturdays and Tuesdays are the farmers markets that draw locals scoping out the arrival of the latest vegetable.

    One Ferry Building
    San Francisco, California 94111
    (415) 983-8030

    San Francisco, Travel Guide, Chocolate Tour, Dandelion Chocolates EnlargeCredit: Mitch Maher
    Craft Chocolate Tour
    Many may not realize that the Mission District has become a hub for excellent chocolate. Most notably, Valencia Street is the headquarters of Dandelion Chocolate, a chocolate factory that makes single-origin bars. Charles Chocolates' exhibition kitchen also shows how cashew chocolate bars and fleur de sel caramel are created. Edible Excursions' Craft Chocolate Tour walks you through this neighborhood of caramels, moles, cocoa beans, and chocktails.

    Oyster, Mead and Cheese Expedition
    The Chianti-red VW van's name is Lillie. She’s built to run six passengers around the city and to points north like agricultural Marin. Harvey, the Niagara blue van, follows. Vantigo's two VWs brake for oysters, mead, and cheese on a tour that takes in the natural edible wonders of Tomales Bay, like the sparkling brut dry mead of Heidrun Meadery.

    Epicurean Traders
    For those looking for artisan goods so small batch that they'd never get picked up outside their local farmers' market, this is a good place to start. This newly opened grocer in Bernal Heights specializes in micro-cheeses, charcuterie, wine, spirits, granola, olive oil, coffee, spices, chocolate, and even dog treats. With a location well off the tourist track, Epicurean Traders is clearly a neighborhood shop, but it may soon become a destination.

    Epicurean Traders
    401 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, 94110

    Off the Grid SF
    At the bayside Fort Mason every Friday night, 30 food trucks power down, throw out their signage and chalkboard menus, and start the grills. It's hawker fare, San Francisco style. Kamikaze fries from KoJa Kitchen (fusion of Korean and Japanese), Nepalese vegetarian dumplings from Bini's Kitchen, and Senor Sisig's chicken tacos with Filipino prepared meats balance on the arms of eaters. They pair it all with live music and Magnolia beer. Bring a jacket.

    Off the Grid
    Fort Mason Parking Lot, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, 94123

    The Food Street: Valencia
    The Mission Distric's edible heart is Valencia Street. Within the past four years, dozens of restaurants have opened, mostly concentrated between 16th and 19th. Standouts include Locanda (Roman-inspired dishes turned out by Delfina alum chef Anthony Strong) and Craftsman & Wolves (finely crafted baked goods from William Werner). Work your way from Orenchi Beyond, Burma Love, Gajalee, James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare, and Mission Cheese to the outskirts of Beretta, St. Vincent Tavern, and Arizmendi.

    Heath Ceramics
    Mainly a showcase for Edith Heath's mid-century ceramics, the 60,000-square-foot building gets high praises for its cheery light-filled interior and its collaboration with other city stars: Cult coffee roaster Blue Bottle and florist La Fleuriste both have kiosks. Also moving in is Manufactory, a cafe by baker Chad Robertson that's scheduled to open late summer 2015. A viewing court overlooks the tile-making factory. To get inside, be sure to reserve a factory tour through Heath; they sell out quickly.

    Heath Ceramics
    2900 18th Street, San Francisco 94110
    415 361 5552 x13

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  • 04/15/15--13:00: Bright Lights, Big Easy
  • New Orleans Crescent City Steaks EnlargeCredit: Matt Taylor-Gross

    When city dwellers step out for a night on the town, they need something to guide their way through the sea of cosmopolitan darkness. Backlight signs are often garish, and LED far too reminiscent of an overgrown Lite Brite. Neon, though? Somehow the granddaddy of them all has remained prominent and alluring in New Orleans for almost a century, beckoning with its glowing, livewire siren song.

    Chalk it up to the city’s artistic spirit or stubborn resistance to change, but neon in New Orleans remains a larger-than-life force here. The sign style rose to prominence in the late 1940s, when the energetic glow quickly became associated with post-war modernity and the cresting tidal wave of Cold War capitalism. From the beginning, neon boldly strode into the evening hand-in-hand with just about every different type of escapist establishment New Orleans could muster.

    New Orleans Frostop Restaurant EnlargeCredit: Matt Taylor-Gross

    Neon ensured bars and restaurants in New Orleans were dressed to impress and ready to provide a reprieve from the bustle of the outside world for which the city is renowned. Are you a business man looking for a couple of martinis, secretive curtained booths, and a hunk of steak? Follow the giant neon ribeye—pulsing warm in the night sky—to Crescent City Steakhouse. In search of something more playful? Neon proves itself out-and-out cartoonish at Café 615/Da Wabbit, a diner located on New Orleans’ West Bank featuring a looming, Roger Rabbit-style character outlined in buzzy blue. The city’s smorgasbord of bars use neon to convey an interior ripe with drippy, scripted elegance or rough-hewn, devil-may-care brashness.

    Neon quickly became the Robert Downey, Jr. of New Orleans’ culinary architecture—a little bit mischievous but plenty easy on the eyes. Much like the city itself, neon pushes and pulls between grit and glamour in a looping, never-ending cycle.

    While a dismal number of signs were lost during Hurricane Katrina, neon’s first-wave demise took place largely between the 1970s and 1990s, when businesses shifted away from what seemed at the time to be an “antiquated” form of branding.

    “I started collecting neon in the 1970s. When you saw neon coming off of a building, you knew that they were going to just put it in the trash. I had them give it to me instead, and I’ve collected over 3,000 pieces over the years,” said Jerry Therio, owner of New Orleans Neon. “One of my oldest restaurant signs is from the 1940s, but I had to fight a claw machine to get it. It was a restaurant where you could go in and get tiger steak, bear steak, elk—before anyone else was doing it. The oldest pieces I have are around 70 years old and they still work.”

    New Orleans Angelo Brocato's Ice Cream EnlargeCredit: Matt Taylor-Gross

    If embarking on a more modern neon-centric tour of New Orleans, one easily missed, well-preserved hub is in the next parish over in Metairie, where flickering signs pop and hiss between newly constructed Taco Bells and strip mall nail salons on Veterans Boulevard. There’s the 24-hour Sweet Things & Grill, decked out in pink neon and open all night for cheese fry cravings and slices of pie à la mode. The nearby Lamp Lighter Lounge’s sign—scripted in azure and sailing into the air like skywriting—might not be the oldest around, but speaks to the genuine beauty and power of neon’s allure. It’s in these dark stretches of seemingly fungible terrain where neon feels the most enviably straightforward: Just keep glowing and you’ll be okay.

    Of course, the densest and most recognizable clustering of neon is stacked up and down the sticky sidewalks of Bourbon Street. “Sometime in the late twentieth century, neon became evocative of the raffish grit and authenticity of urban America, particularly old Eastern and Southern inner cities, in their pre-decline heyday of the 1920s to early 1960s,” said Dr. Richard Campanella, author of Bourbon Street: A History. “Places like Bourbon Street…kept neon alive because it succeeded in putting their patrons in the mind of stylish nocturnal escapism, the same theme struck by the photos, art, and movies using neon as a backdrop.” Campanella notes that the Vieux Carré Commission (which oversees regulations for Bourbon Street) encourages the use of neon for commercial facades on Bourbon Street.

    New Orleans is a town where people come to reinvent themselves, to bury their old identity, and to rise up from the ash as a completely new, electrified person. Even in the age of social media, I can’t count the number of acquaintances I know who have uprooted their lives for an entirely fresh identity in the city, whether as a swanky restaurateur or New Age drum circle leader. It is a final American bastion of escape. Even if you’re not ready for or interested in a complete persona overhaul, neon in New Orleans beckons people to be anything they want just for an evening. Just follow the light, then bend and buzz and turn in all the right ways. 

    New Orleans Frostop Root Beer Sign EnlargeCredit: Matt Taylor-Gross

    Ready to follow the light? Here are the best places to find neon in New Orleans:

    The Sandpiper Lounge
    2119 Louisiana Avenue
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 895-2204

    615 Kepler Street
    Gretna, Louisiana
    (504) 365-1225

    The Lamp Lighter Lounge
    908 Veterans Memorial Boulevard
    Metairie, Louisiana
    (504) 832-9909

    Saturn Bar
    3067 St. Claude Avenue
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 949-7532

    Crescent City Steaks
    1001 North Broad Street
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 821-3271

    Angelo Brocato Gelateria & Pasticceria
    214 North Carrollton Avenue
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 486-0078

    Ted's Frostop
    3100 Calhoun Street
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 861-3615

    Half Moon Bar & Grill
    1125 St. Mary Street
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    (504) 593-0011

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  • 04/15/15--14:12: Travel Guide: Abruzzo, Italy
  • Abruzzo Aquila Ofena EnlargeCredit: Michael James O'Brien

    Where to Stay

    Emidio Pepe Agriturismo
    Opened two years ago, the seven double rooms and two little apartments here at the legendary Emidio Pepe winery are all furnished in modern continental and classic styles. Wine tastings, cellar visits, and dinners with wine pairings are by reservation. Via Chiesi, 10, Torano Nuovo;

    La BandieraAbruzzo EnlargeCredit: Michael James O'Brien
    It seems that everyone in Abruzzo knows about La Bandiera, widely considered to be the best “fancy” place in the province. The food downstairs is contemporary and stylish, yet rooted in Abruzzan traditions and narrative. The rooms for rent upstairs are nice, clean, and—best of all—more affordable than those in most suitable hotels you'll find in Italy. Contrada Pastini 4, Civitella Casanova;

    Where to Eat

    Sapori di Campagna
    Just up the hill from Luigi Cataldi Madonna's vineyards is this family-run country inn. It focuses on homestyle cucina d'Abruzzo, using historically important ingredients like saffron from the nearby Navelli plain and lentils from across the valley in Santo Stefano di Sessanio. Contrada Colonia Frasca, KM. 7800, Ofena;

    Taverna 58
    Abruzzo Beach Coast EnlargeCredit: Michael James O'Brien Located on the cobblestone street where poet Gabriele D'Annunzio was born (his casa natale is a museum open to the public), Taverna 58 is the old-school, tradition-obsessed trattoria we all dream of one day finding. Let the maître d'hôtel, Giovanni Marrone, guide you to whatever he selects. He knows his stuff, growing much of the raw materials in his own vegetable garden. Corso Gabriele Manthonè, 46, Pescara;

    Where to Shop

    Valle Scannese
    Crossing the Escher-esque gorge from shepherd Nunzio Marcelli's farm in Anversa, you come to the ancient town of Scanno. It is eminently worth the detour. Stop in to dine, sleep, or simply buy some of the best formaggi in Abruzzo at bioagriturismo Valle Scannese. Cheesemaker Gregorio Rotolo is known for a soft, magnificent pecorino-style cheese called Gregoriano, as well as fresh ricottas and other raw dairy specialties you'll never find anywhere else. Località Le Prata, Scanno;

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  • 04/15/15--15:06: Spicy Michelada
  • Spicy MicheladaEnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    MAKES: 1 cocktail


    2 tbsp. plus ½ tsp. Tajín seasoning (
    Lime wedge
    3 (¼" thick) slices cucumber
    2 oz. tomato juice
    1 oz. fresh lime juice
    1 tsp. hot sauce
    ¼ tsp. kosher salt
    3 dashes Maggi seasoning
    12 oz. bottle Mexican lager, such as Negra Modelo, chilled
    Cooked shrimp, to garnish


    Place 2 tbsp. Tajín seasoning on a small plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of a tall beer glass; dip rim into Tajín and fill glass with ice. Dip cucumber slices into Tajín and place on rim of glass. Add tomato juice, lime juice, hot sauce, 1/2 tsp. Tajín, kosher salt, and Maggi seasoning to glass. Add Mexican lager and stir to combine. Garnish with cooked shrimp, if you like.

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  • 04/16/15--06:07: On the California Taco Trail
  • Sylvester Valencia Viva Tacos Turlock California EnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni

    The craggy branches on the almond trees are just starting to squeeze out their soon-to-be springtime storm of blossoms as my husband, Joe Hargrave, and I drive along a small dusty road in central California. Joe grew up in these parts during the 1970s, before tract housing and big-box stores replaced a sea of orchards, and he still proudly dominates the name-that-tree game. He ticks them off—almonds, walnuts, apricots—as we make our way to Highway 99.

    Although there are now more efficient routes for traversing central California, State Route 99, also called the Golden State Highway, used to be the chosen one. It was the main thoroughfare from Mexico to Canada, and a straight shot through the Central Valley, California's 22,500-square-mile fertile crescent, which cranks out more than half of the nation's produce. Here, Dust Bowlers from the Plains sought jobs and arable soil during the Great Depression, and, more recently, Mexicans, about 14 million strong across the state, have proved integral to the area's agronomic success. In their communities throughout the Valley, they have also cultivated and perfected their very own version of Mexico's greatest culinary gift—the taco. Joe and I are on a 48-hour, 276-mile road trip down 99, from Sacramento to Bakersfield, to discover the very best of them.

    Joe and I are on a 48-HOUR, 276-MILE road trip down 99 to discover the very best tacos

    One turn onto 99 is reminder enough that we're not doing a Two for the Road-type jaunt across Europe. The truck-laden freeway is jammed with semis transporting everything from live honeybees to tangerines. We whizz by Jack in the Boxes and RV dealerships. "Jesus Saves" billboards meet "Rain for Rent" signs, a constant reminder of California's drought.

    It's a trip six years in the making. Joe and I own four restaurants in the Bay Area called Tacolicious. It's a silly, love-it-or-hate-it kind of name. But when we launched in the summer of 2009 as a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Joe wanted to rebel against the San Francisco trend of naming new restaurants after glamorous highways—like A16, for the Italian autostrada that cuts through Campania, or RN74, after the route in France's Burgundy region—and he suggested Highway 99, as a wry nod to the road's comparative grittiness. Now, it is finally time to do a little taco R&D to see if the highway can deliver on its promise of epically delicious Mexican eats.

    First stop: Chando's in Sacramento. Owner Lisandro “Chando” Midrijal spent a decade in Tijuana while his dad ran a tortilleria there, but after his family moved to America, he grew up in Marysville, about 40 miles north of the capital. In 2010, after his father passed away, Midrijal left his job as a salesperson at Apple.

    Sara Deseran Pork taco TrompoEnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    “I started by catering in people's backyards,” he tells me. He grew the business into a modest window-order operation and now runs three locations, popular enough that I'd been warned to get there early.

    We're greeted by the smoky scent of carne asada grilling on a parrilla. Out back, the patio is furnished with tables and strung with party lights, making me wish it were a sweltering Sacramento summer night instead of a mild spring morning. I try every one of the six tacos on the menu. They're all fabulous, but it's the Yucatán-style cochinita pibil—the pork shoulder dripping with brick red achiote-stained juice and topped with crunchy pickled onions and slices of habanero chiles—that gets me.

    Joe coaxes me back into the car, and we drive for a half-hour to Taqueria Mi Lindo Apatzingan—a yellow-and-orange '70s-style restaurant next to a laundromat, owned by the Hermosillo sisters from Michoacán, Mexico. There, in the suburb of Rio Linda, I chase savory chicken tacos with a gargantuan stein of ice-cold,  garnished with thick, chile-encrusted cucumbers and fat shrimp. The drink is almost a meal in itself. And it's only 11:30 in the morning.

    After whiling away the better part of the day in Modesto, Joe's hometown, where we scarf down cabeza tacos made of tender cow's head on handmade tortillas at El Mexicano on the town's taco-packed Eighth Street, we finally break away and drive southeast down 99. The same sun that envelopes you like a 105-degree sauna in the summer is just now starting to set in shades of rainbow sherbet, crop dusters swooping down over the flat fields. Route 99 is not a stone-cold stunner, but it has an undeniable, and unsentimental, beauty to it.

    We pull off the highway in Turlock and into a gravel lot to find a gray school bus. Viva Taco, run by Silvestre Valencia, who opened the food bus 14 years ago, is an eat-in restaurant with a ceiling of quilted stainless steel and a counter. Valencia is a kind, soft-spoken man who immigrated here a long time ago from Michoacán. He is limping, wearing a back brace, and in obvious pain.

    California&'s Hwy 99 TacosEnlarge
    “I hurt my back last year in an accident,” he explains, “but I don't have the money to pay for surgery.” Yet he is working, as he often does, by himself. I can't tell if it is Valencia or his succulent and tender carnitas taco that breaks my heart just a little bit.

    The next morning we wake up in Fresno, one of the most rapidly expanding cities in the Valley. In the elevator, someone cheerily asks me if I am there for the soil convention. Happily, Joe and I are headed to Don Pepe Taqueria, where, at not yet 11 a.m., men in bucket cowboy hats wait in line next to young guys sporting white socks to the knee and sleeves of tattoos. The modest spot is known for spicy shrimp tacos: flour tortillas wrapped around sweet shrimp, creamy rice, shredded cheese, guacamole, and—if you're smart—piquant chile de árbol salsa. As I pour some onto my taco, I ask owner Andre de Anda, a man with Paul Newman blue eyes, if it's traditional.

    The sun is setting in shades of rainbow sherbet, crop dusters swooping down over the flat fields


    “They serve something like it in my hometown of Guadalajara,” he says, and rattles the recipe off the top of his head—chile de árbol, lemon, sugar, salt, garlic, and some pickled jalapeño juice. I scribble it down in a notebook for later, ever grateful for the kindness of strangers.

    The next person we meet up with is technically a stranger, though he doesn't feel like one; I've been corresponding with him for weeks now. At La Elegante, in Fresno's faded Chinatown, we meet Mike Osegueda, the enthusiastic organizer of the annual Fresno Taco Truck Throwdown. There are bars on the windows, but inside, the cozy, pumpkin-colored space is crammed full of chatter, abuelitas chowing down next to cops. At Osegueda's recommendation, we order the goat birria, a traditional slow-cooked stew. It arrives, the simple, fragrant broth packed with impossibly tender chunks of goat meat that we all inhale.

    Before we bid farewell to Fresno, Osegueda suggests we stop at a spiffy Mexican grocery store called El Mercado Super, which proudly shows off its trompo, or vertical spinning rotisserie, with al pastor. At the counter I order a coconut agua fresca (I'm a huge fan of coconut), which turns out to be a natural pairing for the al pastor. I wash down big bites of ruddy crisped pork and chunks of charred sweet pineapple with swigs of the creamy, refreshing drink and wonder why it's taken me so long to make this trip.

    Joe Hargrove Pork taco TrompoEnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    Flying past dairy cows and vivid green alfalfa fields in the shadow of the snow-capped Sierras, we turn off 99 into Earlimart. Aldo's taco truck is a hard-to-miss green-and-yellow affair parked next to the David Lynch-ish Earlimart Motel. At the nearby gas station, a tumbleweed rolls by; a city girl, I snap a picture. I stand on tippy-toes to order a carne asada taco at the window and it arrives, a thing of beauty with chunky grilled onions and pickled jalapeños. I can only half-finish it. It's my 16th taco in the last 24 hours, after all.

    Passing Merle Haggard Drive and $40-a-night motels, the sky batiked with evening light and clouds, we push on to Bakersfield. “To a stranger driving 99 in an air-conditioned car…these towns must seem so flat, so impoverished, as to drain the imagination,” wrote Joan Didion in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I'm proud to not be a stranger any longer.

    We roll up to our final joint, Loncheria Otro Rollo, a little red trailer parked nextdoor to a gas station, where Guadalajara native Raquel Casillas makes her specialty: potato tacos. They are the reason I've made the trek. At the red-and-white checked table moments later, we come face-to-face with hot, deep-fried tortillas folded over mashed potatoes, all smothered in a salsa ranchera, with cabbage, queso fresco, and radishes on top. Joe and I each take a bite of the crispy, creamy, saucy tacos and look at each other as only two singularly taco-minded people can. The unspoken word? “Bingo.”

    A week later, our version of these tacos makes it onto the Tacolicious menu. We call them Tacos de Papa Hwy 99.

    Green Taco Truck - Highway 99 - Aldos Tacos EnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni 

    Taco Guide

    Where to eat down Route 99

    1164 N. Front St., Earlimart

    863 Arden Way, Sacramento

    Don Pepe Taqueria
    4582 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno

    El Mercado Super
    4707 E. Belmont Ave., Fresno

    El Mexicano
    Eighth St., Modesto

    La Elegante
    1423 Kern St., Fresno

    Loncheria Otro Rollo
    2525 White Lane, Bakersfield

    Taqueria Mi Lindo Apatzingan
    928 Oak Lane, Rio Linda

    Viva Taco
    49 W. Canal Drive, Turlock

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  • 04/16/15--07:47: Sea Bass Crudo
  • Uruguay Sea Bass Crudo EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    SERVES 4


    1½ lb. boneless, skinless sea bass, thinly sliced
    Kosher salt, to taste
    1 red Holland chile, seeded and minced
    Zest of 1 lime, plus 3 tbsp. juice
    1 medium white turnip, thinly sliced on a mandolin
    1 small white onion, thinly sliced, soaked in ice water 10 minutes, drained
    ½ bunch cilantro sprigs, trimmed
    Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


    Arrange bass on a platter; season with salt. Sprinkle with chile, plus lime zest and half the juice. Toss remaining lime juice, the turnip, and onion in a bowl; sprinkle over fish. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.

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  • 04/16/15--08:47: Ignacio Mattos' Potato Salad
  • Ignatio Matto's Potato Salad EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    SERVES 4–6


    3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes
    2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
    2½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
    1 small red onion, thinly sliced, soaked in ice water 10 minutes, and drained
    ½ cup canola oil
    ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 egg yolk
    2 tbsp. marjoram leaves
    ¼ tsp. sweet paprika


    Boil potatoes in a 6-qt. saucepan of salted water. Reduce heat to medium-high; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to a bowl;. when cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and coarsely mash. Toss 2 tsp. salt, the lemon juice, and onion in a separate bowl; set aside. Whisk oils and egg yolk in another bowl until combined; add to potatoes and toss to combine. Transfer potatoes to a serving platter and top with reserved onions; sprinkle with marjoram and paprika.

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    Uruguay Chivito SandwichEnlargeCredit: Matt Taylor-Gross


    1 tbsp. canola oil
    1 (1/4") boneless strip loin steak
    2 tbsp. mayonnaise
    1 milk bun or kaiser roll
    2 slices bacon, cooked
    1 (1-oz.) slice fresh mozzarella
    1 egg, hard-boiled, cooled, peeled, and sliced
    2-3 pickled hot peppers
    Lettuce, to serve
    Tomato, to serve


    Heat oven broiler. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet placed over medium-high flame. Season steak with salt and pepper; cook, flipping once, until browned and cooked through, 3–4 minutes. Spread mayonnaise on insides of a sliced milk bun or kaiser roll; broil until lightly toasted, 1–2 minutes. Place bacon and fresh mozzarella over one half of roll; broil until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Add reserved steak; top with egg, pickled peppers, lettuce, and tomato. Serve with french fries, if you like.


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  • 04/20/15--09:36: Destination: Detroit
  • Detroit City Distillery Shark's Mouth Wall EnlargeCredit: Stephanie Bassos

    Those of us who know and love Detroit consider it a kind of half-finished heaven. We favor its brawny, threadbare aura, its onion-and-mustard-spangled coney dogs, its rambling thoroughfares from a time when Cadillac Eldorados ruled the roads. The city's lonely Gothic churches, historic Art Deco skyscrapers, and spacious island park are joined by a vast network of urban farms growing all sorts of delicious, fresh things in between swaths of concrete jungle. These farms, together with the city's new restaurants dispersed in pockets all over town, make an urban road trip the best way to explore Motown.

    Start your cruise at Anthology Coffee (1401 Vermont St.), the city's newest specialty roaster. The warm, airy café is stashed away behind an obscure yet quintessentially New Detroit spot: a co-working space for local entrepreneurs and creative types in a former Corktown printing factory. There, owner Josh Longsdorf brews his single-origin beans at a Modbar espresso machine and a spacious pour-over bar.

    Suitably caffeinated, you'll want to head northeast on Jefferson Avenue, through downtown and past the iconic Joe Louis fist-bump monument at Hart Plaza, keeping Canada on your right, until you arrive at Rose's Fine Food (10551 E. Jefferson Ave.). Run by cousins Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell, the 30-seat restaurant specializes in refined diner food, like brisket hash, huge cinnamon rolls, and old-fashioned egg creams. Consider taking your meal across the water on Belle Isle, an idyllic 1,000-acre island park with an Albert Kahn-designed aquarium and conservancy plunked in the middle of the Detroit River.

    Detroit Rose's Fine Food Store EnlargeCredit: Jesse Greene
    On your way back downtown, take a detour to the Heidelberg Project, a massive outdoor art installation, including a polka-dot house and streetlamps festooned with stuffed animals, occupying two whole city blocks. Just west is Eastern Market (2934 Russell St.), a sprawling, open-air bazaar that is the central nervous system of Detroit's culinary resurgence. Occupying a labyrinthine building, more than 250 vendors sell produce and locally made food, such as organic raw-milk cheeses by Oliver Farms and juniper-and-garlic brats from Corridor Sausage Co.

    From there, it's a few minutes to Selden Standard (3921 Second Ave.), chef Andy Hollyday's local, seasonal restaurant. Lunch hovers somewhere between rustic Mediterranean and Midwest meat-and-potatoes, with a fried chicken sandwich and a hearty veggie ribollita on the menu, plus an outstanding pastrami. “I'm inspired by food from all over the world,” Hollyday says. “But the real stars of our plates are sourced within three miles of here. Detroit's urban farms are a big part of the reason why I cook here.”

    Detroit D-Town Farm EnlargeCredit: D-Town Farm


    To visit the city's largest contiguous urban farm (there are 1,500 and counting), head west on I-96 after lunch and hop off at Schoolcraft Avenue, then turn left on Outer Drive West, until you land at D-Town Farm (you can arrange a visit through the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, 3800 Puritan Ave.). Tucked behind a formidable deer fence are vegetable beds of organic mushrooms, kale, garlic, and more; several beehives; and four hoop houses. Spread out over seven acres, the farm, which is largely run by volunteers, is surrounded by an open prairie and wetlands in the verdant and rambling 1,100-acre River Rouge Park.


    Turning north, you'll pass 8 Mile Road, the highway that composes Detroit's northern boundary, and plunge into the suburb of Ferndale, home of Torino (201 E. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale). It took Detroiters a while to wrap their heads around chef Garrett Lipar's free-spirited, Nordic-influenced cuisine—the distance between coney dogs and fluke topped with pickled mango, corn dust, and micro Cuban oregano indeed seems large. A daily tasting menu features foraged ingredients, highbrow fermentation, and beautiful, fussed-over platings, like a dish of tender grilled and pressure-cooked octopus with braised seaweed, salty scallop chips, and heart-of-palm purée topped with pickled mushrooms. “It's new, and it's not comfort food,” says Lipar, a 2015 James Beard nominee for the Rising Star Chef award. “But it tells the story of this region from an angle you probably haven't tasted before.”

    Detroit Torino Wood Pigeon with Turnips and flowers EnlargeCredit: Jeff Niguyen
    For the 20-minute backtrack downtown, forget I-75 and take Woodward Avenue the whole way. Some two dozen Gothic, Beaux Arts, and Romanesque Revival churches line the road, as well as several historic Art Deco beauties like the big-block Fisher Building and the old Majestic Theatre. Along with pre-war landmarks, Detroit is slowly reclaiming its storied distilling past. Detroit City Distillery (2462 Riopelle St.), a producer of small-batch whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and gin, is the latest among craft-spirit ventures. Founded by eight childhood friends, it's housed in a cavernous old slaughterhouse in Eastern Market. An attached tasting room is outfitted with a Prohibition-era mahogany bar salvaged from a local store and serves a mix of classic cocktails and house specialties, like the old-fashioned-inspired Fashionably Yogi, with bacon-washed bourbon, maple syrup, house coffee-pecan bitters, and orange. It's the perfect nightcap for a winding urban tour.


    Where to Eat, Drink, and Discover your Inner Urban Gardener in Detroit


    Anthology Coffee
    1401 Vermont Street
    (313) 355-4040

    Rose's Fine Food
    10551 East Jefferson Avenue
    (313) 309-7947

    Eastern Market
    2934 Russell Street
    (313) 833-9300

    Selden Standard
    3921 2nd Avenue
    (313) 438-5055

    D-Town Farm (Detroit Black Community Food Security Network)
    3800 Puritan Avenue
    (313) 345-3663

    201 East 9 Mile Road, Ferndale
    (248) 247-1370

    Detroit City Distillery
    2462 Riopelle Street
    (313) 338-3760

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  • 04/20/15--20:33: Whole Grilled Sea Bass
  • Whole Grilled Sea BassEnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    SERVES 4–6


    4 (1-lb.) whole sea bass (or sea bream or red snapper), cleaned
    2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    3 lemons, sliced, plus more for serving
    1 bunch each marjoram and thyme
    4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    6 cloves garlic, minced


    Heat a charcoal or woodburning grill or set a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over high.) Season cavity of fish with chile flakes, salt, and pepper; stuff with lemons and herbs. Mix butter and garlic in a bowl; rub over outside of fish; grill, flipping once, until slightly charred and cooked through, 12–15 minutes. Serve with more lemon.

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    Birria - Mexican Goat StewEnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    SERVES 6–8


    1 dried guajillo chile, stemmed
    1 cup boiling water
    8 tomatillos, husked and cored
    5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
    1 medium white onion, halved (one half minced)
    1 serrano chile, stemmed
    ¼ cup cider vinegar
    2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
    ½ tsp. ground cumin
    ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1 (2″) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
    2 tbsp. canola oil
    3 lb. bone-in goat shoulder, cut into 3″ pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
    Kosher salt, to taste
    1½ cups chicken stock
    ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
    Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
    Lime wedges, for serving


    1. Heat a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high. Add guajillo chile; cook, flipping once, until lightly toasted, 3–4 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add water, and let sit until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove chile, discard stem and seeds, and return to blender; set aside.

    2. Return pot to medium-high; cook tomatillos, garlic, whole onion half, and serrano, turning as needed, until blackened all over, 12–15 minutes. Peel garlic and transfer to blender with remaining charred vegetables. Add vinegar, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, and ginger; purée until smooth.

    3. Add oil to pan; heat over medium-high. Season goat with salt and, working in batches, cook, turning as needed, until browned, 18–20 minutes. Transfer goat to a bowl; set aside. Add minced onion; cook until soft, 2–3 minutes. Add reserved chile sauce; simmer until thickened, 4–6 minutes. Return goat to pan and add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until goat is tender, about 2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer goat to a cutting board. Let cool slightly; shred meat, discarding bones, and return to pan. Stir in cilantro; serve with tortillas and lime wedges.

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  • 04/21/15--08:25: Shrimp Tacos
  • shrimp taco EnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    SERVES 6


    5 chiles de árbol, stemmed and seeded
    ¼ cup boiling water
    5 plum tomatoes (4 cored, 1 minced)
    4 cloves garlic (2 unpeeled, 2 minced)
    2 serrano chiles (1 stemmed, 1 minced)
    ⅓ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
    ¼ tsp. sugar
    1 small white onion, minced
    Kosher salt, to taste
    2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
    1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and mashed

    1½ cups chicken stock
    2 plum tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
    2 tbsp. canola oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 small white onion, minced
    1 cup long-grain white rice
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    1½ lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
    1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Juice of 1 lime
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    2 tbsp. canola oil
    Flour tortillas, warmed, for serving
    Shredded jack cheese, for serving
    Roughly chopped cilantro and white onion, for garnish
    Lime wedges, for serving


    1. Make the salsa and guacamole: Heat a 12″ skillet over medium-high. Cook chiles de árbol until lightly toasted, 1–2 minutes, and transfer to a blender; add water and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook 4 cored tomatoes, unpeeled garlic, and stemmed serrano, turning as needed, until charred all over, 8–10 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. Peel garlic and seed serrano; transfer to blender with charred tomatoes. Add half the cilantro, the sugar, half the onion, and salt; purée until smooth and set salsa aside. Stir minced garlic, tomato, and serrano, the remaining cilantro and onion, the lime juice, avocado, and salt in another bowl; cover guacamole and chill.

    2. Make the rice: Purée stock and tomatoes in a blender until smooth; set aside. Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Cook garlic and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice; cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in reserved tomato mixture, salt, and pepper; boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, covered, until rice is tender, 25–30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

    3. Make the shrimp: Stir shrimp, Worcestershire, garlic, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl; let sit 10 minutes. Wipe skillet clean; heat oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook shrimp until pink and cooked through, 2–3 minutes. To serve, divide rice and shrimp between tortillas; top with reserved salsa and guacamole, the cheese, cilantro, and onion. Serve with lime wedges.

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    Turtleback Cookies EnlargeCredit: Farideh Sadeghin
    I first discovered turtleback cookies on a weekday afternoon in Demopolis, Alabama, when I wandered into a gift shop with a narrow bakery case in the back. It held dozens of flat cookies finished with an oatmeal-colored glaze.

    “They’re turtlebacks,” the blonde teenager behind the counter said, as if no other explanation was needed. Assuming it was just a part of the local culture that my dad had forgotten to teach me about his native state—like the famous Alabama and Auburn football rivalry—I ordered two and left. I sat down in the nearby town square and removed the golden cookies from their wax paper bag. The candy-sweet icing crackled as I took a bite. It was crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and fragrant with warm spices; I was hooked.

    It was crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and fragrant with warm spices; I was hooked.
    Few people outside of Demopolis, a small town in the rural Black Belt region, know about turtlebacks. They’re the signature treat of Traeger’s bakery, named for the hard cinnamon glaze that glistens like a glossy turtle shell on the surface of each cookie. The beloved local business opened around 1926, back in the days when all of downtown’s abandoned storefronts were still occupied. “William Henry Traeger changed trains in Demopolis on his way to Meridian, Mississippi, and saw a bakery for sale. He returned to buy it and spent a lifetime in Demopolis,” writes his son and the inventor of the turtleback cookie, William H. Traeger, Jr. in The Heritage of Marengo County (Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000). 

    Traeger’s Bakery soon established itself as a local institution, and William Jr. and his wife Amelia eventually took on the family business. “Not many small towns had a bakery,” she recalls. “We did everyone’s birthday cake and wedding cake.” The case was also filled with petit fours, Turkish macaroons, doughnuts, and a huge variety of other cookies. Yet it was William Jr.’s turtleback that the people of Demopolis remember most.

    The original version was based on a standard spice cookie recipe. With its warm spices, cashews, and a confectioners' sugar glaze, it shares some striking similarities with German lebkuchen and the spice cookie recipes found in many Southern cookbooks. Over the years pecans became the standard addition in Demopolis, where pecan trees grow in backyards. They’re always finished with the same caramel icing, glossy and marked by a defiant Southern sweetness. 

    The couple sold the bakery in 1993, and the building and its recipes tragically burned down a few years later. By then, though, the people of Demopolis were obsessed. To this day they continue to bake versions of Traeger’s turtleback cookies, refining and tweaking the recipe in an attempt to replicate the original. A neighbor recently told Mrs. Traeger that he had just made the best batch yet. “They’re not quite the same,” she says. “But people keep trying.” I like to think my version gets pretty close.

    See the recipe for Turtleback Cookies »

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    Uruguay 58 Chevy Impala Road Trip EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson

    "I bet you idiots didn't even know that Jesus Christ was born in Uruguay.”

    Ignacio Mattos is on a roll, making up facts about his homeland and entertaining us with mock-rhapsodic commentary as we drive directly from Montevideo's international airport to the first stop on our journey: Bar Arocena, a dusty snack bar near the beach.

    “There's much you don't know about these majestic lands,” Mattos says. Which is indisputable, as the itinerary he's put together has been light on specifics. The three-day plan consists of a handful of bullet points, with activities ranging from “we could go here” to “maybe we stop at a bar in this area.”

    About this first stop, though, we are well informed. Mattos has been talking it up since we boarded the plane in New York, where (with the dapper sommelier Thomas Carter) he runs Estela, an always-packed, two-year-old Manhattan restaurant. In Estela's tiny kitchen, Mattos cooks food that's comforting and straightforward, but with deft little surprises here and there that make it alluring and completely his own. It's a bustling downtown spot where the bar is always at least two-deep and the Obamas shared a date night last fall.

    Carter's never been to Uruguay before, but he takes the wheel of the rental and somehow we make it to Bar Arocena without incident. We've arrived for our first lesson about this hallowed land, in the form of the massive, mythical chivito, the unofficial national sandwich of Uruguay.

    Next door to the city's Baroque-inspired, palatial Hotel Carrasco, Bar Arocena is a world apart. It's a narrow dive, and nothing inside—from the ceiling fans to the soccer banners that adorn the walls—seems to have been altered since it opened in 1923. They serve a variety of substantial dishes 24 hours a day, including milanesas (schnitzel, basically) and entrecôte steaks to share. But you go to Arocena to face off against the chivito, an impressive pile of ham, lettuce, tomato, melted mozzarella, hard-boiled eggs, pickled red peppers, beef tenderloin, pancetta, and mayo.

    It's not the first thing you'd think to eat on a hot day. Yet it's somehow a completely energizing ritual: Tackling the thing is precarious and engaging as you parry with it, wondering how many bites it'll take for everything to fall apart. Once it does, you barrel through with your hands, a fork and knife—whatever it takes—intermittently digging into the plate of fries at the center of the table and keeping yourself going the whole way with ice-cold glasses of Patricia Red, the country's popular light lager. The trick, I learn, is never to take a break.

    Uruguay - Chivito - Bar Arocena EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    Fortified and properly oriented in the ways of the chivito, we have a general plan to make our way to the town of José Ignacio, on the southern coast. Over the last few decades, it has become South America's version of Montauk: a coastal village peppered with inns and resorts, popular mostly in the high season (Christmas to mid-February), where vacationers like to hang on the beach and throw the occasional party.

    It's here that Mattos came into his own as a chef. In the late 1990s, before he ever dreamed of moving to the States, he worked summers in the kitchen of Los Negros, the restaurant of grilling luminary Francis Mallmann. And it's probably here that he picked up the nickname “Nacho.”

    “I need a shower,” Carter says, breaking the silence as we get up to leave. He crumples the last of the napkins and tosses it onto the plate. We set off for the coast.

    It takes about two and a half hours to get to where we're going. The green and arid motorway is populated by mini-malls and auto shops that suddenly give way to the blue and tropical scenes in and around the city of Punta del Este. Each village we pass gets smaller and beachier than the last, until finally we arrive at Posada Paradiso, in José Ignacio. It's exactly what you want from a low-key bohemian beach inn: 23 simply appointed rooms surrounding a pool. There's mate tea available at all hours of the day. And once night falls, there is complete silence.

    Uruguay Mattos Gabi Plater Marismo Martin PitalugaEnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    It's late now, but Mattos assures us we needn't rush. “Around here, it's normal to sit down for dinner at 11 p.m.,” he says. It takes all of what seems like two minutes to drive over to Marismo, a candlelit, open-air restaurant, for a laid-back feast. Almost everything, from the traditional provoleta (crisped provolone cheese with pickled vegetables) to the meltingly tender eggplant and lamb shank, is cooked over an open flame. As we'll find out during the course of the next few days, that's the way they like to do things here.

    La Caracola is a chic day club about 10 minutes northeast of José Ignacio. It sits on a sliver of land flanked by lagoon and ocean, accessible only by a small dinghy across choppy waters. Normally the beach hut is packed with vacationing swimmers, but today it's closed, so Nacho has taken over the place.

    What Mattos had described in his understated way as “cook a lunch for friends at the beach” turns out to be a more significant production. After being bounced around and drenched on the dinghy, Carter and I are greeted by waitresses arranging tables and bartenders fixing drinks. Toward the back, in the slender kitchen, Mattos is wearing all white and a floppy green hat that instantly brings to mind a cross between Pharrell and Chico Marx. His eyes are tearing up from the heat of the huge brick oven where he'll soon be roasting whole fish that are currently hanging on a wire at the entrance of the restaurant.

    Uruguay Choppy Dingy Ride EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    We are introduced to the supporting cast of cooks arranging the radiant mise-en-place for the affair. Fernando Aciar pours olive oil from three feet above a bowl, making mayonnaise like an Asturian pours cider. Gonzalo Zubiri grew up with Mattos: “He took me out of Santa Lucía when I didn't know what rosemary looked like and taught me how to work in a kitchen.” Zubiri tells me this almost instantly, pausing from scaling fish to make sure I take note of the visiting chef's significance around here. Santiago Garat, a lanky man with the appearance of a Cuban revolutionary, tells me, “When I started organizing this lunch, people came out of the woodwork telling me they wanted to hang out with Nacho.” As guests loosen up over caipirinhas, the chefs talk through the finishing touches of what they're going to serve. It's an improvisational process, a kind of informal reflection of how Mattos likes to work in New York. Today in José Ignacio, the main attraction is the black corvina, sea bass, stuffed with lemon and herbs and roasted whole over a wood fire. There's also addictive crab toast, bright with the flavors of capers and chile; a bit of tomato-and-basil salad; and some citrusy corvina cruda that features Mattos' trademark use of thinly sliced vegetables—in this case turnips—layered on top of the fish, not just to add some bite, but also to give the diner a feeling of discovery. By the time we eat “lunch,” it's nearing 6 p.m.

    More than 40 people, friends and friends of friends, have descended on La Caracola.“When you're with Ignacio around these parts,” Garat says, “there is no such thing as a small affair.” After the food is cleared, almost everyone sticks around to drink Campari and nap.

    The next day we drive inland to a 1930s cattle ranch, La Rinconada, lined with massive eucalyptus trees. Beams of sunlight poke through the foliage and horses roam freely throughout the grounds. There's a nice pool, as well as a trampoline for us to use just in case we're in the mood for jumping on it between meals (we are). Lunch today is for a smaller but still lively gathering of friends. Many familiar faces from La Caracola are gathered around the patio. In the outdoor kitchen, Mattos, Aciar, and Garat kick off the traditional South American grilling ritual, the asado. “You can smell firewood and smoke everywhere around this country,” Mattos says, applying slabs of coronilla, eucalyptus, and acacia wood to the hearth. The meats are to be cooked over the red embers raked to the right of the grill, with the logs burning into charcoal on the left side. This will allow the meat to cook slowly, but ensure it isn't overwhelmed by the flavor of smoke.

    Mattos smashed potato salad Uruguay EnlargeCredit: Marcus Nilsson
    We eat the food with our hands, and then everyone sticks around to drink Campari and nap.

    The plan is at some point to sit around a table set out on the grass, but food starts coming to us as it's ready. Sweetbreads are the first to arrive, crisp on the outside, perfectly smooth within. Mattos liberally administers lemon and salt to almost everything he's making. The relentless assault continues with two types of blood sausage, chorizo, tri-tip, short ribs, and a decadent cut called the arañita, from the rump, which we're told the local butcher prepares only for select customers. “The meat is pleasantly fatty and full of character,” Mattos says. “It has that chewiness we love in Uruguay.”

    The only condiment you need for all of this is chimichurri, that iconic South American sauce made with oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and chile flakes. Garat has laid out flaky, freshly baked galletas de campo (savory biscuits whose name literally translates to “cracker from the woods”) so that we can fix ourselves small, open-faced sandwiches and dip into the juices.

    The flavors today are heavier and certainly meatier than what Mattos champions in New York, but I can see the same purity and simplicity that form the foundation of his cooking at Estela. Carter suggests we make this trip every year. He's got a bit of chimichurried bread between his fingers. “There's a community in this place that's just incredible,” he says. “You could talk to these people for hours.”

    That's exactly what we do after sitting around the long table on the lawn to finish off the Malbec and dig into the flan that Clo, the owner of the inn, has prepared for dessert.

    Nacho is finally done cooking for the weekend and sits with us. He's not usually given to nostalgia, but these reunion feasts have put him in a reflective mood. “When I started cooking in José Ignacio, I was questioning whether I wanted to work in kitchens for the rest of my life,” he says. “But I was embraced here in a way that triggered whatever it is my life has become.” Everyone seems sated, running their fingers around the rims of plates to get those last few bites of sweetness.

    See the recipe for Chivito Sandwich
    See the recipe for Sea Bass Crudo
    See the recipe for Crab Toast
    See the recipe for Sweetbreads with Chimichurri Criollo
    See the recipe for Smashed Potato Salad
    See the recipe for Tomato Salad with Green Beans and Basil
    See the recipe for Peach and Plum Salad
    See the recipe for Whole Grilled Sea Bass
    See the recipe for Grilled Beef Ribs with Charred Vegetables

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    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea
    Last month, I found myself strapped into the passenger seat of a Alfa Romeo Giulia next to chef Gabrielle Hamilton, zooming from Venice to Bologna in search of the ultimate bowl of tortellini en brodo. We were gunning it but there was no way we’d arrive in time for lunch, which in Italy ends at 2:30 p.m. sharp. I was getting nervous.

    "Don't worry," Gabrielle said, "We can eat at the autogrill." 

    I pictured a dreary conventional gas station and a lunch comprised of Pringles, pizza-flavored combos, gummy bears, and Kit Kats—a far cry from the pasta we we aiming for. Gabrielle!

    "Noooooo," she explained. "Autogrills are the most miraculous and dependable. They are the noble workhorses across all of Italy."

    I knew that Italians stopped and dropped everything for lunch, but I was still skeptical as we rolled up to a building whose design was part 1970s, part Jetsons, part East Berlin. (This makes sense: Autogrills, Italy’s highway gas stations-cum-rest stops, began popping up in 1977.) Once inside, we grabbed trays and piled them with thin slices of bresaola, stacks of salumi, mounds of cheese, and rolls of freshly baked bread. We found ourselves a table, and time immediately slowed down. Our fellow diners popped bottles of wine and belly-laughed throughout their meals. This was nothing like the rest stops I knew in the States; this was a true-blue restaurant

    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea

    We’re already familiar with the idea of a picturesque Italian road trip: following winding roads through the hills of Tuscany, stopping for leisurely meals at trattorias and trying to understand recipes haltingly explained by a friendly grandmother. But I wanted to know what road trips looked like for real Italians: How do they eat when they’re on the road? What would an all-autogrill road trip look like?

    Back in Italy a few weeks later, I resolved to find out, and planned a day of driving. I made rules: I would only eat food prepared and eaten inside the autogrill. I would take nothing to go. The entire journey would take place on Italy’s drab highways, with no detours to quaint villages allowed.

    Thirty minutes after we hit the road, still grumpy and jet lagged, I spotted my first autogrill. I pulled in, rushed inside, and rudely elbowed my way through the standing crowd to the coffee bar. Baked goods beckoned from a pristine glass case. I ordered a cappuccino and a cornetto, that Italian pastry with the body of a French croissant but the taste of a buttery brioche. I immediately came back to life. 

    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea
    Autogrill number two came an hour later. Its enormous, sterile facade was teeming with throngs of noisy people decked out in football gear; I quickly discovered that this was a pit stop for Bolognese soccer fans fueling up on their way to the game. Tailgaters were everywhere, beers in hand. "A good Italian driver can drive perfectly after drinking beer," boasted a wobbly man, and I hoped he was right.

    Inside, I found liters of olive oil, piles of salami, whole prosciutti, balls of provolone, jars of marinated artichokes, pasta of all shapes, towers of cookie tins, and mountains of chocolate bars. Bottles of Italian wines, limoncello, and beer lined the walls, almost all of it local. It was like an Italian grocery meets a convenience store meets a coffee shop: all the commercial bounty of an American gas station, with Italy's standards for quality. Even when on a mundane road trip, Italians refuse to compromise their style of eating.

    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea
    Back in Bologna, a restaurant owner had told me that autogrills used to get a lot of traffic from non-travelers, too. "Many people used to have Sunday lunch at the autogrill, even if they weren't on a journey. It was thought of as a normal, good restaurant." These days, that tradition is long gone—and not every roadside restaurant is great—but the autogrill’s initial intent remains: to extend Italy’s eating culture to even its most utilitarian spaces. 

    My stomach was screaming with hunger by the time I reached my third stop, but none of the food appealed to me. I couldn’t bring myself to order a stale-looking sandwich or a dry pizza topped with globs of congealed cheese; I had quickly become an autogrill snob. So I perused the other goods: cookbooks, books promising to teach English in twenty-one days, strange dolls that could have been photographed by Diane Arbus. I covertly trailed a few shoppers; they seemed to ignore the oddities and focused instead on food shopping, filling their baskets with local olive oils and capers. No pizza for them, either.

    Italian Autogrill SandwichesEnlarge

    Back on the road, a drab wintry scene whizzed past, the opposite of the "Under the Tuscan Sun" landscapes from my Italian fantasies. Before that first autogrill visit with Gabrielle, I never would have dreamed of eating on the road in Italy—I’ve always suppressed my urge to mindlessly snack and waited for a proper Italian meal. While I’ve always tried to stay with locals and done my best to avoid tourist traps, this trip felt more real than any other I’d taken in Italy. I was finally traveling the way the Italians do.

    At my next stop I found a parking lot where Porsches were nestled between modest, tiny cars. The building held two vast rooms: one for dining, one for shopping. Chic Italians buzzed around clutching plates of exquisite-looking food. I was starving. I ordered roast beef carpaccio, a glass of wine, and a buffalo mozzarella sandwich, all of it perfectly fresh. A family on a road trip from Rome explained that this particular stop is so popular, it can be hard to find a parking spot.  

    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea
    I’ve never been a fan of road trips—my parents ruined them for me early on—but these pit stops offered solace from endless stretches of road. Italy’s highways are drab and straightforward, but this doesn’t compromise one’s dedication to eating well. Italians appreciate and practically demand a decent meal, no matter where or when. 

    Twenty miles later we approached a colossal autogrill that straddled the highway and was teeming with customers. When I saw a line snaking out the door, I knew we were in luck. I followed suit and joined the crowd, all of us waiting for freshly grilled panini; the air inside smelled of baking bread.

    Charged by the energy in the air and a sudden feeling of greedy hunger, I ordered three sandwiches: a mozzarella with prosciutto di parma; speck and brie; and something called a "VIP." I ate like it was my first meal. Each sandwich was better than the last, and the dog at the next table hovered stealthily, waiting for crumbs. 

    Autogrill Italy Roadtrip EnlargeCredit: Melanie Dunea
    Exhausted, I eyed a stack of boxes called "Pocket Coffee," the little candies I had seen at every cash register throughout my journey. It was time to end my leisurely meal in the classic Italian fashion: with caffeine. I popped one in my mouth and chased it with a macchiato for good measure, then got back in the car.

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    Chando's Cochinita Pibil Tacos EnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    SERVES 8–10


    4 oz. achiote paste, such as El Yucateco (
    1 cup fresh lime juice
    1 cup fresh orange juice
    1⅓ cups white vinegar
    3 tbsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican (
    Kosher salt, to taste, plus 2 tsp.
    4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2" pieces
    2 (28"-long) banana leaves
    2 cups boiling water
    1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
    4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    2 habanero peppers, thinly sliced
    1 bay leaf
    Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
    Roughly chopped cilantro, sliced radishes, and lime wedges, for serving


    1. Make the pork: Combine achiote paste, lime and orange juices, ⅓ cup vinegar, and the oregano in a blender; season with salt and purée until smooth. Strain marinade through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; add pork and toss to combine. Line the bottom of a 6-qt. Dutch oven with banana leaves, letting the excess hang over the side of the pot. Add pork and its marinade; fold leaves over pork and place lid on pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until pork is tender, about 2½ hours.

    2. Meanwhile, stir water and onion in a bowl; let sit 3 minutes and drain. Stir in remaining vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, the garlic, habaneros, and bay leaf; cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

    3. Unwrap and transfer pork to a cutting board; shred into bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl. Stir in 1 cup cooking liquid from the pot. To serve, divide pork between tortillas; top with pickled onion mixture, the cilantro, and radishes. Serve with lime wedges.

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    carnitas tacos viva tacoEnlargeCredit: Dylan + Jeni
    SERVES 8–10


    3 tbsp. lard or canola oil
    3 lbs. skinless, bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 3″ pieces (have your butcher do this)
    Kosher salt, to taste
    ¾ cup whole milk
    8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    6 canned or jarred whole pickled jalapeños, plus ⅓ cup pickling liquid
    1 large white onion, roughly chopped Juice of 2 limes and 2 oranges

    6 tomatillos, husked and cored
    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    2 plum tomatoes, cored
    1 canned or jarred whole pickled jalapeño, stemmed, plus 3 tbsp. pickling liquid, plus more jalapeños for serving
    Kosher salt, to taste
    Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
    Roughly chopped cilantro and thinly sliced radishes, for garnish
    Orange wedges, for serving


    1. Make the carnitas: Melt lard in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Season pork with salt; cook, turning as needed, until browned, 10–12 minutes. Add milk, garlic, jalapeños and pickling liquid, onion, and lime and orange juices; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until pork is tender, about 2 hours. Let pork cool and transfer to a cutting board; chop into bite-size pieces. Strain cooking liquid and return to pan; stir in pork and keep warm.

    2. Make the salsa and serve: Heat a 12" cast-iron skillet over medium-high; cook tomatillos, garlic, and tomatoes, turning as needed, until blackened all over, 12–15 minutes, and transfer to blender. Add jalapeño and pickling liquid, and salt; purée until smooth. Serve carnitas on tortillas with salsa; garnish with cilantro and radishes. Serve with more pickled jalapeños and the orange wedges.

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    Potato Tacos (Tacos de Papa)EnlargeCredit: Romulo Yanes
    SERVES 6


    5 tbsp. olive oil
    6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    1 small white onion, roughly chopped
    4 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
    1 (15-oz.) can whole, peeled tomatoes
    Kosher salt, to taste
    1½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
    2 tsp. ground cumin
    12 (6") corn tortillas
    ½ cup canola oil
    Thinly sliced green and red cabbage and red radishes, for garnish
    Crumbled queso fresco, for garnish


    1. Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium. Cook garlic and onion until soft, about 5 minutes; transfer to a blender. Add chiles, tomatoes, and salt; purée until smooth and set sauce aside.

    2. Cook potatoes in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted boiling water until cooked through, about 15 minutes; drain and return to pan over medium. Add remaining olive oil, the cumin, and salt; mash potatoes.

    3. Working in batches, place about ¼ cup potato in the center of a tortilla; fold tortilla in half and secure with a toothpick. Heat canola oil in a 12" skillet over medium. Fry tacos, flipping once, until golden and crisp, 2–3 minutes. Discard toothpicks and transfer tacos to a platter; top with reserved sauce, the cabbage, radishes, and queso fresco.

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  • 04/21/15--10:06: Coconut Horchata
  • Coconut Horchata, Roadtrip, Tacos, California EnlargeCredit: Romulo Yanes
    SERVES 4


    2 cups boiling water
    2 cups long-grain white rice
    1 stick cinnamon, crushed, plus sticks for garnish
    2 cups unsweetened coconut water
    Cheesecloth, for straining
    1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
    ⅔ cup sugar
    Pinch kosher salt


    1. Stir water, rice, and cinnamon in a bowl; cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.

    2. The next day, transfer rice mixture to a blender. Add coconut water; purée until smooth, 3–4 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a pitcher; cover and chill until ready to serve.

    3. Heat coconut milk, sugar, and salt in a 2-qt. saucepan over low; cook until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Let milk cool; stir into rice mixture. Serve in ice-filled glasses; grate fresh cinnamon over top and drop sticks into glasses.

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    Bryants, Martini
    Let’s be frank: You can find a good stiff martini in any number of bars, in any number of cities. So what brings people back to a select, well-loved group of old-guard bars and restaurants?

    This was the question I recently contemplated while sipping a perfectly poured martini (gin, lemon twist) at the ‘21’ Club bar. It’s not purely nostalgia for one’s own past—looking around, the room skewed relatively young, and I wondered how many of these revelers were aware of the restaurant’s storied past and speakeasy roots. It might have had something to do with the décor, with its dark, lovingly preserved, clubby woodwork and an elaborate mosaic of tchotchkes suspended from the ceiling.

    Certainly, the drinks come into play: A great classic martini bar must have great martinis, as well as historic appeal. Or perhaps there’s another, more intangible appeal.

    From the Grand Central Oyster Bar, built in 1913, to Denver’s wine bottle-shaped Cruise Room, which opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, these bars and restaurants allow guests to drink while imaging all the other elbows once propped up on that same bar. Some are famous for hosting the famous and powerful at their tables (Musso & Frank, Big 4, ‘21’ Club); others offer fascinating architectural details (Shuckers, The Matchbox) or a taste of drinking in decades past (Gibson, Avery Bar). What brings people back to these bars, year after year?

    The bartender at the ‘21’ Club, an older gent with twinkly eyes, leaned across the bar to offer this sage response: “People come to tip their glass to the past.”

    Seek out these classic bars, and raise a glass to those who have come before us.

    ‘21’ Club, New York, NY

    21 Club, Martini
    Most notorious for its role as a speakeasy during the Prohibition years, the ‘21’ Club recently added a front bar to serve the same powerfully chilled martinis, straight up or on the rocks, sipped at the “power tables” in the back.

    21 Club
    21 W 52nd St, New York, NY
    (212) 582-7200

    Avery Bar, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston, MA

    Avery Bar, Martini
    Set in a clubby, mid-century-style lounge with a fireplace, the Avery Bar offers a selection of 10 martini variations, including “Fire” (with a jalapeño-stuffed olive), “Smoky” (with a rinse of Lagavulin Scotch) and “Russian” (with vodka).

    Avery Bar
    15 Arlington St., Boston, MA
    (617) 574-7100

    The Gibson, Washington, DC

    One of the few reservations-only bars in the area, with zero signage to help you find the unmarked door, this cozy, candle-lit bar is as close as you can get to speakeasy-style sipping in the modern world.

    The Gibson
    2009 14th Street NW, Washington, DC
    (202) 232-2156

    Big 4, San Francisco, CA

    Big 4, Martini

    Aubrie Pick | Hardy Wilson | Angie Silvy

    This Nob Hill icon within the Huntington Hotel is named for “The Big Four,” the businessmen and philanthropists who built the Central Pacific Railroad. The powerful (and wannabe powerful) still come to sip a Martinez or a James Bond-style Vesper.

    Big 4
    1075 California St., San Francisco, CA
    (415) 771-1140

    Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, Milwaukee, WI

    Bryants, Martini
    Open since 1938, Bryant’s is officially Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge—it’s also arguably one of the most dimly-lit. Best bet is to order your martini during happy hour, which offers a special price on “Depression-era drinks.”

    Bryant's Cocktail Lounge
    1579 S. 9th Street, Milwaukee, WI
    (414) 383-2620

    The Cruise Room, Denver, CO

    Located inside The Oxford Hotel, Denver’s first post-Prohibition bar (opened literally the day after Repeal in 1933), this art-deco stunner is an exact replica of a bar on the Queen Mary. It’s also shaped like a wine bottle.

    The Cruise Room
    1600 17th Street, Denver, CO
    (303) 628-5400

    Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York, NY

    Oyster Bar, Martini
    When Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, this landmark seafooder opened along with it, and managed to survive bankruptcy in the 1970s and a fire in the late 1990s. Order “Oyster Bar-Tinis” made with vodka or gin (or select from the substantial wine list) to wash down a platter of mollusks as you admire the archways and Gustavino tiled ceilings.

    Grand Central Oyster Bar
    Grand Central Terminal, lower level
    89 E. 42nd St., New York, NY
    (212) 490-6650

    The Matchbox, Chicago, IL

    This aptly-named, pint-sized bar with a mere 18 seats has stood for more than 75 years, and some say the drink offerings—stiff and icy-cold—haven’t changed much. Though the space is small, the drinks are oversized, which is excellent compensation.

    The Matchbox
    768 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL
    (312) 666-9322

    Musso & Frank Grill, Los Angeles, CA

    Musso Frank, Martini
    So Old Hollywood it hurts (supposedly execs would come here to peruse scripts over an icy martini). Bartenders with decades of experience still turn out the ‘tinis, with extra presented in a sidecar set in ice.

    Musso & Frank Grill
    6667 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
    (323) 467-7788

    Shuckers Oyster Bar, Seattle, WA

    Oysters and crisp, cold gin martinis are a perfect pairing at one of Seattle’s oldest oyster bars, located within the Fairmont Hotel. Squint and it’s still the 1930s, thanks to the cozy, dark carved-oak paneling and pressed-tin ceiling original to the haberdashers that once inhabited the space.

    Shuckers Oyster Bar
    411 University Street, Seattle, WA
    (206) 621-1984

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