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    Midnight Rambler

    The martini is a straightforward cocktail, but that hasn’t stopped bartenders from experimenting. In fact, many seem to regard the martini as a fertile blank canvas. Modern riffs on the classic drink include scaling the drink down into mini ‘tinis and upsizing it into a bottled drink for a group. We’ve seen molecular martinis chilled with liquid nitrogen and flavor boundaries pushed with martinis that skew fashionably briny, pine-y, or bitter.

    Consider, for example, the Silvertone cocktail at Dallas’s Midnight Rambler, which partner Chad Solomon describes as a “neo-classical” take on the original. Made with gin or vodka, dry vermouth, and orange bitters, and garnished with house-pickled onions, it follows the basic template for a Gibson. But he also adds saline solution and a full ounce of Texas “Crazy Water,” a local mineral water, to the mix. It still looks, smells, and tastes like a martini, but it feels weightier on the tongue, and that minute dash of salt creates a seawater-like effect. Overall, it makes the drinker feel off-kilter, like having a martini while jet-lagged.

    No matter how bartenders tweak and “improve” upon the classic martini, however, one aspect doesn’t change: the ritual of making it. Though the cocktail has crossed over centuries, it’s still poured, stirred, and presented with care—if not outright reverence. Whether your drink of choice skews toward classic versions or next-generation modern riffs, head to one of the following cocktail dens and other destinations to enjoy a martini right now:

    Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, NY

    Although it’s best known for oysters and absinthe, this New Orleans-by-way-of-Williamsburg bar recently introduced tableside martini service for two with the Old King Cole martini. It’s a nod to Martini di Arma di Taggia, a bartender who some credit with creating the martini at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel in 1912. Of note, the Old King Cole mural painted by Maxfield Parrish (which now hangs in the St. Regis Hotel), originally was commissioned for the Knickerbocker.

    Instead of London Dry gin, this martini variation features Old Raj gin, made with saffron for a spicy flavor and light straw hue. A sidecar of various garnishes (buttery Castelvetrano olives, elaborately “manicured” lemon peel, even seaweed) encourages guests to customize their drink. To make it, combine 3 oz. Old Raj gin, ¼ oz. Dolin dry vermouth, and 2-3 dashes orange bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a martini glass. Serve with a sidecar of ice, Castelvetrano olives skewered with a pin, a lemon twist, and seaweed.

    Maison Premiere
    298 Bedford Ave
    Brooklyn, NY 11211

    Midnight Rambler martini

    Midnight Rambler

    Midnight Rambler, Dallas, TX

    Named for a Rolling Stones song, this rock & roll-inspired newcomer set in a dark subterranean space is the brainchild of bartending vets Chad Solomon and Christy Pope. Their drink the Silvertone is “a twist on the Gibson martini,” Solomon says. “Gibson is also a musical instrument company which produced a specific brand of sound equipment sold at Sears from 1915-1972 that was named Silvertone.” What makes this drink so different is the addition of Crazy Water—a high-alkaline mineral water from Mineral Wells, Texas, that gives the drink a noticeably substantial weight on the tongue—as well as a couple of dashes of saline solution for extra "pop." The addictive, slightly spicy cocktail onions are pickled in-house using white vinegar, Dolin dry vermouth, chipotle peppers, sage, grapefruit and lemon peels, and coriander seed. Combine 1 oz. mineral water, ½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth, 2½ oz. Beefeater 24 Gin, 1 dash orange bitters, and 2 drops mineral saline in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with 2 house-pickled onions on a pick.

    Midnight Rambler
    1530 Main St
    Dallas, TX 75201


    Townsman, Boston, MA

    After a decade as chef/owner of Farmstead in Providence, RI, Matt Jennings has returned to Boston to pay homage to New England cuisine. An “all the fixins” approach to martinis gives guests the opportunity to dress up their drink with a lemon twist, Caselvetrano olive, and house cocktail onions pickled with sherry vinegar, juniper, star anise, and Szechuan pepper. The restaurant’s signature martini, inspired by the first dry martini recipe published in the 1896 printing of Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them, is served in a mini carafe on ice alongside the chilled cocktail glass, so guests can refill as needed. Stir together 2½ oz Plymouth gin, 1 oz Dolin dry vermouth de Chambéry, 1 dash Fee’s orange bitters, and 1 dash Regan’s orange bitters in a mixing glass until well-chilled. Strain half of drink into a frosted Nick & Nora glass and the rest into an iced carafe. Garnish with a lemon twist, pickled onion, and Castelvetrano olive.

    120 Kingston St
    Boston, MA 02111

    Vie, Western Springs, IL

    Chef Paul Virant’s mainstay in the Chicago suburbs is known for its low-key, farm-to-table approach to French fare, including a strong wine list that leans heavily on offerings from France. Their wine-inspired reverse martini was created by bar manager Bill Anderson in an effort to convince a favorite, wine-loving customer to try a “proper cocktail.” The end result: this wine-lover’s apéritif utilizing three different wine pours in place of vermouth (which is made with wine, after all). Anderson’s offer to the customer: if she didn’t like the cocktail, he’d bring her a glass of wine on the house. (She liked it.) Stir together 1 oz. chardonnay (“butter-fest Napa style” preferred, Anderson says), 1 oz. albarino, 1 oz. Banyul dessert wine, ½ oz. Bols Genever, ½ oz. North Shore No.6 Gin, and 5 drops Meyer lemon tincture in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. If you don't have a Meyer lemon tincture, below is Bill's recipe, or you can substitute with a few drops of a manufactured lemon or orange bitters; real lemon juice would be too acidic and the tincture helps impart warmth and depth.

    To make the Meyer lemon tincture: Remove the peels from three Meyer lemons, being careful to avoid as much pith as possible. Place the peels in a glass mason jar and pour in a neutral grain spirit, such as gem clear or everclear, to cover the peels. Seal and let sit for one week. Strain out through a cheesecloth and discard the peels. Best used with a dropper.

    4471 Lawn Ave #100
    Western Springs, IL 60558

    Sable Kitchen & Bar

    Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago, IL

    Located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood inside the Hotel Palomar, this bustling, high-energy “American gastro-lounge” references 1940s glamour as well as industrial touches in its décor. Their Fake Tales of San Francisco, created by bartender Mony Bunni, is a savory, herbal martini riff. This drink really layers on the herbal notes, starting with St George’s “Terroir” gin, a particularly pine-forward variation, followed by Salers Gentiane, a French apéritif wine made from gentian, the root of a wild plant that grows at high altitudes—here, used in place of the traditional vermouth. Accented by a small amount of herbaceous green Chartreuse and a dose of celery bitters, this green-tinged drink is an adventurous take on the classic cocktail. In a mixing glass, stir together 1½ oz. St. George Terroir gin, 1 oz. Salers apéritif gentiane liqueur, ½ oz. green Chartreuse, and 2 dashes celery bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled Georgian glass. Twist a lemon peel over top of the drink to express oils and then use to garnish drink.

    Sable Kitchen & Bar 505 N State St
    Chicago, IL 60654

    Terrine, Los Angeles


    Terrine, Los Angeles, CA

    This airy California brasserie opened in December and focuses on rustic meat-centric dishes—think terrines (of course), choucroute, and duck stew. They have printed “Martini Cards” to help educate guests about their individual martini preferences. The card includes Wainwright’s own recipe, an 1895 recipe from mixologist George Kappeler (author of Modern American Drinks), and space to jot down the makings for a customized combination (a choice of gin or vodka, preferred vermouth, etc.). Their Plymouth martini, a classically-styled apéritif, sets the pace. Head bartender Ryan Wainwright makes a point of expressing lemon peel oils into the glass first, not last, so the oil will “fold into the drink.” In a cocktail goblet, twist the lemon peel over the glass first, expressing the oil into the glass. Set lemon peel aside. Stir together 2 oz. Plymouth gin, 1 oz. Dolin dry vermouth, and 1 dash Regan’s orange bitters with large ice cubes, strain into glass, and garnish with lemon peel.

    Terrine 8265 Beverly Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90048

    Cooper Lounge

    Cooper Lounge

    Cooper Lounge, Denver, CO

    Within the recently refurbished Union Station, a stunning Beaux Arts building originally built in 1914, this bar is set in a mezzanine space and is meant to evoke the Stork Club or the Starlight Room in the 1940s. For those who prefer a sweeter drink, their Cosmo de Oro spans the realm between classic martini and Cosmopolitan. Unlike the supersweet pink concoction that symbolized Sex and the City-style excess in the 1990s and early 2000s, the golden-tinged Cosmo de Oro (oro means “gold” in Spanish) shows some restraint. Made with Silver Tree vodka, a small-batch spirit from Denver producer Leopold Bros. and Cocchi Americano, an apéritif wine, in place of dry vermouth, the drink is then lightly sweetened with orange liqueur and white cranberry juice. As with all the cocktails here, this drink is served “club car style,” presented on a silver tray with a small dish of spiced nuts or other nibbles on the side. Combine 1½ oz. Silver Tree Vodka, ½ oz. Leopold Bros. American orange liqueur, ½ oz. Cocchi Americano, 1 oz. white cranberry juice, and a splash of lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

    Cooper Lounge 1701 Wynkoop St
    Denver, CO 80202

    The Mezzanine at L.A. Chapter, Los Angeles, CA

    Within the Ace hotel in downtown Los Angeles, this bar & brasserie also supplies what has to be the ultimate in-room amenity: bottled cocktails, including gin and vodka martinis. Beverage director Dan Sabo makes a classic dirty vodka martini (though gin is available as well) with molecular mixology-driven ingredients like olive oil-infused dry vermouth and “clarified olive brine,” plus fino sherry and additional droplets of olive oil for silky mouthfeel. The goal is to update popular cocktails from the late 1970s and early 1980s, a much-maligned period for cocktails. The finishing touch: a ramekin of vermouth-infused olives sprinkled with coarse Maldon sea salt, to garnish or nibble as the guest desires. Add 2½ oz. Grey Goose vodka (or Bombay Sapphire gin), ½ oz. olive-infused dry vermouth, ¼ oz. clarified olive brine, and 1 bar spoon Alvear fino sherry to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Float four drops of olive oil on the top.

    The Mezzanine at L.A. Chapter 929 South Broadway
    Los Angeles, CA 90015


    BDK Restaurant & Bar, San Francisco, CA

    Recently opened at the Hotel Monaco in San Franciso, bar manager Kevin Diedrich (formerly of Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen, Bourbon & Branch, PDT, Clover Club) oversees the bar. Drinks are named after the predominant flavor in the glass. The Apple, Diedrich’s take on the old-school Martinez, includes Calvados, an apple brandy made in Normandy, France, and Strega, an Italian herbal liqueur. The drink is accompanied by a sidecar for those looking for a little extra. In a mixing glass, stir together 1½ oz. Anchor Old Tom gin, ½ oz. Calvados, 1 oz. house sweet vermouth (1 part Cinzano Sweet and 1 part Punt e Mes), 4 dashes Strega liqueur, and 1 dash Angostura bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, reserving extra in “sidecar” container.

    BDK Restaurant & Bar 501 Geary St
    San Francisco, CA 94102

    The Up & Up, New York, NY

    This new Greenwich Village bar felt old-school from the minute it opened. Maybe it’s because the space once housed the Gaslight Café, a Beat haunt that inspired Bob Dylan to write “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” But it’s old-school with modern mixology trappings, which may explain their new/old martini riff, the Carlson martini. The Up & Up revels in experimenting with unusual drink formats, from pint-sized “halfies” to large-format bottled cocktails. This martini is pre-batched and chilled, ready to serve groups of three (half bottle) to six (full bottle). It’s served just like a bottle of wine: presented in a wine bottle, set on ice in a bucket, and poured by a server at the table. The drink recipe itself is credited to Laura Carlson, currently a bartender at The John Dory Oyster Bar.

    “It's basically a variation on an Astoria Bianco,” explains head bartender Chaim Dauermann, “which is a variation of an Astoria, which is in itself a variation of a martini.” The cocktail features St. George’s pine-y Terroir Gin, softened and sweetened by Dolin Blanc vermouth. Water is added to the bottle to mimic the dilution that stirring with ice ordinarily would provide.

    “The result is a very balanced martini that is appealing for all palates,” Dauermann says. “Given how particular consumers can be about martinis, we have been very pleased with how well this recipe has played with all of our guests!” Stir together 12 oz. St. George Terroir gin, 6 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth, 6 oz. water, and ⅜ oz. Regan's Orange Bitters. Decant into an empty wine bottle and chill for several hours before serving. Serve in a chilled glass with a lemon peel as a garnish.

    The Up & Up 116 MacDougal St
    New York, NY 10012

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    Pendleton Blanket

    Pendleton Blanket

    Matt Taylor-Gross

    Like succulents and sweet tea, the road trip is one of summer’s many rewards—but it favors the prepared. Whether you’re escaping the office a few hours early for an impromptu epicurean picnic, embarking on an epic, Americana-filled cross-country quest, or simply driving off into the sunset, this is the gear that will help make the ride as smooth as possible.

    Road Trip Gear

    1. Juno JUMPR
    Don’t let a depleted gadget or dead battery ruin your trip. The Juno Jumpr’s 6,000 mAh power source can resuscitate an iPhone three times—and revive your ride. Attached to an engine via the included 12-volt cables, the slim charger provides enough juice to jumpstart a car. $100;

    2. Fuji Instax Wide 300
    Sheath the smartphone; road trips are meant for sightseeing, not Instagram-uploading. Instead, document backseat antics and roadside attractions with the Fuji Instax Wide 300. The retro-chic instant camera spits out colorful, 62 x 99mm prints that develop before your eyes and deserve to be shared the old-fashioned way: by hand. $149;

    3. Mulholland American Bison Whisky Carrier
    That Macallan didn’t spend 25 years in an oak barrel only to end up wrapped in a black plastic bag. Give it the first-class treatment with a hand-stitched leather bag crafted from bison, alligator, and deer hide and lined with a temperature-preserving, quilted nylon design that will protect everything from scotch to Chablis. $765;

    4. Pendleton Smoky Mountain National Park Blanket
    Hosting impromptu stargazing sessions, delivering late night insulation, drying off mid-summer skinny dippers: a blanket serves many purposes. Our choice: The Pendleton Smoky Mountain National Park Blanket which is made of 100-percent wool and durable enough to last for decades. from $219;

    5. Sol Republic Punk
    While small enough to fit inside a pocket, the puck-shaped Sol Republic Punk packs the thump to shake a hula-dancer off the dashboard. A waterproof design and eight-hour battery life means the Bluetooth speaker can survive both spills and epic sing-alongs. $70;

    6. Stanley Vacuum Bottle 17 Ounce
    Why mess with a winning formula? The Stanley Vacuum Bottle 17 Ounce sports the same double walled design and tank-like build as the thermoses used to transport soup, sweet tea, and Sumatran roast for nearly 100 years. $26;

    7. Handpresso Auto
    Eyelids drooping? Fill the Handpresso Auto with grounds or a pod, add some water, and press the trigger: After a few minutes of gurgling, the 16-bar, 140-watt cup-holder-sized coffee maker produces a café-caliber shot of espresso. $160 (est.);

    8. Best Made Co. Japanese Higo Knife
    A sharp pocketknife is as essential on the road as a spare tire. The beautiful white steel blade of the Best Made Co. Japanese Higo Knife is handy for big emergencies (seat belt slicing) and small (hard salami cutting), and its hand hammered finish will have you fielding compliments for years. $65;

    9. S'well Bottle
    Leave the Poland Spring at the rest stop. The stainless steel S'well Bottle, available in 9-ounce, 17-ounce, and 25-ounce sizes, not only keeps liquids cold for up to 24 hours (or hot for 12) but is also available in a range of colors and patterns (cashmere, cabana wood) wild enough to match your wanderlust. From $25;

    10. Tylt Y-Charge 4.2
    You have multiple electronics; the Tylt Y-Charge 4.2 has multiple ports. Plug it into your car’s outlet so you can refuel two USB-powered devices at once. It’s a simple, efficient staple that should always be in the glove compartment. $35;

    Matt Berical is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, Maxim, and ESPN the magazine. He once drove from L.A. to New York in three days.

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    People don’t typically travel to Dallas for the Japanese food. The sprawling metropolis of cowboy boot-clad cheerleaders and a glittering skyline has a reputation for celebrating red meat—and bigger is always better. The appropriately nicknamed Big D is a gluttonous haven that offers massive Angus burgers piled high with bacon and mountains of smoky brisket, paired with a rack of ribs. Here, a single Tex-Mex combo platter can feed a family of four.

    But in recent years the city has been moving away from big beef to a more subtle style of dining, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Tei-An, an elegant Japanese restaurant located in One Arts Plaza. Chef and owner Teiichi Sakurai hails from Tokyo, and he’s brought some of the feel of the city’s finest restaurants with him: the sushi bar feels serene, with a calming rock garden and a small bubbling fountain that gurgles ever so gently. Servers usher out plates with grace and illustrate each course with finesse. When you step inside, it feels as if you’ve been transported to Japan.

    But Tei-An is also the embodiment of Dallas. The cream-colored semi-circle sushi bar is minimalist in design, but filled with patrons who are anything but: Decked-out Texans tip back sake in flashy frocks, and perfectly coiffed Dallas women, with airbrushed skin as polished as their sky-high Louboutins, slurp soba.

    When dining here, everyone orders the omakase; I followed their lead. It began with delicate blond ribbons of baby squid, dressed simply in white vinegar. They’re a common starter for the multi-course menu and, I’m now convinced, the only way to begin such an indulgent meal.

    Following the squid, there was a sashimi plate, with rows of glistening fish; then, a featherweight jungle-gym-like structure of tempura, which was then one-upped by a mound of “Bolognese” tea soba noodles, dotted with Kobe and Wagyu. After that, it was all about the beef. At Tei-An, it’s neither big, nor local: A5 grade Miyazaki from southern Japan, flown in weekly, was lightly kissed on a personal stone grill. The last savory course, a homemade soba punctuated with a big, fat ice cube and studded with duck, stole the show.

    “He’s all hat and no cattle,” is a saying that folks in Dallas use to describe someone who doesn’t quite live up to their perceived reputation. There are loads of Japanese restaurants in North Texas, but few with the substance—the cattle—that Tei-An delivers. Sakurai may not be serving big hunks of rib-eye steak. Nor has he adopted a farm-to-table roll. But his well-executed menu is one of the best I’ve had outside of Japan—and it's deep in the heart of Texas.

    1722 Routh Street, Dallas, TX
    (214) 220-2828

    Anne Roderique-Jones is a writer in New Orleans.

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    It’s Road Trip Month on and we’re celebrating with a trip back through our archives, revisiting some of our favorite road trip-themed essays from years past. These stories take us all the way from the rocky coasts of western Oregon to the rolling hills and valleys of France’s Route Nationale 7.

    As any good traveler knows, the journey is just as important as the destination, and nowhere is that more apparent than when traveling by car. Windows down, miles disappearing beneath the wheels, the open road is romanticized for a reason; unfamiliar locales open up like an oyster to the observant explorer outfitted with an automobile.

    And if the cities and towns are the oysters, then the pearls are the precious culinary checkpoints along the way. These savvy road trippers savor every crab shack, patisserie, and pancake house they roll past, leaving no roadside stand unturned.

    On Route 66, a couple discovers establishments drenched in old-school Americana, and then in Oregon, soaks up the sun-drenched strip of iconic Highway 101. Virginia’s Highway 13 takes them up the coast to the state’s often-overlooked Atlantic peninsula and then to Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” skirting the panhandle along Route 98 and offering a bountiful harvest of Gulf seafood. And in France, an expat revisits the summer road trips of her youth by driving La Route des Vacances (The Holiday Route) all the way from Paris to southern Menton.

    Wherever your journey leads, there’s a story to be told along the way, so pack up these essays and go hit the open road!

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  • 05/22/15--08:38: Middle of Somewhere
  • I have always thought of the North Carolina Piedmont, where I grew up, as the state's under-appreciated middle child. Its 18th-century mill towns and cities—Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte—are sandwiched in the center between the more famous mountains, home to ever-funky Asheville, and the gorgeous coastal plains, with its beaches and dunes and fancy houses on the Outer Banks.

    I was raised in the booming state capital of Raleigh, a city that sprawls outward from old streets lined with oaks and lacy Victorian porches. When I was young, those who came through the area usually had practical reasons: government careers, a stop at the area's top-tier universities, a job in one of the glassy sci-tech engineering complexes. Savvy tourists headed for the rest of the state, if not to Charleston or Atlanta. The culinary hallmarks of plain-Jane Piedmont were straightforward fare, like barbecue, pimento cheese, and slaw-topped hot dogs. Recently, though, I've watched Piedmont become one of the South's most exciting places to eat, partially because so few people have been paying attention.

    “There's a vibrancy to the food scene here because we are less afraid of messing up or stepping out of line,” says April McGreger, the founder of Farmer's Daughter Brand pickles and preserves, all made by hand in the artsy community of Hillsborough. A former pastry chef under Andrea Reusing at Lantern in Chapel Hill (once the only contemporary restaurant known outside the region), McGreger notes a distinct difference between Piedmont cooking and the cuisine in Louisiana or her native Mississippi, where food with a developed storyline has long been a draw. There is “less clinging to tradition,” she observes, drawing a comparison to the Piedmont-style blues of the early 20th century, a blend of fingerpicking and ragtime rhythms. “No one cares that we are doing it ‘right’; they just care that we are doing it ‘good.’”

    Like McGreger's fig and muscadine grape jam (both fruits that flourish in Piedmont's flower-filled backyards) or pickled sweet-potato greens (grown on a farm tended by Burmese refugees), the best things from the region tend to tease deliciousness from a loose intersection of custom, discovery, and craft.

    Near the tiny town of Pittsboro (pop. 3,700, home of the North Carolina Zen Center), Chicken Bridge Bakery makes wood-fired, yeasted cornbreads and sourdough from locally milled flour. In even smaller Saxapahaw—a revitalized riverfront village with a hippie-meets-hipster vibe—Left Bank Butchery sells pho made with beef from local cattle and ciccioli with pork rinds that is Italian in lineage but Carolina in spirit. At Raleigh's Garland, one of many new restaurants in that city's once-dead downtown, chef Cheetie Kumar blends her Indian heritage with her Southern surroundings in dishes like ghee-griddled corn-and-poblano cakes topped with a tandoor-onion compote and a roasted tomato vinaigrette.

    North Carolina Poole's Diner

    Anige Mosier

    A bartender at Poole's Diner in Raleigh

    “It's not ‘down home’ Southern, but more of what we think of as N.C. cooking today,” says former Umstead Hotel chef Scott Crawford, who notes that the region has long been one of the South's most progressive areas. When he opens Nash Tavern in Raleigh next year, he'll fry collard croquettes, serve mussels with ham bone broth, and bake a modified chocolate chess pie dressed with crumbles of crunchy masa.

    The marvel here isn't that Crawford gets his chocolate around the corner, but that his collards are still grown nearby. “We are in the middle of such agricultural diversity,” says James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen, a Piedmont native who opened Poole's Diner in Raleigh in 2007. Her perch near the center of the state means she cooks with both foraged goods from the foggy foothills and still-wriggling seafood from the nearby coast.

    The region's real appeal lies in homespun operations like Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, a still-rural community that lured veteran Charlotte chef Paul Verica nearly two years ago. Having renovated a “little mom and pop” lunch counter on Main Street, he can now cook exactly what he wants, be it English peas and country ham in clarified potlikker, Korean-style beef with ponzu and North Carolina peanuts, or, because why not, good ol' pulled pork and pimento cheese.

    See the recipe for Scott Crawford's Chocolate Chess Pie with Cornbread Crumble »

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    Julie Soefer

    Houston is the most dynamic culinary destination in the country. It's also a city that is close to my heart. It opens your mind, challenges your thoughts, and humbles your soul—all through food. Many cultures thrive here: Vietnamese, Thai, Salvadorian, Nigerian, you name it. I am asked all the time, "Did you grow up travelling a lot?" And the answer is no—instead I got to experience global flavors by exploring the streets of my own city. Some of my best moments in Houston have happened when I got off of the beaten path and headed for family-run restaurants, where people were willing to show me what they know. Many of those places are listed here. I hope that you come and visit them, and enjoy seeing Houston the way I see it. —Chris Shepherd

    1. Saigon Pagolac

    This classic Vietnamese place is hard to find, but it's worth it. Try the beef seven ways and the whole catfish. In a city where there is a large population of Vietnamese, these guys never seem to dissapoint.

    Saigon Pagolac
    9600 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX
    (713) 988-6106

    2. Asia Market

    At Asia Market, you'll be served up some of the best Thai food in the city by some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. You pull up to this little grocery store, grab a table, sit back and relax. I order the papaya salad, kee mao noodle, and whatever else they recommend.

    Asia Market
    1010 W Cavalcade Street
    Houston, TX
    (713) 863-7074

    3. Atkinson Farms

    Now open to the public seven days a week, Atkinson is our largest supplier of local vegetables. You can visit them in Spring, Texas or at any one of our local farmers' markets.

    Atkinson Farms
    3217 Spring Cypress Road
    Houston, TX
    (832) 381-8202

    Julie Soefer

    4. Anvil Bar & Refuge

    Anvil Bar serves up amazing, innovative cocktails. I never order off the menu, I just ask them to make me something and I've never been disappointed.

    Anvil Bar & Refuge
    1424 Westheimer Road
    Houston, TX
    (713) 523-1622

    5. Cali Sandwich

    This place is what all other sandwich shops strive to be—perfect. They’ve been rocking banh mi sandwiches since the ‘80s. Order the cha gio (Vietnamese egg rolls), and don’t forget to add a fried egg to your banh mi.

    Cali Sandwich
    3030 Travis
    Houston, TX 77006

    6. El Hidalguense

    One of the truly authentic Mexican restaurants in Houston. Visit on the weekend, and try their slow roasted goat and lamb barbacoa.

    El Hidalguense
    6917 Long Point Road
    Houston, TX
    (713) 680-1071

    7. Mala Sichuan

    Mala Sichuan is owned by an amazing young couple, doing amazing things by staying true to their style of cuisine. Try the red oil dumplings or the mapo tofu.

    Mala Sichuan
    9348 Belliare Blvd; 1201 Westheimer
    Houston, TX
    (713) 995-1889

    8. HK Dim Sum

    This family-owned place is always packed. They have classic, fresh dim sum, but don't expect cart service. Try the steamed shrimp dumplings and the pork ribs.

    HK Dim Sum
    9889 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX
    (713) 777-7029

    9. Pho Binh by Night

    Bone marrow pho. Enough said.

    Pho Binh by Night
    12148 Bellaire Blvd #101
    Houston, TX
    (832) 351-2464

    Julie Soefer

    10. Revival Market

    These guys set the bar when it comes to cooking sustainably with local ingredients. They have amazing meats (they raise their own pigs) and are all around good guys—ask for Morgan or Ryan.

    Revival Market
    550 Heights Blvd
    Houston, TX
    (713) 880-8463

    11. London Sizzler

    London Sizzler has the best Indian food in the city and is run by some of the nicest people—my adopted Indian family, the Patels. Just go in and tell them to order what Chris gets.

    London Sizzler
    6690 Southwest Freeway
    Houston, TX
    (713) 783-2754

    12. Crawfish and Noodles

    A true measure of what Houston is all about—cultures blending. Take a Southern crawfish boil and blend it with Vietnamese flavor. Add stir-fried blue crabs and braised turkey necks, and you have one hell of a meal.

    Crawfish and Noodles
    11360 Bellaire Blvd. #990
    Houston, TX 77072 (281) 988-8098

    Chris Shepherd is the award-winning chef and owner of Underbelly, featuring locally-sourced food inspired by the ethnic diversity of Houston. The Art Institute-alum won the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest and was named one of 2013's Top 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine. In his free time, Chris cheers on his beloved Houston Texans, seeks out hard-to-find bottles for his ever-growing bourbon collection, and explores the city for new restaurants.

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  • 05/25/15--13:00: Wandering Across America
  • In the winter of 2015, writer and frequent traveler Caro Clark left Seattle to drive across country and, maybe, put down roots somewhere out east. Here, she's sharing a bit of her story.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    I opened up a beer and sat on a bluff in Northern California. The campground was empty. With the dying light, the water flattened out into a dimensionless turquoise. A lime hissed in my bottle. I was not prepared for the chill and boredom of 6 o’clock darkness.

    Seven hours and 383 miles ago I had woken up at a friend’s house in Portland, Oregon. My car had been packed and ready to go for days, but my trip kept getting delayed: happy hours, a fancy olive oil store I visited for the free bread, and a place that made salt-flavored ice cream all helped me put off my departure. The morning I finally started driving, I had no real destination. I played an album of Polish Bob Dylan covers. This is the music I listen to when I’m sad. It was also the only CD I could find.

    For lunch I stopped at a gas station. Past the aisles of junk food and coolers of soda there was a little kitchen with a table and chairs, a secret domestic oasis. Potted plants, the same scratched, white fridge from my childhood, yellow linoleum counters. A woman in a daisy patterned apron was making sandwiches. She held up her hands when she saw me, fingers like prunes, and told me she’d been washing dishes all day. I almost mistook myself for someone she knew. When she asked me why I was on this road trip I told her I was moving to North Carolina, though that wasn’t entirely true. Mostly I was just moving. I did not tell her that I’d been traveling for almost three years, that I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. I did not tell her that when I tried moving back to Seattle I had felt lonely and misplaced. I did ask for hot sauce.

    She handed me my turkey sandwich, bound in saran wrap. Good luck on your drive, she said. Be safe. I had hoped she would invite me to camp on her lawn, in one of the doublewides or shoebox ranches lining the small town, to fall asleep watching the television glow cast through the glass mobiles hanging in every front door. But I was too shy to ask and so I sat in the parking lot and ate in the shade of a fern. No one tried to stop me when I got in the car. Everyone I drove past waved me on out of town.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    At the campsite I drank a couple more beers, hoping to tire myself out. I looked up at the sky with forced interest. It was speckled so brightly that the Milky Way looked to be spread with a butter knife. An owl cooed in the dark. Then came a shooting star. I was too cold to appreciate any of it and went to bed. Hours later, I woke to the shrill sound of a fox barking, could smell the citrus on my knife as I reached for it. I shivered back to sleep.

    In the morning I broke down camp and hiked to the water before setting off again. The trail to the beach was marked with tsunami warnings. A rabbit watched me approach. Hello, I called out to it, surprising myself with my own voice. As if twenty-four hours alone was all it took to commune with animals like I was a hungover Snow White. It was gone before I reached the word’s breathy end.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    Driving was a wistful pleasure already described by too many rock songs. I became attuned to the designs of small-town gas stations, wandering past coolers with milk and sodas and aisles of chips, instant pastas and jerky, all the trappings of a bachelor’s dinner. I paid attendants who had cavernous lines on their faces, as if they’d suffered bad weather somewhere deep inside.

    I passed through Napa, Davis, Oakland. Somewhere back on the coast, I was chased out of a campground by a very angry, very naked man. In Santa Cruz I woke to my first earthquake. Earlier that day I watched a herd of surfers navigate the waves. They had seemed so at ease with their surroundings; I’d felt both envious and foolish watching from the side of the road.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    In Big Sur, Route 1 snaked the hills and dips and cliffs, begging more than my usual dexterity. The fog gave way to an azure sky, folds of hills, and and then occasionally drifted back over the road, a curtain in an open window. When a rock the size of a cocker spaniel fell behind me, I could see the splash of its debris in my rearview as it bounced heavily off the road. Still, there was nothing I could do, no number of pullovers, roadside root beers, close calls, or dangerous turns, no singing out the window that could leave me feeling like I had any sort of permanence within that place. This, I began to realize, was not going to change anytime soon.

    I stood before cliffs, and coves, and cows. I found an empty beach and went to investigate a large piece of washed up detritus. It turned out to be an elephant seal who growled at me as I backed away towards my car. I stopped again and again and again, and just as many times, I left.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    By the time I got to Venice Beach the psychics had already boarded their doors shut. No crowds gathered around street performers, and only one unicyclist wheeled slowly by with a dreary, apocalyptic squeak. I wandered over to the Venice Skatepark. I had come to this particular spot my whole life, walking distance from my uncle’s house in Santa Monica. I recognized a gnome tattoo and one gap-toothed grin. I had watched some of these kids—now no longer kids—grow up, but I doubt they could distinguish me from the tourists. I was playing anthropologist, observing people who seemed to better understand their place in the world.

    I settled against a rail and put my face in my hands, listening to the cry of the grind, the scrape of each mistake. The crunch and thud and piercing squeal of a board, the hollow rolling as it drifted from its owner before being snatched up again. When I finally opened my eyes, it was to the nearly clandestine thrum of wheels still spinning as a skater flew through the air, impossibly high and briefly safe, shadows secreted away by the low sun. I had spent three weeks in California. It was time to go east.

    I’m the drifter? He laughed. Look at you, sweetheart.

    Even more remarkable than the two California Condors I spotted in the Grand Canyon: I found my dad at the Phoenix airport, his white mustache concealing a smile. He had surprised me by asking to come along for a week of my trip. As we drove, we discussed at length where to eat and stay, each assuring the other that anything was fine. It’s up to you, kid, he said. I’m just along for the ride.

    I was flattered someone thought I had any clue about what I was doing.

    At the dusty Arizona–Mexico border a waitress asked if we were related. I said he was a drifter I picked up off the highway. He looked the part: Beer in hand, the naked legs of a woman peeking from below the sleeve of his Harley t-shirt. When I was little I used to fill them in with red marker so it looked like she was wearing pants. Now, my own bare legs stretched under the table, my own tattoos already starting to blur.

    I’m the drifter? He laughed. Look at you, sweetheart.

    Like me, my dad prefers convenience stores to restaurants. The southwest was a haven of derelict markets and gas station barbecue. The roads were as flat and straight as I’d been warned. I ignored him when he noted my speed. It’s a small engine, he said. What are you thinking? He meant it as a criticism but it sounded like a question. I am so confused about everything, I wanted to tell him. But cars are a scary place for those conversations. You’re always staring straight out into the fast-approaching future.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    When we got to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico the sky was the stormy color of the Atlantic and the dunes were without shadow. My dad and I had bickered in the car all afternoon. I walked off, leaving him at the edge of the road. I only went a little ways, but when I turned around I couldn’t see him or the car. Distance contracted and expanded in a way that made me feel immediately lost and unable to make progress. When I touched it, the sand was as fine as dust.

    My dad had grown up abroad, traveled the world, worked at sea. As a kid I’d idolized him, wore oversized motorcycle shirts and drew myself incoherent tattoos depicting, I claimed, Roger Rabbit. I’d followed in his footsteps, and now, after years of being single and far from home, I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted. He had given that life up to have a family; I had left Seattle to find a different place to settle down. Being with him, edging towards the familiar, began to conjure in me a throat-thick fear.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    We drove on to Marfa, Texas, where we met a woman named Bridget who invited us to spend the night at her house. She was thin, much taller than both of us. Her cats multiplied until there were at least five. I picked up one of the boar skulls in her living room, and my dad whispered to me that she might be some sort of priestess.

    Before we left she told me that she hoped I’d find happiness in North Carolina. It left me rattled, that my malaise was so obvious. Ten minutes in the car and I drove through a stop sign. My dad swore, making me pull over and sit in the passenger seat. Pay attention, he told me. Do I have to worry about you after I go? I shook my head, no. I didn’t need his worry. I worried about myself all the time. I worried from Seattle down to LA, and I worried us right on into the Nashville airport. My mind was never quiet.

    Cross Country Roadtrip

    Caro Clark

    After dropping him off, I spent a few days in Nashville before driving to the place I hoped I’d want to make my home. Asheville was warm and beautiful. The horizon bristled with the dulled peaks of America’s oldest mountains. I was welcomed by dear friends who made me fancy bourbon cocktails and took me to play competitive scrabble and drunk ping-pong. I sat by railroad tracks. Walked rivers. I felt understood. They even took me to a gas station that had beer on tap.

    Still, I hoped for some larger sign that I was ready to settle there. There was no giantess to prophesize the answer. No earthquake to shake me awake. I wondered if I’d missed something along the way, if I should have quit driving weeks ago.

    Are you going to stay? my friends asked. After a week, I got back on the road.

    Caro Clark is a writer currently living in Alaska.

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    Sri Lanka, Train

    Diane Selkirk

    The trains in Sri Lanka are remarkably on time. This almost created a problem when I woke late for the five hour train journey from the leafy hill town of Kandy to the ancient city of Anuradhapura. I hurried out of our guesthouse without breakfast and only just managed to grab a few packets of Sri Lankan sweets from a shop at the train station before it was time to board.

    Just as I settled into my second class seat (more seat padding than third class but not air-conditioned like first), we pulled out of the station. I watched the station café disappear, worried that I’d spend the entire trip hungry.

    Sri Lanka, Train

    Diane Selkirk

    Luckily, each town we stopped in brought aboard new vendors selling a variety of inexpensive snacks known throughout the country as short eats. At each station, a new cast of vendors would step aboard, walking the length of the train calling the name of their offerings in a loud, sing-song voice. Each leg of our journey meant a new snack.

    As we wound our way down from the high country, a man selling masala vadai—curried lentil fritters—boarded the train. The crispy snacks were served, still warm, in an envelope made from recycled newspaper, with flecks of curry leaf, chilies, and cilantro peppered throughout.

    Lush green rice country brought on the string hopper salesmen. Their lacy flat cakes are made from rice flour noodles, tangled together and steamed, then served with a spicy coconut sambal. They are delicate but messy. I ate them eagerly, watching workers in the paddies hand-harvest rice as our train passed them by.

    Coconut roti came onboard while our train slowed down to travel between two stops at opposite ends of the same village. The fragrant flatbread, made from wheat flour and fresh-grated coconut, was spread with a fiery chili paste. It was the size of a large cookie, with a similar ability to make me smile. Out the window, I glimpsed moments of life in the town: orange-robed monks walking to temple, a fruit vendor selling watermelon, bicyclists lined up at the train tracks, waiting us to move along.

    We pulled into Anuradhapura exactly on time: noon. Just in time for lunch.

    Diane Selkirk is a writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Travel, Men's Journal and Saturday Evening Post. She's currently sailing around the world but loves trains almost as much as boats.

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    Breakfast at Namli Gurme

    Kristy Mucci

    Namli Gurme, a market and restaurant in the Karaköy neighborhood of Istanbul, is very popular among locals—people and stray cats alike. I recently enjoyed breakfast there on the first day of a weeklong trip to Turkey, and found it the perfect start to a day of exploring the city. The experience here is a bit overwhelming: you order at a counter filled with seemingly endless options behind a long glass case, but there are also several signs in Turkish indicating things that can be made to order. Luckily, the men behind the counter will offer guidance if you look completely lost, which I did.

    The tables are generally so packed that finding a seat might require an eagle eye or a willingness to eat outside on a not-so-nice day, but once you’re seated, it’s easy to enjoy yourself. I ordered a traditional breakfast, plus eggs: The mild cheeses, cured meats, and olives were served with fluffy bread and an addictive sour cherry jam—not too sweet, with the occasional tart punch of a whole cherry. The eggs had bright orange yolks and were served in a small dish I wanted to take home with me. Turkish tea is what it is (bitter, weak), but it’s served in cute glasses that somehow make it so much better. And if you are seated outside, the stray cats will spend the whole time flirting with you and eyeing what you might not finish. I had barely stood up all the way before this guy pounced on my leftovers.

    Back inside, I wandered the store admiring the huge displays of olives, dried fruits and nuts, different kinds of honey, and a case full of baklava and various baklava-like treats, all of it nearly impossible to resist. I got myself one of every pistachio and honey pastry on offer, and a large bag of pistachios, which were by far the best I’ve ever had: slender with the most vibrant pink skins and the perfect amounts of crunch, sweetness, and salt. I followed up all of that excitement with a walk along the Bosphorus and through the streets of Karaköy, a lively neighborhood filled with restaurants, cafes, and the fanciest hammam: Kılıç Ali Paşa, a traditional Turkish bath dating back to the 16th century.

    Istanbul is large, crowded, and loud: overstimulating in the best way. This breakfast was a great way to ease into it, to boost my enthusiasm and help me forget my jetlag. And the cats—both at Namli Gurme and throughout the neighborhood—were the perfect welcoming committee.

    Namli Gurme Karakoy
    Rıhtım Cad. Katotopark Altı 1/1, 34425 Karaköy
    İstanbul, Turkey +90 212 293 6880

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    Paella at Miami's El Palacio de los Jugos

    Mamey juice, seafood paella, and sweet plantains

    Amanda Arnold

    The Uber driver clicked around on his GPS to find the address I had given him instead of attempting to pronounce the name of my destination in poor Spanish. I watched the screen pop up: El Palacio de los Jugos, way out in Miami’s western Flagami neighborhood.

    “Ah ha ha,” he chuckled to himself, his finger still pressed to the address on the screen. “Word.”

    A street food market that attracts everyone from Ferran Adrià to Martha Stewart to 22-year-old Midwestern girls like myself, El Palacio de los Jugos translates to “The Palace of Juices,” but it’s more of a palace of every edible Latin good. Crowds of people squeeze through narrow aisles to get to one of the food stands, calling out in Spanish and pointing to fatty chicharrones, mounds of pea-flecked arroz amarillo, or ropa vieja. In the middle of it all, a man with a shopping cart full of green coconuts hacks off their tops with precision, inserts a straw into the cavity, and passes them off to customers. It’s a spectacle, but no one cheers.

    Upon arriving, I wandered for half an hour, and I still felt like I hadn’t seen it all. It’s not a big area, but food stands with piles of fruit and stacks of dulce de leche are all packed together; it’s overwhelming, but I liked that. I was surrounded by foods I didn’t recognize and a language I don’t speak, so I could do nothing but follow my instincts.

    El Palacio de los Jugos

    Miami's El Palacio de los Jugos

    Amanda Arnold

    Before deciding on what I wanted to eat, I went up to the central juice stand and went for mamey, the sweet-potato-meets-papaya fruit that produces a red-orange nectar. It was musty, thick, and unlike any juice I’d ever known, but one of the best I'd ever had.

    And after spending much time deliberating what food I wanted, at the Pescado y Mariscos stand, I ordered seafood paella and plátanos—hello, starches—and the woman behind the counter piled scoop after scoop into a styrofoam box, which bent under the weight. I paid $8 for enough food to last me the next three days.

    As I dug into the paella, my fork hit various concealed bits of seafood: clams, shrimp, half a whole fish, squid. The experience was reminiscent of digging through a sandbox and finding a shovel, except the shovel was a pink filet of salmon.

    El Palacio de los Jugos
    5721 W Flagler St., Miami (plus seven other locations)
    (305) 262-0070

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    Rome, Italy


    Nick Anderer first arrived in Rome in 1997, as a college student studying art history; he got to know the city on daily, 3-hour walking tours that his program mandated. He would return many years later, while living in Milan, to stage in a number of Roman restaurants, learning the city’s dishes at their source. When he opened up Maialino in New York City’s Gramercy Park Hotel with restaurateur Danny Meyer, he went back once more to visit, eating around the city and taking notes for the Roman-style trattoria he’d soon be running.

    Anderer now makes yearly trips to Rome with the team from Maialino (and now Marta, his latest venture), spending 3 or 4 days each spring “refreshing our palates and brains a little.” He recently returned from this year’s trip, and is sharing some of his recently discovered favorites—plus a few classics that no visitors to Rome should miss out on.

    Da Nerone
    This is a classic Roman trattoria, the sort of neighborhood haunt from which Maialino drew much of its inspiration. This particular place doesn’t find its way into guidebooks, but you’re guaranteed to see some of the Roman classics done extremely well: spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), alici fritti (fried anchovies), abbacchio al forno (slow-roasted baby lamb). Generally speaking, people don’t travel crosstown to visit a trattoria— it’s not a destination restaurant but rather a spot for neighborhood regulars and familiar faces. Expect that scene when you stroll into Da Nerone.

    Da Nerone
    Via delle Terme di Tito, 96
    00184 Roma, Italy
    +39 06 481 7952

    Rome, Trapizzino

    Elizabeth Minchilli

    This is a new place that traverses all kinds of culinary borders and demographics, and as a fast casual concept, it is breaking new ground for Rome. The name is a hybrid of pizza and tramezzino, the Italian word for triangle, which specifically references the triangular snack-time sandwiches popularized in the bars of Venice. The trapizzino is best described to the layman as a triangular pizza-pocket sandwich. Each morning they bake large rectangular pans of pizza bianca, a naturally leavened, Roman-style white pizza, brushed with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary. They then cut the pizza bianca into triangular pieces and re-heat them to order in a primitive looking toaster oven which very effectively reinforces the crusty exterior. The crispy triangles are stuffed with traditional, home-style stews which range from spicy tripe to braised greens. My favorite filling is the pollo alla cacciatore—stewed chicken with vinegar, rosemary, garlic, and anchovy.

    Via Giovanni Branca, 88
    00153 Roma, Italy
    +39 06 4341 9624*

    Gelateria del Teatro
    This gelateria is in the historic center of Rome, at the steps of the Coronari Theater on Via Coronari. Once a bit of a hidden gem, this place is now gaining in popularity, helped by its relocation from its former nook (tucked under the steps of the theater) to its current placement with a prominent street-facing entrance. More than anything, I like the freshness of their gelato, particularly the flavors which utilize fresh fruits and herbs. And the cases of fresh fruit stacked in their open kitchen always persuade me to order in that direction. The salvia e lampone (sage and raspberry) is definitely my “go-to” flavor as a mid-afternoon snack.

    Gelateria del Teatro
    Via dei Coronari, 65/66
    00186 Roma, Italy
    +39 06 4547 4880

    rome italy restaurant roscioli salumeria

    Counter at Salumeria Roscioli

    Courtesy of Salumeria Roscioli

    It’s extremely popular, but it would be hard to find another eatery in the center of Rome that cares as much about their sourcing of fine ingredients. Roscioli is a one-stop shop gastronomia, where you can find the highest quality salumi, cheese, and wine from all over the country, albeit at a pretty lofty price. But so long as you’re there, you might as well indulge in meats like the truffled mortadella or the hard-to-find cinta senese prosciutto imported from Sienna. The classic Roman pasta selection is also fantastic, and if you try their carbonara or amatriciana, you’ll taste some of the most unctuous and crisp guanciale that the city has to offer. And the bread basket is one of the city’s best since its contents are supplied by the Roscioli bakery right across the street. Be sure to reserve in advance because the sparse seating fills up quickly.

    Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22
    00186 Roma, Italy
    +39 06 687 5287*

    If you go to Rome, you have try some of the region’s famed porchetta. Although seemingly ubiquitous throughout the city, it’s very easy to stumble upon very poor preparations of this awesome roast pig dish. So steer clear of most salumerie and bars in the center of the city that have their porchetta on display and head straight to the Prati neighborhood near the Vatican, just northwest of the historic center. Vitaliano Bernabei makes it with a unique technique: He ties half of the pig (loin and belly) in its own skin and cooks it at a very low temperature with injections of steam for nearly six hours. After the slow steam treatment, he dry roasts the pig at a very high temperature to transform the soft skin into a bubbling crisp crust. You won’t be disappointed.

    Corso Vittoria Colonna, 13
    00047 Marino RM, Italy
    +39 06 938 7897

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    My favorite part of the four months that I spent living in Paris, France, in 2011 was the three-hour painting class I took every Thursday in the residential 15th Arrondissement. It was the event around which I oriented my week—the one thing I wouldn’t skip out on. My excitement had very little to do with the act of painting.

    Our class of 12 was divided into two very distinct camps: French people, mostly middle-aged men, who knew their way around a paintbrush; and the five or six American students who were taking this class for a taste of “culture.” The class officially began at 7 p.m., but everyone would saunter in around 7:10, and then the model would disrobe and take her place on a stool draped in dripcloth.

    Though I’d taken drawing classes with nude models before and was living in a country where bikini tops are optional on beaches, I still had to feign nonchalance to the model’s initial nakedness. I mirrored the reactions of the French students around me and squinted my eyes, trying to judge curves and shadows and not focus on the fact of nakedness. The concrete room would fill with the sound of pencils scratching on paper.

    It’s hard to be timid about your grammar slip-ups when you’re sharing your third glass of wine with the very woman whose nipples you were just painting.

    Around 8 o’clock we would break for une pause. The model would throw on a robe, palettes and paint tubes would be cleared, and we would congregate around a cluster of ink-stained side tables. A baguette would appear; then, a thick slice of pâté, marbled with fat and aspic. An oily wedge of comté would immediately overpower the lingering smell of turpentine. Then came one—no, two—no, three—bottles of wine. All red, of course, since it was fall in Paris and already quite chilly. One of the more hardened-looking men always had a bottle opener on him and would pop the cork before we even began setting out the little water cooler plastic cups we used in place of wine glasses.

    Our art class picnic was sourced, by and large, from spots within walking distance of the studio. We hit up chain supermarkets and corner boulangeries, closet-sized meat and cheese shops run by often-toothless proprietors and their yippy dogs. We bought our wine at corner stores reminiscent of American bodegas, and it was still damn good.

    There was never any coordination about who brought which food, so occasionally we’d find ourselves with eight bottles of wine and only a baguette to absorb them with, or the opposite: four types of odorous cheese and barely enough wine to muster a classwide “santé!” But the lack of structure brought excitement to the reveal: What would we be eating tonight? Plus, we could always duck out for a bottle of wine or a jar of olives.

    Unlike the meals I ate with my French host family, there were no salad plates here, no individual containers of yogurt for dessert, no rules about what to eat first. Our feasts were a delicate dance between gluttony and propriety: no one sipped their wine until everyone had been served, but they dug into containers of olives with ink-stained fingers and not an ounce of hesitation. We tore into baguettes with our hands, then used it to scoop up tapenades, swaddle our slices of salami, and wipe our fingers clean when we were done. In the end, there were always a few butter cookies or a bar of midnight-colored chocolate.

    During this break, the Parisians made no effort to practice their language with us. The locals didn’t ask us about our classes or how we were adjusting to life in a foreign country. Instead, they asked us if we’d ever tasted real pâté—like they make in the countryside outside of Paris—and showed us the mark of a high-quality baguette (press down: if you hear a crackle, it’s a keeper). During the pause, we dared to use the subjunctive and try out idioms, those feats that had always tripped us up in language classes. It’s hard to be timid about your grammar slip-ups when you’re sharing your third glass of wine with the very woman whose nipples you were just painting.

    After the last baguette was gone, we would wander in a circle from easel to easel scoping out each others' work and giving critiques. We’d return to our stools and attempt to reposition the model in her previous pose, a feat which took far longer than necessary (most likely due to the wine). After the break, we were all a bit bolder with our paint strokes, more daring with our color choices.

    I think I kept one or two of my paintings from the class, but these days I’m more likely to spring for a wedge of comté or use a baguette as an all-purpose utensil than pull out a paint brush. That class mostly taught me that any place, any time, can be ripe for a picnic. And that a bottle of red is a great way to bond with a nude french woman.

    Catherine Lamb is a baker, writer, and part-time blueberry farmer with a penchant for large dogs.

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    Martha's Vineyard, Travel Guide

    Elizabeth Cecil

    This 88-square-mile island, located off the coast of Cape Cod, is full of hidden ponds lurking off of main roads, beautiful beaches stretching on for miles, and loads of fresh produce and seafood, making it an ideal place to visit during the warmer months. There are several communities on the Vineyard—year-round locals who tend the land and run the farm stands, summer residents of the Kennedy ilk—and this guide reveals the best-kept secrets of the former group for the benefit of the rest of us.

    Getting There

    You can reach the island either by water or air. Delta and JetBlue offer direct flights from New York City, US Airways from Washington, D.C., and Cape Air from Boston; ferries leave frequently from various locations on the eastern seaboard, including Woods Hole, New Bedford, and Hyannis (all in Massachusetts). For more information, check out

    Where to Stay

    Lambert’s Cove Inn
    This charming inn, located on seven acres in West Tisbury and walking distance from both Lambert’s Cove Beach and Ice House Pound, offers 15 cozy guest rooms in three buildings and a 70-seat restaurant. A full cooked-to-order breakfast, including omelets and breakfast sandwiches, is included in the room price. Rooms start at $250 during the summer.

    Lambert’s Cove Inn
    90 Manaquayak Rd, West Tisbury, MA 02575
    (508) 693-2298

    Captain Flanders
    Located on 60 acres in the small town of Chilmark, the main farmhouse of this inn dates back to the 1700s. There are four rooms in the house and two stand-alone cottages. Fresh bread, muffins, honey, and jams are part of the complimentary breakfast.

    Captain Flanders Inn
    440 North Road, Chilmark MA 02535

    Martha's Vineyard, The Bite, Travel Guide

    Elizabeth Cecil

    Where to Eat

    Larsen’s Fish Market
    This family-run operation opened in 1969 and is now helmed by Betsy Larsen, daughter of founders Louis and Mary; it boasts some of the freshest seafood on the island. If you have means to cook, stop by for fresh filets or shellfish; if you don't, grab a dozen shucked oysters, a hot buttered lobster roll, or a bowl of chowder and eat outside on the docks, watching various Larsens unload the day’s catch.

    Larsen’s Fish Market
    56 Basin Road, Chilmark MA, 02535

    The Bite
    If you love good, crispy fried seafood—and who doesn't?—head to this small take-out shack with picnic tables out back. Get there early, when the fryer first starts up and the lines are short, for a paper container stuffed with crisp, golden fried clams or shrimp.

    The Bite
    29 Basin Road, Menemsha, MA

    Billing itself as a “farm-to-takeout” joint, this small shop sells one of the island’s great breakfast sandwiches (add the bacon), along with a handful of lunch sandwiches, prepared foods, and baked goods. Most of the ingredients are sourced locally.

    1045 State Road, West Tisbury, MA

    Look Out Tavern
    In the mood for a beer and fish taco in a low-key setting where you can catch the night’s game? This favorite, packed with locals, has televisions, but if you can tear your eyes away from the screen, opt for a seat by the railing so you can look out over the harbor.

    Look Out Tavern
    8 Seaview Avenue, Oak Bluffs

    For a more upscale establishment, dine at this hot spot in Edgartown, where you’ll find dishes like grilled Atlantic swordfish paired with local greens, or a bowl of steamers with drawn butter.

    71 Main Street, Edgartown, MA

    Martha's Vineyard, Beach, Travel Guide

    Elizabeth Cecil

    Where to Go

    Aquinnah Public Beach
    A surf beach that’s a ten-minute walk from the parking lot. Park for $15/day. Wander around on the dunes, but beware of ticks.

    Katama Beach (South Beach)
    Three miles of beach at the south end of the island, with a salt pond abutting it. Open to all.

    For more information about beaches, click here

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    Crickets in Mexico City

    Hallie Bateman

    We wander through Mexico City’s Coyoacan neighborhood eating corn, the street coyotes of its namesake now streams of blissful loiterers curling around the merchants into Plaza Hidalgo. The colors all shock and burst, the grifters look like your niece. Everyone is flexing a fist or flashing a grin, eager for energy. We’d just been gawking at Frida Kahlo’s death mask and I’d felt thick, dark, but now in the rushing light I am ageless and unbounded. The square is a lemon having a fit. It’s old colonial Mexico in bright bloom.

    Restaurant patios line the back wall of the square, all with their own busker in front; we choose the only one with a table open. This is where Cortés, with the ghosts of an empire dripping from his hands, tortured Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor. The square now all laughter and accordions, knock-off Minions and Bart Simpsons, we order beer and tequila. We order guacamole, too, but con chapulines throws us off, and the waiter, pinching his fingers together and struggling, can’t seem to find the word either. We decide to try it regardless.

    He returns and sets a small white bowl down. Ah. Chapulines.

    ¿Cómo se dice?” he asks.


    They look like tiny grasshoppers. They’ve been toasted to a dry crisp, salted and limed, like a sunflower seed with a face. You’ll see them on barrio streets piled into soft, coppery pyramids, sold by the cupful. I hold one up by its brittle back leg and examine it, how frozen it seems, suspended in a faraway time like the people of Aztlán, like my own Mexican heritage hanging thin and fading in some familial echo.

    And we crunch them and dip them and wash them down with the cold beer, their bronzed bodies like dead royalty waiting in the sunlit bowl. Their taste is all subtle hints: ajo, lima, spikes of salt. I am astounded by the facts: we are in Mexico City, we are eating crickets, we are beaming. I am an arm reaching back through generations, I see my grandmother’s hands in my hands, I am staked into an exploding history. Which likely means nothing, I think, while a guitar creaks, while my amber beer beads, while the young plaza girls try to shake pesos from our trees.

    Alan Hanson is a writer from California and an amateur entomophagist. You can find him on Twitter here.

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    There’s a new dynamism in the Twin Cities culinary scene, thanks to a deeply food-engaged populace supporting not only restaurants, cocktail bars, and taphouses, but a dozen independent food cooperatives (supermarkets with a focus on organic and local produce). Our feature in the June/July issue of Saveur visits four Minneapolis chefs in their kitchens and comes away with some kick-ass new recipes for summer. In the course of reporting the story, we visited many more restaurants, salumi makers, bakers, and food trucks than we had room in the story for. So we've put together this list of some our favorite finds.

    Minneapolis Guide, Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Courtesy of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Bachelor Farmer
    In this warm, post-and-beam former warehouse, James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Berglund fashions boldly flavored food from north country ingredients. Your roasted celeriac soup with toasted walnuts and lemon might be served in a clay bowl thrown by Berglund—an amateur potter—himself.

    Bachelor Farmer
    50 2nd Avenue N
    (612) 206-3920

    Minneapolis Guide, Borough, Octopus

    Octopus at Borough

    Courtesy of Borough

    Drew Yancey serves globe-trotting plates like raw tuna with miso, pineapple, sesame, and lime at this chefs' hangout in the North Loop. And barkeep Jesse Held, a seasoned veteran of the Minneapolis mixology scene, shakes cocktails for adventurous sippers, viz. the Awkward Silence, made with bourbon, peach-pit liqueur, yerba mate honey, artichoke liqueur, and “salt solution.”

    730 N. Washington Avenue
    (612) 354-3135

    Minneapolis Guide, Curious Goat

    Burgers at The Curious Goat

    TJ Turner

    Curious Goat
    Torqued-up comforts with refined technique (think purple potatoes with sunchoke cream or a meatloaf sandwich with onion jam and gravy) are this food truck’s calling card. And you don’t have to hunt far and wide for this mobile operation because it’s in residence semi-permanently at Sociable Cider Werks.

    Curious Goat
    1500 Fillmore Street NE
    (612) 229-2364

    Haute Dish
    As you might have guessed by the name, Landon Schoenefeld’s restaurant serves Midwestern food with modern, cheffy flourishes. His upmarket riff on the Midwestern staple “hot dish” casserole includes beef short rib, porcini mushrooms, and of course, tater tots—and has become a Twin Cities icon.

    Haute Dish
    119 Washington Avenue N
    (612) 338-8484

    Dominated by a freewheeling open kitchen and a few barns’ worth of reclaimed wood, Jim Christiansen’s vegetable-focused restaurant offers cooking with a lightness and purity, shown in dishes like a warm appetizer of a fried egg over chanterelles, quick-pickled blackberries, green garlic, and toasted hazelnuts. The claytonia, morels, and spring onions that Christiansen finds in Theodore Wirth Park make regular appearances on plates here.

    2700 Lyndale Avenue S
    (612) 200-9369

    La Belle Vie
    The grand dame of Minneapolis fine dining has a new chef de cuisine in Shane Oporto. The jury’s still out on how the menu of French-inflected refinements that won executive chef Tim McKee a James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest in 2009 will get tweaked, if at all. In the meantime, the bar here—widely credited with igniting the craft cocktail scene in the city—is superb for popping in for an aperitif before a night on the town.

    La Belle Vie
    510 Groveland Avenue
    (612) 874-6440

    Since 1954, this warm, inviting meat market and restaurant has been delivering the old-world flavors of eastern Europe, primarily in the form of sausages and more sausages: Every style of mett, brat, and wurst is available here.

    215 E Hennepin Avenue
    (612) 379-3018

    Minneapolis Guide, Marvel Bar, Alkaline Trio

    The Marvel Bar's "alkaline trio"

    Charlie Ward

    Marvel Bar
    This industrial-posh speakeasy underneath Bachelor Farmer has the city’s most extensive selection of spirits from Minnesota distilleries and some of its best cocktails, too. The house style is a restrained refinement—no seaweed tinctures here!—that is nevertheless sly and winning.

    Marvel Bar
    50 2nd Avenue N
    (612) 206-3929

    Doug Flicker is the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Minneapolis dining scene and his tiny, 36-seat jewel box spot in South Minneapolis is a must on any food-lover’s tour. His dishes marry craveable comfort with tweezer-prodded artistry, like braised salsify with smoked oysters, hen of the woods mushrooms, horseradish, and cress. And don’t miss his signature scrambled eggs with pickled pigs' feet and truffle butter.

    4300 Bryant Avenue S
    (612) 827-8111

    Red Table Meat Co.
    Heirloom pigs, transformed into traditional Italian-style salumi and whole-muscle cures, are the specialty of this year-old salumeria, run by ace chefs Mike Phillips and Peter Ireland. Their gleaming Willy Wonka-esque facility has a USDA inspector onsite and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that reveal to visitors every step of the process, from butchering, to production, to curing, to aging.

    Red Table Meat Co.
    1401 Marshall Street NE
    (612) 200-8245

    Minneapolis Guide, Salty Tart

    Salty tarts at Salty Tart

    Emily J. Davis

    Salty Tart
    In a city with a brace of top-notch bakeries (Patisserie 46, Rustica), Michelle Gayer’s spot—a kiosk tucked into the Midtown Global Market—focuses on decadent, delicious confections you’d expect from a James Beard-nominated pastry chef, like a chocolate trifle with moist chocolate cake, silky chocolate mousse, and toasty caramel served in a half-pint deli container. Grab a plastic spoon and dig in!

    Salty Tart
    920 E Lake Street
    (612) 874-9206

    Spoon and Stable
    In a sun-splashed lofty former stable, Minnesota native Gavin Kaysen—whose previous gig was seven years helming New York’s Café Boulud—turns out elegant seasonal cuisine, like wood-grilled duck with black rice, beets, and honey, with the highest-quality Midwestern ingredients.

    Spoon and Stable
    211 1st Street N
    (612) 224-9850

    Minneapolis Guide, Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Courtesy of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese

    Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese
    A sprawling market—really two markets in one—is a one-stop shop for Twin-Cities-made provisions, like Red Table Meat Co. salamis, cocktail bitters by Dashfire, and B.T. McElrath’s award-winning Salty Dog Chocolate Bars.

    Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese
    303 E Hennepin Avenue
    (612) 379-3232

    This ur-neighborhood restaurant seems like it’s been there since Betty Crocker’s heyday. It's a warm taproom (featuring 21 tightly curated draft beers) with creaky hardwood floors, glowing schoolhouse lanterns, and chipped Thonet chairs. Chef Steven Brown isn’t afraid to elevate well-sourced Minneapolis lake fish and vegetables with global flourishes like dukka spices and ras el hanout.

    2726 W 43rd Street
    (612) 354-2806

    New and on-the-horizon:

    Erik Anderson returned to Minneapolis from Nashville’s lauded The Catbird Seat, and teamed up with Jamie Malone, former executive chef of Twin Cities seafood temple Sea Change, to create Brut, a classic French restaurant slated for a fall opening. Their pop-ups have been setting Instagram ablaze. Stay up-to-date with developments and opening date on Twitter.

    Nighthawks and Birdie
    Landon Schoenefeld first made a name for himself with Haute Dish (see above). Nighthawks, named for the Edward Hopper painting, is his postmodern diner; Birdie, opening later this summer, will be a tasting-menu-only restaurant-within-a-restaurant located in Nighthawk’s kitchen.

    3753 Nicollet Avenue S
    (612) 248 8111

    Patisserie 46
    Much-laureled pastry chef John Kraus crafts all the soigné French patisseries—mille-feuilles, eclairs, macarons—at this laid-back neighborhood café and bakery. But Kraus’ kouign-amann twist, his foot-long take on the classic Breton delectable, is a must. There are also killer tartines and crêpes.

    Patisserie 46
    4552 Grand Ave S
    (612) 354-3257

    North Carolina-bred Thomas Boemer won over the Twin Cities with his cooking at Corner Table, a genial neighborhood bistro with deft Italian-ish fare and seasonal Midwestern ethics. His newly-opened spot Revival pays homage to the southern dishes he grew up with, such as fried chicken and pork barbecue with chopped slaw.

    4257 Nicollet Avenue S (612) 345-4516

    Cookbook authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee are the hosts of the TV series "Southern Uncovered with The Lee Bros.” which premieres on Ovation June 14, 2015.

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    Photographer Matt Conant recently spent two weeks road tripping through Croatia with his wife, documenting their journey from Istria to Split, over to the island of Vis, and down to Dubrovnik. Hitting the road in a tiny stickshift hatchback with their gear, they slowly made their way down the Adriatic coast, taking in the otherworldly scenery and staying in AirBnBs along the way. During their trip, they tasted wines on the island of Vis; ate fish from the Adriatic sea; toured salt fields in Ston; and visited the many honey producers in Istria. "The whole country smelled like honey. Even the islands," Conant says.

    Seeing Croatia from the road turned out to be the ideal way to experience it, according to Conant: "Driving let us keep a pretty loose plan so we could come and go as we pleased and check out small towns whenever we felt like it," he says, "or stop at a roadside stand and buy honey or whatever they were selling." Everywhere they went, they were welcomed into homes and cafés. They showed up at one restaurant on the island of Vis only to find it closed, but instead of being turned away, the owner insisted on opening up shop and cooking them a meal himself. And this wasn't atypical: "The people we met were shockingly nice," he says. "Wonderful and very hospitable."

    They left with a newfound obsession with the country, its food, and its people—and an SD card full of stunning photos. Check out some of the highlights from their trip above.

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    Every year my family travels to Europe for a week-long spring break trip. When the kids were very young, we’d take them to the islands, somewhere easy—but once they got older we wanted to get back on the road and show them the world. It has become a wonderful foray into the cities of Europe.

    When I was a kid, my father was a diplomat and we were constantly traveling—when we visited a new city my dad would take us to every museum, and I vowed I’d never do that to my kids; on our trips, meals are always a focus, as well as a great adventure.

    This year we went to Spain, and chose our destinations based mostly on our love of paella, pigs, and architecture. Below is a diary from our trip.

    Day One: Barcelona

    Spain, Travel, Snails at Portes

    Snails at Portes, Barcelona

    Marc Murphy

    We arrive in Barcelona and make our way to the apartment we’ve rented through Friendly Rentals. We generally choose apartments over hotels because they allow us to live like locals. Our apartment is right on the Rambla de Catalunya—a perfect jumping-off point for all of our eating and sightseeing.

    We drop our bags and head out towards the water, eager to see the ocean. We walk along the water and find ourselves at 7 Portes, one of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona. We order a bottle of Albariño and tuck into platters of clams, oysters, sea snails, and paella, a house specialty. We’re all surprised by how different the paella is in this part of Spain: a little creamier and soupier than what we’re accustomed to in the States. It’s delicious.

    After lunch, we wander through the streets near the port and make our way up to the incredible Gaudí cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. Even under scaffolding, the architecture is still staggering; it’s a great introduction for the kids to the rest of the Gaudí buildings and parks we’ll see in the coming days.

    For dinner, we eat at Boca Grande, another restaurant known for its fresh fish and seafood. We order platters of oysters and gambas (large shrimp) on the grill, and finish everything off with an incredible chocolate cake.

    Day Two: Barcelona

    Travel, Spain, Juice Boqueria, Barcelona

    Juice at Boqueria, Barcelona

    Marc Murphy

    We are lucky enough to have secured a reservation at the uber-popular Cal Pep, famous for its incredible tapas, so we eat a light breakfast in anticipation of the meal to come. Our good intentions are quickly thrown out the window when we take a stroll through the Boqueria market.

    This is perhaps one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Yes, it is a tourist destination and has a fair share of Instagrammers at its entrance, but once you get inside the market opens up and you see stall after stall of fish, produce, spices, and fruits. In back, we find amazing prepared foods and a number of tapas bars already buzzing with morning meetings and locals having a quick bite. My kids love the paper cones filled with sliced meats sold throughout the market. It’s a great take on street food.

    Travel, Spain, Bacalao boqueria

    Bacalao at Boqueria, Barcelona

    Marc Murphy

    When we arrive at Cal Pep for lunch, the front room, which houses a simple '50s-style diner counter, is already full with a line out the door. But because there are 7 of us, we are ushered into the back by Barcelona’s most engaging and animated waiter. At Cal Pep, there is no menu; once you sit down, the food just starts coming. Plate after plate of hand-sliced jamón, perfectly fried boquerones, super-fresh tuna tartare, artichoke hearts with ham—it goes on and on. The finale is an amazing crème catalan, branded with the restaurant’s name.

    After lunch we take a walk down to the beach. This might be my favorite thing about Barcelona: the city makes its way right up to the sea—the best of both worlds for those of us who love the ocean as much as we love the city. We wander along, stopping to take our shoes off and run into the surf.

    Thanks to a dear friend who is from Barcelona and has some great connections, we have a reservation at Tickets for dinner. Tickets is one of five restaurants owned by Albert and Ferran Adrià (of the much-loved and now-shuttered El Bulli). It’s part of their “5.0 project”: They wanted to create five completely different restaurant concepts that would form a culinary amusement park.

    To call this meal an experience would be an understatement. It is molecular gastronomy at its wackiest and its finest. I’m not even sure I can adequately describe what we ate, I'll just say that it’s Willy Wonka meets Cirque du Soleil. It was delicious, inventive, and crazy, and maybe one of my favorite meals ever. My kids loved it.

    Day Three: Barcelona
    We start our day at another Gaudí stunner, La Pedrera. It is part museum and part residence, and I’ve always thought that its split personality makes it all the more interesting. We spend a good while on the roof before making our way to Tapas 24, an often-recommended tapas place from uber-chef Carles Abellan. It’s a tiny space on a side street with three tables on the sidewalk and a line out the door. We were lucky to get there when we did and only waited about 30 minutes for a prime spot outside. I would have waited 24 hours. We share perfectly fried boquerones, the famous Bikini Comerç 24 (a glorified grilled cheese with perfectly sliced jamón and black truffle), pork ribs, pulled pork tacos, fried eggs with french fries and chorizo (our new favorite dish!), and a few bottles of rosé to wash it all down. It’s a spectacular meal. As we finish up, we are already planning our next visit.

    At night, we attend an FC Barcelona soccer match against Manchester City. Having grown up in Europe, I’ve always been a huge football fan and it’s amazing to see the devotion that Barcelona fans have for their team. The roar of the crowd is deafening. And there’s something magical about being in an outdoor stadium in the middle of the city.

    The game ends quite late—Barcelona wins, of course!—but that doesn’t stop us from hunting down another meal. We head back across town to Paco Meralgo, another great tapas restaurant. Here we sit at a high table in a very casual room and feast on super spicy patatas bravas, zucchini flowers delicately fried and stuffed with mozzarella, fried artichokes, and grilled razor clams.

    Day Four: Barcelona

    Travel, Spain, Boqueria baby clams

    Baby Clams at Boqueria, Barcelona

    Marc Murphy

    We have another early lunch at Tapas 24, almost identical to yesterday’s, and it’s still sublime.

    After lunch we jump in a taxi and make our way to Gaudí’s Parc Guell. It sits at the top of a hill and we hike around the outskirts of the sculpture area for a few hours. It’s stunning. The kids run around, completely thrilled. From here we can see the whole city, over Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, straight to the ocean.

    It’s our last night in Barcelona, so we make another trip to the Boqueria and stock up on wine, tomatoes, bread, cheeses, and meats, and eat at home.

    Day Five: Seville
    We fly south from Barcelona to Seville—the capital of Andalusia—which has a much older feel to it. Our rented apartment is on a very small square and has a stunning view of the Cathedral, the centerpiece of the city. Once settled, we head to lunch at Casa Roman, recommended to us by the greeter at our rental. The place is empty when we get there, which concerns me, but we order some wine and grilled vegetables and boquerones, and pretty soon it’s filling up with locals—there isn’t a tourist in sight—which is a very good sign. Our waiter, Curro, brings us plates of the best jamón in Seville, fried eggs with French fries and jamón, simply grilled pork ribs, and incredible pork cheek stew. We quickly decide that we won’t be going anywhere else for lunch during our time here.

    After lunch we tour the Cathedral—the city’s oldest church—and climb up to the bell tower. It’s raining but the view is still incredible, and I even meet a group of Chopped fans!

    Dinner tonight is at La Brunilda Tapas, a newcomer on the Seville dining scene and worth the line we wait in outside to get in. The tapas here not as straightforward as what we had in Barcelona, but still really delicious: Small portions of spicy patatas bravas, mini burgers that are anything but American, and perfectly grilled octopus. Dessert is simple: ice cream.

    Day Six: Seville

    Travel, Spain, Sevilla

    Sevilla from above

    Marc Murphy

    Today we take a day trip to Aracena, a town about an hour North of Seville. It is, most notably, home to the Jamón Museum, but it also boasts the most incredible underground caves: La Gruta de las Maravillas. As the name suggests—maravilla means “marvel”—they are stunning. After our tour we sit down for lunch at Montecruz, the perfect choice for a big lunch up in the hills. As with almost every meal we will eat in this country, there is jamón. There are also red peppers stuffed with anchovies, perfectly grilled lamb chops, beef cheek stew, and for dessert, an arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding) with anisette.

    The Jamón Museum is just what you would expect from an institution dedicated to ham in all its forms. And it’s really interesting! We have a blast learning about all the various pigs, the different types of ham they make, and how different each type is.

    After our tour we head back into Seville and eat our last dinner at Enrique Becerra, another relative newcomer. We have pre-ordered the paella, and it does not disappoint. We are very happy to only have one course.

    Day Seven: Madrid
    We arrive in Madrid by train, check into our hotel, and head out for lunch. We eat at Marina Ventura where we have yet another amazing paella along with fried eggs over fried whitebait, an incredible cheese plate, and more arroz con leche for dessert. After lunch we meet our guide, Juan, at our hotel and he takes us on the most incredible tour of the Prado Museum, where there’s a really excellent Picasso exhibit going on.

    It’s our last night of vacation and we eat at the oldest restaurant in the world: Botin, which is known for its roast sucking pig. We order a whole pig, plus some blood sausage and boquerones for good measure.

    The next morning we fly back to New York, where we eat no ham. At least for a few days.

    Where to eat like Marc in Spain:


    Tapas 24
    Carrer de la Diputació, 269
    08007 Barcelona, Spain
    +34 934 88 09 77

    Paco Meralgo
    Carrer de Muntaner, 171
    08036 Barcelona, Spain
    +34 934 30 90 27

    7 Portes
    Passeig Isabel II, 14
    08003 Barcelona, Spain
    34 933 19 30 33

    Boca Grande
    Passatge de la Concepció, 12
    08008 Barcelona, Spain
    +34 934 67 51 49

    Cal Pep
    Plaça de les Olles, 8
    08003 Barcelona, Spain
    +34 933 10 79 61

    Av. del Paraŀlel, 164
    08015 Barcelona, Spain
    +34 932 92 42 54


    Casa Roman
    Plaza de los Venerables, 1
    41004 Sevilla, Spain
    +34 954 22 84 83

    La Brunilda Tapas
    Calle Galera, 5
    41002 Sevilla, Spain
    +34 954 22 04 8

    Calle San Pedro, 36
    21200 Aracena, Huelva, Spain
    +34 959 12 60 13

    Enrique Becerra
    Calle Gamazo, 2
    41001 Sevilla, Spain
    +34 954 21 30 49


    Marina Ventura
    C/ Ventura de la Vega, 13
    28014 Madrid, Spain
    +34 914 29 38 10

    Calle Cuchilleros, 17
    28005 Madrid, Spain
    +34 913 66 42 17

    Part worldly epicure, part laid-back surfer, Marc Murphy fell in love with French and Italian cuisine during a childhood spent living throughout Europe. He went on to work in some of the most highly esteemed kitchens in the world from Paris to Monte Carlo and today is one of New York's most celebrated chefs.

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    Grilled octopus at the Sabores San Miguel festival

    Sara Deseran

    Neal Fraser's grilled octopus salad

    I didn’t get a lot of sleep last week in the lively, beautiful town of San Miguel de Allende. My husband Joe and I, representing our Tacolicious restaurants in San Francisco, were lucky enough to be part of the posse of chefs and restaurant owners brought down to Mexico to participate in the third year of the Sabores San Miguel food festival. For three days in mid-June, it seemed like the whole town was eating and drinking and dancing it up under one tent in the leafy, lush Parque Juarez.

    The festival, produced by Donnie Masterton and Angela Lewis Serrano, was a testament to the fantastic food being cooked up in SMA. Next to local restaurants such as Aguamiel and Aperi and patisseries such as Cumpanio, SMA was treated to the food cooked by an international group: Neil Fraser of LA's Redbird served one of his signature salads made up of tender and smoky charred grilled octopus, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and an anchovy vinaigrette. Across the crowded tent, London-based Lily Vanilli, representing her eponymous bakery, sold gorgeous pear cakes with chile, ginger, and chamomile syrup with candied spiced pepitas. Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s in Brooklyn was there too, slinging suckling pig.

    At our own table, SMA-based gordita maker Rosa, who brought her own bowl of blue-corn masa, patiently patted out one gordita after another on a comal that emanated a wave of heat to match the hot SMA summer sun. After cooking each gordita on the griddle, she sliced them open and stuffed them with our signature Tacolicious guisado, a braised guajillo-braised short rib. Nearby, Donnie put lamb on a spit (shawarma was the original inspiration for tacos al pastor, after all) and carved it off into handmade flour tortillas with a dollop of yogurt and chile sauce—a glorious culmination of Mexican and the Mediterranean. Inhaling it, all I could think is thank god cuisine is a shape-shifter.

    San Miguel de Allende

    Sara Deseran

    Flags line the cobblestone streets leading to the festival.

    Those of us who thought we were going to slumber off the inevitable overdose of tequila afterwards were in for a surprise. The hundreds of churches that line the meandering cobblestoned streets of SMA make sure that gluttony does not go unpunished; we woke in the wee hours to a cacophonous battle of church bells and the heart-palpitating rat-a-tat-tat of firecrackers. But by that point, smitten as we were with San Miguel Allende and its food, we hardly minded.

    See the recipe for Grilled Octopus with Chickpeas, Cherry Tomatoes, and Anchovy Vinaigrette »

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    Negima Yakitori

    Ocdp via Wikimedia Commons

    A native Long Islander who runs some of the most highly-respected ramen shops in both Tokyo and New York City, Ivan Orkin (one of the featured chefs at this year’s Saveur Summer Cookout) is a yakitori obsessive. Though yakitori translates to "grilled chicken," yakitori restaurants serve all types of skewered and grilled foods, from scallions to chicken hearts to bacon-wrapped mochi. When Orkin’s in Tokyo, he frequents these specialty restaurants where patrons gather every night to eat grilled-to-order chicken skewers. Here are five of Orkin’s Tokyo favorites, all places he himself eats after a night at his restaurant.

    The menu at this joint is, quite literally, an anatomy chart of the chicken—you choose the part you want (meat, skin, intestines, heart, whatever) and they grill it. Orkin also likes it for its large selection of sakes and otsumami (drinking snacks).

    6-22-19 Shirokane
    Minato-ku, Tokyo

    Unlike many other yakitori-ya, they only offer a tasting menu. “They end the meal with oyakodon, which literally means "parent and child rice bowl"—just a fluffy egg and chicken on rice,” says Orkin. “Sublime.”

    2-12-3 Kanda Jimbocho
    Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo

    This restaurant, located in Tokyo’s bustling commercial center, exclusively uses Takasaka-wadori (a brand of chicken), which are only fed organically. Orkin’s favorite skewer at this restaurant: The liver.

    2-14-8 Ginza
    Chuo-ku, Tokyo

    “This is now a must go yakitori-ya in Tokyo, famous for it’s ‘nose-to-tail’ style,” says Orkin. The prices are higher here, due to the quality of chicken they use, but it’s far cheaper than its neighbor—Sushi Jiro, of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame.

    4-2-15 Ginza
    Chuo-ku, Tokyo

    Iseya (Kichijoji Koen Ten)
    This 80-year old shop is, in Orkin’s words, “down and dirty” and full of loyal customers. “I’ve been here many times and met my wife in the nearby park, so it’s special,” Orkin says.

    Iseya (Kichijoji Koen Ten)
    1-15-8, Musashi no shi
    Kichijoji Minami Cho, Tokyo

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    London, St John Bread and Wine

    St. John Bread and Wine

    Stefan Johnson

    She may originally hail from Ireland, but Diana Henry, cookbook author and columnist at the Sunday Telegraph, has lived in London long enough to earn the status of a local. So we asked her to share her favorite neighborhood restaurants across the city, those places that may not be the flashiest but have a loyal local following, reliable food, and kind service. Because when you're traveling, sometimes that's all you want.

    It can be difficult to get a handle on a city’s food. Guidebooks and blogs often lead you to fine dining restaurants and the latest hip opening; you’ll be encouraged to visit the temple of a big-name chef and a "must-go-now" joint that hasn't yet hit its stride (or is simply overhyped). You’ll often queue for an hour before getting a drafty table by the door. What I want to find in a city are the restaurants where people who love good food—but don’t want to spend a fortune—go, the places that tell me something about that city, that give me a broad view of what is going on.

    In the 30 years that I've been living in London, I've found my own favorite neighborhood restaurants, the places where I want to bring my visiting friends not because they're the hot new thing, but because they are comfortable and the food is good. These restaurants are all about the food, not the décor—and if you go you’ll eat with Londoners (for the most part) rather than visitors. You’ll see that fermentation is big here; that we like old-fashioned British food, as long as it’s done well; that pubs are a great place to eat out (if you know the good ones); and that we’re still in love with rough and ready Mediterranean fare. You won’t find a cheffy smear on your plate or an expense account diner in any of them. This is the best of laid-back dining in London, the places we locals go on a Friday night.

    London, Brawn


    John Carey

    You wouldn’t notice this place—it’s on a corner site in East London, the white-washed interior filled with bare chunky tables and chairs—though you can smell it (garlic and warm olive oil) halfway down the street. The menu is bald, almost terse, and divided into Pig (the charcuterie is excellent), Plancha, Raw, Slow-Cooked, Pudding (read: dessert), and Cheese. The food is a mixture of old-fashioned French, Italian, and Spanish. Come here if you’re yearning for clams in fino, cassoulet, allioli, and romesco sauce. The word "gutsy" really does apply. The sourcing is excellent, the clientele are young (though don’t let that put you off if you’re not), and there’s always a contented buzz.

    49 Columbia Road
    London E2 7RG
    020 7729 5692

    London, 10 Greek Street

    10 Greek Street

    10 Greek Street
    You can reserve a table for lunch here, but not dinner, otherwise I’d be in a lot more often (they say the "no reservations" policy helps keep the tables full, and therefore their prices low). The dining room is long and narrow, with a white-tiled open kitchen at the far end. It looks almost Scandinavian in its plainness and the food is similarly pared back: gnudi with leeks, St George’s mushrooms, and wild garlic; lamb with purple sprouting broccoli and anchovies; plaice with wild asparagus, samphire, and brown shrimps; every dish is pure and unfussy and the flavors sing. Lovely puddings—especially the ices—keep up the standard. A gem in central London.

    10 Greek Street
    10 Greek Street
    London W1
    020 7734 4677

    London, St. John Bread and Wine

    St. John Bread and Wine

    Stefan Johnson

    St. John Bread & Wine
    This is the baby brother to chef Fergus Henderson’s St John’s (he’s famous for "nose to tail eating" and robust British dishes) and has a similarly canteen-like feel. But what a canteen: white walls, dark tables and chairs, a triumph of plainness. The kitchen’s approach is similar too, using British ingredients to produce a mixture of old-fashioned and more modern dishes. It’s all gratifyingly unfussy. You might find toasted sourdough (their bread is fabulous) topped with goat’s curd and grilled spring onions; pigeon with peas; carrots and barley; rice pudding with stewed rhubarb. They serve breakfast, too—their bacon sandwich is well known—and even offer "elevenses" (try the seed cake and a glass of Madeira or their legendary doughnuts) mid-morning.

    St. John Bread & Wine
    94-96 Commercial Street
    London E1 6LZ
    O20 7251 0848

    London, Smokehouse

    Shortrib Bourguignon, The Smokehouse

    The Smokehouse
    The people behind this dining pub own four food-centric boozers but this is the best one. Smoking and meat is a main feature (they do their own smoking and barbecuing) so you might find smoked pork belly with potato scones, apple, and black pudding, or smoked duck breast with kimchi and a fried egg, but there’s fish as well (fish and chips with monk’s beard and mussel sauce or fried oysters on toast with bone marrow). The menu girdles the earth—there’s usually a French or Italian classic as well as a Thai or Korean number—but owes much to American barbecue techniques (a trend which has survived in London and seems certain to stay).

    The Smokehouse
    63-69 Canonbury Road
    London N1 2DG
    020 7354 1144

    London, Rawduck

    Raw Duck

    Joe Woodhouse

    With simple, seasonal food served on rough-hewn tables decorated with vases of wildflowers, Rawduck very much has its own identity. They think a lot about health and nourishment, without serving fare that is wackily health-foodie. And they take fermentation and preserving very seriously. Jams, pickles, sipping vinegars, and cordials are made in-house (you’ll even find a PICKLES, SALTS, AND SMOKED menu). Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they serve food that is thoroughly global: rare steak in a brioche bun with kimchi slaw; turmeric spiced mackerel with lime pickle and coconut; and rice and orange blossom pudding with blood oranges have all appeared on the ever-changing daily menu.

    Raw Duck
    197 Richmond Road
    London E8 3NJ
    020 8986 6534

    Diana Henry is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster based in London and a James Beard nominee. She is one of most loved and respected voices in food in the UK and the author of nine books. She has been a food columnist on The Daily Telegraph for over 12 years. Born and brought up in Ireland, she studied English Literature at Oxford University and was a television producer at BBC Television for many years before she started writing about food.

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