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    Looking for Mexico in New York City-photo
    by Jeanna Demarco and Kristin Piegza
    As we cooked our way through the Mexico issue, we found ourselves scrambling to locate ingredients we had never heard of or seen before - which is saying something, considering that we are two girls from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas. Not only were we unfamiliar with most items on the list - huanzontle? chepiche? - but after a few days looking around, it became clear that what we were looking for did not exist within Manhattan's borders. We widened our scope to the outer boroughs of the city and set forth to shop. Below, our favorite sources for Mexican ingredients in New York City.


    New York City has a way of transporting you thousands of miles in a matter of subway stops. When we emerged from the Corona Plaza subway station, we stepped onto Roosevelt Avenue, which was lined with food carts that, instead of the usual hot dogs and soft pretzels were selling pozole (hominy stew), chicharrones (fried pork rinds), corn on the cob, roasted pig heads, sweet potato cakes, and endless varieties of fresh fruit, both blended into refreshing smoothies and sold by the glass full garnished chile powder and a squeeze of lime. In front of convenient stores there were coolers packed with guava, tamarind, and pina colada flavored popsicles, and at every corner, young women ladled out aguas frescas (fresh juices) in flavors like lime, hibiscus, and watermelon into cups for thirsty patrons.

    And, most crucially for us, the grocery stores here had exactly what we were looking for. There were aisles and aisles of chiles, fresh, dried, jarred and pickled. There were cuts of meat, like tripe, pigs feet and even oxtails, which are excellent for caldo de res, displayed in abundance. When it came to cheese, there was queso Oaxaca, queso fresco, Cotija and more-offered wrapped in a banana leaf, cornhusk, or just plain plastic. The varieties of dried beans on offer wildly outnumbered that of our Manhattan grocers. There were crusty, sugary panes dulces (sweet baked breads) and colorful galletas de azucar (sugar cookies). This, we agreed, was a gold mine. We were certain to find what we needed here and began exploring the markets.

    Food Bazaar
    This medium-sized grocery store had an abundance of some of the fresh produce and dried chilies that we set out to collect; nopales, or cactus paddles, calabacitas (a zuchinni-like squash) canela (true cinnamon) and Mexican oregano, as well as chepiche, which resembles tarragon, and fresh epazote and chayote, both the smoothed-skinned and spiny varieties.

    Food Bazaar
    34-20 Junction Boulevard
    Queens, New York 11368

    Credit: Kristin Piegza
    Fine Fare
    This generic-seeming store seemed to be a lost cause when, just as we were leaving, we discovered a hidden back room that housed items like pink beans, fideos (thin, wheat-flour noodles), canned chiplin and the truffle-like corn fungus Huitlacoche.

    Fine Fare
    4125 102nd Street
    Corona, New York 11368

    Zocalo De Atlixo
    Just as we felt we had found every hidden vendor in Corona, we stumbled upon this little place, more like a well-stocked walk-in pantry than a grocery store, that carried a preponderance of the most hard-to-find ingredients on our list: the elusive huanzontle (a wild, slightly bitter vegetable with seed heads covered with clusters of spiky, broccoli-like flower buds) and fresh hoja santa (we had found the dried version elsewhere but the fresh leaves possess a more intense flavor and can be used in more applications). We burst into punchy laughter when the store owner informed us she also had chilaca chiles in stock.

    Zocalo De Atlixo
    9411 37th Avenue
    Flushing, New York 11372

    Corona King Produce
    Some online digging led us to this deli in Jamaica, Queens, with a small inventory of dried chiles and spices. We left here with a bag of Mexican cumin seeds and guajes, long flat pods that house garlicky, bean-like seeds.

    Corona King Produce
    4008 National Street
    Corona, New York 11368

    Credit: Jeanna DeMarco
    Tortilleria Nixtamal
    This place makes old-fashioned tortillas, partially cooking corn soaked with lime and grinding it against limestone to create a fine corn flour called masa. All of their equipment and corn is imported from Mexico, and along with fresh tortillas, they also offer delicious dishes like tamales, tacos al pastor, and enchiladas.

    Tortilleria Nixtamal
    10405 47th Avenue
    Corona, New York 11368


    The Meat Hook
    Green chorizo, a fresh pork sausage flavored with serranos, poblanos, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic, was especially difficult to find: no one we spoke with in Corona had any idea where we might find some. We finally stumbled upon this boutique butchery housed in a kitchen store in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, whose house-made sausage list includes two types of red chorizo as well as two different types of green chorizo. All were extraordinary. Our favorite, the "Toluca green chorizo," which included pepitas, spinach, and Mexican oregano, was based on a family recipe given to the shop by one of their Mexican customers.

    The Meat Hook
    100 Frost Street
    Brooklyn, New York 11211

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    Bright and fruity salsa verde is made thick and luscious with the addition of fresh avocado. In this video, Iliana de la Vega, chef-owner of El Naranjo Restaurant in Austin, Texas, shows us how to make the condiment in a blender. She recommends serving salsa verde con aguacate tableside with just about any dish, though it's especially delicious with roasted pork or tacos carne asada.

    See the recipe for Salsa Verde Aquacate »
    See a gallery of Mexican salsas »

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  • 08/21/12--09:00: VIDEO: Making Churros

  • Ruben Ortega, chef at the Houston restaurant Hugo's, is a master of churro-making, and it's all thanks to one simple secret: his index finger. To make truly perfect churros, you need a perfect squeezing technique: Slowly run the dough through a tipped pastry bag, and end each churro with a sweep of your fingers. A few minutes in hot oil, a roll in some cinnamon-laced sugar, and a dip or two into some sweet-spicy Mexican hot chocolate, and you're in heaven.

    See Ruben's recipe for Churros »
    See the recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate »

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  • 08/22/12--09:00: Austrian Heurigen

  • by Leah Koenig
    In New York, where I live, biergartens are taking over the city. Lately it seems like every other block hosts a German-style beer gardens, the convivial din of clinking steins and the spicy scent of sausages dipped in brown mustard drifting into the night. But the biergarten's cousin, the Austrian heuriger-where the beer is replaced with wine, but the spirit remains the same-is almost unknown. That's a shame, because in Austria, heurigen are some of the best places to tuck into the country's home-style fare.

    Stemming from the word for "this year," heurigen began to proliferate in the 18th century when a decree by Emperor Joseph II allowed the country's vintners to sell newly fermented wine directly to customers, tax-free. Winemakers set up communal wooden tables in their gardens or directly in their vineyards, and shortly after the beginning of harvest season, they would hang an evergreen bough just outside their gates as a signal to neighbors that the wine was ready and flowing.

    Initially heurigen were not allowed to sell food, a measure to prevent their competition with local restaurants. But the rules slackened over time, and the winemakers (many of whom also grew vegetables and maintained herds of cattle or sheep) began to offer a selection of hot and cold dishes sourced directly from their own farms. That simple, self-contained strategy remains today: "It's the most direct farm-to-table food you can imagine," said chef Eduard Frauneder, an Austria-born, New York-based chef who grew up eating in Viennese heurigen with his family.

    Sold from a buffet counter, heuriger food tends to be simple and hearty: a paprika-spiked cheese spread called liptauer, vinegar-marinated sausages called sauer blunzen, breaded wiener schnitzel, pickled mushrooms, cabbage and peppers, potato salad spiked with pickled red onion, schmalzbrot (homemade brown bread slathered with crackling-rich pork drippings), and warm apple strudel. The wine continues to be the heuriger's main event, but it's the food that encourages people to relax and stay awhile.

    credit: Paul Shoul
    Heurigen are native to Vienna, where dense clusters of these homey wine taverns once skirted around the edges of the city. The tradition has since spread to the country's other agricultural regions, and today nearly 200 licensed heurigen dot the country. Last September, I ate at Gabriel, a lovely heuriger in the town of Rust, about an hour southeast of Vienna, where in addition to my mug of lightly-fermented sturm (new wine) and a cheese plate drizzled with pumpkin seed oil, I enjoyed another common heuriger tradition: a round of lively songs played by owner Alfred Gabriel on the in-house grand piano.

    Back in New York, Frauneder and his business partner, Wolfgang Ban, are helping to introduce the heuriger to the United States. At their restaurant Edi andamp; The Wolf, a globally-sourced wine list and selection of beers fall outside of the traditional heuriger definition, but the communal wooden table, outdoor garden space, and rustic Austrian dishes (pickled beets and red pearl onions, liptauer with paprika and pumpkin seed oil, spätzle with wild mushrooms and wiener schnitzel) are pulled directly from their homeland's tavern tradition. "I don't think people here fully understand the heuriger just yet," Frauneder said of his non-Austrian clientele, but perhaps that's soon to change.

    Here's a list of recommended heurigen you can raise a glass to next time you're in Austria.


    Pair a glass of Fuhgrassl-Huber's tangy zweigelt rosé with a selection of fried cheese with cranberries, dumplings, tangy sauerkraut and warm apple strudel from their buffet.
    Neustift am Walde 68, 1190 Wien
    tel: +43 0/1/440-14-05

    Mayer am Pfarrplatz
    Raise a refreshing glass of Riesling and tuck into a salad topped with pumpkin seed oil, all while gazing at the apartment where, two centuries ago, Beethoven wrote his famous 9th Symphony.
    Pfarrplatz 2, 1190 Wien
    tel: +43 01/370-33-61

    Opened in 1949, this heuriger is now run by the third generation of the Weininger family. The heuriger's long pine tables and shady outdoor garden offer the perfect setting for a glass of apple-scented grüner veltliner and a plate of spinach and goat cheese strudel.
    Stammersdorfer Straße 78, 1210 Wien
    tel: +43 01/292-41-06


    One of Chef Frauneder's favorites-"they make a killer chardonnay," he says-this heuriger has cozy parlor-style seating and a wide selection of food and sweets.
    Kunigundbergstraße 57, A-2380 Perchtoldsdorf
    tel: +43 0/1/865/75-31


    Weingut Gabriel Johannes u. Mitges
    The fare at this heuriger skews fresh, simple and very traditional (liptauer, homemade bread, pickles, smoked meat and fish). Enjoy your spread alongside a glass or two of velvety blaufränkisch. If you're lucky, owner Alfred Gabriel might entertain you with a song or two on the in-house grand piano.
    Hauptstrasse 25, A-7071 Rust
    tel: +43 0/2685-236-0

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    Beth Kracklauer in Juchitan-photo
    by Beth Kracklauer
    Travelling in Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepec during the height of fiesta season, I had more fun than I've had reporting any other story. In this photo, I'm the one dressed in pink; standing next to me is my good friend and favorite travelling companion, Ellen Sharp. Ellen, an anthropologist, had just completed a couple of years of fieldwork in an indigenous town in the mountains of Guatemala when she met up with me in Mexico; after the rather reserved and very patriarchal Mayan society she'd grown accustomed to, the rowdy Zapotec fiestas we attended, with their powerful and flamboyantly attired female hosts, were something new. They certainly were to me.

    One day we visited the town of Tehuantepec, where we had the great good fortune of meeting Julin Contreras. An artist as well as a terrific cook and raconteur, she owns a local restaurant called Pueblo Mio and leads tours for the handful of travelers that make their way to the area. After feeding us delicious chiles rellenos stuffed with a picadillo of minced beef, raisins, capers, and olives, she hustled us over to her house and outfitted us like locals (i.e., fabulously) in woven huipil blouses, flowing skirts, and blingy gold jewelry, with flowers in our hair and a spritz of Anaïs Anaïs for good measure.

    Then Julin led us to a barrio on the edge of town called Santa Cruz Tagolaba, where Julieta Santos Castellano was presiding over a group of her neighbors preparing massive quantities of food for a celebration of the neighborhood's patron saint. Castellano inherited her position as cook-in-chief from her mother, her grandmother, and an unbroken matriarchal line of cooks leading back further than anyone can remember. She massaged the meat of a bull, sacrificed and butchered hours earlier, with a marinade made with guajillo and ancho chiles, canela, avocado leaf, and fistfuls of salt. What looked like a gringo-style potato salad-rich with sour cream and mayonnaise and spiked with plenty of mustard-was cooked in an adobe oven, alongside the cazuelas filled with the massaged and marinated beef, to make the creamy casserole called puré de papas. At least as much effort was expended cooking the foods to feed the cooks: a soupy red mole thickened with ground corn; silky hot chocolate served with tamales; a spicy stew called mondongo made from the bull's offal. The bull's blood they reserved to be used as a hangover cure; having attended the rollicking fiesta later that evening, I'm sure there were many takers the following morning.

    See Beth Kracklauer's story In Full Bloom »

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    6 Things You Can Only Get in Baltimore-photo
    by Melissa Klurman
    If you haven't been to Baltimore, Maryland, in a while, you're in for a tasty surprise. The city has a slew of new restaurants, great products, and creative chefs offering a unique spin on local ingredients and old "Bawlmer" favorites. Charm City has never tasted so good.


    Chesapeake oysters are a Baltimore seafood staple, and usually, I simply enjoy the local bivalves on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon. But then I discovered the Happy Spoon, and my oyster notions were thrown out on the bay. Nestled into ceramic spoon is a single Chesapeake oyster, a pinky of uni, a small puddle of ponzu crème fraiche, and a crown of salmon roe and tobiko. It's one salty, creamy, very happy, briny mouthful.
    725 Aliceanna Street
    tel: 410/223-1460


    Although Baltimore might not be the first name you think of when you imagine a coffee town, several great cups are trying to change that, at the forefront of which is Zeke's. I first encountered them at the sprawling Baltimore Farmer's Market and fell in love with their signature Tell Tale Dark bean blend. Brewed Guinness dark, chilled, and then napped with house-made simple syrup and South Mountain Creamery's lush half-and-half, sipping it was like wearing an air-conditioned cloak on my steamy shopping expedition. Zeke's also has a year-round location on Harford Road where you can buy their small-batch roasted beans (try the Oriole's loyalists favorite Black and Orange blend) and cups of Joe to go.
    Zeke's Coffee
    4607 Harford Road
    tel: 410/254-0122


    Crab is king in Baltimore: Hard shelled and doused in Old Bay; soft-shelled and battered and fried; chunks of soft meat combined with bread crumbs to become cakes. At Wit andamp; Wisdom they've found a new way to indulge in blue shells: Creamy deviled eggs, seasoned with peppery Old Bay, and stuffed plump with jumbo lumps of sweet crab meat. I dare you to eat just one.
    Wit andamp; Wisdom
    200 International Drive
    tel: 410/576-5800


    Fresh, organic, handmade-overused catch words perhaps, but all true of Pitango's tantalizing gelato, and boy, does it make a difference. Although custard lovers line up here for the Crema gelato, colored a sunny-day-yellow from free-roaming eggs and enriched with fresh cream from Spring Wood Organic Farm, for me nothing could top the Mojito sorbet. With its thrashings of fresh mint, bracing lime juice, and just a hint of sweetness it's the perfect (alcohol-free) summer refresher in a cup.
    Pitango Gelato
    802 South Broadway
    tel: 410/236-0741


    Many restaurants have close relationships with farmers, but Bluegrass Tavern is the only place I've dined where farmers actually handed out vegetables at my table. The hip neighborhood bistro doubles as a CSA pickup for One Straw Farm, and the convivial farmers chat with patrons and then offer whatever produce isn't claimed at the end of dinner to diners free of charge. I took home the most flavorful garlic I've had in years, along with some potatoes and parsley, thoughts of vichyssoise swirling in my head, but nothing I conjured for myself was as tasty as Bluegrass chef's Ray Humm's innovative creations. For a salad that's anything but simple, Humm creates "compressed" cucumbers with a vacuum sealer that simultaneously infuses the fruit with mirin, then serves them with gem lettuce and a spicy peanut emulsion. (On a separate visit, I tasted Humm's compressed watermelon infused with Crystal hot sauce and served with arugula, cantaloupe, and buttermilk dressing that I still think about constantly.)
    Bluegrass Tavern
    1500 South Hanover Street
    tel: 410/244-5101


    Less a cookie and more a mound of fudgy chocolate piled atop a cakey wafer, no visit to Charm City is complete without a Berger. A black and white cookie turned on it's head with quadruple the chocolate, berger cookies trace their ancestry to Germany and are now made by a single manufacturer, DeBaufre Bakeries. You can get them sold by the boxful in local supermarkets and convenience stores-making them a perfect take-home souvenir.
    Berger Cookies
    Available in local groceries and shops throughout the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia areas

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    Potjiekos Pot-photo
    by Niki Achitoff-Gray
    For the last 22 years, my boyfriend and his family have spent the tail end of their summers on Delaware's eastern shore, in the quiet town of Lewes. Renting a different house each year, they find themselves in varying accommodations; home décor ranges from elegant to startlingly eclectic, and kitchens come stocked with every imaginable appliance or, most recently, virtually bare.

    Never sure what environment each year will bring, expectations are instead situated around traditions-a preferred spot on the beach, a hidden bike path, a favorite pie. After only my third trip to Lewes, the salience of these traditions is gripping. They are a source of anticipation and nostalgia year-round, and nearly all are anchored by meals. There is a gluttonous evening of cheese fondue and a night spent tackling a mountain of freshly caught crabs smothered in Old Bay. We take a compulsory trip to the nearby Dogfish Head Brewpub, and for an evening we tug at straws of piña coladas heaping with ice cream.

    Three years ago, on my first visit, we tentatively embarked on a cooking project that has since joined the ranks of family tradition. A recent trip abroad had introduced my boyfriend's family to a South African dish called potjiekos. Dutch oven meets medieval cauldron, the potjie is a three-legged cast iron pot that is nestled directly into live coals or a wood burning fire. Layered with meat, vegetables, spices, and a healthy splash of wine or beer, it is covered and left to gently steam-cook its contents over a three to six hour period. Unlike a stew, potjiekos is never stirred, causing the flavors of each ingredient to remain remarkably distinct. The vessel itself is of European origin, but the dish's unique techniques and seasonings originated with the Afrikaner Voortrekkers. These pioneers slow-cooked wild game and vegetables in a blend of Dutch-Malay spices on their gradual voyage inland from the Cape in the 1800s, inaugurating a practice that has endured as a South African pastime.

    Once the fire is built and the pot sealed, there is little to do but sit back and relax.
    Backyard grilling or beachside clambakes may be more familiar evocations of summertime meals, but they also tend to be labor intensive, nearly always relegating someone to grill duty. Potjiekos creates a social atmosphere for everyone involved: All the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time, and once the fire is built and the pot sealed, there is little to do but sit back and relax. We take short dips in the ocean, toss frisbees, and dangle marshmallows over the flames. Bottles of wine make their way around the fire pit while we watch the steam, fragrant with coriander, rosemary, cardamom, and lamb, fade into the dusk.

    Hours later, tomato paste and red wine have thickened into a full-bodied sauce studded with plump raisins. The leg of lamb, tender from the long cooking period, slips off the bone, and we serve the softened vegetables and succulent meat in trenchers of warm country bread. Savoring the dish, I realize that just as we have adopted this foreign tradition, it too has adopted me into this family seated fireside on the Delaware shore.

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  • 09/04/12--09:00: The Interview: Diana Kennedy
  • Diana Kennedy-photo
    by Beth Kracklauer
    Author of nine seminal books on Mexican cooking, a teacher and scholar held in the highest esteem by chefs around the world, Diana Kennedy has a passion for the traditional dishes and ingredients of her adopted country that is absolutely contagious. At 89, the British-born expert on Mexico's regional cuisines shows no signs of slowing her output, and she's as frank as ever on subjects ranging from careless Mexican cooking to the food at the revered New Nordic restaurant Noma. Kennedy talked to Saveur about all of the above, as well as why she does what she does, and what's coming next.

    I would love to hear what it was like when you first moved to Mexico City in the late 1950s, and what your impressions were of Mexican food in those early days.

    The markets really blew my mind. The local markets still are pretty authentic, but at that time they were even more so. It was just the color of everything, and the smells, and all the wild things that I hadn't seen. I simply had to go home and cook them.

    And then, skipping ahead a bit to the late 1970s, what was it like when you decided to build a house in Michoacan? How did the landscape strike you, and the place?

    Well, I wondered what I had gotten into, and it really required an enormous amount of tenacity to hang on. Still, it was enticing because it was a much fuller orchard area at the time-there were locals picking the fruits and sending them in trucks to Mexico City. It was such an adventure to find that I could grow coffee and tomatoes, and citrons-so many fruits-in the orchard, which was just neglected land when I arrived. Now, of course, climate change is having a toll on things. But I can't complain.

    You've done a lot of teaching in your kitchen in Michoacan over the years, and you've also taught in a lot of other places. When I visited last year, you shared some stories about the days when you were traveling to San Diego and teaching at the Perfect Pan

    Well, it was very interesting because at that time [in the 1970s], there was an absolute surge of cooking schools all over the country. The director of that cooking school was Anne Otterson, a great lady who lives in La Jolla; we still keep in touch and laugh about the old times. I would often be coming after Jacques Pépin, so he'd invite me to the class. There was Madeleine Kamman, there was Paula Wolfert, and a whole flurry of these cooks who became known at that time and were honing their skills.

    We all got to know each other. And we all learned from each other. You know, when you watch somebody else cooking in a class, even in a bad cooking class, you always learn something-or you learn what not to do.

    During my visit to Michoacan, you cooked all sorts of wonderful dishes-none of them complicated-but they all had so much flavor. Right now in the States there's such a rage for Mexican street foods, but you don't see a lot of restaurants serving the kind of home-style cooking-comida casera-that I'm talking about. Why, do you suppose? It's such appealing food.

    You know, the simplest food is a giveaway. The simpler dishes are much more difficult to come off right. And I think that those simpler dishes, if you haven't had a lot of experience or been brought up there, will often fail-or will not come up to scratch. It's a lack of experience.

    That's something that you really drove home to me when I was there, the unique approach that Mexican cooks have to building flavor in a dish. What are some of the fundamental respects in which you see this way of cooking and handling ingredients as different from, say, classical French cooking?

    To me, French cooking is high technique. In Mexico you might have fewer ingredients in a dish, and there's not much technique, but you've got to know how to handle them. If you put too much cumin in, it's fatal. If you overdo the chiles, you can't taste the other ingredients. It's knowing how to toast the chiles, whether you toast them, whether you don't toast them. Whether to asar [roast] the jitomates, or to cook them at all: It's those details about how you handle the ingredients that make the difference in the dishes.

    It's a point you bring across in your books, as well. One of my favorites is your memoir-with-recipes, Nothing Fancy, and I was really pleased to hear that you're working on a revised edition. What are you thinking about adding to the book this time around?

    Some things I'm actually going to cut out. I'm going to bring up-to-date something about the garden, and add a few more recipes. And I don't like to repeat other people's recipes, but I will make a reference to the recipes that I do from other people's books.

    What are some cookbooks you find yourself cooking from again and again?

    Paula Wolfert's, to begin with. I think she's an extraordinary cook. There are two of her books that I prefer above the others, and one of these is The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, which I think is fabulous. I go to that because, when there's too much spinach in the garden, I do that spinach pâté of hers. And then, when somebody's coming in and I don't have any tomatoes, I do the country bread pie, although I change it a little bit-instead of putting all the cheese in it, I put ricotta and spinach in, and put a tiny bit, just a touch, of yeast in the dough. And you cook it in this 9-inch frying pan in olive oil, and it's done in 24 minutes. Of course, you have to do the pastry beforehand, you have to let that mature, but I usually have some frozen on hand. And I use Paula's The Cooking of Southwest France because I think she has the most wonderful way of doing magret-it's so, so precise. And it's very good for the magrets I can get from Guadalajara, which are Muscovy ducks, which aren't as tender, so I give them a little more cooking time. And I do her beef rillettes, and lots of things from that book, which I just love.

    Then I always use Carol Field [The Italian Baker]. She's got a wonderful filling for lemon pie. And the interesting thing is, in the filling, it has white wine. And you know, it is terrific. And then I do a lot of her breads, and her cornetto salato, a salted croissant, which is a fabulous sort of puff pastry thing, very light. I use Jacques Pépin for several things. I do his gravlax recipe. And, oh yes, I do that Jo Bettoya recipe for spinach and ricotta gnocchi [in her book In a Roman Kitchen]. They are quite lovely. And of course I love Anne Willan's château cookbook [From My Château Kitchen], and I do that twice-baked soufflé, which I think is fabulous. And I do another dish, which is actually rabbit-rabbit with mustard-but because I can't get rabbit, I do chicken with that recipe, and it's very good. Love that book. And of course then there's Regis Marcon [Marvelous Recipes from the French Heartland]. He does a dessert of sweet pumpkin pancakes. Now, I think they're terribly sweet, so I make the pumpkin pancakes, but with salt, or huitlacoche as a filling. I'm going all over the place, you know, but there are some cookbooks I would never use. And some I just love.

    Cookbook publishing has changed an awful lot over the years that you've been publishing books. What's your perspective on the current state of publishing?

    Well, I vehemently espouse the idea that real cooks want real books. I think [digital versions] are OK for the kids who want to look up something, do something fast. But real cooks want a book that they put their notes in. For instance, I will record the date on which I do a recipe, and then I can see the recipes I have done several years running-or ten years ago. And you need it there on the shelf.

    Anyway, that's what I feel. And I feel that Amazon, in a way, has spoiled us all with prices. The publishing companies say they can't afford to print cookbooks anymore. So I think real cooks have to be prepared to pay more for a book. Now, if you buy a novel, you maybe read it once or twice. But a cookbook is something you'll use probably for 30 years of your life, and if you work out the price-30 years, and you do five recipes from that book, and give everybody pleasure-you know, it's nothing. We've really got to get people to see it in that light, and tell the publishers that some of us will always want books. And we should be prepared to pay more for them, if that's the problem.

    You have a reputation for being a perfectionist. Why is it so important to get things right, in your opinion?

    What I always think about cooking is that it's the biggest comeuppance. I think it is rare to get things perfect. They can be very good, they can be okay, and they can be sometimes downright bad. When that damn soufflé flops, just when you want to show it off. I do think there is so much careless Mexican cooking. It is one cuisine that everybody plays around with. You know, you're not going to get people playing with a borscht recipe, putting in a little mango or something. I think I just try hard to do things as I first learned in Mexico, because I see how things are not quite the same and ingredients aren't the same, by any means.

    I must say, I've observed you're as critical of your own food as you are of anyone's.

    Oh absolutely, absolutely! That's how you learn, that's how you build a palate. I am hard on myself in all ways, actually. When it does come off, I will tell people. And when it doesn't, I will tell people.

    What would you say is a difference between your work and that of other writers on Mexican food?

    Well to begin with, they've not done the travel and the research that I've done. None of them, not one. I have traveled this country, wandering-it's why I'm not rich!-and taking time, and nobody else has done that. Nobody else has seen a certain chile at a certain stage in a market in Chilapa, and then gone back in 6 months and seen other chiles. Because I was fascinated! And when you're fascinated, you just go on from one thing and wander. And Mexicans will tell you, there is nobody who has traveled the country as I have. And as you know, I used to go on third-class buses-I didn't have a car-and had some enormous adventures. And then I had my own car, which I could stack up with stuff before coming back. With my own car I could wander and stop and come across an odd market, or see somebody in a market and ask about cooking. Really taking time. That is the difference.

    Over the course of your career you've amassed an enormous amount of research material, which I understand CONABIO (National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity) is in the process of digitalizing. What sorts of materials are included in that collection?

    First of all, they're making a list of my research books. Secondly, they're scanning all my books. And thirdly, they're scanning all my notebooks. And I tell you, some of my notes are very funny-and not adequate! But it's quite amazing working with them-there's one in particular, a botanist I'm working with, she's a wonderful person-and we're going through my notebooks. And I say, "Oh my god, did I really say that in 1974, when I was out in Veracruz?" It's reliving all those journeys. And we've found enough recipes to form another book! Whether I'll have to strength to do it, I don't know. But she said she'd help me with it.

    What projects are you working on currently?

    There's a lot of work to be done with the botanist still. We've got several books to go through, and we're taking off on some field trips during the summer.

    What will you be doing?

    One thing will be checking the markets to see if I can see a change in what is available. These are markets way out there in Chilapa. And I want to go up to the Sierra de Puebla, and see if the wonderful collares of the pixtle are there still-I've heard they've disappeared-to make the enchiladas de pixtle. And just to see if there's anything that's changed.

    I'm working also on the revision of My Mexico, which will be out next year with University of Texas Press. And then the revision of Nothing Fancy, which will take much longer to do; that'll be coming out, probably, in two years. I am also working now with an editor on new Spanish editions of two of my books, so that's going to take most of the year. I've been approached to do a book on Hidalgo, and I said I just can't do it. But I'm so intrigued by the use of plants up there that what I may do is let them gather material for me, so I can look at the photographs and pick out the things that I think are worthwhile, and then go to those places and cook. I am sort of tempted to do that. It's crazy, it really is crazy-and there clearly won't be any pay, just my expenses-but it's so intriguing! And it's a state that few people know. It's very beautiful; the countryside is so gorgeous.

    Where else have you been traveling lately?

    I've just returned from the Scandinavian countries. I went, actually, for a friend's wedding near Oslo. And then we went to the Mad Foodcamp [the annual symposium on food and cooking founded by Danish chefs René Redzepi and Claus Meyer]. And we went to Noma [Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen] to eat, of course.

    How was that?

    Very strange. I mean, it is extraordinary food; it's all local. Some of the dishes were very contrived, but there were some wonderful, wonderful flavors. And we went to a place called Volt in Stockholm. We had wonderful food all over. You know, the breakfast in the hotels, the yoghurt, the butter, the milk, it's just extraordinary.


    And the breads, oh my god, the breads! We got about four different types of bread, all hot from the oven, ready to cut, at breakfast. I really was so, so impressed.

    It sounds not too different from the way you cook at home, good ingredients, well prepared…

    Yes, but different ones, you see. When I got back, right away, I had to cook a pot of black beans. So today I've just done some rice, avocados, and I haven't yet made some nixtamal, but I've got some [tortilla] dough here from a neighbor. It's just pure, basic Mexican food. I missed the beans when I was away!

    Back to The Expat »

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  • 09/05/12--09:00: Death in The Afternoon
  • Death in the Afternoon-photo
    by Juan Pablo Villalobos
    This memory spans all of my life. We could place it in 1980, at the baptism of one of my cousins. Or in 1995, at the wedding of another cousin. Or even in 2007, at my first child's baptism. I could also relate this memory in the future tense, in 2016 or 2028. Every time my family has something to celebrate, we kill a calf. Its meat, wrapped in succulent blades of maguey leaf and steamed slowly over a wood fire, all but melts into a delicious stew called birria. This dish is the pride of my home state, Jalisco.

    I have skipped something here, and it is not casual: It is the moment of the calf's sacrifice. Cieneguilla, my uncle Mario's ranch in the highlands, is where my family celebrates our parties. It is a dairy farm, and thus the slaughtered ones are always males, born by mistake within a system in which only females can be productive. As a kid, I was always at home playing soccer or watching TV the day before the celebrations, when a ranch worker stung the heart of the chosen one with an instrument like an ice pick. It must be done at least twelve hours before cooking the meat, to give the carcass time to bleed out completely. Only once did I witness the sacrifice, and what I remember, more than the blood or the brutal indifference of the act, is the laughter of the workers during the gutting of the animal, the jokes about handling the testicles, those classic and sad homophobic jokes so common in Mexico.

    This memory is made of the dust of the unpaved road we needed to travel from our town, Lagos de Moreno, to get to the ranch.
    This memory is made of dust, the dust of the unpaved road we needed to travel from our town, Lagos de Moreno, to get to the ranch, long before the construction of the current road. The monotonous semiarid landscape of Los Altos de Jalisco: acacias, cactus, and the maguey plants that are birria's essence. Its cut blades, stripped of thorns, washed and charred, line the interior of the vessel where the calf is cooked. On my uncle's ranch, 50-gallon metal drums are used; water is poured on the bottom and a grill is placed inside, making an unbeatable makeshift steamer. The largest pieces of meat are placed in the bottom, the head in the center, and the small pieces on top. The top is then covered with more maguey leaves, so that the calf is thoroughly wrapped, and the whole thing is placed on a rack over a wood fire. You need to have a fire of medium intensity, one that is constant but never angry. Tightly close the steamer-a huge stone set on top is the perfect solution-and wait, depending on the weight and age of the animal, between two-and-a-half and four hours.

    My family's birria is eaten with handmade tortillas, and with my Aunt Celia's famous sauce. It's just a tomato sauce cooked with chile de árbol, which, once blended, is mixed with salt, oregano, onions, and cilantro. The big secret is why Aunt Celia's sauce tastes like no other in the world, including those of my mother and the rest of my aunts, the flavor progressing in its particular way from herb to onion to the sweetness and burn of the chile. It's not an irrelevant secret: In Mexico you should never underestimate the power of sauces as a source of family rancor.

    In my family, growing up means learning to fight for the head.
    These are meals with a mass audience, with a never-ending line of ten to fifteen people at the kitchen's entrance. Children-and picky adults-eat the meat from the legs and the back, while the rest of the adults save ourselves for the moment when the beautiful calf skull arises from the huge drum, holding within the most treasured delicacies: the tongue, cheeks, eyes, and brains. It's a small reward for so many stomachs, so the negotiations are always difficult. I still remember my childhood's disgust when I saw my father and my uncles ingesting those parts. And to think that today I wouldn't mind forever falling out with a relative over them. In my family, growing up means learning to fight for the head.

    Juan Pablo Villalobos is the author of Down the Rabbit Hole (Farrar, Straus andamp; Giroux, 2012)

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  • 09/05/12--09:00: Postcard: The National

  • by Betsy Andrews

    At The National in Manhattan, where chef Paul Corsentino and his staff have designed a splashy menu for National Hazelnut Month this September, I got to sample a very delicious late-night treat: housemade espresso gelato, hazelnut praline, brandied cherries, Frangelico fudge, and toasted marshmallow. Wish my kid were here to share this dessert! -Betsy Andrews

    The National
    tel: 212/715-2400
    557 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022

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  • 09/07/12--09:00: Day of the Dead
  • Day of the Dead-photo
    by Shane Mitchell
    On the street leading toward the Church of San Andrés Apóstol in the village of Mixquic, an hour southeast of downtown Mexico City, vendors tempted a festive crowd with the hominy-rich stew pozole, and with radishes, fried grasshoppers, and pillowy pan de muertos, Spanish for "bread of the dead," a sweet holiday treat. Children laughed around me, begging for cotton candy and sugar skulls. Mariachis strummed. The sun was setting as everyone proceeded through the gates of the churchyard's walled cemetery. I followed, too.

    On the Day of the Dead, the veil between the worlds of the deceased and the living becomes more transparent; only then may spirits press against that elastic fabric to savor the essence of tequila poured into a glass or a cigarette burnt to ash. To mark the way from the underworld, families across Mexico create folksy ofrendas (altars) piled with spiced black beans, tamales, and other foods, which serve as the spirits' earthly signposts. In Mixquic, families sit bundled next to headstones covered with marigolds during a candlelight vigil called La Alumbrada (The Illumination), awaiting the return of their lost loved ones. For me, a visitor, it was my sister I longed for, taken suddenly and too young.

    Weaving around the crowded graves late into the chilly November night, I was invited to slug fiery mezcal from a communal bottle passed by cheerfully drunk brothers. Another family solemnly shared a home-baked pan de muertos. It was coarse and chewy, with a dusting of sugar on the brown crust. This generosity to a stranger in their midst seemed to me a sacrament of sorts. A stinging fog of copal incense rose from clay burners to swirl eerily around our heads. And before dawn, when the church bells chimed, throughout Mixquic, the aromas and flavors of proffered food faded as phantom travelers, sated, fled once again into their mystical world.

    "Come back," I whispered. "Come back."

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  • 09/03/12--09:00: The Essential France
  • Lyon Bouchons-photo

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  • 09/07/12--09:00: General Tso and His Chicken
  • General Tso's Chicken-photo When I went to live in Hunan in 2003, I found that everyone knew about General Tso-the formidable Hunanese general Tso Tsung-t'ang, who subdued the restive northwest of China in the 19th century-but blank faces greeted me whenever I asked about his chicken. I was mystified. How was it that this scrumptious concoction of lightly battered chicken slices tossed in a piquant sweet-sour sauce had become the most famous dish of a Chinese province that completely disowned it?

    It was only when I visited Taiwan a year later that the mist cleared. There I met Peng Chang-Kuei, a legendary Hunanese chef who'd fled to Taiwan with the defeated Kuomintang government at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and was now in his eighties. And on the menu of his Taipei restaurant was the dish zuo zong tang ji (Tso Tsung-t'ang's chicken). According to Peng, he invented it in the 1950s as an homage to the intense spicy, sour, and salty flavors of his home province. Later, in the 1970s, he took it, along with his restaurant Peng's, to New York City, where he tweaked the recipe by adding sugar as a concession to American tastes. Americans loved it, and a legendary dish was born. -Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking (W.W. Norton, 2013)

    See the recipe for General Tso's Chicken »

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    Canada Railways View of the Rockies-photo
    by Erik R. Trinidad
    I set out from Pacific Central Station, Vancouver's vintage railway terminal, ready for a grand railway journey through the Canadian Rockies. Comfortably seated aboard The Canadian, one of VIA Rail Canada's cross-country passenger trains, I wondered aloud: "Shouldn't we have heard an 'All Aboard!' or something?"But the 8:30 evening departure was off to a gentle start, and I watched the Vancouver skyline disappear from the upper tier of the Skyline car, fitted with a glass observation dome jutting above the ceiling, as the train slowly advanced eastward.

    In an age when flights are cheaper and faster than riding the rails, most people opt to zip through the sky rather than over tracks, but there's something to be said for the classic railway journey as a romantic means of travel. There are typically more tourists than local commuters aboard The Canadian, on vacation to admire the expansive Canadian wilderness over a period of one to four days. Nights are spent in accommodations that range from roomy coach seats to the small but comfortable cabins of Sleeper Plus Class (where I slept) with private bathrooms, turn down service, and hot showers down the corridor.

    Erik R. Trinidad
    The attendance of Canadians may have been lower than expected, but it was still inevitable to befriend a few of them-they are, after all, known as some of the friendliest people on earth. The conversation quickly turned to Candian junk foods: "Coffee Crisp is the quintessential Canadian candy bar," said Cameron, a genial IT professional from Victoria, BC, on his way to relocate to Edmonton. The Nestlé product he raved about wasn't available on the train, which only made my American friend and I all the more curious about Canadian snacks-as did his talk of Doritos flavors (intense pickle and jalapeno andamp; cheddar) that you can't get in the States.

    Junk food fixations aside, gourmet meals were in fashion aboard The Canadian, and the dining car was accordingly fitted with linen-lined tables, wine glasses, silverware, and a friendly staff. The "bilingual lunch menu" included crevettes et pétoncles (shrimps and scallops) with local greens and saskatoon berries, which Chef Jeff Short served in the early afternoon before getting a start on the slow-cooked the prime rib roasts for dinner. Meals were paired with a selection of fine wines, including several from Canadian vineyards in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula and British Colombia's Okanagan Valley.

    Of course, the raison d'être of a railway journey isn't solely a gastronomic one; it's the scenery that passengers come to feast their eyes on, and the western Canadian landscape didn't disappoint. The best views came from inside the Panorama Car, which is like a greenhouse on wheels. Through its huge panes of glass, we saw the Thompson River weave its way through grass fields and coniferous forests as it neared the impressive Pyramid Falls-a spectacle the train slowed down for, so we could all marvel at the view. After a few more hours, the fertile landscape became more mountainous, and we saw the colors of the river change to cooler hues with the glacial water dripping down from the white-tipped mountain peaks in the distance.

    The best views came from inside the Panorama Car, which is like a greenhouse on wheels.
    At mid-afternoon, we hit the mountain town of Jasper, where several passengers disembarked for the great outdoors of nearby Jasper National Park, or world-renowned Banff, just a couple hours down the road. For me, my traveling companions, and our new Canadian friends, it was just a short one-hour stop to stretch our legs and explore the quaint downtown district of hotels, bars, and restaurants.

    Back on the train, the sun set behind us as the eastbound scenery abruptly changed from Rocky Mountains to prairie, and eventually evolved from farmland to suburban sprawl near our final destination, Edmonton. After this 27-hour leg of the route, The Canadian would continue on to Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Toronto. I felt like I was leaving on a high note when I got off at Edmonton-but not without a farewell and a welcome from a friendly face.

    "Here, have a Coffee Crisp," Cameron surprised me, holding out an extra Canadian candy bar he bought in Jasper. "As a welcome to Edmonton."

    Learn more about The Canadian on »

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  • 09/24/12--09:00: 5 Mexican Cooking Schools
  • 5 Mexican Cooking Schools-photo
    by Anna Stockwell and Elyse Inamine

    Seasons of My Heart

    Visitors explore local markets, prepare regional dishes, make cheese, and bake bread pudding, among many other activities, under the tutelage of Susana Trilling (pictured), a Mexican-American chef and cookbook author who has made her home in Oaxaca for decades.
    Oaxaca; 521/951/508-0469;

    Mexico Soul and Essence

    Panama-born chef and writer Ruth Alegria hosts classes in her Mexico City kitchen, including a chile identification session and workshops on seasonal dishes. For September: chiles en nogada, picadillo-stuffed poblanos dressed in walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.
    Mexico City; 52/555/564-8457;

    Marilau Mexican Ancestry Cooking School

    Marilau Ricaud comes from a long line of professional cooks and bakers and is an expert not only in the regional specialties of her home state of Guanajuato, but in the cooking of Oaxaca, Puebla, and other parts of Mexico, as well. Renowned for her tamales in particular, she offers classes ranging from salsa making to a two-week intensive on Mexican stews.
    San Miguel de Allende; 52/415/152-4376;

    Mesón Sacristía

    Guests of this charming boutique hotel play apprentice to chef Alonso Hernández (pictured) in workshops on Pueblan classics like mole poblano, supplemented by trips to markets, museums, and historic sites.
    Puebla; 800/712-4028;

    Zirita Culinary Experiences

    Restaurateur Cynthia Martinez has created a shrine to the cuisine of small-town Michoacán. In outdoor kitchens over woodburning stoves, visitors learn to grind corn on a metate, press tortillas, and cook them on a comal guided by practiced home cooks.
    Morelia; 521/443/275-4536;

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  • 09/25/12--09:00: A Tale of Two Cooks
  • Araceli Piandntilde;a-photo
    by Beth Kracklauer
    Visiting Mexico City not too long ago, I spent time with two women, Araceli Piña and Susana Rangel Gutierrez-neighbors, good friends, and great cooks. They live in Azcapotzalco, a community with ancient roots, once a leafy suburb of Mexico City, swallowed up years ago by the city's unremitting outward expansion, now a post-industrial urban neighborhood that not many tourists make it to. Cooking at home with Susana and Araceli, I got to know the two women a little bit better, and I asked a lot of questions about what food means to them and to their families. They seemed kind of amused by the whole thing, but happy to talk about what they love doing. Cooking, I found out, is what brought these two friends together in the first place-and what has provided them both, at different times, consolation, a livelihood, and a sure sense of their place in the world. I'm forever trying to get to the bottom of what makes a food culture like Mexico's so consistently excellent. How do Mexican cooks, from housewives to high-end chefs, receive and impart that incredible wealth of knowledge and skill? In the kitchens of these two extraordinary cooks-who happen to consider themselves perfectly ordinary-I set out to better understand.

    Read the full story in the gallery »

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    Thing you can only get in Memphis-photo
    by Kerry Crawford
    Memphis has always been known for its slow-cooked, dry rub barbecue ribs. While they may be reason alone to visit the city, don't write Memphis off as a barbecue town-the local food scene is about so much more than pork. In the three years that I've run I Love Memphis, my blog about the best things to see, do and eat in town, I've experienced Memphis' culinary diversity fork-first, everywhere from street-side tamale stands to James Beard Award-winning restaurants. Local chefs do a lot of things well, but they really shine when elevating a regular food (like a simple doughnut or a burger) into something revelatory. Here are several regular foods turned incredible that you can only get in Memphis. -Kerry Crawford

    1. Homeroom Chicken and Grids from Lunchbox Eats

    Chef Kaia Brewer's school cafeteria-themed diner is popular for its selection of soul food inspired sandwiches, like the Homeroom Chicken and Grids, her take on the classic Southern combination of chicken and waffles. The sandwich, which is made of battered and fried chicken strips covered with cheese and sweet relish or honey mustard, sandwiched between two halves of a fluffy Belgian waffle, is delicate despite its density. Order a side of Brewer's secret recipe mac'n'cheese and a glass of the lemonade of the day to complete the experience.
    Lunchbox Eats
    288 S 4th Street
    tel: 901/526-0820

    2. Barbecue Nachos from Central BBQ

    In a city known for its barbecue, it only makes sense that Memphis is also a hotbed of pork innovation. You can find slow-cooked pork atop pizzas, spaghetti, and even burgers at various barbecue shops, but Central Barbecue's nachos are one of the best examples of what Memphians can put together with pulled pork and a dream. A nest of tortilla chips topped with tender pulled pork shoulder, spicy sweet sauce, and nacho cheese, sprinkled with a handful of shredded cheese and a pinch of dry rub, these bad boys are best enjoyed with a friend and washed down with a locally brewed pint of Ghost River beer.
    Central BBQ
    2249 Central Ave
    tel: 901/272-9377

    3. Maple Bacon Donut from Gibson's Donuts

    Gibson's, Memphis' only 24-hour doughnut shop, knows a few things about appealing to local tastes. They carry doughnuts inspired by everything from red velvet cake to the local university basketball team, complete with frosting in the exact right shade of blue. They also carry the Lord God King of all Southern doughnuts, a fried yeast doughnut topped with maple frosting and crumbled bacon. For something so completely, exuberantly unhealthy, it's surprisingly light. Grab one from the East Memphis shop, where they're served hot out of the fryer and you can enjoy some of the best people watching in the city.
    Gibson's Donuts
    760 Mt. Moriah Road
    tel: 901/682-8200

    4. McCarter's Coffee

    You could call Memphis the Seattle of the South-there are tons of bands, an established do-it-yourself culture, and a handful of local coffee roasters that keep us all caffeinated enough to make it to work the day after that rock'n'roll show at the Hi-Tone. Of all of the local beans, my favorite is McCarter's Coffee, made just north of Memphis in Millington, Tenn. The family-run company sells their single-origin coffees at specialty groceries, farmers markets and cafes all over town.
    Available at Maggie's Pharm, Memphis Farmer's Market, Miss Cordelia's, and Otherlands Coffee Bar, or order online at and via

    5. Stoner Pie from the Cove

    The name says it all. The Cove's stoner pie is the late-night fantasy food of the munchies gods: two handmade beef tamales topped with cream cheese Rotel (as opposed to the usual kind of Rotel, which is a can of Rotel tomatoes mixed with melted Velveeta cheese), and baked until the whole thing is a warm, gooey, meaty mess. Skip using a fork-the stoner pie comes with Fritos for dipping. Chase it with one of the nautically-themed bar's handmade specialty cocktails while you watch a vintage monster or pulp movie on the big screen.
    The Cove
    2559 Broad Avenue
    tel: 901/730-0719

    6. Sonny Salt

    Memphians prefer their ribs dry, which means that they're seasoned and smoked and don't come bathed in sauce. A handful of local barbecue joints sell jars of their house dry rub seasoning, but there are few more versatile than Sonny Salt. Colored a bright orange by paprika, this tangy, smoky blend of salt, spices, and herbs goes well with most meats (barbecue or otherwise), in soups, and sprinkled on french fries or grilled vegetables.
    Available in most Memphis grocery stores or at

    7. Soul Burger from Earnestine and Hazel's

    The soul burger is the best thing on the menu at Earnestine and Hazel's (nevermind that it's the only thing on the menu). It's a smoky, inseparable mess of beef, cheese, grilled onions, pickles and mustard-if you don't want one of the ingredients, be sure to let the cook know before he gets started, because once the bun gets involved, it's too late-the cheese, onions and sauce act as a gooey, greasy, delicious glue that fuses meat to bread. They taste best late-night, paired with a bag of plain potato chips and any Otis Redding song on the jukebox.
    Earnestine and Hazel's
    531 South Main Street
    tel: 901/523-9754


    5 Things You Can Only Get in Seattle »
    6 Things You Can Only Get in Baltimore »
    6 Things You Can Only Get in Philadelphia »

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  • 09/28/12--09:00: Mexican Food Festivals

  • by Marne Stetton

    Credit: Alfredo Estrella/Afp/Getty Images


    January 6, Mexico City
    Eaten to celebrate the Epiphany, the wreath-shaped rosca de reyes, or king's ring, is baked with a figurine inside. Whoever finds it must host a party on Candelmas Day, February 2. In Mexico City's zócalo, or main square, 200,000 portions are doled out, made with more than 1,700 pounds of butter.


    March 22, Tulyehualco
    The pre-Hispanic people of Tulyehualco, now part of Mexico City, harvested ice from nearby snow-capped volcanoes to make frozen treats. At this 127-year-old fair, more than 80 ice cream producers pay homage to the tradition, offering flavors ranging from mango and lime to sweet mole.

    Credit: Courtesy of Office of Social
    Communication Xochimilco Mexico City


    May 26-June 3, Santiago Tepalcatlalpan
    In Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City where farmers grow corn on man-made islands called chinampas, this annual fair celebrates Mexico's staple grain. Along with tortillas, visitors sample foods like tlacoyos (masa cakes stuffed with beans and other ingredients); ponteduros, a honey-and-cornmeal candy; and esquites, kernels fried in butter with chili powder and epazote.


    May 30, Papantla
    At the annual Corpus Christi festival in Veracruz, food stalls overflow with fragrant vanilla pods and bottles of extract, vanilla-flavored ice pastries, and xanat (vanilla liqueur). A highlight is the Dance of the Voladores, acrobats who suspend themselves from a 100-foot pole and twirl midair to music.


    August 10-18, Zacatl´n
    This Pueblan town fetes its diverse apple crop-from the tart, green-striped rayada, to sweet, golden peruana varieties. Attendees savor treats like manzana hojaldra, a flaky apple tart. The fair culminates in a parade of floats from which hundreds of apples are thrown to the crowd.

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  • 10/03/12--09:00: Salmon Fishing in Sitka
  • fresh-caught salmon-photo
    by Helen Rosner
    I don't think I realized just how much I wanted to visit Alaska until I got an invitation to head up for three days of fishing in early September, a trip on which I'd cast for salmon while simultaneously getting an immersive lesson in the state's massive and sustainable fishing operation, which produces half of America's commercial fishing haul. I've gone out on deep-sea boats from Key West and the Baja peninsula, but short of a basic familiarity with the layout of the boat, I couldn't possibly have been prepared for what awaited me in the waters around Sitka, down the Alaska panhandle just north of British Columbia. Ringed by mountains hauling their snowy peaks above a lush spruce treeline, the water was by turns glass-calm and storm-tossed, flocks of seabirds crowding each other to get at the massive schools of fish just beneath the surface.

    Credit: Helen Rosner
    Our group was there for the very last days of salmon season-by the time we got out on the ocean, most of the salmon were already heading up the rivers to spawn-so across twelve fishing lines and two boats, our haul numbered a whopping two. But we were far richer in rockfish (flaky, white, and sweet), slightly-too-small halibut (thrown back, with regret), and the huge, beautiful dungeness crabs we pulled up in pots baited with salmon scraps. Each night we feasted on Alaska's bounty-our own catch, plus salmon of every species, king and snow crabs, tender scallops, and impossibly sweet and tiny Alaskan shrimp-masterfully tended by chefs Dan Enos and Patrick Hoogerhyde, along for the adventure from their restaurants in Boston and Anchorage, respectively.

    Sitting around the fire pit after dinner, glass of scotch in hand, new friends to either side, I didn't care at all that was barely 8 p.m. and I was ready to go to bed-the next morning's 6 o'clock wakeup call meant another day out on the water. There were more fish to catch, and I was ready to find them.

    See a gallery of 15 internationally-inspired salmon recipes »

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  • 08/22/12--09:00: Senegal's Regional Cuisines
  • Senegal's Regional Cuisines-photo
    by John O'Connor
    When I was living in Senegal, hitting the highway and getting out into the countryside as often as I could, I was always struck by how radically the landscape changed from point A to point B. In Thiès, where I lived, on the edge of the semi-arid Sahel plain, sandstorms sometimes swept into town; we'd suddenly find ourselves half-blind and bumping into lampposts. Yet due south, in the Casamance region, I encountered tropical forests, mangroves, and a lush river delta full of dolphins and white pelicans, and then outside Touba, in east-central Senegal, red lowland savannahs and peanut plantations stretched to the horizon. Although there's great consistency across the national palate, this varied topography divides the country into three principal regions, each with its own distinct cuisine.

    The South: Before France consolidated its colonial rule in the second half of the 19th century, Portugal made inroads in tropical Casamance and helped shape dishes like caldou, a fish soup similar to Portuguese caldeirada de peixe, made with lime, tomatoes, and grilled carp or tilapia. The Diola people have cultivated rice in the river flood plains of this region for centuries, while fonio, an ancient species of millet that was a staple before the French arrived, is now making a comeback thanks to its reputation as a super-grain rich in amino acids. The rainforest, dense with game, supplies dibiteries-roadside butcher shops-which offer delicious grilled game meat like antelope, as well as beef and lamb.

    The North: Seafood is abundant in this part of Senegal-from both the Atlantic and the Senegal River-and many of the country's most beloved dishes, including the fish-and-rice specialty thiéboudienne, originated in the former French colonial capital of Saint-Louis. Given its proximity to the Sahara, the north of Senegal shares many features with North African cuisine. Couscous has been produced here from pearl millet by the nomadic Fula group for centuries; in fact, Moroccans may have learned to process and steam couscous from the Fula. From the east, along the border with Mali, where peanut plantations stretch for miles, comes màfe, a thick peanut stew made with chicken or lamb.

    Dakar: In Senegal's cosmopolitan capital, Dakar, the Wolof are the largest ethnic group. As of 1902, this was the capital of all of French West Africa, which accounts for the ubiquity of fresh bread; every neighborhood has its boulangeries. Vietnamese immigrants began arriving in the 1950s, as French colonial Indochina plunged into war, hence the high concentration of Vietnamese restaurants in Dakar. Today, in fact, Senegalese of various ethnicities use Southeast Asian fish sauce as a substitute for traditional umami-boosters like gejj (dried fermented fish), even in the revered national dish thiéboudienne.

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