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  • 01/31/13--08:00: Lenny Russo
  • Lenny Russo-photo
    by Kara Buckner
    At Heartland Restaurant andamp; Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, Minnesota, chef-owner Lenny Russo showcases the bounty of the upper Midwest: in the fall, sugar pumpkin tartlets and fried goose wing with cranberry compote; in spring, wild leek vichyssoise and grilled Duroc pork chops with fiddlehead ferns. The market, adjacent to the restaurant, overflows with housemade heritage-breed charcuterie; wild turkeys and ducks; Lake Superior whitefish and trout; fresh berries in summer, preserved ones in fall; mustard ground from local seeds. So much abundance! For Russo, an Italian-American east Coast transplant, the traditional flavors and ingredients of Minnesota and its surrounding states provide an invigorating palette.

    Heartland Restaurant andamp; Farm Direct Market
    289 East 5th Street

    St. Paul, Minnesota

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  • 01/31/13--22:30: Swedish Tube Food
  • Swedish Tube Food-photo
    by Rebecca Fisher

    The first time I visited my husband's family in Sweden, I spent hours at the grocery store perusing the array of foods in tubes: soft cheeses, caviars, pâtés, all sorts of condiments. There was something both retro cool and sleekly futuristic about them, with their bold colors and graphics.

    I lugged home a suitcase full-tubes travel well-and threw a party to celebrate my newfound obsession. I provided boiled eggs, rye bread, and crispbread, and for toppings, tiny boiled shrimp, fresh dill, and cucumbers. My friends and I squeezed through my bounty, creating strange and wonderful combinations.

    Buy Swedish tube foods at »

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  • 02/01/13--00:23: The Essential Hong Kong

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    Where to Eat in Hong Kong During Lunar New Year-photo
    by Amy Ma
    The Year of the Snake officially begins at the stroke of midnight on first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, which lands on February 10th this year, but in Hong Kong, the festivities last a full 14 days-this year, from February 4-17, 2013. While many locals take advantage of the public holidays to leave the city, for visitors in the know, the lunar new year is a time to experience Hong Kong during its most spirited season, when denizens feast like there's no tomorrow: Every bite of food is highly symbolic, and eating becomes a means of shoring up good luck for the year ahead. At home, there are nightly family gatherings where the spreads easily rival Christmas and Thanksgiving combined, and the city's markets and restaurants feature auspicious delicacies and special dishes to help usher in the new year. In my mind, there's no better time to sample the delicious food of this dynamic city.

    Victoria Park
    To celebrate the new year, a handful of temporary flower markets-think street fairs rather than florist stalls-sprout up throughout Hong Kong a few days prior to the holidays. They will stay opened until mid-day on the first day of the Chinese New Year (Feb. 10), with crowds culminating on Chinese New Year's Eve (Feb. 9). Victoria Park is one of the largest and bustling with crowds late into the night. You'll find stalls filled with traditional Chinese sweets ranging from nougats and peanut butter brittle to traditional rice cakes. There are also flowers, including large amounts of miniature kumquat trees, whose fruits resemble gold ingots and symbolize wealth. And you're sure to find a strange selection of plastic toys, most of which will feature the animal of the upcoming year, the snake.

    Victoria Park
    1 Hing Fat Street
    Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2890 5824

    Credit: Ariana Lindquist
    Yin Yang
    Celebrated as a time of reunion, Chinese New Year meals are usually enjoyed at home. Happily for those who want a home-style meal away from home, there's Margaret Xu Yuan, the chef of a small private kitchen called Yin Yang. Cooking with many of the ingredients she harvests on her own organic farm, Margaret likes to do things the traditional way with brilliantly placed modern accents. She grinds her own tofu, for example, but adds in basil juice to create a vivid, herbaceous layer of green. Her roasted pork with homemade lychee wine and roasted hand-shredded chicken are amongst the best in the city, and if you're nice, she'll invite you into her upstairs kitchen to shadow her chefs. (Book early as there are only 4 tables on the ground floor and one large private room upstairs.)

    Yin Yang
    18 Ship Street
    Wanchai, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2866 0868

    Ser Wong Yip
    What better way to ring in the Year of the Snake than with a meal at one of Hong Kong's oldest snake soup specialists? Traditionally served during the colder months, snake soup is said to have healing properties. Aside from the exotic main ingredient of snake meat, the rest of the recipe taste more or less like an intense chicken soup. Top your bowl off with a chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves provided on the table.

    Ser Wong Yip
    139 Nam Cheong Street
    Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2728 8675

    Credit: Ariana Lindquist
    Wong Tai Shin Temple
    This old Taoist temple-an essential stop over the lunar new year-has upgraded itself in recent years. In the past, worshippers would shake a bunch of wooden sticks until a single one fell to the ground, and use that to get their fortune. These days, they shake a computerized machine and a number shows up on the screen. One tradition that has not slipped, however, is the large crowd-in the tens of thousands-that wait outside the temple doors on Chinese New Year's Eve (Feb. 9) until the stroke of midnight. The belief is that wishes are granted on a first come first serve basis, so crowds rush in to make their offerings once the new year officially begins. This is not a place for the feint of heart as it can get hectic, but it is worth experiencing the mad dash to burn incense and clock in your prayers at least once. Before heading to the temple, I like to fortify myself at 8 Happiness Restaurant located in nearby Wong Tai Shin Mall, an auspiciously-named authentic Taiwanese restaurant serving items like oyster rice vermicelli in a thick soy sauce-based chicken broth, and pepper buns (sesame buns filled with black pepper marinated beef).

    Wong Tai Shin Temple
    2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Shin
    Kowloon, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2327 8141

    8 Happiness Restaurant
    Shop G4A, Wong Tai Shin Shopping Center,
    104 Ching Tak Street, Wong Tai Shin, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2326 8168

    Tim Ho Wan
    Holding the title as the cheapest one-star Michelin restaurant in the world, a meal at Tim Ho Wan won't cost you much money-the average check is around $5.00 per head-but will cost you time. Expect long lines of upwards of an hour to score one of the small plastic stools in this hole-in-the-wall. Here, former Four Seasons Hong Kong executive dim sum chef, affectionately known as Pui Gor (meaning "Brother Pui") to his regulars, cooks up his no frills dim sum-only menu. A crowd favorite is the sweet and savory barbecue pork bun, which has a layer of sugary crumble on the top.

    Tim Ho Wan
    Flat 8, G/F, Phase 2 Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street
    Mong Kok, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2332 2896

    Lung King Heen
    It's going to be a splurge, especially with specialty Chinese New Year tasting menus priced above $100 a head, but slick and upscale Lung King Heen is Hong Kong's only 3-star Michelin Asian establishment, and rightly so. Here you'll find all the classic Cantonese dishes that are mandatory for the new year, including a wide range of seafood (the word for fish, yu, is a homonym for "surplus") and fat choy (a type of black moss, which is the homonym of "get rich" in Cantonese). There will also be extravagant and exotic choices from lobster tails to birds nest. Request a table by the window on the second day of Chinese New Year (Feb. 11) and catch the highly anticipated Lunar New Year Fireworks across Victoria Harbour that begins at 8pm and lasts for roughly 20 minutes.

    Lung Keen Heen
    Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance St
    Central, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 3196 8888

    Credit: Ariana Lindquist
    Perched on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Hong Kong is the current record holder for Asia's highest bar. With 360 degree views of the entire city, it's easy to get vertigo as you walk out the all-white interior and onto the partially covered terrace. Sip on cocktails and nosh on bar snacks that range from sushi to oysters to lamb kebabs as you start off the Chinese New Year high above the city skyline. Just make sure you check weather reports to ensure its clear skies.

    Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West
    Kowloon, Hong Kong
    Tel: 852 2263 2263

    Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade
    Head over to the Tsim Sha Tsui area in Kowloon on the first day of Chinese New Year (Feb. 10) a few hours before the parade begins at 8pm in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Center. Brilliantly lit floats, Chinese acrobats, and teams of lion dancers hit the streets for an hour and a half to officially welcome in the Year of the Snake. The shops that line the streets will be on sale, hoping to attract those who want to buy new clothes for the new year. And when you get tired, drop into the iSquare shopping mall on nearby Nathan Road to Honeymoon Desserts, where you can order up a bowl of delightful tapioca floating in fresh mango purée, or for the more adventurous, a durian crepe.

    Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Parade
    Tel: + 852 2508 1234

    Moon Koon Restaurant at Happy Valley Racecourse
    The superstition goes: It's good to gamble in the beginning of the new year; win or lose, it gets the ball rolling on your luck. On the third day of the Chinese New Year (Feb. 12), the more serious gamblers will show up at the Sha Tin Race Courses, where there will be lion and dragon dances accompanied by festive drumming, and then six hours or so of horse races. The benefit of placing your bets in Happy Valley Race Course, aside from its more convenient location, is the food. Newly opened restaurant Moon Koon offers poon choi (meaning a "pot of luck" in Cantonese), a traditional village-style casserole that features layers of ingredients with turnips and vegetables on the bottom to braised pork belly, tofu, and even the pricier abalone on top. Make sure you call in ahead of time to pre-order this dish, and bring friends to help devour it.

    Moon Koon
    2/F Happy Valley Strand, Happy Valley Racecourse
    Happy Valley, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2966 7111

    Credit: Ariana Lindquist
    Grand Stage Restaurant at the Western Market
    When it was first erected in 1906, the Western Market, easily recognizable by its clock tower, was just that-a produce market. Since then, this oldest surviving market place in Hong Kong has been transformed into collection of mediocre fabric stalls and tourist shops on the bottom floors. On the top two stories, however, sits Grand Stage Restaurant. Adorned with chandeliers, bare brick walls, and a large dance floor, the massive restaurant seats more than 500 and is most notable for its 7pm nightly ballroom dancing. Order up a spread of authentic dim sum dishes, and save room for the steamed custard buns for desserts. As a bonus, the small street leading up the Western Market, including Des Voeux Road West, are famous for selling some of the most exotic Chinese dried goods, including birds nest, sharks fins, and herbal medicines-all expensive delicacies that are a must-have for the Chinese New Year and a great present for party hosts.

    Grand Stage Restaurant at the Western Market
    2/F Western Market, 323 Des Voeux Road
    Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 8202 2809

    The Chairman
    The Chairman is an odd mix of the grandiose and cozy. The ground floor foyer is reminiscent of large banquet style restaurants with a stately chandelier and flashy staircase, but the quaint private kitchen holds just five tables. The Chairman is a place to take advantage of the fresh seafood, especially whole fish, a mainstay of new years menus. (The custom is to always save a little leftover, so you will always have excess in the new year.) Whole fishes require advanced order and can either be prepared deep-fried with ginger and plum sauce, stir-fried with Chinese vegetables, or steamed with Mandarin peel. In addition to fish dishes, be sure to try the flower crabs steamed in Shaoxin wine and chicken fat (it's a brilliant dish that the restaurant is justly famous for), and the fried baby yellow croaker fish, which are dipped in a shallot-infused black vinegar sauce and that can be eaten in their entirety. Reservations are a must so call ahead.

    The Chairman
    G/F, 18 Kau U Fong
    Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 2555 2202

    He Jiang
    He Jiang, named after area in China between the Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces, brags of a menu that has a split personality. On the Sichuan side, there are hot and numbing spices, most evident in chili crab where prickly pangs of spiciness amuse your palate. On the Jiangsu side, there is the milder and lighter style of Huaiyang cuisine. Think of the sweeter braised pork and mushrooms or the clean flavored shredded bean curd with ham and bok choy. Hit two birds with one stone, and ask for recommendations from both regions. For something truly special for the new year, order the smoked eel: a fresh-caught river eels are deboned completely and then slowly smoked and glazed with soy sauce. (This dish must be ordered in advance.)

    He Jiang
    1/F Cosmopolitan Hotel, 387-397 Queen's Road East
    Wanchai, Hong Kong
    Tel: +852 3167 7833

    For more information on planning a visit to Hong Kong for the lunar new year, visit the website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.


    Hong Kong Lunar New Year »
    The Essential Hong Kong »
    Hong Kong Travel Guide: What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat »

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  • 02/06/13--09:00: Lunar New Year in Hong Kong
  • Lunar New Year in Hong Kong-photo
    by Kit Yau
    It's no secret that my hometown of Hong Kong is a nosher's paradise. This is a city that's famous for its dim sum, after all. But you haven't really tasted the pleasures of Hong Kong until you've been there for Lunar New Year, when, for 15 days straight-starting with the year's first new moon, usually in late January or early February-the city's markets, restaurants, and home kitchens kick into high gear. This holiday is all about food, all the time. Day and night during Lunar New Year, the teeming city transforms itself. Street snacking and family feasts become the focus of daily life, and sidewalk stalls and restaurant menus fill up with a constellation of delicious (and auspicious) foods that are said to bring prosperity and health in the year to come.

    The easiest way for visitors to get an authentic dose of New Year's spirit is to explore the city's numerous street markets, which are bursting with colorful New Year's treats such as candied lotus root; kumquats preserved in sugar; savory turnip cakes flecked with shredded cured pork, dried shrimp, and mushroom; roasted melon seeds dyed red for good luck; and the sweet sesame-encrusted fritters called siu hou jhou.

    See more photos from Hong Kong in the gallery »

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    Crispy Haddock Cakes-photo Some of the best fish we've ever eaten is caught by this group of 1,000 or so New England fishermen, all of whom we count among our heroes. Formed in 1991 in response to the depletion of marine life due to overfishing in northeastern United States waters, the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association has demonstrated that it's possible to bring home high-quality cod and haddock while still protecting the species. Instead of using wasteful methods such as massive-net trawling, the members fish with hooks, lines, and smaller nets. All by-catch, or unwanted fish, is released alive. Unlike industrial trawlers, which can stay at sea for up to a week, the Hook Fishermen deliver fish to port fresh. The group has also lobbied for stronger monitoring of catches nationwide, cooperated with scientists and educators to support healthy oceans, and helped revamp the way the region's fishing is regulated. Best of all is the quality of its catch, which we recently enjoyed in sweet, meaty, fluffy white haddock cakes.

    See the recipe for Crispy Haddock Cakes »

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  • 02/06/13--00:13: Lost in Paradise
  • Lost in Paradise-photo
    by Keith Pandolfi
    On our first date, my wife Amy and I went to a Brooklyn restaurant called Cornelius, a place known for its sumptuous fried oyster po-boys and ample selection of bourbon and single-malt scotches. On our second, we went to Franny's, another Brooklyn spot, one heralded by the New York pizzerati for its exceptional clam pie. The third date was a crawfish boil at a Ditmas Park bar; the fourth, a feast at Northern Spy, a Manhattan farm-to-table restaurant whose menu forever changed my attitude toward kale salads. We both took pleasure-great pleasure-in showing off our knowledge of restaurants to each other. For every soul food shack she introduced me to on Flatbush Avenue, I showed her a dive bar in Red Hook that had somehow escaped her attention. Our relationship unfolded over roasted brussels sprouts and hanger steaks, fried fish sandwiches and duck-fat fries, micro-brewed IPAs and brandy old fashioneds.

    It was months before our engagement when Amy and I traveled to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, so she could meet my mother for the first time, and on that trip I was determined to add to my culinary capital by taking her someplace unexpected-someplace that would leave her stunned and amazed over my abilities to track down gustatory pleasures in such an otherwise culinarily unsung part of the country. This took some research. After all, Central Florida is not exactly known for-well, anything really-when it comes to food. So after we arrived, I took to mom's AOL dial-up, scouring at a snail's pace for food blogs that would clue me in.

    It's not that I'd never enjoyed a meal in Volusia County, where New Smyrna's located. Since my mom moved there in 1988 with my late stepfather, Ted, she'd taken me to dozens of places; while many were "are-you-kidding-me"-level awful, some were surprisingly good. There was The Downwind Café, a woody comfort-food restaurant located in a subdivision designed for small aircraft owners (each multi-gabled mini-mansion has its own airplane hangar) that serves an admirable Caprese salad. Atlantis Bistro, a friendly Italian red-sauce joint on Flagler Avenue run by a spunky Italian woman, on whom I'd always harbored something of a crush, offered a mighty fine marinara sauce. And there was the bizarre little chain restaurant Mr. Dunderback's in the Volusia County Mall, the place Ted used to take me for bratwursts and beer after he'd freshened up my wardrobe with some smart new shirts and shoes at Dillard's.

    But for this visit, I needed something special, something really special: an unexpected and off-the-beaten path sort of place that would leave Amy saying about whatever she'd ordered, "Wow, that's the best I've ever tasted!" Despite the torturously slow land-line internet connection, my research yielded a few promising write-ups, the most laudatory being a seafood shack about 40 minutes away. "My wife and I come here every time we're in Florida," one Yelper wrote. "And we're from New York!"

    Well then.

    And so Amy and I headed out. Behind the wheel of our rented canary-yellow Chevy, I had images of a rustic oceanfront dive with hearty fish stews served along frosty pints of Guinness, a place that would look, as all iconic seaside

    I had images of a rustic oceanfront dive that would look, as all iconic seaside joints do in my mind, like it was straight from the set of the 1980 film Popeye.
    joints do in my mind, like it was straight from the set of the 1980 film Popeye, starring Robin Williams. (Which, by the way, was directed by Robert Altman.)

    But what we found was anything but. The place had all the charm of a recently redecorated highway-exit diner: the ceilings were dropped, the carpet was paisley, a Michael Bolton song filled the air, and the chowders and fish sandwiches we ordered were fresh from the freezer. The drive back to my mom's house was undertaken in silence, the only words uttered ten minutes in, when Amy, sensing my humiliation, rested her hand on my knee and said, "It's okay, sweetie."

    Later that night, at the chain restaurant in Ormond Beach where my mother took us to dinner, I found myself feeling jealous, actually jealous, when Amy gushed over the "Bleu Cheese Chips"-a molten pile of fresh, thick-cut fried potatoes tossed with herbs, sticky balsamic vinegar and melted blue cheese-that we ordered as an appetizer. I had been outdone by my own mother, and the Stonewood Bar andamp; Grill chain. (To be fair: those Bleu Cheese Chips were superb.)

    When we traveled back to New Smyrna this year for the holidays, I was determined to redeem myself for last year's failure. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I spent nearly three hours slogging through the dial-up, searching for restaurants that had escaped my attention in last year's search, hoping we could visit the lucky winner on one of the two extra days we would be in town after Christmas. Again, a few promising reviews came up: a place called Fish Camp over in Ormond Beach, an Italian restaurant run by two genuine Neapolitans along an interstate highway, and two restaurants serving Minorcan cuisine in St. Augustine-a 70-mile drive away, but worth it for the redemption of my pride.

    Amy called at me to hurry up as I jotted down the restaurants' addresses on a sheet of paper. We'd forgotten to buy mom's new boyfriend, Wendell, a Christmas present, which meant we were locked into a last-minute gift search downtown before Christmas Eve dinner. On our very first stop, the ever-attentive Amy found a beautiful guidebook on identifying different cockles, clams, conches and cones-she'd heard Wendell talk about how his late wife once ran a business making jewelry out of shells.

    After finding the gift so quickly, we had some extra time on our hands, so Amy, who was starving, suggested we go someplace to grab a snack before dinner, and I felt a sense of panic set in. We didn't have much time before people started to arrive at mom's house, so we couldn't go far. I'd already noticed that the nearby Italian restaurant-the one run by the cute lady-had closed early, and there was nowhere else I could think of to go. Once outside, I gazed down Flagler Avenue, locking eyes on a cheesy pink building near the shore, the large plastic banner nailed to its siding advertising some sort of special on buckets Bud Light Lime.

    It was called The Breakers, and while I'd been there during my pre-gourmand college days with mom and Ted, I didn't remember it at all. I figured it would be mediocre at best-another nail in the town's (and my own) culinary coffin. My confidence in the place wasn't exactly bolstered when, as we pulled into the parking lot, we watched as an emaciated, leather-skinned biker, who uncannily resembled the real-life version of Floyd Pepper, stumbled outside the bar and down the stairs, then wandered aimlessly toward the beach. "I'm scared!" Amy chirped.

    But what we found inside wasn't scary at all. In fact, it was downright revelatory. This place that had somehow escaped my memory was a genuine seafood shack, its walls wainscoted in gnarly old wood, its scuffed-up tables and chairs looking as if they were taken from a late 19th-century Boston Harbor barroom (maybe so: as I later found out, the former owners, Irish-Americans, operated several bars in and around Boston for nearly a century before opening this place). It was filled with shiny, happy people: both barstool-perched regulars and extended families in for the holidays, everyone munching on fried shrimp and sipping from longneck beer bottles. On the ocean-facing side of the dining room, couples young and old sat at a long counter staring dreamily out toward the ocean, Coronas in hand. This, I thought to myself, is it.

    As soon as we were seated, Amy grabbed a menu with a look of pure, unadulterated glee. "Oh my God," she said. "This place is awesome!" "Let's get the steamed shrimp!"

    On the ocean-facing side of the dining room, couples young and old sat at a long counter staring dreamily out toward the ocean, Coronas in hand.
    "I'm not sure if it's fresh," I said.

    "Who cares," she replied. "Why don't we come here all the time?"

    And so we sat there at our table, staring out at the Atlantic, carelessly peeling shrimp of unknown pedigree, and washing them down with the kind of cheap beers it never even occurred to us to drink back in Brooklyn. There was sawdust on the floor, the aromas of a faraway deep fryer filled the air, and men in polo shirts and khaki shorts sat at the knotty-pine bar, watching college football on TVs. After a while, I lost myself in one of those games, too, my fevered mind finally at ease. There would be no more online searches or long drives to St. Augustine. Florida had shared with me the secret it's shared with so many others throughout the years: it's perfectly acceptable to just kick back along a beach, relax, and keep things simple.

    The Breakers
    518 Flagler Ave.
    New Smyrna Beach, Florida

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  • 02/06/13--02:00: Tarte Flambe
  • Tarte Flambandeacute;e-photo Like many of the world's great foods, tarte flambée started out as a working-class dish-in this case a flatbread cooked in wood-fired ovens by farmers in Alsace. One of our favorite chefs from that French region, Gabriel Kreuther, serves a spectacular version in the Bar Room of the Modern in Manhattan. True to tradition, he tops buttery pastry with crème fraîche, sliced onions, and smoked bacon, then blasts it in an oven (hence the flambée) until it's bronzed, bubbly, and perfect. Such humble origins, such transcendent results.

    See the recipe for Tarte Flambée »

    The Modern
    9 West 53rd Street

    New York, New York

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  • 02/08/13--09:00: Nanao
  • Nanao-photo
    by Kathleen Squires
    Since 1985, when Katsuko Nanao opened her restaurant Nanao, she's been putting her unique stamp on kaiseki, Japan's most formal cooking style. A self-taught chef with an all-female staff, Nanao bucks tradition-and her unorthodox food-sole sashimi with shreds of mountain yam, delicate fried mushrooms with gingko nuts-is what happens when home cooking meets kaiseki. It's a breath of fresh air.

    No. 2 Ishihara Building, First Floor

    1-5-10 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku
    Tokyo, Japan

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  • 02/11/13--09:30: Alice Medrich
  • Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts-photo Our secret weapon for foolproof desserts is Alice Medrich. The pastry chef is widely dubbed the First Lady of Chocolate for good reason: In the 1970s, she introduced Americans to chocolate truffles and never looked back. Medrich went on to author nine cookbooks, providing us with iconic desserts, such as her take on the Queen of Sheba cake, a velvety chocolate torte, or her satiny chocolate pudding. The results are elegant and positively addictive. Yet what we appreciate most is her constant pursuit of perfection. As Medrich writes in Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan, 2012), "Today my house truffles have a touch of salt, a vastly easier method of heating the yolks, and a new, ultrasmooth texture. You cannot buy truffles like these." With recipes this good, we have to agree.

    See the recipe for Alice Medrich's Chocolate Pudding »

    See the recipe for Alice Medrich's House Truffles »

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  • 02/12/13--01:00: The French Press
  • Cajun Eggs Bennedict at The French Press, Lafayette LA-photo At Lafayette, Louisiana's most vibrant restaurant, The French Press, homegrown chef Justin Girouard makes his own boudin, the Acadian sausage of pork, rice, and cayenne. (Delicious.) Then he fries it and serves it on toasted French bread topped with two poached eggs and chicken and andouille gumbo. (Even better.) His crispy softshell crab is served with a refreshing citrus slaw, and his smoked duck breast is paired with pillow-soft sweet potato spatzle. Using locally produced food, Girouard honors Cajun cooking, all the while making it uniquely his own.

    See the recipe for Cajun Benedict »

    The French Press
    214 East Vermilion Street
    Lafayette, Louisiana

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  • 02/15/13--00:30: Huandeacute;, Vietnam
  • Huandeacute;, Vietnam-photo
    by Andreas Pohl and Tracey Lister
    We live in Hanoi, but when we really want to eat fabulously, we go to Hué, Vietnam's old imperial capital. It is located in the center of the country along the Perfume River, which serves as backdrop and source of the city's many fish markets, one of the bedrocks of its captivating cuisine. The Nguyen emperors, Vietnam's last dynastic rulers, were obsessed over a unified national identity, and codified a way of eating based on wet rice and fish sauce. They also held royal banquets 50 dishes strong. The city's cuisine remains a source of pride; dishes are bold, yet refined. At Tinh Gia Viên Restaurant, we revel in the elevated flavors of the old royal cuisine, snacking on morsels like banh bot loc, banana-leaf parcels of prawns and pork in a translucent tapioca dough. But the food of the street is equally compelling. At stalls in Dông Ba market, we devour the city's signature beef noodle soup, bun bo hué, shot through with lemongrass, fermented-shrimp paste, and chile oil. Wherever we eat in Hué we're guaranteed extravagant flavors.

    Tinh Gia Viên Restaurant
    7K/28 Le Tanh Ton Street

    Dông Ba market
    13 Tran Hung Dao

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  • 02/19/13--08:25: Blueberry Pie Milkshake
  • Blueberry Pie Milk Shake-photo There's nothing better than blueberry pie à la mode-except, perhaps, for the blueberry pie milk shake at Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City, Iowa. It's exactly what it sounds like: A scoop of vanilla ice cream and a hefty slice of pie go into the blender together, and out comes the ultimate dessert, a creamy shake with buttery crumbles of pie crust and ribbons of gorgeous fruit filling throughout.

    See the recipe for Blueberry Pie Milkshake »

    Hamburg Inn No. 2
    214 North Linn Street, Iowa City, Iowa

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  • 02/18/13--23:30: Levinsky Market
  • Levinsky Market-photo Tucked among garment shops and lighting stores in the Florentin neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv is the unfussy but magical Levinsky Market-a five-block stretch of spice shops, delicatessens, bakeries, dairies, fish stores, and other food purveyors that represent the city's present, past and probable future. Florentin was settled in the 1920s by Greek immigrants, who were followed shortly thereafter by Turks. The first establishments of Shuk Levinsky (shuk is Hebrew for "market") date from that time. The Turkish bakery Penso has been serving spectacular burekas, savory pastries best enjoyed with hard-boiled egg and hot pepper relish, for 80 years. Nearby Konditoria Albert, Tel Aviv's only Greek bakery, opened in 1935, sells memorable sweets, including handmade almond paste and pillow-soft bizet (meringue kisses). One of the market's most beloved food shops is also of this generation. Yom Tov Delicatessen is packed from floor to ceiling with treasures ranging from olive oil to hand-stuffed olives. Mid-century immigration from Iran in the 1960s made the Levinsky Market even better, introducing spice kiosks like Kolbol Zol Gadi, where in addition to nuts, fruits, grains, and seasonings from across the globe, shoppers can pick up rose water and other Persian ingredients. A handful of Persian restaurants serve daytime menus of kebabs, gundi (chicken and chickpea-flour meatballs), and ghormeh sabzi, an herb and bean stew. The most famous of them, Salimi, is run by three generations of the same family. In recnet years newer places have joined the stalwarts. One of the best of these is Caffe Kaymak, which offers a vegetarian meu, cocktails made form arak (a licorice-flavored spirit), and a place to gather well after all the other shops have closed.

    See the recipe for Gundi (Persian Chicken Meatball Soup) »

    Levinsky 43

    Konditoria Albert
    36 Matalon

    Yom Tov Delicatessen
    Levinsky 43

    Kolbol Zol Gadi
    Zvulun 13

    80 Nahalat Binyamin

    Caffe Kaymak
    Levinsky 49

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  • 02/19/13--22:00: Juniper Restaurant, Tulsa
  • Justin Thompson, Juniper Restaurant-photo
    by Kathy Taylor and Elizabeth Frame Ellison
    The best meals make you feel loved. That's certainly how it is at Juniper, which we frequent on mother-and-daughter nights out. This elegant but down-home restaurant is owned by chef Justin Thompson (shown with blackberry-glazed duck breast, left, and bluenose bass with tomato jam), a booster for our hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Every time we eat Justin's food, we just want to give him a hug. His hen-of-the-woods mushrooms are buttermilk-fried in good Okie fashion. His pan-seared river trout in brown butter has put our favorite midwestern fish in a league with sole meunière. Then there's his chocolate bread pudding topped with toffee and caramel sauce. Now that's just pure pleasure, Oklahoma or elsewhere.

    324 East Third Street
    Tulsa, Oklahoma

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  • 02/19/13--23:00: Famous Lunch Mini Wieners
  • Famous Lunch Mini Wieners-photo
    by Jamie Feldmar
    Circumstances were not ideal when I discovered mini wieners. I was midway through that great American pastime, the road trip, driving north from Brooklyn to Montreal, packed tightly into a rented van with a motley crew of friends in various states of disarray: all were exhausted from work, at least one was deeply hungover, and I, for my part, had just been dumped. The plan was for a lighthearted weekend romp north of the border, but halfway there, morale was flagging.

    On a tip from the inimitable highway warriors on, we stopped just north of Albany in the industrial city of Troy, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy's tourist attractions are few: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute calls the town home, as does Burden Iron Works and a Gasholder Building dating to the1870s. And then there are those mini wieners.

    Since the 1920s, Greek-owned diners and luncheonettes across Troy have been serving the lunch-time treat (often made at local butchers like Hembold's or Rolf's Pork Store) topped with a heady meat sauce, yellow mustard, and chopped white onions, on custom-made mini rolls from nearby Italian bakeries. Don't confuse them with cocktail weenies-clocking in at three or four inches a pop, with snappy natural casings and a light char from the griddle, mini wieners are downed by the half-dozen, in rapid succession, by burly men who wouldn't be caught dead with a pig in a blanket.

    I did not know any of this prior to walking into Famous Lunch, a family-run lunch counter that's been slinging mini wieners since 1932. The place is perhaps the best-preserved slice of pure Americana I have ever encountered: griddle piled high with wieners in the window, a sprawling cherry-red counter top with stools occupied by blue-collar locals plus a few local Little Leaguers, and a menu maxing out at $5 (a "World Famous Hot Dog," topped with their signature Zippy meat sauce, costs $.75). Dazed by the drive and our various mental burdens, we hovered the doorway for a beat too long, until a brusque cook waved us inside with his grease-dripping spatula. "Move it!" he yelled, waving us inwards to a booth.

    Our group of seven sprawled across two tables, glancing at the printer-paper menus. One side of the menu listed edible offerings from Zippyburgers to Zippyfries and RC cola, while the other contained Famous Lunch's "Famous Facts." It was there that I learned the lore of Famous Lunch: Originally opened as Quick Lunch, it remained as such until 1958, when a Troy-bred Marine stationed in Moscow supposedly craved mini wieners so desperately he had dozens of them shipped to the US Embassy and served at an Ambassador's birthday party."Operation Hot Dogs" was such a hit with the local media that Quick Lunch soon became "world famous," and nearly a century later, the name has stuck. "Why did my family choose hotdogs? I wish I could tell you," says third-generation owner Scott Vasil. "It's obviously not a traditional Greek food. I think my dad wanted to make something all-American: fast, delicious, and a good value," he says, citing the patriotic trifecta that's fueled our eating habits for generations.

    So delicious were the dogs, in fact, that we ordered a dozen, and then a dozen more. An hour later, our fingers were stained with the scent of spiced meat and browned onions, and we were in high spirits, if a bit sluggish. Stoned with pleasure and pork, the sting of my heartbreak was temporarily sidelined by sheer sensory overload (and my pal's hangover was sandblasted clean out). Snappy, salty and deeply satisfying, Famous Lunch was, in that moment, the Platonic ideal of what an American lunch should be-and all that I needed to hit the road and keep going.

    Famous Lunch
    111 Congress Street, Troy, NY
    Tel: 518/272/9481

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  • 02/21/13--07:30: Anaheim's Little Arabia
  • Anaheim's Little Arabia-photo
    by Barbara Hansen
    The nickname locals started using for the predominantly Middle Eastern business district in Anaheim, California, years ago hardly fits the place today. Little Arabia, an immigrant neighborhood since the 1980s, isn't so little anymore. In fact, it's one of the most expansive and vibrant ethnic enclaves I've seen anywhere. I can spend hours in the restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores on the main strip in Brookhurst Street and beyond, all representing scores of Near East cuisines. A favorite spot of mine is Mamounia, a Moroccan oasis with silk pillows and oriental rugs; they make an incomparable lamb stew that's fragrant with saffron and ginger. At the Olive Tree, I can satisfy my craving for mansaf, the Jordanian delicacy of lamb shoulder braised in a yogurt sauce, and also molokhia, Egypt's national dish of slow-cooked greens. Forn Al Hara, a Lebanese bakery, makes chewy flatbreads smothered with tangy labneh and sumac-rich za'atar, as well as fabulous pastries such as maamoul, semolina cookies with a date filling. Not long ago I visited Nara Bistro for iftar, the evening meal that ends each day of fasting during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The doors opened at sundown to reveal an elaborate buffet including maklouba, a layered dish of beef, rice, and eggplant, and aish al saraya, a heavenly Lebanese bread pudding. Then there are the markets, wonderlands of Middle Eastern ingredients. My first stop when I'm shopping for a meal is usually Altayebat, a stalwart that's been selling imported dry goods, halal meats, and specialty foods such as fresh pistachios since the early '80s. And I love strolling through the capacious aisles of the neighborhood Super King, a big-box local food chain that, here, has a decidedly Middle Eastern bent. I find myself marveling at the incredible variety of rose-flavored drinks, say, or the different kinds of Egyptian rice. The place is mere miles from the kitschy Americana of Disneyland, yet it couldn't feel farther away.

    1829 West Katella Avenue

    Olive Tree
    512 South Brookhurst Street, Suite 3

    Forn Al Hara
    512 South Brookhurst Street

    Nara Bistro
    1220 South Brookhurst Street

    1217 South Brookhurst Street

    Super King
    10500 South Magnolia Avenue

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  • 02/22/13--08:00: Hitachiya
  • Hitachiya-photo
    by S. Irene Virbila
    This small Southern California store is packed with specialty Japanese cookware, many of the same items sold at the original shop in Tokyo's Tsukiji market. Sushi chefs seek out Hitachiya for hand-forged knives and the sturdy bamboo baskets they use to carry ice and fish. Owner Masazumi Hirota has an eye for what cooks covet: oval cast-iron pots with removable handles, tin-lined copper pans for frying tempura, beautiful cedar and cherry wood and horsehair strainers, ivory sharkskin graters for fresh wasabi root, slender twig mats for serving sashimi-even a spike to secure a wriggling eel. A lesson in the beauty of everyday objects.

    2509 West Pacific Coast Highway

    Torrance, California

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  • 02/21/13--23:00: Sindhi Biryani
  • Sindhi Biryani-photo
    by Felicia Campbell
    In Pakistan, when my boyfriend's mother, Najma Awan, served me Sindhi biryani, a specialty of the country's southeastern Sindh province, I fell in love. Like all great versions of this dish, hers strikes a balance between the tastes and textures of rice, goat, and curry masala, which is fragrant with herbs, hot chiles, ginger, and other spices. She cooks the curried goat and rice separately, then steams them in layers, so that the sauce and juices drip into, but don't saturate, the fluffy grain. The result is a beautifully striated centerpiece that offers rice, spice, and meat in waves of astounding flavor.

    See the recipe for Sindhi Biryani »

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  • 02/25/13--09:00: Danish Hot Dogs
  • Danish Hot Dogs-photo Danes are crazy about their hot dogs. On nearly every Copenhagen corner, a pølsevogn, or hot dog wagon, offers more than a dozen varieties. The knockout ristet hot dog, accented with sweet spices, gets tucked in a bun loaded with pickles, raw and crispy fried onions, and a delectable rémoulade; the medister is a sausage spiced with cloves and allspice; and the fransk, or French hot dog, makes ingenious use of a baguette-like roll, the bread hollowed out and used as an edible sleeve for the footlong frank. They always beckon as we stroll through the city, even if we've just eaten one a few blocks before.

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