June 18, 2011

Eating Global: Food from Central America

Here are just a few of the tremendous things we enjoyed during a month traveling in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Foodies, take head: Get thee to Mexico.

Pollo tamale, outside Cancun ADO Bus Station, Mexico

Shrimp tacos, Merida Market, Mexico

Tortilleria, Merida Market, Mexico

Sweet Potatoes, Merida Market, Mexico

Habanero peppers, Merida Market, Mexico

Gorditas with pork and chicharrons, Merida, Mexico

Pickled yucca, Merida, Mexico

Mixto seafood cocktail, Campeche City, Mexico

Mango with chili and salt, Campeche City, Mexico

Grilled elote, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Cappuccino, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Pain de Elote, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Chorizo tacos, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

Pupusa with pickled onions, slaw and tomato salsa, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Fresh tortillas, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Desayuno tipico, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Pupusa with pickled vegetables, Antigua, Guatemala

Torta with frijoles negro, guacamole and pickled vegetables, Antigua, Guatemala

Empanada, Antigua, Guatemala

Churrascos, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Tapado, Livingston, Guatemala

Tapado, Livingston, Guatemala

Tapado carnage, Livingston, Guatemala

Whole fried fish, Tulum, Mexico

Pina Colada, Tulum, Mexico

Quesadilla frito, Cancun, Mexico

Liquado, Cancun, Mexico

Ropa Vieja, Little Havana, Miami, USA

November 25, 2009

The Last Supper: French-Moroccan at Les Degres de Notre Dame

My final meal in Paris (besides the croissant I am about to run out and get) featured excellent company, tasty Moroccan flavors and a healthy dose of cheap red wine. Nous partagons (shared—yes, half my new vocab words have to do with ordering food) a tangine with chicken, couscous with various meats and a couple appetizers. They had some of the best harissa I've ever tasted.

I took the long way home, along the Seine, through the city, slightly buzzed. There are few times I've been happier.

Needless to say, it was a lovely end to a lovely trip.

I'll be posting a couple closing thoughts and some file photos once I'm back stateside.

Bon Voyage! (to me)

November 24, 2009

Oysters in the 14e: Most Ridiculous Afternoon Snack Ever

Today is my last full day in Paris, so I tried to eat a couple things that I hadn't eaten yet. I had a galette (buckwheat crepe) and, then, finally, grabbed some French oysters in what would have to be the most extravagant afternoon snack of my life.

I ordered a glass of white wine, and took the recommendation from my server for some huitres "special." When they came, I almost did a spit-take. Babies got back. And, by that I mean that the things were huge! Jon-Gosselin-Ed-Hardy-tshirt-collection huge! I have never seen anything like it. The shells looked like soap dishes. In terms of surprisingly large foods, these suckers rivaled those prawns-the-size-of-kittens from Langkawi in Malaysia.

They were also delicious, even if it was in a mildly Fear Factor-esque way. Briny and tender, with a different character than the US variety, those meaty bastards were a lovely addition to my last hours in Paris.

Here is a pic of the galette:

In Case You're Wondering...

I haven't gained any weight since I've been here. I was wondering if people were wondering, and my mother finally asked (and played it off as a joke). Yes, I've been eating butter (croissants for breakfast!!) and cheese and bread and meat in proportions that I would find shocking in my normal life—but, get this, I think I might even have lost a few pounds.

To someone as profoundly interested in America's insanely disfunctional relationship with food as myself, this is fascinating. (I also can't seem to get a hangover no matter how much red wine I drink; explain that one!) I can think of multiple explanations.

First off: I walk. A lot. On a slow day I probably trek 3-4 miles. On a long day, closer to 8-10. (I swear I'm not exaggerating—I gmap-pedometer'd that shit.) This is obviously the biggest factor.

Two: The portions are smaller. Scoops of ice cream are often the size of golf balls and portions of beef about the size of a large fist. This rule loses some of it's thrust, however, when one eats an entire baguette for dinner.

Three: No processed or "junk" foods (well, besides that tiny packet of Haribou gummy bears I ate...on the train back from Amsterdam...Amsterdam.) This means no high fructose corn syrup sneaking its way into my bread or cheese. It also means no artificial sweeteners (which mess with the metabolism) and no sodium overdoses bloating the bloodstream.

There are probably a hundred other small factors, but either way, this European lifestyle really is something to see. People eat pretty much what they want and no one is fat.

Bring on Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2009

Yowza: L'As Du Falafel

I spent an embarassing amount of time today trying to come up with a hyperbolic superlative strong enough to title this post. I considered an expletive, but then remembered that my niece has been known to read the blog. (Hi Dahlia!)

This falafel—bought on Rue de Rossiers in Le Marais from local legend L'As du Falafel—absolutely rocked my world. For reals. I giggled, aloud, several times. It was insanely delicious. The balls themselves were small, light and freshly fried. The fixins (which included marinated eggplant, tomato, julienned cucumber, two kinds of slaw, some kind of yogurt magic and chili sauce) were perfection. Have I mentioned that I enjoyed this meal?

Any sandwich that comes with a fork is serious business. Look upon it with wonder:

Amsterdam Part 3: Finally, A Dutch Specialty

We were joined for Sunday brunch by my friend's coworker who just happens to be Dutch, born and bred in Amsterdam. We met up at Café Luxembourg, apparently a local institution (they were serving the "Dutch Ryan Seacrest" during our visit). This was finally my opportunity to try something truly local, under the watchful eye of a native. We ordered bitterballen, a croquette of potato and meat, fried to perfection and served with a mustard sauce. The potato purée inside was surprisingly smooth and melty. Salty and savory,with a wonderful confluence of textures, they were undeniably delicious.

November 22, 2009

Amsterdam Part 2: The Dutch Love Their Dogs

There are hot dog stands everywhere in Amsterdam, including outside the Van Gogh Museum. Lucky for us, we needed some sustenance after elbowing our way through that mob scene. They had kraut, fresh pickles, and chopped onions.

Unfortunately I bailed on my promise (to myself) that I would try one of the ubiquitous herring sandwiches (sold at street stands and dressed with pickles and onions). It wasn't my fault: My traveling companion threatened to be traumatized.

Amsterdam Part 1: Epic Indonesian

This was one of the most epic meals of my life, and an experience I recommend for any visitor to Amsterdam. It's called "Rijsttafel," and, for one price, we were served about 25 dishes full of traditional Indonesian delicacies. Indonesia is a former Dutch colony, and—as I learned in Marseille—that is always a good place to start when it comes to a country's best ethnic cuisine.

Highlights? Stewed beef with an astounding, deep ginger flavor. Fried chicken drumstick (with a light rice flour crust). Bean spout, egg and green bean salad with peanut sauce. Vegetables in coconut milk. Braised chicken. Hyper-intense pickles. And it just went on and on. Everything tasted even better with a splash of sambal (chili sauce).

What follows is a hazy collage of this jaw-dropping array.

November 20, 2009

Smoke Break: A Weekend in Amsterdam

I'll be in Amsterdam for the weekend, laptopless, but look forward to a full report on Monday.

November 19, 2009

Eye Candy: The Aix en Provence Bio (Organic) Market

Top Notch: Cote D'Ivoirian Food in Marseille

This was one of my favorite meals of the trip so far. Marseille has amazing ethnic food—and I figure this is the closest (geographically and culturally) that I'm gonna get to Africa in the near future. Said meal was eaten at a place where the chef/owner is known simply as "Mama Africa." We had beef with peanut sauce, whole fish with tomatoes and onions, fried plantains and rice, all greatly augmented by some killer hot sauce. We washed everything down with fresh ginger juice; something that has to be tasted to be believed. Be jealous of this meal. Be very jealous.

I just wish I could eat Ivoirian all the time...

November 18, 2009

Pastry Party: Citrus Tart

On Monday, after a long day at the Louvre, my companion and I were mildly starving. We still had some cheese at my place (including an 18-month comte that is changing the way I see the universe), so we decided we would grab a baguette at Eric Kayser Boulangerie, a pretty famous place on our way home.

When we got there, it was the pre-dinner rush (baguettes only have a lifespan of about six hours, according to some expert bakers) and there was a line out the door. By the time we reached the front, our eyes and stomachs were going a little crazy. We ended up ordering our baguette, a small citrus tart, a loaf of pistachio-apricot brioche and a couple macarons, a traditional French sandwich cookie tradition I had yet to try.

Then it happened. The woman behind the counter passed me my bag and I went weak at the knees: The baguette was still hot. I can honestly say that a fresh, Parisian baguette from a top-flight boulangerie is one of life's most exquisite pleasures.

Our smorgasbord was spectacular. And we ended it with this citrus tart. It had the mouth-puckering zing of the best key lime pie, and a French-quality pastry shell. Baller.

November 17, 2009

Life's Simple Pleasures: Steak Tartare and Afternoon Drinkin

Over the weekend, I cashed in on another recommendation and enjoyed an afternoon snack/drink at Ma Bourgogne on Place de Voges. The place is famous for their steak tartare, and it was simply perfect: the meat was meltingly tender, and the fattiness was perfectly balanced by french mustard and capers. There was something so old school about it. Needless to say, I loved it. We also had more escargot.