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Friday, October 30, 2009

Taking off The Cuffs

Chef Daniel Boulud recently picked up a third Michelin star for his restaurant, Daniel, only a few weeks after I spent an hour interviewing him for a Centurion Magazine story.

I was impressed by his attachment to the city – at this point, he’s more New Yorker than Frenchman and when I asked what was most ‘New York’ about Daniel, he replied with a bit of native French impishness: “Moi.”


“Service – it’s unique to NYC,” he says. “Europeans always find something in the gentilesse of the people here.”

Clearly, this Frenchman has lost his way, giving up his Gallic roots and praising service.

What turns out to be most impressive about Boulud is his openness to outside influences – he is a big fan of experimental chef Wylie Dufresne of NYC’s WD-50 and Basque chef Juan Mari Arzak.

For my story, Boulud works to create a tasting menu with Dufresne, and there’s a huge Asian influence in one of the plates he suggests, pairing scallops with miro, miso and black garlic.

My brow arches.

“Nothing to do with French,” he says flatly.

It’s like he’s cut off the cuffs.

Three stars, indeed.

For a little bit of back and forth between Francois Simon and the New York Times, check out their differing reviews of Boulud’s new restaurant, DBDB.

FS said:


Courtesy photo by T. Schauer

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New York City Burger Attack - Part II


Our gang watched late-summer jazz in Madison Square Park, but eyes rolled when we saw the line at the Shake Shack. It snaked hundreds of feet from the order window out through the park gates.

“What about the secret burger place?” said Maria.

We all stared and she smiled and dragged her toe in the dirt like she might not share her secret. It was rather sexy.

We got her to spill the beans and six of us bolted uptown by bike and subway to the … Parker Meridien. A burger joint in one of the city’s fanciest hotels? Hard to figure.

The lobby was everything you’d expect: high ceilings, artwork and fancy bars and restaurants … but it smelled like burgers.

Sure enough. A David Lynch-esque floor-to-ceiling curtain juts out into the lobby concealing the secret space. Approach and you’ll notice a skinny corridor with a neon-sign hamburger and a right-pointing arrow at the end.

Inside, it’s night and day; the space looks like a cross between Arnold’s Drive-In from “Happy Days” and my fraternity house basement. The burgers are great -you get to choose the cooking temperature and usually, you can elbow your way to a just-opened table right when they call your order number.

A good burger joint in one of the city’s fanciest hotels. Go figure.

Count on around $15-20.

Burger Joint – MAP
119 W 56th St
New York, NY
+1 212-708-7414

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kill Soup Dumpling!!!


Years ago, when I cooked at the Left Coast’s Betelnut, a hidden army of wizened Chinese men would come in to roll dumplings in the basement. These quiet, artistic men were lost in their craft, turning dough into flat discs that, with a twist of the fingers, would encase whatever filling they put inside them: crustaceans, meat, vegetables, love.

They would make what seemed like thousands at a time and, unlike the other cooks in the kitchen, once that task was done, so were they.

Lucky bastards.

My first visit to Joe’s Shanghai was part of a get-to-know-you weekend with a former sweetie’s parents a decade ago. Then as now, there’s a reason the grease-splattered walls are festooned with pictures of mayors and glitterati with their arms swung around the owners: Joe’s dumplings are the bomb.

Instead of searing something (like a steak) and hoping all the tasty juices stay inside, here, the pork and crab goodness is held neatly inside the dumpling.

Skewer one with a chopstick and sip the juice that fills the spoon, or take a bite and blush as it runs down your chin.

Shudder with happiness as you swallow.

Joe’s Shanghai - while on their site, do not miss the “Kill Soup Dumpling” video.

Three Locations – I went to Chinatown - MAP
9 Pell Street
New York, New York 10013

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year

Holy cow.

I won the Society of American Travel Writers’ “Grand Award” – The Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year.

“At least you did something,” quipped my Republican-leaning father referring to a certain recent Nobel Peace Prize winner.

I took it as a compliment.

In any case, it’s fantastic news and a huge honor. There is an incredible list of winners that reads like a Who’s Who of travel writing – including several for the Boston Globe’s Travel section. There’s also a video of the awards that includes a photo of me in a cheche and another where I’m slurping an oyster with my buddy Ethan - start at around 17:40.

Here are links to the stories in my entry – most with a serious food bent – broken down by where they were published.

Heart of The Hills - Valparaiso
Sampling the Motherland – Sicily
Loving Lisbon
Desert Rules – The Algerian Sahara
Some Tips to Help Make Your Dollars Stretch in Europe

CENTURION & PLATINUM MAGAZINES – Asia & Australia Editions
The Road goes Ever On – Patagonia’s Route 40
The Centurion Menu – Santi Santamaria & Carme Ruscalleda

In Lyon, old food styles and new exist happily side by side - Photo gallery

Finally, my ‘simulcasted’ blogging trio rounded out my entry.
Simon Says! - with French food critic, Francois Simon
The Boston Globe’s Travel Blog, Globe-trotting
…and, of course, right here on Eating The Motherland!

More to come! Stay tuned…

Photo courtesy Joel Scheitler in Luxembourg.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Small Wonders In The Air

Hot off the press - my NYC food and drink centric story and photo set - “Small Wonders” - ran this weekend in The Boston Globe’s Travel section.

A blurb…

  Across the river, I walk into Fort Defiance, a new bar that’s a subway, bus, and world away from Manhattan in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

  WHAM, WHAM, WHAM!!! Behind the bar, St. John Frizell, the owner, clubs a cloth bag of ice with a large wooden mallet to make a drink called the prescription julep, an 1857 recipe that blends cognac and rye whiskey, which are poured into a metal shaker cup and topped with a sprig of mint and a cherry. If it sounds a bit froufrou - like there should be a little umbrella shading the ice - instead, it looks perfect, almost serious, like something to pay attention to while you drink it.

Read the whole story here.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

New Forms of Pie Slinging


Alystyre had been wearing her brand new, straight-from-Barcelona pink espadrilles for about an hour when the waiter launched a pizza onto them.

You’d think it would happen in slow motion: the pizza wobbling back and forth in the waiter’s hand and both of them wide-eyed for the impending disaster. Instead, it was over in a flash with the pie on her shoes.

Spunto’s staff handled it perfectly. The manager whisked Alystyre away, dabbing her duds with a towel soaked in mineral water for a good 20 minutes. In the meantime, they sent a new pitcher of beer over to our table of six.

The pizza, particularly the thin-crusted mushroom version, laced with a judicious splash of truffle oil (something I don’t usually go in for) was the best we had while in the city, easily trumping the Lombardi’s we had on another night.

The bill, which included three pizzas, two pitchers of beer and a Coke had a big “X” through it. Normally, it would cost about $20 per person. Our total: $0.

We left a big tip.

Spunto - MAP
65 Carmine St.
New York
+1 212 242 1200

La Manual Alpargatera Espadrilles - MAP
C/. Avinyó, 7 - 08002 Barcelona
Tel. 93 3010172

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