Posts Tagged ‘on the road’

Look at those wriggingly fresh mopani worms plucked right from a tree in the African bush. (Photograph by Marius Coetzee; Check out more of his stunning wildlife photography at: www.mariuscoetzeeafricanphotography.blogspot.com/. )

When I asked my South African friends to suggest a recipe I might share on the blog I had no idea I would have to eat worms not once, but TWICE! For some Africans mopani worms (really more like caterpillars since they turn into butterflies) are a delicacy, for others they are a common, tasty nosh, especially yummy during a night of drinking. My friend Sam told me I would love them.

Here are the worms in dehydrated form. First the gooshy centers are squeezed out, then the carcass is salted and dried. The crunchy buggers have a briney and musty taste. After the flavor dissipates, you are left with a sensation that I imagine is very similar to chewing bark.

Dried mopani worms go best with World Cup viewing and cold beer, preferably Castle.

Mopani worms are more than bar food: Sam says the most delectable way to eat them is rehydrated and flavored with tomatoes and chiles.

While rehydrating the worms in a cup of boiling water, saute onions, chiles and tomatoes in olive oil.

Let those worms plump up while the tomato mixture softens.

Add the tomato mixture to the worms and stir.

Cooked, the worms are more flavorful and meaty – the rehydration process plumps them up a lot. Still, you’ve got to love to gnaw if you go for mopani worms.

You only live once!


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Years ago, during a stay in London, I had a memorable meal at Roast, which overlooks Bourough Market, the foodie mecca of farmers’ market stalls and specialty food and drink vendors.

Leaving Roast, I spied a chalkboard sign advertising chorizo, rocket (arugula) and paquillo pepper sandwiches. The stand was closed but I did not forget the craving that sign ignited in my traveler’s belly.

This week I was again in London and on the trail of that sandwich, which had since achieved Oz-like status in my memory: Does the sandwich actually exist? Did I dream this sandwich?

My quest landed me back at Bourough Market where, after a few laps through the stalls, looking for people with smiles on their faces and chorizo grease on their brows, I had yet to rediscover the sandwich of my fantasy. Until, in another’s grip, I spotted what looked pretty close to the image concocted in my mind and pled, “Where did you get that sandwich?”

It was wonderful. Maybe I will call this the London Traveler’s Sandwich, close cousin to the Hitchhiker Sandwich.


Make a sandwich out of:

1) Two slices of grilled ciabatta  or ciabatta-like bread, drizzled with olive oil.

2) One or two spicy andouille sausage(s) cut in half and grilled well. *A note about the sausage: The chorizo used in the Bourough Market original is neither the soft Mexican nor the hard Spanish variety. After consulting with a master of flavor and good judgment, my Uncle David, I offer his suggestion to substitute andouille sausage. It will give the right consistency and spice.

3) Arugula

4) Roasted Red Peppers

I guarantee this is a great alternative to typical grilling fare this summer. Beach, picnic, backyard, cricket tourney. Yes, please. And not bad with a batch of Erin’s refreshing drink suggestions. Not bad at all.

Some scenes from Bourough Market….


St. John Bar and Restaurant

Fergus Henderson’s nose-to-tail dining temple promises you a great meal. The space is a one-time smokehouse, turned Marxism Today headquarters, turned hip bar/bakery/restaurant.

What else can you ask for?: A lively, inviting place to linger over a delicious meal. And shhhhhh!!!!…I spied my favorite, favorite, favorite film director dining and doodling on his paper tablecloth.

Don’t Miss –

Roast Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad

Braised Rabbit

Madeleines baked to order and served warm from the oven. Heaven.

Take-away madeleines make a great midnight snack.

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The term food paparazzi has arrived. It refers to people (let’s be honest – bloggers) who storm restaurants, often arriving in groups with fellow food documentarians, snapping photos of their meals. Tales of setting up tripods and flash-pops going off in sedate dining rooms give bloggers with cameras a bad name. Some fine restaurants have even forbidden picture-taking.

Photographing in restaurants always makes me self-conscious. And so seldom do the images turn out well. You could be about to enjoy the most delicious meal you’ve ever put in your mouth but the photo of the meal will, invariably, not do it justice. It isn’t easy to take great photos of food, especially in a dark restaurant where every dish ends up looking like brown lumps of some amorphous substance. Not a good look. And not fair to the chef.

I’ve hesitated from blogging about restaurant visits because I lacked pictures that I deemed good enough to accompany the post. Plus, snapping photos while sitting down to a great meal isn’t exactly relishing the moment, which is supposed to be the whole point, right?

If I believe that my experience is one that others might find interesting or enlightening or helpful I should be able to find another way of sharing my culinary adventure. Taking pictures of meals may be, at times, desirable, but the photos do not necessarily have to be of the food and not necessarily taken in the midst of an intimate dinner with my companions. Literal pictures cannot always translate an experience accurately. So, I aim to find ways to share my experiences without joining the paparazzi.

I don’t want to be that blogger when a live sweet shrimp scampers across my plate and throws my camera back in my face.

Here are some of my best/worst photos from my brief former life as a food paparazzo:

This was a succulent beyond succulent cassoulet that I enjoyed in the Bordeaux region of France. A family restaurant with long-cooked deliciously complex and heart-warming food in an old rustic space, serving fabulous wine. Would you want to go there based on this photo?

Same restaurant below. I guess I am glad to have this reminder of the barely-cooked tomatoes with mild grilled chiles – I like the idea of this dish. Maybe I’ll try it at home. But it was so much better than this lame picture.

I don’t know what this next one is or where it was taken but based on this photo I wouldn’t want to go back.

Ok, this one isn’t TOO bad; However, I felt stupid taking it because I was in Paris at a lovely sandwich shop and everyone else was just enjoying their meal with elegance and I was busy worrying about getting a good shot.

This is next one represents one of the best food experiences of my life. My husband and I arrived at this little inn, Auberge Basque, in the Basque region of France starving and exhausted. This is a highly regarded food inn run by chef star Cedric Bechade. We had a room reserved in the inn but no reservation that night for the restaurant. We sat in the bar and the chef INVENTED (!) this soup to warm our bellies. We had no idea how lucky we were. You can’t just show up without a reservation and be served anything at this place. We wept with our good fortune and the most remarkable soup we’ve ever enjoyed. But this picture, while I am glad to have it, is not going to give you even an inkling of our experience there. And I think the sommelier was giving us the hairy eyeball while I “subtly” readied my camera phone.

I like this one better. I clearly have a yen for pastry.

This is another amazing meal we had in the Basque region – this time in San Sebastian, Spain. Looks like a giant mess to me. I am sure it was lovely.

This risotto looks dirty:

I like this one of me perusing the tapas selection better.  I am thinking, “Chorizo… cheese…smoked fish. Ok, five of each!”

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The photo below shows me taking a picture of me standing in front of Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles. (I was looking rather cute that day and I wish you could see just how cute but it’s not a great photograph.)

If you look at the reflection in the glass, you can see that this Jewish deli is now in the heart of a Latin American immigrant portal. Spangly Latin music blasts from the little shops, and you can pick up an illegal ID and some matzo-brei in the same trip. (Incidentally, an online search will yield dozens of recipes for Mexican matzo-brei.)

The dichotomy puts me in mind of the Pentecostal-raised, gay, Hindu, Mexican theater director with whom I once worked. Prophetically, he cautioned against the dulling effects red meat can have on the mind and body. Unfortunately, I only just now recalled that conversation. True to his point, the ambulance behind me foreshadows my impending physical deterioration.

I’m not discovering anything new here and it isn’t even Langer’s that I want to discuss, although it is a wonderful place. The hot pastrami is amazing. Unreal flavor from the “costly spices” which the menu boasts it contains. The pastrami melts in your mouth and, sandwiched between two slices of rye bread with a crispy crust and doused with spicy brown mustard, it is truly the king of sandwiches. Which brings me to my point: The hot pastrami is so amazing, in fact, that I couldn’t stop eating it and I couldn’t stop eating the crinkle-cut fries and I couldn’t resist from ordering a chocolate milkshake to top it off.

Langer’s is not a kosher deli, yet as I ordered my milkshake I reminded myself of the Talmudic prohibition against consuming meat and milk together (Please note, however, that the most popular sandwich at Langer’s is a hot pastrami on rye with Russian dressing and a slice of Swiss cheese.) I may have been the only goy reflecting on kosher law at the deli; Nevertheless, I was self-conscious about the milkshake order.

I aim to be respectful because I have penance to do: In college, my roommate and I sauntered into the Center for Jewish Life and tried to order the “hushpuppies,” which I now know were falafel, and which today I would never confuse with hushpuppies in any way. To prove how far I have come: I recently patronized L’As Du Falafel, the famous falafel stand in Paris, ordered confidently in French and felt quite smug.

Now back to Langer’s and my declining physical condition: I felt tick-full while sitting in the booth sucking down the slushy dregs of my milkshake but became seriously impaired upon standing and, literally, walked bent-over to the cash register to pay my bill and then continued the doubled-over-shuffle down the block to my car. I proceeded to get so groggy while driving that I had to pull over and sleep in my car as the sun shone through the window, drugging me further.

When I finally rolled into my afternoon meeting, my friend looked at me with pity, “Red meat in the afternoon is not a good idea.”

I thought it was a great idea and still do. Red meat, dairy, carbs. I’d had it all. The wisdom of the ages and the advice of my friends will continue to go unheeded.

Weigh in:

Is there a meal that you can’t stop eating once you start, no matter how full you are? A dish you just can’t resist even after you’ve already had, like, a Thanksgiving dinner?

The Verdict:

There is a time and place for everything. When faced with a succulent hot pastrami sandwich one should never opt for restraint. And if “milchig’ mit ‘fleisch” means nothing to you, then by all means order the milkshake.

An interesting site run by two journalists who moved into the heart of MacArthur Park: http://macarthurparkmedia.com/

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Espresso With Your Unleaded?

I know I’ve been driving way too much when I start getting excited about mini-marts and gas stations. They give me hope that there is no back pain or road rage that high fructose corn syrup can’t cure. And whereas these days I could get myself all verklempt over a gourmet market or a farm stand, sometimes I can’t escape my past.

I think it is a pavlovian thing: as a child I loved stopping by the mini mart because I knew I was in for a treat. A fountain drink (Dr. Pepper, lots of ice), a candy bar (Butterfinger). There was no way anything healthy could stand in my way! As a toddler in Texas, we’d stop at this place Bang’s where we’d get pork skins and Pabst Blue Ribbon (for the adults). I remember my first Ding-Dong. A friend of my mother’s from the horse barn took me to the Toot’n Totum where I discovered the joys of processed sugar. “Mama, these are good!” Like I’d made a discovery.  I now have the sense to know she’d been keeping me from this stuff on purpose, bless her heart. The tween years in Oklahoma were punctuated with stops at Love’s on the turnpike between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Love’s is the Wal-Mart Superstore of gas station/mini-marts. Seriously good stuff. The day I got my driver’s license  my first stop was Circle K. I think the loot was pre-packaged processed doughnuts and a big gulp of Dr. Pepper.  In college, late New Jersey nights and Sunday study days always included a stop at “The Wa” for footlong meatball sandwiches, syrupy “cappucinos” and, yes, Dr. Pepper. In a side note: my new northern friends preferred something called Swedish Fish. I actually though this was canned fish. I had noticed these east coasties liked something called “lox” which I’d never had so I thought they were just really into fish. I had a lot to learn.

I feel like I’ve just revealed my dark past.

This gas station in Los Angeles is more Euro than anything I enjoyed in Texas, Oklahoma or New Jersey. I apologize for the photo – I was trying to be as surreptitious as possible. Note that these pastries are certified Kosher.


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