Pisco Wars — Flavors of the Fight

Pisco Wars — Flavors of the Fight

It's an age-old argument that will probably never end. It's between Chile and Peru and some think it's an all-out war -- Pisco War, that is....

Before ever setting foot in Chile I occasionally visited Peru to see my wife's extended family who has been scattered around the central and northern regions of the Incan empire forever. Which meant lots of parties, meals and Peruvian pisco. So I naturally developed a certain contempt for that favorite of all Chilean spirits that they call "Chilean pisco." Because as every self-respecting Peruvian believes, the real pisco — meaning the only one worth drinking and that never, ever leads to a pounding head in the morning — is Peruvian pisco. Then I came to Chile and decided to find out for myself. And to my surprise I found that my Peruvian cocktail consortium was wrong — on both counts!

Read More

Mixtli - progressive mexican culinaria

Mixtli - progressive mexican culinaria

At Mixtli restaurant in San Antonio, the heritage food of historic Mexico is off the rails and in the clouds. Literally.

Want something unique to eat? Head to the suburban neighborhood of Olmos Park north of downtown San Antonio. Find a former train yard turned parking lot with a stubby row of shops, a bar, an asian noodle house. And a blue, windowless 40x10 foot railroad boxcar sitting behind a coffee shop at the end of it all. Not a place where one might expect to get a good meal, right? But this is San Antonio — one of America’s “new cities,” which is to say it’s an old city, small and for decades known but largely overlooked. It's one of those cities that in recent years has suddenly awoken and grown up into an enclave that, though small in stature, is large in offerings of things that people today really want. Including food. Really good food. And one place that stands at the front of the pulsing line of unique, outstanding eateries run by starbound chefs is Mixtli.

Read More

Fiestas Patrias Outdoors

Fiestas Patrias Outdoors

It was that time of year again recently, when the whole country stops to celebrate its heritage and the coming of Spring: it’s Fiestas Patrias. So it seemed only natural that this year’s national celebration take place outside. And the perfect location was less than a couple of hours away -- in Cajon Del Maipo.

It was that time of year again recently, when the whole country stops to celebrate its heritage and the coming of Spring. It’s Fiestas Patrias, highlighted by the Big Day: Dieciocho de Septiembre (September 18). And I’ve been here long enough now to know that one of the great loves of most residents in this geographic wonderland called Chile is the outdoors. So it seemed only natural that this year’s national celebration take place not in the confines of my well-worn quincho (BBQ pavilion) or at one of the many public festivals honoring everything Chilean (see prior post: Chiles Festivals of Festivals), but rather outside. The only challenge: where to go to relish in Chile’s great outdoors while still avoiding airport crowds and heavy highway traffic. The answer was less than a couple of hours away; Cajon Del Maipo.

Read More

Meet The La Vega Family

Meet The La Vega Family

The first time you meet the La Vega family of markets they’ll spin you on your heels. But once your mind adjusts you’ll shake you head and murmur the only two words that make sense at that moment: “LA VEGA."

There is a simple fact of life that makes traveling to distant lands a guaranteed pleasure despite how arduous the journey or unfamiliar the place: everyone has to eat. Which leads to that always-special travel experience no matter the locale, climate or body politic: markets.

In Santiago there are markets, or ferias, in nearly every neighborhood. Some are open daily; others only on selected days each week. But of all markets in this city of 7 million one market stands in the center – like a pulsing heart through which the lifeblood of all other markets pass –  La Vega. Carrying nearly every kind of food produced in Chile, from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes; the Atacama to Patagonia; La Vega has it all. From fruit, veg, dairy, meat and fish – if La Vega doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it.

Read More

Dining on the path to Nirvana

Dining on the path to Nirvana

India. Vast, diverse and colorful beyond imagination. It’s also one of the most exotic destinations for Foodwalkers from the world over. And a place that should not be missed – to truly witness the spiritual fervor of this magical land – is Varanasi

You can't go to Varanasi as your first stop in India; you have to work up to it.” My Indian traveling partner, Jatender, said as we boarded Jet Airway’s comfortable flight from Delhi. He wasn’t kidding. One of the principle cities of the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with over 3.6 million people, Varanasi -- also called Benares -- looks much like any other large urban area in India. It’s chaotic and crowded, with a high disparity of those who have and have not. But you quickly sense something different about this former home to Lord Shiva, considered by Hindus to be the oldest city in the world. There’s an energy – electric in the air – that seems to set its inhabitants on a common rhythm. At the bookends of every day that rhythm quickens and draws them together. And what drives that rhythm? Ganga.

Read More

¡Bienvenidos! to the Other DownUnder

¡Bienvenidos! to the Other DownUnder

Even though it feels more like the Mediterranean than the gateway to Antarctica, it’s Chile – the Other Down-Under on the other side of the earth. And I have just arrived.

After five fabulous years living in Singapore and exploring Southeast Asia, we repatriated to the US for two years before admitting that, well, we didn’t want to repatriate. It was time to leave again; time to find another place, different from Singapore, but equally interesting and enriching. So here we are – Chile. “It’s the Singapore of South America,” we were told, and the capital city of Santiago gives proof to this reputation. Skyscrapers, including the tallest on the continent, gleam like silver redwoods in the foreground of the snowcapped Andes cordillera, giving it the nickname “Sanhattan.”  Here the roadways are well maintained, the water is drinkable from any tap and prices are clearly marked. It’s a city steeped in history and architecture amid cutting edge technology, style and, of course, great food.

Read More

A Slice of New York

A Slice of New York

It's “New York” style pizza! And perhaps the best rendition, indeed the very definition of this classic pizza, is at Joe’s Pizza in – of course – New York City.

Pizza. Nearly everybody loves it in various shapes, sizes, depths and styles. But the most common pizza this side of Italy is the kind you find at the countless pizza joints all across the US, including in your own neighborhood. It's “New York” style pizza: thin crust beneath the pie and rounded edges to serve as the handle of the wedge-cut slices, spread with red sauce and melty mozzarella, maybe a topping or two. It’s pizza the way you think of it; the way the internet depicts it when you search the word.  And perhaps the best rendition, indeed the very definition of this classic pizza, is at Joe’s Pizza in – of course – New York City.

Read More

Behold, the unlikely fritter!

Behold, the unlikely fritter!

It’s apple fritters the way you think you don’t want them: produced in large batches in an industrial kitchen while delivery trucks sit in the pre-dawn darkness out back, waiting. They are the 7-Eleven minimarket apple fritters of New Jersey. And they are uncommonly delicious.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I love apple fritters. Okay, sure, when the Autumn leaves turn to a kaleidoscope of New England colors, who doesn’t like apple fritters -- those bronzed pillows of sweet dough, sugar and bite of apple goodness. But that’s not what I’m talking about. This is something different – familiar and common yet totally unexpected. It’s apple fritters the way you think you don’t want them: produced in large batches in an industrial kitchen while delivery trucks sit in the pre-dawn darkness out back, waiting. They are the 7-Eleven minimarket apple fritters of New Jersey. And they are uncommonly delicious.

Read More

¡Chile’s Festival of Festivals!

¡Chile’s Festival of Festivals!

During Fiestas Patrias it's easy to see how standing among crowds of proud Chileans, chewing a slice of flame-roasted cordero to the traditional rhythm of the evocative Cuenca, brings the nation back to its Andean roots. 

Nearly every country in the world has a national festival that brings its people together for a common party. On National Day, Singapore has a grand pageant of lights, jets, fireworks and dancers celebrating their history at Marina Bay. In the US, neighborhoods across the nation hold local Independence Day parades of walkers, cyclists and patriotically-festooned wagons crowded with kids and pets pulled by parents. Polished fire trucks and police cars are on display, local dignitaries make appearances and for a day everyone puts aside their political differences, looks to the night sky for fireworks and feels pretty good about their country. It’s a beautiful thing.

Read More

Flat & Fabulous: Singapore's classic Indian friedbreads

Flat & Fabulous: Singapore's classic Indian friedbreads

Fried Indian flatbreads are among the most popular foods in Singapore and Malaysia, ranging from simple flour/water ingestibles to complex-flavored creations of eye-popping beauty and taste. Here's the basic rundown.

Let’s face it, when considering Singapore’s lineup of fantastic food, flat bread is not the first thing that comes to mind. But in truth, fried Indian flatbreads are among the most popular foods here, ranging from simple flour/water ingestibles to complex-flavored creations of eye-popping beauty. In Singapore and Malaysia they fall into the three general categories below. From there they go off into a gastronomic world of options. But it all begins with that simplest, most basic of all Indian flatbreads: the roti prata. 

Read More

Eating St. Croix

Eating St. Croix

It doesn’t take long before you sense an energy – electric in the air – that is spinning around the food of St. Croix.  It’s a culinary renaissance that’s all about local cuisine.

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The name alone evokes idyllic images of pristine beaches, swaying palms, cold cocktails with fancy umbrellas. But there is so much more to this triplet sister in the family of paradise islands that form the US Virgin Islands. It’s not just the turquoise blue of the Caribbean in front of stunning hotels; it’s the people – Crucians – who hold their society dear and work hard to at once both preserve and advance their uniqueness. And a proud part of what makes this place special? The food.

Read More

Island Passages -- a peek through St. Croix's windows, walkways and doors.

Island Passages -- a peek through St. Croix's windows, walkways and doors.

In St. Croix, USVI what grabs you first are the passageways -- walkways, windows and doors -- all over the island. It is one of the most well-preserved places to see the lasting beauty of colonial architecture in these islands. So follow me on this photo tour of a few.

Foodwalking around St. Croix in the beautiful US Virgin Islands is not just about food; it's like a walk back in time. One can almost hear the sounds of long-gone colonialism that wreaked this once sugar-producing center controlled by so many - - most notably the Danish. It's romantic in a Pirates Of The Caribbean sort of way, which of course defies the brutally harsh history of this and so many other slave states along the chain of islands that form this region. That history should never be forgotten as one of humanity's darkest periods. But today the infrastructure supporting the colonialist encroachment on local Crucians has been repurposed into gorgeous shops, restaurants, museums and public spaces that a visitor can admire and embrace. And what grabs you first are the passageways -- walkways, windows and doors -- all over the island. It is one of the most well-preserved places to see the lasting beauty of colonial architecture in these islands. 

Read More

Now That's Italian! A Foodwalk down Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

Now That's Italian! A Foodwalk down Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

I recently took a Foodwalk with a couple of my favorite fellow foodwalkers to explore what is known by many as New York's real Little Italy and referred to simply as "Arthur Avenue."

I recently took a foodwalk with a couple of my favorite fellow foodwalkers to explore what is known by many as New York's real Little Italy and referred to simply as "Arthur Avenue." North of Manhattan in New York's northernmost borough, the Belmont area of the Bronx is a mixed neighborhood that offers a gritty view of one of those parts of the city that supports all others. And buried in the center of it all, starting at 187th Street from Arthur Avenue across to Prospect Avenue, is an age-old enclave of tight-knit neighbors and crowded shops offering some of the best Italian eats in New York..

Read More

Breaking Bad: late night gorging in Geylang Serai

Breaking Bad: late night gorging in Geylang Serai

Geylang Serai is the “bad boy” of Singapore – a gritty, rough-around-the-edges neighborhood by Singapore standards – which is to say it really isn’t.

If you’ve discussed Singapore’s collection of neighborhoods you’ve undoubtedly heard of Geylang Serai. Geylang (as it’s loosely called) isn’t as tidy and ordered as other parts of Singapore. It’s crowded and bustling with few tall trees shading the busy streets. In the 1840s the island’s Malay population was relocated from the mouth of the Singapore River to this area, transforming if from coconut plantations and lemongrass farms (‘serai’is Malay for ‘lemongrass’) to what is best described as a concreted, 1970s low-rise urbana. Today it’s a densely populated neighborhood of predominantly Malay and Chinese residents and – not least in notoriety – prostitutes.

Read More

Black Is Beautiful - the secret behind Singapore's great kaya toast

Black Is Beautiful - the secret behind Singapore's great kaya toast

The loaf tops are charred uniformly and a certain, sumptuous smokiness fills the air as they cool. It’s Blackhead bread, an old Singaporean tradition that they’ve been baking for decades.

There's something about the toast in Singapore. With every steaming sweet kopi one can get thin-sliced bread toasted over open heat to a brittle crispness on the outside and a warm tenderness in the middle. A smear of kaya and butter and it's a thing of breakfast beauty. But what makes it so good? I mean, it's just baked bread, right? Wrong -- if it's from Sing Hon Loong.

Read More

Ice Cream at Opposite Ends of the Earth

Ice Cream at Opposite Ends of the Earth

Two different people, two different places, one idea so stunningly similar it’s hard to imagine they are not one and the same. Who knew ice cream could be so exciting?

The story is remarkable: two men whom to this day have never met; never even heard of each other. Both about the same age, with careers, kids and obligations to keep them busy. One on this side of the earth, the other 9,000 miles away. And each with a dream for making people happy – with ice cream. 

Read More

KF Seetoh: Singapore’s shepherd of street food

KF Seetoh: Singapore’s shepherd of street food

Some call him the Guru of Grub; others, the Makankaki Master, but KF Seetoh, by any name, is Singapore’s most recognized and celebrated expert on one of the country’s greatest and most beloved national treasures: food.

Since 1996 Seetoh has dedicated his life to writing, photographing and understanding the street food of Singapore, heading to every place where queues for food form. “Back then there was no guide to the food here,” Seetoh explained as we shared some carrot cake at Makansutra’s own Glutton’s Bay food center beside the Esplanade. So he was inspired to compile information about the food and the hawkers. The hardest thing was identifying the places to try. “It took a lot of talking to people on the street, to taxi drivers and to people cooking food,” he said with a broad smile. The result: Makansutra, Seetoh’s undisputed go-to guide for all things hawker in this land of the food obsessed. Over the years, Makansutra has sold countless copies, guiding locals and foreigners alike to hawker food that is good, great and “die, die, must try.”

Read More

Foodwalking with Nym – Beach Eats

Foodwalking with Nym – Beach Eats

It’s always fun to foodwalk with food experts; especially if I can take them somewhere they’ve never been. And such was the case with Nym Punlopruska, Bangkok’s Siren of Street food.

It’s always fun to foodwalk with food experts; especially if I can take them somewhere they’ve never been. And such was the case with Nym Punlopruska, Bangkok’s  Siren of Street food, when she was recently back in Singapore to update one of her books. I wanted to take her to some place she’d never been, just as she had done with me in her hometown. That’s no easy task with a girl like Nym, who has written more than a dozen books on food, has been Andrew Zimmern’s guide and fixer on Bizarre Foods, and is fearless in both what and where she’ll eat. In other words, my kind of Foodwalker.

Read More

Arcot Nawab: Feasting on the Food of Kings

Arcot Nawab: Feasting on the Food of Kings

A meal at Arcot Nawab Restaurant is a feast of royal food from the Kingdom of the Moguls.

I love it when the table turns. Recently, legendary siren of Thai street food, Nym Korokat Punlopruska guided me through the streets of Bangkok for great food. If you know much about Bangkok street food, or have watched Andrew Zimmern eat his way through it, you’ve seen Nym. She was in Singapore this week, so now it was my turn. And I knew a place that is so new it couldn’t possibly be in her excellent food guide, but so exceptional that it needs to be.

 

Read More