As a child visiting Nigeria, Kwame Onwuachi desperately wanted to eat beef suya, the country’s ubiquitous grilled street snack seasoned with ground nuts and spices. Except his grandfather forbade it, disapproving of street food.
“It actually made it more appealing,” he says.
Years later, the “Top Chef” alumnus and former cook at New York’s Eleven Madison Park returned to Nigeria and immediately sought out the formerly forbidden delight, making friends with a baggage guy at the airport who took him to his favorite suya spot.
The street vendor scene reminded Onwuachi of Thailand: “A lot of darkness and then, out of nowhere, a pocket of lights with many stalls selling the same thing, but with their own twist.”
There was a man, a grill, a counter covered with newspaper. “One, please!”
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Where does Kirkland vodka come from? Is it Grey Goose slumming under another name? Ketel One? Enquiring minds want to know, including mine. Read on to glean the fruits of a morning spent noodling away on the Internet when I should have been doing unspeakable things to bathroom fixtures.
Continue reading “Love At First Sip: Kirkland Vodka”
Do you like whisky? I like whisky.
You know who else likes whisky? Nick Offerman.
The mustachioed Ron Swanson of “Parks and Recreation” has taken to YouTube a time or two to demonstrated his affection for the water of life.
In his latest outing, Continue reading “Nick Offerman, distiller”
Inside Claire Ptak’s white stucco East London bakery, Violet, staff are moving in careful syncopation. From the open doorway to the small kitchen and café, freshly baked feta-sour cream-and-chive scones and herb-laced quiches call to a steady stream of customers who stop to chat with Ptak and admire 5-month-old daughter Frances West, sitting in her lap.
A native Californian, Ptak is a rising star on the culinary scene—hailed by Jamie Oliver as “one of my all-time favorite cake-makers.” But Violet and Ptak are about more than being an of-the-moment patisserie. It is here that she carries out a fairly revolutionary approach to baking—Soft-whipped egg whites! Flour licking!—that sets her apart from the cookie-cutter mold.
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ABERLOUR, Scotland (AP) — Forget the three Rs. I went to Speyside, Scotland’s “single-malt capital of the world,” to brush up on the three Ws: whisky, wool and walking.
And it was while striding beside the River Spey on a misty afternoon, a warm sweater from a local mill wrapped around my shoulders, an even warmer dram of whisky awaiting me at my hotel ahead, I realized I’d reached peak Speyside status.
Educational mission accomplished. Or, to quote Scottish poet and noted whisky fan Robert Burns, “Gie me ae spark of Nature’s fire/That’s a’ the learning I desire.”
Dreaming of drams and doing a little whisky wandering of your own? Here are a few pointers to the Speyside region’s must-sees.
Click here to read more of this story, published by the Associated Press.
Chuck Thompson, a producer for CNN, has written a terrific piece on the problems of being a traveler and a picky eater. Go here to read it.
We have different issues. He has a long list of foods he just doesn’t like. I am open to most foods but am thrown into digestive uproar by anything with a lot of fat or tricked up with fancy sauces and other gourmet refinements. Roast potatoes with a side of steamed broccoli? Sign me up! Creme de casserole de potatoes a la Michelin etoile avec le chef’s sauce de secret, no thank you.
One of these days you have to ask me about the time I was served a four-course meal made almost entirely of cheese. Continue reading “Confessions of a Picky Eater”
I was in Cognac one hot summer day, trying to make conversation with a producer who spoke about as much English as I do French, and the situation was getting sticky in every way when he suddenly asked me whether I had been to Scotland.
Yes, I had.
Well, then, he asked, how did I feel about haggis.
“I LOVE it,” I replied. “It’s the perfect pairing for whisky.”
“Madame,” he said. “It’s the only reason to drink whisky.”
I would not go quite that far but I do feel that haggis is a sadly misunderstood comestible.
The name doesn’t help – Is that a disease or a dish? – and no one can claim that the product in its natural state is a beauty.
And then there’s the offal truth of what goes into haggis, at least in the traditional recipe – sheep’s pluck, which is not about spunky sheep but rather refers to the heart, liver and lungs. Recipes vary, but often the meat is minced with onion, oatmeal and suet (animal fat) and is mixed with stock and spices and baked as a kind of sausage, or savory pudding. Back in the day, the casing was the sheep’s stomach, conveniently to hand, but modern haggis comes in artificial casings.
And it is delicious!
Click here to read this story, published on Palate Press.com.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Edinburgh and I and some like-minded souls are gathered together in a dim basement, paying reverence to matters of the spirit. Which is to say, we’ve all got a G&T in hand having reached the sampling part of a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery.
Expecting that sentence to end with something a little darker? Think again. Sure Scotland is the land of whisky, with 100+ distilleries to show for it. But it’s also a powerhouse in gin: 70 percent of British gin is made here.
Producers north of the border include heavy hitters like Tanqueray and Gordon’s, which has been made at Diageo’s Cameronbridge facility since 1998. And in 1999, William Grant & Sons introduced its Hendrick’s Gin, a milestone in gin with its new botanical elements.
Other Scottish gins of note: The Botanist, made by the Bruichladdich distillery on the island of Islay, Caorunn, made in Airdrie, Pickering’s, from Edinburgh, and GILT from Strathleven distillery and made with malt barley. And let’s not forget Shelton Reel Ocean Sent Gin, which includes native bladderwrack seaweed from the Shetland coastline. There’s even a mapped-out Gin Trail.
We went to Lesley Gracie, master distiller for Hendrick’s Gin for some industry insight.
Click here to read this story, published by Palate Press.
What do you drink when you’re sitting on the Sound of Music lakeside terrace? An Aperol spritz, naturally. At least, that’s what I drank when I visited Salzburg recently, channeling Baroness Schraeder for all I was worth. (Sorry, Maria fans, I’m not really a tea-with-jam-and-bread kind of girl.)
Turns out Austria isn’t such a strange setting for the quintessential Italian cocktail. One version of the spritz’ genesis is that it goes back to the days when northern Italy was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and to the Austrian practice of adding a spray (spritz) of water to the regional wines, which they found a little heavy on the palate.
The Aperol side of the equation, of course, is all-Italian, part of the national tradition of bitter liqueurs. Brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri created Aperol in 1919, launching it at the Padua International Fair. Silvio came up with the name Aperol, inspired by the French shorthand for aperitif, apéro, which he’d discovered when visiting France.
The drink was always a bright orange …
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Napa Valley chef Curtis Di Fede won’t put chicken on his menu. But roasted hen? That he might do.
There’s not much difference; pretty much any chicken you’re getting in a California restaurant is going to be hen, not rooster. But to Di Fede using “hen” sounds more pleasant. It also does what he wants a menu item to do – start a conversation. “I really want people asking questions at the table,” he says. Experience has taught Di Fede something every successful chef/owner knows: the language of menus can speak volumes.
“People think of the menu as the dishes you offer. It’s not. The menu is where you start to tell your story,” says Bradford Thompson, a James Beard award-winning chef and founder of Bellyfull Consulting Inc., a full-service culinary consulting company with clients such as New York’s popular Miss Lily restaurants.
Thompson, who teaches kitchen and back-of-house skills at the International Culinary Center in New York, begins menu construction with the question: Who are you? If you can’t come up with a one-sentence answer – whether that’s the style of food, the history of the chef/owner, or some other thematic element – you’re in trouble, and this is how you end up with hundreds of items on the menu and zero personality.
“When you see a well-written menu, you see a point of view,” says Thompson. “Maybe you seem some whimsy. Maybe you’ll see a French-trained chef who’s spent some time in Asia. You’ll understand their story a little bit.”
Click here to read the rest of this story, published in Foodservice Consultant magazine.