Monday, August 31, 2009

New World Bistro Bar

It’s pretty easy to feel good about what you eat at New World Bistro Bar, located at 300 Delaware Avenue in Albany, New York, both because of the sources of the ingredients as well as the way that Chef Ric Orlando combines and cooks them up.

The menu changes with the season, and it is always filled with regional, organic, and sustainable ingredients. They buy local produce and purchase their meat from the Northeast Family Farm Cooperative and Niman Ranch, their chicken from Freebird, and their seafood comes recommended by the EcoFish and Monterey Bay Sea Watch.

New World Bistro Bar serves dishes in the realm of “Global Soul Food.” It’s a menu that brings American regional cuisine together in interesting ways and spices it up with the flavors of other countries, such as Italy, Thailand, and Japan. The dishes often bring together a variety of ingredients that might seem at odds on paper, but flow together effortlessly on the plate.

My mother joined me for this particular meal, and we began with an order of CAGE Pan Blackened String Beans with Creole remoulade sauce. We also indulged in my favorite drink at New World: Hendrick’s gin with cucumber lemonade. The string beans were lovely, spicy, and smoky and were accompanied with the perfect dipping sauce. There is a nice amount of heat to this dish (they gain a rating of 6 out of 10 on the “Ric-ter” scale of spiciness). The string beans are the ideal start to a meal at New World and are great for sharing as well, with the option to order a small plate or a party platter depending on the size of the dining party.

The cucumber lemonade with gin is light and refreshing and is not bogged down with too much sugar like so many cocktails. The cucumber lemonade is simply wonderful—I’ve tried to replicate it at home, but I just can’t seem to reach that same delicate balance as at New World. 

After visiting New World Bistro Bar a few times, I decided it was time to venture into the “Forbidden Pleasures” menu. Items on the Forbidden Pleasures section of the menu include roasted beef marrowbones, duck liver mousse pate, and Egyptian-style sweetbreads. I opted for the Chile-Garlic Glazed Pork Belly with grilled leek salad. I had my questions about the pork belly, but having seen people swoon over it on TV several times I thought it was worth a try. My concern was that the pork belly, which is taken from the belly of the pig and is often used for bacon, would be overly fatty or have a squishy texture. I also wasn’t sure how close it would be to bacon—although I absolutely love bacon, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a plate of bacon covered in a chile-garlic glaze. But it wasn’t like bacon—it was like heaven. Whatever fat was in the pork belly had melted into the succulent meat, adding flavor and richness instead of greasiness or an odd texture. The sauce that coated the meat was Korean style with a bit of spice. The grilled leek salad that accompanied the dish complemented the pork belly and sauce perfectly. Just as the heat of the sauce would build in intensity, a little bite of the leek salad offered a cool relief. This dish definitely qualifies as a forbidden pleasure, and I think everyone should indulge at least once.

While I fell in love with the magic qualities of pork belly, my mother enjoyed a refreshing, cold cantaloupe soup. It was smooth and creamy, and the initial coolness and sweetness of each spoonful gave way to a subtle and soft flow of heat across the palate.

For the third course I tried the New World “No Crash” Mushroom Risotto, which contains organic brown rice, portobello, oyster, and crimini mushrooms, sweet peas, leeks, and sage. The risotto was smooth and creamy and came with a little drizzle of delectable olive oil lining the plate. The richness of the dish almost made that drizzle unnecessary, but it elevated the dish from delicious to decadent. The rice was lovely and nutty, the mushrooms added a savory, earthy flavor, and the vegetables provided the perfect amount of fresh flavor to the dish. Absolutely amazing.

My mother, the vegetarian, ordered the Blue Corn Crusted Seitan Medallions with chimichurri, black beans, brown rice, grilled veggies, and greens. It was all piled atop a pile of olive oil mashers and sweet potatoes. For those of you not privy to the world of vegetarian ingredients, seitan is a wheat gluten meat substitute. Not cooked right, seitan is very unpleasant, but, of course, New World does it right. New World actually has a menu that does not exclude vegetarians or relegate them to one or two dishes—and the dishes are so good, you’ll be tempted to order them even if you are not a vegetarian.

We finished the meal with an order from the dessert tapas menu. By the end of the meal I’m usually too full for dessert, but New World offers the perfect cure for this dilemma: teeny, tiny desserts! We both ordered a shot of lemon curd with Maine blueberry compote. It was the perfect amount of a cool, citrus, and fruity flavor without the heaviness of many dessert options. It was a lovely end to a lovely meal.

New World Bistro Bar is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Albany. Chef Ric Orlando has created a dining experience that is delicious and satisfying in a warm and inviting setting.

For those of you who live south of Albany, Ric Orlando has another restaurant in Woodstock called New World Home Cooking Café—another great dining experience.

Be sure to check out my other posts on New World Bistro Bar:
New World Oysters
Thanksgiving Eve at New World
Thalamus Anyone?

New World Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quote of the Week: Honey Comes Out of the Air

"Honey comes out of the air...At early dawn the leaves of trees are found bedewed with honey...Whether this is the perspiration of the sky or a sort of saliva of the stars, or the moisture of the air purging itself, nevertheless it brings with it the great pleasure of its heavenly nature. It is always of the best quality when it is stored in the best flowers."

Pliny (A.D. 23-79), "Natural History," Book 20

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quote of the Week: Coffee is a Match for Twenty Blue Devils

"A cup of coffee—real coffee—home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all."

—Henry Ward Beecher, "Eyes and Ears"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jack's Oyster House

At 42 State Street, near the corner of State and Broadway, in Albany, NY, stands Jack’s Oyster House. The restaurant was established in 1913 by Jack Rosenstein and continues to be operated by the same family. The current menu was developed by Chef Luc Pasquier, a French Certified Master Chef.

I had a pleasant excursion at Jack’s the other night, as indulging in oysters has recently become a favorite pastime. The building is currently being renovated, but meals are still served in the main dining room. We were seated in a booth even though we didn’t have reservations—always a plus. The dining room is classic and simple—there is plenty of room and historical photographs of Albany line the walls. The service was also top notch—we were treated cordially from the moment we entered to the moment we left. Even though this restaurant is well established, respected, and offers a sophisticated menu, there is no sense of pretentiousness at Jack’s.

We began the meal with creamy butter slathered on an array of delicious, hot rolls, including white, wheat, and some kind of herby, oniony bread. Then came the oysters…

We split a plate of raw Blue Point Oysters from Rhode Island, accompanied with a glass of bubbly, sparkling Martini & Rossi prosecco. The oysters were succulent and oceanic—the sea channeling through each little, delectable mollusk. They were served with Tabasco sauce and horseradish, but I prefer my oysters with just a squeeze of
lemon. I’ve also rejected the cute, tiny forks, and instead lift the shells to my mouth and let the embodiment of the ocean slide right in. Delicious.

After the oysters, we moved on to the main course. My dining partner opted for the Manhattan clam chowder, which he described as creamy with a hint of heat, and a huge Caesar salad that was loaded with romaine hearts, croutons, and topped with a creamy dressing and complete with salty whole anchovies. My entrée was the carved rack of lamb with a cured lemon and honey glaze, perched atop a bed of mashed potatoes that was sprinkled with mint-pea couscous and summer vegetables—asparagus, grilled tomatoes, zucchini, and squash.

The flavors in this dish were incredible—the only disappointment was that the lamb was a little overcooked. After ordering it medium rare, I expected to cut into the meat and find beautiful red rubies of flesh, but alas, it was cooked through with only a hint of pink. Having eaten the lamb at Jack’s before, I have confidence that they generally cook it appropriately and this was most likely a fluke. Besides the doneness of the meat, the flavors of the lamb and its accompaniments were splendid. By the end of the main course we were much too full for dessert, but again, from past experience I know they can be quite a treat.
Jack’s Oyster House is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the Capital Region and want to get your oyster fix and taste a little bit of local history. The website and menus can be viewed here:

Jack's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bacon, Scallion, and Fontina Quiche

The French and delicious cuisine go hand-in-hand, and the French definitely got it right when they perfected the quiche. That buttery, flaky crust filled with light, delicate eggs encasing an array of vegetables or meat—the quiche is truly a beautiful thing.

This recipe is for a lovely bacon, scallion, and fontina quiche. Vegetarian? Just substitute the bacon with a non-meat item of your choice, such as red peppers, mushrooms, or spinach.

Bacon, Scallion, and Fontina Quiche

4 eggs (room temperature)*
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of bacon, nice and crispy and crumbled (about eight slices)
1/2 cup of scallions, chopped
1 cup of fontina cheese, shredded
1 pie crust (home-made is always nice, but there is no shame in store-bought crust!)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat the oven to 375º

2) While preparing the other ingredients place the pie crust on a baking sheet and allow it to bake for a few minutes in the oven. This will prevent it from becoming soggy later. Leaving the pie crust on the baking sheet throughout the whole process will also be helpful—there is no risk of grabbing the crust and breaking it, and if the mixture decides to drip over the edges while baking, at least it will drip onto the sheet not your oven.

3) Spread the bacon and scallions on the bottom of the pie crust. (Save a little bit of the bacon and scallions to use as a garnish while serving the quiche)

4) In a bowl, mix the eggs and milk together until blended. Stir in the cheese and add salt and pepper to your liking.

5) Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust. Sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top.

6) Take the quiche (still on the baking sheet) and place it in the oven.

7) Bake at 375 º for 30-40 minutes, until a knife of toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

8) Let sit for 10 minutes and then serve!

This dish is delicious hot or at room temperature. It can even be served cold, say, for a picnic. A glass of crisp white wine and a simple green salad are the perfect complements to this bacon, scallion, and fontina quiche. Enjoy!

*Any French recipe that calls for eggs will assume that the eggs are already at room temperature. Why? Eggs are not traditionally refrigerated in France, so there would be no point in adding that information to a French recipe. Keep this in mind when you make other French dishes, such as omelets or hollandaise sauce.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quote of the Week: Bourdain on Garlic

"Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don't burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don't put it through a press. I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain't garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it's soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic."

—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music…and Food?

As much as we’d like to believe it, the hippies and radicals of the sixties did not survive on peace, love, and happiness alone. This weekend, on the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, when most are thinking about the music and momentous event, it is curious to contemplate what the people at Woodstock actually ate during the three days of peace and music that took place in Bethel, New York from August 15–17, 1969. I recently interviewed one individual who attended Woodstock, and he had some interesting recollections of food at the concert:

“I had tickets, $18.00 I think, for three days—Friday through Sunday. My twentieth birthday was on Thursday. We had heard that they limited the sale of tickets— I don’t remember how many were available, but the tickets were easy to get and concession stands and port-o-sans would be available, as well as ample camping grounds.

To be sure we got there we left the Bronx in the Volks at about 5 am on Friday. I’m not sure how far it was—or exactly where it was. We brought a cooler with beer and sandwiches for the day and cash for the concession stands.

Friday was folk music day and I liked that—I wanted to hear Richie Havens, Tim Hardin, and Joan Baez. By the time we got off Route 17 around Monticello—that was it—we simply stopped moving miles away. We ate the sandwiches while waiting, and that was the end of the food we brought as I knew it.

I left the car—to walk and see how long the wait was—and that was the end of my connection with the folks I went with.

We had a plastic tent and sleeping bags. It was so crazy—I never got back to car and never saw my friends again.

And as far as food goes—on Friday night I went to the concession stands and stood on line, in the dark and a light rain, I guess for about an hour. And they spread the word—no more food unless for an emergency. Strange feeling, but it was about 1 am and Joan Baez was coming on.

Then for no reason folks just began passing around food—chips, bread, water in jugs. From the stage a guy announced that we should share what we had, and everyone just did—imagine. All sorts of food was everywhere that night. Some were grilling hot dogs and handing them out. Others had candy bars. Amazing, really, to this day

Saturday morning was tough. What I remember most was being up all night and it was like a sticky, smelly jungle. The port-o-sans were really unusable, and the music wasn't going to start till noon, but it wasn't raining.

I walked into the hills to look for my friends. Instead there were trucks and flatbeds—I still don’t know how they got there. But, food was being handed out. There were paper cups of something called granola—it was new to me—by folks from a place called the Hog Farm…all an accident. I waited in line for a cup of soup—I had a blanket with me, but my little plastic tent had been demolished overnight. I mentioned to someone in line that I’d lost both my tent and my friends and had no place to stay—then from all around me I heard strangers saying, “Stay with us” and “No, you can stay in our tent!” I realized at that moment that something remarkable was taking place.

I stayed, ate, and went swimming—I felt pretty good and the Hog Farm folks were cool. I remember beans too, cooked, and again they passed around jugs of water.

Later that day when the DEAD were on stage they announced that the Hog Farm had set up in the back and had food. (Note: I remember thinking that the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin weren’t that great.)

I walked back and on the way some folks just handed out bread with jam spread—good. I didn't leave—Santana was amazing. I just found out recently that they were still unknown and had not released an album yet, but I heard about them somewhere.

By night I was beat and the rain was coming again. I paid for some beer—cheap but I paid a guy—and went to the back. They said there was a lost-and-found sign board. So funny—crazy stuff was written on it. Someone ought to write just about that sign board.

I was thinking of leaving, but rumors were spreading that Dylan was coming…he didn't. But I’m glad I stayed—I went back to the lake. Now that I think about it, it was a long walk. I met some folks swimming at night.

Then the showers began…

I got back to the stage—I always managed to get right up front—and I was by myself. Sly and the Family Stone was incredible, and then at about 2 am, I think, THE WHO. Everyone loved it. And everyone was talking about the coming rain storm.

Sadly, I left and hitched a ride back to Monticello—no problem. I got there about 5 am— they had tables with food everywhere. I have no idea who did that, but I ate—a lot— including hot eggs.

I waited for the bus for about two hours and got to Port Authority in New York City at about 11 am Sunday. The bus was free—no one had any money. I was glad I left when WNEW Radio talked about the storm on Sunday.

I missed Joe Cocker and Jimi, but I was never hungry. But I wonder—would I now eat whatever was handed to me? Would I be so cool about drinking out of a jug of water passed along a line? I know never ate, and never will eat, granola again. Sorry Hog Farmers, but thank you for the soup…”

The Hog Farm referenced above was a commune headed by Wavy Gravy (who would later be memorialized as a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavor). The Hog Farmers were stationed in New York City when they were asked to participate in Woodstock and help build trails and fire pits. The commune also volunteered to set up a free kitchen—a simple notion that ended up providing many a concertgoer with food and water. After their supplies ran out, Hog Farmers went to local farms and bought up all the available produce so they could continue feeding the masses at Woodstock. Granola, which is common today, was first given to a large amount of people at Woodstock. It had already been created, but few people knew about it. Apparently, many people were confused by its appearance and did not realize that it was food at first—they thought that it was gravel.

Here are some other recollections of food at Woodstock that are excerpted from Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories by Brad Littleproud and Joanne Hague

“I remember having a bonfire one night and trying to make the world’s biggest marshmallow on a snow shovel by melting bags of marshmallow together”
—Jean Nichols, a Hog Famer

“We made blueberry pancakes on our Coleman stove! The blueberries were picked from some bushes that surrounded our meadow and someone had brought boxed pancake mix. Our pancakes stuck without any oil, but we didn’t care. They were so good!”
—Randy Sheets

“There was always some kind of food available. There were certain areas where you needed to buy it, but you really didn’t need money, most of the people just welcomed you in. Whatever you needed seemed to be available through the people. It was very much communal living in the hippie sense.”
—Alan Futrell

Want to know more about Woodstock?

Check out the Woodstock Museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts—it’s well worth a visit! The museum is informative and interactive, and you can also visit the field where it all happened:

A documentary entitled Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh, was released in 1970:

The film Taking Woodstock, directed by Ang Lee, will be released on August 28, 2009. Check out the trailer:

A plethora of books were released this summer to mark the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock. Some titles include:

The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang
Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock, by Pete Fornatale
Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories, by Brad Littleproud and Joanne Hague

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Simple Summer Salad

Summer simply begs for simplicity in the kitchen. In the heat of summer, who needs to let stew simmer for hours, adding even more heat to the house? It’s a perfect time for cool, fresh dishes like a simple tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad.

This classic combination comes in many forms depending on the cook’s preference for cherry versus hot-house tomatoes, or large slices versus little pearl-sized spheres of mozzarella. Despite the varieties available for each ingredient, at its heart, the tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad is simple and delicious.

This recipe reflects one preference for the ingredients comprising the salad, but feel free to substitute different tomatoes, basil, or mozzarella varieties and switch proportions as you are so inspired.

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad

5 Campari tomatoes
4 oz. cherry-size fresh mozzarella
½-cup of basil (as fresh as you can get it)
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of fresh garlic
Pinch of salt

1) Slice each Campari tomato into eighths

2) Halve the mozzarella

3) Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil

4) Mince the garlic and stir into the olive oil with the salt

5) Drizzle the oil onto the salad

6) Buon Appetito!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia is truly a wonderful film—the casting was amazing, the story inspiring, and at several points throughout the movie it seemed that the scent of buttery, rich food sizzled off the screen and filled the theater. The film presents the stories of two individuals: Julia Child (the woman who mastered French cooking in the 1950s and made it accessible to Americans) and Julie Powell (a woman of the twenty-first century who cooks and blogs her way through Child’s famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

Meryl Streep is perfection as Julia Child. The spirit of the woman who food lovers across America owe so much is honored in Streep’s impeccable performance. Julia is portrayed as an outgoing, everyday woman whose large heart fits her stature, who can tame the French’s seeming disregard for Americans, who adores her husband, and who simply loves food. Amy Adams does an excellent job as Julie Powell, who is a frustrated thirty-year old living in a tiny apartment and working in a cubicle, with only food and her husband to turn to for support. Food is inspiration for both Julie and Julia, and the both undertake massive projects, which become the focal points of their lives even as they are discouraged by others. After being trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, it takes Julia Child over eight years to simply finish writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and still the publishers reject it. Julie Powell faces issues at work, with her husband, and several meltdowns as she pushes herself to finish just one task in her life.

Interestingly, it is not food that is at the core of this film though it plays a monumental role in the lives of both Julie and Julia. Food brings them pleasure and gives them each a sense of purpose. However, it is not necessarily a desire to cook or turn to food for inspiration that one leaves the movie with—it is more of a sense that one should pursue whatever she loves in life, not for an end result, but simply for the act of experiencing it. Despite any obstacles or discouragement and without knowing if recognition will ever occur, at the root of Julie & Julia is the encouragement to pursue love and joy in life—to do what you love and surround yourself with the people that love and support you. And to share your joy through it all. Both Julie and Julia could not have imagined what was at the end of their seemingly impossible tasks, but they persisted anyways.

If you love to paint—simply keep painting regardless of if an art critic ever reviews your work or a piece ever sells. If you love to write—simply keep writing even if no one else ever reads your words. And if you love to cook, just keep cooking. In all that you do everyday, let the world inspire you and look for the joy in life, like Julia, in a smile, a sunny day, or a stick of butter…

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Quote of the Week

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Free Rice

In America we often view rice as a way to supplement meals that are mainly comprised of meat and vegetables. It's a way to fill a plate up, stretch expensive ingredients, or serve as a base for other foods. For many people in the world, rice is a staple—it's the food that helps them survive each day. In our American plethora of delicious dining options and high-quality ingredients sometimes it's easy to forget that for many people in the world food is simply for sustenance not pleasure. And many are at risk of not getting enough food each to day to survive.

With that sustenance can be provided to others each and every day. FreeRice is run by the United Nations World Food Program. It's simple—just take one of the many quizzes on the website and for each correct answer ten grains of rice are donated to the program to feed people around the world. These are not quizzes like "What kind of animal was I in a past life?" or "Which Simpsons' character am I?"—these are quizzes than can actually improve your mind! The subjects include famous paintings, chemical symbols, English grammar, English vocabulary, countries, world capitals, French, German, Italian, Spanish, basic math, and multiplication. The questions will even adjust to your level, so as you get questions correct the difficulty goes up, and if you get questions wrong the questions will become easier. Just playing for ten minutes helps to contribute to somebody's daily diet.

The following information is quoted from the FreeRice website to give examples of where rice from the FreeRice program has been donated:

  • In Bangladesh, to feed 27,000 refugees from Myanmar for two weeks.
  • In Cambodia, to provide take-home rations of four kilograms of rice for two months to 13,500 pregnant and nursing women.
  • In Uganda, to feed 66,000 school children for a week.
  • In Nepal, to feed over 108,000 Bhutanese refugees for three days.
  • In Bhutan, to feed 41,000 children for 8 days.
  • In Myanmar, to feed 750,000 cyclone affected people for 3 days.
So feed your mind with a little vocabulary, art, or geography, and help feed a person in need!

(Special thanks to Melissa Bramble for bringing my attention to the FreeRice program.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Street Food: Because There’s Nothing Quite Like Meat-On-A-Stick!

Anthony Bourdain’s recent special on No Reservations featuring street food from around the world raises a good point—street food is some of the best food out there! And from kebabs in Greece to corndogs at American county fairs, it seems that the street foods of most cultures involve some array of meat on sticks. There’s just something about a pointed piece of wood or metal impaling various meats that are coated in spices and grilled that makes people stop wherever they are and buy food of unknown origins from strangers.

Cities are definitely the place for street food. Simply taking a stroll down any New York City avenue yields a plethora of scents that titillate the mind and stomach. If Bourdain is correct, and he usually is, then the best way to experience a city is through the food from the street. A New York City hotdog could make any tourist write home to friends and family about how he “really” experienced the Big Apple, not while at the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, but when he bit into that tube of mystery meat with a squeeze of mustard as he watched a bum doze off by the nearby subway entrance. Ah, the city!

The first step is to get over any fear of what is going on inside those dirty carts. (Note: If you want to get over any qualms regarding where your food comes from or what is in it, just visit China. Seriously, even the most avid ingredient reader cannot decipher the nutritional labels on packaged foods, and once you watch women chopping cabbages on the sidewalk outside a restaurant you often eat at, all your fears will go out the window—especially when you realize that small children urinate and defecate on that same sidewalk.) The second step is, of course, to just try what’s available. Luckily, street food is usually inexpensive, so even a disappointing dish is not too much of a waste.

Despite the lax health codes, the best street food I ever experienced was in Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China. It was not meat-on-a-stick, and I can’t identify precisely what the food consisted of or what it was called, but I admit that I’ve dreamt of it more than once. It can best be described as a thin, crepe-like pancake that was savory, salty, and filled with scallions. The batter was spread thin on a hot griddle in large sheets until it sizzled. Then it was flipped, folded, cut, and placed in a plastic bag for easy take away. After one bite I wanted to eat the whole thing—unfortunately, there were two friends with me at the time. What was this mysterious pancake, and will I ever experience it again? I tried a “scallion pancake” at a fusion restaurant, but it was thick, dry, and could not compare to that magical street food moment…

So what about you? Any interesting street food stories out there to share? Any great experiences with meat-on-a-stick or unlicensed food carts?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

WWFE? What Would Faulkner Eat?

The heat and humidity of August create the perfect ambience to sit and read one of William Faulkner’s many novels, to let yourself be taken away to Yoknapatawpha County in the deep South. While indulging in the beautiful complexity of Faulkner’s words on those hot summer days, a sip of sweet tea or the taste of a buttery biscuit seem the ultimate way to slip further into the South.

Faulkner, the renowned author of novels such as As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom!, is quoted as saying “the tools I need for my work are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey,” but what food would Faulkner have eaten? Born and raised in Mississippi, Faulkner most likely ate traditional southern foods—perhaps some sweet potato pie, pralines, and, of course, grits. Mississippi also uses milk, largemouth bass, the honeybee, and oysters as official symbols to represent the state.

But what food evokes the South more than crispy fried chicken?

Frying chicken can be greasy and messy, but with this “fried” chicken recipe you won't have to deal with any spattering hot oil. It was adapted from a North Carolina recipe, and it is perfect for a picnic, a party, or just a delicious snack to accompany a visit with Colonel Snopes.

Lazy Lady’s Fried Chicken

3 pounds chicken wings, cut (pre-cut “party wings” work best)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried herbs (a mix of Italian seasonings or your own combination of
parsley, oregano, etc.)
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Heat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Pour the two tablespoons of vegetable oil over the foil so that it coats evenly.

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, and dried herbs until thoroughly distributed.

Coat the chicken pieces in water and then place in the flour mixture, completely coating the skin of the chicken.

Place the chicken skin down on the baking sheet.

Optional: Cut the butter into small pieces and place on the sheet in between pieces of chicken. As it melts it will make the chicken a little bit crispier.

Bake the chicken for thirty minutes. Flip the pieces over, and bake for another thirty minutes.

Serve hot or cold. This recipe can also be made with large pieces of fryer chicken as well.
Nothing says summer more than sitting in the shade iwth delicious fried chicken and a nice Faulkner story or novel—just be sure to take a sip of southern whiskey in honor of one of America’s finest writers.

“Like the cat, he also seemed to see in the darkness as he moved as unerringly toward the food which he wanted as if he knew where it would be; that, or were being manipulated by an agent which did know. He ate something from an invisible dish, with invisible fingers: invisible food. He did not care what it would be. He did not know that he had even wondered or tasted until his jaw stopped suddenly in mid-chewing and thinking fled for twenty-five years back down the street, past all the imperceptible corners of bitter defeats and more bitter victories, and five miles even beyond a corner where he used to wait in the terrible early time of love, for someone whose name he had forgot.”
—William Faulkner, Light in August