FAVORITE THINGS – 2013

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RESTAURANTS:
I finally made a trip to Ana Sortun’s eastern Mediterranean inspired restaurant Oleana in Cambridge this summer.   After a visit to the Gropius House with artist Rebecca Roberts, on a triple digit day, we headed over to Cambridge and braved the back patio at Oleana for an awesome small plates dinner. The kaleidoscopic mezze choices were layered with concentrated flavors and just the right amount of heat.  The wine and drink list is especially thoughtful toward these multifaceted dishes, this place is a gem!  Oleana

Schoepf’s BBQ in Belton Texas is an institution for locals and the service men and women from Fort Hood.  For moi, it is the perfect lunch stop on the Dallas to Austin drive to visit my nephew.  Enter the sweltering smoke house and place your meat Belton TXorder by the pound.  In addition to the usual BBQ carne, pork, chicken, brisket, sausage and turkey breast, this joint even has quail.  Move on to the air-conditioned main restaurant to order your sides, don’t miss the potato salad with ample amounts of Brisket Platerefreshing vinegar and crunchy celery, the perfect counterpart to the fatty ribs.  Dig in with your hands and wash it all down with a shinerbock!
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Calliope French Bistro in the east village in Manhattan is the closest experience to dining on the left bank this side of the Atlantic.  It was the ideal place to celebrate a Francophile’s birthday. Manhattan is full of impressive French bistros, but this one goes above and beyond in authenticity. The appetizer Tete de porc, sliced paper thin and tossed with red onions and pickles and parsley, salty and refreshing, not fatty at all.  The eggs mayonnaise perfectly cooked with soft yolks enrobed in a silky gorgeous “real” mayo.  We each ordered a pasta, the rabbit pappardelle is their signature dish, tender rabbit legs with peas in a white wine shallot and herb sauce, delicate and concentrated.  My hot and sour lamb neck with mascarpone agnolotti had just the perfect amount of spice.

 

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Vancouver BC
PLACES:
VANCOUVER, BC

I was fortunate to return to the Pacific Northwest this last spring, visiting old friends in Seattle and my niece Christine who has settled in Vancouver, BC.  I spent a decade in Seattle and would visit Vancouver every chance I could.  The city hasn’t changed much except for the profusion of more glass and steel Christine and Walt at Saltskyscrapers.  Highlights were a visit to Salt tasting room, down an alley in Gastown, where we had the local BC wines and cheese tasting.  Stanley Park and Granville market haven’t changed a bit and the sloping geography of the city allows for spectacular views from every neighborhood.  This is a great multicultural city and the perfect place to sample the authentic cuisines from every corner of the world.

 

Christine’s boyfriend Walt and family, Canadian’s with roots in Sri Lanka, took us to an amazing South Indian restaurant, House of Dosas.  The dosa’s were gigantic, crisp and delicate and the curry’s delicious.  A specialty of the house is poppers, bowl shaped dosa’s with a poached egg in the bowl and curry on top. IMG_2371

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stanley Park

BEACON, NY   The art rarely changes at Dia Beacon, but I never tire of seeing the collection of minimalist installations in different seasons in the daylight only galleries. Among my favorite’s are the Dan Flavin florescent light sculptures and how they play with the natural light through the grided factory windows.  Indulge in the shaker goodness of the Agnes Martin’s and the On Kawara room, a peaceful homage to time, moments and craftsmanship.  Don’t miss the exquisite Louise Bourgeois pieces in the attic, a wonderful organic contrast to the minimalist work.

Agnes Martin - Dia BeaconThe good news is Beacon the town, just a 90 minute drive north from Manhattan, is finally starting to catch up to its main attraction.  Check out the downtown area, stop into The Hop for house made The Hop -Beacon NYcharcuterie, local cheeses, craft beers and ciders.  The David Rockwell designed old mill building, The Roundhouse, now a farm to table restaurant, boutique hotel and spa is a perfect place for an outdoor cocktail and snack and sits right on the waterfall.  Afterwards rub elbows with the local artist’s at dogwood, a downhome tavern/pub with a great selection of cocktails and craft beers.
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Wine:

Marilyn was right, drink more champagne!  We toasted the new year with Alfred Gratien Rose Champange, a delicious barrel fermented, barrel aged rose champagne. IMG_2234 This rich and opulent full-bodied champagne is from a small grower producer and a great deal compared with other rose champagnes.

 Let’s make a resolution to celebrate more in 2014!

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Eat, drink, create and be grateful, Happy 2014 – xo Carlita
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Judy Rodgers – Zuni Cafe

Visuals from Zuni Cafe Cookbook

It was sad news this week to hear of the passing of one of my culinary icons, Judy Rodger’s of the Zuni Café in San Francisco.  Her book, The Zuni Café Cookbook, has been a seminal text in my massive cookbook library.  She was passionate and uncompromising in her preparations, and honed her culinary skills in France in the rustic traditions and later worked with Alice Waters in the early years of Chez Panisse in Berkley, CA.  Her writing was impeccable and she was able to translate the cooking process in literary and visual detail.  Her rough puff pastry recipe for crostata is a work of art.  I memorized it years ago and can visualize every step.  Her ideas about salting meats went against everything I was taught, and are now commonplace among chefs and home cooks.  I reproduced her famous Zuni chicken from her recipe and even without the wood-burning oven it was impressive. 

It is rare for a chef to be content with one restaurant and only one cookbook in these “food network” times.  Zuni Café was a mecca for foodies, immune to food trends and a financial success in a difficult business. I’m sorry there will not be a sequel to the cookbook……..

Here is a wonderful tribute by Michael Ruhlman.

http://ruhlman.com/2013/12/remembering-judy-rodgers/

Austin: Cinema Paradiso

How cool is Austin?

When I told my old graduate school friend, Michael Pittard, of the Austin based online clothing company Supermaggie, I was coming to visit, he replied, “get ready to look at real estate, everyone who visits from the Big Apple wants to buy a place.”

A four day three night jaunt through Richard Linklater territory left me wanting to probe deeper into this stew of youth, politics, culture and cowboy coolness………It was a genius move by my nephew to choose the best college and food town in America and hitch his laptop at St. Edward’s University for the next four years. The trip was fast and furious and I’m looking forward to my next visit already.  Had a great time with my sis and brother-in-law and we packed all the food adventures possible in 3 days…

Here are a few highlights…….

Clarke’s oyster bar, is the little brother to Perla’s seafood on Congress street.  The small intimate space has a New England retro feel with sherbert colors and tables lining the outside with misters.  We ordered a mix of oysters from the east and west coast washed down with a bottle of muscadet,.  The menu focuses on seafood, simply prepared with some riffs on classic dishes along with all the latest food trends: steak tartare, shells and cheese crab gratin, grilled kale etc.  If I did invest in that little Austin bungalow, this would be the perfect after work hangout for cocktails and oysters.  The creative wine list ping pongs around the globe and hits some classic and esoteric seafood friendly bottles. Service was A plus and the wait staff well versed on the oyster selections and wines.  Love this place, see ya’all at Clarke’s on my next trip!

Jo’s coffee is the perfect outdoor coffee kiosk, right next to the super cool mid-century designed, Hotel San Jose.  Get the $3.00 breakfast burrito with hot sauce, a cup of joe and watch the world go by…..

Joe's Coffee, Austin

While in the neighborhood, stop at Allens Boots, a dark, low ceiling temple to cowboy wear.  The cavernous, New York city dollar store interior, is penetrated with piercing sunlight from the small windows in front,  just another Austin cinematic moment!  The boot selection is gigantic, just walk down the aisles and smell that leather!

Snack Bar, San Jose Motel

Hopdoddy burger bar is part of the “new breed” of fast food joints following in the footsteps of Shake Shack,  and Chipotle, local natural ingredients,  choices, service and booze.   This burger palace has outdone the competition with a wider selection of food items from appetizers to burger to salads.  The assembly line is impressive, from the burger bouncer at the door to the obvious bar stop on the way to the food counter.  My sis got a beergrita, a frozen margarita with an upside down mini IMG_3149corona inside that slowly marries with the margarita…only in Texas!   When we finally reached the food counter, a hostess took our info to find us a table, no food orders are taken until a table is open. Once your order is in, the hostess gives you a table number and a waiter brings the food and solicits more drink orders.  A fine-tuned machine that turns tables quickly and has your credit card swiping at every stop.  Hopdoddy are certainly doing their part to bolster employment and hopefully the workers are making above average wages.  Definitely my nephew’s new date spot!

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Amy’s ice crèams has some inventive flavors with chop-ins.  I opted for the stout ice cream which had some wonderful sweet caramel and bitter notes…………Ok, beer and ice cream really can play together! Time to try that Shiner Bock ice creme recipe on Homesick Texan!

Amy's Ice Cream

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Our last night dinner was at Eddie V’s steakhouse.  Décor is contemporary and rustic, dark and comfy.  Service was stellar, the waiter even compted my halibut with morel and fava bean sauce when he eyed the tiny bones on my plate.  This is a great special occasion place and perfect for graduation dinner.

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Driskill Hotel, Austin, TX

The Driskill Hotel is the jewel in the crown of downtown Austin.  The elegant old world façade is a timely contrast to the newer steel and glass skyline of the city.   The cocktail lounge is a scene out of the John Dahl movie Red Rock West, stately with dark wood, leather couches, cowboy art and live music.  Maybe that was Richard Linklater in the corner couch with those LA types…….ok, too dark to tell but I’m sure this is the site of many movie deals…..

haven't seen one of these in a long time!

Next trip:

Anywhere my nephew takes me..

Table shuffleboard

The bats!

Live music!

Jefferey’s and Josephine House, Bon Appetites top new restaurant…

Food trucks!

More live music!

BBQ!

The Lakes!

St Edward's Campus

St Edward’s Campus

I hope you find this foodtruck Koray..

Carlita’s 2012 Favorites…….

Sculpture complex, Glass House

Good art, significant art, great art is firmly rooted in the past as much as it projects into the future.  2012 was a year of exploring new edges of old boundaries.  Here are some of my favorites from the last 12 months.

Books:

Two new cookbook indulgences:  Faviken, by Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson and SPQR by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco’s A16 and SPQR.  The food photography and graphics are stunning while the food and techniques are rooted in tradition, challenging and reinventing along the way.  These books will consume me over the next year.Sweetbreads and Swiss Chard - Faviken

Faviken is a restaurant in the remote Swedish countryside that looks backwards and backwoods to sourcing most ingredients locally.  Chef Magnus Nielsson grew up hunting and gathering, and worked in some of the finest French culinary temples before returning to his roots to start Faviken.  His mad scientist approach to butchering, aging meat, coaxing flavor out of autumn leaves, pickling etc. are ancient and modern at the same time.  Opening a 12 seat restaurant in the outback of Sweden using only local ingredients (this is Viking country) is a far fetched dream and I’m glad he followed his.

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SPQR is a stunning book with amazing photography and excellent descriptions of technique.   The two chefs from San Francisco travel the old roman roads to explore Italy’s regional culinary traditions and then do their own riff on updating them.  Each chapter covers a region with recipes and local wines and obscure indigenous grapes.   This book is definitely for a more experienced cook or chef and incorporates sous vide among other cutting edge techniques.

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Adam Gopnik, The Table Comes First:  France, Family and the Meaning of Food.  Each chapter is rich and dense with food history, tradition and modern day reverie on our most base urge to gather and feast.  It took me a while to get through this and I savored every chapter like a salt caramel.

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Charles Pohlmann Sketchbook

Places:

Istanbul is the place to be right now.  A strong economy is driving the growing art scene along with an emerging wine and established food culture.  Check out the Taxsim area in Beyoglu for cool boutique hotels, vintage shopping and art galleries.IMG_1066

Philip Johnson’s Glass House, near New Canaan Connecticut.  Imagine a mad men style cocktail party in a glass house outfitted with mid-century everything and replace the ad men with artists, dancers and architects.  Besides it’s inclusion in art history books, the glass house and compound served as martini central for New York’s artist and literati who were just a train ride away from this country paradise.

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Restaurants:

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Adelina’s Fraschetta Romana, in Greenpoint Brooklyn, takes it’s inspiration from the blue-collar wine bars of Rome.  The house specialty is Pizza Fritta Montanara of Naples origin, a deep-fried pizza crust, finished in the oven with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and various toppings.  Owner Toby Buggiani, a Roman/American worked on his crust IMG_1448recipe for years and makes his mozzarella in house.  In addition to the stellar pizza, Adelina’s serves an award winning brunch, Italian soul food, pastas, sides and salads.  All the wines and a few local beers are on tap.  Prices and portions are generous along with daily specials and a killer house salad.  If I lived in Greenpoint, this place would be my home away from my own kitchen.   Toby’s father Paolo, a street and performance artist of renown from the Art Povera movement, lent his talent to the walls, and has just completed a new light painting.   In addition Toby’s wife, decorator Alexandra Abuza coordinated the décor, apparently it’s all in the family, Nonna would be proud!

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The Bishops Arts District seems to grow every time I return to Dallas.  Driftwood, a fish/seafood restaurant in heart of the district looks like a transplanted seafood diner ala 1970’s Santa Cruz.  IMG_2045Wooden blinds, driftwood art and mid century fixtures create a fun relaxing vibe. The family loved it, food took a while but everything was cooked to perfection with layers of flavor and A plus presentation.

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Visual Arts:

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Leonardo Drew show at Sikkema Jenkins, in the art world bigger is not always better but this show was a giant.

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Louis Belcourt at Jeff Bailey, formal abstraction, landscape, architecture, color and light, chopped up and re-configured.  Some of this work was damaged in Chelsea during hurricane Sandy.  Oil paintings are tough and I’m sure the conservators will work their magic restoring them.

Wines:

These are two favorites of mine this year that won’t break the bank.  Versatile with food or on their own, they are well made wines that your guests will love, available for under $16 at Premier Cru

Giribaldi Dolcetto, Shaya-Verdejo

Red:  Giribaldi Dolcetto 2010, Piedmont, Italy.  Everything a dolcetto should be, light, bright and bitter.

White: Shaya,old vine verdejo from Rueda Spain 2011,a luscious full body satin texture, starts with a wallop of guava and orange flower and ends with a hint of white pepper and mineral.

Happy 2013!

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ROADTRIP – VISIONS OF ITALY ON THE CONNECTICUT COAST

Bufalina is a tiny wood fired pizza joint in Guilford, Ct owned by Melissa Pellegrino and Matteo Scialabba, chefs and co-author’s of the Italian Farmer’s Table cookbooks.  The small 325 square foot space in an old carriage house on Boston Post Road is just off of I-95, exit 59.  A quaint oasis amidst strip malls, fast food restaurants and a CVS pharmacy, and the perfect half way stop on my way home from Boston.  I’m a big fan of their books on agriturismi cooking which highlight the fresh, local, seasonal and creative farmhouse cuisine of Italy.   Matt and Melissa traveled throughout Italy working on sustainable farms with agriturismi, recording recipes and absorbing local and regional traditions from each location.  Yes, this is my dream job in another life!  In addition they worked at some of the best New York City bakeries and restaurants before settling in their hometown to bring a taste of Italia to the Connecticut coast. 

I arrived at Bufalina around 6:00 and Matthew was working the oven.  The space holds about 8-10 seats situated at a counter that surrounds the wood-burning oven.  They do take reservations and seem to do a good deal of take-out.  There are also tables out back along with planters of herbs and even a small fig tree.

I decided to go for the name-sake Bufalina which had a lightly charred crust, a bright tomato sauce and the ever-creamy buffalo mozzarella with torn basil leaves and washed it down with an aranciata.  The menu consists of 10 pizzas and one salad and for now is BYOB.  The special pizzas utilize local farms seasonal produce, sweet Italian frying pepper and sausage and orchard white peach, prosciutto and provolone.  This is a soulful place on a not so soulful looking strip.  My only regret is I forgot to get my copy of their new book Southern Italian Farmer’s Table signed……oh well, next trip.

DALLAS DINING DIGGS – Aug 2011

From Tex Mex, California burger chains, roadhouse cuisine and the original church of bbq, my recent 4 day sojourn to Dallas was jam packed with tasty vittles.  Thanks to my Texas/Turkish family for all the great suggestions and imbibing in triple digit temps!

Tex-Mex is always the first stop on my food odyssey when I visit the big D.  This trip my niece suggested Gloria’s.  Founded by two Salvadoran Immigrants who took over a relative’s small restaurant in the Oak Cliff area, it now has morphed into 14 locations around the Dallas area.  The menu is classic tex-mex with Salvadoran specialties.  The margaritas are legendary and ceviche awesome!  Gloria’s is a well-oiled machine with excellent service and a corporate feel to the décor.  A great place to bring a large party and the prices are double-dip recession friendly.

Southern food, the ideal marriage of high and low brow is what Texas cuisine does best. Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop’s Arts District is a temple of lone star grub.  This must be the food “Homesick Texan” is talking about.  The specialties of the house are Chicken Fried Steak and Venison Chili Frito Pie.  Locally sourced ingredients are used when possible and my heirloom tomato, arugula salad with blue corn grits was amazing…. The wine list is mostly new world and chosen well to complement the food.  Service was very attentive yet a bit too eager to clear our plates before everyone finished.

The décor is a combination of knotty pine, chandeliers and wooden carved taxidermy heads, recycled chic with an artist’s touch.  A back party room festooned with bare branches and stuffed pheasants backlight with a blue teal light is kitchy and festive.  The high/low theme is carried throughout the restaurant, I love this place!………..hee haw Tillman’s, I’ll be back for some frito pie!

The west coast burger chain IN-N-OUT has just arrived in Dallas and there happens to be one close to my nephew’s apartment minutes from the SMU campus.  Luckily the line was in a lull and we jumped right in to order.  IN-N-OUT is so cheap it’s hard to believe they use all natural ingredients.   A west coast privately owned chain since 1948, IN-N-OUT boasts no microwave, freezer or heat lamps.  Burgers are made to order and real ice cream opposed to soft serve is used in the shakes.  The burgers were the perfect small size with a thin patty, generous tomato, onion and lettuce with thousand island dressing. The fries were cooked at very high temperatures, very crisp and we all agreed a bit bland.  The décor harks back to early McDonalds, spare white, red and yellow with a 50’s classic speedy arrow logo.  As far as fast food burgers go Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack still gets my vote for its excellent ground beef brisket mixture, potato buns and creative soda fountain treats.  But IN-N-OUT is not re-inventing the formula, it is going for simple efficient, fresh food and I’ll definitely come back for a burger and shake……..

Last stop before catching my plane was the original Sonny Bryan’s BBQ in south Dallas.  A museum of BBQ and a step back to the days of the real “pop up” restaurant.   Almost twenty years ago we brought my newborn nephew here and ate bbq on the tree stumps outside.  The stumps are gone but the interior looks the same and my “baby” nephew is sitting next to me having a local brew and brisket sandwich as his father tells stories of how his father met him here during his lunch when he worked down the street at Mobile Oil.  In spite of the drought and the heat wave our appetites survived.  So long pardners….see you next trip!

Cheers!  Carlita