We can hardly believe it – but Mardi Gras is next Tuesday – February 9th! Nowhere does Mardi Gras like New Orleans, and an integral part of the celebration in the city is the iconic purple, yellow and green King Cake. However, if you are in New Orleans around this time of year you are completely spoiled for choice. So that’s where the King Cake Database comes into play – you can search by name, neighborhood or by type of king cake desired (traditional, dietary specifications, etc.). Laissez les bons temps rouler!
We have noticed a proliferation of small plates places serving globally-inspired dishes with local ingredients – and we are excited to find a local exemplar of this trend in Spice Kitchen + Bar (5800 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH) in the emerging foodie neighborhood of Detroit-Shoreway/Gordon Square in Cleveland. Spice Kitchen is located in an old corner building with wooden floors, large windows, a vintage bar and several rooms (some with exposed brick) forming the dining space. We love the old-school atmosphere.
February 8 is the start of the Lunar New Year, celebrated throughout Asia with festivals, merriment and – of course – good food. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is called Tết, and this celebration comes with its share of unique tasty treats. One of the most emblematic Tết foods is the Bánh chưng sticky rice cake. These glutinous rice cakes, filled with beans and/or pork are wrapped in Phrynium leaves (or banana leaves if you don’t have those), and steamed. Banh Chung are eaten year-round, but they are considered to be a particularly essential part of the family altar on Tet. We were particularly interested by Banh Chung because, unlike many New Year dishes, these are savory rather than sweet. So how do you make your own? Danang Cuisine has an easy-to-follow recipe, and Viet World Kitchen has a step by step guide on how to properly wrap the leaves using a mold.
As the Vietnamese saying goes, certain things are a necessity for a good Tết, including Banh Chung:
Vietnamese: Thịt mỡ, dưa hành, câu đối đỏ
Cây nêu, tràng pháo, bánh chưng xanh
Translation: Rich meats, Pickled onions, red couplets
Nêu tree, firecracker, green bánh chưng
The Mexican ice cream shop – neveria – has become a staple of the Chicago food landscape. It was not until we moved from Chicago that we knew how good we had it in terms of icy treats. Though the Neverias in Chicago sell traditional treats like paletas, they are also home to some more exotic specials. Take the mangonada – an icy concoction made with fresh mango pieces, mango ice cream, chamoy (pickled plum sauce), a tamarind spice stick and Tajin (salt/lime/chile pepper) sprinkled over the top. This hodgepodge of flavors seems like it shouldn’t work, but it really does, and capitalizes on an amazing spicy-sweet combo, which is very popular in Mexican candies. Mangonadas remind us of summertime, so we could really go for one now in the dead of winter. If you leave near a Mexican grocery store, you can probably pick up most of ingredients you need to assemble your own, or they are available online at Mex Grocer.
Rincon Criollo (6504 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH) reminds us of home. This kind of restaurant serving Latin American or Caribbean food can be found in nearly every neighborhood in Chicago, so we felt right at home in this Cleveland mom and pop place. The food at Rincon Criollo is Puerto Rican, and it serves a menu of island favorites at reasonable prices. We arrived on a Friday night (note that they close at 8 PM) and the place was full of families and couples ordering takeout. The menu focuses on meat-heavy dishes like roast pork, roast chicken, beef stew and pork chops with sides of rice and beans (all less than $10). Rounding out the menu is a selection of sandwiches and a huge variety of traditional sides including maduros and tostones (fried savory or sweet plantains).
There is nothing we love more than a bookstore/cafe combo, and though they are already popular in other parts of the world, it seems that more and have been popping up in the US recently. A good example of this trend is Archestratus Books & Foods (160 Huron St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn), a cookbook/food book shop with a Sicilian bakery and cafe. Food books and Sicilian cuisine – two of our favorite things! Named after the Greek-Sicilian philosopher Archestratus, owner Paige Lipari calls on her heritage to serve classic Sicilian treats like cannoli and arancini in the cafe. In addition to the books and food, Archestratus also hosts demos and events. Continue reading
De Quay (2470 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614) has been on many shortlists as one of the top new Chicago restaurants of the last year. Moreover, De Quay has been on our shortlist for its unique combination of the cuisine of the Netherlands and Indonesia (which was once a Dutch colony). Now that we don’t live in Chicago anymore, we have had to cram in as many restaurants as possible on each trip, and De Quay was at the top of our list. At the height of Restaurant Week, we managed to squeeze in a last-minute seating at the bar after striking out on table reservations: one of the best decisions we have made recently!
Today is celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns‘ birthday, which means it is time for a Burns Night Supper! Celebrated on or near the Burns’ birthday on January 25th, special feasts known as “Burns Suppers” are a long-standing tradition in Scotland, throughout the UK, and wherever Burns fans are found. The Burns Night feast itself has a formal structure, combing poems, speeches, and special dishes. Haggis, the much maligned official dish of Scotland, sheep’s offal mixed with oatmeal and cooked in an animal stomach (or other casing nowadays) is front and center on the menu – and it even has its own address and bagpipe introduction.
Other traditional Scottish dishes served alongside the haggis include along “neeps” and “tatties” (turnips and potatoes). The complete Burns night itinerary and source materials can be found at the Robert Burns Society, and a sample menu can be found at BBC Good Food. Chowhound has a nice summary of the best way to make haggis in the US, where some of the ingredients are hard to find. Though many supper-throwers adhere closely to the classic dishes, you could also mix things up a little and serve a vegetarian haggis! Of course, no Burns Supper is complete without a singing of “Auld Lang Syne,” Burns’ most famous work, and the official closing of the festivities.
For a bit of a midweek break, have your mind blown by a film of a tiny chef cooking Bouillabaisse by the Belgian Skullmapping collective. Trust me, it is a lot more entertaining than you may think.
One thing we love about NYC is that there is food from literally corner of the globe. However, even for us, finding a Bhutanese restaurant is something of a coup. Bhutan is a notoriously difficult country to enter and doesn’t have a very large population, but there is a small Bhutanese community in NYC, as evidenced by Bhutanese Ema Datsi (67-21 Woodside Ave., Woodside (Queens), NY 11377).
Seeing Dr. Brown’s soda on the shelf is a blast from the past – I remember having Dr. Brown’s soda occasionally when I was a kid (Cream Soda was my main pick), and the packaging alone really stood out. Dr. Brown’s is a long-running NYC soda brand with flavors like Root Beer and Black Cherry associated with the classic NYC Jewish deli (where it was sold exclusively until the 1980s). Though it is now more widely distributed, Dr. Brown’s is still the kind of thing you won’t see in every shop, so I was really surprised when I came across their Cel-Ray flavor in a little shop in town. Cel-Ray soda is their most famous and most unique drink, made from celery seeds. Cel-Ray debuted in 1868 and was marketed at the time as a quasi-medicinal “celery tonic.” Serious Eats has a great history on the soda if you would like to learn more. So onto the soda itself – the drink was fizzy and pale champagne colored, and it tasted nothing like celery, and was more akin to a crisp, light ginger ale. I liked it – and can definitely see how it would pair well with fatty deli sandwiches. Alton Brown even has a recipe to make your own!
David Bowie (1947 – 2016) was a brilliant tastemaker for decades in the world of Fashion, Music and Art (and their intersections), but it turns out his tastes for food were a little more traditional. Bowie’s favorite dish of all time was reported as a simple English Shepherd’s Pie, which his wife Iman would often whip up for the singer. Food and Wine has a series of recipes to choose from, so why not make a Shepard’s Pie in honor of Bowie this week?
Filed under Links, News, Recipes
Big Star (1531 N. Damen Chicago, IL ) is the type of place that gets a lot of hype, but unlike most places with this much buzz, the food is good too! We have been to Big Star several times now, and it really is a fun place to hang out with friends, grab some tacos and drinks, and just kick back. Though you can sit inside, the main draw at Big Star in warm weather is the sunny patio, which often leads to several-hour waits. We first managed to get into Big Star late on a summer Wednesday, and though we were skeptical at first, we really enjoyed the tacos. Be sure to bring your cash though, since they do not accept credit cards.
When we are traveling, there is nothing we like more than checking out the top spots in all the towns we visit. We drove to New York this fall, and on the way we stopped in Philadelphia. And as we heard, the top place to go when in Philadelphia is Zahav (237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA). Zahav has gotten a lot of press recently for chef and co-owner Michael Solomonov’s innovative take on Israeli cuisine. It is notoriously hard to get a reservation at Zahav, though if you are willing to eat at 5 pm (as we did at the last minute), you should have a little more luck.
January 6th marks Three Kings Day (also known as 12th night or Epiphany) the official end to the Christmas holiday season. In the past, we have written about some of the most popular cakes eaten on this holiday: the French Galette des Rois and its classic Fèves, Portuguese Bolo Rei and the Spanish and Latin Amerian Rosca de Reyes. In Poland, there is also a special cake to ring in this holiday, the Ciasto Trzech Króli (Three Kings Cake). Similar to other Eurpean cakes, the Ciasto Trzech Króli is rich, filled with dried fruit, and topped with a decorative crown (recipe in English and photo from About.com here). Whoever finds the almond or coin baked into the cake gets to wear the crown!
We took a bit of an extended writing break around Christmas and New Years this year, but never fear, there are still a few more days to get in those holiday recipes before people think you are out of step (we still have our Christmas lights on!). One of the holiday recipes we enjoyed over our break, at a Puerto Rican parranda (caroling event), was coquito. Coquito is a Puerto Rican coconut eggnog, often served spiked with rum. In Puerto Rico the winter holiday season extends well into January, and coquito can be found at any holiday feast during this time. Coquito is super easy to make – and maybe it will make the transition back to work a little easier.
Happy 2016, everyone! A new year brings new adventures, and I am excited to introduce a new project I have been working on related to food and travel: Paleta Press. Paleta Press is a letterpress and graphic design studio I started in late 2015, which features cards and posters that are influenced by both travel (as in the Portuguese azulejo card above) and food. If you like pie, check out my Peace, Love & Pie card or my international foods series featuring horchata, tacos and cerveza (or cerveja). You can check out more Paleta Press products on my Etsy shop and learn more about the press at Paletapress.com. Stay tuned for more adventurous, food-centric cards in the coming year!
We’re going on a bit of a break until after Christmas! Hope you are enjoying winter treats, and hopefully some time off from work or school. See you soon! In the meantime, enjoy this Italian cookie plate from Corbo’s Bakery in Cleveland and keep up with us on Instagram.