Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Hotlanta

Surprise, surprise: I went traveling.  Just after getting back from my mini trip to Sevilla to wrap up paperwork (as if, I am currently gathering more official stamps so I can get permission to begin the application process in the hopes that someday my diploma will come in the mail), I went on down to see my friend Caroline.  I bought the tickets with some sky miles in a fit of frustration after a disappointing breakup and PowerPoint-shaped rage against my thesis.  Fabulous decision.

Caroline was a wonderful hostess. She shared her friends and took me around town to eat in many, many lovely places.  We also got the chance to cook together for the first time in over a year, after buying way too much food at the Dekalb Farmers Market.  Where they don’t let you take pictures, so oh well.  I took a few pictures of my favorite things she prepared for us, and those will be popping up in the next few weeks.  Especially since her breakfast burritos were worth the price of the tickets alone. Also, I bought a gigantic cookbook on southern cooking.  So there’s that.  In the mean time, for anyone thinking of going to Atlanta, please consider…

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Copycat Cocktail

Somehow, by being disgustingly lucky, I have managed to develop a rather snooty palate. This is particularly true in terms of my drinking style.  No matter what the liquid is, the more expensive it is, the more it attracts me.  I love those stupid minted waters, the fancy teas, microbrews with strange flavors, fancy wines, and pretty much anything with bubbles in it.  If it’s foreign or imported?  Even more alluring.

So when I go out on the town to drink, I’m always looking for something that I can’t make at home myself.  I have one expensive drink and I nurse it as long as possible, for as I’ve said before, I’m pretty much broke off my ass.  The old saying “champagne tastes on a beer budget” is very, very true for me at this stage in my life.  But that doesn’t get rid of the craving for expensive things.  That’s where friends and family with kitchen toys come to the rescue.

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Roman Holiday: Tartufo

Well, back from Rome.  Tomorrow, I leave Sevilla and go back to being a US resident.  That’s strange.  Hopefully I can channel my re-entry culture shock into food impulses, as I did last year, because this time I’m staying for good.  A major economic depression can cause such upheavals… Even though I’ll be leaving Spain as a resident, I’ll be back in October for a short, education-related visit and I have been assiduously stockpiling Spanish recipes for my favorite things, as well as cookbooks.  So this blog right here will continue to have a slight Mediterranean flair.  I invite you to listen to this song when reading Spain-related entries, by the way.  It makes things more exciting.

Anyways.  In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to Rome and that I had planned to taste-test three or four “best gelato places in Rome”.  Well.  I didn’t.  I had only been in Rome for a hit and run half day before this trip, so I was all for actually getting to try out all these great suggestions people were throwing out, really immerse myself into the food culture of Rome.  But it was an absolutely wonderful trip, and we sank so far into relaxation that we said to hell with gelato shop hunting and just ate it where we found it.  And it was all absolutely delicious. We visited all of one place on our list, which was suggested both by my friend Michelle and my coworker Ana, separately. I kept the list, though.

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Tapas II – Estilo Granaino

A while back, I wrote a short treatise on the art of tapas featuring my favorite restaurant in Sevilla, with the drawback that what I did wasn’t truly tapear-ing, because I never switched locales, but parked myself at the table until I couldn’t get up to request any more platelets of solomillo.

Oh, quick update on that: I am working on the recipe for solomillo al eneldo, but it’s still not quite there.  I’ll post it when it gets close enough to the real thing.

A month or so after that adventure, I tagged along with my roommate and her father on a day trip to Granada.  Rosa had a family meeting to attend, so her father and I took a long walk, meandering through the city center and chit chatting about history.  After admiring the sights, though, we got down to business, and we slipped into one of his favorite tapas bars.

This is the only picture I have of that visit because I was too busy eating and trying to decipher the super Andaluz chatter of twenty-five of Rosa’s relatives.  But no worries.  A few weeks later, she and I went back, alone, to concentrate on what’s really important.  And it’s not the Alhambra above, but tapas.  Granada style.

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A ver, ¡a tapear!

Well, yet again this post doesn’t come with recipe.  I’ll say that right up front.  But that’s not for lack of trying.  Instead, I’m going to share a little taste of tapas with all of you who haven’t had the opportunity to get out there and eat too much food on tiny little plates. Tapas are definitely making waves in the cooking community; they are trendy.  Tapas are leaking into restaurants, bar menus, magazines, and food television.  Cool.  But nobody can beat the Spanish, who invented the damn things. How can you tell? Vocabulary!

First, what the heck does tapa mean?  Literally its a cover, or lid.  In the past, when they served you a ‘jar’ of beer, the bartender or waiter would put a little plate on top to cover your beer, to keep flies, mosquitoes, dust, or whatever other beer-threatening objects may be lurking, out. If not a small plate then, well, a slice of bread with some jamón on top.  It’s interesting that the word itself has become such a globe trotter, because even though the tradition stretches back ages, the word only entered into accepted, official, Real Academia Spanish in 1939.  In the words of my friend, Jose, who was happy to catch me up on Spanish culinary history, “es muy, muy andalu.”  That is to say that the word tapa is actually specific to the southern region of Spain.  If you go traveling within the Iberian Peninsula, the word will vary wildly with the other regional dialects and languages.

But the word that has captured my heart and captures real Andaluz attitude is not tapa, but tapear.  This is a real verb in Spanish, and it refers to the very specific act of  going out to eat tapas.  It implies barhopping late in the evening when the sultry heat of the south is dissipating and nothing but cold beer and cheap, strong red wine accompanied by platelets of olives, fried almonds, salt cod, pork loin, slivers of cured ham, triangles of salty equally cured cheese, little fried packets of bechamel, sweet marinated red peppers, roasted potatoes in a mix of fresh mayonnaise and a piquant red sauce, pickled broad beans, and whatever the restaurant owner or chef can invent.

If you are going to tapear, you will be out in the street, chatting and lingering over your food for at least two hours.  The intense aficionados will know what tapa they want to eat at what bar and will plan accordingly.  You are not eating. You are not even eating out.  You are out to tapear.  There is a difference.

Wow, that was a lot of words.

That’s better.

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¡Jamón!

One of the most compelling reasons for my return to Spain would be jamón.  Jamón, simply translated, is Spanish for ham.  But where we may differentiate between lunchmeat ham and a baking ham, with further adjectives like Virgina ham or spiral cut, etc, etc, Spain doesn’t mess around. Yes, you can divide ham into those same two categories (jamón york o una pierna de cerdo), but overshadowing them by far is a third category: cured ham or jamón serrano.  Most Americans have never had the luck to try jamón serrano, though this may be changing with Spanish cuisines infiltration of the hoity-toity world palate. But most of us are familiar with prosciutto, the Italian cured ham.  This makes sense, given the heavy and heaven-sent influence of Italian immigrants on American culture, especially in the east.  But sorry, jamón is way, way better.

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Goodbye Pie

For the last few years, every single special event in my life or the lives of my friends has been celebrated with a pie.  No question.  It’s become so ingrained in our lives that I don’t find it strange to receive texts in April insisting that I make a pecan pie for Victoria’s birthday.  Which is in June.  She asked me last week for a banoffee pie (which I’ve never made) but this year didn’t even bother to connect it to her birthday.  I’ll be making it in a few weeks.

Of course with my desire to make pie vying with the dearth of birthdays most months, I had to find other ‘special events’.  One of those made up occasions that’s turning into a tradition of its own is travel.  Whenever someone leaves for more than a week (including me), and then when they get back, they get a pie of their choice.  This way I have a guaranteed chance to get that one last glimpse before they jet off and first dishing on what exactly went down in Nantes.

Gabrielle has been the most recent recipient of Goodbye Pie.  She has gone off to travel Europe for two months, leaving me alone to lurk in my unemployed-recent-college-graduate soup of inactivity.  So before I was left completely to my own devices, she chose her goodbye pie.  In between loads of laundry, emergency glasses repair, and frantic itinerary checking, she stopped by my place for one last slab of dessert.  Her choice was made without hesitation: lemon meringue.

For years, I thought I hated lemon meringue, and Gabrielle agreed with me, actually.  I still hate commercial lemon meringue.  The topping is always rubbery and sad, the filling sickly sweet and artificially colored.  But one night I was actually making it for my stepfather’s birthday (special occasion = pie) because it’s his hands down favorite and he can’t imagine a birthday without it.  There was an extra slice for Gabrielle – as there almost always is – and suddenly she looked at me.  “I just now remembered why this was once my favorite.”  I took a bite and it was indeed a true revelation.  This version is tart-sweet and brightly flavored, with a fluffy meringue whose tiny air bubbles pop and melt on your tongue in a happy celebration of pie.  Even I had a second piece that night.

So I sent Gabrielle off with lemon meringue lingering on the palate.  Truthfully I think I do this so that she’ll come back.  After all.  There’s Welcome Back Pie, too.

Are you SURE you want to leave?

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!

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