Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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Winners. (BELCAMPO MEAT CO.)

May 4, 2015
ucc_belcampo

On November 3 2014, The New Yorker released it’s annual food issue, thick with articles about how we react to, and with, food. An especially inspiring piece by Dana Goodyear featured California’s farm to fork Belcampo Meat Company, a series of pastures, slaughterhouses, butcher shops and restaurants with an impressively high standard. The article recently won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award (category: Profile), and really put into perspective the way a company can choose its methods to support its ideals, if creatively run.

Last fall was my first visit to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles and, in a taco frenzy, I almost dismissed another butcher counter full of mustaches, muscles and beautiful fonts. But the meat was too gorgeous to ignore. I admired the cuts (pictured above), purchased some jerky, contemplated a tote bag and moved on to more tacos, unaware of the fascinating back story.
Upon return to NYC, I sat down with the food issue that was meant for in-flight reading and, coincidentally, read all about the meat I was gazing upon so lovingly. As it turns out, the most fascinating thing about Belcampo, the focus of Dana Goodyear‘s article, is the company’s CEO Anya Fernald. The story goes on to detail her fierce dedication to teaching consumers the value of eating well-raised animals, despite the significantly higher prices. There are no plans of compromising the pristine practices of Belcampo, which are outlined in depth on their own site. Instead, she and the company will wait for the rest of the country to catch up, hopefully rejecting factory farming for good.

 
Belcampo supports the idea of raising animals in a pre-industrial fashion. Allowing them to graze a variety of plants, and letting them live a bit longer (over two years), benefits the animal, the farmland and the taste of the product. Consumers also reap the benefits of a more nourishing meal on the plate.
Nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef include increased levels of Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich carotenoids and conjugated linolenic acid with fewer calories and less fat. And although beef can’t compare to salmon in its level of essential fatty acid Omega 3, it’s still 5 times higher in sustainably raised animals than in cows from the feedlot, as reported by Ms. Goodyear.
 
To navigate the soaring costs of beef, especially in the midst of the devastating drought California is facing, Anya Fernald suggests eating smaller portions, (another pre-industrial concept) or by trying other animals such as sheep, rabbit or “drought resistant” goat.
Better consideration for the origins of the food we eat is the way of the near future, for the health of the planet and every body that inhabits it. Sustainable butcher shops are starting to be more prominent and grocery stores are beginning to offer better choices in sustainably raised meat and poultry. But it is obvious that Belcampo is in the lead. They hold themselves responsible for the whole supply chain, consciously making every decision for the greater good. They are determined to put meat back on the table, making a hearty, well-raised steak something good for your health, as opposed to the stigma of the last decade or two when red meat was, as recalled by Anya Fernald, “like smoking a cigarette –a guilty pleasure”.
 
*Lucky for us east coasters we can have a Belcampo experience via their webstore. Gorgeous selection of frozen meats and dry goods.
** yes, my vacation photos include a meat counter. yes.
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What’s delicious. (FROM COSTA RICA)

March 21, 2013

CR_farmermarket

In a country where you can buy the above items (pictured: lemongrass, kale/lettuces, avocado, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries, freshly baked bread, oranges, honey, carrots, zucchini, mangos, beets and caimito (or star apples) on a sunny morning at the organic farmers market, the local cuisine cannot possibly be bad. It was my observation in Costa Rica that the more simply a food was prepared, the more impressive it was.

Items just grilled or lightly dressed with lemon or blended into a smoothie/juice were by far the best things we experienced. The produce is so fresh and beautiful, it needs very little assistance to be outstanding. And eating food that is so so simple and clean really makes for an energetic and healthful travel, despite the few sniffles passed around among the babes.

CR_trucha

Perfect fish plucked from the sea at arms distance was the second best thing around. It was all one needed to eat in addition to that amazing produce. There were places for unique ceviches and fish grilled over hot coals. There were crispy deep-fried seafood platters and even some raw offerings. All outstanding. The local beverage, young coconut water, could be found everywhere. Sold in the shell under the name agua de pipa (or pipa fria if served cold), the big, green coconuts were hacked open, dressed with nothing but a straw and ready to drink on the side of every road, in every market, on the beach, etc. There was even  a tiny ‘easy open’ variety for convenient transporting.

CR_pipadeagua

But what good is a foreign food experience without some splurging? I had never before heard of this cake and have since learned it is a Tico specialty even though it bears another country’s name. The Torta Chilena is a sugar bomb that alternates dulce de leche with a crumbly cake in thin layers of sin. It was so good and terribly decadent. If you see one, run! …about four or five miles per slice eaten.

CR_torta2

CR_torta1

Happy Birthday Little G! Pura Vida! xoxo

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Market Sketches. (MEXICAN PRODUCE)

January 15, 2013

MX_oranges

Orange Limes

MX_hotnuts

Spicy Peanut Mix with Crispy Garlic

MX_frutas

Mixed Fruit

MX_guajillos

All drawings made in Oaxaca, México (2008) Watercolor and Ink on Paper

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100% bueno. (SPANISH MEATS + TOMATO BREAD)

December 23, 2012

spain_meats

I need to share this photo. It is the most exquisite plate of cured meats eaten in one of Barcelona’s cute little xampanyerias. We sampled the house cava, meats and cheeses accompanied by lots of the tomato bread pa amb tomaquet  found all over the place in Catalonia. Cured meats are a big deal in Spain, so we did our best to really treat them like the special deal that they are, eating them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. It was the perfect thing to obsess over because eating a plate of charcuterie left some room so that we could stop short at any other good looking tapas we saw along the way to wherever we were going… which was usually to eat tapas.

Starting with the top right you are looking at chorizo, moving clockwise next is lomo, which is made from the loin of the pig and is therefore significantly leaner than the others but no less delicious. Lomo is followed by traditional Iberico (swoon), then salami-like salchichon, and in the center is cecina or ‘dried’ beef which was knockout.

Variations of these meats are available in the States but it’s just not the same. Sure when you are eating something local in a foreign place, it is the atmosphere and the sounds, the smell of the fabric softener, the sky color and all the other details that amplify the experience but I have a theory about a number of delicious European foodstuffs that are also exported to the U.S. and it is simply… they send us the good stuff but not the best. This is why I have my own personal French calvados dealers.

Adéu!

Be real Spanish and serve this bread with your next meat and/or cheese platter.

PA AMB TOMAQUET

1 loaf of your favorite bread

2 cloves garlic

2 ripe tomatoes

your best olive oil

salt

  • Slice the bread lengthwise and toast it lightly (optional). 
  • Slice each clove of garlic in half and rub it on the cut side of the bread. 
  • Slice each tomato through its equator and rub each half all over the bread until it is just skin. 
  • Arrange the bread on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

spain_bread

Together forever.

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And some excess. (MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP)

February 17, 2011

I have never been to Malaysia. But as the five senses can help recall a strong memory, they can also conjure a fantasy. That is why this dish and all of its toasty coconut, hint of sweet spicy-ness and the way texture of the shrimp pops in your mouth, makes me feel like I am on a beach in deepest Malaysia… eating this creation from a piece of foil with my buttery fingers, leaving a pile of shrimp shells at my feet. Can you hear the waves lapping?

In reality, midwinter Brooklyn, UPS truck grumbling by, this dish is plain tasty. It entails a two-step cooking process that is maybe a little decadent but I think we deserve it. First, shell-on shrimp is fried in oil. This gives the shrimp a bright color and firm bite without drying it out. After making Butter Shrimp several times with students, we realized that for maximum flavor potential, it is nice to then peel the fried shrimp so it gets really doused in the butter sauce that forms in the final steps. And anyway most people prefer not to peel-and-eat, they just want to hurry up and eat. Do what you wish. In keeping with my Malaysian daydream, the shell stays on, but never mind.

MALAYSIAN BUTTER SHRIMP

(serves 2-4)

1 lb. jumbo/large shrimp, heads removed
2 cups canola oil, for deep frying
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 small red chilis, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry
1/2 cup grated coconut, toasted

  • Prep the shrimp by making a slit down the back to de-vein. Pat dry.
  • Heat the canola oil in a skillet with high sides or wok. To test that the oil is hot enough, drop a tiny piece of butter into it. If the butter bubbles and sizzles, it’s ready to use.
  • Deep fry the prawns in the oil, do not crowd the pan, until pink and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  • When cool enough to handle remove shells from shrimp, leaving just the tails, if desired.
  • In a clean skillet, melt the butter. Add chilis, scallions, garlic, salt and fry for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add shrimp to the skillet with sugar, soy sauce, wine, and coconut. Cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes until heated through, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.
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Food as big as Texas. (AUSTIN)

February 24, 2010

During a recent quick and spontaneous trip to Austin, Texas, we managed to amp up to a 4 meal a day regiment. The time we had there was scarce, our mission serious. Here are some of the biggest things we fit in:

Sam’s BBQ. 2000 E 12th St (Poquito Street) Austin, TX

Straight from the airport, we are welcomed by Brian the proud proprietor, a mac-and-cheese rectangular-table discussion and this plate of ribs, sausage and brisket (hiding underneath). Chef makes all the desserts to… in fact Brian is too formal. Call him Sweetie.

Polvos. 2004 South 1st Street Austin, TX

A jovial Austin staple, Polvos is ready for you at brunch with giant bloody marys and music on full blast for a total sensory overload in the best way possible. I sat next to this burrito (above), but ordered an enchilada (below). I wanted to learn what is the hype about the unassuming Tex Mex enchilada. It was damn fine, but fonder still is the memory of the amazing salsa bar with escabeche pickles.

Casino El Camino. 517 East 6th Street Austin, TX

Stylistically it reminded me of New Orleans. Casino El Camino serves big, big burgers and foot long hot dogs covered in all kinds of cheese, chili, bacon, hot peppers, etc. in fantastically raunchy combos. It was a perfect way to end the debauching weekend. After all the sunny friendliness, it’s kinda nice to pig out in a dark cave. I think they make some kind of chicken sandwich or something too.

Go.

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High lights. (FOOD ABROAD)

December 7, 2009

After embarking on a trip to Europe, recounting stories of all the good friends, good news and good times will take too damn long. Instead, here are a handful of delicious highlights (in pictures).

PARIS:

A villainous cheese plate:

The cheese that looks like a flower is some incredible stuff called tête de moine. It is cut horizontally with a special apparatus that shaves a thin layer  from the top of the cheese. As it is sliced in a circular direction, the cheese curls around itself. Then it melts in your mouth.

An adventurous charcuterie:

The light pinkish sausage at the top is French andouille… that lovely pattern is created by pig intestines and stomach. A little goes a long way.

BELGIUM:

Beeeeeeeeer!:

I guess I ate some stuff during the days in Belgian, but the beer! The beer is special. In this photo is a golden, delicious Tongerlo. Also among my favorites were the Westmalle beers and the rare and fantastic Wechelse Tripel. Locals say not to drink more than three. Decent advice, I guess.

AMSTERDAM:

Applecake:

Never again will I accept the expression ‘as American as apple pie’. We need to simply give up and let the Dutch have this one. Here is a photo of Dutch apple pie from a cute little eatery called Winkel that specializes in the stuff. This inexplicable pie will have me chasing the dragon until I get to try it again. (Noordermarkt 43)

Sorry France, sorry Belgium:

And here we have the little corner shop where I innocently bought some fries. I thought I would walk around and eat them but they were so so so good, I had to sit down on the nearest bench to believe what was going on in that little paper cone. When I looked up, everyone around me was eating them, all in devout silence. I got spicy mayo as my saus but i heard that peanut sauce is also a popular choice. Later still, I discovered the real people’s choice is a mix of mayo AND peanut sauce. Must immerse in local culture. Must. (Voetboogstraat 31)