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My favorite New Yorker cartoon, by Charles Barsotti.

The New Yorker recently made the full length versions of many of its articles available to all on newyorker.com before introducing a paywall this fall, which is at once magnanimous, historic, and TOTALLY OVERWHELMING. I’d like to offer 13 of my favorite New Yorker articles of the last ten years, for your reading or printing-and-saving enjoyment. Consider it a little birthday present (today’s my birthday) from my inner geek to yours. Read the rest of this entry »

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New Orleans has a spring in its step.

I was happy to find, over Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding, that the city appears to be doing better. Much better.

As much was conveyed to me by our taxi driver, a sweet older woman in a brightly colored muumuu who hummed to the jazz music on the radio between our exchanges. I told her I had first traveled there for business in spring, 2008 and returned later that summer. Almost three years had passed since Hurricane Katrina, but the city felt like something terrible had just happened.

No one was walking around in the Business District or Garden District, and what few drunken convention attendees and bachelor parties there were to be found in the French Quarter made the place feel all the more depressing. I stayed at a boutique hotel, a huge studio loft, and a W, all for around $100 a night, which was indicative of a weak local economy. A work contact drove me around what had once been the Ninth Ward but was then mostly cracked cement stairs leading to rotting houses or nothing at all. She showed me Habitat For Humanity’s first completed housing area, dubbed Musicians’ Village, and it was small. Philanthropic attention had long since moved elsewhere.

I started to tear up as we passed the convention center in the taxi cab, and the driver and I had a moment. But as we pulled further into the city, I noticed something was different. There were people everywhere.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Om curry with dill from LAcha Somtum in Thai Town.

I attended a highly educational and also highly entertaining Zocalo Public Square lecture about food fads on Monday, with journalist David Sax of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, and it got me thinking about foods that could easily become trendy. My fellow home-cook brother and I exchanged a few emails about it, and here’s my list.

Gochujang
My brother and I are both a little obsessed. Miso, MSG, and fish sauce have all had their moments in the food media spotlight as ways to add flavor, umami, and saltiness to food, so, we wondered, why not one of the most ubiquitous of Korean condiments? Among foodies, it’s not for lack of trying. Gochujang — also known as hot pepper paste or red chili paste or some combination thereof — is a thick, sticky paste of red chilis, sweet rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It’s been in (near constant) use in Korea for about 500 years, since trade routes opened up in the far east, and it is traditionally fermented in the sun. To me, it’s equal parts sweet, salty, and spicy, felt in that order. Some ascribe a fermented stink to it, but I don’t get it. It’s no kimchee. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve made it to about three hundred restaurants in four years in LA, and only one of them was vegetarian, so I’m pretty serious about these meat dishes. Pro: they’re all cheap. Con: none of them photograph well. (And in one case, photos aren’t even allowed.) So, pardon my textiness.

Kitfo
Rosalind’s Ethiopian Cuisine, 1044 S Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles 90019

$11

Rosalind’s is one of my favorite Friday date-night restaurants, and my guy and I buy up Groupons for it as often as they come along. Kitfo is hand-chopped beef served nearly raw with butter, chiles, and other northern African spices. It gets sauteed for mere seconds before being delivered to the table with roll-ups of injera, the light, spongy pancake used to pick up food in Ethiopian dining, the sole utensil in this fun and casual culinary culture. We usually order fried appetizers and a lamb stew besides, and the portions are enormous, so we end up with leftovers. In the morning, we scramble eggs with the leftover tartare for breakfast. And the morning after that, I’m craving Rosalind’s all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

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A recipe for sweetbreads in Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook.

Tripe Alla Parmigiana ($10)
Osteria Mozza

6602 Melrose Avenue, 90038

Tripe has enjoyed quite the rags to riches story over the last fifty years, especially for a cut I’ve heard likened to a wet rag. When my grandmother took my mom to a taping of Julia Child in the late 1960s wherein she prepared tripe, my grandmother reportedly declined to try the dish because it was considered such a throwaway. Today, it can be found on the menus of some of the best restaurants in the country. Case in point: Osteria Mozza. Read the rest of this entry »

(Iceland posts to resume soon. I just need another Christmas vacation at home to finish them, or a similar situation where I have no responsibilities for two weeks. So, basically, next Christmas.)

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I’m not a perfect foodie. For as much as I cook and dine out, and research restaurants and recipes, and read chefs’ memoirs and food magazines, and bore and offend people with my meat small talk, and fall asleep in the middle of food history books and glasses of wine, there’s a lot out there I don’t know, don’t like, and don’t want to do. And a few things that I don’t care about, too. Here is a modest list. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mývatn to Akureyri

Rarely had I seen a bluer sky or whiter snow than the landscape I woke up to. We got our first view of Mývatn that morning in daylight, no snowstorm or winds, and we observed that the lake itself is only part of the draw of the region — huge volcanoes with deep snow-filled craters circle the lake at a distance, making for a dramatic landscape in the winter and, inevitably, an inviting hiking destination in the summer.

The complimentary breakfast at Vogafjós Guesthouse was the best of our trip. We helped ourselves to Read the rest of this entry »

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Höfn to Mývatn

A replacement SUV rental arrived mid-morning, shortly after we finished our complimentary breakfast in the Höfn Inn’s charming dining room across the street from the guesthouse. We loaded up the car and were soon on our way to the resort area of Lake Mývatn, where we would be staying at a guesthouse with a working dairy farm. I booked it before we’d even bought our flights.

We had every reason to be optimistic about the day’s drive, for a change. Read the rest of this entry »

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Klaustur to Höfn

My guy let me sleep in a little while he looked into driving conditions, doing research on the internet first and then consulting with the concierge at Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. We had no good options, only poor ones in varying degrees of risk and expense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hella to Klaustur

The view out the bedroom window in the morning startled me. In the morning sunlight, in what I would find out was about an hour’s drive east, I saw a long line of snow-capped peaks along the horizon. The evening prior, the visibility wasn’t that good, and the eastward view just looked like farmland. But that morning, Read the rest of this entry »

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