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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.

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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 »

That’s a lie. I’m listing 11, all completely deserving, but 10 just sounds flashier. In no particular order (except the prettiest photo is going at the top)…

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Beef Tongue Schnitzel.

The Beef Tongue Schitzel, $12.00
Bäco Mercat, 408 S Main Street, 90013

Okay. It’s actually a very close call between the tongue schitzel bäco with pickles, harissa, and smoky aioli, and the toron bäco with oxtail, a cheddar hashbrown, and horseradish yogurt sauce. Maybe, in my mind, my dream bäco is breaded and fried beef tongue with a cheddar hashbrown and creamy horseradish sauce. Either way, I’m just happy I live in a world (and especially a city) where chef Josef Centeno has invented these puffy flatbread wraps with forceful meat cuts and innovative sauces and unexpected spices, with the most pleasing textures. He makes a mean mole enchilada at Bar Amá, too.

Turkey Reuben and Waffle Fries, $9.95
Home Los Feliz, 1760 Hillhurst Ave, 90027

Also known as a Georgia Reuben, Home’s turkey reuben comes with Read the rest of this entry »

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Not just any beach day.

My mom has been bringing home an interesting flower bud or two from her morning walks each day and placing them in water in a shallow palm-sized dish shaped and painted like a flower, provided by the condo. Neither plumeria nor hibiscis nor something yellow and pretty has survived until morning. The petals turn brown or the whole flower drinks up so much water it shrinks into a wet little ball. The flowers, the cats, the locals–no one wants to be indoors in Hawaii.

Today, we are going to the beach with the paved road, north of the “lava road” beach and farther from the airport. It’s also part of Kekaha Kai State Park, with its many little bays with difficult-to-pronounce names, and we hope this bay makes for a good beach. But we worry a little–if you don’t almost destroy your rental car getting to the beach, how great can it be?

It could be the best beach in Hawaii.  Read the rest of this entry »

You sweet thing you.

My sweet tooth is just not as assertive about her needs and wishes as she used to be. But when my mom’s outgoing and energetic sweet tooth comes to New York, the two of them get together and paint the town red velvet. Together, our sweet teeth have hit a lot of bakeries, and lately, my sweet tooth — hoping to have a good story for the next phone catch-up — has been checking out bakeries by herself. Here’s what we girls have to say. These might be in some kind of order… I would never admit to it, though.


Sweet Revenge’s Crimson & Cream cupcake, photo courtesy of the amazing tasters at CupcakeRatings.com

Sweet Revenge
62 Carmine Street between Bedford and Downing, West Village, NYC
www.sweetrevengenyc.com

The sweet: We LOVE Sweet Revenge’s Crimson & Cream cupcake, a raspberry red velvet. Bits of berry make it through the blender, right to the batter. Read the rest of this entry »

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