On the Road with Dennis Starks - Rio

Print Email
by Dennis Starks

The Markets of Rio

brazil1.jpgI am not what you would call a creature of habit, but every Sunday morning in Rio, I open my eyes and think Pastels! I throw on my board shorts, slip into my flip-flops and head straight to the local street market. I merge into the flow of Cariocas making their way to the feira. I can see the flower stalls a block away towering tropical blooms of heliconia, birds of paradise, and jungle roses. My flower vendor is Andres, and we have worked out a deal whereby for fifty reals a week, I can take pretty much whatever I can carry. At this price, I keep my apt flowered to within an inch of its life. Some days it looks like a bridal suite in Waikiki. I spend half an hour considering the possible combination of blooms, blowing on blossoms, and for good measure I hand pick a bagful of golden rose petals for scattering. Then set them aside and set out for Food!

I work my way around the perimeter of the market. The air is fragrant with the aroma of passion fruit and mangos. They have a dozen different types of bananas stacked shoulder high, and a dizzying array of rare exotic fruits from the Amazon jungle that are too fragile to make it out of the country, with names like pitanga, jabuticaba, and bacuri. Somebody hauls a giant stingray out of the ice and it lands at my feet. A fishwife is busy filleting fresh anchovies in front of a stack of coconuts as tall as me. The tourists are clutching their purses, the babies are crying, and the dogs are picking at the scraps.

Finally I reach my destination.

Surf n Turf n Sand n Surf

Print Email
by Joey Power

four-seasons-resort-maui.jpgLots of winters, I’ve been lucky enough to join in the migration unique to a certain subspecies of Los Angeles native where flocks of family units pick up and move five hours by oversold mechanized bird west to an abbreviated hyphen of sand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  But I don’t mean to sound dispassionate or cynical or something, because the nagging concerns of existential meaning1 that the previous sentence  might appear to have summoned kind of just slink away when that first warm blanket of air wraps you up in the middle of December, when the roars of leaf-blowers and the 101 have been traded for the soft lapping of the sea, when you first pull up to the shining white sprawl of a resort where everything from the photocopied New York Times crossword puzzles waiting at breakfast to the pool waterslide helps aid in the dissolution of whatever negative thoughts might be careening around between your ears. 

Never mind that the concept of vacation as escape is turned into this sort of farce due to the feeling that all inhabitants of Southern California who travel to Hawaii during the holidays end up staying at one of three hotels within half a mile of each other on the western shore of Maui and hyper-image-conscious businesspeople/kids/vague acquaintances bump into their peers all week long, except that all the judging here goes on while everybody is half-naked.  Never mind all of that; it’s totally possible to ignore the Dark Side of this scene and just chill out.   

Grape Expectations

Print Email
by Bruce Cormicle


Glowing the color peachblow, I’ve just returned from subsidizing Sonoma’s Wine Country  and have this to say of their grapes: “Fussy, yet serene, bossy yet submissive, a hint of herbaceous seepweed, a scent of doleful dégringolade”.  At least that’s the kind of verbal dexterity I wished I had displayed during  tastings at Lynmar, Martinelli, Siduri, and Kosta Browne wineries (don’t try to find the last one – it has no address and may not even exist). 

Instead I mainly stuck to:  “That’s a great chardonnay or – wow! – that’s a really good pinot noir (if you are looking for cabernet go crash your car in Napa).   I knew that Sonoma was a fun palace for wine but what caught me unawares was the high level of food to be found.

After my girlfriend Betsy and I deplaned at Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, we depacked at Kenwood Inn and Spa for a four night stay (think Twin Peaks meets Fawlty Towers) and headed straight away for delunch at “the girl & the fig” in Sonoma – a perfect bistro beginning to the trip (don’t miss the salt cod croquettes with white bean purée, caramelized onions, meyer lemon-herb salad). Stuffed roasted quail at Café LeHaye (also in Sonoma) would be a must have at another meal and you should be detained and questioned if you don’t order the charcuterie plate at Mosaic in Forestville. 

Helena's Hawaiian Food

Print Email
by Amy Sherman

helenas-sign.jpgIf you want to experience authentic native Hawaiian food, as opposed to the fusion of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese that is common today, you must eat at Helena's Hawaiian Food. I've been going to Helena's since 1977 and while Helena is sadly gone and the location has changed, the food is exactly the same as it ever was. Absolutely delicious. But don't just take my word for it, Helena's was actually recognized with a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine in 2000.

To say Helena's is an unassuming little place would be an understatement. You eat here, you don't dine. It's the kind of restaurant where they don't clear the tables until customers come in the door. Despite the posters and photographs on the walls, it has zero ambiance with mismatched plastic plates and formica tables. It's all about the food which arrives on small plates that are intended to be shared.

In Holland There are Long Lines at the Herring Shacks

Print Email
by David Latt

herringtypes.jpg I was looking forward to seeing the tulips on a recent trip to Amsterdam. I imagined endless fields of brightly colored flowers. Unfortunately I missed tulip season by a week. While the tulips were gone, the spring herring were running and long lines of devotees waited patiently at the herring stands throughout the city.

Pickled herring with sour cream and onions was a staple in my house when I was growing up. Every night my dad had several fat pieces on buttered pumpernickel bread.  Wanting to connect with him, I would join in. The firm fleshed pieces slathered with sour cream, topped with thin strands of pickled onions took some getting used to, but eating herring wasn't so much a culinary preference as an attempt at father-son bonding.

My dad passed away many years ago and I haven't eaten herring since.

While I was in Amsterdam, I wanted to try the local favorites. The Dutch love Gouda, beer, bitterballen – a crispy fried ball of meat and dough – and, of course, herring. I wanted to try them all.

Sketchfest San Francisco

Print Email
by Laraine Newman

sketchfest.jpgThis past weekend I was in San Francisco for The 8th Annual Sketchfest. This was a two week long Comedy Festival with comic performers ranging from Stand-up, One Person Shows, Improv Groups, Sketch Companies and then there were shows that sort of defied description. Some of those were the ones I took part in. 

I was lucky enough to see a few shows besides our own.  I saw The Lampshades; the best fake lounge act I’ve seen in a long time.  The physical work they do is sublime and hilarious. I took a peek at 2-Headed Dog, but they were doing a sketch that had three men running around in their underpants and little else. They were dancing in a manner that had their peculiar distributions of body fat jiggle in a way that caused me to run out of the theatre.  I’m not saying I’m the Venus DeMilo, but I don’t choose to subject anyone to the sight of my sorry flesh sac.

The Theme Park Improv Show had Scott Adsit from 30 Rock and Oscar Nunez from The Office. They were outstanding, but what was really impressive was two of the performers in the troupe were the event promoters. You just never figure people that talented would have it together enough to pull something like this off. They did some of the best improv I’ve seen in a long time.

The Churchill

Print Email
by Carolan Nathan

hyatt-regency-churchill.jpgWhat do you look for when booking a hotel in one of the most tourist attractions of the world, namely London. Perhaps it is good service, perhaps the ambiance, perhaps the restaurant and bars, perhaps the location, and for lovers of comfort, the bedrooms and their amenities. Whatever it is would it not be quite wonderful to find all of these things in one place!

And you The Hyatt Regency London, better known as The Churchill.

A little pricey perhaps but as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

Just stepping into the foyer transports you to a world of glamour, a world of fascinating artwork and enviable service. I say enviable because many other hotels vie for staff as well trained and service oriented as the Churchill staff are. They truly do make a difference to your stay.

Michael Grey, the General Manager, has made his mark in many hotels including the Hyatt Regency Singapore, the Carlton Towers in Knightsbridge and now after a recently completed multi-million pound renovation program, squires his way around this quite stunning property.

Alla Norcina

Print Email
by Michael Tucker

ImageNorcia is a secluded, walled city in the mountainous region of the Valnerina in southeastern Umbria. Its history dates back to the fifth century before Christ. St. Benedict and his twin sister were born there in the year 480. Other than that, Norcia is famous for its pork products and its black truffles. It’s the pork capital of Italy – so much so that the shop of a pork butcher anywhere in Italy is called a norcineria.

There are two very different pasta dishes that go by the name alla norcina. Version one — often made with fresh pasta like fettucine or the local Umbrian pasta, strangozzi – is simply pasta with fresh truffle grated over the top. Of course, it’s not that simple. Actually you chop a clove of garlic together with a couple of anchovies, put them into olive oil in your pan. Heat and stir into a paste. Toss the cooked pasta into the pan, stir and then grate the truffle over the top. That’s one version. Alla Norcina version two is a whole other kettle of macaroni. It’s generally served over dried pasta – usually penne or rigatoni. It features pork sausage and it’s one of the most satisfying recipes in the repertorio – especially in the winter when you want to warm yourself from the inside. So simply, it’s pasta with crumbled sausage, cream and truffles. But once again, it’s not that simple.


restaurant news

Grill 23 . . . going on 30
by Kitty Kaufman

grill23barBack in 1983, Grill 23 opened with what was, for then, a great deal of fanfare. I don't remember being there in the '80s; to be clear, not my eighties. I mention to my sister-in-law Ellen that I'm...

Reuben, Reuben, I've Been Thinking
New York
by Michael Tucker

eisenberg-sand1-300x258.jpg“Have you ever been to Eisenberg’s?” This question from my daughter, Alison. “Shannon and I went after the gym the other day,” she says. “Best Reuben I’ve had in a long time. You should check it...

East Comes West at Chi Lin in West Hollywood
Los Angeles
by David Latt

chilin1Part of a growing trend to serve Chinese food with locavoire sourcing and an attention to healthy choices, Chi Lin off the Sunset Strip (9201 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood CA 90069, 310/278-2068)...

Tapas at Papitu
by Michael Tucker

papituWe took a break from olive picking to hop across the pond to Barcelona to attend the Catalan International Environmental Film Festival. We were invited through our friend, Will Parinnello, who was...