A Treasure in Barcelona

Print Email
by Alison Wonderland Tucker

playa barceloneta-1483757-300x200“This one, honey, this one looks good.”  I said excitedly to Shannon on our first night in Barcelona.  We were standing in front of a small, lofted restaurant with windowed walls, wood furniture and an elaborate artistic white chandelier.

We had been walking through the city for hours and wound up here in Barceloneta, a triangular neighborhood which jettisons out from Barcelona proper and is famous for gorgeous beaches and trendy restaurants.  It was a clear spring evening following a warm eventful day and we were starving and exhausted.

I have a romantic notion about food while on vacation.  I believe that the most incredible meals will be found in restaurants on curvy, dimly lit side streets, run by generations of ego-free chefs who just want to cook incredible food for their family and whoever might be brave or lost enough to stumble down their road.  This theory gets me into a lot of trouble.

We had walked down many a crooked street that day to no avail.  The restaurant we stood in front of that night, Lonja de Tapas, was clearly not the place in my fantasy (a lot of money had been put into the décor and it was very crowded), but low blood sugar was fueling my optimism and I bounded through the door.

Exploring Like A Local: Richmond, British Columbia

Print Email
by Matt Armendariz

porkdumplingsTo understand the food in Richmond you must have a quick lesson on demographics and history. Don’t worry, it’s quick. Richmond began to see many immigrants from Hong Kong and throughout Asia after World War II, with a great number flowing in during the 1990s. Currently, Richmond is 65% Asian, 49% of those are Chinese. You’ll find other Asian cultures as well, particularly Southeast Asian as well as a mix of other cultures from all over the world. But this predominately Chinese makeup means restaurants, stores, shops and markets all cater to an Asian population, and visiting and eating is pure heaven for a guy like me.

What you won’t find in Richmond is a central Asian neighborhood, a place that announces itself with a banner or red arches as a gateway to a Chinatown. Here Chinese culture here is woven into every aspect of living, reflected not only in its citizens but also through signage and everyday life. I have never felt more like a visitor in Asia than I did in Richmond, and considering I was still standing in North America my mind was blown away.

Then there’s the food. Oh my goodness, the food. The New York Times said Richmond has “the best Chinese food outside China” and I’m not going to disagree. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my trips to Asia it’s this: food must be of a certain quality, taste good, be made and served properly…there are definitely standards. Richmond was no different. Each restaurant I visited seemed to outdo the last as I sampled Hong Kong-style comfort foods, Malaysian noodles, a Shanghainese dim sum as well as glorious food courts within 2 distinct Asian malls.

The Pride of England

Print Email
by Alison Wonderland Tucker

cafe-rougeMy mother, Shannon, and I scurried down Little Clarendon Street, Oxford at around 10:15 at night.  We were starving and eager to sit down and talk.  My mom had steered us down this road because there are a number of good restaurants to choose from: French, Italian, Tapas, Indian.  I peered into each window and chose the least crowded of the bunch – the French one.  If left to me, I will always choose the emptiest because I find that the din of busy restaurants these days overwhelms any chance of having a decent conversation.  We hadn’t traveled all this way to explore new cuisine.  We had come to see my mom.

My birthmother just graduated from The Continuing Education Department at Oxford University, with a focus on regional history.  I couldn’t be more proud than to celebrate her continuing achievements, so Shannon and I flew to Oxford to watch her graduation ceremony that evening.

We pushed open the big red door of Café Rouge and walked through the bar into the dining room of the brasserie.  The room was big with dark oak floors and tables, burgundy velvet banquettes, and antiqued mirrors which hung from every wall.   We waited for a few minutes and then were shown to our table by a disinterested, lanky blonde waiter.  He carelessly danced around, making faces at another lanky blonde waiter working the other side of the room.  Menus were tossed onto our table, orders taken and we started to catch up. 

I Dream of Umbria

Print Email
by Michael Tucker

umbriapoppiesAround the first of June, we’ll fly to our house in Italy for the summer, but until then I’ll just close my eyes and dream about Umbria in the spring.

The poppies are starting to pop right about now and our whole neighborhood looks like the road to Oz. Everybody’s tucking into abbacchio, spring lamb, roasted in the oven with potatoes, rosemary and garlic.

Or simpler yet, scottadito, lamb chops pounded thin, brushed with olive oil and flash-grilled over a wood fire. You hold the chop by the bone end and eat it with your fingers. Scottaditi means burned fingers.

The thing about the lamb in Umbria is that it tastes better. That’s about all you can say. Americans have great beef and they’re starting to figure out how to raise pork – not there yet, but better — but as for lamb, forget about it; go to Italy.

It has something to do with the way the lambs eat over there, how they live and also how they die — at a much younger age that anyone would allow them to die in the States. American lambs get older; Italian lamb tastes better.

The Age of Impressionism at the Kimbell

Print Email
by Haley Schultheis

5.-the-cliffs-at-etretat-1885-by-monetI always enjoy a weekend trip to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth. When I found they were hosting an Impressionist exhibit this year, I couldn’t have been more excited. The Age of Impressionism: Paintings from the Clark opened on March 11th and continues through June 17th. In fact, Ft. Worth is the sole American city on this exhibit’s first-ever international tour.

The Sterling and Francine Clark collection is world-renowned and includes some of the most famous masterpieces of the Impressionist era from Renoir, Monet, Manet, Pisarro, Sisley, Morisot, Gauguin, and more. In fact, the exhibition, a total of 73 paintings, includes 21 pieces by Renoir and 6 by Monet.

Within the exhibit at the Kimbell, there is an entire room of the most beautiful Renoir paintings I’ve ever seen in one place and in another room, there is a special focus on pieces by Degas. Some of my favorites from the exhibit were Marie-Thérese Durand-Ruel Sewing (1880) by Renoir and A Box at the Theater (At the Concert) (1880), another portrait by Renoir. There are also several breathtaking landscapes. The Cliffs at Étretat (1885) by Monet - took my breath away.

Paris, On My Mind

Print Email
by Brenda Athanus

Tears always run down my cheeks as we cross that first bridge on the way to the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. I promise myself repeatedly that I won’t cry, but I always do. I can feel my emotions start to well up when I am denied Paris air when the Air France autobus door shuts out the sweet scent of my favorite city. I get anxious knowing the door won’t open again for a whole year as I start my ungraceful shuffle homeward bound. I’m not sad to be going home, I’m sad to be leaving Paris.

For 12 months I dream of all the smells of my early morning walks on the quiet streets of my favorite Arrondisement. The aroma of onions and shallots cooking in cafes as their day starts, the sleepy venders setting up their display at the daily market smile at me. The familiar butcher from a few doors down has arrived for his morning glass of red wine with his apron stained with fresh blood. No need for him to talk; an empty glass slides across the copper bar and the bartender fills it to the rim. The same faces of my wordless companions sit at the same surrounding tables as we all sip our morning beverages silently. We never talk but yet I miss them. I even check my watch when the garbage truck is running late. The sound of the truck and the assault of diesel fumes that fills my favorite café on the corner, I miss that too.

A Magical Hidden Kitchen

Print Email
by Brenda Athanus

ImageWe had reservations for a "secret dinner" at an undisclosed location for the last 2 weeks that I sadly can't disclose to anyone. To say that I was very excited would be an understatement as I have always fantasized about what it would be like to have my own private dinner club, but that is a whole other story.

This saturday night in Maine it was very cold and clear, the sky was full of stars and just a perfect half moon guided our way as we barreled down country roads riddled with frost heaves for over an hour-heading for a small coastal "unnamed" town. We are instructed by an email sent just 2 days before to arrive at 6 sharp, but we arrived a half hour early and parked in front of the still dark location. We look at the facade of the old brick building for any sign of activity but there is none, just a soft light coming from the shuttered second floor windows. Our vehicle is one of only 3 cars parked on the whole of Main Street, every car that passes slows down and notices our presence. Do they know that we are waiting outside a underground dinner club or is it just something one does automatically when they live in a small Maine town. We feel a bit anxious – will dinner be good? Will the company be interesting?

Best Date Shake

Print Email
by Jeanne Kelley

date1.jpgA couple of weekends ago, Martin and I headed out to Joshua Tree for a quick camp-out. Fall in the National park is spectacular. We enjoyed bouldering, dominoes, wine and beans by the campfire, a starry slumber, early morning coffee in our enamel-ware mugs and a wonderful hike to an Oasis.

The hike and camp-teardown got us hankering for a date shake, knowing that we would be driving through Thermal, CA., a.k.a. date country, on our way home.

Thermal is dotted with date gardens – they are not called farms or orchards. Date palms grow in the Coachella Valley and require something like 360 days of bright sun and 90-100ºF a year to grow, and man, do they thrive. You can visit date gardens to take tours and to buy dates. The November issue of Sunset has a great article about date gardens. This one, Brown Date Garden, looks pretty cool.

Paradise Found

Print Email
by Jesse Sirkus-Brown

joshua_main.jpgDo you remember Mrs. Gooch’s health food stores? Opened in West Los  Angeles in 1977, Sandy Gooch’s markets served Southern California hazard-free food until Whole Foods acquired it in 1993. If you remember it fondly, you’re ripe for the picking. And let’s face it, if you’re reading this you know its time for an escape. Religious experience or not, the desert is dialing your exhausted and stressed number. Life can take its toll, especially for those who spend a great portion of their day trudging through traffic under the constant sun of Los Angeles, California. It’s only human to reconnect with nature by departing the idiosyncratic superficialities that surround you: billboards demanding you lose weight, drink specific liquor, or watch the latest blockbuster that diminishes your intelligence. Let a Midwesterner tell you weeks of nothing but vitamin D infused blue skies can cause disenchantment!

The cure? Hop in a Prius for a three hour, fifteen dollar trip to California’s most nouveaux-riche desert ala Joshua Tree. Exodus from your car in Palm Springs for the best smoothie this side of the Mojave. Hadley’s Date Shake, infamous for its delectable dates has an ample selection of nuts, dried fruit, gifts, and photos of your favorite celebs that have tasted Hadley’s desert nectar. Dates+bananas+ice cream = dessert oasis.

Shhhh! It's a Secret!

Print Email
by Libby Segal

ImageWalking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, on my final night in the city before leaving for Rome, I found myself skipping the turn to my apartment, for something much more appetizing than a healthy amount of sleep – in fact something much more unhealthy—a croissant filled with chocolate.

But shh…it’s a secret, and no one is supposed to know.

The secret that I speak of is that of the secret bakeries that fill the back alleyways of Florence, Italy. But to learn of the secret locations, you need not read about them, seek them out, or stumble upon them. No, it takes something much more simpler than this to learn of the secret bakery locations – your nose, and not a very strong one at that.

Walking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, at a distance of four blocks away, the smell of fresh bread, pizza, and chocolate lurked through the streets like a night prowler searching for it’s prey. Like a textbook kidnapping, the bakery smell took my ability to make a conscious decision to go straight home.


restaurant news

The Golden State
Los Angeles
by Sara Mohazzebi

goldenstatelogo.jpgTwo years ago, I made a decision that forever changed my dining experience. I stopped being friends with anyone who doesn’t like to eat. Living in Los Angeles, the city of beautiful people, this...

Thelonious Monkfish
by Kitty Kaufman

monkfish 1As I walk to where I'm meeting a friend in Cambridge at Thelonious Monkfish, I pass three places with sidewalk seating. I must sit outside today. I have café envy. Sadly, no one is sitting outside...

Where to Eat in Austin during South by Southwest
by David Latt

driskill1Treat yourself to the pleasures of well-prepared meals in comfortable settings by starting at the Driskill Hotel, centrally located at the corner of Brazos and Sixth Street. For dinner, the

Michael's Pizzeria
Southern California
by Matt Armendariz

michaelslogo.jpg You might remember we were on a slight squash kick recently. It coincided with a visit to one of my favorite restaurants here in Long Beach, Michael’s Pizzeria. I’ve said a million times that I...