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Posts from November 2013

Deep fried: Turkey

Deep fried turkey1

In my world, deep frying a turkey is not a passing fad.  It's a highly effective and quick method of cooking a delicious whole turkey.  A method which very likely has deep and long roots in southern cooking.  That sounds pretty darned American to me, and since Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, well.  

It's also dangerous, as it can burn you and your shit up in the blink of an eye.  Which is why I'm including this very official disclaimer:  don't try this at home, especially if you're drunk or stupid or, God forbid, both.

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Meta dos Leitões and Pedro dos Leitões: Mealhada, Portugal: suckling pig


Thankfully, Portugal is a small country (smaller than Pennsylvania and a only wee bit bigger than Maine!), so getting from the largest city to the second largest city doesn't take more than a few hours.

We shipped out of Lisbon mid-morning. Destination: Porto. And as usual, we didn't have a plan beyond that.

Finding an interesting place to eat wasn't going to be a problem. This we knew for sure. Finding such an outstanding meal in such an interesting town, well, that was a bit surprising.

During the journey, the missus was poking around the internet, trying to find some food about midway between Lisbon and Porto. The stars aligned that morning, and we discovered an article on the town of Mealhada. What is so special about Mealhada? Suckling pig is what's so special about Mealhada. And lots of it. Stopping for lunch in a town in the middle of nowhere for a local delicacy? We couldn't have designed this morning any better.

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Meste Ze: Cascais, Portugal

Dining room at Pestana Palace, not Meste Zé

Those who ask "why did you go to Portugal" far outnumber those who don't. Which is odd to me, because our thought was "why not go to Portugal."

A while back, during a lazy lunch at Dylan Prime in Tribeca, we decided it was time for a vacation, pronto. Portugal as a destination came up, for no particular reason, and we did some quick research on the iPad. Within minutes of getting home we were booking the flights. In 6 quick weeks we landed in the fabulous city of Lisbon, pretty much having no idea what to expect, and certainly in a foreign land with strange food, not to mention a somewhat baffling language (tip: forget the very little Spanish that you think you know. Italian and French won't help, either).  Hell I couldn't even figure out how to open the trunk on the rental car. But off we went, around a roundabout twice, with reckless abandon, to the stunning Pestana Palace for a night or two. A hotel that lives up to its name.

Lisbon is fabulous, but I'm here to tell you about restaurant Meste Zé, in Cascais, which is about a 30 minute drive due west of Lisbon. With cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, this old fishing village happens to be one of the westernmost points in mainland Europe (the westernmost being just north in Cabo da Roco, Portugal).

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The Big King: Burger King

I can't remember the last time that I liked a newly introduced fast food product. I think any interest I may have in fast food stems more from the fact that I grew up eating it (occasionally), rather than some sort of a true culinary appreciation. Kinda of like how people who grew up around Bergen County rave about The Fireplace in Paramus or White Manna in Hackensack (reality check: White Manna isn't very exceptional, and The Fireplace is just awful). So I like what I am used to: double cheeseburgers, Whoppers, Cruncy Tacos Supreme, and, well, that's about it.

Rest assured, there's nothing wrong with enjoying something, whether it's food or music or a movie or a pair of sneakers, because it reminds you of your childhood and warms your soul. Nothing wrong with that at all.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Burger King's new burger, the Big Muck King, however, does no reminding or soul warming; it's simply not good.

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Organic Tofu House: Ridgewood, NJ

Tofuhouse tofu stew2This pic was taken at home and not representative of the silly-hot vessel in which you'll receive your stew at the restaurant

There's a little spot in Ridgewood, NJ, called Organic Tofu House, or something like that. It's over near Whole Foods, as a point of reference for all of you hippies reading this. You may not realize it, but Organic Tofu House is a fantastic Korean tofu stew spot, and worth a visit.

The focus here seems to be on soft tofu stews, called soondubu jjigae. By the way, something you probably don't know about me: my Korean is 예외적 인.

These are somewhat fiery soups, served very hot in an extremely hot cauldron. So hot as to be comical. It literally looks like a bubbling cauldron of lava that was cooked on the surface of the sun as it comes out to the table.

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Aoyama French Thai & Japanese Cuisine: Wyckoff, NJ

Nothing sounds more uninteresting and uninspired to me than the idea of "Asian fusion." Sure, the concept was working for me for a while back in the mid-90s, at places like Thai Chef in Montclair, and any place with a big gold Buddha or some such. But my palate and expectations have grown since that time, and the thought of going to a restaurant that tries to excel at several different cuisines, or one that mixes them together, never crosses my mind.

Until today.

I think it was a friend who brought Aoyama to my attention, months ago, but I was likely so dismissive that I can't even remember. I suspect the exchange went something like this:

Person: "Have you tried Aoyama in Wyckoff?"
t:e: "What's that?"
Person: "It's a Thai fusion place, and they have great sushi, too."
t:e: [condescending tone] "Yes of course they do."

Well who's the big dummy now? I am. I should have gotten over there as soon as I heard about it.

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Colony Grill pizza: Stamford, CT

It's pretty incredible to think that itty-bitty state of Connecticut has two unique styles of pizza, when most states have zero. The New Haven style, which is perhaps the most widely known, is a close cousin to the Brooklyn style, made famous by places like Grimaldi's and Patsy's in NYC. And then there's this other thing that spawned from Stamford. It's more of a bar pie, akin to the thin crust bar pie places in Northern Jersey (Kinchley's, Star Tavern, Nellie's, et al.), with nothing in common with its New Haven cousin. We found ourselves at Colony Grill, to see what was doin'.

The list of toppings contains the usual traditional suspects. But Colony Grill is known for their hot oil pies, which are served with or without "stinger" peppers, which may or may not be something like serranos.  If you read the internet, you'll hear about how spicy this oil is. Well I'm here to tell you it isn't all that spicy. At least on the day we visited.

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