Friday, December 19, 2008

A Lesson Before Dining: Chapter 1

This week’s lesson was all about the basics. We took on knife skills, stock making, soup making, and omelets. The class met at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle to peruse the fresh produce and meats, discuss goals for the day, and select the ingredients for the hands on course work. The class chopped carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, sage and mushrooms for the soup, and skinned chicken legs for the stock. We also made an Italian inspired omelet with a bit of thyme, parmesan, black pepper and a hint of Dijon mustard.

Below is a recount of the participants’ experiences:

The UE said…Stock making has always been a big issue with me. Though one of the most important ingredients in a plethora of dishes and sauces, I have never taken the time to learn how to properly make it, so this week was particularly exciting. Since the class is comprised of just me and my eager partner, it was great to share my knowledge and experience with a good friend who hadn’t been given the opportunity to learn things like dicing and boiling. We sat together at a table while prepping, discussing life and politics, and every so often I’d take the knife to show her how the easiest and safest way to perform a knife skill. It is my personal interest to see just how well this course will enable a culinary novice to be able to make their own foods, but everyone needs some guidance, and since we didn’t have time to watch the videos, this was my best bet. We prepped food, skimmed the stock, tasted and seasoned. Soup is one of those dishes that doesn’t really require exact ingredients, so it was a perfect starter to the course. While waiting for the flavors in the soup to commingle, we decided to make a quick omelet. Eggs are a lot like chicken – you can prepare them any number of ways with different seasonings and garnishes. I decided to make one to my tastes, tossed in some Dijon mustard and threw it on the pan. The food came out amazing – better than expected. I’ve never made soup before and I was scared it would taste weak and bland, but thanks to our selection of ingredients, we had a phenomenal soup on our hands.

Lou said…Daunting to say the least, I’ve always had a love hate relationship with cooking. In my household growing up, it was something that happened on very special occasions and holidays---sort of like a distant cousin that came to visit a few times a year. In my adult life, I’ve often scoffed at how much value is placed on women knowing how to cook (most likely because I didn’t have the know-how), but after years of Ramen noodles and canned Spaghetti-O’s, I find myself welcoming the opportunity to learn what this cooking things is all about.

Novice doesn’t quite capture what I am when it comes to cooking. In my first cooking session with my cooking aid/teacher, I had to be taught how to hold a cutting knife, and embarrassingly enough, had trouble getting the stove turned on. But alas, there was a certain pride I felt walking through Whole Foods picking out fresh ingredients; seeing and smelling them to detect quality. Chicken vegetable soup – with almost 17 unique ingredients was the challenge for the day. I learned to chop, mince, skin and boil chicken, and my aid threw in omelet making for good measure. Nothing was more gratifying than tasting the fruits of my labor. In my first session alone, my distant cousin cooking taught me many valuable lessons and take aways; patience, attentiveness and gratification. Looking forward to next week when we take on pasta and fried chicken.


White Chicken Stock
Hearty Chicken Soup
Fresh 4 Egg Omelet

Suggested Videos & Readings

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Back to Basics

Do I know how to cook?

That was the question I’d been asking myself the last few weeks. On the surface, it would seem almost facetious. I mean, I write a freaking blog about the foods I make and host numerous self-catered gourmet dinner parties. But, through one of my characteristic self-assessments, I asked myself if it were not for those recipes, would I be able to cook?

Let’s start from the beginning.

Recently, there was an audition for “The Next Food Network Star” held not too far from my office. More than a few of my friends heard about it, and began encouraging me to try out. Now, while I don’t LIKE Food Network, or the show itself, I considered it. At the very least, the ego boost of being on TV would be an unmatchable experience. I watched some clips of competitions and began to get this inexplicable knot in my stomach. I said no to trying out for the Food Network show. But still, that knot was there…

The knot came back while I was watching the first episode of the current season of Top Chef. Inspired by the nickname of this season’s host city, New York, the chefs were forced to use their basic knife skills to peel and dice apples, and ultimately create an awe-inspiring dish out of those same apples. The loser of this challenge was sent home after just arriving. Typical New York – go hard or go home crying.

I found myself wondering if I would have been the one sent home. The knot in my stomach returned with a vengeance. I realized I would have had no idea what to do in that scenario. What would I have done with apples? How could I possibly have come up with a dish that would have impressed the judges so soon after arriving?

I took a long, hard look at my cooking abilities, and after reading and meditation I realized just what was missing. I find that while I can execute a recipe well, my problems tend to come mostly from conceptualizing outside of my abilities. I am limited in my knowledge of HOW to do certain things, like poaching or properly oven roasting certain meats, and because of said ignorance, I am restricted in the number of options I mentally iterate through when evaluating what to cook. All too often I find myself standing in grocery aisles holding produce and thinking “what can I do with this”, when often times the culinary greats I know would be saying “this would be good if I did this, or this, and maybe even this”.

I decided it was time to admit the gap in my own abilities and experiences, and get back to basics.

I designed a self-directed cooking syllabus, complete with readings, video tutorials, and homework tasks, that should cover all the chef basics from knife skills to sauce making to poaching. To test the efficacy of this course, I have recruited a close friend who has interest in learning how to cook, but never had the exposure or time to learn. If effective, she will be able to cook basic meals with confidence and inspiration upon completion of this course, and I should emerge with the fundamental understanding of a much broader spectrum of techniques that I can continue to build upon as any culinary graduate would.

Will I emerge a chef, deserving of a kingly jacket and command of minions? Or come home still just a cook looking for a recipe?

-The UE

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Friday, December 12, 2008

This Week, In Wine Class

For the last 6 weeks, I, with my trusty companion Lemnada, have been taking the Introduction to Wine Essentials course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). It has been an incredibly enriching experience, despite its poor timing (Saturday from 7-9pm EST). I mean, that’s prime time!

Taught by an engaging Richard Vayda, veteran of the wine industry and member of the
Sommelier Society, the course began with an introduction to the basics – the general history of wine, how it is made, and its nutritive importance to the world then and now. Richard gave us an overview of just how important wine is to certain cultures, especially in France, which has the most rigorous classification system for wine today. We also discussed the subject of terroir and its importance to the quality of the wine, as well as the surrounding climate that incubates the grapes to their best.

Before this class, I always thought of wine (and food) as a great way to reach back through history and connect with a people different than myself. Despite cultural background, gender or status, all peoples had a form of wine in their lives, whether it was nutritious, sanitary, or just plain tasted good. I had done a fair amount of research, but wanted to enhance my knowledge by leaning on an expert to fill the gaps.

While taking the class, Richard offered not only the techniques and know-how for wine tasting, but the image of a person truly in love with the wine experience. After spending so much time discussing how much care goes into creating wine, from picking the right grapes, to blend proportions, and even the vessels in which the wine ferments, wine itself became a form of art, representing centuries of family traditions expressed in a simple, unassuming glass. I began to see this beverage as more than just a medium through which ancient man stored calories or even trade leverage over another country. Wine began to be a full blown sensory experience.

After the class, I pondered exactly what I had taken away from the class that I would share with the masses. Did I learn more about the history of wine? Yes. Could I lecture you more accurately and knowledgeably about the importance of terroir? Definitely. Am I more of a snob? I plead the fifth, but I’m sure my friends have their own opinions.

However, none of these topics affected me as deeply as the implications of the actual wine tasting process. Wine tasting typically conjures thoughts of
turtlenecks, fondue and Kenny G’s greatest hits. But I think the most important, and sadly most often, overlooked aspect of wine tasting is the incredibly enriching and stimulating personal experience offered. Drinking a glass of wine is more than just washing down your canapé or steak. It’s a rejuvenating opportunity to pause and step outside of your stress, your daily calamities and the whirlwind lives we all live to fall helplessly into an abyss of enjoyment. Tasting wine is less about what’s in the glass and more about stopping to notice every little detail. It envelops your olfactory with a wash of aromas, coaxing your memory to remember ghosts of Christmas past (seriously, when was the last time you had a blackberry pie?). It slows down life and forces you, the busy urban professional, to appreciate and understand that some things in life cannot be next-day delivered, instant messaged, or told to step-on-it. Some things, beautiful things, must be taken slowly and savored down to the last morsel. I realized just how much life has been flying by me lately, and how much I looked forward each week to stopping to smell the rosé.

-The UE

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Post Script - Proper Tasting Technique

For those of you interested, here is a quick summary of proper wine tasting technique, and the information on the course I took. Worth every penny!

Proper Tasting (Courtesy of Richard Vayda)

Step 1 – Look

Tilt the glass slightly away from you so light can shine directly onto the wine. It’s generally best to hold wine over a white surface to ensure proper visibility of the color. With age, white wines become darker, evolving from green, to yellow, gold and finally brown. Oppositely, red wines lose their color, changing from dark purple, to red, to brick. Knowing this helps you assess if the wine is appropriately aging in the bottle. For example, a 2008 white shouldn’t be gold – something may have been wrong with the how the wine was wine stored. Take time to appreciate the color, its density, and the feeling it gives you. Some wines look silky and soft, and others look creamy and deliciously rich. How does this one make you feel?

Step 2 – Smell

Swirl the glass (beginners, keep it on the table and swirl by holding the base) to agitate the wine and release some of the smells. Put your nose to the glass – don’t hesitate to stick it all the way in – and inhale. Do you smell any off or sour odors that you typically wouldn’t smell in wine? This may indicate something wrong with the bottle. Do you smell tree fruit, citrus fruit, or berries? New or old fruit? Can you detect the smell of woodiness, sometimes thought to be smokiness? What else is in there? Really get after it and try to appreciate the complete smell for its building blocks.

Step 3 – Taste

Swirl the glass, smell it again, and take a small sip, enough to cover your tongue. How does it feel in your mouth, heavy, light, or in between? Does the sweetness tingle the front of your tongue? Is there enough acid or tannin in the wine to percolate the edges? And how about the back of your tongue, any bitter stimulation there? Take another sip and really go after the flavor. Open your mouth slightly and breathe some air over the wine to encourage the smells to stimulate your senses. Did the smells translate into flavor? Did those ripe strawberries get in the glass? Was the wine deceptively tart smelling, but in fact is a bright and lively mix of dark cherries? Did that grassy smell translate into a hay flavoring?

Step 4 – Discuss

Take a second to talk amongst yourselves. Did your tastes line up? Were there things that your compatriots tasted that maybe you missed? Feel free to share if the wine strikes a particular memory before (I've been on a beer tasting at which the beer reminded me of black eyed peas after New Years). Wine is not only a partner for food, but a partner for intimate, genuine conversation. This is not a competition. The final step is about sharing a bit of yourself with the people you chose to spend this precious time with. Enjoy!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


To My Beloved Readers,

Today, Taste and See has recorded 10,000 hits to the site, in under a year. While this is not an astronomical feat in comparison to other sites, I find it infinitely motivating! This blog was established primarily as an outlet for my thoughts and creative aspirations through discussing the medium I love the most - food. For this content and these topics to continue resonating with an ever expanding audience means the world to me (and confirms that I may only be a little crazy). I appreciate every word you read, and every visit you pay. I look forward to continuing this journey together.

You stay classy readers, and thanks for stopping by.

Warmest Regards and Thanks,
The UE

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


To My Favorite Bordeaux,

I can't say I know too many people who liked you when you were younger. You were too caustic, too one dimensional and too obtuse. Suffice to say, you were just too sour for people to palette. Some of the less intuitive gave up on you, citing their disappointment that so much potential amounted to such an unimpressive slosh with an overpriced cork on its shoulders.

But something about you told me to stick around. I don't know. Something about your aura gave me a glimmer of hope for a better future. I kept you around and watched you evolve. Gave you the space you needed to grow. Tried to temper your environment. Even shared words of encouragement and tidbits of inspiration to push your aspirations higher. For a few years, you resisted, and even I almost gave up. Not even Dionysus himself could force a change in your tannic ways.

I blissfully bore witness to the gradual shedding of your former self, and like a butterfly you emerged from your self-imposed protective shell to grace the world with the inner radiance I saw in you before I knew what to call it. I am proud to say I know you, for to know you is to know perseverance, humility and hope.

You only get better with time.

-The UE

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Wine - The Original Liquid Asset

The world has changed. Markets have unraveled, credit has all but dried up, and an interdependent global economy has been stunted by the concentrated greed and short-sightedness of certain members of the American economy. Now with governments scrambling to act but not knowing where to begin, and no end in sight, we the common people, must sit and wait as we helplessly bear witness to the onerous and precipitous freefall of wealth and home values across the world. Crisis looms just over the horizon…

With an outlook as grim as that, we need a drink!

Fortunately, wine has been providing a lively and cost-effective escape from human woes for centuries. Historically, it has been seen as a mere physical aide in the mental escape from earthly troubles (read: get drunk and forget). But in these trying times, people have begun to see more than just drinkability in wine. Articles are being written and funds are being raised to take advantage of the increased interest in “liquid assets”. Investor money has begun to see a new way to enjoy this heavenly nectar – ownership. In previous posts, the UE has highlighted to the reader the beginnings of what has become a new craze in an already mentally unstable investing world. Like fine art, fine wine appreciates over time, so whether you buy a case of wine today, or buy a family owned vineyard and winery, you stand to potentially make money in a market that has weathered several generations of ups, downs and burnings of Rome.

And now, thanks to a phenomenal woman by the name of Jerryanne Heath, CEO of the avant-garde event and marketing consulting firm ConceptLink
(, we have the opportunity to take part in both the consumption of and learning about investing in wine. She will be hosting a wine tasting event around the topic of “Investment Opportunities in a Down Market”, bringing together two important and often interrelated vices of life – wine and money. Wine has lasted through centuries of flood, famine, war and regime change - isn't it time you looked at wine with more than just a thirsty eye?

Join the UE, Jerryanne and the whole crew on Friday, October 24th from 6-8pm at the Penn Club on 44th St in NYC for a sampling of wines and investor knowledge.

this link for more details and early-bird ticket purchases. See you there!

-The UE

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Stream of Consciousness – A Departure from Reality

Recently, the UE’s travels have propelled him to beautiful, exotic locations, enticing sunset backgrounds for some of the best, and most disappointing, food in his gastronomic career. The trip, aside from being deeply relaxing and overall pleasant, was a springboard for incredibly deep self reflection. Whether it was peering into the night across a bay while enjoying the greatest mojito of all time, or sampling local cuisine off a cart after just finishing an intensely over-sized and equally flavorful omelet, the UE fell head first into a gushing of self reflection.

And what did he learn? To truly understand this, we must take a step back into the dark recesses of his mind and seek out the fluttering bats of truth hiding from the light

Once upon a time, the UE was a significantly different person. Apathetic to his personal success, indifferent to the influence his words could and do have on those around him, doping and boozing (which still happens on occasion), the Urbane Epicurean was more of a Directionless Jack – successful at everything, passionate for not.

The UE has always had a strong appreciation for quality, in every sense of the word. Growing up, my favorite dish would be the most simplistic ramen dishes my Pacific Island mother would concoct using whatever reasonable ingredients lay around the house. (Hint: add a little egg to the boiling stew of ramen noodles and it will increase your pleasure return ten-fold). Quality friends were always a large focus of mine, but not in the sense of people who are on “successful” track or were born in any specific circle. I enjoyed the people who were genuine, honest, and thought. Potheads, yes. Local juve convicts – wave them in. Hippies currently in school for a masters in tree hugging? All day, everyday. Foods come in all shapes, colors, and backgrounds, and I love them all differently and equally. Are you always in the mood to have pizza? No. Are you always in the mood to see the guys you watch football with? No. But just like breakfast, lunch and dinner, they all have their places and times, and to ignore the importance of balance would almost be a sin to the mantra of a foodist.

Demanding the best is a must. Who enjoys going to a restaurant and having bad service, or a less-than-fresh halibut steak? A good cook aims to do the best job serving his customers while balancing the duties of caring for an army of minions – cooks, dishwashers, runners, etc. He’s not always the nicest, but loyalty to him is always well rewarded. Something could be learned from the Italians about demanding the freshest quality ingredients to create the most amazing dishes. Life is no different.

Quality ingredients make for a quality dish. And if we can all agree that life serves us one dish after another, then why not control the quality of the people you use to season them?

But just because you have exceptional skill at masterminding a Rembrandt on a plate, are you then limited by your exceeding skill to just that? Are we not free beings that should be allowed to make and accept our choices and their consequences?

-The UE

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Urbane Adventure - Part 2

Our next stops were no more than a block away from each other, but couldn’t have been any more divergent in offering. Delhi Heights is a full fledged restaurant, complete with a stocked liquor bar and a tuxedo shirt wearing wait staff. In contrast, Delhi Palace, despite its name, was actually a small bakery, manned by two ladies and offering only to-go meals in small plastic containers. Both offered North Indian cuisine, which consists of the better known naan and paneer dishes most of us have sampled at one point in our lives.

Delhi Heights is fabled for its roti rolls, the offspring of a one-night stand between the teenaged burrito and the older, more experienced naan. The result – a sand-burrito-roll of lettuce, uniquely seasoned meats, and red onions.
Needless to say, the UE tossed half of his out ($10 / ea).

Delhi Palace was a little more eventful. I walked in and read through the menu, generally knowing I wanted to order samosas, but not sure which to get. The listings suggested a Samosa Maat, which I personally had never had, so I ordered those for the group. I returned to the troop with two plastic bowls filled with crumbled crispy samosa covered in a pepper and chole sauce, which gave a special contrast to the potato and vegetable filled crunchy base. If you rarely eat spicy foods, this would be a challenge. The sauce included bits of fresh jalepeno, minced into a puree of garlic, onions and several other dry powder spices. The resulting blend, though not the most aesthetically pleasing, turned out to be an enchantingly stimulating roux. For those spice-impaired, I picked up a mango lassi, a yogurt based fruit drink. The base dairy helped to calm the acidic spicy food in everyone’s stomach, and would later help with its departure ($12.81).

One of the most felicitous effects of food continues to be its ability to connect us with our past. A certain smell, a favorite dish, familiar sounds, and even just the sight of a chef (read: mother in the kitchen) can slingshot the eater back into his pre-adolescent state, when the only things we worried about were Saturday morning cartoons and beating the newest Nintendo game. Dining at Ihawan, the UE pleasantly experienced all of the above.

Ihawan is a Filipino restaurant near 70th and Roosevelt Avenue. Be alert when searching as the restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of an unspectacular building. But as we all learned as impressionable kindergarteners, never judge a book by its cover. My group of food-weary companions mustered enough courage and strength to attentively man the utensils at a table. My half-and-half brother and I debated the potential menu selections, and settled on an array of palobok and pancit (noodles), some lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), and lechon (roasted suckling pig). Excitedly, we tossed aside our utensil in favor of Filipino chopsticks, and dug in. The pancit immediately reminded me of days when my mother didn’t feel like cooking and would toss all she could into a wok with a bit of soy sauce and some rice noodles in hopes of satisfying a starving child. The lumpia rekindled images of the days when my Filipino family would sit around a dining table with wrappers, sautéed pork, vegetables and a water bowl, slowly stuffing and rolling small egg rolls for a party. The rice was the highlight, reminiscent of the days when I would grab a bowl only just rice and Filipino chopsticks to accompany my video game marathons (rice isn’t greasy, better for the controls). All in, I think this was the personal highlight of the trip. We ordered 3 plates of lumpia, and finished every bit of food to the last morsel ($60 total). Stuffed to the point of borderline sedation, we had only 1 stop left to make on the trip for which everyone found a small pocket of room in their stomachs.

Bohemian Beer Hall and Garden is technically located in Astoria, but given I could only muster support for one day, I decided that it was the perfect end to an already memorable round of food, fun and laughs. Beer gardens in New York are unique entities, habitually offering an array of specialty brews as well as Belgium and German favorites in a pseudo-outdoor environment. As the group approached the entrance way, we were hastily cut by some other people anxious to get in. We figured this must be the greatest treasure in all the land to coax rational people into irrational behavior. Stepping through the first door proved to be less than expected, as it was a totally empty bar room with a few benches and some people in line for pitchers. Over the loud groans from my compatriots, I urged them to remember this was a beer GARDEN, and there must be some outdoor space to enjoy. How little we were prepared for what we saw next.

Through the next door, we found an enormous outdoor seating area, complete with picnic tables and a stage area for performances. This place was packed full of everyone from the coolest hipsters discussing the latest strategies of fitting into the next size down of jeans, to the oldest of Yankees celebrating their milestone birthdays. We luckily found a table that could fit all 8 of us, and swarmed to claim it. One amongst us had been so kind to provide us with homemade s’more brownies. The chocolate, creamy filling and crunchy coatings provided a perfect pair with the dark, malty German beers we sampled ($45 / $15 per pitcher).


Total Spent: $188.61 / ~$24 per person

At one point during this trip, I reflected on the deeper meaning of what we were doing. Within our group alone, we had almost every race possible represented. The last 2 hours we spent time laughing, sharing our hopes and dreams, and eating great food with no quarrels. The beauty of the American dream shone through on our excursion, not only just in the group dynamics, but also in the wonder that within 20 blocks we managed to personally experience 5 distinct cultures, and observe countless others represented (on one block there was actually a Peruvian restaurant on one side of the street, and a Citibank with Chinese lettering on the other). How wonderful a country we live in where people, the real people, see past each others differences and pasts, and warm to each other’s truest self-worth. This trip was not just a successful food experiment, but an impactful social study as well.

The day ended with sunshine, blue skies, and full stomachs. Thank you to those who attended, without you, none of this would have been possible.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urbane Adventure - Part 1

Jackson Heights is home to one of the most diverse ethnic neighborhoods in the entire world. Within less than 10 blocks of the subway, you may procure Korean, Thai, Indian, Filipino, and Ecuadorian food (just to name a few). Jackson Heights is a literal cornucopia of food choices with which to tantalize and entice the palette.

Armed with a map of treasure locations, and a few bottles of aperitif to get the stomach ready, the UE and 7 companions went adventuring into the wilds of Jackson Heights. We met at Grand Central Station on the East Side of New York, and hopped the 7 train into the unknown. The excitement electrified the air, drawing stares from the Queens natives as we chatted loudly about our expectations from the afternoon’s adventures. The beauty of food is its ability to inspire the growth of a community around it, and as illustrated by the rainbow of explorers on this excursion, food brought the most unlikely together in a unilateral pursuit of that which stimulates the senses and serotonin.

Our first stop was a small El Salvadorian café called Tierres Salvadorena, a quaint neighborhood café near 90th and Roosevelt Avenue. Every aspect of this diner was homey and inviting, from the lively and friendly waitresses, to the soccer match playing quietly on the television, subdued patrons watching attentively. Despite my mediocre attempt at Spanish, I managed order some pork and cheese
pupusas for the group. The freshly made corn cakes are stuffed with filling and lightly deep fried into a pancake of chorizo heaven. Needless to say, as an appetizer, this hit home. I was recently introduced to pupusas by a good friend in Houston, and would have been remiss to travel into the South American food capital of the city and not sample some of this mouth watering fare, homage to the M&M mantra of mouth melting ($6.40).

The Ecuadorans welcomed our eager mouths next at El Pequeno Café, a multi-cultural café experience specializing in foods from Ecuador, Colombia and El Salvador, just to name a few. We ordered another South American specialty – a whole roasted chicken, yellow rice, and beans.

The platoon fell on the poultry like
jarheads at the mess hall, tearing away at almost every crevice the feathered meal offered. While the chicken was savory, it was not a standout dish. Honorable mention should be given to the side of rice, however. Butter gave this plate a shimmering, almost glowing character, not undeserved either, as the perfectly cooked rice tantalized the mouth with soft, creamy textures of buttered rice and lightly steamed vegetables ($12.40).

The crew marched on.

Due to its unassuming nature, the UE almost missed the next stop on our hike. Underneath the bridge, there were a few carts scattered on opposite corners, none having a large sign. But only one had a line of people waiting rubbing their hands in anticipation. I knew this must be our next stop – Tacos Guicho. This cart has gained notoriety from several food critics for its simple, fresh ingredients and bold, memorable flavors. I ordered 2 each of the chorizo, pollo and lengua tacos. The tacos came relatively quickly, as the mother / daughter team prepared them right on the spot. Fresh quacamole was practically a footnote to the myriad of flavors in this epic. The chorizo was alive with undertones of freshly ground cumin, earthly and spicy. I refused to tell anyone what
lengua was until we had all tried some, and shocked some of our more experienced taste officers when they realized they spent their entire time eating just that ($12.00).

To be continued...

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Urbane Adventure - Photo Slideshow

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Queens - Just Another Stamp in the Passport?

Queens, New York.

When one hears this faux-city title, immediately images of
grimy airports, the Mets and famous Eddie Murphy movies come to mind. Queens is technically a borough in New York City proper, but how can New York actually consider this a part of its immediate family? How is it possible that such a refined, classy, educated and cultured lady as Manhattan possibly be related to the foul, unearthly and unkempt Queens? The beast to Manhattan’s beauty, Queens isn’t known for being the classiest of joints.

Truth be told, the UE is prejudice. I live in Manhattan, breathe in Manhattan, and hold close to heart the life in Manhattan. Despite the small square mileage of this city, the outer burrows may as well be on another continent. It legitimately takes equally as long to ride a train from Harlem to Brooklyn as it can to ride to Philadelphia. So, in the UE’s head, the choice comes down to spending the same amount of time to go to either hippies or cheese steaks?


No brainer.

For the first 365 days of living in Manhattan, the UE refused to even step foot on a train that left Manhattan (did a LOT of walking back in those days). But in recent months, it has come to my attention, appalling as it may sound, there may actually be life OUTSIDE the borders of the Hudson and East Rivers. And you, the entranced reader, have benefitted greatly from those perilous treks into the unknown as well. There are beer gardens in Brooklyn whose unique Eurobrews have left a lasting impression on the olfactory and palette. The injera from little known places in Harlem, whose spicy dishes and warm open wait staff continue to inspire us to be more diverse in our tastes. And let’s not forget the mojitos at cafés in Hoboken (yes, Jersey is the 6th borough) – some of the freshest in the city.

Despite its glamour and fame, Manhattan can be a bit too high brow for some of the more culinary savvy, mainly the poor, tired and sick from other countries, who bring with them spices and kitchen techniques unbeknownst to the ignorant Stars and Stripes. What would New York be without its migrant population? It’s cheerful Indians and their curry anything, the hard working El Savladorian line chefs, diligently manning their stations to aid in the manufacture of each and every meal we New Yorkers ingest, or the industrious Chinese and their ability to create food out of any pet?

These are the people that make New York famous for food, and for a lot, Queens is their home court. So despite common sense and a rational fear of being kidnapped, gambling on a trip to other burrows in the Big Apple has become the new Urbane Adventure.

-The UE

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

One Meal, Two Plates

Ever wonder how twins can grow up in the same household, go to the same schools, and turn out totally different? Consider this a case study in how two people can sit at the same dining table, eat the same foods, drink the same wines, and have totally divergent worlds in their heads…
The UE Said...

I tend to be a person who is constantly seeking greater knowledge from the pundits of life, wanting merely to sit at the foot of their pulpit to soak in the knowledge they offer. I recently read that one of my favorite notable chefs took on the challenge of a 20 course tasting trial at a restaurant in Japan. Eager for the chef in the kitchen to provoke his palette again and again, the eater ravenously consumed every morsel he was given in search of the limits of both his and the chef’s creative scope and culinary understanding. In a similar spirit, I felt we too should seek to push and be pushed to new heights by those around us, and in that spirit asked our waiter to go to the back and ask the chef to turn out five of his best, most succulent and distinctive dishes for the hungry chicks awaiting in his nest, with the ultimate hope that through the combination of tastes and talks, we would find some deeper meaning of these moments in existence.

An air of excitement began to fill my head as I contemplated the full scope of the food journey upon which we were beginning to embark. If anyone could be capable of comparably internalizing what the chef was saying to us through the Rosetta stone of our plates, it was Lemon. Thankfully, because her birthday was so near mine, we had an excuse to spoil ourselves with this little indulgence. I fully released myself into the capable hands of the waiter and chef, and sat back to enjoy good food and unmatched company in what was arguably the best seat in the house.

Lemon said...

I was early in a new-to-New-York-good-lord-that-girl-is-so-gauche sort of way, but it didn’t matter. I was going to eat at Del Posto!

And I deserved it. It’d been a long hard summer. Professionally. Personally. I needed to just indulge in something for me that didn’t concern my brain or my heart. Pure simple pleasure for the palate.

The UE arrived, and after a quick catch up over a light, carefree Prosecco, we promptly seated in the best seat in the house – an intimate yet roomy booth in the back of this vast room. Menus magically appeared soon after.

By nature, I am a greedy little thing. I want to experience everything any one place or person can offer. So naturally, I suggested we indulge with the five course menu. The UE agreed, and after light banter and consultation with our delightfully Falstaffian waiter, we ended up letting him craft the menu for the evening. As soon as we gave our trusting nods, he vanished in an excited glee. I fell back into the plushness of our seats. It was nice to let someone else take control for a change. It’d been a long month of making decisions – trying to control my life and what would happen next – and after all the thinking and agonizing, I was still unsure if they were the “right” ones. But I patiently awaited our first course with the trust and security that our waiter would make the “right” choices for us. It was comfort food before it even hit my mouth.

Primo Piatto

Food: Horseradish Panna Cotta with Insalata d’astice & Sclopit

Food: Abalone Carpaccio with Asparagi & Garlic Scrapes

Wine: Krug Brut Grand Cuvee NV Champagne

The UE Said...

The first course proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was going to be an experience to remember. Somehow, the waiter managed to bring us both foods that spoke to our inner essence. My love for lobster was captured in my small plate of lobster with a horseradish paste that scintillated (and cleared) my nostrils. Lemon’s abalone was right on the money as she mentioned how expensive just the base ingredient can get in some places, and how lucky we were to have this. I felt lucky just to be caught in the crosswinds of fate that brought me to this seat at this table on this night.

Lemon said...

An irreverent start to the night.

The paper-thin pieces of abalone rested precariously on a foundation of abalone mushroom. One quick ladylike bite. The exotic taste of the sea washed over my tongue and slid easily down my throat. I gently sipped the Krug. A liquid mirror of what I had just experienced. Deep and delicate – all at once.

Secondo Piatto

Food: Del Posto Agnolotti dal Plin with Golden Butter & Garlic Chives

Wine: Pinot Nero Saltner 2006 Alto Adige

The UE Said...

As the UE has mentioned in previous posts, he is a control monger, perpetually unable to relinquish control to others of anything in which he is involved. This overbearing mindset stems not from a lack of trust in any one individual or group, but more from the innate desire to see things done absolutely PERFECTLY. I don’t want to have to do everything by myself, and I also tend not to want to blame others, but within that mindset I am forced into a quagmire of having to do things myself in order to avoid the blame falling to anyone else. Well, in this instance, the blame fell solely on the chef. We sat back and awaited our second dish, a small pasta dish of braised veal stuffed into handmade, flourless agnolotti. The esoteric flavors that exploded over my palette caused me to falter in speech, lost for words at the David-like perfection this dish offered. Never before had the UE experienced such a robust punch from such a small fist.

My abstract intellectual nature implored my rational side to reevaluate my position on control. Here we are, in one of the most important arenas of my personal existence, where one slip, one mis-order, would mean hundreds of misspent dollars and hours of subsequent regret. But here, in the veritable Coliseo di Roma, where the heavyweights come to do battle with their senses, I put down my weapons and uncharacteristically let my anonymous allies fight my battle. And I lived.

Lemon said...

I inhaled deeply. The wine was oily with promise. I drank with trepidation. It was heavy with the weight of what it could be… should be… And then…

A pocket full of goodness and hope. I bit into the steaming piece of tender veal wrapped in buttery pasta and sighed. It was the hug I needed so desperately all month.

I reached for my glass again, and was taken aback. What had happened? With one small bite, the Pinot Nero changed. No longer heavy, it danced on my palate, making rosy circles now that it had been freed. I drank again. It laughed.

I laughed too. But somehow, I wished I could capture that initial moment of brevity again. It was important that I not forget.

Terzo Piatto

Food: Handmade Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Sausage, Chanterelles & Green Onion

Wine: Ca’Viola Barbera d’Alba Brichet 2006 Piemonte

The UE Said...

Lamb – one of the UE’s most beloved game meats. I will never forget the first time I had lamb. It was a moment inadvertently seared into my memory for eternity. But a mere teenager, I decided to treat myself to a dinner at Smith and Wollensky’s, a famous steakhouse in East Midtown NY. Stepping out on what was then a budding limb in my tree of culinary exploration, I ordered rack of lamb. When it came, my initial musings were of disappointment to the sall serving size. 3 ribs? That couldn’t possibly satisfy my raging teenage appetite. And this green stuff, mint jelly they said? Impossible! Clearly there was a misunderstanding about the order. But the waitress assured me that it went together. So the UE bravely took a forkful of lamb and mint. And chewed. And consumed. And, forever changed, finished the meal with a childlike glee.

At this point in the evening, I believe Lemon and I began revisiting how we met. Each of us was the tag along for opposite halves of a former couple at a piano concert, and we both were the only people interested in staying the entire time. As we chatted in between acts, we discovered the many similarities between our very different upbringings. Since then, it has blossomed to a fruitful friendship, independent of any time length or visit frequency. Physics teaches us that in a nebulous environment, opposites are the only atoms to attract, but I propose that that only applies to the ultimately intimate nature and purpose that opposites serve in their bond. Similar elements, unbeknownst to the others’ existence, will find a way to each other. Just as water and oil seek their brethren when mixed, so do people seek to find a reflection, a simple facet or two, of themselves in the friends they surround themselves with.

The dish was great, but I was still stuck on the Agnolotti. The wine, a velvety and fatty Brichet, was incredibly delicious, as were all the wines from this eve. Lemon began professing her love for the wine, and we launched into a discussion about how she would want to be as a wine. This wine was a bit sharp, but enjoyable to drink in any environment. When the wine was first poured, we both instantly agreed it would be something to enjoy. The light plum color visually connected with us each, creating a sense of comfort and familiarity that one feels when meeting someone with whom you feel you have been friends for years. I found that fairly appropriate, given the context of friendship at the table.

Lemon said...

Bright, easy and fun. The Orecchiette and the Barbera were tasty, uncomplicated treats. And at this point, I was so happy, I just didn’t want to overthink it too much anyways.

Sometimes, you just have to enjoy what’s in front of you for what it plainly is.

Quarto Piatto

Food: Cacciucco with Baccala Mantecato & Zuppeta di Pannada

Wine: Ca’Viola Barbera d’Alba Brichet 2006 Piemonte

The UE Said...

Funny how the stereotypes of women can show itself during the most unsuspecting times. While enjoying our fourth course, the wine paired with Lemon’s food stepped forward to remind us it was present, bursting with flavor. The Barolo grape is an Italian favorite to accompany heavier dishes, and given the tomato sauce on her tuna was roasted for 24 hours straight, it made intuitive sense. The wine was structured, strong with cherry aroma and a crisp, smooth finish. My dining mate began to profess her love for this wine, absolutely sure this was her favorite wine. Seeking to validate her claim, she cited the age old adage that women cling to in matters of the heart, one that transcends all cultural barriers. “When a woman knows, she knows”. The UE found a small bit of delight in the conundrum this presented, as no more than 30 minutes prior had this woman known how she felt about another wine.

We were both in agreement that this wine represented the ideals of who she was. I believe that this was a much higher quality wine, despite the bottle being cheaper than her original choice. Often times price seeks to validate some irrational belief that quality must be expensive. Tell that to anyone who has ever savored the goodness of a good hot dog off the street, or a cheap slice of pizza from your favorite shop.

At this point in the night, I was already fully satisfied. After the agnolotti, there was very little that caught my attention. My thoughts continued to drift back to that dish. How was it prepared? What were the seasonings? There was so much life in such a small package, I was beginning to feel as though the agnolotti represented me in food form (much as the wine represented my counterparty). Underestimated at times, simple in construction, but packed with vigor and ambition, ready to compete against any foe. Such a delicious course deserved a ticker tape parade, but in its stead, I regaled it again with satisfied sighs of contentment.

Lemon said...

My grandma often calls me up to ask me if I’ve found a nice man to settle down with. To ensure that I am “trying”, I’ll sometimes tell her about a couple of the different men I’ve met since I last talked to her…

But it always ends with me saying, “But I don’t know. It doesn’t feel… I don’t think that he’s… Well…”

This is where she’ll interject, “When you know, you know. It’ll happen.”

My first sip of the La Mozza Aragone 2005 Tuscana… I knew.

Quinto Piatto

Food: Dolci Misti

Wine: Feudi di San Gregorio Privelegio 2003

The UE Said...

To the UE, dessert wine is up there with Boston, dishonesty, and onions. I hate them all. So when the waiter brought a glass of an exquisite Italian dessert wine and a bowl of dolci misti, with a freshly made custard whipped from 3 different Italian wine bases, it was no surprise to anyone that he turned off and poured himself into the other desserts offered. What was refreshing was the ability to be totally up front with his dining partner about his distaste for the wine. Yes, it was a good wine, I could recognize that. Yes, it was expensive. But Yes, I hated it. The raisin flavor distinct to most dessert wines, and the obtuse sugary taste and viscosity turned me off as soon as it touched my lips. Having friends with whom you can completely be yourself is a priceless gift. AS soon as we smelled the wine, we gave each other the look. I knew. And she “knew”.

The dolci was good, but again is just not my cup of tea. I tend to feel anyone serving berries and custard is looking for the easy way out by avoiding making a more complicated dessert. I have applauded the Italians for making the best foods out of the most simple ingredients, and this was no different. The berries were garden fresh, and the custard right off the flame. But this is just not a dish I like. Where was the tiramisu???

The most memorable and contemplative moment of the night came when our second dessert was served. The waiter overhead one of us saying “happy birthday” to the other, and took it upon himself to bring us a special birthday dessert – coffee gelato with sugar cone crumbs. First, I will address the comedy in the dessert. I earlier mentioned how I believe certain dishes are the easy way out – obvious ploys to save something, be it time or money. Well I found personal amusement in the fact that the sugar cone crumbs on the gelato were the same crumbs served to us on the dolci misti – and obvious attempt by the head chef to save food costs. And while this in no way negatively influence my perspective on either, it was satisfying to see proof of what so many chefs have said about being a good executive chef – save them money, save your job.

Second, and probably most important, was the effect this dessert had on me. When the plate was served, we had no clue what we were eating. As soon as the first spoonful hit my mouth, my eyes dilated with joy. It was as if by some feat of telepathy the waiter scanned the deepest recesses of my mental journal to find my passion for mocha. Tiramisu was just the beginning. One of the most memorable parts of my trip to Italy had to be walking in a piazza with friends at dusk in Rome and going to every corner of the square to sample the different variations of the same flavor – mocha gelato. It sounds odd to have 4 different types of the same flavor all in one square, but food is simply a person’s way of telling you something, interpreting flavors into something tangible that influence the way you feel. Biting into this gelato brought a delightful wash of high school memories flooding over me in an awesome wave.

Lemon said...

To be quite frank about it, I turned 32 this year. Yes, I'm officially old.

And it’s true what they say about your body changing every five years or so… So I’ve weaned myself (for the most part) from the high-sugar diet of my twenties. So much that I couldn’t handle the Feudi di San Gregorio.

The waiter shook his head at the waste, but it wasn’t as if I couldn’t appreciate it. I just couldn’t handle its cloying, syrupy nature. It was too much and not enough.

I needed something more… Real. Direct. Strong.

Reaching for my espresso, I smiled. Because maybe this birthday – my first year away on my own to truly test who I am – was going to allow me to be just as strong and direct as the tiny cup of reality I was sipping.

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Urbane Adventures - Queens Borough Tour

Friends, Fans and the Epicurious,

Until now, the UE has inundated your intellectual and visual palette with tales and photos of some of the most exquisite food and experiences from the most rural parts of the United States to some of the most clandestine and luxurious parts of the world. While Taste and See has been a great outlet for readers to kill time at work, enjoy food vicariously, or even sneer at, it has yet to draw in people into the total food experience. The headline of the blog “Taste and See” can be and should be interpreted many ways. In that spirit, the UE would like to extend to his fans the opportunity to participate alongside him, in a day trip adventure into the great food unknown, to be able to personally Taste and See what scintillate their own palettes.

The UE will lead a group of the willing and courageous into the depths of Queens, NY, to explore the fabled Jackson Heights. Jackson Heights is the home to most of the world’s ethnic cultures, with pockets of the hardest working and best cooking people hailing Southeast Asia all the way to Latin America. Quiet naturally, Jackson Heights has become the unofficial epicenter of some of the finest flavors in the city.

So, if you are daring, if you are open to new flavors and experiences, and if you will be in New York, get $20 in cash and a Metrocard and meet the Urbane Epicurean at 42nd Street and Lexington, high noon on Saturday, September 20th for what promises to be an unforgettable experience!

Bon Appetit!
The UE

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Colombia - More Than Just Nose Candy

One of the most memorable food comments I have ever heard, and to this day still ponder, came from Anthony Bourdain, a person with whom I strongly identify and, but for the grace (or lack of grace) of God could have followed. He said “it is through food that the people of the world embody and interpret the sum of their cultures.” Direct quote (I think). No better example of a how a people’s Diaspora can affect cuisine and express the root cultures’ mannerisms better than food in Colombia.
Colombia, though best known for the 2 C’s, coffee and coke, is home to a rich Spanish heritage, beautiful beaches, sprawling natural countryside, and breathtaking women. The UE visited a good friend who currently resides in the nation’s capital, Bogota, as an ambassador of the goodwill consistent with the United States. The stage was set – what better than to have some flavorful, spicy and savory Latin American food?

Enter the Europeans, and ruin all flavor.

I have come to find over time that Europeans (Italians aside) tend to have a little more bland of taste palette (hence the need to conquer nations for their spice trades), and the European influenced meals in which the UE partook over this trip were no different. Mexican dishes made lacked pepper, steaks leaned on butter for flavor, even the great arepa made less sense in this country. The most beautiful segment of dining in Colombia was the seafood – fresh out of the Caribbean (see previous post for Caribbean seafood thoughts).

We dined at a place called El Techo, which was touted to the the best Mexican food in the city. While it definitely fit that bill, it was far below what the UE expected. The mexican food here was cheesey and savory, but not spicy as the food he is used to. Not disappointing (particularly thanks to some AMAZING margaritas), but definitely different than the expectation placed on South American food. Some of the dishes leaned more towards a stew than a plated dish, with melted xocomil cheese overwhelming the other flavors.

Once sense was made about the Euro influence over the country, the food began to make more sense. While not overly audacious in its flavor contruct, many of the meals we had were subtle and rich, particulaly the seafood at Langosta, the spanish word for Lobster. This menu touted 20 unique dishes based around lobster as some form of ingredient. The chef was even so kind as to serve us with a delightful lobster bisque that blew away about 75% of any other bisque that has had the unfortunate gumption to pass itself off as such. The Seafood Rice (top left) was the winner at this venue, with such a diversity of flavors and textures that at the end of the meal, we found ourselves sopping the sauce off the plate with bread.

We did stumble upone what might possibly be the best recipe for creamed spinach known to man. At an Argentinian steak house in Bogota, we made the standard orders of meat and green sides. What we weren't prepared for was the creamy and salty spinach they would bring us - flavored with fresh salt back bacon that permeated every ounce of chlorophyll in the leaves. Trust when I say that to have sampled that combination of smoothy creamed spinach spiked with a hint of pork and crispy crunchy bacon was the next best thing to ambrosia on Earth.

Wandering the streets, we passed the local arepa stand and the UE's palette sense (read: stomach) started tingling. What were these aromatic delights that sizzled in front of him? Pounded corn cakes stuffed with parmesean and butter, grilled to a light brown crisp, that's what. Unfortunately, these did not pass the high standards of the UE, even for street food. The corn cake was less than tasty, and the filling reminded him of childhood when eating a stick of butter and dry grated parmesean cheese from the tube was still normal.

On the plane ride back into the US of A, the UE reflected on his time in Colombia. The food, though a bit off from expectations, was still quite enjoyable, and given the cultural context of European rule, satisfying in a more subtle manner. So what exactly was it about the trip that had the UE befuddled?

The confusion came from the people. Incredibly friendly, but very guarded, the people of Bogota and Cartagena were both open and reserved, a quagmire that seemingly represents the food issues at question. The food, though expected to be lively and exquisite, often would be mild mannered, and at times fell flat on expectations forcing the eater to console himself with a Club Colombia beer. Similarly, the people seemed receptive to our social banter, engaging us for hours of conversation, salsa dancing, and fun, but at the end of the day, they held their own perceptions about Americans and ethnicities close, forcing the posse into awkward, yet ground-breaking discussions, enlightening the locals to their ignorant ways. In hindsight, it was a grand achievement to serve as ambassadors for the United States in a less formal way, however just coming from a place where the people were so warm and friendly as the Caribbean, it was difficult to stomach such a stoic country (though not as bad as Japan). In the end, the UE and crew made some lasting impressions on the locals, hopefully for the good of our future together.

-The UE

P.S. For what its worth, not all Colombia food was terrible. Fast food there at 3 in the morning after too much rum still hit the spot – hamburguesa con queso never tasted so good!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

St Lucia - The Caribbean Awaits

The UE touched down in St. Lucia in early July, and happily spent his 4th of July sans fireworks and with one of the best mojitos and travel partners he could have asked for. The beaches were gorgeous and sandy white. The landscape was dense with lush green forests, highlighted with a spattering of rich, rosy red flowering indigenous trees. There could not be a better place to relax and regain composure after a long stint in the harsh urban jungle of New York.

Sitting seaside, the UE struck conversation with any and everyone he could – the barmen/women, waiters, wait staff, beach goers. One thing never fails in global travelling: if you ask, people will tell you. I gained intimate knowledge of parties, clubs, and restaurants we absolutely HAD to frequent. It was insisted that to not was to lose out of the
true life of the Caribbean.

So the UE visited places. There were the conch fritters that left him wanting for the fritters made by a Bahaman woman’s mother. There was the braised lamb that was perfectly tender but flavorless. And there was a lot of Piton beer…

But at the end of the day, there were only 2 things the UE remembered the most for their exquisite flavor and ingenious simplicity. The first was a mojito from The Edge, a breathtaking waterside restaurant run by an Australian, specializing in “Euro-rribean” food. The food was decent, I had the swordfish with a delicious lemon and chickpea puree sauce that was exquisite. But the mojitos they served will never leave the memory of his taste buds. The UE lacks the words to stress how important the freshest, most quality ingredients are to making anything. The UE is a heavy mojito drinker in the summer. In fact, on his last day of work, he spent the entire evening downing mojitos at a local mojito factory.

But this one was special, like a diamond amongst broken glass. A distinct twist on the usual, the bartender used brown sugar to sweeten and color the mojito – indubitably a unique additive. But the crescendo was the mint. The Edge grew their own, and fed it some mixture of Miracle Gro and steroids. It was like drinking essence of spearmint – no other mojito could be its equal. When I tasted this amazing concoction, I was taken aback by the freshness of the ingredients and the harmony with which they played on my palette. The unity of brown sugar and muddled green mint flakes with the white rum begat a standing applause from the UE to the barman.

The second dish that put the UE on his feet? Was it the steak at the highly regarded grill house?

The Chairman’s Punch made by a local bartender who connected with him on the basis of his easy smile and charm? The mildly malted and rich English Ale from the local brewpub?

Or perhaps the seafood lasagna at the seaside restaurant on the way to the mountaintop British fortress?

E) None of the above – Fish and chips from the hotel beachside bar.

That’s right, fried fish and pepper seasoned curly fries.

I know what you’re thinking – all credibility to the Urbane Epicurean reputation and sense of taste lost. Well to quote a familiar pseudo blaxplotation film it was “so good, make you want to slap your Mama!”.

If you have had the dish, you have probably had it prepared by a restaurant expeditiously by them splashing a couple of tilapia filets into the deep fryer for 5 minutes then tossing them on a plate with fries and some miscellaneous condiments. But this was different. The batter was light and flaky, with black pepper lightly seasoned into the flour. Each piece of fish was by far the freshest seafaring creature I ingested in the 4 days in the country. Lightly fried alongside the best curly fries out of a bag I have ever had, the dish deftly awoke the UE’s senses, and the subtlety seasoned fish made with a side of rum punch instantly took the crown for best dish of the trip (on the first day). The UE would find himself back at that same hotel bar chatting it up with the bartenders and wait staff while gorging himself on as many as 3 orders of the meal. It was exquisite, and worthy of praise and worship. If you ever find yourself hungry in St. Lucia, visit the Bay Garden's hotel and ask Jason for the fish and chips.

-The UE

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Around the World in 40 Meals

I love food – the smell, the taste, the look, the ambiance. I love food so much that I have often toyed with the possibility of disappearing from my current stable and lucrative position in search of a position in a faraway Northern Italy kitchen.

I heard this quote recently, at the tail end of a 6-week stint into beard growing, globe trotting, and food demolishing. It was spoken by my
new hero who might possibly be the embodiment of me save for one decision to do business instead of food. “It is through food that the people of the world embody and interpret the sum of their cultures”. It inspired me to reflect on the underlying meaning of the statement – do regional foods say something about a culture? Such a complex question surely had to be debated in an academic forum such as Taste and See.

-The UE

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Monday, September 8, 2008

The UE Returns!

Friends, fans and foodophiles~

After months of waiting, and countless visits to the site, your favorite verbose culinary author has returned, invigorated from world travels, and 10 lbs heavier.

So as an appetizer, the UE would like to share with you his most recently made meal. It was a design generally of his own, though the recipe for the broccoli was inspired by a recipe seen in Food and Wine.

This meal was significant for 2 reasons. The first, the UE has never made a great tomato sauce from scratch. That is, until now. Taking to heart that the Italians refuse to use anything less that quality, the UE gathered the most exquisite tomatoes, and fresh herbs chopped by his own hands, to combine into a tangy tomato sauce.

The meatballs were veal, and the meat course, rib of lamb seared in an iron skillet. Broccoli browned in olive oil and garlic added the final touches to this presentation.

The second reason - the UE felt so compelled to make this meal that neither work nor sleep could stop him from arranging this small feast. When someone is passionate, hell nor high water will stop him.


-The UE

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Appetizer for the Hungry

The UE is cooking up some good reflections on his recent travels. In the mean time, enjoy a sampling from today's WSJ. Remember, just because you do what you do today doesn't mean that's what you have to do forever...

-The UE

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Pardon the Interruption

Friends and Fellow Food Lovers,

The UE will be on temporary hiatus given his intense travel schedule over the next month, however these travels promise to bring amazing and thought provoking experiences around our favorite topic. Until then, happy eating!

-The UE

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hang on Little Tomato

On a merry vine in a quiet garden somewhere in a humble town, a tomato was born. It was happy and free, and delighted in the company of all the citizens of the gardens. The Watermelons were so sweet and had a great sense of humor. The Apples liked to hang out all day, cruising through life with a crisp sense of gaiety. The Carrots had very keen vision for the future of the garden, and could always be relied on to help others envision themselves in that dream. And those Potatoes could mix a wicked drink!

The little Tomato got bigger, and took lessons from all the garden’s inhabitants. The Fruits and Vegetables both had something beautiful to offer, teaching him the ways of the earth, of life, of happiness and love. Fruit always had juicy secrets to share, and Vegetables taught the Tomato strength and maturity.

The garden began to expand, and soon, all the produce grew up. The former friends began spending time only with produce of their own kind. The Strawberries didn’t want to hang near the vines on which the Pumpkins grew, and the Blueberries slowly retreated to a corner of the patch away from the Beets. Soon, the sprinkler became the divide in a feud reminiscent of
Broadway theatrics. Neither Fruit nor Vegetable would dare venture to the other side.

The Tomato, however, would still pay a visit to both sides of the garden. It would tan with the Eggplant in the morning and party with the Papaya after dark. But then, the inevitable happened.

News Flash: “Tomatoes everywhere have been credited with being good for health, and have rich levels of antioxidants that help prevent prostate cancer.”

The Fruit community was beaming with pride, with watermelons writing home to their apple friends in Washington and Mt. Fuji that a Fruit had made headlines and would bring them unending attention and praise from the food community. Meanwhile, the Vegetables were bursting with exuberance – none more than the crafty Lentil, who for the longest had fought to remind people that Tomatoes were one of the most underappreciated Vegetables in the produce aisle, and had been long awaiting some recognition to bootstrap. For years, these two communities had been locked in a war, battling back and forth that Vegetables had always forced Fruits into a sub-produce life because Fruits taste so good that people never consider their health offerings, while Vegetables stood chest out, feeling entitled to the throne due to their continued publicity lauding their health benefits and continued encouragements from parents to eat them.

It began with comments made under Vegetables’ breath. Whispers that the Fruits finally can get over themselves because a Vegetable that just happened to be mistaken as a Fruit would get this much regal treatment in the press were heard in passing. Then the Fruits began to get offended and irritated, citing their passion for their kind as the reason they would not let the Vegetables cheapen the accomplishments of this regal fruit by using it to excuse the years of tyranny from the Vegetables.

The argument approached near violence as both sides of the garden raised swords to lay claim to the popular product of the vine.

Orange demanded to know who in their right mind would look at a Tomato, with its soft insides and tough rind, seeded flesh and earthy taste, and ever confuses it with anything but a Fruit.

Lettuce stood their ground, firing back that just because the produce share similar aesthetic trait, it acts and is used more like a Vegetable, and should be considered such.

And they fought…


And they fought…


And they fought…

“It has seeds, it’s a fruit!”

“So what? So do cucumbers! It’s not used for sweet cooking, so it must be a vegetable”

Raised voices turned to
pushing. Shoving turned to melee. And soon, the entire garden fell deathly silent as the morning rain washed away the juices and seeds spilled from the bowels of fallen comrades.

And the tomato? The tomato was partying with the
plantain and the bok choy, oblivious to the raging war not too far away.

The Tomato just wants to hang. Just let the
Tomato be…

-The UE

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