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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