Top 11 Dishes of 2011
Hi Everyone. Just wanted to wish you all happy holidays and all the best in the upcoming year.
I know I’ve been absent for quite a while, but i thought i’d throw out a small thank you to anyone from Alberta still reading. It may seem like we are a Vancouver-centric blog, but we started with Albertan roots, and it’s a part of the blog that is still very important to me. To be honest, the evolution, or de-evolution of the blog is more because the non-Vancouver based writers have been negligent in their duties. I wish I had more to offer than that, but I don’t.
With changes in my life, i’m not likely to be back in Alberta anytime soon. This snapshot in time reflects how i feel today – and while it may not stand the test of time, I hope it serves you well in the near future. Please consider this a small offering from me to you – for everything you bring to Foodosophy, and to recognize some of the quiet greatness that exists in the city of Calgary today.
16604-109 Av NW
Tue-Wed,Sun 11am-6pm; Thu-Sat 11am-9pm
In the west end of Edmonton there’s a strip mall. Next to the Mayfield Inn, long ago, there was a Mexican restaurant out here before Mexican restaurants existed. It was my first experience with Mexican food that wasn’t fast food, and it was delicious. A whole different world of flavours. I loved eating there. Unfortunately, the owner, tired of Edmonton winters, retired, and went back to Mexico.
Years later, word came out that there was a new Mexican restaurant open in the same strip mall. I was hoping some of the magic had rubbed off on the new establisment: Mexico Lindo.
Clean and a bit spartan, there’s a bit of an odd feel about it. However, the service is friendly and warm. I’ll take service over atmosphere any day.
Bairro Flame Grilled Chicken
B1-1919 31 St SW
Calgary, AB T3E 2M8
For me, fried chicken is one of those things im always on the look out for. I love a gooooood fried chicken. Like Gus’s, or Fremont Diner. Even the recipe in Thomas Keller’s Adhoc at Home is pretty good. But i dont want to fry chicken at home – it’s a big pain. Oil, mess, time. I dont eat it enough to warrant cooking it at home. I just want a place i can go to get my fix. In Calgary, Bairro is that place.
One day last fall, I was driving down 17th ave SE and I see a sandwich board that says “Bairro – Flame Grilled Chicken”. I like piri piri chicken, but im not a big fan of Nando’s. It’s been dry, and boring, and lacking in complexity and flavour. I figure they might do it better, so I give it a shot.
As i pull up, it has the look of a chain. Not the most auspicious of starts.
So, i figure if you’re still checking our site out, we’ve managed to disappoint you with our lack of content for sometime. I’d apologize, but really, we’ve been pursuing things we love, so i guess there’s nothing to apologize for. But I would like to change this by posting a bit more often.
I’m sitting on photos and notes from about 400-500 restaurants around the world. I’ll probably never get to posting them all, but i will try and highlight some unknown, out of the way experiences, or some really great ones. My question for you, our loyal readers, is how you would like to see a large chunk of this content posted. Would you prefer briefer, by the numbers, straight up blurbs on many places, or would you prefer fewer posts, but in more depth, detail and discussion?
I’ll give you guys a week to let me know, and then i’ll do my best to work on some content that might interest you.
Thanks for sticking with us.
A lot of time spent in airports usually means one of two things for me. Either i get caught up on my music by tuning out the world and listening to my iPod, or I spend a lot of time thinking. Lately, it’s been the latter.
I’ve noticed lately some interesting trends in how taste continues to evolve – both personally, and culturally. In part one, I discussed the personal, as i shared my thoughts on some things that have been bothering me lately. Specifically, how information I had posted a few years ago has gotten stale, partly due because my tastes have continued to evolve and change. Trying to think of ways to manage this has left me with nothing but a headache, but discussions about this are ongoing and i feel hopeful that someone has an ideal solution!
Today, i want to discuss the idea of a cultural evolution of taste. What im referring to specifically is how a culture’s culinary traditions and tastes continue to change, and how that impacts how we look at food experiences, especially when it comes to the idea of “authenticity”.
Why do i care and what does this have to do with Foodosophy? Well, when sharing experiences, providing context is an important part of what you are describing. They are like signposts for the reader – identification of things that are important to them, and things that they don’t value. Adjectives all have some personal meaning to readers. So does the word authentic. I wonder though, should the word authentic never be used when discussing food?
First off Happy New Year to everyone. Secondly a very big very thank you to Shokutsu et al. for keeping things moving in my protracted absence. I’d change the blog to be called shokutsuosophy, but it doesnt quite have the same ring. Hope you’re ok with that :)
Unfortunately, without a good internet connection, im not able to post anything with pictures, but i wanted to discuss a topic that’s been on my mind recently. It’s about the evolution of taste. What does it mean for people who blog, and how does it shape how we view food?
Let’s start with the definition of evolution: “a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”.
What im referring to is the natural propensity of taste to change over time. I feel this happens personally, as in to individuals, and it happens culturally as well. Today, i want to address the personal aspect.
Personally, i’ve noticed that my own tastes change and evolve quite often. The more repeated exposure i get to certain types of foods, and really, the more exposure to different tastes (in wine, coffee, food), the more what constitutes my “ideal taste” changes.
Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
In seeing Shokutsu’s review of venerable Mission Burrito institution Papalote, it got me thinking. It’s so interesting how two people with a similar philosophy and preferences can look at a similar place with a completely different view point when dining in isolation. Especially when they come in with different expectations. From his perspective, it was a recommendation from a local guide. “Several good meals” had been had. A solid, yet unspectacular review.
On the other hand, in my never ending quest for great burrito’s, driven by my first experiences in Pasadena CA, I ran across super burrito fan website burritoeater several years ago, who consistently had the Mission location of Papalote rated in the top 3. Of particular note was the consistently high scores for the Carne Asada and the Tofu. The carniverous side of me was intrigued that someone who was so diligent and structured in his passion for burritos could place tofu on the same pantheon as meat!! Truly shocking.
Just off the corner of Valencia and 24th, around the corner from my favorite San Francisco coffee house Ritual Coffee Roasters, Papalote can be difficult location to spot.
123 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003-8319
I’ve discussed my never ending obsession with French Fries many times before, so i’ll endeavor to keep this short. In my experiences with Belgian Fries from Vancouver, and and Duck Fat from Maine, i’ve developed a pretty clear understanding of what im looking for in a french fry. Crisp outside, fluffy inside, flavourful, and a bit meatier than thin fries. On reputation alone, Pommes Frites in New York is often mentioned as one of the best.
I used to wander by this tiny storefront in the East Village all the time. It’s square on my walking path from Ippudo, to Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters. With Caracas around the corner, there wasn’t a hope that i’d ever have the room left in my stomach to try it. Then i heard it was really good, so i figured before Arepas, after Pastrami, Akamaru Modern, and some Lox, i’d share some fries with a friend.
1600 Westheimer Road
People will argue that Mexican food gets better the closer you get to Mexico. While this makes sense in theory, it doesn’t always work in practice. Texas, for example, is right across the border but has adapted Mexican food and made it their own – the birth of Tex-Mex pretty much means that real Mexican is difficult to find. Great Mexican? Even more difficult.
In the Westheimer area in Houston, Hugo’s Restaurant is trying to change that perception. Serving high quality Mexican cuisine that represents the best of all regional cuisines, I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical. Places that try to represent too many different cuisines have a tendency to be good at all, but master of none.
From the large gated doors to the vaulted ceilings and chandeliers, the space is 1925 traditional with elements of contemporary. I don’t see the supposed elements of “chic” they are aiming for, but it’s a reasonably nice atmosphere characterized mostly by the slightly uncomfortably large gaps of space between tables.
MRKT (Market) Restaurant
10542 Jasper Ave NW
My poor camera was dropped at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the lens no longer retracts. I loved that camera – but after extensive research, im back in the game with a new camera! Happy to do my first post with pics from my new baby.
On a rainy dreary day, we head down the “ugly” part of Jasper Avenue to try the new restaurant by Carla Alexander of Soul Soup and Sal Di Maio who owns the gastropub downstairs, Red Star. MRKT Market is simply that – a “fresh market” concept restaurant where the limited menu provides you with a few choices in terms of sandwiches, soups, and specials. 3 sandwiches, 3 soups, one special the day we were there.
The interior feels like a wooden airplane fuselage. I’ve heard canoe, and upscale log cabin (rather generous i’d say), it is nonetheless hip, while managing some warmth. The most prominent feature of MRKT market is the long table that allows many diners to share a meal.
3945 Chestnut Street
In what many people incorrectly assume to be strictly a cheesesteak city, Philadelphia is home to a blossoming restaurant scene, with a wide range of eclectic fine dining. Nothing may better represent this scene than Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant Distrito. An homage to Mexico City culture, Distrito is a combination of ethnic flare with fine dining ingredients, and solid technique.
The Mexico City theme is prevalent throughout – complete with a VW Beetle to sit in! The decor is odd, eclectic, and not at all to my liking. But it doesnt really matter. It’s kitschy, and unapologetic. However, it feels like the designer is trying a bit too hard – 250 seats is a lot of pink, green, and neon. And the decor doesnt fit the price point in my mind.
Campbell Apartment @ Grand Central Station
15 Vanderbilt Ave
New York, NY 10017
Hidden away in a corner of Grand Central Station is one of the most fascinating bars in New York. It isn’t trendy, modern, or cutting edge, but it’s an oasis of calm at the heart of a bustling train station, and its unapologetically retro style gives you a glimpse into a piece of New York’s history. That bar is the Campbell Apartment.
Once the office for railroad tycoon John W. Campbell, Campbell Apartment was a private salon for a businessman who loved to drink. During the prohibition era, he was able to entertain clients and friends in his office, conveniently attached to Grand Central Station.
The space was renovated in 1999 to recapture the grandeur and design of the 1920’s space – dark wood, high ceilings, leaded windows, leather chairs and a very prominent bar. The detail and preservation of many of the original structures is an architecture geek’s dream.
Icelandic Fish and Chips Organic Bistro
Tryggvagötu 8 / 101 Reykjavik
Food in Iceland lacks a definite diversity. With little arable land, and short growing seasons, there is a definite lack of vegetables. Greenhouses powered by geothermal energy provide the majority of the fresh local produce, and the rest is imported. However, what they lack in vegetables, they make up for in abundance with fish. Their coastal waters are some of the richest in the world, and makes up 70% of their exports – this is an island where fish and fishing mean a lot.
While there are an abundance of fresh fish, that doesn’t guarantee a great meal. Transforming that ingredient into something tasty lies in the hands of the chef. At Icelandic Fish and Chips, they have it figured out.
Across from the harbour in Reykjavik, Icelandic Fish and Chips bills itself as an organic bistro. Their menu is basic – they offer 3-4 fish of the day, whatever was caught that morning, and some basic sides like salad, fries, onion rings, and baked goods. Prices are very reasonable – fish falls between 1000 ISK and 1300 ISK – comparatively cheap relative to other restaurants in Reykjavik.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Within every food culture is a fast food identity. Foods of convenience. Cheap, quick, and often one of the tastiest experiences you can have. At a minimum, it provides very strong insight into a slice of a nation’s identity. In Iceland, that food is the Pylsur.
Near the Reykjavik harbour lies one of the most famous “hot dog” stands in the world. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur can claim Bill Clinton, and Metallica as some of their fans. But really, morning, noon, and night, this is THE place in Reykjavik to get a pylsur – and you’re likely to meet lots of locals and tourists alike.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur translates as “the best hot dog in town”, and it really is.
While I wish I had a stunning review (there are many new restaurants out there worth talking about), a topical subject (the failure to ban Bluefin Tuna exports from the Atlantic for example), or something really interesting to share with you this weekend, I don’t. What I have for you is the gift of perspective.
You see, I’ve temporarily lost my sense of taste. When it will come back, doctors have no idea. 5 days? 10 days? Weeks? Some people report a year or two!
Food has pretty much no appeal to me. I can’t taste anything. I can’t tell if something is salty, or flavourful. I couldnt tell the difference between Batali and Olivieri. Between the tenderness of calf moose, or rotting beef. I can feel textures and acidity – astringent, “warmth”, mushy, firm but there is no taste. I thought i tasted banana today, but i think it was taste memory playing tricks on me. I tried eating garlic – to see if it would kick start my tastebuds. Now the people around me suffer as well.
So appreciate what you have. Great food, or slightly mediocre, a shared meal, or a quiet moment alone with a bowl of soup – appreciate the smell of roasting meat, the freshness of greenery, the warmth of a simmering pot, the bright smells of citrus, and the lowly smells of compost. Because without a sense of smell or taste, there is no enjoyment in food at all. And without enjoyment in food, this bond we all share, whether we agree or disagree on a given review, doesn’t exist. It’s a lonely place, feeling disconnected from something we’re all so passionate about. May you never have to experience it.