23 July 2007


The latest issue of the Atlantic brings a story about the once-popular-then-humble-now-increasingly-popular sardine. Good historical background, and also unapologetic epicurian opinionating. Writes Cory Kummer:
The best way to rediscover sardines— and overcome residual aversion based on the tins of childhood—is to eat them fresh, just as diners graduated from canned tuna to grilled tuna to tuna tartare. (“It’s phenomenal how it spread,” Nancy Oakes, the chef of the popular Boulevard, in San Francisco, told me during the tuna expedition. “People don’t eat much cooked tuna anymore.”) Almost any ambitious restaurant has grilled tuna on the menu, cooked to remain raw in the middle. My uncharitable theory is that people like grilled tuna or salmon because it’s good for them and has very little flavor—just a bland richness. Sardines do have flavor. The fresh sardines that come to restaurants are about 6 inches long, and with their slim bodies and silvery skin they arrive on a plate looking as pretty as trout. But the taste is trout with character. (The trout you get in restaurants and markets is farmed and pallid.)

I go frequently to Rendezvous, a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Steve Johnson, the chef, almost always has grilled sardines on the menu. The height of the season is summer, but he also buys sardines frozen, and always from the same Portuguese fishmonger; the fresh sardines available on the East Coast come from across the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean. Johnson, himself an “amateur fisherman,” defends oily fish like mackerel and bluefish, a great Northeast treat: “When they’re really fresh, they’re pristine, and they smell the way they’re supposed to—clean and like the sea.” Johnson serves sardines with classic accompaniments to oily fish, such as a fennel and black-olive salad with preserved-lemon vinaigrette, and he likes them with smoked paprika, too.
Most home cooks, of course, can find only canned sardines—and some chefs are not above serving them. Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef of Prune, in New York, serves unclichéd food you might eat at home. But one cliché she likes, and has made a specialty, is canned sardines on Triscuits with mustard. “They got me through some very lean times,” she told me. Now she charges $5 for a whole tin’s worth with Triscuits, Maille brand Dijon mustard, and cornichons. The brand she chose after extensive tasting is Ruby, from Morocco. I, too, found Moroccan sardines to be my favorite after I tasted every kind of canned sardine I could find (see sidebar, “Unpacking Packed Sardines”).
I'll admit I'm not chomping at the bit to go out and get some tinned sardines, but I have had several very good experiences with the li'l guys, esp. in tapas form and on salads.

(via Matthew Yglesias)

22 July 2007

Cserszegi Fuszeres Woodsman's White 2005

Another dry Hungarian wine, this a white from the Neszmely region, the Woodsman's white presents with a simple, perfume-y grape nose and doesn't get much more complex - but doesn't get bad, either. It goes down smooth, not too sweet and mostly dry with a bit of sulfite edge, it finishes as simply as it starts.

Deb's Basil Lemonade

Simple summer recipe - quite refreshing

  • Make simple syrup - equal parts water and sugar - by heating on a stovetop, and while dissolving sugar add basil. Once sugar is dissolved and basil blanched, remove basil and pour combination into pitcher.
  • Add not-quite-equal amount of lemon juice (approx 3:5 ratio)
  • Add water to fill pitcher. Stir, adding lemon juice or simple syrup to taste.
  • Add ice and serve.

11 July 2007

Summer Dessert Cracker

From the annals of "instant ingredient-based recipes" comes the following:

1 Carr whole wheat cracker
1/4 radius peach slice, thin
1" x 1/2" slice Bulgarian feta
1/2 large raspberry, sliced

Stack, with cracker at bottom, peach, feta, then raspberry on top. Eat in no more than two bites, preferably with each element in each bite. Probably would go nicely with Prosecco.

10 July 2007

Whiskey Makes the World go 'Round

Andrew Leonard, who maintains the excellent How the World Works blog at Salon, writes today on the global whisky market:

Today, Indian consumes more whisky than any other country, and United Breweries is owned by an Indian tycoon, Vijay Mallya. In May, Mallya flipped the reverse-imperialism switch, and purchased one of Scotland's largest breweries, Whyte & MacKay.

Here's the best part. Scotland may be the largest exporter of whisky in the world and India the largest consumer, but the flow of Scotch whisky to India is constrained by huge (550 percent!) tariffs in India, and the flow of Indian whisky to the European Union is forbidden because the E.U.'s definition of "whisky" does not include liquor made from molasses.

So both sides are accusing each other of being protectionist.


How the World Works would never be able to tell, by tasting, whether a whisky was made from molasses or barley. But we like what Neelakanta R. Jagdale, a managing director at Amrut Distilleries Ltd of Bangalore, India, said when questioned about the controversy.

Cross-culture insemination is the fundamental theme of globalization. This means whisky as produced in different ways in different countries should be freely competing against each other.

Cross-culture insemination! You can't stop it. You can't even hope to contain it.

Quite. And while Piedmont Review of Food has never had Indian whisky (though anyone with a spare flask can feel free to send it my way), I don't think I'd have much difficulty distinguishing it from Scotch, which to my barbarian American palette tastes most like moss. In a good way, but still - for me, the most superior whiskey is your sweet, sour, deliciously-like-gasoline corn mash.

09 July 2007

The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

New Haven pizza gets a lot of hype - and deservedly so. It'd been years since I'd had a slice or four, so when the opportunity presented itself (driving south on I-95, dinnertime Sunday evening, no time in particular we needed to get back to Brooklyn), I took it. Good call.

We decided on Pepe's, and a midsummer Sunday afforded both a not-bad wait and some excellent people-watching, ranging from the cartoon-character late-30s Italian couple ahead of us (shockingly overtanned, him in a semi-buttoned black buttondown shirt revealing an A-Shirt underneath, chewing gum, white sneakers), to the preps returned from the beach across the street (one in aviators, baggy plaid shorts and a big gray scarf), to the Korean girls behind us and the so-"helpful"-he-was-incredibly-rude guy from Kansas talking down to them and telling them how to experience America. Good stuff.

But not as good as the pizza. Many a word has been written on the pizzas, so I'll keep it brief - this was as close to a perfect pizza a I've had outside of Italy. Thin crust crunchy and slightly charcoal-y at the edges, covered in a thin, perfectly-sweet-but-not-cloyingly-so tomato sauce, just enough cheese but not overflowing with grease. We added mushrooms and onions, and both were prepared to perfection - the mushrooms cooked but not greasy, the onions translucent but still crunchy, chunked rather than sliced. I was driving, so had a Coke rather than beer (still a good accompaniment), but was pleased to see Long Trail Ale on tap - definitely would've been a good choice, as well.

And, of course, super cheap - we took down half of a medium and were quite full, and now have leftovers to look forward to. Road food can't really get better than this.

Orlio Organic Common Ale

Orlio Organic Common Ale was, for me, like an unknown movie seen on a whim that delivers entertainment. And like said movie, I went mostly on appearances - Orlio has a very attractive, spare label, and "Common Ale" intrigued me. Judging from their slick/still-under-construction/annoyingly Flash-based website, Orlio is a fairly new brewery, and probably not available too far outside of its home state (Vermont, where I happened to be at the time). As to the beer itself, Orlio's own description of it as a "golden ale that starts with an elegantly creamy malt complexity and ends with a firm but understated hop finish that balances the initial sweetness with a touch of bitterness" is pretty right-on. Not unlike the Anchor Liberty Ale, though creamier and a touch less hoppy. Recommended, if you get the chance.