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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Travel

Campfire Cuisine

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Breakfast is served.

The one drawback to back-country camping is that you have to carry all of your food with you. Last week I did it in Yosemite, which added another layer of meal-planning complication: everything had to fit into a smallish bear-proof canister. Many people rely on the ease of chalky freeze-dried foods for these trips, but I wasn't willing to go there. I wanted flavor and nourishment, so we packed energy-rich foods that wouldn't take up a lot of space (think tortillas, not bread) and were able to make it work. Breakfast was scrambled eggs (left), oatmeal with homemade granola and tea. Lunch was cheese, salami and dried mangoes. But the dinners were the best part. Spanish chorizo added a spicy bite to our rice and beans one night; another time, we dropped homemade jerky into a corn-and-potato stew. Dessert was Italian chocolate with hazelnuts. Great fuel for days spent on the trail.

If I had car-camped, these recipes would've been at the top of my list.

For more on enjoying the great outdoors, here's travel editor Jen Murphy's guide to going luxe (or rustic) in some of our National Parks.

Restaurants

Cheap Eats in Puerto Rico, Part 2

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ola lola's

© Jen Murphy
Ola Lola's in Isabela, Puerto Rico

 

I thought the excellent food at Isabela’s Texaco station would be the most surprising food find of my recent Puerto Rico surf trip. Apparently, the best food is in the most unassuming places. My friends and I stayed at an awesome (and affordable) oceanfront apartment at Villa Tropical. The superfriendly Canadian owner, Trevor, recommended a local hangout up the road called Ola Lola’s

Locals refer to it as “the green shack” because the restaurant is little more than a small roadside shack with a few bar stools and a handful of tables. It’s only open from 3 to 9 p.m., Friday to Monday. When it’s closed, it looks like a shed—but when it’s open, people are overflowing into the streets.

The draws are both the crazy-good food and the adorable owners, Elaine and John. The Kalamazoo, Michigan natives took over Ola Lola’s three years ago. John tends the bar, while Elaine (who remembers every customer’s name and greets return guests with a hug) cooks and runs the food. Not-to-be-missed signatures include an out-of-this-world Asiago-artichoke dip (Elaine says it went through some many variations to reach perfection that John, her guinea pig, won’t touch it) and the bizarre-sounding, yet delicious, peanut-butter burger. John’s frozen piña colada may be the best I’ve ever tasted—supersmooth and made with real coconut—and he has also stocked a laudable selection of craft brews, like Ruedrich's Red Seal Ale from California’s North Coast Brewing Company. Elaine puts a fun twist on the banana split, skipping the ice cream and actually splitting the banana and filling it with toppings like chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallows. I noticed that John waves to every person who walks or drives past. When I commented that he must know the entire island, he confessed, “I have no idea who that was. I wave to every single person who passes. Eventually, they stop in. It’s a no-fail marketing plan.”

Travel

Cheap Eats in Puerto Rico

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donut

© Jen Murphy
Omar's just-baked doughnuts.



Every year, my girlfriends and I take a surf trip. No matter where we end up, our itinerary is pretty much always the same, revolving around surfing, eating, napping, and more surfing and eating. I just got back from this year’s trip, a quick few days in Rincon and Isabela on Puerto Rico’s northwest coast. I can’t share the spots we surfed (the locals would never let us back), but I can share some excellent food discoveries.

Discovery No. One: Isabela’s Texaco Gas Station
Bizarrely, the Texaco on Highway 110 is the daytime social hub of Isabela. On Sundays there is even live music, in a back corner under an enormous, shady tree. We found ourselves making regular morning stops for the incredible homemade doughnuts (try the coconut and guava-filled) at its little bakery, Deli Delights Donuts. If you look closely at the sign, in supersmall print you’ll see “by Omar.” (The owners of Ola Lola’s restaurant—more on that tomorrow—told us that Omar is the best baker on the island, and they buy all of their bread from him.) At the other end of the Texaco is a black tent with a sign that reads “Killer Tacos and Pinchos.” Underneath are a few plastic chairs and tables and a grill manned by a local surfer woman who cooks up ridiculously good, cheap food. The secret to the tacos (pork and chicken were our favorites) is a superfresh papaya salsa. Pinchos (skewers) of chicken, beef and pork and ceviche are also on the menu. Hours, however, depend on how good the waves are. If the swell is up, the owner is usually out surfing.

Aspen

Mario's Amazing Aspen Charity Party

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Mario Batali, right, ready to party with Jose Andres.

There are two things that top my wish list for F&W’s upcoming Classic in Aspen 2010. The first is to party with Mario Batali. The second is to try and do something charitable in the middle of all the ridiculous chefs’ demos and wine tastings and general craziness. Well, Mario’s making this very easy for me this year by hosting his second annual T-Bones & Tequila party on Thursday, June 17, to benefit the Mario Batali Foundation for kids. (“I’m excited to be kicking off the Aspen Food & Wine Classic with my kick-ass party,” he says.) Basically, it’s going to be the ultimate house party, and here’s why:

1. It features some of Mario’s best Italian grilling recipes. (Maybe, just maybe, he’ll preview some dishes from his upcoming Eataly market in NYC.)
2. It’s got all kinds of tequila drinks and a tequila-tasting bar.
3. It boasts a musical performance by the inimitable Joe Bastianich, Mario’s business partner and resident wine genius.
4. It takes place at the impossible-to-get-into Two Twelve house.
5. It benefits MBF, Mario’s excellent foundation, which works to ensure that kids are well read, well fed and well cared for.

Tax-deductible tickets for Mario's excellent party are $175. They’re available at mariobatalifoundation.org or by calling 630-618-4756.

Restaurants

Pulino's Has Sold How Many Pizzas?

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© kate krader
Nate Appleman Takes a Break from Pizzas to Focus on Strip Steaks.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever see an old school McDonald’s-style sign—"1 Billion Served"—erected on the Bowery. But the number of crisp-crusted pizzas that Nate Appleman and his team have sold at the eight-week-old Pulino’s in downtown NYC are pretty staggering: specifically, 27,000. And that’s just the number they’ve sold. The number they’ve made, Appleman says, is much higher. Margheritas are the top sellers—on Saturday, when they sold 671 pizzas (a record to date), 176 of them were Margheritas. (Me, I had two pies as part the record-breaking night: the Salsiccia with sausage, tomato and broccoli rabe; and one topped with vibrant pesto, which is my favorite.) In spite of the pizza onslaught, Appleman remains meat-obsessed—because he buys whole cows for butchering, there’s always a steak on his daily specials, and it’s usually bone-in. And the burgers he serves after midnight won’t ever outsell the pizzas—after all, he only offers 30 of them a night.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.