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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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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.

Restaurants

Santiago Restaurants: Part III

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La Mar
I’ve been hearing about the world-class Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio for years (even before Adam Sachs covered him in F&W). While I patiently wait for him to open up a place in New York—and to see him at the 2010 New York City Wine & Food Festival in the fall—I got to hit his ceviche-centric restaurant La Mar in Santiago. It’s a super-cool-looking restaurant surrounded by a moat (sort of), and it serves some stellar fish dishes, like sweet-soy-sauce-lacquered grilled tuna and just about any ceviche. As an added bonus, they also make one of the best pisco sours I’ve had, ever.
Ave. Nueva Costanera 3922; 011-56-2- 2067839.

Restaurants

Santiago Restaurants: Part II

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© kate krader
The specialties menu at Carmens in Santiago.

Carmen’s
When I was in Santiago earlier this week, I got to hang out with Liz Caskey, who leads fantastic wine and culinary tours of Chile (and Argentina and Uruguay). So all credit to her for taking me to Carmen’s, a little no-sign lunch counter in a sea of lunch counters in the Vega Chica Market. And for telling me about its corn pudding, which looks like golden mac and cheese in a little aluminum container but is really kernels of very sweet corn piled over chicken, hard-boiled eggs and shredded meat and then baked. I think it cost $2. On an episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain raved about Carmen’s, too. It was, he said, “Typical of the best of this place. People know to come here because… they know. Because they’ve been coming here for years. Because it’s Carmen’s.” And then he went on to rave about the hoofs-of-beef soup

Travel

Chilean Olive Oils Are Coming

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© Joshua David Stein
Olisur's groovy, eco olive oil factory in Chile.

Normally, a trip to an olive oil factory isn’t one of my vacation highlights. But when I was in Chile last week, I had a great visit at Olisur in the Colchagua Valley (it’s the wine that usually gets the attention), set scenically between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Since Chile just seems to have discovered that it can produce great olive oil, Olisur is one of a few labels that are starting to hit the U.S. market. (At New York City’s Co. pizza, Jim Lahey has started to market Chilean olive oil, too.) Olisur has distinguished itself by winning big at a prestigious olive oil tasting in Italy last year (its Premium extra-virgin oils did better than Italy’s and Spain’s in a competition that some people compared to the Judgment of Paris, when California wines beat their French counterparts in 1976).

But back to the factory. It’s set on a vast property–6,500 acres—where eight types of Spanish, Italian and Greek olives are grown. They’re harvested with an innovative machine, which looks like it’s straight out of Transformers, that gently shakes the trees to gather the olives. (Usually, that machine was used to harvest grapes.) One reason to like the oil: It’s pressed within two hours of the olives being picked, so it tastes superfresh (also nicely peppery and grassy). Another reason: The reasonable price tag. A one-liter bottle of their O-live line is about $10.99; 500-ml bottle of the Premium and Limited-Edition Santiago labels costs about $14.99. And here’s one more reason I liked Olisur: its eco-profile. A local journalist called the mill Chile’s greenest operation, because it uses geothermal temperature control in the factory and recycled olive pulp to fertilize the groves and they're in the process of installing solar panels.

If you’re not on your way to Chile, Olisur olive oils will be hitting grocery-store shelves in the U.S. in early June.

Restaurants

Montauk's Surf Lodge Kicks Off Summer

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surf lodge

© Joe Termini
The Surf Lodge, Montauk.

This weekend, the Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, opens for its third summer season. The laid-back, Endless Summer-vibe and beachy-chic decor make it one of my favorite hotels. As always, the hotel has a stellar lineup of music talent scheduled (G. Love, Mishka and the Beautiful Girls, to name a few). Top Chef Season 2 star Sam Talbot is still in the kitchen, but this year he’s introducing a Hawaiian lunch menu. Also new is the debut of the Food Stand, which will serve fish tacos, lobster rolls and Hawaiian plate lunches late-night, from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. Another addition for 2010 is the Store at the Surf Lodge, a supercool boutique curated by boutique owner Bethany Mayer, featuring clothes by the awesome eco-conscious designer Rogan Gregory; his label, Loomstate, collaborated with the Surf Lodge and Bloomingdale's to create a capsule collection of surf-inspired clothing; the Surf Lodge staff will also be rocking Loomstate Organic uniforms this season. The store opens Memorial Day weekend and will sell a mix of pieces from designers like Jill Platner, Surf Bazaar (a new line designed for and sold exclusively at the Surf Lodge), Loomstate for the Surf Lodge and Tracy.

Restaurants

Fergus Henderson’s Hotel Project

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fergus

© Laurie Fletcher
Chef-hotelier Fergus Henderson



Legendary nose-to-tail genius Fergus Henderson of London’s St. John and St. John Bread and Wine quietly snuck into town last week with his wife, Margot (also a chef and the owner of the fabulous London café Rochelle Canteen. In between cooking lunch at Barbuto with Jonathan Waxman and helping Margot prepare a dinner at the Artist Space on Saturday night, Fergus and his partner Trevor Gulliver sat down with me at the Breslin to share details about their newest project, the St. John Hotel, which will open this September in London’s still-seedy Chinatown neighborhood. Here, a few teasers:

1. Even though there are only 15 rooms, Fergus assures there will be nothing boutiquey about the hotel. “It will be a not-too-shiny inn,” he says, “because really, we don’t do shiny. No piles of cushions or throws on the beds. Nothing too fancy. I’m calling it a miniature, grand urban hut.”
2. The hotel’s 70-cover restaurant will give Fergus his first real chance to experiment with breakfast. “I’m thinking deviled kidneys, blood sausage and cheeky buttery buns,” he says.
3. The restaurant will serve a very special afternoon tea and “elevenses” (the Brits’ midday snack). “I think everyone can use a glass of Madeira and a sweet cake at 11 a.m.” says Fergus.
4. He says that the ceiling of the bar will look like the belly of a blue whale. The bar will be open and serving food until 2 a.m. and will have a great mix of French wines, craft beers from Meantime Brewing and a nice selection of eaux-de-vie and digestifs.

Restaurants

Boston's Hippest Hotel Restaurant

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woodward
 

I recently had a chance to check out Boston's superhip new Ames hotel. Though the hotel is located in the historic Ames farm-tool-company building, its interior is far from New England  colonial kitsch. David Rockwell and the Morgans Hotel Group collaborated on the chic, smart design. In the lobby, there's the dramatic "Mirror Cloud" installation--a fragmented sculpture designed by artists Sophie Nielsen and Rolf Knudsen of London's Studio Roso; in the hotel's restaurant, Woodward, there's the Victorian-inspired "Cabinet of Curiosities" filled with bizarre sculptures. Chef Mark Goldberg's tavern-style farm-to-table menu has already earned Woodward a loyal local following. The perfect late-night pairing: His duck-confit flatbread topped with goat cheese and dried cranberries with a pint of crisp, cumin-and-cardamom-laced Woodward Ale, brewed exclusively for the restaurant by New Hampshire's Smuttynose brewery. The awesome hash selection on the breakfast menu--lobster-and-leek or mushroom-and-truffle--paired with eggs and a cup of La Colombe Coffee, may be the best breakfast secret in downtown Boston.

Travel

Great New Boston Design Shop

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shop

© Jen Murphy
Butcher-chic design at J.E.M. in Boston's South End.


I was in Boston for the weekend and while bakery hopping through the South End I stumbled upon a fantastic new design shop called J.E.M. The store has a very John Derian-esque feel to it with cool pieces like organic ceramic pots from Susan Raber Bray, and apothecary bottles and bar carts made from reclaimed steel. It felt like a quirkily curated curiosity shop-cum-museum.

J.E.M. has also started hosting in-store salons with artists and designers. South End artist Isabelle Abramson, who sells her gorgeous, delicate, doily-patterned porcelain bowls there, will be in-shop this Thursday.

The store also doubles as a showroom for owner/designer Jane Miller who is responsible for the awesome furnishings made from repurposed wood and metal. In addition to enormous chunky dining and coffee tables, there are clever pieces like a terrarium that Miller crafted from a broken table. My favorite piece was an enormous sign (pictured) salvaged from Faneuil Hall Marketplace that embraces Boston’s current butcher and beast obsession. Apparently it’s been confusing some South End shoppers. “We had an elderly couple come in and try to order lamb chops the other day,” the girl behind the counter told me. I can’t help but think a design-butcher shop would probably be a great new trend.


Restaurants

Barbara Lynch's Meat CSA

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butcher

© The Butcher Shop
The Butcher Shop chef de cuisine Robert Grant.

 

Boston chef Barbara Lynch has paired the current butcher obsession with the growing CSA trend and is now running a very cool new meat CSA from her awesome South End restaurant, the Butcher Shop. CSA members can buy a pig or even a share of a flock of lambs. The first weekend of each month, Lynch's talented butchers break down an animal, say a 90-pound pig or a lamb from Vermont Family Farms, during a butchering demo, and participants go home with various cuts. Terrines, sausages, racks of lamb and ready-to-cook cuts are packaged and available for pick up by members the next two weekends of each month. Prices change month the month, but full shares cost around $190; half shares are around $95.

Cocktails

Mumbai Nightlife

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Aer

© Red Lion
Aer at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai.

Thursday is the night to go out in Mumbai and I had India’s top fashion photographer, Farrokh Chothia (he shot the striking photos hanging in Vermillion restaurant, escorting me past the ropes of the city’s newest bars.

Farrokh met me at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, which will be reopened in its entirety this July, once the tower wings have been restored (they suffered damage in the 2008 terrorist attacks). The hotel’s legendary Harbour Bar (it became Mumbai’s first licensed bar when it opened in 1933) just reopened at the end of March with a great list of Prohibition-era cocktails that are theatrically mixed and poured, plus there's also an extensive selection of single malts and whiskeys.

After watching a night polo gam at Mahalaxmi raccourse, we checked out Tote on the Turf next door. Malini and Rahul Akerkar, the couple behind Indigo, opened this enormous new restaurant and bar last September. Up-and-coming architect Kapil Gupta is responsible for the space, which has 40-foot vaulted ceilings designed to look like tree branches. Its lineup of DJs and a smart drink list that includes the signature Tote Mary (a Bloody Mary with balsamic vinegar and crushed cucumbers) has made midtown suddenly cool.

For the best view of the city, we went to Aer, the posh new bar on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel. Elsie Nanji is responsible for the futuristic design and great accents like Ross Lovegrove’s Love bench as well as chairs and stools from Driade’s Tokyo-Pop series.

After three supertrendy spots full of beautiful people, I was ready for something more laid-back. Farrokh took me to Blue Frog,  an awesome live-music venue in an old warehouse in Lower Parel that’s been brilliantly redesigned. We ended our night there, rocking out to a Pearl Jam tribute band with some of Farrok's friends from Vogue India.

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