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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.

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.


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