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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


36 Hours in Quebec City


quebec city

© Jen Murphy
Marche du Vieux-Port, Quebec City


A travel writing conference recently took me to Quebec City, which I’ve decided may be the perfect long weekend getaway from Manhattan. Just a 90-minute flight and you feel very much like you’re in France (ok, maybe a slightly Disneyfied France). Here, my hit list of what to do:

Book a room at the castle-like Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac which overlooks the Saint Lawrence river. Windows on the sixth floor look out on the chef’s rooftop garden and its four beehives. Each hive contains about 70,000 bees that supply the hotel with a year-round supply of honey.

Start the day with cheese, strawberries and sausages from the Marché du Vieux-Port, the city’s farmers market. Then rent a bike from Cyclo Services, just across the street, and explore the nearly 250 miles of paths that go to Beauport Beach, the Montmorency waterfalls and gorgeous parks. Post-ride, stop for lunch and a beer tasting at Brasserie Artisanale la Korrigane, a new microbrew pub that opened in June in the Saint-Roch neighborhood.

When the sun goes down, check out the Image Mill, an artsy film of Quebec City’s history projected on towering grain silos (the equivalent of 25 IMAX screens) or a Cirque du Soleil performance that’s held at sunset under the Dufferin-Montmorency highway overpass. Both are free!

Call ahead and book a table for dinner at Panache, in L’Auberge Saint-Antoine and splurge on chef Francois Blais's extraordinary wine-paired tasting menu that might include Cote-Nord scallops on the half shell with candied lemon and Champagne granité and Appalachian red venison with pine sprigs.


Great Barrington’s Great Grocer


blue marble

© Jen Murphy
Blue Marble ice cream at Rubiner's.


During a recent weekend in the Berkshires, I stopped in the cool little town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to stock up on snacks for the ride home and spent nearly an hour wandering around Rubiner’s Cheesemongers & Grocers. Located in an old bank on Main Street, this super-artisanal store is beyond forward-thinking when it comes to what it offers shoppers.

Here, five top reasons to drop in:

1. An insane selection of more than 130 artisan cheeses that ripen in the back cave (formerly the bank vault).

2. Out-of-this-world artisanal foods that include Rancho Gordo Beans, Mast Brothers Chocolates, French salted caramels and house-made country pâté.

3. Rubiner’s works with famed fishmonger Rod Browne Mitchell and Browne Trading Company to run something similar to a CSA for fish. Locals who sign up get an e-mail every Monday night listing the week’s catch. They place an order by 4 p.m. Wednesday and can pick up or (for a small fee) get home-delivery of the same superfresh seafood that goes to chefs like Eric Ripert and Thomas Keller.

4. Farmer’s Discount: Anyone who makes their primary living through farming or the production of artisan foods gets a 20-percent discount.

5. In the summer, Brooklyn’s awesome Blue Marble ice cream sets up shop out front, serving cups and cones of their decadent flavors like Stick o Butter Pecan. Even more delicious, though, are the homemade ice cream sandwiches that are sold inside. Blue Marble’s café au lait sandwiched between two chocolate sugar cookies was perfection.


Good Eats in the Berkshires


red lion inn

© Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA.

My crazy wedding season (six this summer) officially kicked off this past weekend. Lucky for me, my friends have all chosen pretty awesome locations in which to get married. Wedding number one took me to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. The wedding was at an adorable place called Santarella in Tyringham that looked like it should have been the hamlet where the hobbits live in Lord of the Rings. I managed to sneak in a marathon eating tour of the area between wedding festivities, and—contrary to a recent Huffington Post story—had some amazing meals. Here, a rundown:

I stayed at the historic, 18th-century Red Lion Inn on a corner of Main Street in Stockbridge. The inn feels like a tribute to Americana with its amazing art collection, Otis Birdcage elevator (which you can really ride on) and even a desk once used by Abraham Lincoln. The restaurant menu in the dining room is a tribute to the area’s local artisans and farmers, including Farm Girl Farm and Berkshire Brewing Company in Great Barrington; Hill Top Orchards in Richmond; and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in Old Chatham, NY. Chef Brian Alberg recently introduced separate sustainable menus featuring dishes like an irresistible broken-yolk breakfast sandwich with smoked bacon on thick, toasted Berkshire Mountain Bakery bread. His dinner menu offers some surprises like a roasted eggplant Bolognese that uses quinoa spaghetti and basil oil; and for dessert, a house-made version of my favorite Aussie sweet, Tim Tams.

In nearby Lenox, brunch at the laid-back, two-year-old Haven Cafe & Bakery is phenomenal. I took home the house-made granola and ginger-cardamom scones and stayed for the Eggs “Sardo”—poached eggs topped with sautéed artichoke hearts, spinach and dill hollandaise.

Around the block on Church Street, the Wit Gallery showcases an eclectic mix of art including photography, sculpture and mixed media and recently also started selling artisanal wines from small, family-owned producers like Eric Kent.

Just a few doors away is the barely year-old, 28-seat restaurant Nudel, where chef-owner Bjorn Somlo cooks remarkable seasonally driven food with local ingredients. My braised-Berkshire-pork sandwich with pickled vegetables and spicy sambal aioli had me plotting ways to skip the wedding dinner so I could come back to try his bone-marrow Bolognese or garganelli with ramps and almond pesto.

More tomorrow on my Great Barrington, Massachusetts, finds.


Preview of The (Food) Situation on MTV's Jersey Shore Season 2


© Alessandra Bulow
Biscotto Oreo, Ronnie from MTV's Jersey Shore's favorite flavor from Lecca Lecca Gelato Caffe in South Beach

In April, when I heard that the cast of MTV's Jersey Shore was working at Lecca-Lecca Gelato Caffe in South Beach while taping the second season of the runaway-hit show, I immediately called the Italian-ice-cream shop and was promptly hung up on by Sammi "Sweetheart." So when I visited South Beach recently, of course I stopped by to try to see the gang in action. Sadly I missed them by a week (they've gone back to Seaside Heights, NJ, to "beat up the beat" and finish taping the season) but I did get the scoop on their favorite gelato flavors at the shop:

Muscle-head Ronnie may have had to hit the gym harder than usual because he was constantly dipping into the Biscotto Oreo gelato (cookies-and-cream with crushed Oreos and Nilla wafers, pictured).

Mama’s boy Vinny stuck to the traditional chocolate.

Ladies’ man DJ Pauly D favored the tiramisu gelato (its name means “pick me up” in Italian).

The house’s resident cook, Mike "The Situation," preferred the mango, a lighter gelato to keep him looking “like Rambo with his shirt off.”

As for Snooki, she ate the café's sandwiches but didn’t like the gelato, or working—in true Snooki style, she often napped during her shifts and oddly slept inside a shelf under the store’s front counter.


What to Eat Before Running 53 Miles?


I have been told that I have a problem saying no. Case in point, when my running partner asked me to do a 53-mile trail race in Pittsfield, Vermont, this weekend I eventually said yes (despite having to sign a waiver saying “you may die running this race”). So what does one eat before running 53 miles? Probably everything and anything, but I calculated that we could make a slight detour on our drive up and carbo-load at Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont. F&W declared the tiny restaurant tucked away on Central Street one of the 50 most amazing wine experiences in the country. But they also make insanely delicious thin-crust pizzas and awesome pasta.

Sadly, they stop serving at 8:30 p.m., and with NYC traffic, we had only just reached Albany by then. I phoned to let them know we wouldn’t be making it and asked if they could suggest a place to get a decent meal, as we were running a race the next day. Caleb Barber, one of the owners, explained we were heading into a culinary dead zone and that our best bet was a Chinese place in Rutland, Vermont. My stomach turned at the thought of running with a belly full of General Tso’s chicken. But minutes later, my phone rang. It was Caleb calling back. After thinking over our dilemma, he told us to ring him when we got to the top of Killington so he could heat up two pizzas. “I can’t let you run on empty,” he said. I was relieved to discover that someone other than me had a hard time saying no.

When we finally arrived at around 10 p.m., I expected a box of pizza for us to take on the road, but a table was waiting. They’d kept the restaurant open just for us. Caleb had prepared a duck consommé for “runner’s protein” and two gorgeous pizzas—a black-olive-and-sausage and a mushroom-and-pancetta. It was exactly what we needed, and probably the only reason we survived our race.


How to Support Gulf Coast Fishermen



© Patrón Tequila
Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express

The St. Bernard Project, a Louisiana-based nonprofit that helped rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina, is now helping the fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. Their goal is to raise $75,000 to rebuild houses and provide mental health services for fishermen and their families. To raise funds, they’ve partnered with The Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express, a restored 1926 railway car that will be traveling to Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New Orleans and Los Angeles this month. Top chefs and mixologists from each city will host Patrón-spiked cocktail parties and dinners aboard the train.

Currently in Chicago, the train's next stop is Track 31 in Washington D.C.’s Union Station June 8th and 9th. Louisiana chefs like Brian Landry of Galatoire’s in New Orleans will be teaming up with DC-area stars like Jeff Tunks, Todd Thrasher, David Guas and Robert Wiedmaier to create Southern-inflected menus that will feature seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here for tickets and future dates.


Yosemite's Luxe Side


Yosemite's Half Dome

Full disclosure: We didn't totally rough it while in Yosemite (left). Although we spent our nights on the valley floor in the $5-a-night backpacker's camp, we also ate our first meal in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, the park's best restaurant. Normally I would steer clear of a place like this: diners reserve tables weeks in advance, seemingly for the dramatic dining room steeped in California lore, leaving no real need for the chef to put out great food. But the Ahwahnee was much better than it had any right to be, even if the dress code meant I had to change from hiking boots to high heels in the lobby. The service was friendly and efficient, and the food was tasty: my Arctic char was flaky and perfectly seasoned, while my husband's venison was tender and paired well with cranberries and späetzle. The homey chocolate fudge–pecan pie was an indulgent, messy-in-a-good-way dessert—I'm not at all surprised they've kept the same recipe for decades.


Campfire Cuisine


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.


Cheap Eats in Puerto Rico, Part 2


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.”


Cheap Eats in Puerto Rico



© 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.

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