Gorgefest | Los Angeles Edition

A mad dash for LA's best food in one afternoon.

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We had four hours to eat in L.A., a period of time which all of us agreed wasn't long enough. While most people would have simply given up and spent the time driving around Hollywood or lounging on the beach, we plowed ahead, sure we could catch a plane and sample some of the best food in the city along way. So our afternoon in L.A. was spent cruising the endless sprawl of concrete and zig zag...

Two Hours in Detroit: Buddy''s, Lafayette, and Telway Sliders

Pizza, Hot Dogs, and Sliders: Detroit's best in one afternoon

3rd Dec 2010

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Just a sampling.

Whether it’s research for Serious Eats, city guides for Grub Street Chicago, or "work" for this site, if you happen to call me on a Saturday you’ll probably find me in the midst of some misguided eating tour. I call it research, and yet I realize that it starts to drive one slightly mad. It’s to the point now where I can’t imagine being close to any major metropolita...

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

The Five Dishes that Surprised Me In Mexico

2 weeks in Oaxaca

1st Sep 2010

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The Al Pastor was way better...

We travel to be surprised, right? While picking my favorite five dishes took some deliberation, coming up with five different foods or dishes that surprised me on a trip to Mexico should have taken me all of five minutes. But for some reason I wasn't expecting this. I have a vertiable library of Mexican cuisine in my condo courtesy of Rick Bayless, Diana K...

The Five Best Things I Ate in Oaxaca, Mexico

These are the five things I can't stop thinking about

25th Aug 2010

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I went to Mexico to eat, and I handpicked the region of Oaxaca specifically because I figured I could eat there best. It’s a place where chiles, chocolate, and tomatoes have been growing for thousands of years, and where the holy trinity of corn, beans, and squash make up the local diet. Forget Italy, France, or Spain. Oaxaca is where my favorite food in the world comes from.

I spent two we...

My Chicago: Cafe Spiaggia

Chicago's famed restaurant revamps their cafe

11th Aug 2010

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Spiaggia isn’t the sort of restaurant you waltz into on a whim--you have to wear a jacket to eat there, its gorgeous dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows, they have a cheese cave, and, oh, it’s really, really expensive. But the secret is that Spiaggia also has a cafe . It’s casual, intimate, and the food is superb. The attention to detail that is expected of a high-end restaurant...

What Should I Eat in Mexico City?

I’ll only have 36 hours in the capital to eat as much as I possibly can

30th Jul 2010

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jamidwyer /Flickr

Next Friday my wife and I will hop on the Blue Line, head north to O’Hare, and then take a plane halfway across North America to Mexico City for one of the most intense eating experiences of my life. As you may have noticed over the four years or so that I’ve been writing, I adore Mexican cuisine all out of proportion. It’s my favorite cuisine--from complex and elegant ...

The Best Italian Sub in Chicago: A Tour of Six Delis

Which Italian deli in Chicago makes the best subs?

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We assembled at 11 a.m., seven hungry men, at J. P. Graziano's. This unadorned storefront in the restaurant supply district of Chicago's West Loop seemed like an odd place to begin a journey to find the best Italian sub in Chicago. The shop's exterior had no tell-tale signals that it made sandwiches--just a sign stating their business as wholesale importers. The interior contained no vine...

The Maxwell Street Market, Chicago

We take a walk around the legendary market.

22nd Sep 2009

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Nick and I arrived at the Maxwell Street Market to a line of colorful tents stretching out into the distance along Desplaines Street longer than we could see: men playing blues on the sidewalk, piles of tchotkes and used power tools, used DVDs, discount bras and panties, and endless stands full of tube socks. In fact, it wasn't immediately clear what we were doing there. If it weren't for th...

North Carolina Barbecue: A Tale of Vinegar, Hush Puppies, and the Whole Hog

My first trip through North Carolina.

28th Jul 2009

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After the fifth barbecue stop in North Carolina my brother-in-law and I were delirious. We stumbled out of the door of the last joint, nearly tripping over ourselves like a couple of drunk freshman.  I called my wife but when I attempted to speak the right words wouldn’t come out.  Sure my belly was full of pork, but it was something about the addition of coleslaw, hush puppies, and glass...

Rafa''s Restaurant, and Other Highlights from the Costa Brava

Visiting the Spanish coast.

22nd Jun 2009

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Barcelona was a wonderful city to be in, but leaving it was just as fun. Installed in a tiny stick-shift Citroen, we headed north from the city for Costa Brava, opting for the cheaper no-toll road that snakes along the coast and could take twice as long. Driving in Europe was harrowing the first time I did it, but I've since learned to embrace the speeding, reckless flow--I figure it's safe...

Highlights from Barcelona on the Cheap

How to save money in the stylish Spanish city.

16th Jun 2009

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While Nick has been saving the world with quick no-soak-beans and investigating the roots of Wisconsin bratwurst (part of my family is from Wisconsin and I hope to weigh in with strong opinions on the subject sooner than later), I've been on the run, away from a kitchen, squeezing every trip out of Europe I can afford.  Which isn't much at the moment.  But a lack of cash didn't deter...

Memphis Barbecue

Nick's tour of the South's barbecue capital.

27th May 2009

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Memphis has insanely good ribs, some so mouthwatering and juicy that they make most of the barbecue I've ever eaten fall of their bones in shame.  The rub is better, the smoke more lingering, and the sauce more lip-smacklingly suited to the cause.  What cause?  Sublime barbecue.  I wanted to see how good it could be.  Which isn't to say that everything went perfectly or that every bite le...

Auberge de la Loube, Buoux, France

Blake eats the best of France.

24th May 2009

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After we spent our Saturday morning at the sprawling market in Apt, sampling cheese and charcuterie, the only task ahead of us was to find a tiny hillside town called Buoux by lunchtime.  Exploring a mountainous countryside of hamlets and hairpin turns was all that awaited us. By the time we'd arrived a few hours later, the sun was falling lazily on a descent toward dusk; the air was fragrant...

Restaurants We Weren''t Looking For: Provence

Blake finds hidden gems in France.

21st May 2009

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Our goal for eating in France, as our budget was limited, was to find simple and unpretentious food.  And though we hit the ground running with a list of online recommendations culled from a number of sources--an article in Travel + Leisure , searches on Chowhound and eGullet, guidebooks galore--some of our best and most memorable meals came from eclectic little spots that nobody had writt...

Markets of Provence

Photos from France.

12th May 2009

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As I was wandering through Lourmarin, a ridiculously charming Provencal town where a bustling Friday-morning market was in full swing--the fresh breeze carrying the smell of cured sausage and fresh baguettes to my nostrils--I began having fantasies.  Mostly it involved never being heard from again, disappearing into those lavender-scented hills, without so much as a trace.  (A convenient lot...

A Visit to Hellenurme Watermill, Valga County, Estonia

Blake visits a famed watermill in Estonia.

6th May 2009

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I knew next to nothing about watermills before heading down to see one in southern Estonia, so I had an open mind.  The website promised a tour, a glass of milk and fresh warm bread.  So when the offer of a ride down came up, I had little reason to turn it down.

When we arrived, we found an idle lake reflecting the brilliant blue sky, clouds tossing across the sky, and a brick building...

Biltong

Blake discovers South African dried beef.

25th Mar 2009

By Blake Royer Here in Estonia there is a word,...

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Here in Estonia there is a word, kevadväsimus , that translates as "spring fatigue."  It's the expression that refers to a grim mood that seizes us all when the sun has come out and the days are growing longer yet all other signs still point to winter.  We know the weather will improve, but it's that sliver of hope that makes it no...

Dipping Into the Italian Beef

Discovering Chicago's distinctive beef sandwich.

11th Feb 2009

The mystery is that while the sandwich's meat is incredibly tender, it isn't made from some expensive cut of beef.  From the research that I've done, most Italian beef recipes call for round or the sirloin tip, which are both tough and lean cuts.  The use of a cheap, neglected cut really interested me.

At first glance, the sandwich looks a lot like a cheese-less Philly cheesesteak.  But I've b...

La Cabrera, Buenos Aires, Argentina

28th Jan 2009

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When I arrived in Buenos Aires, "Ojo de Bife" ("eye of beef") was at the top of most steak menus, giving the blessed ribeye its appropriate place in the steak pantheon.  It reminded me of a Jeffrey Steingarten passage from his essay in Men's Vogue about a search across Spain for great steak--which has led me to order ribeye almost exclusively since reading it:

...the most del...

Liniers Cattle Market, Buenos Aires, Argentina

27th Jan 2009

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Before heading to Buenos Aires , I'd heard mostly about the steak.  Friends who'd gone had talked fondly of beautiful architecture and vibrant street life.  But their eyes really lit up when they started raving about the beef.   Supposedly, it was some of the best in the world, deep and rich and pronouncd in beefiness. The quality of Argentinian beef is especially significant because t...

Buenos Aires

25th Jan 2009

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You might assume that Nick has hijacked The Paupered Chef, chopped my body into little pieces and hid me in the attic (between sessions of ravioli-making and chili shenanigans ).  But this is not the case; I am alive and well.  I left Estonia for close to a month to bask in holiday cheer back home in the States.  But now I've returned to the cold and dark climate of Northern Europe...

Cibrèo Caffè, Florence

3rd Nov 2008

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It came in tin foil, a particularly unfancy receptacle for what was inside.  Our waiter, who had just dropped off plates of sea bass carpaccio and a veal meatloaf stuffed into chicken neck (including the head), put the foil on a plate and began unceremoniously unfolding its crinkled, crimped top.  It opened in a steamy, meaty rush, and none of us could do much but stare.  As Hamid, our hos...

Ristorante Matricianella

Blake visits the Eternal City for one night only.

29th Oct 2008

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We only had one night in Rome to eat. So where would we choose?  We had no idea where to begin.

My friend Mitchell Davis came to the rescue when I emailed him to ask for help.  One night in Rome?  "I’d try Matricianella, I think, if I had one night. All the classics, well prepared, great wine list, not pricey."  Indeed, classics were what I wanted: specifically, a giant creamy steamin...

Arriving in Rome, and the Search for Pizza Bianca

27th Oct 2008

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I've dreamed about going to Italy for a couple years now. But with New York rent to pay, only a handful of vacation days to draw from, and 7 hours of plane time all conspiring against me, I've never been able to go.  By a great margin Italian food is my favorite food to cook.  As my love of Italian food has grown, so has this vaguely imaginary place called Italy--into a glorious land of gran...

Highlights from a Trip Northeast

24th Jun 2008

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The weekend before last Elin and her mom and I set off to see four states in four days.  Our goal was to do it just before the tourists and summer heat took over.  In the highly organized itinerary, which would be promptly deviated from, we had plans for upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  The loose organizing principle to the whole affair was to stay in Bed and Breakfasts...

Au Pied de Cochon

4th Jun 2008

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Montreal is famous for a dish called poutine, which we sampled heavily the weekend we visited, in which crispy frites are salted, tossed with pillowy, tender cheese curds, then smothered in rich brown gravy. A dish, suffice it to say, to be eaten with a fork.  At Au Pied de Cochon , Montreal's cult restaurant where gluttony and excess have become signature sins, they include all of tho...

Poutine, My Heart Loves You But Its Arteries Don''t

2nd Jun 2008

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When Elin went to Montreal a couple years ago, she sent me an email with only a photograph attached, a picture with her mouth open, eyes closed, and a forkful of French fries covered in gravy.  The subject of the email said simply, "Poutine," and I knew that one day we would travel to Montreal where I could try this dish myself and experience the delight that was apparent on her face.

As if...

Bourbon Tour 2: Wild Turkey and Maker''s Mark

16th May 2008

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It's a tale of the old and the new.  Of the high and the low.  It's Wild Turkey and Maker's Mark , two bourbons I love, but couldn't be more different from each other.  The Turkey is a high rye bourbon made to grip your taste buds and warm your insides, while smooth and seductive Maker's Mark is the gentleman's choice, somewhat conservative and much more expensive.  Feeling guilty th...

Bourbon Tour 1: Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve

26th Feb 2008

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I took a little break from food this past weekend, turning my back on all the pieces of meat curing in my stairwell (I’ll get to those later in the week), and set off for the rolling hills of Kentucky to sip the best bourbon I could.  I’d been blabbering on and on to my brother-in-law about the stuff for well over six months now and it was about time to actually see where it all came from...

Elkano Restaurante in Getaria, Spain: "El Mejor Pescado en Mi Vida"

12th Dec 2007

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"No, no, no!" our waiter was saying, dashing across the room to our white-tableclothed table, where we were sitting in front of a grilled Turbot. I was politely transferring a portion of the fish's glistening meat to my plate with two forks.

"It's very important to us," he began to explain, almost out of breath, while taking my fork and knife, "to eat with our hands."  He picked up the fis...

Three Tapas Bars in San Sebastian

11th Dec 2007

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We were in a tiny silver Citroen, maps strewn all over the dashboard, Elin in the passenger seat, me driving us in circles (literally, around the roundabout over and over) trying to get us to the correct highway and out of Madrid.  Elin was reading Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island during our trip--and while overall she couldn’t help but write him off as a mostly unfunny curmud...

Three Tapas Bars in Madrid

6th Dec 2007

As I mentioned, Madrid is a city easily covered by foot (at least, the city center is--I’m sure the outer boroughs, so to speak, are worth exploring), which leaves a visitor quickly able to see the Prado, Plaza del Sol, and any other major tourist destinations in an afternoon.  What’s left is to submit yourself to the ebb and flow of Madrid’s infectious lifestyle: eating, drinking, and neve...

Madrid With an Insider

Crawling the streets in search of ham and beer

3rd Dec 2007

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We arrived at the ultra-modern Madrid airport terminal half-asleep, legs in need of a stretch, eager for what we imagined might be a giant, country-wide cocktail party.  The Spanish tradition of tapas awaited (or, as we would later call them in San Sebastian, pintxos , our American tongues unsure how a “t” can be pronounced before an “x," the result a squished noise that sounds l...

Gorgefest Saturday

Manhattan. 1 day. 9 Restaurants.

26th Nov 2007

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I hadn’t been to New York since my exodus in July and I returned with a plan.  I wasn’t going to waste any moment visiting attractions, or seeing a Broadway play.  I lived there for two years, so it felt right to walk back in and get to what I spent most of my time doing: eating.  And with the Paupered Chefs reunited for the first time in half a year, it really wasn't that hard for ou...

A Weekend in Seattle and Olympia: Day 3, Carnitas on the Run

Killer tacos and no-corn-syrup Mexican Coke

17th Nov 2007

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With the time change and a long flight ahead of us, we have to leave by 4pm just to arrive home in New York at midnight (Correction: arrive in Newark.  I'm never doing that again).  With a morning left and having had scarce time to explore Olympia itself, we asked Scott exactly what to do with the remaining hours.  “Well, there’s this Mexican taco truck,” he said casually.  And it wa...

A Weekend in Seattle and Olympia: Day 2, Seattle is Actually Sunny

16th Nov 2007

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The one plan we made before we arrived in Seattle was hang out in Pike's Place Market, a giant, touristy market on the waterfront that specializes in seafood.  Though other places were recommended, we only had a day and didn't want to miss it.  We also wanted to eat lunch there, and it quickly became obvious where we would eat: a place called Matt’s in the Market, the unanimous recommendat...

A Weekend in Seattle and Olympia: Day 1, Coffee and Street Food

15th Nov 2007

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I didn’t realize it until I’d checked my bag, removed my shoes, been frisked, walked onto the plane, stowed my baggage, sat down, belted up--until the plane itself had taken off--that a flight to Seattle is not a couple hours away.  No, it’s on the other side of the country, over the Northeast, Midwest, the giant state of Nebraska, past both Dakotas and Montana--over five hours by plane...

Some Say New Haven Has America''s Best Pizza

13th Sep 2007

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Ever since writing about New York pizza and our travels from borough to borough on an insistent quest for the best possible pie, a steady minority of nagging naysayers have quietly made their case in a different direction.   No matter how many subways, buses, or ferries one takes, they say, you'll never find the best pizza in New York.  That's because it's in New Hav...

(Raw) Milk in Maine

1st Aug 2007

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Ever since I started reading about "raw" milk, I've wanted to try it.  Illegal in New York and most states, raw milk has a strange mystique about it: proponents claim that unpasteurized milk has remarkable health benefits , is drinkable by even the most lactose intolerant people , and tastes twice as good as the milk you're used to.  Once you drink your milk raw, they say, you'll begi...

In Portland: A Revelation on Fore St.

23rd Jul 2007

Right above Standard Baking Company , where we had the fantastic bread , lies Fore St .  An unassuming front door opens out into a open, lofty, yet warm room with charming leaden windows lining the back and sides.  On one side of the restaurant is an open kitchen , with seating nearby.  There is also seating along the outside of the restaurant, where they sat us, thankfully, next to...

In Portland: A Menu Based on Duck Fat

23rd Jul 2007

I should apologize before I begin, because what I write about Portland is no doubt going to sound like a tourist ad.  After just a few days spent there, it became one of my favorite cities.  It has a number of things on its side: proximity to the water; an industrial, scruffy charm; a relaxed, West Coast vibe; and above all, more than a couple world-class restaurants.

Hugo's , for example, i...

A Weekend in Maine, Part 3: Acadia, Blue Hill, and Belfast on the Way Back to Portland

20th Jul 2007

After some disappointing lobster rolls , the raw beauty of a national park was just what we needed.  We drove into Acadia after dark, paid for a campsite, pitched our tent, and fell asleep immediately.  The sun rose hot and early, and I woke up squinting.  For a few minutes I thought we were going to start the day at 5 in the morning, but then I was able to pull the hood from the sweatshirt...

A Weekend in Maine, Part 2: Lobster Rolls on Route One

18th Jul 2007

After we left Portland , we didn't have much of a plan.  We knew we needed to arrive at Acadia National Park, about 150 miles away, by nightfall.  On the list was, of course, lobster.  We also wanted to see the famed L.L. Bean store.  A friend had insisted we see a place called Popham beach, and we also wanted to visit Blue Hill, where E.B. White used to spend summers.

Armed with page after...

A Weekend in Maine, Part 1: Arriving in Portland

17th Jul 2007

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Elin and I decided to go to Maine because the fate of our relationship hung in the balance.  She had never tasted lobster, ever , having made an admirable promise in early high school to keep it that way until she got to Maine.  For her, the first experience of something is infinitely important.  It should be carefully orchestrated, fully appreciated, the best it can be.

Of course, Main...

Eating Tacos All Over San Antonio

If that means eating 5 lunches in one day, so be it.

11th Dec 2006

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Honestly, there's a real need for these signs.  When we were venturing around the mercado square in San Antonio, a land of slightly schlocky and catchpenny Mexican crafts, every third vendor warned against this practice, where gringo , giggling tourists pretended to experience Mexican culture by putting on outrageous hats and saying " Arriba, Arriba " like Speedy Gonzalez. How to a...

A Day in Helsinki, Mostly Eating Pastries

Searching for the perfect Voisilmäpulla, I encountered beautiful design and large tufts of dill

13th Jul 2006

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When I arrived into Helsinki Airport, the Finnish sun had been out for close to five hours: it was 8:02 in the morning.  My bag came out of flappy rubber slats onto the belt and I sailed through customs, exiting the terminal onto a pristine pavement platform, a group of bus lanes. Everything was strangely silent.  There were four other people waiting for buses, each squinting gently at the w...

Burgers & Cupcakes

Two things people like to wait in line for. Again.

25th May 2006

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Burgers and Cupcakes
458 9th Ave, at 36th st.
Distance from Shake Shack: 0.94 miles
Travel Time: 27 minutes

of People in Line: 9

Burgers and Cupcakes is humorous only to New Yorkers, who can't help but smile at the gall of building a restaurant that caters solely to the big apple's idiocy to stand in line for the most obscenely simple things.  I was spurred to undertake the odysse...

"Wit What?"

An exploration of Philadelphia's quintessential greasy delicacy...the cheesesteak

1st Feb 2006

With Blake off for the weekend, Nick blew the whole...

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With Blake off for the weekend, Nick blew the whole Paupered Chef budget on a $20 Chinatown Bus ticket to Philadelphia in search of the city's quintessential greasy delicacy...the cheesesteak.  Armed with locals with serious appetites, he checked out some of their favorite institutions in search of the real thing...Wait, with cheez w...