Decent Food at 30,000 Feet, Seriously

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By Andrea Nguyen

[Andrea discovers decent airplane food, and converts it to an appealing recipe. – mb)

Airline food is rarely something that you want to replicate at home. On a recent press trip to Asia, though I was treated to business class flights. We kicked off our long-haul back to the States with a 2-hour leg from Hanoi to Hong Kong; it was late morning and I’d breakfasted on pho noodle soup and croissant, thinking that I wouldn’t eat until the afternoon when we reached Hong Kong.

But we were served a full lunch, and I suddenly felt hungry when I got a whiff of the meal that the flight staff was reheating. It smelled comforting — garlic, soy sauce, maybe fish sauce too. Continue reading

Posted in Chinese, Travel

Bamboo Fire

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The reason we ate at the unnamed restaurant the other night – the one I kind of trashed here - was because Delray’s Bamboo Fire was closed.

Turns out the funky, kind of charming, mom-and-pop is really mom-and-pop, and mom – Beverly – and pop – Don – both have full time jobs, and both have long commutes. They’re doing this restaurant as best they can, which means it’s only open Wednesday through Saturday. This takes dedication, love, and perhaps hope.

It shows. As this chowhound thread indicates, it has something of a local cult following. And although I’m far from an expert, in fifty years of visiting elderly people in south Florida, Bamboo Fire is the only place I have eaten outside of Miami that I could heartily recommend. If you measure worthiness in travel-time (as in, if money were no object you might fly to El Bulli for a meal, but you might not drive more than a quarter of a mile out of your way for a McDonald’s), I would rate Bamboo Fire at about an hour – and indeed, people are heading up here from Miami, and they don’t seem to think they wasted their time.

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Posted in American, Travel

Eating in Istanbul

By Tyler Cowen

(Tyler Cowen blogs – mostly about the economy and related issues – at Marginal Revolution. But he also knows more about food than any economist I know, and I thought his insights into food in Istanbul worth posting here. -mb)

My favorite sight has been the mother-daughter pair I saw on the Bosporous ferry.  They were hugging each other on the bench and had virtually the same profile features, yet the mother carried full traditional dress and the daughter wore a mini-skirt and was otherwise dressed comparably.  They loved each other dearly.

How you interpret these women is central to how you view Istanbul.  One intuition is that they are quite alike, another is that they are quite different. Continue reading

Posted in Travel

A Business-Class Trifle

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By Edward Schneider

On a recent transatlantic trip, Jackie and I spent some long-earned British Airways frequent flier miles on a ride in business class. There was good wine, friendly, attentive service (with the women among the cabin crew wearing smart retro hats!) and, on this 32-passenger flight to London City Airport, surprisingly wide, long and comfortable flat beds: we could hardly have asked for much more. On the way to the UK, we slept and so didn’t have to think about airplane food; on the way back, we didn’t want to think about airplane food and before going to the airport had a fine quick lunch of potted shrimps, a sort of smoked haddock Welsh rarebit and fried monkfish cheeks here.

We still took a look at the menu, however, and some of the options would have been tempting if we hadn’t already eaten, though I can’t vouch for how they tasted. But there was one thing we couldn’t resist: sherry trifle. Layers of fruit and/or fruit gelatin, sherry-soaked lady fingers or cake, thick custard and whipped cream, maybe with some nuts for crunch: trifle really is the perfect dessert, touching all the cream/fruit bases and pushing all the booze/cake buttons – or nearly all: there’s no caramel and only incidental salt. But I’d trade a gallon of butterscotch praline ice cream for a bowl of good trifle any day. (Well, maybe not any day.)  Continue reading

Posted in Travel

An Open Air Market in India

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By Julie Sahni

[I’ve been an admirer of Julie Sahni since I first began cooking from her essential Classic Indian Cooking in the 80s, and I’m happy to say we’ve become friends. Ms. Sahni is the chef/owner of Julie Sahni’s Indian Cooking in New York City, and an award winning author of 10 cookbooks (Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking is also a must-have). She’ll be writing about Indian cooking periodically for mb.com – how great is that? – mb]

I love to visit Indian grocery stores in Queens, not just for spices, legumes and chutneys but for Indian vegetables. Mounds after mounds of tiny okra-like tindola squash, long and windy snake gourd chichinda, crocodile-textured karela, tiny eggplants, guar beans, and Indian kakri cucumbers are dumped on racks, bins, and baskets, not oiled and stacked like LEGOs.   

My mother taught me very early on that okra’s tenderness can be gauged by simply running fingers, ever so gently, on its body.  Silky smooth texture with rounded edges suggests perfect okra while hairy skins with tough ridges not so.  And, the secret of freshness lies at its tip. A quick, neat break means the okra is fresh while a soft and rubbery generally points to staleness.  Continue reading

Posted in Indian, Travel

On Eating Alone

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By Suzanne Lenzer (Photo by Evan Sung)

I distinctly remember a meal that I shared with Virginia Woolf at an Italian restaurant in London in 1989. I had just graduated college and gone to London in hopes of working in a kitchen (typically, I ended up working as a waitress). In retrospect it seems quite daring to have left California with no job prospects, family, or friends nearby, but I wasn’t anxious about being on my own in a foreign country. What I was anxious about was eating out––alone.

Eating alone at home is one thing: You cook, then sit at the table and eat. Maybe you read or watch TV at the same time. But at twenty-one, eating alone in a restaurant was new to me. Growing up I’d always gone out to eat with my family, and in college, with friends. The idea of going to a proper restaurant and eating a meal by myself had never really occurred to me.

But suddenly, in a brand new city with nothing but time on my hands, I wanted to be out. But  the bravery that got me on an airplane with little more than a duffle bag and a couple of books abandoned me when it came to walking into a nice restaurant, asking for a table, and proceeding to eat dinner by myself. Hunger is a powerful force though, and it won out in the end.

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Posted in Travel