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November 9, 2010

Food Finds: Mama Sita's Tocino Mix

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While hunting through the markets of Chapel Hill for Chinese rice wine, my aunt took me to an Asian market that had moved into a room in a local Chinese restaurant after being kicked out of its old location by the landlord in another familiar real estate situation.

The friendly owner must have offered me half the items in the store after finding the shaoxing wine for me, but it was my aunt who showed me this packet of Mama Sita's tocino marinade.

My knowledge of Filipino foods are limited to an adobo recipe I've been cooking for years and a breakfast I had at a hole in the wall this summer in San Francisco.

With the Asia trip coming up, I'm pretty curious to try out some semblance of Filipino food ahead of time, so I hope to try this out sooner rather than later.

November 6, 2010

NC: Fatback by the pound

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Probably the most bizarre moment of my recent trip to North Carolina was when we drove up to this pick-up truck, I got out, reached in the back and took something like 15-20 pounds of fresh pork fatback. True story.

So, here's the thing, while you might be able Liver Mush at the supermarkets in Chapel Hill, you can't find pork belly anywhere. I even hit the farmers market looking for it, but was told that that there's no demand, so they just use it all for bacon. (I think this all very odd in the land of biscuits, barbecue and Paula Deen)

Last time I was in Chapel Hill, I benefited from the different demands by finding a farmer who gave me 7lbs of fatback for $3. This time, I ran into him again and he had more he wanted to get rid of.

Continue reading "NC: Fatback by the pound" »

November 5, 2010

NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

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I'm not usually a breakfast eater, but while I was in Chapel Hill, my aunt told me how much her students love it when she brings in biscuits from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. I was curious. After a bit of Googling, I found a post about it on Serious Eats and I was ready to go right away.

After it was all done, my only regret was not going every day I was there. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen" »

November 4, 2010

It's Cooking Weather

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With apologies to Ruhlman for blatantly ripping off his old logo, I was inspired to take this photo as I've been spending a lot more time in the kitchen lately. The cooling weather has my nesting instincts. As I've been in the house more working on portfolios and plotting my entry into the photography business, I've also been cooking more. There's been braising, roasting, making stocks and I even made my first risotto. (Lesson learned, cook hotter, stir more, but definitely use the cheese rind stock again.)

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When in North Carolina last month, I cooked for a dozen or so people, the biggest audience I've had maybe all year. The big challenge was that I had to feed vegetarians and people with gluten allergies, hence the veggie stock prep above. It was a ton of fun and has only encouraged me to want to cook more. Hopefully one day I'm figure out how to cook and shoot at the same time and I could then actually blog about that from time to time. Here's hoping.

October 27, 2010

Quick Bite: Lasagna at Four Eleven West

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Dinner my last night in North Carolina was this lasagna at the bar at Four Eleven West on West Franklin. The pasta was a little too thick and doughy for my taste, but the bolognese sauce was magnificent.


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October 26, 2010

NC: No Escape from Condo-mania

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I guess I wasn't terribly surprised to find the familiar figure of a shiny new condo development in college town North Carolina, but I was a little disappointed.

Hearing stories of landlords and developers gentrifying an area in order to attract the more lucrative middle class market is commonplace here in New York, but the idea of it happening around Chapel Hill was a little jarring. I just hope that my own little college town doesn't have such issues.

October 23, 2010

NC: Nature Walks

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My visit here to North Carolina isn't all wandering suburban supermarkets and finding oddities like Liver Mush.

We've also been going out on daily walks through one of the local woodland trails. Once again, I decided to try my hand at a little nature photography. Last year I tried the same thing, but I was using Tammi's point and shoot due to an equipment failure with my 30D.

You can see more of the photos from out in the woods on Analog UltraClay.

October 22, 2010

Food Finds: Liver Mush


Food Finds: Liver Mush, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm in North Carolina this weekend visiting my aunt. In the past, I've pined for the wide open aisles and the extensive selections of the suburban supermarket, but here's one thing I'm not particularly jealous of: Liver Mush.

I suppose it's aptly named,but I feel like they probably could have worked a little harder on the branding...

April 7, 2009

NC: Tienda Vaquita

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Across the small parking space of Taqueria La Vaquita, sits a Mexican marketplace that reminded my aunt of the little shops in the country back in Jamaica.

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She and I went in looking for dried chipotle peppers, above, which she had been looking for for some time. While there, though, we found a variety of other peppers along with jamaica (sorrel) and tamarind, which brought back more memories.

To my surprise, I found powdered lime, an ingredient called for in a recipe for Posole in a Mexican cookbook I got a couple years ago. Despite concerns of being detained by the TSA or the DEA, I managed to get this home without incident.

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April 5, 2009

NC: Taqueria Vaquita

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Possibly the best meal we had in North Carolina was at Taqueria Vaquita or Taqueria Cow, so known for the giant cow statue that has loomed over the small structure since it was a dairy market way back when.

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Not long after brunch, we stopped in for a taco or two as a snack, just to try them out. The plan was to swing by for a few minutes and then be on our way. We ended up sitting at a picnic table snacking and hanging out with some of my aunt's friends for a couple hours

Tammi and I started out with Tacos al Pastor, Lengua and Chorizo, above. Before we were done, I was already eying the menu.

My aunt, the vegetarian only had a quesadilla without any filling. This confused the counter guy, because who would pass up the wonderful delights that could be on a quesadilla. All the same, she loved it so much that she requested a stack of their homemade corn tortillas, served up hot off the griddle. We all picked at them between rounds of tacos.

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Tammi and I imbibed sweet Tamarind juice, going through 3 of them over the course of the afternoon. My aunt and her friend Tanya found a familiar flavor from the islands to quench their thirst. Jamaica, known as Sorrel to most West Indians is a drink made from dried red flowers that are a holiday staple in my family.

It may not have been the most historically 'authentic' meal to have in the South, but it was definitely the best. My aunt may regret taking me there as it will definitely be a required stop on future trips.

Taqueria Vaquita
2700 Chapel Hill Road,
Durham, NC 27707

March 31, 2009

NC: Mama Dip's

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There are a great many Carolinians who will be offended by this, so I'll get this out of the way first, our dinner at Mama Dip's was not very good. Easily the worst meal of the weekend. We raced over there Sunday night, to get there before their 9pm(!) closing time.

The choice of restaurant was clear because how could we go to the south and not have some southern food? Turns out that we could have gotten far better options here in NYC. Tammi had the veggie plate which included overcooked Lima Beans and bland cornbread. My dish of Fried Chicken and BBQ Pork Ribs (which wasn't the pulled pork I actually ordered, but I let that go) were similarly middling. The ribs were overdone to the point of mushiness and the sauce was sweet without any of the tang or spice or smoke that makes a good barbecue sauce. The chicken didn't have nearly the crispiness they should have had and the mac n cheese was gritty and unpleasant. Of all people, my aunt, who tends toward the pickier side was happiest with her meal, but she lives there and knew that the catfish was exactly what she wanted.

Sad, sad, that we didn't get any great bbq or fried chicken, but I'm not complaining. The rest of the food we had this weekend was wonderful, so, one iffy meal is fine.

NC: Tar Heels Country

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While we were in town, The Tar Heels won twice, moving up to the Final Four. We didn't spend any time watching the NCAA tournament this weekend, but there was no escaping the March Madness.

More than usual, Carolina Blue was on display all over town and even the local wine bar, West End, was jammed with fans watching the team beat the (ahem) tar out of Oklahoma.

NC: A Walk in the Woods

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Sunday Morning we wandered down my Aunt's favorite trail out in the woods of Chapel Hill. I took the opportunity to try my hand at nature photography, something I'm not so familiar with. I stuck to the random little details I tend towards, like these mushrooms creeping up the sides of a tree:

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The walk was fun, if terribly muddy after weeks of rain. My sneakers have seen better days...
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March 28, 2009

Markets: The Suburban Supermarket

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I could never live in the suburbs for any number of reasons beginning with the fact that I don't drive, an essential skill in any place outside a real city. Beyond that, the suburban aesthetic and the concept of the subdivision offend me to my quite citified core.

But, there is one thing that I find attractive about the world outside of The Big City: the supermarkets like this one we visited near Chapel Hill while visiting my aunt.

They are gigantic. And Clean. And full of so many wonderful things that I temporarily lose my sympathy for local small businesses and pine away at the many, many options on hand.

The airplane hanger-sized space is full of so much wonderful stuff that I find myself wandering through the aisles wistfully, raising my arms to full length and appreciating all the space. It's like a different world.

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Another wonderful feature of the supermarkets outside of New York is that they stock wine, something that is still unavailable at home. Racks and racks of bottles of medium to low-priced wines are on sale in the same place you get the rest of your groceries.

The selection does not include the highest end bottles, but it has more than enough wonderful everyday bottles.

Given space and legal concerns, I don't expect to see a place like this in NYC-proper for some time, but I can dream. . . .

March 25, 2009

NC Trip: Food Recs

We're just a couple days away from heading to North Carolina, so I'm looking forward to warm weather, hopefully rain-free, and some nice downtime. Here's a note my Aunt forwarded to me from a friend with more recommendations on where to eat. . . .

Hey Heather,

I've been brainstorming dinner places (you'll probably want to make a reservation for a Saturday night).

DINNER
I love Piedmont. It's my default restaurant for a good meal, good cocktails in downtown Durham.


Revolution is the newest on the scene. I haven't been, but I've heard good things from those who have. My coworker Anna who is self-appointed restaurant critic likes it a lot.


Na Na's isn't cheap and isn't the newest or funkiest, but I think they have some of the best food and service around.


Rue Cler is a good standby, if you're feeling Frenchy. Their mussels w/fries is a winner. And again, a downtown Durham restaurant, which I like.
http://www.ruecler-durham.com/

LUNCH
If y'all decide to just do lunch, I would suggest Toast, on Main St. Paninis and a great, simple salad.


PIedmont also has a great lunch.

As does Watts Grocery. They annoy me for dinner, but damn they make a good hamburger.


And of course, the ubiquitous, basic taquerias are fabulous. I'm a big fan of the mole enchiladas at Taco Cow. Actually called Taqueria La Vaquita.


DESSERT
If you decided to skip the meal altogether and go straight to drinks and dessert, I'd suggest Magnolia Grill. It's the original Durham great restaurant and has been written up mazillions of times. I've had a fantastic dinner there and a so-so dinner there. But the desserts are otherwordly.

xo,
A

March 13, 2009

NC: Trip Planning


Tammi and I are heading down to Chapel Hill later this month to see my aunt for her birthday. Of course, I'm already looking into my food options. There are quite a few, Bon Appetit called the area "America's Foodiest Small Town" last year. My aunt, a vegetarian teetotaler has spent the last couple of weeks trying to think like me, scoping out local restaurants and wine bars. We've been discussing the options in Chapel Hill and in general Triangle area.

So far, here's the list of places we might try:

Lantern, a pan-Asian place that I read about in Gourmet a while back.

Provence, a French restaurant that my aunt has said we have to try.

Glass Half Full, a wine bar with small plates.

The Carborro farmers market, where I've read meat from Ossabaw breed Pigs are sold. I've been curious for a while about what other heritage breeds taste like, so I may need to get something to take home.

There's another nice little wine bar we went to on our last visit that I'd be happy to visit again and Elaine's on Franklin, which we visited last time I was there.

Of course, we'll have some southern food while we're there. Tammi is particularly fond of grits, and I'm sure I'll track down some fried chicken or pulled pork. We'll probably hit Mama Dip's for brunch.

I'm sure we'll do something else besides eating. We may even actually go to Durham, which I still haven't seen, but I'm not too worried about that right now. If anyone has suggestions for food or non-food related activities in the area, let me know.

February 28, 2009

The Travel Bug

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31 days. That's the number of days I can tolerate before absolutely
need to get out of town or at least start planning another trip.

Yesterday I booked a flight down to North Carolina to see my aunt. It's all
I can do not to also plan another trip while I'm at it.

I've been thinking of a return to Philly after seeing all the graffiti pieces last weekend at going postal. Seeing the interesting work on display from UWP, Maalic and Morg, I'm really interested in seeing what's gone up since I was there last. Not to mention the food, particularly, Marc Vetri's restaurants Vetri and Osteria, which I always meant to write up, but never did. And of course, a trip to Reading Terminal Market would be wonderful.

Along the topic of graffiti, there's Toronto which has a great Graf scene that I've been wanting to explore again since my first visit there in 2005.

On the other hand, I've hoped to try to explore new places this year and Quebec City has been high on my list of new cities to explore for some time.

That said, the weather in Canada this time of year is worse than it is here in New York, so neither is particularly attractive right now.

Last weekend's trip to DC left Tammi wanting for more, so she's been interested in a return visit pretty soon. And with Shepard Fairey's show in Boston, both of us have been thinking of going up there.

Our March is all booked up before it's even begun, but April is wide open.... Let's see how long will power can hold out.

July 16, 2008

Summer Vacation Options Part 2: The South


Streetcars, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This is clearly more of a Barbecue trip. I'd probably just fly down to DC to meet Guy and we'd head out from there.

North Carolina:
Again, we'd see my aunt and hunt down some pork.

South Carolina:
Guy mentioned a cool vibe in Charleston and perhaps a visit to some of the coastal islands. I'm less familiar with the region, but it sounds interesting to me. Particularly those island populated by the Gulla.

Memphis:
I've heard so much about Tennessee's barbecue that this is a must as far as I'm concerned. Barbecue and blues, no question.

New Orleans:
As I've mentioned, I've been wanting to return to New Orleans for a while now and this would be a good opportunity. Unfortunately, I wouldn't want to make plans to go there at the end of august until the exact last minute, so that would have to be decided on the fly.

Summer Vacation Options Part 1: Mid-Atlantic


Roll 3 - 96, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This would be a relatively leisurely itinerary. We'd be able to meander down the seaboard to sampling some regional specialties along the way.

First stop, Philadelphia:
Obviously, I know more than a few places to go in Philly. I imagine I'd want to spend most of the time there in Northern Liberties. I keep hearing about more and more places popping up there. If we're driving, it would be the perfect opportunity for me to finally check out a few South Philly gems that I've only read about, including John's Roast Pork and the Italian Market. Osteria, which I never managed to post about last year, is a must.

Pit stop, Baltimore:
Crabs are key. I don't know where to go, but if we were heading towards DC, I'd want to sample some of the famous crustaceans.

Washington DC:
This is Guy's turf these days, so I'd leave it to him to figure out particulars. I'd probably want to check out the Smithsonian, while I'm there and probably Brickskellers a beer bar I visited many years ago.

North Carolina:
My Aunt is in Chapel Hill, so I'd stop in an visit her for a few days. There is also a huge amount of barbecued pork that needs to be eaten. My aunt is a vegetarian, so I rarely get to seek out the legendary pork shacks while down there. This would be the time.


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