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Oysters three ways: ponzu sauce (top), freshly prepared horseradish (middle), and spring onion-moscatell mignonette (bottom).

Almost two weeks ago I took the Acela up to New York for a work event, and while most of the trip was extremely packed with meetings and activities, I was able to squeeze in a little time to both revisit some favorite places and cross some others off my “restaurants to visit” list in the city. The first thing I did after dropping off my bags in my hotel room was to hit up Fairway to both stock up on vinegars as well as get some room essentials that would not require me to use the well-stocked but extremely expensive minibar in my room. I then had the very difficult decision to make as to where to get dinner, but with the weather being kind of gloomy I stuck with places within easy walking distance: the main course was the steak frites at Les Halles on Park Ave, and then for a nightcap I treated myself to some oysters at The John Dory Oyster Bar which was conveniently located off the lobby of my hotel. Read More

 

Open-Face “Bikini Comerç 24” Crostini

Writing about Tapas 24 in Barcelona has been on my to-do list since we finished our lunch there three and a half months ago, but I hesitated only because I was determined to offer a reinterpretation of one of the dishes we had and it took a little time to get it right. My notebook is covered with sketches of ideas and I’ve tried a few different iterations over the past few months, and I think I am satisfied enough to provide you with a delicious, very simple canapé for any New Year’s Eve celebrations. Better yet, it will not require to you get your hands on a fresh black truffle. (I know, I know—how magnanimous of me. You can hold your applause until the end.)

A moment of relative quiet in Tapas 24.

Tapas 24—it probably helps to add some context—had long been on my list of must-visit places in Barcelona (it’s strongly recommended by the crew at Barcelona Wine Bar via its guide to the best in Spain), but it was only on our most recent trip that we were able to make that a reality. The chef Carles Abellan was an acolyte of Ferran Adrià before setting out on creating his own little empire of restaurants, and Tapas 24 became the more casual offshoot of his first restaurant Comerç 24. Michael rightly likens the atmosphere of the place to that of a bustling train station, only I can assure you that the food is far better even than the likes you would find at Grand Central Terminal. There’s a set menu of classics plus daily specials, and during our meal we were both able to find a favorite off of each menu. While Michael preferred the pork belly with cabbage, shallots, and butter lettuce, I was partial to the bikini Comerç 24 for reasons that will be wholly unsurprising.

Bikini Comerç 24.

To be completely honest, I was a little mad at this sandwich because it’s simply black truffle, mozzarella di bufula, and jamón ibérico pressed between two pieces of white toast and cut into triangles, but all was quickly forgiven when I bit into the first one. My eyes bugged out (so much that Michael kept taking pictures of me diving into the rest of the plate) and I had to pace myself from wolfing down the whole plate before he could even get a taste. Even in the haze of a sandwich-induced stupor I knew that I’d want to revisit this again and again, so once we got back from our trip I started my experiments shortly thereafter. Read More

Allioli from El Taller.

Now that our big news is out in the open I can return to my previously-scheduled food blabbering. Once again I find myself two months out from our trip to Barcelona and with very few posts capturing all of the amazing food we had this time around, but I hope that a preoccupation with figuring out where we were going to live next was at least a decent reason to be distracted. With many of those details finally being ironed out, it’s time to talk about one of my top-five restaurants of all time: El Taller in Caldes d’Estrac.

We were introduced to this place by a front desk employee of Kalima two years ago: still very jet-lagged and also exhausted from twenty hours of travel to get there, I asked him for a recommendation for a good place to eat. He asked me if we wanted peix or carns, and quickly jumped at the latter. Giving me a card for a place called El Taller, he assured me it was the best place to get meat in town. The meal we had that night was exquisite, and one of our few regrets during that trip was that we weren’t able to return there for one more meal later during our stay, so when we were planning this most recent trip Michael assured me that we’d probably eat there every night we were there. Read More

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.

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Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l'all amb reducció de cava

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l’all amb reducció de cava

The last few weeks have not been particularly kind to us here at The Manhattan [food] Project, thanks to a series of injuries, illnesses, and mounting work stress that inevitably comes at the end of the calendar year. While everyone is physically fine (or at least close to it) now, in the last few weeks I had to deal with a husband who had a nasty sinus infection and a father who smacked his head against a curb when he tripped on a slippery ramp in Danbury during a weekend visit. (They are both fine now, but I feel like my sanity was hanging by a thread there for a while.) Even before all of that excitement I had been feeling discouraged, frustrated, and uninspired, and had it not been for an email exchange with a lovely reader, I’d be a lot crankier right now because I wouldn’t have this dish, straight from La Boqueria, in my repertoire. Read More

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If you’ve lived in New York for any stretch of time, you understand the dynamics of crowds all too well: the tourist presses in Midtown and down Broadway in Soho, the dSLR-wielding would-be photographers swarming Union Square on a Saturday morning, the crush of commuters on a weeknight 4 train. I live with eight million other people, you think, so naturally I’m ready for any crowd, anywhere.

Visiting El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (otherwise known as simply La Boqueria) on a Saturday is an excellent way to test that theory. I’ve spent weeks now trying to come up with some sort of analogy to what the Boqueria experience is like, but the problem is there really isn’t a pure analogue. Fairway is a full-fledged brick and mortar store, the Greenmarket feels positively airy in comparison, and Eataly is…well, we’ll get back to Eataly in a bit. In the meantime, let me try to give you an idea of what it’s like to wander around this massive market.

<<begin second-person narrative>> Read More

The houses and inns along Passeig del Mar in Caldetes/Caldes d’Estrac.

It seemed like a good idea at the time to relish the beginning of fall on the beach in Caldes d’Estrac, swimming in the Mediterranean’s surprisingly strong current, and tucking into a delicious lunch at a tiny seaside restaurant. We had been teased with a quasi-sunny day the previous Friday, but clouds intervened before we were able to stay outside for long (not that it stopped me from at least getting a momentary dip in the sea) and so when that Monday dawned bright and sunny, there was naught else to do but go to the sea, armed with chairs and towels and books. I spent most of my time in the Mediterranean, either swimming or standing strong against the intense tide to collect seaglass, shells, and pieces of clay tile.

In retrospect, I think this was a bit of a mistake because I am now sure that this was the day that ruined the rest of the fall season for me and Michael. It doesn’t help that since we touched down in JFK that following Wednesday we’ve had more than our fair share of lousy weather (see: frankenstorm and then nor’easter), but even on our nicer days I’ve been yearning to go back to the little bar in front of Kalima and eat tapas, drink beer, and watch the sea while bathed in sunshine.

Boquerones with olives and beer.

Our lunch that day was very simple: a starter of some anchovies and olive oil and bread, and then gambes a la planxa for me and pintxos moruns for Michael. I had been looking forward to getting those whole shrimp since we booked our tickets, but it wasn’t surprising when Michael went with some pork with a side of papas fritas; while we enjoyed at least a few meat dishes at every place we went to, the portions were not large and often they were cured, so when he had an opportunity to enjoy some fresh meat to himself, he took it. Read More

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