Vietnam: a guide to food, from north to south. PART 2

10 Sep

Vietnam made such an impression on me that I wanted to devote adequate time and space to discussing my experiences, both with the food and otherwise. The previous post focused on Hanoi and Hue, which were also the first two stops along our trip. The next major stops were Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, the feature cities of this post.

View from the Hai Van pass

View from the Hai Van pass

We made the trip from Hue to Hoi An by bus, through the winding roads in the montains of central Vietnam. Closer to Hue we saw lush, flat rice fields dotted with water buffalo, but the scenery changed one we got on the Hai Van pass, one of two main routes between Hue and Hoi An. The pass is known for both its breathtaking scenic beauty, and also it’s breathtaking (or nauseating…) switch back turns.

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Vietnam: a guide to food, from north to south – PART 1

12 Aug Bun thit nuong in Hue

Before travelling to Vietnam, I was largely ignorant of its serene natural beauty, bustling and quickly transforming cities, and incredible food culture.  Vietnam in my mind was primarily associated with the Vietnam War (known as the American War to the Vietnamese), which I suspect is the case for many other Americans.

Halong Bany by night

Halong Bay by night

Though I was in Vietnam for only two weeks, I saw a country that was culturally rich and diverse, relentlessly devoted to modernization, and unbelievably welcoming to visitors. It seems to have all but left behind the shadow of the Vietnam war. There is too much to say about Vietnam to fit in a blog post, or even a book, and I am not an expert on any part of it. So I will focus on the activity I partook in at least three times a day, and which never ceased to give me great pleasure – eating.

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Maialino

16 Jun

Many of the restaurants in New York are best enjoyed at a certain time of day for a particular meal. But finding a restaurant where you feel equally at home for different meals, and the meals are equally as satisfying, is rare.

bar
One of the only restaurants in New York where I feel I could spend all day is Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Lots of New Yorkers and New York food writers are familiar with the Maialino, so demand for a table or even a seat at the first-come first-first serve communal bar can be high. But even among the brunch crowds and dressed up dinner diners, I feel at home.

 

Part of this is because of the friendliness of servers, a trademark of Danny Meyer restaurants, and also because there is something amazing to eat at any time day.
Cortado
During breakfast at Maialino, the sounds of the espresso machine beckons. And my eyes can’t avoid catching the dozens of pastries behind a glass case, obviously put in place to invite ogling but to protect from grubby hands like my own.

 

A breakfast there is impossible without a cortado and something from behind that case. My favorites are the toffee-glazed brioche bun and glazed lemon cake (the jam it’s served with changes regularly), but the almond croissant is another nice crunchy, flaky, chewy morning treat.
lemoncake
What I love about Mailaino for brunch are its wide windows that look out onto Gramercy Park, making it a pleasant place to linger over some weekend reading, and the bar tenders who are friendly enough to offer samples of wine if you ask enough questions. Though it’s not always on the menu, my favorite brunch item is the Fagioli e Salsiccia – white beans cooked with blood sausage and a perfectly done egg. It’s amazing with a sip of that sample wine.
beansFront
I’ve moved away from typical brunch items lately (i.e. eggs, bacon, waffles), but some Sundays nothing but the the ricotta pancakes with kumquat jam will do. They’re everything you would hope for in a  pancake – perfectly round, browned, and fluffy. The tartness of the kumquats is unexpected and a good contrast to the richness of the ricotta.
pancake
What I love about Maialino for lunch is the warm afternoon lull you may (or may not) find in the winter, and the satisfaction that comes after finishing the garganelli pasta. Garganelli is a small, tube shaped pasta and at Maialino is done in a tomato-y sauce, though the ingredients of the sauce rotate in and out. I’ve tried it with oxtail and pork.
PastaAndWine
In the event you’re carbo-loading, or not, I recommend a side of roasted potatoes, which are salty, a little cheesy, and fragrant with rosemary.
Burger
Dinner, with the elegant din of people eating and drinking, is a different experience. The restaurant feels romantic in the evening, even when I’m eating the massive and messy late night burger. For a more Italian and grown up, date-appropriate meal, I’d probably go for the crisp fried artichokes, and the carbonara or papardelle with milk braised pork ragu.
Papardelle
Also, according to wine-loving friends Maialino has an great wine list, if you’re into that kind of thing. I am rather a wine novice, but the wine list feels nearly as heavy as a bible and I’ve had some very enjoyable wine ordered, of course, by others more knowledgeable than me.

 

Perfect for: any meal if you want to impress someone
Perfect meal: cortado, toffee brioche bun, Fagioli e Salsiccia

 

Neighborhood: Gramercy/Flatiron

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Cha-An

3 Apr

Lately I’ve been revolting against brunch. I never thought my love of ricotta pancakes and stuffed french toast would wane, but New York’s restaurants offer such variety that many brunch menus have started to look uninspired.

For a very un-brunch midday meal on a Saturday or Sunday, I love to go to Cha-An. This petite tea house on the second story of a nondescript building in East Village is the perfect antidote to New York’s “favorite” brunch destinations that offer leaden eggs Benedict and hour long waits for a table.

photo 1_E

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Amy Ruth’s

5 Nov

There’s such an astounding concentration of restaurants in Manhattan, it’s easy to find good food without walking more than a few blocks. And thanks to seamless.com, you probably don’t even have to leave your house. But there are a lot of neighborhoods worth going out of your way for if you’re craving something special.

 This weekend in New York was blustery and cool, and you could feel that winter is around the corner. It was the kind of weather that makes you miss home, and home cooked meals. There’s nothing homier or more comforting to me than soul food (or maybe a good cassoulet…), so I made the easy trek up to Harlem, which is arguably the best area in or near the city the find soul food.
Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

David Lebovitz

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