Category Archives: Travel

Elegant and inventive Japanese food–deep in the heart of Texas

When I traveled to Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Interactive conference, I definitely had a lot of barbecue, but I also was fortunate to eat at Uchiko, the Japanese restaurant where Top Chef Season 9 winner, Paul Qui, is executive chef.

The restaurant, of course, was completely booked weeks before I arrived in Austin. I thought maybe I could score a seat in the bar during happy hour if I got there early enough. My conference roommate, Dominique, was game to try. While she was on the Uchiko website getting directions to the restaurant, on a whim, Dominique checked online availability of reservations that night. She found a 5:30 pm slot was open and booked it immediately. Score!

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There’s the beef

Cow at HGTV party at South by Southwest Interactive 2012

I went to Austin to attend the South By Southwest Interactive Conference. The goal was to learn about the latest developments in Internet technology and connect with some of the smartest people in the field.

But really, once I got to Texas, all I wanted to do was eat barbecue and see Anthony Bourdain (more on that in a later post).

I love beef brisket. And if you love brisket, Texas is the place to be.

When I got off my plane in Austin, I was greeted by the smell of grilled meat and smoke. It was pervasive. In the airport. I could only imagine what awaited me in Austin restaurants.

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Would you eat this chicken?

My friend Adam lives in New Orleans, and he constantly posts on Facebook about the amazing food in that fine city–not only making me jealous, but insanely hungry.

Unfortunately, I have no plans to visit Louisiana anytime soon so I hatched a scheme to have some New Orleans food travel to me.

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The savory side of Washington, D.C.

During a short trip to the nation’s capital last month, I had four dining experiences that represented very distinct cultures and approaches to food.

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Is Washington, D.C. the capital of cupcakes?

When I was in Washington, D.C. last week, it seemed like no matter where I was in the city, there was a cupcake shop nearby. I unexpectedly managed to visit two of the top shops in the DC area.

After wrapping up a business meeting in Georgetown, I had some time to walk around the area. My friend had told me that I visit Georgetown Cupcake. I asked my DC colleagues about it, and they recommended that I visit Baked and Wired instead.

When I headed out on my own, I had the address of Baked and Wired but no map or directions so I didn’t think I would find it. But after walking for a few minutes, I found myself right in front of the shop.

I loved the way they display the baked goods under glass–especially the cupcakes.

Cupcake and other baked goods on display counter at Baked and Wires in Washington, D.C.

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Come fly with me

This time last week, I was headed to Washington, D.C. on business, and I was not looking forward to the trip at all. Flying from Seattle to the East Coast is a grueling affair. Even if you’re excited about your destination, it’s long–no matter the amount of reading material, Sudoku puzzles, iPod playlists or DVDs you bring with you.

It does help to have good food.

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There are no danishes in Denmark

I am WAAAYYY behind in my blogging so this week I’m having my friend and dependable eating buddy, Lynn, guest-blog about her food experiences during a recent trip to Europe.

And now Lynn in the role of Rick Steves
I took a 10-day trip in March 2009, hitting several cities in England and then Copenhagen, Denmark. I had never been to either country before (Ok, the several layovers in Heathrow don’t count), so was excited to take in all of the sights, sounds, and snacks. I had always heard that the food in England was nasty, but I figured that my peasant stock food preferences wouldn’t be too far off from the normal British fare. I was generally correct. I had some good fish and chips, an absolutely delicious Cornish pasty (NOT pronounced like the things burlesque dancers glue to their boobs) with the sweetest, flakiest crust. And the best Indian food of my life! Heard the rumors…well, they’re true. Damn good Indian food. Plus, I ate every chocolate product that Cadbury ever created. And that was just England. Denmark is renowned for its seafood, but I’m not a big fan of products from the sea (other than the aforementioned fish and chips). But I ate pretty darn well in that country too! Good pork, duck, breads, pastries, and beet salads with freshly grated horseradish. Below are some of my more food-centric photos from my trip.

Yes, I turn into a 14-year-old boy every time I see “spotted dick” on a menu. It’s basically a baked pudding that has raisins or currents in it. Never tried it, but had loads of fun cracking up over it.

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This is a GIGANTIC cupcake that I saw in Harrods. Gucci on your right, Princess Di and Dodi memorial on your left. *^%$@ HUGE cupcake straight ahead. The cupcake fad has hit London and Lola’s is one of the top cupcake bakeries.

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I kept seeing signs for “jacket potatoes” everywhere I went in England. Turns out, it’s just a fancy name for a baked potato. This was my last meal in the UK: a jacket potato with cheddar and bacon. The bacon in England was more like a really, really salty, thinly sliced ham. It was yummy. And they serve beans with breakfast. Strange people. Glad we seceded.

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Ok, now we’re in Denmark. We had lunch at a café owned and run by Ida Davidsen, known for her smorrebord (open-faced sandwiches). The fact that there was a slice a bread that came with it somehow made it an open faced sandwich. Yummy duck, potatoes, and beet salad with fresh horseradish.

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This is my standard American breakfast that I was able to re-create in Denmark. The fun thing about this is that there’s a big ole Nestle logo on the box.

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Lunch at Kronborg Castle. The Kronenburger.

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Cracklin’ pork! My friend Torben made a traditional Christmas dinner. Cracklin’ pork has salt rubbed and cooked into the top fat so it’s all pork rindy crispy and you pull it off and just munch on it all night. And they put flags on everything.

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Caramelized sugar potatoes.

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Danes love their “brown gravy.” Problem is, when you make gravy, it’s more golden beige color. So every household has brown food coloring to add to the gravy.

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Absolutely huge sugar pretzel.

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Plate of Danish desserts, plus a chocolate tort from Vienna.

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My last morning in Denmark. Traditional breakfast rolls. Some of these rolls were buttery and flaky like croissants.

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Utah’s greatest bits

To finish out my posts about my foray into Utah’s food scene, here are six food finds you should check out if you ever find yourself in the Beehive State.

1. Roasted banana ice cream at the University of Utah’s Red Butte Garden served by Scoopology.

2. “Tennessee tangos” at Sugarhouse BBQ. The rest of our meal was kind of a disappointment, but the rib tips were divine.

3. Grilled ham and cheese sandwich with fries at Liberty Park. A homey treat like mom used to make. While you’re at the park, be sure and visit the Tracy Aviary.

4. Hawaiian shave ice at the Park City farmers market. I got mine with mango, lychee and ling hing mui flavoring.

5. Liberty Heights Fresh. I wish this was my grocery store.

6. Mazza. We wanted to eat at this Middle Eastern restaurant but ran out of time. Sarah and Damon were kind enough to share some leftovers they happened to have in the fridge, and they were delicious. I could only imagine how good a full meal would have been.

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That’s a spicy meatball

The food highlight of our trip to Utah was a visit to Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli. With its artisan cheeses, in-house salami maker(!) and premium chocolates, Caputo’s feels like it should be in major metropolis like New York or Chicago. This is definitely a place I never expected to find in Salt Lake City. Despite having most city trappings, SLC still feels more like a small town to me. Plus–who knew there were Italians in Utah! That’s the fun of living in a nation of immigrants–people can wind up anywhere.

Caputo’s is located downtown and as expected, does brisk business at lunch, which was when we visited. My husband, our friend Damon and I followed the crush of people to the deli counter–a lean, mean, well-oiled machine. But service was anything but brusque. It was warm and welcoming AND quick.

I had the muffaleta sandwich with salami, ham, mortadella, cheese and olive salad on a French roll that was some of the most perfect bread I’ve ever had. It was firm enough to hold everything together but it was soft enough so it didn’t tear up the roof of my mouth or disintegrate into a thousand crumbs every time I took a bite.

Most of the people eating in the deli were chowing down on meatball subs. They looked so happy that I also ordered a side of meatballs. I soon understood their bliss. The meatballs were tender and succulent, and the accompanying marinara sauce had a rich tomato flavor without being too acidic or cloyingly sweet. The only bad thing about the meatballs was that they made me so full, I had no room for chocolate cake. Each slice at Caputo’s is 3/4 pound.

My husband had the signature Caputo sandwich, which was named the third best sandwich in America by “men’s entertainment magazine” FHM. (I imagine the writer’s pitch to his editor went something like this: “Hot chicks eating sandwiches–it’ll be great!”) The Caputo is an Italian meat-lover’s dream with prosciutto, mortadella, salami combined with provolone, lettuce, and tomatoes on a hard Italian roll covered with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Damon had the chicken parmesan sandwich, the special of the day and one of his all-time favorite foods. It wasn’t goopy as many chicken parms can be. The chicken was crisp and provided a solid base for the mozzarella and marina sauce. He washed down that goodness with an apple beer, an interesting non-alcoholic drink produced in SLC.

Really good food commands your total attention. You want to concentrate and get lost in the food because you may never be able to replicate that experience again. Our table was completely silent until we all finished our sandwiches.

The deli is just one of the many delights at Caputo’s. The market displays the largest selection of Italian and Southern European foods in Utah. It’s is the type of place you could visit every day and find something new and unexpected, be it a cheese cave, 60 different olive oils or high-end chocolate flavored with bacon.

The next time I’m in Salt Lake City, you’ll know where to find me.

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My slice of the pie

Another Salt Lake City that kept popping up on “best-of” lists was Settebello.

Settebello serves authentic Neapolitan-style pizza as established by the guidelines of the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association founded in Naples, Italy. In 2007 Settebello was certified by the President of the US Chapter of the VPN, Peppe Miele, as only the 16th member in the United States.

Of course, all that doesn’t necessarily mean the pizza is good.

Like Red Iguana, Sarah and Damon were able to vouch for Setebello’s pizza. Since they are both native East Coasters who know a good pie and have actually been to Italy, my husband and I headed there (with Damon for good measure) for lunch.

We had a salad and antipasto plate to start, which were tasty enough, but let me just get to the pizza because it was so good, maybe some of the best I’ve ever had. (And that includes pizza I’ve had in Italy!)

We ordered two pizzas. We got a classic margherita draped with prosciutto and the house special Setebello pizza, with crushed tomatoes, pancetta, fennel sausage, roasted mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella and basil. The ingredients were top-knotch, and the thin crust was perfectly crisp. Topped off with pistachio gelato for dessert, it was a pretty much perfect pizza experience.

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