Fishers in Leith (Edinburgh): A Seaside Touch in the City

Fishers in LeithIt’s been beautifully sunny and warm here in Edinburgh this week — a shocker, I am told, this early in spring. (It’s been said to me more than once: “You’ve brought the weather from New York with you!”)

The gift of good weather always makes me crave the water — much more so these few days, as part of the enchantment of Edinburgh is the constant sound of seagulls in the backdrop. This may be a big city but its soundtrack is that of a charming seaside town — all the more reason to venture out to the water.

When I mentioned seeking water, Jill, the co-owner of the very lovely bed and breakfast 4 Morningside Place, had suggestions galore. Go to Leith, she said, telling me the tourist traps to avoid once I get there.

“My favorite place,” Jill noted, “is Fishers.” Now, Jill strikes me as a woman of very good taste, judging from her beautiful home, incredibly pretty garden and delicious breakfasts. So she didn’t need to tell me twice — as soon as I could get my shoes on, I hopped on a bus …

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Singaporean Sardine Sandwiches: A Secret Food Love

Sardine Sandwich I recently found myself in a situation of looking at a small list of lunch sandwich choices and having a friend ask me what he should pick. The list featured the usual: Ham, cheese, tuna. And then: Sardine.

My very good-natured friend, the author Alek Popov (read his hilarious novel “Mission London” if you haven’t), listened to my advice — the sardine, of course. For Alek, this new sardine adventure turned out to be a lunch so horrid I wouldn’t hear the end of it at dinner that evening.

For those who didn’t grow up eating sardine sandwiches like I did, I suppose the experience could be a little jarring — it’s intensely fishy, mushy and well, those two sensory things may not be what many seek in a lunch. For me, however, sardines are heaven. I love eating them in sandwiches, in puff pastry buns, on their own. (Not that I broadcast this information — I’ve learned my lesson since my last public show of sardine love.)

So when my Let’s Lunch group decided on making a dish featuring a secret food love — an item you’re so ashamed of eating you don’t talk about it much — sardines came to mind. What to make with it? A Singaporean classic …

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Easy Asian Tuna Salad: A Simple Keeper

A few months ago, I pledged on this blog that I’d be better about writing my own recipes down.

Sure, I’ve proven that I’m pretty adept at writing others’ recipes down. But when it comes to my own, dishes that I whip up with ingredients yanked willy-nilly from the fridge often don’t get reproduced for a simple reason: By the time the meal’s over, I’ve already forgotten what exactly it was that I did. (I’m still mourning the delicious tender beef in Sichuan peppercorn-soy sauce stew that I threw together recently and have no idea how to replicate.)

And so here’s another installment — for a dish so easy I actually think blogging about it is pretty silly. But hey, a pledge is a pledge. So if you want to learn about the Asian-inflected tuna salad I make at home, read on …

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Fishermen's Grotto (San Francisco): A Taste of The Old Wharf

It’s not every day that I look forward to eating at a cheeseball tourist trap.

The Fishermen’s Grotto in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, however, holds special meaning. Thirty years ago, when the sous chef was an undergrad at Stanford University, his father would breeze into town from their Iowa homestead and whisk him away to San Francisco.

There, the man would regale his son with stories of his own youth in 1950s San Francisco — and invariably, these trips would land the pair at a little place in the wharf.┬áThe old man would order a Shrimp Louis, remarking with prickly nostalgia that the pricey platter of creamy shrimp “used to cost just $3.50 back in the ’50s.” And over heaping plates of shrimp and fish, he would share the colorful stories of his bygone years.

So when the sous chef and I found ourselves in San Francisco last week, a visit to the old hangout became a must.

Battling sidewalks jammed with tourists and street artists offering to sketch our portraits, we wended our way along the breezy waterfront and found it: Fishermen’s Grotto, the very first restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf …

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Eataly (Il Pesce): A Mixed Bag Of Fish


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Eataly can be a hard place for the hungry.

For starters, chaos rules the moment you set foot in the door of this cavernous Whole Foods-meets-tony-food-court Italian emporium in New York City that opened at the end of summer. Believe me, you’ll need all the strength you can muster to bulldoze your way past the bodies before you can get at any food.

And while you’re pressed up, body against body, there are the displays of cheeses, desserts, milk and coffee you’ll be breezing past. You’ll want to stop, of course — but the mosh pit all around owns you. All you can do is cast longing glances, hoping for some private time with that fetching taleggio later in the evening perhaps, as the crowd carries you helplessly along.

Our destination on this particularly mobbed Saturday evening is Il Pesce, the fish restaurant within this 50,000 square foot-place that partner Mario Batali has famously billed as a “temple,” where “food is more sacred than commerce.”

Amid the sections where you can buy pasta, bread, cookbooks or stand around tall tables in a “tasting piazza” and nibble on cured meats, there are a few eateries devoted to specific categories — vegetables, pasta, fish, meat. Our dining companion for the evening, the insatiable Gael Greene, has already eaten her way through a few of those places. “I was curious to try the fish restaurant …” she says.

So, Il Pesce it is …

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