Sardinian Seadas: A Sweet Souvenir

Sardinian seadaCooking wasn’t much on my mind when I first arrived in Sardinia five weeks ago. Learning Italian, yes. Writing, yes. Expunging the recent stresses of New York and beyond, yes. That’s what I’d come to do.

But Sardinia and its charms instantly beguiled me, its platters of pane gutiau (a traditional flatbread drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and baked to crackling deliciousness), spicy mussels and garlicky fried shrimp reeling me in ever deeper.

In Alghero, I’ve had the great fortune of not only eating tremendously well but also having terrific food gurus to watch in the kitchen. Among them is a lovely soul — Angelina Demartis, a local high school teacher who comes from a long line of Algherese women who have taken great joy in cooking well and feeding the ones they love.

Angelina occasionally holds cooking class dinners at her home in downtown Alghero and one night, I got to be a part of one of them. Which is how I came to discover the intense pleasure that is Sardinian seadas.

So when my hardy Let’s Lunch club decided on sharing a recipe they’ve brought back with them from faraway travels, Angelina’s seadas instantly came to mind …

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Pasta & Co. (Alghero, Italy): Sampling the Sea

IMG_6833One of my first nights in Sardinia and my Italian school classmate Caroline and I are on the prowl in the twilight of Alghero.

After a tough morning of language lessons and a long afternoon in the sun, Caroline, an apprentice chef from Norway, and I are starving. She has a place in mind, one that she thinks looks good. And so we wend our way down a few narrow cobblestoned streets and cross a piazza before coming upon a restaurant sign that I can’t help but wince at: Pasta & Co.

Pasta & Co.? Surely, I didn’t traipse across thousands of miles to eat at a restaurant that sounds like it belongs in the Mall of America.

Since Caroline is in the business though, I figure there must be something to this place. So, in we went …

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Ting Thai Caravan (Edinburgh, Scotland): Southeast Asian Street Eats

IMG_6805I’m often intensely skeptical of Thai food made in a western city with no sizable Southeast Asian population.

It’s a cuisine that’s incredibly hard to pull off well — the numerous ingredients that go into many dishes need to be present in just the right amount, or the balance and flavor are likely to get thrown off. Even in New York City, I don’t regularly seek out Thai meals because they tend to disappoint — well, unless bland and saccharine are your thing.

So when a new friend in Edinburgh suggested meeting for a Thai street food lunch, I balked. This city has surprised me though, with its Korean deliciousness and outstanding Indian. So I thought, hey, why not?

And shortly after, I found myself stepping through the glass door of Ting Thai Caravan and into an intense cloud laced with all the scents that immediately push my buttons: garlic, chili, lemongrass …

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The Square & Compass (Worth Matravers, England): A Splendid Little Spot

The Square and Compass Pub A lazy drive along the Dorset Coast in southern England is just packed with delights.

There’s the English Channel of course, that endless expanse of intense powder blue that you can’t quite take your eyes off. The grass is an impossibly vibrant green. And when the sun’s just up there showing off to you on an early summer’s day, it starts to feel as if the moment couldn’t get any better.

But then, it does.

In a little speck of a village perched on the steep cliffs near Swanage, an inviting white stone building surrounded by swarms of bikers and daytrippers in shorts and flimsy sundresses appears. D.B. has promised me a good lunch and so here we are, at the charming Square and Compass …

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St. Giles’ Cafe (Oxford, England): A Literary Lunch

St. Giles' CafeSomewhere along my very first English roadtrip, as my finger trails our route on the map, a massive excitement starts to set in. I’ve realized two things:

1. We have to stop somewhere for lunch.

2. At about the place on the map where we have to stop, I find my finger hovering over a small dot that says “Oxford.”

There are many reasons I’ve long been fascinated with Oxford, though the increasingly sad truth was that I’ve never visited the place. As for the question of where to lunch, once I learned that W.H. Auden used to frequent a little greasyspoon called the St. Giles’ Cafe — well, that was that …

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