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  1. Authentic Mexican restaurants are slim on the west side. But for really "authentic" you shouldn't be asking for "Mexican" you should be asking for the region, so, for example, on the west side most Mexicans hail from Oaxaca, and you should be asking for a good Oaxacan restaurant. Then the next problem kicks in: gringo-dominated clientele will make the restaurateurs tone down their food to bland Mex-American. This is why you never go to El Cholo or El Coyote for Mexican food. Nor do you ever go to a place with a sleeping Mexican wearing a large sombrero as part of the sign. That all being said there is one place to be recommended in Santa Monica and that's a Oaxacan restaurant on Pico between 3rd and 4th Sts. called El Texate. It's a funky, cozy place. The food is very good, but here is where it gets tricky. The menu is filled with gringo-food hidden behind Mexican names. But you could call a day or two ahead and tell them that you want real Oaxacan food and they will prepare off-menu dishes you can have no where else, such as memela, with black bean puree, haciento, tasajo, and finished with fresh Mexican cheese; Molote, filled with fresh potato and chorizo mix finished with fresh cheese; Empanada frita; Chalupa, a wide fresh tortilla with raised edges topped with cecina and potato mix with guallio and condiments; Salata Nolpal, fresh cactus salad with jicama, pico de gallo, fresh avocado, cilantro, tomato and chalupines (crickets); Henyerbada, made with fresh organic herbs: yerba santa, epazote, pirejil, vaso, tripe, kidneys, and pitiona; Pipian, chicken made with a sauce of pumpkin seed and fresh cactus; Frijol Blanco, white bean and fresh shrimp stew and of course the famous mole negro for which Oaxaca is famous. There's also good Veracruzean restaurant on Washington Blvd in Culver City called Mi Ranchito (same principles apply).
  2. Although it's one of the ugliest towns in California with nothing to recommend it, Desert Hot Springs (DHS) does have several very nice spas that are destinations for escapees from LA looking for a relaxing way to do nothing and unwind. Most of these people go to Palm Springs, about 15 minutes away to eat, but we became so unwound at our gorgeous spa (Hope Springs Resort) that we couldn't bear even going that far. So we ate in DHS and this is my report. In Desert Hot Springs, apparently many of the Mexican-American families in town are from Jalisco, so one would hope one could find typical dishes from that region such as torta ahogada, caldo miche, pozole, or birria (roast goat). No such luck. All the Mexican restaurants in town serve Mexican-American food of varying quality, the best being mediocre. In the end there are no good restaurants in DHS, only places where you can eat mediocre food. The differences are between mediocre and mediocre. The best restaurant in town is a Korean place in fact. Nearly all the restaurants are as charmless as the town. That all being said, these restaurants were fun to go to as an anthropological exercise. After a while the charmlessness grows on you. Palm Korea 13440 Palm Dr. Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240 760-329-2277 Surprisingly good Korean. Total lack of atmosphere, plain tables and florescent overhead lights that are very bright. But the restaurant is authentic in a weird way: chopsticks only, Korean cook, some Korean diners, and Korean TV playing constantly. We had pork bulgogi and grilled eel both served sizzling atop sauteed cabbage on very hot metal platters, splashing oil so I had to cover myself with my napkin. The pork was served with lettuce leaves and a pair of scissors (to cut the meat) and a little sauce. You wrap the meat and it was just delicious, with only a little less flavor than you would find in L.A.’s Koreatown. The grilled eel was just fantastic. We also had some appetizers served with the meal of kimchi, sauteed cold seaweed, bean sprouts, soy bean jelly with sauce, cooked sweet potatoes with sauce and steamed rice. El Matador 13450 Palm Dr. Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240 760-329-4424 A pretty decent Mexican place serving standard pan-Mexican dishes and no unique dishes whatsoever. It had the feel of a Mex-American restaurant for the local gringos. This means, I think, that this is toned down a bit. I had a taquito and a chile rellano which were just fine. Service wasn’t great, a little too laid back, but the experience was fine. The decor is drab and although this and Casa Blanca (below) are the best Mexican restaurants in town (not saying much), the Casa Blanca is more festive. Zapopan Mexican Food 14207 Palm Dr Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240 (760) 288-2401 This place has all the charm of a fast food place, which it is. Nothing unique. Casa Blanca 66370 Pierson Boulevard Desert Hot Springs (760) 329-5007) There are 11 Mexican places in town and this was chosen as the best of them. I suppose that's true. I had a good menudo and huevos with chorizo. This is perfectly fine, but not terribly notable beyond that. Decor is festive and it’s a pleasant place to have breakfast, lunch or dinner. La Michoacana 16760 Palm Drive DHS, CA 92240 A funky little Mexican-American place with edible mediocre food. Nothing unique. The tortas were good. All the other Mexican places are better. South of the Border 11719 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs (760) 251-4000. A standard Mex-American place with no unique dishes but perfectly edible. Decor is typical family-run Mexican. Capri 12260 Palm Drive (760) 329-6833 A totally out-of-date Italian-American place where one should only order steaks which are just fine. Often called the best restaurant in DHS, it’s not. For food, I would choose the Palm Korea. The Capri served us an inedible minestrone soup out of a can. Canned tomato sauce over penne which was inedible. The steak was fine, like a good choice steak. The veal parmesan was a thick cut of low quality veal, heavily breaded, and not very good. Stay away from all Italian food and order steaks--they are good.
  3. The three best Middle Eastern cookbooks in terms only of how well the recipes work are, I believe, Nahda S. Salah, One Thousand and One Delights: Authentic Home Cooking of the Middle East, Tess Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979, and Sima OsmanYassine and Sadouf Kamal. Middle Eastern Cuisine. Beirut: Dar el-ilm lil-Malayin, 1984. In terms over overall perspective undoubtedly Roden. Remember that North Africa is not the Middle East but Turkey is. I was once asked by my publisher to write a comprehensive Middle East cookbook in the category of Mediterranean Feast and I told them it was too big of a project. But it's there waiting to be written. Incidentaly, as good as Roden's book is, I don't consider it to be comprehensive
  4. I've scoured eGullet to make sure this is the proper place to put this announcement and that I'm following the etiquette, although granted this is self-promotion. If I'm wrong, my apologies. Well I finally have re-launched my web site www.cliffordawright.com as the premier source for those who love Mediterranean food in all its rich regional variety. I've started this web site as a source for the authentic and traditional foods of the Mediterranean in their cultural and historical context illustrated with a thousand heirloom Mediterranean recipes that are fully-tested in my kitchen. This is the site for people for whom food is glorious and not fearsome, for people who watch their happiness before they watch their weight, for people who believe that behind every swallow is an insight into who they are. Here is your entry into the world of the most popular cuisines in the world, the world of all the culinary regions of the Mediterranean. You will find the culinary cultures of the Mediterranean offered with the same depth and balance of recipes and their histories as you would in a flavorful bouillabaisse. Cuisine does not spring from nowhere and it does not spring from restaurants. Cuisine is a cultural phenomenon that evolves from real people in kitchens cooking to provide food for their families guided by culture, history, agricultural, and need and wants. Here you will find REAL food. Come visit and tell me what you think!
  5. A very good school is called The Awaiting Table in Lecce in Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot. But, truth in advertizing, I recommend it because I will be teaching there this fall. It's one week long hands-on immersion classes taught in English. Check it out at The Awaiting Table
  6. Well, yeah, 3 weeks is a long time. Mine is long gone by that point.
  7. I am a little confused about this business of what to do with leftover caponata. In Sicily, one makes caponata to be leftover. That is, it's a preserved and marinated (pickled) food that is meant to be eaten over and over again. You can Google caponata history to read all about it or go directly to Caponata. Asking what to do with leftover caponata is like asking what to do with leftover pickles. Anyway, if one means what other uses are there for caponata besides as an appetizer or a side dish, one of my favorite ways was as a pizza caponata I had once in San Gregorio.
  8. La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara is a don't miss. (It's on Milpas) Also second Rjwong Thursday night Farmers' Market on Higuera in San Luis Obispo. In Pismo Beach go to Cracked Crab 751 Price St. Www.crackedcrab.com where they dump a bucket of mixed shellfish on your table and you crack and hammer away. Lots of fun. In Cayucos you should go to the best restaurant in town Hoppe's Garden Bistro 78 N. Ocean Avenue • P.O. Box 569 • Cayucos, CA 93430 where you can find expertly prepared fresh abalone. If you have time visit the abalone farm a couple of miles north. In Cambria, there's a million unnotable tourist restaurants, but the best of them is Main St Grill. It's a BBQ place. Don't go to any of the "fancy" restaurants in town--they're awful. In Big Sur, the Post Ranch Inn is quite amazing and expensive.
  9. archestratus


    As someone who was a teenager on Long Island, and who summered in Wellfleet for 15 years and who generally has been eating oysters for decades I do have strong opinions. All oyster eaters do. Thank you for mentioning Wellfeet oysters. These are truly one of the best oysters on the East coast and to specify even more particularly my favorite Wellfleet oyster, the ones from the Harbor are just fine, but I'm quite partial to the ones from Indian Neck and especially the ones from Drummer's Cove which is where our house was. They live in this amazing 2 feet deep primordial muck of mud that must be responsible for their taste as much as the rapid tides coming in an out of the coves bringing their nutrients. When I tired of oystering (it's literally back breaking work) I would just keep my three kids at it and finally by the time the tide was coming back in they would drag garbage bags full of prime oysters (they were too little then to carry them) back to the house and I would scream at them to wash the oysters before coming into the house. If you are goiing to eat a raw oyster you really should not be having it with anything more than a drop or two of lemon juice. Now, that having been said, I recently came across an amazing oyster called Coffin Bay Oysters from about 20 miles north of Ketchican, Alaska. These were the best oysters I've had on the West coast and I was wondering if anyone knows anything about them. They were pretty big oysters and the animal inside was quite plump. They melted in the mouth and were not briny as east coast oysters tend to be. They tasted every so slightly but pleasantly gummy and kind of stuck to the roof of your mouth which was actually very pleasing even though that description doesn't sound so. Finally, a little ditty for you oyster lovers Oysters are terrific bivalves, They have young ones by the score, How they diddle is a riddle, They just keep on having more
  10. It certainly sounds like you know what you're doing, so I won't say the obvious. Anybody who knows about Eggenberg beer probably doesn't need much advice. Anyway here's few tips. My daughter and i were in Southern Bohemia this past January (very cold!, hence the emphasis on coziness and warmth in the comments below). KUTNA HORA Pivnice/Restaurant Pivnice Dačický Rakova 8 Kutna Hora Tel: 327-512-248 This totally cozy place was on a narrow lane just past the church and once you enter it was a square room of uneven stone floor, rich stained wood on the bottom portion of the wall, beige-yellow white wash on top, wooden tables, and benches, a roaring fireplace with heating tiles so the heat radiated into the medieval like manor house room. There were chivalric heraldry emblems and plaques about, iron work and a Dačický, Budweiser and Pilsner Urquell array on tap. TŘEBON A good eating town, especially fish. Restaurants Restaurace Malá Bašta Masarykovo Namesti 87 A fine little seafood restaurant right in the middle of the town square. Pivnice/Brewery Schwarzenberská Pivnice This is the pub of the Regent Brewery in operation since 1349 and taken over by the Schwarzenberg family in 1698. It has vaulted ceilings and a sweet middle aged waitress. It’s a real beerhall and wonderful variety of Regent beers including the yeast beer. ČESKY KRUMLOV Pivnice/Restaurants Na Louzi Kajovska 6 Cesky Krumlov Tel./Fax. 337-711-280 e-mail: hotel@nalouzi.cz http://www.nalouzi.cz/en/index.html This is an Eggenberg beer pivnice. The beer is dark and light and very smooth. It’s a little place with dark wood, benches and 5 tables with antique metal advertizing plaques along the upper part of the walls above the dark wood. Restaurants Restaurace Jakuba Krčina Široká St. Jakuba Krčina (1535-1604) was the chief-manager of the Rosenberg dominion. The restaurant is in his 16th century house. The restaurant is a small and very cozy place, the left side having only 4 wooden booths with an inset faux brick top. The wooden ceiling beams are low and one bored but efficient waitress served us with rock and roll music playing in the background. The booths are divided by arty wooden sculptures. The right side of the restaurant was closed for the winter.
  11. Everyone has (or should have) a bacon story. Here's mine: about 10 years ago I moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Santa Monica, California. My buddy and I moved me, renting a 26' foot Ryder truck. We took the interstate the whole way driving 13 hours a day. Now, we knew the food was going to be crap the whole way, but it was my bright (and, subsequently, entirely stupid) idea that when we had to stop to eat we would only eat at the "local" offering, because we didn't want to leave the interstate. There was McDonalds, Denny's, and another chain I hate, and then the local place. So we chose the local place in Sheridan, Texas thinking we could get some decent, or at least intersting food. We got "interesting" food. An appetizer intrique us. Called chicken-fried bacon. Out came a platter (about a foot long) piled high (about 3 inches high) of 1/16th inch thick one-inch squares of bacon dipped in beer batter and deep-fried in lard and served with huge dollops of mayonnaise on top. There was enough to feed 20 people. We assumed this because we had 3 bites each and it was enough. Everyone else in the "restaurant" weighed about 300 pounds. Later when I told this story, people would ask "was it good?" I would answer "oh course it was good, it was fat deep-fried fat in fat sauce."
  12. I wonder if it could be Carum ferulifolium Boiss. a member of the Umbelliferae, a perennial herb with small, edible tubers. Dioscorides said that its white and bitter roots could be eaten raw or cooked. It is still eaten today in Cyprus. This is perhaps the same plant as Bunium ferulaceum Sibth. & Sm.
  13. Oh, this is a little more interesting. It now sounds like fatta shams is indeed made for this holiday known as shamm al-nasim, which means literally "to breathe the breeze." It is in celebration of the winds that whip up in the spring. Another food popular for this holiday is fasikh a small salted fermented fish with a very strong odor popular in Egypt. Interestingly, this holiday of shamm al-nasim is a pagan holiday not a Muslim holiday and therefore not encouraged by clerics.
  14. Well, keep in mind that this is a mixture of tahina and yogurt for the fatta recipe, so I may have used the wrong turn. Otherwises - perhaps this is evidence of unique Egyptian cuisine? I don't know. None of my other cookbooks - except the Claudia Roden book mentioned above - has any fatta recipes. In the Egyptian book from which I was cooking, both fatta shamy recipes used vinegar in addition to lemon in the tahina/yogurt sauce. The other fatta recipe, which uses beef, did not - but it added tomato sauce. So, broadening the question a bit: what type(s) of vinegar would be likely to be used in Egypt? What about in the Maghreb? The Mashreq? I'd still like to know what variety of lemon is grown in Egypt. So far I haven't found any definitive answer online. I'm sure some horticulturists has figured it out, but I don't know where to look. ← The lemon cultivar you are referring to is known as the daq lemon (about the size of a golf ball). Fatta shamy means either "Syrian fatta" or "sun fatta." As far as vinegar goes in the Middle East, it would be either red or white, but lemon juice would be far more common for acidity.
  15. well, thank you for starting this thread. It is quite true that the later dishes may have seemed less hot because the diner was getting acclimated to the affect of the capsaicin. The food was unusual because normally you wouldn't eat from 5 different cultures in one sitting. But once we were tasting it didn't seem totally bizarre. Incidentally Nabham's book is an excellent complement to mine.
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