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Food

Monday, June 08, 2015

Nova Scotia Week: Oyster Farming at Eel Lake

With its slight mix of salt and fresh water, the 5-mile long Eel Lake is ideally suited for oyster farming. The clean, cool water is home to the premium Ruisseau oyster, high on the chef’s wish list of oysters in Toronto. On our first day in Nova Scotia, after the smooth and easy ride on Nova Star Cruises and a stroll around the stunning seascape of Cape Forchu Lighthouse, we met up with Colton D’Eon. Colton’s dad, a lobster fisherman, Nolan, started Eel Lake Oyster Farm with his wife Kim. Now the business is thriving with over 4,000,000 oysters in various stages of growth. Colton and another employee, Jed, took us out on their boat to show us the many rows of oyster beds. Through use of hydraulics, they pulled up one cage to show us how much one oyster had grown just in the past month, no longer dormant in winter. The oyster you typically suck down in a restaurant is approximately 3 years in age or 3 ½ inches in length. When harvest starts in the fall, Colton notes that there are often 100,000 oysters being shipped from their small plant. When we get back to the docks, Colton shucks one of his oysters and we quickly understand what all the fuss is about. The meat is tender, rich and sweet. But it’s that Eel Lake water, with its slight brine that enhances the flavor. Tours are open to the public, so be sure to schedule one for an intriguing glimpse into the life of a Nova Scotian oysterman. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/15 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A Carnivore’s Delight at San Antonio’s El Machito Restaurant

One look at the 12-foot-long open fire mesquite grill, where flames roast the myriad of meats standing tall on metal poles around the rim, and you understand why chef Johnny Hernandez named his latest restaurant, El Machito. “It means little tough guy, as in takes a little tough guy to cook over this fire,” says the gregarious chef, greeting diners on the patio when he’s in dire need of a break from the heat. It took Hernandez 6 weeks to master the art of cooking over his handcrafted asadero, the massive iron grill that was created by metalworkers in Guadalajara. Chicken needed to be near the higher flames, shrimp as far away as possible, beef and pork ready for a slow roast. The chef’s signature dish is cabrito, milk-fed baby goat that is sourced locally at a farm in Utopia, Texas. The chance to savor this one traditional northern Mexican meat has quickly made Hernandez’ latest San Antonio restaurant a must-stop for folks craving a Jalisco-style parrillada or barbecue. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Celebrate D’Artagnan’s 30th Anniversary

I recently went to a 5-course meal at the stylish Liquid Art House in Boston to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the gourmet meat and charcuterie purveyor, D’Artagnan. Founder Ariane Daguin, who I last met at a luncheon a decade ago at No. 9 Park, has successfully filled a niche for both chefs and consumers, delivering healthy free-range meats from farmers all over America. For example, the rabbit in the first course, Rabbit Ballotine, created by one of my favorite Boston chefs, Tony Maws, was raised on a farm in Arkansas. Other dishes included duck, bison, and porcelet. Daguin is headed across the country this year to host special 30th anniversary dinners, so be on the lookout in your city. In the meantime head to the D’Artagnan website to see special discounts on many of her meats. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tasty Debut of Hungryroot

Trust me, when you’re celebrating Passover and trying to stick to a Passover diet—no wheat, no rice—the options become less and less during the course of the week. That’s why I was delighted to hear about Hungryroot, a vegetarian-based 7 minute meal that made its debut on March 31st. Thinly cut vegetables take the place of pasta noodles and are topped with delicious sauces like Thai sesame or walnut pesto. Our favorites were the Zucchini Noodles with Sweet Basil Gremolata and Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo. You can add chicken to any dish, but it’s really not necessary. Our son, Jake, not one to love his veggies, downed the zucchini meal in record time. Hungryroot is the brainchild of three partners well known in the culinary world. Ben McKean founded restaurant reservation service Savored, which was acquired by Groupon; his partner Greg Struck founded Long Island Iced Tea brands; and chef Franklin Becker founded The Little Beet and starred in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2013. Cost of each dish is $10 and Hungryroot is now shipping direct to clients in all cites east of the Mississippi. By the end of the year, they’ll be nationwide. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 27, 2014

What’s New in the New England Après-Ski Scene

There’s very little “new” in New England and that’s just the way we like it. We’re proud of our history in this little corner of the country, including home to some of the oldest ski resorts in the nation. After all, we’re the hearty bunch who still cherishes the single chair at Vermont’s Mad River Glen. Yes, we’ll happily embrace the new heated bubble chair at Okemo this winter, but we like our predictability. This is especially true of the après-ski scene, where we’ve been going to the same bars and restaurants for years, if not decades. That’s why it’s always a surprise when a new restaurant comes on the scene and creates a buzz in town. This is exactly what happened in Stowe this past March when the small eatery Plate made its debut. Los Angeles natives Jamie Persky and Mark Rosman create a Californian mix of salads made from local produce and meat dishes like a pork belly and egg appetizer. Local microbrews like Lost Nation Brewery from Morrisville are on tap and their signature dessert, the banana pudding, is already receiving rave reviews.

 
To read about other new restaurants close to ski areas in New England, see my latest story for Liftopia
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/27/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three New Restaurants to Try in Toronto

With its mix of intriguing ethnic choices, like the Cree food I sampled at Keriwa Café on my last visit, Toronto has always been one of my favorite food destinations. Having dim sum is always high on my list of priorities, but this time I didn’t head to Spadina Avenue. I checked out the latest offering from chef Susur Lee, Luckee, at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel. Called one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine, Lee became a media sensation on the Food Network’s Top Chef Masters and other hit show, Chopped. When he’s not in the kitchen, he’s out on the floor greeting clientele and agreeing to take selfies with fans. 
 
His dim sum was the most memorable I’ve had in a long time. The ubiquitous har gow (shrimp dumplings) arrived orange thanks to a hint of butternut squash, on a bed of wild mushrooms. If my brother Jim was with me, we would have ordered 6 plates of these. Even his vegetable dumpling, something I rarely order, was a tasty mix of spinach, celery root, mushrooms, and jicama in a light as air dumpling. Lee excels at other dishes besides dim sum, like the sautéed scallops sweetened with soya glaze, and “Luckee Duck,” an apt name for the person who orders this version of the Peking Duck served with a schmear of foie gras. Susur, I’ll be back again for my selfie! 
 
When a friend from Toronto recommended I visit the new America Restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Hotel in the Financial District, I was skeptical, thinking the place would be some Texan steakhouse offshoot. As soon as I stepped foot into the restaurant, I realized I was wrong. The vibe with subdued lighting is more New York supper club, circa 1940s, especially with the Ella tunes in the background. I sat on the comfortable banquette and dug into a foie gras pancake, a buckwheat pancake topped with a healthy dollop of the meat, chunks of peaches, peanut marzipan, and hot Canadian maple syrup. For entrees, the scallop jambalaya was served in a hot skillet, coupled with grilled octopus and Andouille sausage. It goes well with the Blue Mountain pinot noir from BC. Run by Oliver & Bonacini, the same people who brought you the award-winning Canoe, America is here to stay in Canada. 
 
SIGNS, another new venture in town, seemed like a gimmick when I first heard about it. All the servers are deaf and you order the food via sign language. As a travel writer, I’m used to ordering my food though sign language since I spend a good part of my life in places where they don’t speak English. But the thought of putting deaf people on display made me uncomfortable. My worries were quickly allayed when I met my server, a young woman who helped me learn signs quickly like “thank you” and “what do you recommend?” A tip sheet is handed to you when you sit down at a table, sort of a Berlitz guide to sign language, where you can learn how to sign “I’m a vegetarian” or “we’re in a hurry.” My favorite was “Fantastic!” where you thrust your hands high in the air. “How was your entrée?” my server signed me, pointing to my lamb shank. “Fantastic!” 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/23/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Have a Home-Cooked Meal With a Local Thanks to MealSharing.com

I recently wrote a column for Men’s Journal on how to find the best restaurants on the road. As usually happens, someone contacted me after the piece ran and mentioned a new crowdsourcing site called MealSharing.com. Sign up to be a guest or host and simply share a home cooked meal around the world with locals. How cool is that? Guests are asked to bring a bottle of wine and share stories of their travels. Hosts typically want to discuss their culture and turn you on to their favorite things to do in their city or village. Some of my most memorable meals have been at local’s home, like the Friday night dinner I had in Jerusalem sitting next to an 11th-generation Yemenite Torah scribe. Or dinner Lisa and I had with an Amish couple in their home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Found a little notice at the local general store about this rare opportunity and had to show up. I remember the food was excellent and we discussed not only the differences but the striking similarities between our religions. Fascinating. Then he told me about his favorite homemade root beer joint in town. After all, no one knows his or her neck of the woods better than a local. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/09/14 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Food for Thought, Lake Geneva Region Dining

The Vaud or Lake Geneva Region of Switzerland is known for its fine dining, arguably the best in Switzerland. After all, this is the French-speaking side of the country and home to the Lavaux and La Côte wine regions. We had many memorable dishes last week. In the heart of the Lavaux region in the village of Epesses, I loved dining al fresco at Auberge du Vigneron on wild mushroom risotto. The view of the surrounding vineyards and Lake Geneva below was memorable. In Lausanne, the multicultural offerings at Eat Me included a spicy tuna sashimi and a tasty “Sultan of the Street” lamb loin. The Greek salad at National was like an abstract painting, each of the core ingredients like cucumbers and olives separated on the plate. The local blue trout at Café L’Union in the charming village of Bursins did arrive blue on the plate, and was served with the local deep-fried cheese puff they call the Malakoff. 

 
Talking about cheese, we couldn’t leave Switzerland without trying the fondue. We chose well, walking into the casual restaurant, Les Trois Sifflets, in Vevey. When the creamy concoction was served at each table, the Swiss National Anthem blared from the speakers and the chef’s daughter came out with a large Swiss flag, followed by a guy carrying an oversized pepper shaker. The fondue was the best I’ve ever had, but that shouldn’t be a surprise since we were in Switzerland. The town of Gruyere is just up the road. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/14 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle? Be Sure to Stop at Friðheimar

When told that we would be making one last stop on our Golden Circle route, at a greenhouse, most of the people on our tour scoffed at the idea, simply wanting to get back to our hotel in Reykjavik. It sounded like some hokey add-on, like visiting a gift shop owned by the bus driver’s brother. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Friðheimar is no ordinary greenhouse, but a massive year-round tomato and cucumber growing operation that yields close to a ton a day of crop thanks to the geothermal energy. I met the owner, Knútur Rafn Ármann, popped a tomato in my mouth (delicious), and then was treated to a sublime cup of tomato soup garnished with cucumber salsa and paired with fresh baked bread. It was probably the best dish I had in the country. Afterwards, we watched Knútur’s son and daughter (he has five children) ride the Icelandic horses he breeds. Friðheimar is open to the public for greenhouse tours, meals, and, in the summer, a 15-minute horse show. It’s the ideal way to end your trip on the Golden Circle. 

 
Thank you, Iceland! I’m off to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland where I’ll be reporting live from Lausanne, Montreux, and Vevey. Please stay tuned next week! Thanks, as always, for checking in to ActiveTravels! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Mandatory Stop at Duckfat

On every trip to Portland, Maine, the first stop is always Duckfat, a family favorite. I drive right up to the small restaurant, hungry after the 2-hour drive from Boston and not really wanting to wait the usual 30 minutes to snag a table. But then I sit down and order the heavenly shakes (this time I tried the yummy blueberry butterfat), a large order of fries with sublime truffle ketchup and the poutine (better than any in Quebec), topped with a duck egg. The salads and sandwiches are always excellent, from a pork belly grilled sandwich, to a duck salad with fresh greens. Yet, I’m always stuffed from my fries and shake, so I’m usually bagging half a sandwich to bring home. This is the one lunch spot that’s worth the wait! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/14 at 11:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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