Browsing articles in "street food"
Sep 23, 2014
Tim Lester

Sydney’s best Asian street food

Hu’s Inn in Chatswood.

“Try the crab,” suggests David Thompson, with the tone of senior student offering year-seven kid a cigarette drag.

I’m wary. Not just because of the grin sported by Thompson, but because the crab is a Dulux shade of grey.

I’m upstairs at Chat Thai Haymarket with Thompson, his business partner Simon Dewhurst, and ex-Longrain chef turned Cooks Co-op producer and gardener Martin Boetz.

Tucking into Red Lea from Cabramatta.

It’s the first stop on a evening of street-food eating and beer swilling in Sydney.

Thompson is one of the world’s most respected scholars of Thai cuisine. The Australian-born chef had Sydneysiders in a larb-lather when he opened Darley Street Thai in the early ’90s. Sailor’s Thai followed in 1995 before Thompson packed his knives for London and opened Nahm in 2001.

Now located in Bangkok, Nahm is ranked No. 13 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, higher than any other restaurant in Asia.

Lemon chicken at Chow Bar Eating House.

“C’mon give it a go, you might like it.” Thompson shoves the pickled crab in my face.

It tastes like a stagnant rockpool.

Thompson takes a swig of his Singha. “It’s appalling, isn’t it? Absolutely appalling. I can’t eat it.”

A roti dish from Mamak.

Salty crab is no blight on Chat Thai. It’s there to add backbone to spicy noodle salad and Westerners probably shouldn’t be eating it unaccompanied.

The food at Chat Thai is fantastic, particularly the mhu bing (grilled pork skewers).

“Mhu bing are classic Thai street food”, Thompson says. “Although you wouldn’t find this cut of meat in Thailand and the taste is different from anywhere in Bangkok.”

Mhu bing at Chat Thai.

Thompson says variance in taste between countries is almost unavoidable.

“The taste is different because the pork is different. The vegetables are different. The same species of vegetable will change in taste from country to country, just like a pinot noir changes in taste depending on terroir.”

I ask what else is different about street food in Sydney compared to south-east Asia.

A Chat Thai chef.

“In Sydney the street food movement is manufactured,” Thompson says.

“In south-east Asia and China in particular, it’s something organic that’s evolved over 200 years. It served the need to feed people well, quickly, happily and cheaply.”

Asian street food is hybridised cuisine, Thompson says.

Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken.

“It’s a food that comes mostly from Chinese immigrants coming to south-east Asia so most of the street food, particularly in Bangkok, Singapore, and Malaysia, has a very strong Chinese element.”

The diversity of Asian culture in Sydney means you can find some of the best street food in the world here, although you’re more likely to find it in a food court or restaurant than sizzling on kerbside hot plate.

Thai, Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Japanese and everything else you can think of. It might have some Western influence but due to the hybridised nature of street food it doesn’t mean that laksa or pho is any less authentic.

Thompson says street food is about having fun and discovering new and – importantly – accessible food. It’s also traditionally designed for one person and eaten in a bit of a hurry.

Eating on Sydney streets only became popular about 20 years ago.

“Just before Clover Moore, there was only two or three areas where you could legally eat on the street. But now Sydney has food trucks, for example, which is great. It’s a discarding of the unnecessary affectation that surrounds food.”

We head up to Hot-Star, a Taiwanese hole-in-the-wall on Liverpool Street specialising in deep-fried chicken breasts bigger than a yeti’s foot. It’s a welcome addition to the itinerary for Boetz.

“We both cook Thai for a living,” he says “The last thing we want to do when we go out for dinner is eat more bloody Thai food!”

Thompson is enamoured of Hot-Star’s Crispy Chicken. “I love trash” he proclaims.

“Is street food just trash food?” I ask.

“In this instance, absolutely,” Thompson says.

“Sometimes it’s good to get down and dirty with street food like this. Not in that dude-food type of contrivance but where food is what it is. These guys are cooking fried chicken. They’re not trying to dress it up as anything more.”

Rain is belting down. I suggest heading for the warmth and wonder of Chinatown’s food courts. We head to the Sussex Centre Food Court. The difficult part about eating here is choosing between Ramen Ikkyu and Happy Chef. The offal-heavy “Number 1″ soup at Happy Chef wins.

A very large bowl soup arrives (Thompson comments that Australian portions are always huge) and we slide it over to the fixings tray.

“Seasonings are important, otherwise the soup’s not finished,” he says adding fish sauce, chilli and other condiments.

Thompson thinks Happy Chef’s noodle soup is the most legitimate food we’ve eaten that evening.

“The owners are not trying to do anything else but what they know. There’s no aspiration other than to provide themselves with a living [so] there’s no need to adapt or refine.”

We head to Redfern’s ultra-hip Moon Park, where the food is seriously good. Zucchini pancake laced with mussel and squid, smoked eel and puffed wild rice cupped in nasturtium leaf, and deep-fried rice cakes with peanuts and gochujang (a fermented Korean chilli paste).

There’s shades of street food on the menu, but is it still street food if you’re eating it in a restaurant? Or when a share-plate of fried-chicken costs $40 (not that Moon Park is that expensive). “Yes and no, I suppose. The key to street food is its accessibility,” Thompson says.

“A $40 share plate sounds more like avenue food than street food to me.

TRACKING DOWN SYDNEY’S BEST STREET FOOD

Marrickville Pork Roll “The best banh mi Sydney,” says Dan Hong (chef at Mr Wong, Ms G’s). “Even better than the ones in Cabramatta. They’re generous with the fillings and smear on a nice amount of pate. There’s also a big stick of pickled radish, which you don’t see too often on pork rolls in Sydney.” 236A Illawarra Rd, Sydney, 0420 966 368.

Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken Hot-Star’s Sydney outpost opened in March. “It’s the ultimate chicken schnitzel,” Hong says. There are no seats, no eftpos, and very little else on the menu. About as street food as it gets. 96 Liverpool St, Sydney.

Kaysone Sweets “It’s a weird shop,” Hong says of this Cabramatta stalwart that sells everything from Lao sausages and beef jerky to taro fritters and papaya salad. Hong recommends one of the design-your-own fruit juices. “It’s the original Boost Juice,” he says. 59/53-61 Park Rd, Cabramatta, (02) 9755 5759.

Chow Bar Eating House Chui Lee Huk (ex Claudes) opened this Chinese street food bar in Surry Hills. It’s hard to go past the fried lemon chicken, especially with a can of Pistonhead lager. 320 Crown St, Surry Hills, (02) 8095 9058.

Mamak It’s probably quicker driving to the Chatswood branch of the Malaysian hawker food hotspot than lining up at the Haymarket original. Not that the queues at the Chatswood store are that much shorter, mind. You’re here for the roti canai. What you choose to dip it in is optional. 15 Goulburn St, Sydney, (02) 9211 1668 (also at Chatswood).

Istanbul on King Newtown booze hounds are well served in the wee hours by Crispy Inn pies and Istanbul kebabs. Dan Hong’s secret sauce advice: “Order a kebab and ask for the sauce they put on the Portuguese chicken burger. It’s legit.” 159 King St, Newtown, (02) 9519 9100.

Red Lea Cabramatta Hong claims these are the best chips in Sydney, with “awesome seasoning like a mix of paprika and chicken salt”. . “You can be so full from eating all the noodle soups in Cabramatta but on the way home you’re still like, ‘Let’s get some chips’.” 57 John St, Cabramatta, (02) 9726 3017 (also at other locations in Sydney).

Clem’s Chicken Shop There’s a reason why Clem’s has been going strong for more than 30 years. It barbecues a chicken like no one else. The quarter-chicken-and-chips-pack with a can of Coke can cure the mightiest of Newtown hangovers. 210 King St, Newtown, (02) 9519 6000.

Happy Chef There’s a Happy Chef in Newtown, but you want the one at Sussex Centre Food Court in Haymarket. “You can’t go past number one on the menu,” says Hong. “It’s a Cambodian-style noodle soup. Full of things like pork liver, heart, shrimp and blood jelly in an unbelievably good broth.” Shop F3, 401 Sussex St, Haymarket, (02) 9281 5832.

Ramen Ikkyu Not far from Happy Chef at the Sussex Centre is this noodle temple from former fine-dining chef Haru Inukai. Let’s not open the best ramen in Sydney debate, however it should be noted the Ikkyu variety strikes a Goldilocks level of just right between the rib-sticking tonkotsu at Haymarket’s Gumshara and the lighter stuff at Ryo’s in Crows Nest. Shop F1A, 401 Sussex St, Haymarket, (02) 9281 0998.

Sun’s Burmese Kitchen The editor of the Good Food Under $30 Guide, Angie Schiavone, says the fritters made with whole prawn and onion strips at this understated Burmese restaurant are a street-food version of lacework. “They’re audibly crunchy and addictive, too, especially when dipped in tangy tamarind sauce.” 10 Tulloch St, Blacktown, (02) 9676 2837.

Hu’s Inn Inspired by the street food stalls of Taiwan, Hu’s has a fun menu of xiaochi – aka, snacks – aka “deep-fried delights”, Schiavone says. “Don’t miss the sweet potato fries and jalapeno cheese sticks. Then zip to Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen for top-notch steamed pork buns.” 84 Archer St, Chatswood, 8065 2876.

May’s Laksa House A low-key cafeteria-like eatery, May’s is one of North Sydney’s busiest weekday lunch spots. It stakes its reputation on its Hainanese chicken rice, and the chicken laksa deservedly has a big following, too. Shop 18b, Level 2, 77 Berry St, North Sydney, 0401 468 740.

Philippines Takeaway Blacktown is a go-to suburb for Filipino street food, with a raft of no frills eateries lined up alongside the train station. There are plenty of classic savoury options but the toffee-covered banana and jackfruit spring rolls here are a highlight, Schiavone says. 24 Main St, Blacktown.

Hai Au Lang Nuong Head to this gaudy Canley Vale stalwart Friday to Monday when they crank up the charcoal barbecue out front and roast suckling pig and organic chooks, served with sticky rice. “Smells good, tastes great,” Schiavone says. Then head to one of the Vietnamese cafes in the ‘hood for coffee and condensed milk. Shop 2, 48 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Vale, (02) 9724 9156.

Do you have a favourite street food spot in Sydney? Leave a comment.


 - goodfood.com.au

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Sydney: Serenity and the city

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Sep 22, 2014
Tim Lester

Chicago Gourmet returns offering new street food options – WLS

Chicago Gourmet comes back to town next weekend with several new options for eating and drinking in and near Millennium Park.

New pavilions are one of the biggest features at this year’s Chicago Gourmet. A nicely-curated barbecue area will feature bites from such local favorites as Lillie’s Q in Bucktown, Barn and Company in Lincoln Park, Q in La Grange and the city as well as the venerable Smoque in the city’s Northwest Side.

Capitalizing on the recent noodle craze, there’s also going to be a ramen demonstration this year, pitting Logan Square’s Fat Rice against Japanese native Takashi Yagihashi and his Slurping Turtle version from River North.

Another interesting addition is a street food pavilion. Here, several local businesses – some with brick-and-mortar operations, others with kiosks at The French Market – will prepare food right in front of you, like Ukrainian Village’s Kasia’s Deli, known for their blintzes and pierogi.

“We’re trying something different, which we call Buffalo Potato Pierogi, and we gonna serve as an appetizer that will go great with wine,” said Elizabeth Jakubowicz of Kasia’s Deli.

A standard potato and cheese is doused in spicy buffalo sauce, then served in a cup with sour cream and celery. A more Asian approach comes from K-Kitchen, which will cook traditional Korean street food.

“We are gonna do bulgogi, which is like Korean BBQ beef, and we also have Korean-style fried chicken,” said Hannah Jang of K-Kitchen.

The fried chicken is served on small skewers with a sweet-spicy gojujang chili sauce, as well as peanuts, for added crunch. Clearly, a different take on the familiar picnic staple.

“We use the gojujang, which is the Korean chili paste so it’s different from other chicken,” said Jang.

Now the street food vendor pavilion is going to be at the Chicago Gourmet Sept. 27-28 and each day there’ll be eight different vendors, so you’re going to get 16 different tastes of the city.

Chicago Gourmet
For complete info, schedule and tickets:
http://www.chicagogourmet.org/

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Sep 22, 2014
Tim Lester

Main Street Food Truck Festival to be held October 4

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 22, 2014) – The Downtown Little Rock Partnership will present the Main Street Food Truck Festival on Saturday, October 4.

This is the fourth annual festival, started by DLRP and the Main Street Revitalization Committee to help bring people back to Main Street, as ideas for a major renaissance on Main Street were starting to gel.

“We are excited to show this year’s attendees the difference another year can make on Main Street! The 4th annual Main Street Food Truck Festival will be the best yet,” said Sharon Priest, executive director of Downtown Little Rock Partnership. “If you are here for the Susan G. Komen race, which crosses Main Street at 6th in the heart of the festival, come by for the early bird breakfast 8-10 a.m. and then stay until 4 p.m. for the ultimate foodie experience.”

Thirty food trucks, 11 of them new to the Festival, will join musicians, artists, crafters and other vendors on Main from 4th to 8th streets, coinciding this year with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure crossing Main Street in the early morning at 6th and around to 3rd on the return. If you’re downtown for the Race, head on over for brunch! Most trucks will do early bird specials 8-10 a.m. for racegoers and fans. (Just to whet your appetite: primal biscuits covered in paleo gravy with scratch breakfast sausage, cinnamon buns a la mode, asparagus and smoke salmon eggs benedict, sausage pancake on a stick, handmade traditional Mexican tamales, breakfast tacos with chorizo and scrambled egg topped with onion, cilantro raw cheddar with a side peach-habanero sauce, iced coffee float and much more!)

Make your purchases directly from the vendors; no tickets will be sold. The vendors will take credit cards with ease this year because of a new Wi-Fi installation on Main Street courtesy of Reed Realty Advisors, Kharma Consulting and Main Street Food Truck Festival volunteer Michael Sullivan of Cloud Media. If you’d rather use cash, Centennial Bank will be on site (at Capitol and Main) with ATM and tellers.

For volunteer opportunities, sign up here.

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Sep 20, 2014
Tim Lester

Artsy ‘hoods, tasty street food: the capital city you need to explore

Mexico City-based John Hecht – co-author of the brand new Lonely Planet Mexico guidebook – has three jalapeno-hot hotel recommendations: Red Tree House (theredtreehouse.com), Chillout Flat and Chalet del Carmen (chaletdelcarmen.com).

“When choosing places to stay, consider hotels or hostels in the Centro Historico, Roma, Condesa or Coyoacan areas,” he says. “They have the highest concentrations of restaurants and museums plus vibrant nightlife scenes.”

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But once you’re on the ground and ready to explore, where do you start?

“Don’t bother renting a car unless you’re also visiting surrounding areas – even then, most places are reachable by bus. There’s an excellent metro system and taxis are cheap – but make sure you hire a stationed or radio taxi and avoid hailing cabs on the street.”

For Hecht, the city’s best attractions include the National Museum of Anthropology, Palacio Nacional’s Diego Rivera murals and the celebrated Frida Kahlo Museum (a.k.a. La Casa Azul) – plus the Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor and the nearby Teotihuacan pyramids.

“Personally, I also really like the small town feel of Tlalpan, a southern Mexico City neighborhood – as well as cantina-hopping in the Centro Historico,” he says, adding cycling tours with Bicitekas (bicitekas.org) and foodie crawls with Eat Mexico (eatmexico.com) for those craving company.

It’s this “vast and amazing” culinary smorgasbord that visitors should fully explore, says Nicholas Gilman, resident author of the Good Food in Mexico City guide (goodfoodmexicocity.com).

“There are around 36,000 eating establishments here, excluding unregistered street stalls. In recent years, an exciting high-end restaurant scene has also sprung up,” says Gilman, whose fave eateries include Maximo Bistrot and El Hidalguense – where he recommends barbacoa (lamb roasted in maguey leaves).

If you enjoy wandering around markets: “The Merced is vast and incredible, but I like the more traditional Mercado Jamaica better. La Condesa’s Tuesday market is also beautiful – that’s where I shop,” he says.

But the city’s street-food scene is arguably its main dish. “Stands and carts cluster around markets, metro stops and what we call tianguis: the open-air markets in every neighbourhood. And while there’s sometimes unwarranted fear of street food, it’s really safe if you hit the right places – the Centro’s Calle Lopez street is like a gastronomic tour of Mexico.”

The bottom line, says Gilman, is to be adventurous – an approach echoed by Vancouver-based Glenn Drexhage and wife Nikk on their first visit in December, 2012.

“We were intrigued by its size, edginess and cosmopolitan flavour – along with the mezcal and drool-worthy food,” Drexhage says. They also discovered much more than the “teeming mass of humanity” they had expected.

“We stayed in Roma Norte, a sweet, artsy, quaint and quiet neighbourhood in the city centre,” he recalls, adding that they chose Airbnb for accommodation. “We wanted a home base that wasn’t a hotel room and we wanted to stay in a community with the locals. Nikk pinpointed some great neighbourhoods and we found a place that was simple but ample.”

From their comfortable base, they explored lucha libre wrestling at the Mexico City Forum and the striking Museo Soumaya art museum. And they loved the El Chopo music flea market, which Drexhage describes as “an amazing weekly event for those into everything from anarcho-punk to black metal to free jazz.”

In the end, the occasional language barriers – “we improvised and got by,” Drexhage says – proved more pressing than the safety issues they had been warned about back home.

Street smarts, Hecht says, are still useful: “Mexico City is generally safer than one might think but it’s always good to take precautions. Avoid carrying ATM cards unless you’re withdrawing money – and only do so during the day.

“And be careful crossing streets: Many motorists don’t give right of way to pedestrians.”

 

Special to The Globe and Mail

 

Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Follow us on Twitter: @tgamtravel

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Sep 20, 2014
Tim Lester

A funny look at Indo-Chinese diplomacy through Mumbai’s street food – Mid

Cartoons: Amit Bandre

Chinese dosa
The South and China come together perfectly, in this concoction available on many restaurant menus and on roadside dosa stalls, too. The dosa is slathered with a Chinese mix and has diced cabbage, carrots, fried noodles, giving it an Oriental flavour. The Chinese dosa is an Oriental version of the Masala dosa.

In this handout photograph received from the Gujarat Information Bureau, China’s President Xi Jinping (l) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) chat during a meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in Ahmedabad. Pic/AFP
In this handout photograph received from the Gujarat Information Bureau, China’s President Xi Jinping (l) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) chat during a meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in Ahmedabad. Pic/AFP

It takes Indo-Sino relations to its highest point. It is diplomacy that has been put into practice long before Xi and Modi came together. A dosa with the crunch of the Orient and the punch of India. What can Xi Jinping do? Munch.


Schezuan dhokla
The Gujarati love of food and the Chinese penchant for the fiery, synchronise like nothing else can. The dhokla, from Narendra Modi’s very own homeland has also trapped Schezuan flavours in its fluffy goodness. A red tinge, sauces captured between layers and you have a mix that is quite the pick with your cocktails. Occasionally, restaurants offer the Schezuan idli too, cousin to the Chinese dosa. Chinese aggression and Indian guile. Sigh. The stuff gastronomic and diplomatic dreams are made of. Hai na? Xi and Modi?


Chinese thaali
Deserves a taali. Admittedly, this is not a regular feature on every menu. A couple of restaurants had tried it with varying degrees of success, earlier. Little katoris with Chinese dishes, the main course as fried rice and American (again, a collaboration) chopsuey as gravy. There was also the ever popular Chinese Manchurian with gravy, to be had with the rice. All this, in a thaali with spoons, not chopsticks. Xi Jinping, order the Chinese thaali, like the Great Wall of China, it is a wonder of Mumbai enterprise. Aiga! Xi wants a thaali.


Chinese bhel
Just like that little Chinese man, Bruce Lee, flattened all comers in the seminal martial arts movie, Enter the Dragon, this bhel slays sev and kurmura, desi bhel staples and replaces it with fried noodles. Diced onions, coriander, fiery red sauce, (remember the dragonnnn) and some masala. This bhel is a chaat topper on our roads. We think Xi Jinping needa plate of Chinese bhel, as a perfect sign off to his visit. Talk about being bhel and hearty.


Chinese samosa
Chinese aggression is neatly trapped and contained by India in this Sino-desi mix. The Chinese samosa is a twist on its Indian version. A small, square shape deviating from the traditional triangle of the samosa, this fried hybrid offering works as a cocktail snack and is particularly inviting when the palate craves something hot and crunchy, like pakodas or bhajias. This samosa, is Chinese on the inside, but has some Indian masala too and is deep-fried. Goes well with date/imli or green chutney. One can have it with ketchup, too. Agression contained by India. A package which best exemplifies the future of Indo-China relations?

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Sep 20, 2014
Tim Lester

An Epic Maine Food Tour: Eventide, Vinland, Slab, Fore Street, Five Islands …

eventide_clambakeSM.jpgClambake

Locals surely relish the changeup of cross-cultural seasonings. I savored the traditional New England dishes: a platter of raw oysters, creamy lobster stew perfumed with sherry, and a condensed but exuberant version of the classic clambake. A basket came crammed full of steamer clams (with their tail-like siphons still attached), mussels, lobster, new potatoes, slices of salt pork, a hard-boiled egg, and drawn butter. To drink with all this? The beverage list was impressively thorough: zippy cocktails, local brews, a selection of white wines that leaned French, and even a smart mix of sherries, sakes, and vermouths.

eventide_blueberrypieSM.jpgBlueberry pie with blueberry ice cream

My only complaint: Our server delivered our entire meal—small plates and large—in the course of five minutes. She couldn’t rush us out the door before dessert, though. The pie of the day, naturally, was wild blueberry, paired with a scoop of blueberry ice cream. It ably demonstrated why Maine’s tiny blues are indeed superior to their plump cousins, with a flavor that was more intense and nuanced, and almost piquant, against the flaky crust. 86 Middle Street, Portland, 207-774-8538, website. Open daily 11 a.m. -midnight. Oysters $14 for half – dozen, $25 for a dozen. Most small plates $6 – $12, clambake $35.

Fore Street

forestreet_quailSM.jpgQuail with hushpuppies

Maine blueberries were on the dessert menu at Portland’s defining restaurant as well, but they showed up most memorably at dinner’s outset, where they were the sweet contrast in a verdant tangle of arugula, sliced cucumber, and slivered green pepper. It sounds simple, but it was a combination so full of vitality. It reminded me that too many lackluster salads are served in the world. It’s a standard reaction to Sam Hayward’s cuisine. When he opened Fore Street in 1996, it helped set Portland’s now-roaring dining scene into motion. Hayward was an early champion of the locavore aesthetic. He made farmers part of the restaurant community. He used old boxcars for the floors and fashioned tables and other furniture from decrepit farm buildings.

Meaty gusts from the open kitchen’s 35-foot hearth greet you before the hostess does. Take cues for ordering accordingly: The menu changes daily (and isn’t listed online) but look for high-on-the-food-chain pleasures like grilled quail in unctuous jus with hushpuppies, spit-roasted pork loin with sauerkraut, and a duo of blushing duck breast and crisp-skinned confit. Along with a leafy composition du jour, start with the chilled seafood plate; on the night I dined there it included scallop ceviche, house smoked mussels, and house cured arctic char. Think of the cooking, in its straightforward clarity, as the East Coast bookend to Chez Panisse.

Reservations are often snatched up weeks in advance, but locals and astute visitors know that the restaurant leaves one third of its tables available for walk-ins. There’s often a line in front of Fore Street’s unassuming red brick exterior before opening; would-be diners are enveloped in the restaurant’s comforting aromas soon enough. 288 Fore Street, Portland, 207-775-2717, website. Open for dinner Sunday – Thursday 5:30 – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Slab

slab_sliceSM.jpgSlab

For a town of just over 66,000 residents, Portland has an astonishing range of ambitious and culturally specific restaurants. Case in point: the newly opened Slab in former Portland Public Market building, which serves Sicilian-inspired street food. Stephen Lanzalotta made his name at a local grocery store, baking billowy loafs of flatbread that share little in common with the dense, rectangular pies often served in Italian-American restaurants. To launch Slab, Lanzalotta teamed with four business partners, including Jason Loring, chef-owner of nearby Nosh Kitchen Bar. The beverage of choice is beer, with twenty rotating (and mostly local) brews on tap.

I didn’t expect Lanzalotta’s specialty—a one-pound slice with a texture between focaccia and Parker House rolls, thinly painted with tomato sauce and specked with mozzarella and provolone—to be one of the best things I ate on the trip. But it was, and the hits didn’t stop there. Sicilian is most often referenced as the ancestral homeland of Sunday gravy, and the restaurant duly offers a mean meatball sandwich. But the cuisine is also knotty from centuries of conquest, including from Arab colonists who brought their crops to the island. Lanzalotta honors the heritage with Sicilian street food dishes like hummus, an edifying variation seasoned with whole crushed oranges, turmeric, fried sage, a mere scent of cinnamon, and homemade tahini. Lighten the meal with a side of slaw whose dressing flickers with cumin.

Sicilian street food? This has possibilities as a national trend. 25 Preble Street, Maine, 207-245-3088, website. Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 1 a.m. Slab $6, other individual dishes $4 – $14.

Vinland

vinland_porkbellySM.jpgSlab with mozzarella and provolone

David Levi, a first-time restaurateur, set lofty aims for himself when he launched Vinland in January: He prepares food solely from Maine. That includes seasoning ingredients: No black pepper, no sugar cane, no citrus for acidity. To attempt a cuisine so arduously local in a climate that is bitter much of the year, it’s no surprise that Levi looks to the New Nordic movement for inspiration. He staged at both Copenhagen’s Noma and Sweden’s Fäviken. His dining room has an appealing, natural minimalism—light woods, knobby birch twigs covering sound-muffling panels. Though he still likes them crafted as close as possible, Levi makes concessions for alcohol. There are wines from Slovenia and France and Italy, though a cocktail like the Pine Gimlet (Barr Hill gin from Vermont, condensed yogurt whey, white pine syrup) evokes a satisfying sense of place.

The spirit of the approach is admirable, but less than a year in Levi still needs to fine-tune the harmony of honoring his aesthetic while preparing food that tastes balanced. The menu of small plates can be ordered a la carte or in five courses for sixty dollars. Some of it is splendid, like a smooth herb soup refreshing with cucumber and dots of locally processed sunflower oil. A plate of chicken—white and dark meat in a shallow pool of rich stock with squash and an herb sauce earthy with sage—was so satisfying my group ordered a second round, but largely because many of the other dishes had left us wanting.

A broth of yogurt whey, cayenne, and garlic for mussels was oddly sweet. Levi layers on another challenge for himself: His restaurant is gluten-free. As a Southerner I know that sublime cornbread can be made with no wheat; Levi’s was a dry, sticky mass. A lovely stack of shaved fennel with yogurt and cucumber needed salt and acid: Could a gentle vinegar be made useful? The elements on an arty plate of pork belly with blueberry splatters, grits, pickle, and pork rind never quite came together. A bowl of blueberries lolling in custard sounded like a comforting finale, but steeping the custard in anise hyssop made the custard astringent and unpleasant.

Misses were acute enough that we spoke up to the server. He nodded and agreed: the fennel dish needed more salt, it would be great if the chef relented and served bread. But it was the pacifying assent of the converted. Levi and his crew will succeed or not on their own terms. 593 Congress Street, Portland, 207-653-8617, website. Open for dinner nightly starting at 5 p.m. Small plates $4 – $18.

Five Islands Lobster Co.

fiveislandslobster_rollandclamsSM.jpgLobster roll and fried clams

How to choose from among the state’s profusion of lobster shacks? I asked a local friend for a suggestion. She sent me to Five Islands Lobster Co., just shy of an hour’s drive from Portland overlooking wide Sheepscot River. This is the Maine of the imagination, with views of fishing boats and jutting inlets and the thwack of sea salt in the air.

The encampment has three buildings: the lobster building where the crustaceans, plucked from the river in the last day or so, are boiled in seawater to order; the “Love Nest,” which sells lobster rolls and other sandwiches as well as fried seafood baskets; and a storefront that sells Annabelle’s ice cream made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Arrive early for the broadest selection at the Love Nest. By 1 p.m. they had run out of their biggest enticements, including lobster stew, haddock and seafood chowders, and fried oysters. “Do you still have lobster rolls?” I asked anxiously. “We never let ourselves run out of those,” said the woman behind the counter.

For $14.95, it was an indulgence that forever ruins the overwrought versions passed off in big cities. Sweet, toothy lumps with the merest slick of mayo in a hotdog bun with a single leaf of lettuce: That was it. That was all it needed to be. A pile of fried clams alongside gave satisfying contrast. But soon I was back to lobster: a freshly boiled beast with sides of new potatoes, corn on the cob, and melted butter in which to dunk it all. I sat among couples and families at a green-topped picnic table (there is no indoor seating, and it’s BYOB), dismantling the lobster and feeling content. Ice cream seemed superfluous after that kind of feasting. 1447 Five Islands Road, Georgetown, 207-371-2990, website. Open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m., September 6 – October 12 weekends only, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Prices vary, but freshly cooked lobster around $9.75 – $12.75 per pound (depending on size), lobster rolls $14.95, seafood baskets $14.95 – $18.95.

Email Bill at bill@eater.com and follow him at @BillAddison.

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Sep 20, 2014
Tim Lester

Oakland street food: The paths to legitimacy

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Along the sidewalks of Oakland’s Fruitvale district, street food vendors are busy every day selling traditional tamales, fresh fruit, corn chips and homemade ice cream. If you talk to them, you’ll learn they are also busy establishing citizenship, acquiring legal sellers’ permits, and expanding their businesses in pursuit of the American Dream. What started in the late 90s as a small group of people selling food illegally out of supermarket shopping carts, according to locals, has grown into an industry comprised of some 200 street food vendors, and is still growing.

 

Read more of this story at Oakland Local: bit.ly/XwM97c

Follow Oakland Local on Facebook and Twitter for local, community news written by Oakland residents.

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Sep 19, 2014
Tim Lester

Grab a Bite of Gourmet Street Food

The Four Seasons Food Truck will embark on a nine-city culinary tour down the East Coast, serving up plenty of gourmet street food along the way.

From September 15 to November 11, the Four Seasons Food Truck will be making its way down the Eastern seaboard on a 43-day, 1,037-mile journey from Boston to Miami. The chefs at Four Seasons hotels and resorts in each of the nine destinations have crafted unique menus specifically for the tour, each one expertly designed to highlight some of the best flavours their cities have to offer.

 From savoury Lobster Rolls in Boston to Butter Pecan and Peach Ice Cream Sandwiches in Atlanta to spicy Vampiros Steak Tacos in Palm Beach, expect a tasty range of on-the-go gourmet meals at every stop.

 Here are some of the recipes form the food truck.

1. Boston Lobster Roll

By Executive Chef Brooke Vosika, Four Seasons Hotel Boston 


(Courtesy of Four Seasons)

Ingredients for the Lobster Roll: 

  • Whole Maine lobster
  • 1 gal (4 qts) court bouillon
  • 3–4 oz (85–115 g) house-made lemon sabayon
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) carrot, brunoise
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) celery, brunoise
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) onion, brunoise
  • House-baked brioche
  • bun Bibb lettuce
  • 1/4 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Lemon wedge Kosher salt and pepper to taste 

Ingredients for Lemon Sabayon:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) mayonnaise
  • 3 fl oz (90 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper

Method for Lemon Sabayon:

1. Whip crème fraîche in a chilled bowl until light and airy.

2. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients and season to taste.

3. Carefully fold crème fraîche into the mayonnaise mixture.

4. Set aside, refrigerated until ready to use.

Method for Lobster Roll:

1. In a large pot, poach lobster in court bouillon.

2. Combine chopped poached lobster with carrot, onion, celery and lemon sabayon.

3. Mix well; season to taste.

4. Place Bibb lettuce in brioche bun and fill with lobster salad mix.

5. Top with avocado and garnish with lemon.

 

2. Philly Cheese Steak Spring Roll

By Executive Chef Peter Rosenblatt, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia


(Courtesy of Four Seasons)

Ingredients:  

  • 1 lb (.45 kg) beefsteak
  • 4 oz (115 g) American cheese
  • 2 oz (55 g) onions, diced
  • 1 oz (30 ml) olive oil
  • 8 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 egg yolk Oil for deep frying 

Method: 

1. Sauté beefsteak in olive oil with diced onions, over medium-high heat until cooked.

2. Reduce to low heat and add American cheese; heat until melted.

3. Chill mixture, then divide into 4 equal cylinders about 5-inches long.

4. Lay out 1 piece of spring roll wrapper and wrap the mixture, sealing the edges with egg yolk. Double wrap the roll for extra crispness. Repeat for remaining 3 rolls.

5. Fry each roll at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until golden brown.

During each tour stop, local diners can follow the Food Truck throughout the city to a full schedule of can’t-miss events. Enjoy a Savannah Crab Cake Sandwich at the Food Truck Showdown in Atlanta, or indulge in Pit Beef Tacos during Purple Friday events in Baltimore. A portion of the proceeds from the tour will also go towards deserving charities in each of the nine destinations. 

Follow the Four Seasons Food Truck week by week in the following destinations:

Boston: September 15–20
Philadelphia: September 22–27
New York: September 29–October 4
Baltimore: October 6–11
Washington, DC: October 13–18
Atlanta: October 20–25
Orlando: October 27–28
Palm Beach: October 30–November 4
Miami: November 6–11

 This article was originally published on taste.fourseasons.com. Read the original here

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Sep 18, 2014
Tim Lester

Is this the end of street food?

KFC street van © Guy Dimond

We know we’ve already reached ‘peak burger’, but what about ‘peak street food’? At what point does this welcome trend jump the shark, and it becomes no longer cool to be seen wandering around London with a handful of fast food? 

The signs are already here, as we spotted a beautiful Airstream trailer is Soho yesterday… kitted out as a KFC takeaway. That’s right – KFC. It turned out it was being used to promote the fast food outlet’s new ‘pulled chicken’ burger (really).

How long now before McDonald’s start selling McKimchee burgers from converted VW camper vans?  Or before Angus Steak House do a pop-up at Meatopia? The writing is on the exposed brick wall.

For a somewhat better selection, check our our favourite street food in London.

Text and photo by Guy Dimond

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