Bourdain in the Ozarks...Squirrel, anyone?

Good morning, Good morning! How are you all today? I have to admit that as much as I've been willing the warm weather to hurry up and get here already, I actually was kinda, sorta, maybe hoping for one last snow day today. Alas, it's just rainy and gross, making it absolutely no fun to go outside.

So I have a confession for you guys this morning. I love the Travel Channel. It would be my ultimate dream to travel the globe, finding new places and tasting lots of new food. I can't imagine anything more fun! My favorite show on Travel Channel though, is Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. I love his signature snark, his honesty, his ability to connect with people in every culture and his true love and openmindedness for all things food. Give me Tony over Andrew Zimmern (who seems a little too excited to eat things like maggots crawling in cheese) any day. Ack.

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Last night, Shaun and I got to work on our very full DVR, including Tony in the Ozarks. Did any of you see this episode? I found it to be so fascinating since the culture there is so very different than here in urban NJ/NYC, even though it's really not all that far away.

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Some of the highlights:

  • Tony dining on squirrel pot pie...and liking it
  • Tony learning to skin a squirrel (even though I covered my eyes)
  • Tony dressed up in hunting gear to hunt mallards, then subsequently giving the good ol' boys a quick lesson in preparing a delicious duck (even I have to admit that it looked unbelievable) and made me sad that I never dined at Les Halles
  • Chili-coated spaghetti...an interesting take...
  • Hunt racoons with coon hounds, which made me think of the book Where the Red Fern Grows...remember that one?
  • Oh and fishing for 'suckers'.
  • And did I mention that he lost $200 and his pride in an arm wrestling matching to a skinny-armed woman in a bar?

click for sourceIt was enlightening friends.

From the moment the episode opened, Shaun and I couldn't help but immediately think of Winter's Bone...did anyone see that movie? The episode was sort of like an extension of the film, in terms of exploring the Ozark culture. In fact, Tony meets up with the writer of the film (who is unfortunately maimed during sucker fishing...oops).

I thought this was such a refreshing episode. While I do think it's so interesting and captivating to see far off lands or light being shed on third world countries, it was refreshing to explore a bit of the US that I'm completely unfamiliar with! Not to mention the very interesting eats that he enjoys during his stay. Squirrel anyone?

So what do you think? Do you watch the Travel Channel? What's your favorite show? What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?

Avid Reads: Kitchen Confidential

I'm not sure what it is, but lately food has been creeping into my reading repetoire beyond the usual food blogs that I incessantly read each day. On my vacation in Antigua, I curled up under a palm tree with Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, where not only did I read all about Tony's lifelong struggle with drugs (to me, providing some of the most interesting parts of the book) but learned all about the ways that the home cook dishonors food and all of its glory - most notably using jarred garlic, something that I do frequent in my own tiny apartment kitchen out of, really, sheer laziness. Sorry Tony. Oh, and did you know that one should never consume sushi on a Monday? I won't go into specifics, but let's just say that now I know why Hoboken's Teak offers half priced sushi Mondays. Anyhow, with his signature snark that I love so much, he details his rise to culinary glory - as a child, his first taste of oyster on a fishing boat in France, his coke-induced dishwashing days in Provincetown, all the way to heading up the culinary team at his now-famed Park Avenue restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles. Oh, and let's not forget a little show on Travel Channel called No Reservations, which just so happens to be my favorite travel show. Bottom line? I could have gone a lifetime without knowing the ins and outs of the culinary underbelly, but Tony did make it a fun ride. And my can't-get-enough-of-this-guy feeling has only gotten stronger. (Oh, and I should mention that many foodies have probably jumped on the Kitchen Confidential train long ago as this book has been out for a couple of years...I know I'm behind the curve, but what can I say? My love of all things food is still fresh...)

So what about you? What are you reading these days? Do you read food books? Food blogs? I just opened up Omnivore's Dilemma on the Kindle and something tells me I'm not going to love all of the information I get from this one...

A Weekend in Antigua: Sampling the Local Goods

As I mentioned earlier this week, Shaun and I took a little vacation over the weekend. It snowed uncontrollably in the New York/New Jersey area and we barely made it out on Thursday morning. I have to tell you...after a long, seemingly never ending, bitterly cold winter (which is still going on, by the by), there's really nothing quite like swimming and sailing in aqua blue water, sipping mixed drinks all day and laying on the beach reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential (see? even when I'm not writing, I still have food on the brain and I just can't seem to get enough of that guy).

Though a gorgeous island in the Caribbean with lots to offer scenery-wise, as evidenced above, Antigua did not have many local eats. One of the stand out foods of the trip was a delicately fried conch fritter. White conch meat mixed with stuffing and fried, the fritter was served up with a light tartar sauce. Bellisimo.
Despite the abundance (or lack there of for that matter) of local fare, one of our must-do activities when traveling anywhere, inside or outside the US is to test out the local brew. Since Shaun and I have traveled to quite a few places in Europe and in the Caribbean, and sampling  (and subsequently smuggling for souvenir purposes) a bottle o'beer in each destination has become something of a tradition. After all, just as street food says so much about one's culture, so does the beer. Whether a cold Kolsch at an outdoor cafe in Cologne, Germany, circa 2006...
a mug of Staropramen to warm up on a rainy day in Prague in the Czech Republic...
or 40 oz bottle of Saku to pass the time on the overnight cruise between Sweden and Estonia...
I think local brews are a point of pride for many locales. In Antigua, the local beer is Wadadli. Hardly able to be kept cold in the extreme island temps, Wadadli follows in the Dutch tradition of Heineken and Amstel. A fine and somewhat tasty brew for a hot day, but not sure that it would be my go-to on a regular night in the Jerz.
Local fare aside, it was a fantastic vacation, filled with relaxation, rum slushies, and ok...maybe more than a little Wadadli. But when you end your day with this, it doesn't really get much better.So what about you? Are you a beer drinker? Do you sample local brews from place to place? And more importantly, did you take any vacations this winter to get out of the extremely frigid temps we've been having over the last months? And while you were there, sample anything worth noting?