Lest one think St. Petersburg is an example of the old joke that Florida is ‘God’s little waiting room,’ the attendees at September’s Grand Tasting were well under the age of this seasoned culinary journalist. St. Petersburg is attracting residents from a vibrant cross-section of educated world citizens that thrive on the arts, sun, beach, boating and fine food. An explosion of fascinating venues more than satisfies all of these eclectic tastes.
With a rapidly recovering economy after the 2008 downturn, St. Petersburg, Florida has established itself as an art and restaurant destination on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Fourteen restaurants and eight wineries are featured in…
Both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Morean Arts Center are masters at engaging the imagination of visitors whether through first century Roman iridescent glass or discovering the best cupcake artist in St. Petersburg.
Just like fine art, culinary creations can reach artistic heights. The Morean Arts Center has sponsored the Annual Great St. Pete Cupcake Contest for the past five years. It’s an opportunity for the city’s baking artists to be judged by both professionals and the general public. You can read about the region’s burgeoning art scene at…
Perhaps poutine is an apt example of a half-century of culinary evolution in Quebec City. Invented in the 1950s, this fast-food combination of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and smothered in beef gravy became virtually the Quebec national dish and for years the butt of jokes in other parts of Canada – that is until the 21st century. In recent years poutine has changed under the talented hands of imaginative chefs and has migrated to major North American food centers from Philadelphia to Vancouver. From cafes to fine dining restaurants, additions from smoked bison to wild mushrooms and even foie gras now grace hand cut fries, squeaky organic cheese curds and lighter herb flavored gravies.
That same evolution in cuisine under both the talents of seasoned chefs and a new generation brought up on the media’s internationalization of tastes are transforming Quebec City into a sought after dining destination. Yet traditions remain; they’re simply being tweaked. The same incomparable food products Quebec agriculture has always produced now take center of the plate as the following nine city restaurants so admirably prove.
Only a few restaurants in Quito still serve cuy (roasted guinea pig) anymore, and it has become an exotic food. Although still common in remote village cuisines, even in urban Ecuador the sides would include potatoes, corn and grains in a variety of forms.
Giant shrimp do not belong in the central Andes of Ecuador, but they do on the long Pacific coast. Modern transportation provides the means today to easily market foods within geographic regions.
Quinoa, potatoes and corn are but three of a copious number of food stuffs indigenous to the Central Andes. Spanish conquest in the 16th century spread both these and many other agricultural products worldwide and introduced pigs and beef to South America. Today highways allow Ecuador’s Amazon River and Pacific Ocean fish and seafood to be served fresh in Quito at 9,000 feet elevation.
In a recent trip to Quito I explored seven restaurants that firmly base their menus on traditional cuisine yet take a liberal hand their reinterpretation for the 21st century plate.
I’ve not posted on Travel with Pen and Palate since May. After many years in Philadelphia a permanent move to a warm climate was the order from my very intelligent wife. After all why not?
As a travel writer my only requirement is an internet connection. I’m not a stranger to living in a warm climate. I spent nine years at the start of my career in Puerto Rico. I love traveling to warm climates, and on the USA mainland Florida is our tropics.
No doubt selling a house, packing up three decades of art and antiques and moving to St. Petersburg, FL, does disrupt a writing and traveling schedule. I’ve had to turn down several great press trip invitations including El Salvador and Italy because my wife somehow thinks I should be involved in house hunting…yes, we moved without first knowing where we were going to live. Of course we had no way of knowing our house would sell in 6 days…but that’s all part of adventure.
Adventure for me as a culinary and culture travel writer is focusing on what makes a destination exciting for those who already call it home. A tourist can always find the best beach, the newest luxury hotel or today’s trendy restaurant by simply spending time on social media.
But will they discover the best cupcake? Will they think that discovery will be found in an art museum that features the glass work of Dale Chihuly? Or that an effusive city booster will be a Scot immigrant of 20 years who’s your server in a terrific cafe? I’ve discovered that and much more in my first three weeks in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Want to know about the cupcake…and Picasso’s lover…and a city that’s become a cultural mecca…with good beaches?
Since the start of history gold has been connected to the divine and the boundaries of people, state and heaven have intertwined in myriad and mysterious patterns. In post conquest 16th century Quito (Ecuador), An A-list of priests, monks and nuns from four of the Church’s most influential religious orders provided the patronage for a celebrated era of artistic expression.
Sumptuous interior decorations, intricate carvings and golden altars express prominent Moorish geometrical figures, Italian Renaissance style and European baroque architecture. In the 1970s UNESCO dubbed it “Quito Baroque” in their 1978 designation of Quito as a World Heritage Site.
Just click the link to see many more photos and read the article…
At least 4,000 varieties of potatoes grow in the Andean Highlands that encompass territory stretching from northern Argentina through Ecuador. An important food staple for all pre-Columbian Andean cultures, the Incas created chunu – dehydrated potatoes that could be stored for up to a decade.
Read how a vegetable becomes a national icon and follow a simple recipe for an Ecuador national dish:
I travel for a living and am often in and out of hotels. USA hotels in particular offer…let’s be kind…sub par free “continental breakfasts.” Often I’ll grab a yogurt, hard boiled egg & fruit.
Yesterday, looking in a storage container where I keep paper plates/plastic cups etc for picnics, I came across a tightly sealed bag. At some point in the past several years I obviously grabbed a muffin, toast, jam & a pastry “on the go” and totally forgot… and I mean several years ago because I had not opened this bin for that long.
Lo and behold…on a black plastic plate were perfect stone hard “petrified” American hotel fast food with not a blemish upon them. It’s American genius…and the preservatives will keep me young forever…
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Cajun dishes rank among the most misunderstood regional cuisines in the United States. That’s not surprising since it is part of the melange of cultural influences that make up southern Louisiana – French, Spanish, Native American, African, Caribbean and Central America. Often confused with its spicier neighbor, Creole, true Cajun dishes share similarities but are less complex. Today’s Louisiana Cajuns are descendants of the survivors of the Grand Derangement – the British ethnic cleansing of Acadia, French Canada’s Maritime provinces, in the 1760s which resulted in the death of half the Acadian population. Given refuge by Spanish controlled Louisiana, they settled in undesirable disease ridden bayous and marshes. Liz Williams, Director of the New Orleans Southern Food and Beverage Museum stated, “It is very peasant food; a one pot food…it’s more the practices, the mindset rather than the ingredients” that determined Cajun recipes.
Acclaimed New Orleans Chef Frank Brightsen commented, “The roots of Acadian culture are living off the land and that means hunting. The heart of Cajun culture around Lafayette is not coastal. Even in grocery stores you’ll find butchers. The pig is central to Cajun culture…”
Simple Acadian dishes such as salt cod cakes became impossible in the absence of potatoes and salt preserved fish. Rice became the starch and the abundance of fresh fish, game, alligator and seafood the additions. Rice, shrimp, and peppers replaced potatoes, cod and cabbage, but a basic Cajun meal is still one dish or simply prepared.
What else constitutes Cajun cuisine – and traditional Acadian fare? Anything deep fat fried – alligator and crawfish (not in Acadia) fish fillets, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, pork chops, rabbit, game, chicken, and shrimp. Crabs, shrimp and crawfish come steamed as well. Lots of carbohydrates accompany a Cajun meal – and an Acadian meal – with rice, potatoes and corn not uncommon on the same plate along with okra and beans.
The greatest difference separating Cajun and Acadian cooking is spices. Acadian rarely goes beyond salt and pepper although they do use pickled combinations such as chow chow to enliven a meal. Cajun uses spices borrowed from Creole cuisine – a different fusion altogether. Of course world famous Tabasco sauce made for the past century and a half on Avery Island has become a Cajun standard even though its origin is clearly West Indian.
Maque Choux is a classic Cajun side-dish that has elements of both Acadian and Cajun dishes. Most of the ingredients are Native North American – corn and peppers – with pork introduced by European colonists. If you visit Louisiana’s Cajun country you will experience variations including some that add sugar – a later 19th century addition.
There are many variations on “Cajun seasoning.” It’s basically a mixture of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, onion and assorted spices. The “assorted spices” are best determined by an internet search. Especially important if you have a salt preference, packaged mixes have varying degrees of salt – both Cajun and Creole cooking love salt – but I prefer less (more for taste and thirst than health reasons).
Cajun Maque Choux with Pork ChopsIngredients – 2 servings (simply multiply all ingredients for more servings)
for the pork:
4 – 1/2 inch boneless pork chops
low-salt Cajun seasoning
for the Maque Choux
1/4 cup small dice salt pork
1-1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced bell pepper – green, yellow or red
1 cup diced, peeled fresh tomato
1/8 cup minced fresh parsley
2 cups corn kernels – cut from the cob or frozen
1-1/2 teaspoons low-salt Cajun seasoning
hot sauce to taste (optional)
Rub the pork chops with a thin layer of cajun seasoning and refrigerate while preparing the Maque Choux.
To prepare the peeled tomato: bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Drop a large tomato into the boiling water for 30 seconds (small tomato) to 60 seconds (large tomato as pictured.) Remove the tomato to a cutting board. With a sharp knife make a thin cut around the tomato. The skin will easily slip off with your fingers or the blunt side of a dinner knife.
In a heavy frying pan – preferably cast iron – sauté the salt pork until crispy and all the fat has been rendered. Remove the salt pork with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the celery and sauté for an additional 2 minutes
Add the peppers, tomato, parsley, corn and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
In an oven proof baking dish spoon some of the Maque Choux to make a bed the size of a pork chop and place the chop to cover half. Overlap the corn and pork for the remaining chops.
Cover with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Serve with rice, a green salad, cold beer or a nice red wine.
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The “super” Krewe of Endymion lived up to its hype. As one of New Orleans largest krewes, founded in 1967, Endymion created new traditions with mega floats using the latest technology of the day and featuring national celebrities from stage, screen and recording studio.
The 30 plus mega float parade, interspersed with as many marching bands and other groups, is one of the season’s most anticipated. Making its way from City Park in Mid-City down Canal Street and through Uptown to the Mercedes Super Dome for Endymion’s Extravaganza, the estimated crowd was put at 35,000+ watching and participating in the three hour parade.
The Krewe of Endymion marches on Samedi Gras (Fat Saturday) second only in importance to the season’s ultimate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). But parades are only part of the spectacle that make the season (January 6 through Fat Tuesday – in 2015 February 17) New Orleans largest block party.
A full two days ahead intrepid groups of revelers staked out their territory on the wide neutral ground of Orleans Avenue in Mid-City near iconic City Park. One of the city’s wide boulevards, the grass and often tree shaded middle-of-the-road “neutral ground” becomes a focal point for a round-the-clock block party. Camping out and cooking is allowed, porta potties are provided and as Saturday morning arrives every square inch of the long avenue’s neutral ground is a festival in itself. Children toss footballs, parents throw frisbees, barbecues send up aromatic aromas and long tables groan under the weight of such traditional fare as Louisiana crawfish boil and copious amounts of beer. The street and house parties spread throughout the neighborhoods that Endymion snakes through and continue for hours after it passes.
But once the parade rolls the thousands that line the long route have eyes only on the floats and catching the many “throws” from iconic strings of beads to frisbees and creations with flashing lights.
See a full list of Mardi Gras 2015 krewe and parade information and get ready for Fat Tuesday!
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