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Archive for April, 2013

Guatemalan Cuisine: In Search of Pepian

During my week traveling around Guatemala this past winter, I couldn’t escape the awe-inspiring natural beauty this Central American country presents no shortage of. The almost crayon- colored blue water of Lago de Atitlan in the country’s west with its handsome twin volcano backdrop mesmerized me for my two hours on the lake. It was a good thing I wasn’t our miniature boat’s captain. It’s even more captivating than Crater Lake.

I had never seen such a dramatic, scarred landscape as the area near the summit of the Volcan de Pacaya. The sweeping views of the impossibly charming preserved colonial town Antigua, like Lago de Atitlan guarded by formidable- looking volcanoes on two sides, force you to never let down your camera.

Yaxhá

Yaxhá

Then in eastern Guatemala, amidst the tropical lakes and jungles, are some of the most striking Mayan ruins anywhere to be found. After a full day of meeting monkeys, talking with toucans, and exploring the ruins and climbing the steep pyramids at Yaxhá and Tikal, I started to become that jaded tourist who gets “pyramid-ed out” from the relentless ancient splendor of this civilization who disappeared long ago. I still can’t wrap my mind over how these ruins still remain in these precious corners of the world, with numerous lessons we can still learn from many centuries later.

Nature and culture were the focus of this trip. Food was not. Wine and beer were not. This was not a wine-tasting in Bordeaux and Burgundy extravaganza. This was far from flying to Tokyo to sample meticulous sushi and yakitori bars.

Indeed, food and drink were not the purpose of heading to Central America. Neither was the weather, as outside of the jungle, the temperatures were essentially the same as my Northern California home at that time of year. In fact, the wind chill may have even been cooler in Guatemala than San Francisco.

Kacao's Pepian

Kacao’s Pepian

However, one cannot appreciate new corners of the globe and the wonderful people that make up the fabric of these fascinating countries near and far, without sampling the local cuisine. That meant I was constantly in search of Guatemalan cuisine, particularly the country’s national dish: pepian. (more…)


My Neighborhood: Burgers and Craft Beers in Claremont, CA

Editor’s Note: This article begins a series of hyper-local neighborhood dining guides called “My Neighborhood.” Our goal is to find the spirit of what truly are the dining destinations within the important social fabric of a neighborhood. Each neighborhood’s dining story is unique and engaging. We’re hoping at the same time to uncover some undiscovered treasures and also learn from classic legends that continue to thrive. These are the restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and markets that help make “home,” truly your home. If you’d like to write about your neighborhood, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or Twitter: @TrevorFelch.

We’ll start with the town of Claremont, California, where years ago yours truly spent his college years at Claremont McKenna College and began my food writing career as the dining critic for the Claremont Colleges’ newspaper The Student Life. You can even compare my Back Abbey review and my article on the just-opened Eureka Burger (my finale article before graduation), with the paragraphs later in this article on both burger and craft beer establishments several years later. Do note how our opinions, years apart, are nearly identical.

Claremont, also called the “City of Trees,” is about 30 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, the furthest eastern city in Los Angeles County. The city is known for its Claremont Colleges Consortium and for being a sophisticated oasis amidst the sprawling suburban sea that is the San Gabriel Valley. It is certainly not known as a dining destination, though it should be.

Without further ado, here is Pomona College senior Brian Shain’s Claremont, California. (more…)


Tuesday’s Project: Two Comfort Recipes for Tonight

Tonight wherever you may be, we all need some comfort cuisine during these tragic times.

More than any other night, this evening seems perfect for two classic Boston icons: a bowl of clam chowder and some Indian Pudding for dessert. We may be thousands of miles away from New England, but hopefully comfort food such as these two dishes can bring us closer to those affected by yesterday’s tragic events.

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Let’s first start with the chowder that you can find up and down New England and even at many of the most recent Presidential inaugurations, courtesy of Legal Seafoods. Make sure not to forget stirring in the flour during the middle of the recipe, or the chowder will curdle and lack the necessary thickness.

Finish with dessert, which has to be Durgin Park’s Indian Pudding, the molasses and corn meal based dessert served at this Faneuil Hall landmark for the past 180 years. I’m not sure if Samuel Adams enjoyed the pudding, but I certainly do centuries later. Be very careful not to burn the top and at the 5 hour mark, use a toothpick for measuring the interior’s moistness.

Keep in mind the baking time is 5-7 hours. Don’t even think of enjoying this without a scoop of ice cream– vanilla or an earthy flavor such as pumpkin or the umami- filled burnt sugar flavor at Cambridge’s fantastic ice cream shop, Christina’s.

In times like these, this is what comfort food is for. Hopefully some clam chowder and Indian Pudding from two Boston legends can provide a few moments of solace this evening.


Boston Restaurants Giving a Helping Hand

Here is an ongoing thread of Boston restaurants that are currently having or planning fundraisers for those affected by yesterday’s tragedy and the heroic first responders who helped save so many other lives.

Many thanks to Easter Boston for putting together this list and to the many chefs and restaurateurs volunteering their precious time and resources for this important cause.

 


Plat du Jour: Tuesday April 16, 2013: How Do You Like Your Espresso & Major League Diets

On this spring Tuesday afternoon, we’ll give you an espresso jolt with this excellent and very thorough comparison of “Third Wave” espresso with the classic Italian espresso, courtesy of Erin Meister at Serious Eats.

Yours truly is a classic “Third Wave” coffee drinker, consuming one of these types of espressos each afternoon (or many more than one if away from San Francisco on assignment). Interestingly, my “local” cafe is really an Italian caffé of the sort where if you order an espresso, it’s meant to be a quick one minute shot and you’re out. I often describe this Italian espresso as “watery” and “meager,” so it greatly benefits from a dollop of steamed milk foam as a macchiato. Is the espresso on its really that bland and liquidy? Well, yes it is. It’s not meant to be swirled, sniffed, and examined from all angles like the “Third Wave” espressos.

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Is one of the espresso types better?

Absolutely. There is no debate that the “Third Wave” style is the superior product. The depth, the wood, citrus, and herbal notes, complete with its silky structure compared to the Italian’s water– this isn’t even a contest.

However, as the article so beautifully explains, there is a complete difference in the barista’s process, the beans used, and often even the machines that pull the shots and grind the beans. The most glaring reason for the “Third Wave” espresso’s superior body and complete flavor profile is usually because more of the beans are used, creating a much denser shot with a smoother, thicker texture.

It’s an art and a science to pulling espresso shots. For me, there really isn’t a question here of which I prefer, but I know many advocates for both sides. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If you’re an espresso drinker, you already have a clear preference. (more…)


Boston, You’re in Our Hearts

From all of us here at Trev’s Bistro, our hearts go out to the victims and loved ones of yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon. We’re all thinking of you, Boston. Stay strong and stay safe.

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“Beer” of the Week: White Chocolate Ale, Sonoran Brewing, Scottsdale, AZ

It’s not uncommon for a porter or a stout to present very noticeable chocolate notes. In fact, those two brew genres more often than not have the same repetitive duo in taste profiles: cacao and coffee. Yes, expert food and drink writers such as yours truly who can discern the most hidden of flavors, often vary how to express the cacao and coffee notes. Sometimes, the beer reminds us of milk chocolate and espresso. Other samplings, it’s woodsy 75% dark cacao nibs and single origin Rwandan beans.

Prior to a recent tasting at the O.H.S.O. Eatery and nanoBrewery (Outrageous Homebrewer Social Outpost) right at the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, I had never experienced fully a beer that truly tasted like chocolate, no strings attached. Literally. If a Godiva white chocolate truffle’s ganache were transformed into beer form, this would be the end result.

White Chocolate Ale: 3rd from left Carrot Cake: 3rd from right Coconut Joe Coffee Stout: far left

White Chocolate Ale: 3rd from left
Carrot Cake: 3rd from right
Coconut Joe Coffee Stout: far left

Call it cold fermented chocolate or hop chocolate. This being the Valley of the Sun, who wants hot chocolate anyways? (If you’ve ever sat through a Spring Training rain delay in Arizona, you’d know it’s not always warm here…)

The Sonoran Brewing Company of Scottsdale, Arizona has somehow mastered the challenges of making both a white chocolate ale that makes wheat beer drinkable and a chocolate ale that isn’t an artificial, sugary mess. (more…)