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Foodie Heaven

My 9 European Foodie Destinations for October

Returning home after spending September in Central Asia, I was shocked. I’d left in summer, yet some of my trees were bare, and the rake was waiting for my swift hand. Suddenly I was reaching for a jacket in the evenings whereas days earlier, I had been hiding from the hot Uzbek sun in shaded patios. It only…

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The Unusual and Not-So-Secret Brotherhoods of France

She wears a leprechaun green hat, her velvet cape wrapped around her body in the cold. Around her neck hangs an olive green ribbon, holding up a bronze medallion. The operative word is olive. Meet Madame Laget, one of the few women in the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Olive Tree, a not-so-secret organization…

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The Fascinating Story of the Indonesian Rijsttafel

The fascinating thing about the Indonesian rijsttafel is that it isn’t Indonesian at all: it is a Dutch invention. Indonesian food is involved, of course, but the construct is a product of colonial Holland, which ruled Indonesia – calling it the Dutch East Indies – for more than 350 years. Because yes, initially the Dutch colonists avoided the…

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A Delightful Dispute About the Perfect Tortilla

Here’s how an evening out in Spain might go. “Let’s go to the Alcazar/Rincon/Whatever bar, it’s got the best tortilla.” “Forget it – they put onions in their tortilla.” “Onions?? Sacrilege!” Me, timidly: “But… without onions it’s not tortilla, just a bunch of eggs and potatoes…” And that’s enough to spark a heated discussion I’ve “enjoyed” at…

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Which of These Two is the Best Food Market in Madrid?

Choosing the best food market in Madrid shouldn’t be too difficult. Madrid is, after all, a city to be eaten through, a city of interminable tapas, taverns, restaurants and bars with as much solid as liquid sustenance. And now it is also a city of markets, revitalized after years of decay. When I was a child growing up here, we…

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Les Halles in Lyon: Saucisson, Snails and Sea Urchins

There’s a certain thrill about uncovering a new market, new to me at least, a place others rave about so much I’m sure to be disappointed. A shiver of anticipation rushes down my spine when I feel I’m about to discover something truly exquisite, without knowing exactly what lies ahead. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved great food…

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Anatomy of a Tuscan Cooking Class

These may be the strangest words ever to come out of the mouth of an Italian chef running a Tuscan cooking class. “Good morning. My name is Sunshine.” The name fit like a snug sweater, his smile infectious and every ripple visible. His parents had been “sort of hippies” and named him after the musical Hair. Try carrying…

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Guérande Fleur de Sel: The Salt Harvester

Marie-Thérèse Aumont picks out a black speck from the snowy mountain of fresh salt. “It’s alien, it shouldn’t be here,” she says crossly. “This entire mound might be contaminated.” That would be bad news indeed, given the amount of work it takes to harvest a pile of salt here in the Guérande peninsula (pronounced gay-rawnd) in northwestern France’s Loire-Atlantique…

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Café Clock, or The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing

Like a firecracker threatening to explode, Mike Richardson flits from customer to customer until he has greeted them all. A smile here, a hug or handshake there, he doesn’t miss a millisecond of what goes on behind him at the bar of Café Clock in Marrakesh, of which he is official puppetmeister. Or owner, if you prefer. To run…

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Bresse Chicken: Posh Bird in Red, White and Blue

Proudly French, the Bresse chicken sports the national colors: red (comb), white (feathers) and blue (feet). The ring on its left leg is “like a wedding ring,” marrying the chicken to the region; it is stamped with the name of the farmer and of the commune, so it is difficult to fake the authenticity of…

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