I don't quite get the charm of poutine. French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, it has a passionate following in Quebec, where it originated -- and where I first tried it. Now it's sold by fast food chains like Burger King and KFC across Canada, and by gourmet restaurants that try to dress it up with add-ons like lobster or truffles. So I suppose it should be no surprise that poutine showed up as a menu special on the food truck that parked outside the Miami Herald today. No one ordered it while I was in line, but the cashier said it's very popular when the truck parks at Young Circle in Hollywood, parts of which could be called Little Quebec in winter and early spring. Maybe I'll give poutine another shot on my next trip to Montreal. Can all those Quebecois be wrong?
What Southern towns have the best food? Southern Living magazine asked its readers, and more than 500,000 people voted. Some of the Top 10 were obvious: New Orleans, Charleston, and a no-brainer for lovers of crabs and crab cakes, Baltimore. But the top vote-getter was a surprise: Lafayette, La., beat out its sister city New Orleans. Other favorites: Raleigh, Houston, Charlottesville, Birmingham, Louisville, and Decatur. For details, click here.
Do you diet when you travel? Or do you put your diet on vacation when you take a vacation? Sometimes the fragrance of street food is just too, too tempting. Lonely Planet went looking for the world’s 10 worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) diet busters, those high-fat, high-sugar, high-everything-bad-for-you creations that you buy at street stalls and wagons. They couldn’t stop at 10, though; they found 11. From Mexico’s gorditos to Quebec’s poutine to my favorite, Lisbon’s luscious custard tarts called Pasteles de Belém, here are Lonely Planet’s street foods most worth blowing your diet over.
With the American Queen docked at Natchez for the day, I rode the hop-on, hop-off tour bus into town, where I found another stop on my quest for Mississippi tamales: Fat Mama's Tamales.
The counterman handed me a basket of Saltines and a jumbo bottle of Tabasco sauce. I took them, wondering why I needed either. I like spicy food, but the tamales didn't need any Tabasco. They were already plenty hot, just leaving a happy tingling on my palate. I figured out that the Saltines were intended to dilute any excess heat, but they weren't necessary without any added heat from Tabasco.
These were different from the tamales I ate in D'Iberville, near Biloxi. They contained a mixture of beef and pork, were made with masa instead of cornmeal and were wrapped in dried corn husks. But like the D'Iberville tamales, they were simmered in liquid instead of steamed, and the spices were mixed into the dough as well as the filling.
The tamales were small, and I ate four, then walked off my lunch getting back to the boat.
I passed this Lambert’s Café in Foley, Alabama, today. If you wonder why its website is throwedrolls.com, it’s because a member of the wait staff walks around with a basket of dinner rolls and will throw one at you if you want a roll with your meal. I ate at the original in Sikeston., Mo., a few years ago and found no charm in having rolls thrown at me. I'm apparently in the minority, however, since Lambert's baked -- and presumably threw -- 2.2 million rolls last year. As far as I know, the roll-throwing Lamberts are no relation. My branch of the Lambert family has a dominant clumsiness gene. We can't catch.
If there’s anything more traditionally American than baseball, it’s got to be the bad-for-you food we eat at the ballpark. I’m not just talking about an ordinary hot dog or cheeseburger. I’m talking about extreme eating.
Perhaps a study has found that arteries can’t clog at a ballgame, because TheDailyMeal.com has compiled a list of what must be the unhealthiest – but possibly most delicious – food, which, coincidentally, is all from ballparks. Most are Major League Baseball stadiums, but a few minor league ballparks and one soccer stadium also made the list.
On the list of the 15 Craziest Stadium Foods are four variations on hot dogs (one fried in funnel cake batter, another deep-fried and topped with deep-fried salami), three hamburgers (one weighing eight pounds, another served on a split Krispy Kreme doughnut instead of a traditional bun), and two variations on nachos (including a new version available at the new Miami Marlins Park, served in a helmet).
But most extreme? It’s a tossup between the deep-fried bull testicles served on a bed of French fries at the Colorado Rockies stadium, and the Triple Pork Poutine – cheese curds topped with gravy, pulled pork, bacon and sausage – available at Toronto’s soccer stadium.
View the complete list here.
Here comes another of those personal-experience checklists that we love. This week’s subject: 101 Best U.S. restaurants. The list was compiled by a foodie website, The Daily Meal, and includes a sprawling selection, from the haute and the cutting edge to pizza places, BBQ joints, and delis. The list names only two Florida restaurants, Joe’s Stone Crab and Michael’s Genuine, both in greater Miami (I would have included Sra. Martinez). I’ve eaten at 10 of the 101 — the two in Miami, five in Northern California, and one each in Las Vegas, Kansas City and New Orleans. You can find the complete list here.
The Daily Meal also released a list of what it calls the world’s most gut-busting meals (none of them from the above list): deep-fried pizza from Scotland, poutine with foie gras from Montreal, deep-fried ham rolls in condensed milk from China. I’m getting indigestion just thinking of these. Check them out here, but have antacids on hand.
The menu at Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge was set; I didn’t have a choice of what to eat. But the platter of still-warm naan and other flatbreads and another platter of savory dips were the opening act of one of the best restaurant meals I’ve eaten recently.
Usually guests can choose their courses from a full menu at Sanaa, which serves African food with an Indian flair. This occasion, however, was lunch with one of Disney's animal specialists, a semi-weekly event, at which up to a dozen guests spend an hour and 45 minutes chatting with a veterinarian, animal keeper or other specialist, at the restaurant in Kidani Village at the lodge. The meal ($49 adults, $29 kids) is always the same, consisting of select items from the regular menu.
I went for the animal talk, which I'll tell you about another time. But the lunch was a bonus, full of happy surprises, and a fair test of the menu.
Chef Bob Getchell came to our table to explain African food as a melting pot of Malaysian, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, British and other cuisines. Sanaa’s menu has a strong Indian influence, including curries. Many people think they don’t like curry, he said, often based on a single bad experience. But curry is a broad term encompassing a range of dishes and flavors, and much depends on the particular masala, or spice blend that is used. My translation: A lot of people are turned off by turmeric or cumin, often the dominant spices in curry. Open your mind, he told us in essence.
We started with several kinds of bread, including Paneer Paratha, thin and crisp and made with lentil flour; and a couple variations of naan, a pita-like bread made by slapping rounds of dough on the inside wall of a tandoor oven. They were served with a tray of pickled garlic and eight savory dips like chutney, raita, red chile sambal and roasted red pepper hummus with bold and unexpected combinations of spices and other flavors.
Next came a sampler of three salads: red and golden beets; chickpeas with tomato and cucumber; and watermelon and radish with pickled watermelon rind. All were seasoned with a variety of fresh herbs, vinaigrette, lime, garlic or onion.
For the main course, we had chicken in red curry and shrimp in green curry, served with basmati rice that had been steamed with spices including cardamom. The curries had been seasoned with a light hand, delicately spicy, the flavors of chicken and shrimp not overwhelmed.
Dessert was another sampler: Kulfi, an ice-cream-like concoction made with sweetened condensed milk, yogurt, passion fruit and other tropical fruits; Chai Cream, a rich custard with nutmeg and other chai spices; and a dense, moist chocolate cake.
The meal, of course, was Disney's interpretaton of African food, perhaps toned down for American tastes. But not too much. For example, several of the savory dips, although not habanero-hot, were hotter than many Florida restaurants will serve. Some flavor combinations are unfamiliar to American palates, but serve as appealing introductions to a new cuisine. I’ll go back.
Photos: Walt Disney Resorts