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Archive for July, 2008

When I moved back from China in 2003, I had forgotten how to communicate in English (I couldn’t really speak in Chinese either) and I craved Chinese street food. I spent hours on the internet tracking down recipes, testing the authenticity of cookbooks I discovered, and traipsing from Brighton Beach to Manhattan and Queens and back again to indulge in the flavors I missed. I had some hits and misses (one miss involving a very hungover friend and a 45 minute subway ride on the Q train and some dismal food) and some delicious rewards. And while these experiments were fun, I would have killed for this brilliant interactive map and feature in today’s NY Times about the Chinese food in Flushing.

Chinese street food is clearly a popular topic for a newspaper feature as the Olympics are around the corner and hundreds of previously uninitiated tourists are about to taste Chinese street food for the first time. The Star wrote a Beijing Street Food Top 10 List. While I don’t think a list of ten can do Chinese street food justice, this list does show the brilliant breadth of Beijing street foods and its origins from Xinjiang to Wuhan.

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I used to work in fashion (before I quit my job last month) and a big part of my job was figuring out what trends would take off and ensuring we had enough inventory to support those sales. I’m no longer concerned about fall’s hem-length, but having recently seen a slew of street-food inspired restaurants open and TV programs exploring exotic street dishes launched, I’m quite certain we’re in middle of a street food trend.

Some of the street-food inspired events, news and restaurants that seem worth checking out…

Slow on the Go: Alice Waters is bringing her Slow Food Nation to Fort Mason and the Civic Center in San Francisco. With events over Labor Day weekend that promote sustainable, fresh, and organic street food, the $45+ tix don’t seem too expensive.

The New York Times has reviewed sweet mobile treats in its $25-and-under dining section and a few weeks ago wrote a round-up of fried milk street foods around the globe.

In San Francisco, Kasa Indian Eatery opened to rave reviews, introducing Bay Area foodies to kati rolls—an Indian burrito-like street food staple. Further north in Portland, Andy Rickter is the chef at Pok Pok which serves Thai street food and won the 2007 Portland Restaurant of the Year. Great blog post about Andy at the rambling spoon.

In NYC, Tuck Shop sells authentic Aussie street food—meat pies—in midtown and Macondo, named after Gabriel García Márquez’s fictional town in One Hundred Years of Solitude, recently opened downtown serving up-scale Latin American street food. Check out this Times article to create one of Macondo’s cocktails. If it’s Venezuelan street food you’re craving however, East Village staple Caracas still impresses. And I’m pretty much willing to sell my soul for the recipe of their spicy sauce…

Al Jazeera has a program exploring street food around the world and if you don’t have access to that channel, check out the shows online. And of course with the Travel Channel’s No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, there’s no lack of street food programming.

If you’re in Jackson Heights, Jim Leff has created a Google map of obscure street food.

And if none of these street eats are nearby, enjoy Thomas Swick’s ode to street food.

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From hogs roasting in back yards to roadside, mobile smokers, BBQ is a central Texas specialty. But with only one day in this roast meat heartland, I needed to taste what Gourmet magazine ranks one of the best joints…even if it wasn’t necessarily street food.Smitty's Meat Market

Entering Smitty’s Market on a 98-degree day is like visiting hell on the way to heaven, and the ultimate reward surpasses any promised paradise. A line weaves from the door through the smoke room where open fires are constantly stoked, ensuring an endless supply of cooked meats for the waiting customers. Smitty's Smoke Room

The menu is simple: Cold Sausage, Hot Sausage, Lean Beef (Shoulder), Fat Beef (Brisket), Pork Chops, Prime Rib, Pork Ribs. You can order by slice, rib or pound and your meat is wrapped in thick butcher paper with Butter Krust sliced white bread thrown on top.

Smitty's Condiment Bar

Clutching our paper-wrapped meat, we made our way into the blissfully air-conditioned dining room, where large communal tables were packed with diners devouring their sandwiches. As you enter this second room, there is a counter of condiments where you can buy homemade pickles and peppers, cheeses and avocados, and a selection of side dishes from a tangy, sharp slaw to meaty, but bland, baked beans. This is where the local regulars turn their orders into handcrafted, customized sandwiches.

Smitty's Meat

We ordered two ribs, ½ a pound of fat beef, and two hot sausages and started with the ribs. They were some of the best I’ve ever had: smoky, slightly sweet and caramelized on the outside but meaty with no cloying BBQ sauce to intrude on the flavor of well-seasoned pork.

The sausage, wrapped in a slice of Butter Krust was rich, juicy and spicy with a satisfyingly taught skin. Topped with the homemade, not-so-hot hot sauce (found on the table) I fell in love with the unadulterated flavors of slow cooked, smoky meat.

The brisket was good but not near the top of my list…it was tougher than I expected with less flavor that the other meats we ordered. The fat beef was good but it needed a compliment—when I looked round at the other tables I understood the beauty of the condiment bar. Clearly we were the out-of-towners—the tattooed bikers sitting next to us were attacking their stacked sandwiches of meat, cheese, avocado, pickles and hot sauce.

Were I to return, I’d probably spend more time at the condiment counter trying the myriad sandwich variations, but with just one meal to enjoy I wanted to eat my smoke-infused meat without any distraction…except of course for my two-dollar Lone Star beer.

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Smitty’s Market

208 South Commerce
Lockhart, Texas 78644

Telephone: 512-398-9344

Mon-Fri 7am – 6pm
Sat 7am – 6:30pm
Sun 9am – 3pm

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Food Shark, Marfa Tx

Bon Appetit ranked The Food Shark of Marfa, Texas sixth in its Hot 10 US street food vendors.

But when I happened upon the Food Shark, after a few weeks of fast food and veggie-lacking desert meals of Arizona and western Texas, I ranked the Food Shark’s ambrosial hummus wrap ($6.99) number one.

Minimalist artist Donald Judd relocated from New York to Marfa in the 1970s, laying the foundation for this desert outpost to become an artistic Mecca by buying up abandoned buildings and offering artists space to work and exhibit. The New York Times cemented Marfa’s cultural role with its 2005 Art Land article, which touted the tourism that bypasses now-decrepit towns all over western Texas.

Abandoned Building Outside Marfa

Located on I-90, 75 miles south of Van Horn—a town that’s been reduced to an I-10 rest stop where 28 percent of the population lives below poverty—Marfa, with its beautifully restored Arts and Crafts buildings and deco details, is an oasis for billboard-weary travelers.

David and I had time for only a walk along Marfa’s main square, marveling at the brilliantly stocked bookstore—the perfect place to pick up a Cormac McCarthy novel before heading North to his Las Cruces base—and the local newspaper office before spotting Food Shark nestled beneath a corrugated metal structure in a square by the railway tracks.

The metal roof shades large, sculptural, communal tables—the Shark’s “dining room”—where a collection of locals, artsy hipsters and tourists mingle. We sat next to a chatty art historian who was in Marfa for the summer to archive Judd’s papers, tantalizing us with the thoughts of perusing this library ourselves.

As I had just cooked dumplings 30 miles before, we weren’t hungry. But seeing the inexpensive menu of Mediterranean-inspired local food, I ordered the hummus wrap, which was packed with crunchy greens, juicy garnet-colored tomatoes and thickly textured hummus. Accompanied by cold, unsweetened tea, our desert-driven thirst was finally quenched.

Food Shark's Hummus Wrap

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