Category Archives: Foodies Digest

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What is head cheese?

“Rich, what is head cheese?”

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Really, this is a question that I hear at times; not often, but on occasion. Head cheese is not a cheese at all but a meat. It’s like a lunch meat made from the head of a beast, literally. Eyes, ears, brain and nose are all congealed together in a gelatinous blob. The hipster crowd is taking note, I assume just to be ironic dicks because it’s not really that great, but head cheese has been around forever and like with all the offal cuts, blood sausages, and weird parts of the beast not often found in American cuisine it started out its life as poor people food. An animal’s head, usually a pig, is boiled in a pot until the brain liquefies, the eyes melt, and the meat slides of the bone. Bits and chunks of meat are parsed out of the pot, mixed with herbs and spices, and left to harden in a covering of head broth which, when it cools, maintains the consistency of jello. Aspic, brah…like a big gross meat-filled jello mold.

This is a good video which shows how head cheese is made, anyone can do it, not just genderless hipsters like in the video:

And now we are all wiser because we know what a terrine dish is.

As noted earlier head cheese is not really that great. I like it, but I’m a weirdo and even I can’t eat this shit all the time. It’s great with beer and bread but when a body grows tired of the carbonated wine that is craft beer, why not pair your head cheese with Kvass, a cool Russian staple made from fermented bread and raisins. Kvass is great and it’s like drinking a delicious glass of bread. Even though it’s fermented it is only about 1-2% ABV tops so it’s not really useful for getting smashed. Kvass is probably what beer should taste like though.


Surprisingly head cheese can be found at most butcher shops but for Kvass one will need to head to the Russian ghettos. A body can makes its own from a hunk of its favorite rye, although one should note that a good selection can be found at ‘Paradise Food’ @ 7217 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge.

So there you have it, instead of discarding your pig heads or just eating the eyes, boil ’em down and make head cheese with them. Let me know how it goes.

 

Patacone Machine

Ah, tostones…the ubiquitous latino treat!

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Tostones are everywhere in Latin America and just another way to prepare the banana-like plantain, or platano (so dubbed en castellano).

Mashed into little disks and fried in oil unto a crispy goldenrod brown, los tostones are a definitive comfort food and go tits with nearly everything.

Dubbed patacones in Argentina and other parts south, tostones run the gamut from Mexico down to Tierra del Fuego and now at the corner of Farragut and E. 24th St in Flatbush. Brooklyn.

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To prep your patacones, select only the choicest green platanos, slicing lengthwise along the husk, removing the skin, and cutting into cube sized morsels. Drop the morsels in hot oil and fry for a few minutes until lightly browned and soft. Out of the oil and into the patacone machine where they will be crushed into little discs. In a pinch, a couple of hipster skulls can be used to crush the patacones into the aforementioned discs. Discs are now shuffled back into the oil to be fried once more unto a golden  brown. Season with salt. Delicious.

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Chimichurri! Chimichuri! Chimichurri!

Don’t forget the chimichurri, dog, a delightful dipping sauce and revelation unto itself.

6 cloves garlic
Cilantro
Scallions
1/2 Hot ass fresh pepper
1/4 Red bell pepper
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
3/4 Olive oil stolen from housemate
1/4 cup vinegar

Put all that shit in a blender or just chop it up real fine if you don’t have one and mix it up. Dip away dog!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year America; from the meat markets of ol’ Mexico.

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…ride the worm. 2013

 

motorcycle mate madness

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Gather round young ones, children of the plains, mis gauchitos, and I’ll tell you a tale of maté and might, of lone warriors sipping bitter tonics from hollowed out gourds before being sent off to the battle that is their lives!


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Yerba maté, the Argentinian national drink, is a green concoction, a bitter herb similar to coffee or tea if only for its stimulant properties. All Argentines young and old can be seen sporting designer maté kits about town, sipping the strange brew from hollowed out gourds or fancy silver cups bedazzled with jewels. A good mate kit will contain a maté cup or suitable chalice, some herb, a bombilla, and a thermos. Add bonus points for an attractive leather case which holds everything within.

While the reality of sipping said tonic is a sad one indeed for most (the taste is bitter and one to be aquired) the ritual of maté preparation is a fine one indeed.

…a primer for delving into your own personal maté madness:

1. Put on a tea kettle.

2. Whilst your water is heating up, decant your chosen brand of yerba maté into your most favorite gourd or maté chalice about 3/4 of the way to the top. Put your hand over the top of your cup and then turn it upside down and shake it a few times. This mixes up the maté and helps to get rid of some of the herbal dust, which will stick to your sweaty palm (don’t be so nervous!). Creepy porteños (ciudadanos of Buenos Aires) like to mix in sugar with their maté, but this should be considered sacrilege to all true maté aficionados and may anger the Gods. You have been warned.

3. Let your water come to a boil, remove your kettle from the burner, and ready your thermos. Just like with coffee, you want to let your water cool for a moment before brewing your maté. Water that is too hot will just spoil everything.

4. There are a couple odd variants for getting this right. One is to fill your maté cup with cool water first to wet the herb and make sure that it is not imparted a bitter taste by the hot, hot water. In truth, we feel this to be an unnecessary step and one that yields a first cup of cold drink, which tastes terrible. Better to place your bombilla, or metal sipping straw, into the mate first, decanting the hot water down it’s length to cool it a bit before it strikes your precious herb. See: Brady’s dad.

5. And there you have it, your maté is ready to be sipped. Go ahead and continue to add water as needed from your thermos. Keep in mind that some say it sacrilege to wet the herb fully, and to never let the water rise above the level of the herb itself. I consider this to be a good rule of thumb and one that produces the most precious drink. But…do as thou wilt because it’s really just some variant of tea. Best or better to impart your own variant of the mate ritual on the cosmic game.

Motorcycle mate kit

Motorcycle mate kit

There are a whole bunch of other rules for sharing your mate if your in a group but…c’mon, why do you people have to share everything? It’s not like sip sip pass with coffee in the states. What’s next? Soup? A singular lollipop?  An ice cream cone?

Well, it’s a party y’all

A lil’ za, brah?

Finally, the reviews are in!

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We’re a long way from Buenos Aires, taking care of business and putting God in Submission in the Patagonian hinterlands. A long way indeed.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t hark back to times that once were. So let’s drift back to our Argentinian salad days, back to old Buenos Aires town when once the hunt was on for the capital’s best pizza.

Look, we won’t even discuss how much we miss Mexican street food or pine for a cheesy ass slice of quality New York pizza these days. And truth be told, even the humble almuerzo set lunch so ubiquitous throughout the rest of Latin America is thoroughly missed. Argentina is in some sort of financial crisis and, coming from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, food prices are surprisingly expensive here. Unless you want a shitty hotdog or terrible hamburger, there is a total and complete dearth of street foods here, or any cheap eats for that matter. This is tiresome because street eats are the staple food of the independent and lonesome traveler. You can’t have a parilla everyday and a body grows tired of sandwiches.

P1050978So imagine our surprise when we get to Buenos Aires and find out that pizza is, more often than not, sold by the slice here and for about the same price as back in NYC. A real steal. In most of Latin America, pizza is a sit-down restaurant style affair with waiters and menus and cloth knapkins. A foreign concept and one that is off putting to any pizza aficionado.  It’s all just too pretentious and weird,  like the pizza is taking itself too seriously. Then there’s the fast-food weird shit like pizza-conos, which are like pizza tacos; dough rolled up into a cone with cheese and sauce and pepperoni stuffed inside. All straight out of the freezer…it should be outlawed.

But at least the porteños give it a shot and dish out something akin to real pizza, sold by the slice, fresh out the oven, and fast to your plate. Although, they still can’t shake the idea of pizza being a restaurant thing, with bowtied waiters strutting about; and those that wish to dine without service are made to stand in a separate section like animals. Whatever, I’ll take it and truth be told, we actually started developing a fondness for the typical Argentine slice.

Look, pizza is pizza but it’s good to know some important terms, so thus a brief primer on Argentine ‘za:

Fugazzeta: An Argentinian original, the Fugazzeta slice is a doughy variant of a regular  slice but absolutely smothered in onions. Some come with ham and other things on them also but the main theme is onion, lots of onion. Taste’s better than one might think. Oniony.

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Faina: Faina is just sort of like thin greasy bread, made with chickpea flour. It’s weird at first, but grows on a body. You put it on top of your regular slice and sort of eat it like that. Builds character they say.

Anchoa: The anchoa slice is just pizza bread and sauce with anchovies on top. If you want cheese on it you have to ask for it. With cheese please. It’s nice to see the anchovy get some face time down here as few in the states dare to do it.

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The Mozza: A regular slice of mozzarella cheese pizza. The typical Argie slice is thick, billowy even, and totally smothered in cheese. Sort of like what you get when you order a sicilian slice in New York.

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Napolitana: This slice is basically the same as the mozza except it has tomatoes on top. It’s alright I guess. Not much else goin’ on here though.

And so, with time to kill and a belly to fill the search was on for Buenos Aires’ best. Mexican American pal Aaron joined us for a whirlwind tour of the capitals biggest and baddest pizza joints.

Kentucky: Bearing the namesake of America’s most troubled state, Kentucky is one of the older pizza joints in Buenos Aires and its intial, and continuing, success has led it on the path to franchisedom. As such, methinks that said move has led its quality to suffer somewhat. The mystical, magical fugazzetta rellena so often recommended was a moist, soggy affair and a tepid one at that as it could have benefitted greatly from a bit more oven time. Hostel mate and Chicano Aaron’s Napolitana slice played the same cool tune, like many a porteña strumpet. Although, a free ice cream did enhance the mood somewhat and the Kentucky out on avenida Corrientes in the Microcentro is a clean joint, classy even says Aaron, “with a good vibe.”

Guerrin: Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin by telling you that pizza by Guerrin, just a quick stroll down Avenida Corrientes from Kentucky, is always a packed, bustling affair. Busy as balls it is and for good reason. Rub elbows with the Gods at old Guerrin and do yourself a solid by ordering up a porcion de mozza at this BsAs mainstay. How I stopped worrying and learned to love Argentinian pizza. Lots of grease, not enough sauce, swimming in cheeese, pillowy crust, blah blah blah. New York pizza it’s not but we’re not in old New York anyway and anyways Pizza by Guerrin serves up good stuff, a fine example of what Argentinian pizza is, or has become at this juncture in time, and so close to the end of days and the upcoming baktun. Cheese is top-notch as well as the crust, both cooked to crispy perfection. Consistent stuff and a favorite of all Buenes Aires manchildren and children of man.

El Cuartito: If TGI Fridays or Applebees solely sold pizza in Argentina they would aspire to be El Cuartito. Best atmosphere of the lot: waiters with bow-ties and kitschy framed pictures of celebrities and sports personalities that line the walls define this place. For one hallucinatory instant I swear that I caught the covetous eye of Chris Mullin mind-raping my anchoa slice from high up on the wall along with the rest of the original G’s from the 92 Dream Team lined up on their 20 year old poster shielded from the elements and pizza grease behind thick glass. Extra points are awarded for having not one but several Mike Tyson posters, all placed prominently, and a nice portrait of Diego from his anchovy days with Boca. Pizza was not much to blog home about, although it wasn’t terrible. A little soggy. Before departure, it was pointed out that Aaron had left a small piece of his anchoa slice behind and when confronted stated that he “didn’t really enjoy it that much.” Although it should be noted that when pressed further he backpedalled and said, “It was OK.” Take that for what it’s worth.

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Las Cuartetas: Another Buenos Aires institution Las Cuartetas, across the street from cross-street rivals Guerrin, comes in close second to cross-street rivals Guerrin. Cheesiest, greasiest slice yet but delicious at that as all ingredients are of the highest caliber. It has been told that if one were to bite into a slice of Las Cuartetas greasy, cheesy ass mozzarrella with eyes wide shut then they will be, if only for the briefest flash or glimmer in time, be transported back to the gritty streets of old New York to a favorite pizza haunt existing only in memory, so reminiscient of the New York sicilian slice is the Las Cuartetas mozza.

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Banchero: Avenida Corrientes, for a short stretch, seems only to be flanked by pizza joints and theaters. Las Cuartetas, Guerrin, Kentucky, Banchero, and countless others are pretty much right next to each other. Banchero sort of gets lost in the crowd here, although with good reason as it doesn’t really offer up anything too special or amazing to take notice of. Standard, run of the mill Argentinian pizza is all that’s on the menu at Banchero. Not bad, better than most, but decidedly not the best. Entonces: eh. Slice was good, containing the appropriate amount of sauce, but not great. Cheese quality did not seem to be up to par with Cuartetas or Guerrin.

Uggis: Uggi’s pizza is the Argentine equivalent of NYC dollar pizza, I guess. Uggi’s is the cheapest pizza you can get in old Buenos Aires town and is about as good as you’d expect, although maybe a little better. Derided by most foodies, Uggi’s pizza comes in only two variants: plain or with onions. It’s really not that horrible and it’s salvation lies in it’s consistency and availability. There are over 40 locations in BsAs proper and they’re all pretty much the same. The pizza chefs are all recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and each pizza box warns its recipient to stay away from drugs and bad things. There’s a strange, desperate air to the Uggi’s on avenida Entre Rios, as it features one man, behind a steel cage with a little hole in it to collect money and slide pizzas through, doing everything by himself. On his own terms.

So, where can a body find the best pizza in old Buenos Aires town?

The prize goes to ol’ Guerrin followed by Las Cuartetas, both doin’ it right and well after all these years. The others are the others, and just seem to be slinging some odd variant of the same, although one gets the feeling that when Buenos Aires finally goes up in flames the man behind the cage at Uggi’s will still be feverishly working away, going down with his ship.

And the band played on.

¡Vamos a tomar un poca de chicha! ¡Ahora!

Vamos Vamos…

Live update from the Sacred Valley…

Ah, you know anything that comes out of a mud jug with an Incan woman sitting next to it has got to be quality stuff.

Supposedly ubiquitous throughout Andean Peru, the Chicha house is designated by a red flag, or t-shirt or rag or whatever, hanging from a pole outside of someones house. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled but this is the first one I’ve seen during nearly 3 months in Peru. Chicha is a fermented corn drink, made from crushed and boiled maize and left to ferment in clay pots until it reaches an ABV of about 3%.

And the verdict?

Si, esta bien. ¡Dame mi chicha, puta! ¡Dame la, ahora! Pero, recuerda que es mucho mejor para tomar en las sombras de los sitios antiguos de las Incas, esperando por el fin del todo tiempo.

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Liquor Amazonico Style

Drinking trago in the Amazon and playing soccer until dark. Teaching ninos English in the jungle and being threatened by the jeffe to stay for two weeks instead of just one…and then he borrowed $20 from me. Where did it go? No one knows.

Trago is liquor distilled from sugar cane juice and it’s strong stuff, like moonshine. It doesn’t taste sweet at all but smells and tastes sort of like a dirty martini, or like when you pop the lid off a jar of green olives. It does the trick and is clean stuff. But look, that’s just one part of livin’ la vida selva and a small part of my days spent teaching ninos in the hamlet of Nantar, somewhere out in the high Amazon and the wilds of Ecuador.

Mis estudiantes all lined up in a neat little row outside of the schoolhouse.

Ah, delicious colata, part of a healthy nutritious breakfast to help young minds grow and be all that they can be. The Ecuadorian gov’ment gives out bags of this stuff, along with cookies and cereal bars, which we supped on every morn for desayuno.

Hey Freddijimmi, godamnit stop clowning around with Michael and get back to work; you need to pay more attention brother.

Saltamonte the jungle grasshopper with cool designs that make it look like a leaf. Man, the sheer number of incredible bugs in the jungle was mind blowing. There were hundreds of different kinds of butterflies with incredible wing patterns. We’re talking perfect geometric shapes like, and some with clear ass wings.

Gosh, would ya’ just look at the size of that yucca root!? Go on, just look at it! Martin, Nelly, y sus hijo Jeremy aka Nayim. My hosts during my time spent in the jungle, they fed, housed, and bathed me in the river like a guagua.

Man, what a crazy bug! The stick bug comes in some weird colors man and this one was black and red. It has a weird tail, which I thought was a stinger, but Martin assured me that it was harmless. It always tries to crawl towards your face.

Stick bug and lil’ Jeremy. I like this pic because Jeremy has weaseled his way into it, like in a Botero painting. He’s in nearly every single one of my pics from the jungle. Incidently, he managed to source a bootleg copy of the movie LaBamba and would play the part with the song over and over again ad nauseum. No matter, it’s a great song and reminded me of my own youth, doing the same with my Fisher Price stereo and LaBamba cassette single…although I always thought the baby-faced ethnic cool of Lou Diamond Phillips skipped a generation.

Out in the selva on a jungle walk with Martin and jungle baby Jeremy.

Cool spider, which Martin also assured me was totally harmless.

Casa de la Martin and fam under a hot tin-roof in the Amazon.

Platano balls!! Eat up!

A trip to the big city with my new family Shuar. Look how tall I seem. Like an Anunaki giant.

El inferno verde, an impenetrable green hell. Machetes are always chevere.

Lil’ Jeremy, Nantar, y sus abuelita. And platanos, always platanos.

Chonta tree full of incredibly sharp and dangerous spikes. I’m really surprised that I did not step or fall onto one of these things. This is where delicious heart of palm comes from and fallen chontas are the favorite food of those delightful larva.

Coco del Monte. Little miniature jungle coconuts. Rad. There’s even water inside, although they have little taste.

Lil’ Teofilas, my best student, cookin’ up some sopa. On mother’s day the boys would do the cookin’.

Look, I’m helping!

See, I’m holding the chicken to make it easier to cut, not a staged photo-op at all!

Mmm, pass the fermented yucca beverage please, called Chicha in these parts. Abuelita, get your mitts out of that chicha!

Mi amigo! Lil’ gusanintos, born and raised, in the rotted out trunk of a chonta tree is where they spent most of their days. Man, the Shuar would just gobble these things down raw. Look at the way these things move in the video and imagine one climbing around inside your mouth, and look at those pinchers! Plus, the dead chonta smells absolutely repugnant. Admittedly, they tasted pretty good, but I ate em up bien cocinado, roasted over an open flame. They taste sort of peanuty.

Me and my new old Shaur family. Chiki, Jeremy, and lil’ Teo all in traditional Shuar wear and me in traditional shirtless hooligan garb and feathered crown.

Lil’ Jeremy sporting war face and lance.

A little going away party with traditional Shuar dance routine.

So there you have it, all part of the exceptional experience of spreading the American english tongue to the outer reaches of the universe.

Anyone interested in teaching English to baby Shuar in the Ecuadorian Amazon, hit me up and I’ll see what I can do.