Saint-Émilion, France: An Oenophile’s Playground

Vineyards in Saint-Emilion France
Vineyards in Saint-Emilion France

What I most remember about our visit to Saint-Emilion France is how cold and bright it was. We were there in late January when the ubiquitous grape vines join with tourist hotels and curio shops in desolate hibernation. And I did not believe it could be so cold with the sun shining so brightly.

To say that Saint-Emilion is a seasonal town would be an understatement. Fall – when the grapes are harvested, and summer – when the tourists descend upon the south of France – are the busy times. Now, in January, we wandered the steep, medieval alleyways utterly alone.

Continue reading

Posted in Food, International Cuisine, Photos, Travel
Tagged , , , , , ,
1 Comment

2014 UK Barbecue Tour

2014 UK Barbecue Tour
2014 UK Barbecue Tour – photo rooreynolds

I’ll be touring Texas-inspired barbecue joints in the United Kingdom starting January 8th. Here’s some background.

The export of Texas barbecue – or more specifically the culture of Texas barbecue – is a fascinating story. As recently as six years ago there were no legitimate Texas-style barbecue joints outside of Texas. Sure, there were innumerable “Texas BBQ” joints all over the U.S. But they mostly just paid lip service to true Texas BBQ by serving roast beef drowned in bottled barbecue sauce. True Texas BBQ, which for our purposes is primarily beef cooked using smoke at relatively low heat for long periods of time to tenderize and flavor the meat, simply did not exist outside our great state.

Continue reading

Posted in Barbecue, Blog Only, Favorite Dish, Food, Food for Thought, International Cuisine, Texas, Travel
Tagged , , , , , , ,
1 Comment

A Temple (or two) to Texas Barbecue Grows in Brooklyn

Hometown Bar-B-Que - Red Hook, Brooklyn
Hometown Bar-B-Que – Red Hook, Brooklyn

Red Hook is the new Williamsburg. If you’re not familiar with the ins-and-outs of New York City neighborhoods, the story goes something like this. Williamsburg was a down-and-out area of Brooklyn for years. The only reason to go there was to dine at Peter Luger Steak House (that’s why I went there back in the 1990s). Then it started to gentrify. Artists, shops, restaurants all started to take root. It became the mecca of hipster culture.

Then, of course, it got expensive, and only rich hipsters can live there now (I’m exaggerating, though not by much). So the artists, shops and restaurants have to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is Red Hook, a mostly industrial area just south of Brooklyn Heights. The big difference between the gentrification prospects of Red Hook and Williamsburg is transportation. Williamsburg is easily accessed via subway (L train). Not so for Red Hook. As my Brooklyn-born friend Ethan pointed out – there’s basically one bus going into and out of Red Hook. And definitely no subway.

Still, there’s plenty of activity going on. Fairway, the big Manhattan-based supermarket, just opened there. IKEA opened in the last few years too, a sign of gentrification if there ever was one. There’s even an IKEA ferry from Manhattan, which offers another way to get to Red Hook. There are breweries and wineries and the occasional restaurant. One of those restaurants is a barbecue restaurant called Hometown Bar-B-Que.

Continue reading

Posted in Barbecue, Blog Only, Food, Travel
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
6 Comments

Back to Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

I’ll be traveling to Istanbul, Turkey today as part of a press tour sponsored and paid for by Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Tourism Office. There will be seven other US-based travel writers on the tour. I feel quite fortunate and honored to be chosen as part of this tour.

The last time I was in Istanbul was circa 1990 (photo above). I was all of 22 years old, backpacking through the world, not knowing any better. All you see in the picture, including the scruffy first-time beard and a small backpack, was all the worldly positions I owned at the time. Those were different times.

Posted in Blog Only, Travel
Tagged , ,
1 Comment

2013 Boudin Cook-Off in Lafayette, Louisiana

2013 Boudin Cook-Off in Lafayette, Louisiana
2013 Boudin Cook-Off in Lafayette, LA. Click above for larger image, then scroll left-right to see it all.

One of the very nicest things about living in Houston is that you can jump in the car, drive a few hours in any direction, and feel like you’re in a totally different place with a totally different cuisine. An hour south and you’re in Galveston with a comfortable-if-not-quite-picturesque coastline and a diverse selection of Gulf seafood. A couple of hours northwest and you’re approaching the Hill Country and Central Texas barbecue. And three hours due east, “on the other side of the Sabine River” as my Southeast Texas friends call Southwest Louisiana (SWLA), is an endlessly fascinating place called Cajun country, with a highly prized dish known as boudin.

Boudin is, of course, a type of sausage or link made of more-or-less equal parts pig, rice and various vegetables, herbs and spices. It is a throwback to the sausage-making skills of the French/Acadian ancestors who settled in this area. It is very much a part of this place which is historically poor, and limited to an abundance of a few basic ingredients, especially pigs and rice (seafood too). Like other “peasant” dishes, boudin was a way to use the less-desirable parts of the animal – organs, offal, etc. – in an economical and delicious way. It is one of those special dishes that is simple yet complex – anybody can make it, using innumerable permutations of a few ingredients, to their own taste or to their family’s tradition.

Continue reading

Posted in Blog Only, Favorite Dish, Food, Gulf Coast, Travel
Tagged , , , , ,
1 Comment