Pig's Tails with Nam Pla at Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA
Of all the delicious things at Craigie on Main, Tony Maws' stellar Cambridge restaurant, the crispy pig's tails might be the most delicious. Slow cooked until meltingly tender then deep fried and tossed with a sweet and savory Vietnamese-style glaze, this is bone-sucking, finger-licking fare at its finest.
I love that the crisp fried onion rings on top taste so much like Funyuns. Really grown-up Funyuns, that is.
Chickpeas and Morcilla at Bar Pinotxo, Barcelona, Spain
Of all the amazing food I had in Spain, this was the best: perfectly cooked chickpeas stewed with morcilla (blood sausage), a hint of parsley, a heavy shot of incredible grassy olive oil from Extremadura, and a misting of sherry vinegar. It came from Bar Pinotxo right at the entrance of the Boqueria market in Barcelona. The only thing that made it better was the cava and coffee essential for a true Barcelonan breakfast.
The T.M.T., My Place, Harlem
Ok, so maybe I was a tad melodramatic when I describe the Tomato, Mayonnaise, and Toast as representative of the three cornerstones of civilization (nature, science, and humanity), but nevertheless, there's nothing I'd rather eat when the tomatoes are heavy with sweet, late summer juices. Dumpling totally agrees—you can see it in his eyes.
Arepas con Longaniza at La Vara, Villavicencio, Colombia
On a drive down from her hometown of Bogotá to the surrounding llanos (plains), the wife and I stopped at La Vara, a roadside restaurant that serves decent barbecued beef, and excellent longaniza and stuffed arepas. The fat corn cakes are stuffed with fresh local cheese (like tangy mozzarella) and grilled over a hardwood fire until nutty brown. Read more about the amazing food of the plains here.
Caviar with Buttered Toast, Sour Cream, and Red Onions
My wife and I went to Stockholm and Gothenburg for a wedding in August. Amongst the best of the incredible seafood we ate (hello shrimp and herring!) was the local caviar with sour cream and chopped red onions. Simple and delicious. I couldn't tell you what kind of fish the caviar came from. I believe it was named after a bookshelf from IKEA, which, by the way, look exactly the same in Sweden. Børt børt børt!
The Sliders at Motz's in Detroit, MI
I'm a slider fiend. Beefy patty, sweet onions, soft, pillowy bun, and gooey cheese are four of my favorite things. Motz's in Detroit does sliders better than almost anywhere I've ever been in a space that's as charming as it is ancient. Here's to hoping they never quit.
Grilled Pata Negra Skewers, Logroño, Spain
What better way to reward yourself after a few days of backpacking along Northen Spain's Camino de Santiago than a charcoal-grilled skewer of pata negra, the cadillac of pork. Charred, crisp, and smoky, the meat is so heavily marbled that it literally melts in your mouth, and I'm not one to throw around a word like "literally" lightly. Literally.
Logroño is a mid-sized town that still embraces the true spirit of tapas: each bar serves nothing but their house specialty along with 1 euro glasses of excellent win (after all, we're on the edge of the Rioja here). One glass, a couple bites, and you're on to the next spot. Unless of course, you're stuck on the pork (we were).
Tacos De Carnitas, My Place, Harlem
Ok, so maybe it's not that cool putting two of my own recipes in here, but I really love carnitas, and I'm particularly proud of this recipe. Juicy, crisp, and flavorful without the need for a bucket of lard, this is street food for a special occasion.
Koegel's Polish Sausage from Flint, MI
I'm a Sabrett's man through and through, but my recent introduction to Koegel's from Michigan might have instilled a seedling of doubt in my mind. Could Koegel's Polish Sausages be better than Sabrett's hot dogs? Stick them into a natural casing, and they very well may be...
Zapp's VooDoo Chips from Louisiana
Somewhere between salt & vinegar and barbecue with a spicy kick at the finish, Zapp's VooDoo chips are the chip that converted me to a kettle-style believer.