Decisions…Decisions…Let’s Eat

I love  New York.  I love the sights and sounds and smells. I love the dancing snowflakes on Saks’ façade during Christmas, I love the rank scent of garbage/fish in Chinatown during the summer, and I love being able to discover great food in any corner/borough of the city. However, I’m actually contemplating going back to grad school to study food culture in Louisiana. There are a million reasons why I should stay here, and a million more why I should go ‘home.’ If I thought I could learn about and contribute to my state by staying in New York, I definitely would (though with frequent trips to visit family and friends… and to bite into a spicy, lip-smackin’ Shrimp Po’Boy from Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette).

Going home would mean getting back in touch with my roots and trying to make a difference by learning more about the culinary culture, talking with farmers, chefs and locals, and by tasting a myriad of flavors. But, of course there is no guarantee that I would be able to change anything. Big changes definitely need to start with the education and political systems – just to start.

And in New York, I am surrounded by an incredibly diverse culinary environment that can’t be matched anywhere. For getting in touch with the media and experts, New York is key. What to do? What to do? While I ponder this idea, why don’t you go out for a couple of great meals in New York?

My latest trips:

Alfama in the West Village is high-end Portugal live and in the flesh. Pssst, a source tells me that J.K. Rowling, married to a Portuguese journalist, recently dined there with her daughter.

Clean, white décor, live Fado on Wednesday evenings at 8pm, live Jazz on Thursdays, and traditional upscale Portuguese cuisine. Chouriço Assado com Auguardente (Portuguese sausage flambée tableside with aguardente) comes flaming to your table with slices of Portuguese corn bread in olive oil. Lombinhos de Coelho com Presunto (Roasted rabbit roulade with peas and presunto) arrives bundled and sliced in dry-cured ham.

While neither the inexpensive Portuguese eatery in Newark’s Ironbound, nor the drain-your-bank-account Essex House, Alfama’s prices range from $25 to $35 per main course. There is always Portuguese music playing overhead, soulful Mariza or Madredeus, the cuisine is upscale traditional, and the staff is beautifully informative and efficient.

Now, for a more laid-back, down-home atmosphere, ya gotta check out Mama’s Food Shop in the East Village. Intimate…um…space, blowing fans (no air conditioning) just like at your cousin’s house in the country, and big & hearty plates of soul-ish food. While they serve salmon rather than catfish (ergh..), the portions are big, and the place is packed. Open the screen door onto a room with about 5 or 6 decent-sized tables, the walls covered in paintings/photos of what I’m assuming are mamas, and a kitchen serving up some tasty chow. Don’t expect them to come to your table. You want it to go or to stay, you choose one meat and two sides for $10 (or 3 veggie sides for non-meat-eaters). My pick: the end slice of the meatloaf, sweet potatoes, and Chinese broccoli. My friend’s pick: fried chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli (the other kind). And of course I had enough left for lunch today. Two thumbs up! Thanks to those who so beautifully promoted the spot.

Also, check out Buddha Bar for their new cocktail menu…yum yum Arabesque with curry. Yeah, curry. Light and refreshing, and not what you’d expect. Ah New York, gotta love it.

Have a delicious day! I’ll keep you posted on the decision-making.

By the way, if you’re in the Louisiana area in October, pass by Lafayette for 3 well-worth-it events:

October 9-13: Acadian Heritage Week (website not yet updated from 2005)

October 13: Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism’s Annual Symposium – Food for Thought: Building the Louisiana Brand

October 13-15: Festivals Acadiens

And check out GourmetSCOOP.com’s latest staff pick on Gator Cove in Lafayette, Lousiana!!!

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