Sep 21, 2016

Exploring the World's Most Complex Cuisine

Peruvian Ceviche: Raw seafood, lime juice, onion and chile, accompanied by Peru's ever-present ear of corn and toasted maize kernels. (Photo: David and Katarina*)
I was recently assigned an article about where to find authentic Latin American cuisine on my home ground: Sonoma County, California. 

Less than an hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is famed as a world-class wine destination and as the epicenter of the nation's farm-to-table movement, but fewer people realize that it's also home to numerous restaurants serving authentic foods of Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. 

As I discovered from my research and conversations with chefs and culinary historians, Latin American cuisine is considered one of the world's richest and most complex cuisines, influenced by the techniques and ingredients of its many groups of indigenous peoples, as well as by centuries of immigrants: Spanish conquistadors, African slaves, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italians, Asians and others.
The article I wrote, "Where to Find Latin American Cuisine in Sonoma County," appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in August and covered restaurants specializing in the cuisine of Yucatan, Oaxaca, Cuba, Peru, Brazil and Puerto Rico.

Before researching the article I'd only dined in one of these restaurants, but after interviewing passionate chefs and delving into the romance of the cuisine, I've been inspired to try all the varieties of Latin American cooking within 25 miles of my home. That endeavor will probably take a year or more. But it will be a delicious year--and fun.

If you live in a city or region with a diversity of ethnic restaurants that you haven't taken the time to explore, maybe a delicious year is in the offing for you, too.

Here are few photos of signature dishes from around the Latin American culinary world:

Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic: Asopao de Camarones. Shrimp and Rice soup is hearty, flavored with lime, cilantro, chile, achiote and more. (Photo: Luigis1234**)

Maize--corn--is a culinary staple throughout Latin America. (Photo: Sam Fentress*)
Cuba: Arroz con Pollo. Served throughout Latin America, every restaurant and home has its own take on Chicken with Rice. (Photo: Kobako*)
Brazil: Fejoada. Elaborate and designed to satisfy big appetites, Fejoada is Brazil's signature dish. (Photo: Gildemax*)
Venezuela, Pargo Rojo: With a fabulous fish like Red Snapper, what more do you need than a squeeze of lime and a frosty beer? (Photo: thefuturistics*)
Mexico, Chile en Nogada. A very beautiful dish, it's a poblano chile stuffed with shredded meat and spices and then covered with a creamy walnut-based sauce and pomegranate seeds. (Photo: Arturo Sánchez*)

*   All photos courtesy of [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
** Courtesy of [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Sep 15, 2016

Once Again: Only in San Francisco!

Clean, breezy, modern decor (photo courtesy of Hotel G)
I don't often turn to press releases for content on Culinary Gadabout, but the one I got today is such a delightful, off-the-wall rule-breaker that I just had to share it. It advertises a new couples package for the Hotel G, located a block from San Francisco's popular Union Square:

Searching for that elusive G? Not to worry. Hotel G is the stimulating spot you're looking for. Through a partnership with Good Vibrations, San Francisco's 'Sexperts,' we're celebrating all things G.
Couples will love the 'Find Your Spot at The G' package that includes:
  • Overnight accommodations (G Lovenest)
  • A $30 credit to Good Vibrations (may we suggest the G-Marks The Spot Kit?
  • Passes to the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum (just watch out for the Detwiller Pneumatic Vibrator from 1906)
  • An intimacy kit (stir up more than conversation)
  • A bottle of Hotel G Wine (get the vibes going)
  • Late check out (you're gonna need it)
 Rates for the 'Find Your Spot at the G' package start at $229 per night, excluding tax. For reservations, call 877-828-4478 or visit

A hotel that knows how to have logo fun is worth exploring.

Sep 6, 2016

Take a Food Tour of London's Soho

The London Gin Club
 This week Culinary Gadabout is pleased to welcome a guest post by multiple-award-winning travel writer Diane LeBow.

London's Soho: From Bunnies & Brothels
to International Cuisine & Jazz

Savory dumplings in former opium dens, chocolate delicacies, gourmet gin and gin-infused beef pies. These were just a few of the delights promised in an “Eating London Tours” brochure, which arrived in my inbox as John and I were preparing to leave for a five-week trip to the British Isles. Soho is one of London’s oldest, most diverse, and swinging areas. Combining food with history and the latest tastes of what was happening in Happening Soho piqued our interest. So we signed up for the Twilight Soho Food Tour.

Late one afternoon during our stay in London we met Joe Richardson, an actor and our knowledgeable guide for the 3 ½ hour walking tour during which we feasted and drank at six unique establishments. The first bit of information we learned from Joe was that the name “So Ho” was originally a hunting cry when a rabbit was sighted back in 1600’s, when this area of SW London belonged to a few very wealthy landowners. In later years, the area was neglected and became known for brothels, drugs and alcohol.

Not long after, bohemian writers, artists, and musicians who relished the low rents and creative camaraderie moved in. During our walking tour we saw evidence of those days as we passed former residences of Mozart, Dylan Thomas, Karl Marx, and W.B. Yeats. R.L. Stevenson set Dr. Jekyll’s home in what he describes as “the dismal quarter of Soho with its muddy ways and slatternly passengers.”

Why the rich diversity of restaurants in Soho? Joe described the vast pool of immigrants that moved into this area over the centuries from France, Italy, Greece, and elsewhere, bringing with them their varied cuisines. Following them were, of course, curious and hungry visitors and tourists like us.

Stop #1. As we entered the storefront of La Bodega Negra, which is disguised as a strip club and adult sex shop, reveling in Soho’s notorious past, we descended into what is billed as London’s first authentic Mexican restaurant. Curiously enough, its owner is Winston Churchill’s great-grandson. They served us a variety of luscious tacos, including lamb with “drunken salsa,” char-roasted mushroom, and prawn with spicy jicama, washed down with their refreshing house margaritas.