Weary Traveler’s Spaghetti

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Last night, before I fell asleep, I tried to remember all the phases of my 21 hours of travel from the previous day.

I took a bus from the Bellingham airport to the Seattle airport where I rode a mini-train to my gate, waited three hours (during which I bought a Snickers bar which I saved for the plane) and as I finally boarded, I was told that my overstuffed suitcase was too overstuffed to fit in the overhead. During the flight, I had a middle seat but it was in an exit row, which is kind of a mixed blessing. I read a George Saunders story in last week’s New Yorker, which I highly recommend. When I landed in Washington, D.C. (the only place I could fly to make it home to New York before January 3rd), I rode another mini-train to the baggage claim where I was told that I was at Dulles airport which is 25 miles from D.C. proper.

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Greek Salad

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It’s true that travel is an important component of any burgeoning chef’s education, but sometimes you go somewhere and the lessons don’t stick. For example, I spent ten days last summer in Spain–most of that time in Barcelona–and though we ate some truly extraordinary food, I can’t really say that it changed the way I cook. Yes, I use smoked paprika a bit more freely in my food and I’m very intrigued by the possibilities of pairing chickpeas with seafood, but beyond that? I’m still the same old me in the kitchen.

However, the trip I took in 2005 with my family to Greece (see here), stuck in a very important way: I now make a very good, very authentic Greek salad.

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Let’s Eat Puerto Rico

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A funny thing happened when I got back from Barcelona. I received an e-mail that basically said, “Dear Adam: would you like to come to Puerto Rico? We’re having a Wine & Food Festival and will fly you out, put you up and treat you to lots of authentic Puerto Rican food. We just hope you’ll write about it. What do you say?”

Frankly, I didn’t know what to say. What were the ethical implications here? What would my readers think if I took a free trip? Would the benefits of sharing my experience outweigh the cost to my integrity? Do I even have any integrity? What are the responsibilities of a food blogger?

Before I could think myself into a tizzy, the P.R. P.R. person (get that?) happened to mention one other thing that made me toss all ethical concerns aside and say “yes.” What was it?

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The Food At Disney World

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There’s high culture and there’s low culture and then there’s Disney World. I grew up going there and going there and going there; seriously, we went there a lot (we lived in Florida, so it was close). When I dream, I dream about theme parks (psychologists: what does that mean?) and the theme parks I dream about most often are Disney theme parks. So when Craig’s movie got into the Florida Film Festival in Orlando and he was hooked up with a hotel room and a car and all I would have to do is pay for a plane ticket there and back, it was hard to resist a trip to Disney World. It’d been almost ten years since I’d been there last and I was immensely curious to see if I’d still think if it was fun or if I’d outgrown it. More importantly, I wanted to write about the food–a strange idea, but a compelling one, perhaps. What’s there to say about the food at Disney World? Actually, there’s plenty.

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Patty Eats Thailand

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[Note: My friend Patty is awesome. She’s so awesome that I won’t let her go to Thailand without writing a guest post, so here it is! Thanks Patty. Oh, and check out her website: PatriciaJang.com.]

After consuming untold amounts of green papaya salad, pad thai, and red curry at our local Thai restaurant haunts, Lauren and I were looking forward to trying authentic Thai food (and laying out on the beaches with a Singha) during our trip to Thailand. The food was incredibly cheap, delicious and ubiquitous – Thai people love to eat, and eat well. The streets in Bangkok were literally lined with food stalls hawking sausages, noodles, fried chicken, and all sorts of tropical fruit, but the insane traffic, air pollution, and narrow, bustling sidewalks made for seriously extreme al fresco dining. We also travelled to the north to the mountains in Chiang Mai and flew south to the stunning beaches in Railay, Koh Phi Phi, and Phuket. To simplify the task of describing our culinary travels, I’ve listed my top five favorite eats.

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The Kindness of Food Bloggers

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What’s worse than traveling during the holidays? The answer: traveling from one snow storm to ANOTHER snow storm during the holidays.

That’s what I attempted to do yesterday in what may have been the worst travel day of my life (though I’m sure you’ve experienced worse.) Let’s not talk about the 12 hours on the plane, the refueling in Salt Lake City, and the waiting for a gate to open once we arrived in Seattle. Instead, let’s focus on my helpless situation once I got off the plane. You see Craig, whose family lives in Bellingham (two hours north of Seattle), was stuck in Las Vegas because his connecting flight was canceled (he’d left the day before). The Bel-Air Airporter bus which goes from the Seattle Airport to Bellingham was all sold out; the idea of taking a car there was ludicrous (the snow was pummeling down from the sky.) My only option was to spend the night in Seattle and, utterly exhausted, I flipped open my phone and though Craig has many friends who would’ve let me stay with them, my eyes fixed immediately upon a food blogger friend who you all know and love: Molly, aka Orangette.

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The Return of The Amateur Gourmet

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Hi Friends,

I’ve had a very restful (and eventful) two weeks. That’s me, above, eating a Dungeness Crab on Eliza Island in the Pacific Northwest (one of the best meals of my life, but more on that next week). After a week there kayaking, playing cards and, of course, crabbing, I journeyed with Craig to Cape Cod where we enjoyed high-speed boat tubing (I chickened out), merciless games of Mafia and fantastic meals of ribs, corn, and clam chowder. I returned with 130 pictures on my camera and crashed my computer yesterday trying to edit them all at once in Photoshop (I’m pretty dumb.)

Was I really able to turn my back on my site for two weeks, without monitoring or reading your comments or worrying about how the next day’s post would fare? As my web guy Justin will tell you (adamantly, I’d guess): NO!!!!

I tried, I really did. But I love this blog and I loved the guest posts! Didn’t you? Allow me to pause for a second and thank thank thank all my guest posters: I’m so honored to have had such talented writers writing on my blog. Thank you thank you thank you for your fantastic posts which I read, secretly, on my iPhone while surrounded by glorious nature. What does nature have on Phoebe Damrosch? Or The Science of Fressing? Nothing, I tell you, nothing!

Now that I’m back, my life’s about to change dramatically. The big news (and only the most fervent of you must have discovered it) is that I will no longer be hosting the FN Dish (here’s my farewell video) ; instead, I’m working on a brand new project for Food Network online. What is it? When will it launch? Who else is working on it? I’m sorry, but these are secrets that I can’t yet reveal, but I will say that the new show is much, much, much more in the spirit of this blog–it’s funny, slightly edgy, and food-obsessed. I think you’re going to love it.

I’m going to miss working with my FN Dish team: especially Matthew and Rachael, who I traveled the country with (to Vegas and beyond) and really enjoyed knowing as friends. But we’ll stay in touch (maybe Matthew will do us another guest post?) and I encourage everyone to keep watching The FN Dish, especially since my replacement, Bruce Seidel, is a really awesome guy.

So what else is in store for The Amateur Gourmet? My book comes out in paperback on September 30th. Check out the nifty new paperback cover:

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I’ll be doing a reading (and a cooking demonstration! Yikes!) at the Baltimore Book Festival at the end of the month so more on that soon. And my trip to Baltimore fits in perfectly with this month’s banner theme (clear your cache and re-load the site): crabs! Having had Dungeness crabs at the start of the month in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be able to compare them to blue crabs in Baltimore at the end of the month (though crab season might be over….) Will I finally settle the Great Crab Debate? Stay tuned… (and Baltimorites: where’s the best place to get crab in Baltimore?)

Hope you all had very restful and rejuvenating Labor Day weekends and that your last days of summer are happy ones. Thanks for your patience while I was gone… can’t wait to get blogging again.

Until next week…..

Forever yours,

The Amateur Gourmet

Get Away to Kennebunkport

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The perfect weekend getaway is one that makes you feel like you’ve been gone for months. That’s how I felt this Sunday night when I came back from a brief trip to Kennebunkport with my friends Patty, Diana and James. We’d only been there 36 hours–we left early Saturday morning (7 am) and returned late Sunday night–and yet I may as well have gone for a jaunt through Europe. It was a fantastic one night trip and if you click ahead, I’ll tell you how we planned it, where we ate, and how you can do the same.

[Note: all pictures in this post are by James Felder, of Snapshot Artifact]

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