The traveller in me will always be alive. Being lucky with travel from the days of being a chef for a top ocean liner to hosting my travel/cooking shows, I can’t do without travelling. The moment I leave town for whatever reason, the curiousity to observe, trying to see something different is normal. In addition, my eyes, nose, ears and taste buds start looking for something new, something local, or sometimes something weird as well. Fresh organic produce of all sorts in the markets, cooking tools and equipment kitchen shops, bar, food and wine menus in new age restos, and curios from flea markets make my trips so productive, memorable or progressive.
When I talk market, it takes me back straight to La Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain, a must visit for anyone who visits Barcelona. It has the best of the best, namely fruits, juices, cheese, ham, seafood, spices, and everything else fit for human consumption.
Little cute tapas bars where people stop by to grab a beer, or gin or sangria and enjoy some orgasmic fare being cooked right there in front of you — razor clams, prawns, mackerels, thinly shaven sinful Bellota ham. I used to land up on a totally empty stomach, famished, and then just tear it down eating, drinking, seeing, taking pictures and shopping, or even attend a cooking class.
My New York state of mind brings back fond trippy memories walking in Manhattan in the meatpackers district to the Chelsea Market, the most iconic indoor food hall, very different from the Spanish counterpart. The market boasts of speciality food shops, top class seafood and shellfish.
With some very fine bakeries, wine lofts, kitchen wares, it truly is a neighbourhood market with a global perspective. Lunch would be late after grabbing a few vinos and then stopping into Friedman’s Lunch for a classic pulled pork sandwich. So good old school with house crafted Sauerkraut ‘sour cabbage’ or if I was feeling healthy, go in the Fish Co and eat the best sashimi, or a steamed Maine lobster with drawn butter and shop for the best variety of fish, shellfish from Antartic, Alaska and the Mediterranean, all in one shop. I mean for a chef, this is crazy. Then I finish off with some really nice coffee, and one of NYC’s best oatmeal raisin cookies at Eleni’s. I envy the chefs on Food Network USA, as network studios are also housed in the Chelsea market building.
Istanbul, a perfect example of the East West story boasts of rich, opulent, traditional yet modern Islamic culture. The Grand Bazaar, truly aptly named is the largest and oldest covered markets in the world where over 4,50,000 people visit its over 3,000 shops every day. Walking through the market was a born again kind of feeling, inhaling those amazing fragrant scents of spices, Turkish coffee, meats grilled over fire, wood-fired ovens dishing out thousands of breads and other delicacies. Not only food but great Turkish artifacts, silks, jewellery and precious stones and leather, not to forget my favouite sweet, Turkish Delight.
The list goes on small, large, artisinal, farmers, local and this is the lingo I understand, believe and it truly influences, inspires me to create some magical dishes for you.
Bon appetit and we move to another part of my planet of Food.