Category Archives: Table Service

Hello, Copenhagen.

Historically speaking, Denmark was never one of those places I was dying to visit. I wanted to see the Nordic countries the same way I want to see, say,  Montana—in a vague sort of way, never with any sense of urgency. Over the past few years, though, as the capital city began to pop up more and more on the food-media radar, it quickly earned a place on the list: I wanted to go to Copenhagen, and I wanted to eat.

When the opportunity to visit with family recently presented itself (thanks, Mom!), the first thing I did after booking my plane ticket was to try for reservations at the best restaurant in the world three years running; sadly for us, happily for our budget, Noma was booked solid months in advance. Happily for us, though, and sadly for our budget, this new-Nordic pioneer spawned a movement that has taken over the city; we would have multiple opportunities to sample modern Danish cuisine—maybe not as highly decorated as Noma’s, but beautiful food nonetheless—during our week here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before experiencing the contemporary version, we needed an education in the basics. Our first meal would be a traditional one: smørrebrød, those iconic open-faced sandwiches, at Restaurant Kronborg.

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San Juan Del Sur Selections.

Thanks to Nina’s excellent negotiation skills, we awoke early to a dorm room full of empty beds. With the exception of some midnight dog choruses, very little noise kept us from sleeping, which is unique for a hostel. We woke up early with a plan: visit the market, have breakfast, learn to surf. The first two, I’ll cover in this post; the latter will be for another day.

After being told by a server the previous evening that the market wouldn’t be open until 10 a.m., we decided to find another source. A market that opens at mid-morning? It seemed unlikely. Our instincts were correct, which allowed for plenty of exploring — and fruit buying — before our surf lesson. Half of our selected fruit would be left in the hostel kitchen the next morning; the remaining would accidentally be left on a bus in Costa Rica. Oops.

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Beachfront Bonanza.

San Juan Del Sur is for hippies, beach bums, expats, surfers and — it makes me cringe to write it — yogis. And it was research on this west coast party town that solidified Nicaragua for Bethany as a solid choice for our visit to Central America. This blog post convinced her that the place would be the perfect venue to relax and ease out of the daily stresses of social work. With yoga, surfing and a chance to “hike to the world’s second largest Jesus,” I couldn’t say no.

We arrived and immediately found Yajure, the “surf hostel” that a friend-in-passing had recommended to Nina. At the time, we didn’t know the name; we just knew that it was “on the other side of the walking bridge.” (The address on their Facebook page is “Just left of the walking bridge after the Crazy Crab, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.” Effective.) Shortly after unpacking and scheduling a surf lesson for the next day, we went directly to Nicaragua Beach Lounge for lunch, based on the recommendation of Chely, the hostel’s owner.

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Golden Ticket.

Maya: There are times when the most amazing meals are the toughest to sit down and write about. This is one of those times.

Jill: “I won a $400 gift card to Gramercy Tavern. And you’re going with me.” Notice the lack of exclamation point or question mark in Maya’s statement. She was simply stating two facts. My response was as resolute: “Okay.” There are things that you don’t question. And Maya sharing half of her culinary booty with me is not one of those things.

Maya: I received the email after an emotionally and physically draining day, and it couldn’t have come at a better time: My mother and I had spent the previous day packing up my old apartment, and the movers had come that morning. Between the crying and the heavy lifting and the gin and tonics consumed at dinner, I was pretty much a wreck—I doubt Charlie Bucket was happier to see his golden ticket. Once the dust had settled, somewhat, Jill booked a flight to New York, and we made a reservation for a late Sunday-night dinner.

Back in December.

Please don’t judge.

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Summer Startup.

Like many New Yorkers of the non-born-and-raised variety, I have a lovehate relationship with this city. I love the conveniences, the variety and diversity, the fact that you can find pretty much anything you could ever possibly need (and many things you wouldn’t) at any given tiny, jam-packed bodega; I hate the expense, and the lack of both personal space and trees. In order to keep what little degree of sanity I have left, I need regular doses of green, preferably with as few people around as possible.

Enter the weekend camping trip.

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Of God and Salads.

My interest in food that originates from the ground (and not, let’s say, the teet or the slaughterhouse) is relatively new. I remember interviewing a coworker about her favorite types of food and typing, with disgust, that she loves Spring and Summer because of the wares from her garden. She was team veggie. I was team butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. Especially pork.

Two things changed. First, this damn locavore movement. I’d made some recent life decisions that propelled me from everything I’d known for three years. (I left a church.) Somehow I knew that my next step in life would involve community and food. I whimpered a few blocks over to my friend Susan (a master of both) who thrust that Pollan book into my hands. I’d be studying a new gospel.

Second, a prescription. Over the years, my experimentation with fresh produce brought me to an understanding with the Lord that heartburn and itchy lips were a sign from above that I should not veer from my butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork diet. In an act of defiance, I stumbled from my faith in pork and tried modern science. And my doctor giveth me Prilosec. And I was happy. (And fatter; not only could I consume tomatoes without pain, but also white wine: an entire food group I’d been fasting from for years.)

And guess what? Now I like salads! (And butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. You can like both! There’s a gray area in life, a concept that I’ve paid many a shrink to help me discover.)

There’s also a pink area. And a gooey and awesome bright yellow area, once you break open that heavenly soft poached egg (that somehow went straight from one of God’s creatures and directly into the kitchen at Sage American Bistro). This, friends, is my favorite salad in Columbus. It combines animals and plants. There’s no dilemma here: just eat it in a way that doesn’t involve lifting the plate and dumping it directly into your mouth. Try to use utensils. Each bite magically contains hearty smoky bacon in thick but bite-size pieces, that aforementioned warm egg, soft hidden morsels of goat cheese, pickled onion, freshly cracked peper and a tangy dressing. It’s cool. It’s warm. All salads should be like this. And once Michael Pollan is President of Food, Chef Glover needs to be given some sort of cabinet position involving pork.

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Sandwich Spotlight: Buttermilk Channel.

The Subject: A-B-C grilled cheese, from Buttermilk Channel.

In Buttermilk Channel‘s world, A is for apple, B is for bacon, and C is for cheddar, an alphabet I wholeheartedly condone. Nonetheless, the rest of the brunch menu—the warm lamb and romaine salad‘s combination of fried capers, roasted cauliflower, and anchovy dressing is my damsel-in-distress begging for rescue; the fried pork and waffle, a deep-fried chop from a mysteriously gargantuan species of pig, paired with a cheddar-laced waffle, speaks for itself—had always proved too much to resist.But this time around, still full from a weekend of decadent dining, I was finally in the mood for something a touch lighter.

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Ramen Reminder.

Hey, remember our ramen obsession? Rest assured that it’s still going strong. Fear of sounding like a broken record has kept me from reporting on every bowl of noodles I eat, but this one deserves a mention.

Though Ippudo is still my hands-down favorite, 15-month-old Totto is just a couple of blocks from the office and ideal for a quick, indulgent lunch. Buyer beware, though: Much like Ippudo, Totto has its own rabid following—go solo, during off-peak hours, for the least frustrating experience. After a ten-minute wait on a recent (very cold) afternoon, I snagged a seat at the counter and watched the staff torch slices of pork belly and stir steaming vats of broth until my soup arrived.

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Ghost Toast.

I just had one single, solitary taste of one of the best things I ate in Atlanta, but the thought of that bite haunts me.

This, friends, is Cap’n Crunch french toast, with peanut-butter sauce AND maple syrup. If you ever find yourself at Radial Café and this is one of the specials, do yourself a favor and order it. Future You will appreciate it.

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Daring Do.

Jill: Do or Dine oozes of hip. We’re talking the kind of hip that never crosses my radar, aside from the occasional interaction with folks who happen to work at Abercrombie & Fitch’s design department. The servers wear yellow hip-huggers with tassles and drink tall boys of Coor’s Light before and after each trip to your table. The kitchen staff looks like Mario or Luigi or both. And the menu descriptions are abrupt and full of intentional misspellings that if you don’t get then we’re not going to tell you. It’s a place where everyone wears whatever replaced Urban Outfitters and American Apparel once that stuff went out of style. And it’s a restaurant that I would have felt extremely uncomfortable in had I not shown up already warmed up by a bottle of wine with Maya at Sample.

Maya: I would’ve been similarly trepidatious if this restaurant had opened in Williamsburg, say, but Do or Dine is located catty-corner from my old apartment. I obsessively monitored the restaurant’s progress while it was in the construction and renovation stages, and I’d been in the neighborhood longer than most of its arriviste hipster clientele—both of which made me utterly and misguidedly proprietary. A meal or three during the summer, before the back patio was completely packed every night and while the place was still BYOB, didn’t hurt.

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