new amsterdam market

I’m a bit late to Peck Slip but New Amsterdam Market at the site of the former Fulton Fish Market is an exciting addition to the burgeoning convergence of small-scale purveyors, growers and foragers scattered about the tri-state region. It doesn’t compare to the sprawling, wholesale-oriented Greenmarket in Union Square, but then it has no designs on filling a niche that’s already been filled. Instead it’s a reinvention of the Public Market, once a prevalent city institution: a lively assembly of both the raw and the cooked. Producers and (barely processed) products. Brought together under a single roof, a public square – or in this case an ignominious parking lot – it’s tantamount to the great English food halls. Or think of Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel and the Marche d’Aligre in Paris – the kind of market you visit with a list, as well as with the anticipation of bumping into friends and neighbors. It’s a convivial place where you can get your weekly stash of kimchi beef jerky, varietal cider and Brooklyn-made tempeh, watch April Bloomfield demonstrate how to filet a fish, then catch up over popcorn-topped ceviche and drinking vinegar. Writers and foodies will plug New Amsterdam as the city’s next great foodie destination but don’t believe the hype. It’s better than that. As soon as the tourist crowds disperse I suspect it will come into its own as the local we’ve been waiting for.


simple joys

One of the truly great things about the Atlantic coast of the Yucatan peninsula – and Playa del Carmen in particular – is the easy availability of really fresh seafood. Stroll the beach in the early morning and you’ll find men and boys out casting for the catch of the day. A little heat, a little salt and lemon: few things tastes better. Except maybe ceviche, as fragrant as the sea, enlivened with just a hint of hot pepper.


red hooked on food trucks

Contrary to what I had always been led to believe, Brooklyn’s celebrated Red Hook food trucks are not Mexican but a veritable Pan-American exposition of south-of-the-border flavors – with particular attention heaped upon the cuisines of Central America. I trekked out to the soccer fields where the trucks set up shop each weekend – just south of a huge tract of public housing and west of the bend in the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway as it meets the Gowanus Canal – in search of the authentic huaraches, sopes, and tamales that occasionally haunt my daydreams only to discover ceviche, a crazy-delicious take on traditional horchata, and something called pupusa. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. At the easternmost stall on Bay Street, the mixto ceviche comes Ecuadoran-style, in a sweet and sour stew brimming with lime, red onion, cilantro and a substantial quantity of shrimp, squid, octopus, and fish that belie the thrifty $9 price tag. Add a few spoonfuls of the fiery green hot sauce and you’ll want to finish by drinking down every lick of the remaining broth. An icy horchata is the perfect complement to all that sweet and sour fire. However, unlike the traditional rice and water variety I’ve encountered, the Honduran version offered here incorporates milk, cinnamon, and peanuts to bring a whole other dimension of savory and salt flavors to the forefront. Round one over, I head to the line forming for pupusa, a traditional grilled corn cake from El Salvador that traces its roots back to the Maya. Resembling a tortilla, it can be stuffed with a variety of meats, cheese, or vegetables. I opted for cheese and loroco – a traditional flower bud heretofore alien to me – and watched as the pupusera shaped the dough and stuffed it to order. Accompanied by pickled coleslaw, tomato salsa, and onions, the loroco had a complex taste similar to the flavor of sea beans. I could have easily gobbled another. One thing was certain: this was no street fair arepa, thank you very much. Sated, stuffed, I nevertheless pined to continue eating my way across the continent. Yet for once I practiced a smidgen of self-control, opting for a fresh mango dusted with lime and chili, those twin ingredients which so often elevate Latin food to a sublime place worthy of the occasional gustatory daydream.


i know what you’re thinking

“Houston?!?!?” Well, trust me, I’m as surprised and bemused as you are to suddenly find myself in Texas, a state I’ve pretty much boycotted since Karla Faye Tucker got the lethal needle back in 1998. Yet when I discovered that a good friend of mine would be performing in a play at Houston’s respected Alley Theater, I thought a long weekend jaunt to a place I’ve never had any desire to visit would be a great excuse to continue a tradition begun last month in San Diego – exploring cities I know little to nothing about because friends happen to be there acting in plays. It’s as good a reason as a toss of the I-Ching or a dart thrown at a map, I reckon. Plus, as you can tell from the photos: Houston’s South of the Border bona fides means I won’t go wanting for an honest plate of ceviche (or fish tacos!) anytime soon.  Hale and hearty Houston, seat of Harris County, Texas and fourth largest city in America, I come without a map – or a clue for that matter. I’m unarmed and eager for a weekend’s worth of honest exploration.


when a trio of ceviche just won´t do

if at first you don’t ceviche …

Try, try again!  The record heat here in New York is so thoroughly debilitating that I thought it medically necessary to flashback to the weekend before last.  I was overheated, yes, but also enjoying the Pacific breeze in Punta Mita – not to mention eating my body weight in ceviche.

Here’s a shot of the namesake Ceviche Punta Mita by chef Richard Sandoval at Four Seasons’ Ketsi restaurant. A combination of octopus, scallop, shrimp, onion, tomato, jicama and avocado, it’s accompanied by a refreshing shot of Bloody Mary sorbet.

(By the by, New York readers of this site should know of Sandoval, who’s become a leader in the upscale Latin culinary movement.  Born in Mexico City, trained at the CIA, he’s the man behind the restaurant Maya, which introduced the concept of bold and flavorful Modern Mexican to New York City, as well as Pampano.)

And because nothing goes better with ceviche than a big bowl of guac, I’m including a shot of the guacamole made tableside at Ketsi.  It’s mixed and served in a traditional molcajete, a Mexican mortar and pestle made of lava rock.


comidas a la playa – parte dos

Despite my misgivings about the crab infestation at Imanta, I couldn’t help myself when a big bowl of ceviche was put in front of me under a tent along the beach – though it was just a little bit odd to be eating with one eye cocked under the table, waiting for the siege to begin.  Thankfully, a vigilant waiter soon stood by at the ready, so I could enjoy lunch as well as the limitless ocean view.


live blog: sailing away

Sailing around the outer cays of Turks & Caicos was a sublime way to spend the morning today.  The water is what I call Photoshop Blue:  the kind of color you tend to see in postcards and don’t believe actually exists.

Due to the tectonic activity in nearby Haiti as well as strong weather fronts crossing the region, I expected the waters to be churning and murky with sand.  And while the tides are much higher than normal right now, they nevertheless remain crystal clear.  So clear, in fact, that my captain was able to forage us the freshest possible lunch:  conch; which made for a killer ceviche that was enjoyed with a couple of beers.

Almost as good was lounging on the powdery stretch of beach.  Apparently this strip of Fort George Cay didn’t even exist a couple of days ago; it was washed into existence by the tide.  As a result of that evolving birth, it’s also strewn with starfish, coral and live sand dollars.  Rinsing the morning’s collection in a bowl of water made me imagine the most interesting kind of bouillabaisse!


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