So to continue with the inspiration that I have gained from my travels, the focus now moves West to America and in Particular New York, Mexico and Belize.
So I have been fortunate to go to the Big Apple twice in the past few years, and I have truly fallen for the place. This is a foodie’s heaven and I can say I have only really touched the surface of this place. There are too many things to mention here on what we sampled, but I have selected 3 key things that I hope to replicate when I get home:
New York City
Monstrous Pastrami Sandwich from Katz’s
Katz’s Deli is famous for 2 things, the infamous I’ll have what she’s having’ scene in When Harry Met Sally
and for producing the greatest Pastrami Sandwiches in NYC. I first heard of this place when Adam Richmond visited this in Man V Food (such a good show). And on our first trip we had to visit – I was not disappointed.
As you can see in the pictures below, these are absolute monsters – beautifully cooked Pastrami piled high on rye bread and topped mustard, no greenery, no veggies just meat. This tasted incredible and is definitely one of, if not the, best sandwich I have ever tasted. The Pastrami was smoked for hours to give it a dense, meaty , slightly spicy flavour – just amazing
Quite how they make any money on these I don’t know, as the meat alone would feed a family of 4 – we took on 2 and were completely defeated – and couldn’t move for the rest of the day.
The Humble Canoli
Now anyone who has read any posts of mine will know I like the Sopranos, so any trip to NY had to take in Little Italy and here we sampled a Canoli, a small pastry filled with cream. Crisp pastry, filled with sweet cream, these are delicious and went down well with a bottomless cup of coffee on the Freezing cold January day we were there.
A Classic New York Hot Dog
One of the things that I also had to try was the Hot Dog on the streets in NYC. This has appeared in so many films, TV shows and are so iconic. Now the last time i had a hot dog from a vendor was one of those disgusting places on Regent Street in London at about 3 in the morning – it was a mistake I still regret and I was violently ill for days – never again!
But these are different,they sell them during the day, they are popular with locals, and they taste really nice. Very simple Frankfurter sausage, Ketchup and American Mustard in a white roll. The key is that they are cooked fresh and I am happy to report, I wasn’t sick!
There is so much more to report back on from the US of A, but for these above are things that I hope to replicate and sell back home. Can’t guarantee the Pastrami sandwich will be quite as big – but hey should still be a hell of a lunchtime treat!
So moving further South this year we spent 2 weeks travelling round the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico before heading down to Belize. Mexico has absolutely nailed Street Food. Here they call it antojitos (literally “little cravings”), and they have so many different things such as Tacos’, Quesadillas, Tomales, Gordita’s, Empanadas, Tosatdas etc, etc
In Fact everything you have out there tends to be wrapped in tortillas and ready to take away. Loaded with chicken, pork or beef, some chilli and lime on top, some freshly made guacamole and some beans and off you go. Simple, fresh and most of all deliciosa!
Here are a couple of highlights from our trip:
Pork Pibil Taco’s
Ever since I was introduced to Mexican Street Food at Wahacca in London a few years back, I have loved it and 1 thing in particular – Pork Pibil.
Pork Pibil is slow cooked pork, shredded and then mixed with a wonderful chipotle based sauce. This is then served on small round soft tacos (not the crunchy Old El Paso ones – so much nicer) and then topped with some pink onions for crunch and kick. These tend to be spicy, juicy and delicious. We can’t go to Wahacca now without ordering 2 portions of these, they rock!
So imagine my delight when, arriving in the Yucatan Peninsula in Eastern Mexico, I found out that this was the local dish! I spent the next 10 days trying as may as I could.
We tended to eat this in restaurants or cafe’s and they would serve this up a more DIY than in London. SO you could get a beautiful bowl of wonderfully smoky, spicy pork, some soft thin tortillas (more on these later), the obligatory onions, sometimes some refried beans (so thick almost like a paste) and then some fresh lime and chilli to top.
Now Wahacca is good, no denying it, but these were another level, the pork was so beautifully cooked and tender, and the tortillas have a tats of their own, so nice you can eat them on their own. I was averaging it about once a day, from any establishment I could get my hands on.
A Simple Tortilla
In Mexico it seemed everything we ate, for breakfast, lunch and dinner was served with Tortilla’s and when they taste as good as they do, why the hell not. Unlike the ones we get in the UK, Mexican tortillas are light but manage to pack flavour in despite just being simple dough. One great place we visited Merida had women making them in the actual restaurant – a gimmick for sure but amazing to see how quickly they could knock them out! I did try this once and it is a lot harder than it looks!
These Tortillas form the base for a range of different dishes, some of which are below:
Pork Pibil may have been the local dish, but whilst over there I also sampled a wide range of Mexican food. One of the highlights
One night after an unexpected street party we popped into a local fast food joint to try this out. The place specialized in something called Gordita’s and these knock a Big Mac into a cocked hat.
As you can see these are basically stuffed pockets of dough (basically a thick tortilla). You can have these filled with a wide range of things such as spicy chicken, black beans, cheese etc – anything you can think of.
We ended up having quite a few rounds of these, they were spicy, hot and delicious especially with melted cheese inside. Simple, fresh and delicious, even at a Fast Food Place, is why Mexico for me is one of the best places in the world for food and well worth a visit!
One of my favourite things to do on holiday is visit local Market’s. It is here you can see the wonderful produce they have there, take in the sights and sounds and hopefully pick up a few things to use when home. Mexico was no different.
Whilst at the Market, we decided to grab some food from one of the small ‘restaurants’ in the Market. It was basically about 10 seats and a choice of 3 things on the Menu. We tried them all with the Tostada being the highlight for me.
At this place, these were tortilla’s stuffed with refried beans, fried so it is crunchy, and then topped with chicken and cheese. These probably cost about the equivalent of 20p each, but they were amazing.
I also picked up some chili sauce and dried chili – this stuff knocks your socks off, but has wonderful flavour.
Quesadilla’s are tortilla’s stuffed, folded and then toasted lightly – kind of similar to the Manoushe’h I described a few posts back. This was the first thing we ate in Mexico when we arrived in Cancun (don’t judge me!) and went well with the only thing you can drink inh Cancun which is Beer or fluorescent alcopops – classy place!
Cheese is the obvious starting point, but when you start to add Chicken Tinga, spicy pork or refried beans these go up a notch. We ate these from a small shack on the side of the road with 2 tables in a car park – not the nicest setting, but they tasted great and were super cheap.
OK I could go on for hours about Mexico, and will probably post about this again at some point. I hope to bring some of these fresh, vibrant flavours into the coffee shop, maybe doing Mexican wraps, taco’s or pork pibil sandwiches. Lots of options, just like the place itself – Can’t wait!
So now lets move a bit further south (a 24hr bus ride to be exact) to the small and wonderful country called Belize. Belize is a tiny little country under Mexico and bordering Guatemala. It has a population of around 300,000. Head inland and you have rain forests, Mayan Ruins and stunning wildlife, head out to sea and you can visit one of the number of small Islands (Caye’s) to see coral reefs, marine life, beaches and some righteous (and cheap) seafood!
I seemed to live off Seafood when we were there, and with whole lobsters about 10 pounds on the Island. Who can blame me. But it was the fish, and in particular the Red Snapper which was fantastic and which has given me some nice ideas for the coffee shop.
Red Snapper Burger
Irritatingly I don’t seem to have a picture of this, so have put some pics of some of the other seafood we ate in Belize instead. But this was something we had at a lovely restaurant on the Island Caye Caulker – or heaven on earth as I have called it
Like I said – Paradise!
A freshly caught fillet of red snapper, deep fried in breadcrumbs, some mayo, a white bap and loaded with some spicy chilli sauce. That’s it, so simple, so great and just one of the best way to serve up fish. I will definitely be trying to replicate, maybe a nice snapper burger or sandwich loaded with fish, some tartare sauce, chilli and fresh lettuce – could be good!
So lots of inspiration from these 3 amazing places, more to come later when we turn our gaze towards Europe and good old Blighty itself!