travel

post25 // a culinary duel over the new orleans beignet: café du monde vs. cafe beignet

ImageCafé Du Monde ImageCafe Beignet

While my visit to New Orleans over spring break was incipiently established as a rite of passage through the famed Mardi Gras, I quickly realized that the trip was going to mean a lot more to me than college keg stands and bead-hunting. In a procrastinating research method during midterm week, I searched through endless website pages titled around the edible in New Orleans. “Must-eats,” “Where-to-eat,” and “City Guide to Eating,” were just three of the redundant headings that popped up as I scrolled down the Google and Pinterest search feeds. Though I’d visited New Orleans once with a high school program (see photo below), given my newfound food curiosity in tune with the excitement of Mardi Gras, I was biting to get down to the Big Easy.

ImageAge 15, eating beignets at Café Du Monde

During the four days spent in the city of cajun food and jazz, I was lucky enough to try two servings of beignets from the acclaimed Café Du Monde and the appropriately named Cafe Beignet. Both restaurants served outrageously rich versions of the Creole classic: fried pastry dough fritters drowned in powdered sugar that couldn’t help but dust your clothes with a layer of white film. As is appropriate for a culinary duel, I will detail the two beignet episodes.

My friends and I made a point to go to the Cafe Beignet on Bourbon street the morning after our first night in the city. There, we devoured an excellently greasy breakfast of egg sandwiches on croissant buns and crawfish omelets. The main course was followed by two rounds of beignets (a third round came a little later). The sugar-coated fried pastry was just out of the fryer, warm enough to make my fingers play hot potato until the treat was in my mouth. To be frank, you can’t really go wrong with fried dough, especially when you bring sugar into the mix. My friends who were first being introduced to beignet heaven savored every minute of their full-mouthed bites.

Our visit to Café Du Monde took place later in the trip, after a cab ride home from uptown on our last night in New Orleans. I was appalled by the fact that the next morning, I could leave New Orleans without returning to the renowned cafe where I tried my first beignet. Compellingly dragging my friends to the Café Du Monde off of Jackson Square, we had a few questions about the menu. Ironically, while Cafe Beignet offered more than beignets, Café Du Monde only served beignets and beverages. Despite some of my friends’ wishes for a fuller late-night meal, the beignets proved we chose correctly in staying put. If you’re going to have just one item on your menu, it needs to be good; and yes they were better than good. Café Du Monde’s beignets were hot like those at Cafe Beignet but proved to melt even tastier and gooier into my mouth after a few bites through the fried outer-layer. Covered similarly to those at Cafe Beignet in mounds of powdered sugar, our beignets that early morning were just the right pick for a quick snack. Sitting with my friends and eating at Café Du Monde was an unforgettable last treat to the Mardi Gras experience.

To be fair, both sets of beignets were sugarfiably delectable. In a narrow competition, the beignets at Café du Monde had an edge over those at Cafe Beignet. I recommend making a trip down to New Orleans one day to not only try the quintessential beignets, but also the  flavorful Creole cuisine—look-out, a post on the cajun cuisine is coming soon!

post23 // pulling davidson out of an optionless emergency: the new summit

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Classic Spinach Salad

I apologize in advance for the gloomy tone my post is about to entertain. I promise it will only be for a brief minute or two, until I can fully delve into the tastiest renovation to ever occur on Davidson’s campus.

Davidson is a very special home to me. I love the bright blue Carolina skies that greet me on February days like today, the Lula Bell laundry service that takes care of my clothes, and of course, the beachhead at Lake Norman where one can enjoy watching college frat boys play dock ball. My only lament about attending school at Davidson has been the food. While comparing my dining options on an early summer night with friends from home who are littered across the country in both liberal arts colleges and large universities, I realized that many of my high school peers enjoyed the food they ate at college.

I wish I did. I wanted to enjoy the food I ate at school instead of pulling the massive amounts of hummus off of grilled wraps or sadly attempting to make a Cobb salad without the chicken breast or baconthat is the best part! Not only different tastes, but I needed more options to add to my union wrap I ate four times a week. Moving away from this somber mood, I luckily came back after a semester abroad to a brand new dining spot on campus, The New Summit. Boasting many nicknames, most popularly Nummit, alongside Newsum and a vulgar title that I will leave to your imagination, the New Summit offers an array of dishes that span from grab-and-go breakfast items to late-night pizzas filled with all your favorite indulgences like buffalo chicken and triple-cheeses. The broad span of dishes you can eat at the New Summit made from farm-style ingredients, alongside their signature coffee menu and fillingly fruity smoothies, provides a foreign depth to Davidson’s dining services. This gigantic step in a positive direction has changed my thoughts on eating at Davidson. I can now find myself giddily excited to go enjoy my usual union wrap because I have only eaten it once in the past two weeks. The New Summit offers another option and in doing so, alleviates pressure on other dining options while offering college kids quality food.

Enough of this talk, so what’s my favorite pick? I’ve got a couple. If you’re looking for a meaty and cheesy option to serve as real comfort food, the Fig, Goat, Pig Flatbread or the Triple-Pig Panini are my two go-to’s. In terms of healthier items, I’m a big fan of the Classic Spinach Salad, usually with a side of the rotating day’s soup that never fails—okay, I strongly suggest against the Gazpacho, but that’s just me. I’ve heard it from everyone and I can’t deny the pretzels are fabulously yummy, served warm with a choice of dippings (I love the mustard). By covering a large range, the New Summit appeals to many Davidson faces, both the health-conscious athlete ordering a Kale Berry Smoothie and the beanie-wearing hipster who sips on a Chilean roast coffee and doesn’t know how they ended up in North Carolina.

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Fig, Goat, Pig

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Pretzel with Mustard and Veggie Chili

post20 // an italian pearl found in the depths of carolina strip malls

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At Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market, Brooklyn-born owners transport their customers to a Mulberry Street-esque meat and sandwich shop with traditional Italian spices, meals, and of course, black and white diamond tiling to boot. The quality of food at Ferrucci’s is unlike most delicatessens I’ve ventured to here in the South. Fresh homemade ingredients perfect for cooking sit aside fully prepared meals like lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and sausage with peppers to make for an easy grab and go dinner. Despite the unfortunate actuality that is my lack of cooking with Ferrucci’s-bought ingredients, I have had no trouble spending money there throughout my three years in Davidson.

The first time I went to Ferrucci’s the tiny bell attached to the top of the translucently boring door rang as I was greeted by a friendly downpour of New York accents alongside an appetizing breath of meat and Italian spices. My brother Robert had insisted we make a trip there while he visited me during my first semester in college. Robert, a Davidson alum, frequented Ferrucci’s so much so that the owners remembered him by name two years after he graduated, that day we walked in together. Inside the shop we ran into a few of Rob’s fellow fraternity brothers who collectively must account for some wild percentage of Ferrucci’s income (Davidson meal plan what? No). After waiting in line for a bit, I grew anxiously overwhelmed at all my sandwich options: Grilled Panini? Hot Hero with Meatball Parmesan? Basil Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwich? It all sounded so good! I still feel this rush of menu uncertainty every time I look up at my sandwich options there, even after my countless visits to date. Instead of choosing, I just ordered what my brother got, The Italian. Filled with the guidoest of all Italian meats (Genoa Salami, Ham, and Pepperoncini), the Italian is the ultimate cold-cut sandwich, served on a fresh ciabatta roll and layered with crunchy vegetables. If you haven’t figured this out yet, the above picture is the Italian from Ferrucci’s, yet that photo was taken two weeks ago when I made my voyage back to Ferrucci’s after a long ten months apart.

As if this little Italian market couldn’t get any better, as my brother and I walked towards the cashier (usually Tony, the owner), I spotted the trophy of the entire shop, homemade cannolis. Yup that’s right, freshly fried pastry dough enclosing a sweet ricotta cream, my Little Italy favorite. And they even had mini ones! I realized then and there that I’d found an eating abode to shelter me through the rest of my Davidson experience. It hasn’t failed yet.

ImageImageThe Vegetale 

Off of Exit 28. Across the street from Paddy’s Pour House. Shops on the Green. 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd. Cornelius, NC 28031

post17 // those halloween pumpkins can turn into what? a look at the sopaipilla, chile’s fried pumpkin pastry

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Sopaipilla

Yup, you heard it right, pumpkins do have more uses than just your Halloween decorations and puree for your Thanksgiving pies. After three months of living with a family that threw sliced pumpkin into every stew imaginable, I grew to love the way it tasted in the warm broth, the consistency of a sweet potato but just a touch sweeter. My elevating appreciation for the squash species hit a high note in Chile.

Given my empty stew-bowl liking of the pumpkin I’d eaten in my home stay, it wasn’t shocking that a fried version of my new favorite fruit, the sopaipilla, was devoured in a matter of seconds.

On a quick visit to Santiago, Chile, four of my friends and I decided that the free walking tour, Tours4Tips— I would highly suggest taking this tour if you ever find yourself traveling through Santiago, it was phenomenal— would be the best idea for our rapidly depleting end-of-study-abroad bank accounts. The tour titled “Santiago Offbeat” featured the humble and everyday parts of Santiago, notably the large open-air markets and General Cemetery. Before heading into Santiago’s own subway system, we stopped at an outdoor vendor and their cart alongside a fresh produce market. I only wish I had taken a picture of this vendor’s cart that was filled to the brim with fried pumpkin pastry ovals and an endless row of sauces to top displayed in little plastic cups. Courtesy of Tours4Tips (free food!), the whole tour was given a complimentary sopaipilla and access to the various toppings.

Though sopaipillas vary from place to place, as do their toppings, ours was of the Chilean variety meaning the pastry was made from pumpkin and the garnishes were either sweet with a chancaca sauce or spicy with a pebre sauce. As a lover of spicy foods, I immediately doused my sopaipilla in the pebre sauce made out of onions, tomato paste, herbs, garlic, and ground aji peppers. Giving the fried dough just a little kick with the aji, the pebre was an unforgettable topping. Since being back in America, I’ve actually whipped up a sauce using just those ingredients to add on sandwiches and eat chips with, replacing the aji for hot sauce to match the level of spice.

Deliciously crunchy and tasty, the sopaipilla was a great introduction to Chile and a good look at the diverse and flavorful gastronomy available all throughout South America. Again, if you ever find yourself in Chile, it is a must-eat.

End note: After a month-long holiday hiatus, I’ve come back to The Good Stuff. There’s still a couple entries I have from South America that I never wound up posting so the next few will be of Latin cuisine. Moving on to the future, I will be posting more food recipes of all varieties that I will be making week in and week out while at Davidson and back home in Washington. If you go to Davidson and have a kitchen with some bakeware/cooking ware, please e-mail me as I’m looking for a place to whip up some good stuff. Hope you guys enjoy this post on the Chilean Sopaipilla! Eat and be happy!