When Mike Goes to Mexico

My pal Mike likes to taunt me with photos and videos of his business trips to Mexico, which are frequent. See, if you haven’t been paying attention to previous posts, his business is Mexico — mezcal, that is: Del Maguey, the best in the world.

Mike in Mexico

Mike in Mexico

His provocations are most often in the form of eyewitness video accounts of parades in Oaxaca, where there seems to always be a parade in progress, or photos of voluptuous window mannequins with whom he is certain I am a perfect romantic match. More

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Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Normandy — In Love with a Lawnmower

After a long and richly wine-ambered dinner with some friendly Finns at the table next to us and our friends the Schneiders who showed up mid-meal at the Bastille-area restaurant Chez Paul where we had last eaten 15 years before on our honeymoon, we slept hard and set out in the morning on the train for Normandy.

Whelks & periwinkles at Chez Paul

Whelks & periwinkles at Chez Paul

We would be visiting with my wife’s friend Anne, whom we had also last seen 15 years before in Paris. Like us, she now had three children and was living the French country dream near the harbor of Honfleur.

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Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Paris — A Tale of Two Cities

It took me a little while to get my bearings in Paris. It’s a city I know well — I’ve spent a lot of time here — but after the easy, laid-back intimacy of Italy and the French Rhone-Alpes, Paris was a jarring awakening.

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

Arc de Triomphe, Bastille Day

The entre, after two weeks of meandering country roads, was driving the rental car into the heart of the Marais to drop the family and luggage off at the Airbnb, and then trying to navigate my way along the frenetic Rue du Rivoli to the subterranean Hertz offices at the swirling mayhem of the Louvre Carousel. More

The Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Venice — The Rialto Fish Market

I first came to Venice, the most magical city on earth, more than two decades ago. And every time I have returned, I’ve always wandered through the spectacular Rialto fish market with one thought in my head: “I wish I had a kitchen.”

This time, I have a kitchen.

The Rialto fish market

The Rialto fish market

We met up with our friends, the Schneiders, at the fish market to get stuff for dinner. As much as I wanted to purchase everything I saw, I nearly had to physically restrain my pal, Donnie, from cleaning the market out. More

Simple Perfection, Perfectly Simple

My pal and sometime Skinny Girls sidekick Bob and his lovely wife Shoba came for dinner the other night with a small tub of gazpacho.

“Bob, this is incredible!” another dinner guest gushed upon first taste.

Cacio e pepe

Cacio e pepe

“Sean’s recipe,” Bob immediately fessed up. Although I must immediately fess up, it is the simplest off all recipes — ripe tomatoes, stale bread, water, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt into the blender. Done.

Simplest of all recipes besides, perhaps, one of Italy’s easiest, most delicious pastas — cacio e pepe. Or, roughly translated, “cheese & pepper”.

All the world’s great, simple dishes are the sum of the very best parts — sushi, for example, depends entirely on the quality of the fish and the rice. Traditional cacio e pepe is composed of three ingredients — pasta, cheese and pepper. I add butter and chopped parsley because I like to, and a real Roman might tell you that I have completely @#$*ed it up. But I am particular about the quality of the butter and the parsley. If I’m counting on five ingredients to make my dish a success, you better bet I care.

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Speaking of those five ingredients… the dish will be tasty even if you purchase whichever brands of spaghetti, pecorino, butter, parsley and pepper they’ve got at the local Safeway (or, because I can track readers on six of the seven continents, whatever the local grocery store in your neck of the woods/jungle/savannah/desert may be). But I highly recommend finding a beautiful aged pecorino, the highest quality spaghetti you can (I like spaghetti alla chitarra), fresh organic parsley, a freshly churned or raw butter and some tellicherry pepper.

If you’re like me, I’m guessing you won’t want to drink a white wine with this. And fortunately, the towering flavors of the pecorino and pepper stand up nicely to a medium to full-body red — try a Chianti or a California zinfandel or sangiovese.

And please… enjoy!

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Cacio e pepe
serves 4-6

1 lb. spaghetti
1 packed cup grated pecorino romano
1 heaping tbsp. best quality butter
2 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cook spaghetti to al dente in a large pot of salted water.

Drain spaghetti, retaining 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Return spaghetti to pot. Toss spaghetti with remaining ingredients until creamy and incorporated.

Season to taste with salt and serve.

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