The Japanese Make the Best Things

Sometimes I think the Italians make the best things. And then I change my mind, and decide it’s actually the Mexicans who make the best things. Other times, I’m pretty darned sure it’s the Japanese.

This is one of those times.

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Of course, it all depends on what you are talking about. If you’re discussing cheese, for example, it’s hard to make a case that anyone does it better than the French. More

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More Cool Gadgets That Take Up Space You Don’t Have

The best obscure one-use gadgets come from Europe. My friend from Austria gave me a spaetzle maker. How often to YOU make spaetzle?? Probably less often than I, which is a couple times a year — often once around Oktoberfest. The spaetzle maker takes up almost one whole drawer all by itself. But when I make spaetzle, I sure am happy to have it.

The spaetzle maker

The spaetzle maker

I also have a raclette stove, which takes up the better part of a whole cupboard shelf. Raclette is an Alpine French cheese that you melt on tiny skillets, and then mash together with boiled potatoes and cornichons. The last time we used it, George W. Bush was president. But boy, is it cool. More

Coming Home — Cheese, Chips and WCs

I felt a bit guilty when I lied to the very kind customs man who welcomed us back into the United States.

“You’re not bringing in any food?” he said.

“No,” I replied.

My local fromagerie in Paris

My local fromagerie in Paris

In fact, my bag was 50% clothes, 50% food. I had several very alive raw milk cheeses, a few packages of salted Italian bottarga mullet roe, a large box of vialone nano risotto rice, five or six cans and jars of foie gras, four boxes of dried pasta and miscellaneous containers of salts. It is probably only the first two that would’ve raised border control eyebrows.

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Mexico’s Answer to Parmesan

My friend, Saul, who grew up one of nearly a dozen children without electricity or running water on a farm some 45 minutes from the nearest village in Mexico, once brought me back from a visit with his parents a chunk of cheese his mother had made. Of course it was raw, of course it was artisanal — not in the self-congratulatory way of the contemporary foodie, but in the “what other way is there?” way of the peasant farmer.

"Mr. Chicharron, we're ready for your close up."

“Mr. Chicharron, we’re ready for your close up.”

Not only was it a thoughtful and generous gift — it was delicious, with a grassy freshness pairing with a slightly tart complexity reminiscent of bufala mozzarella, a characteristic more often more evident in raw cheeses. More

In Praise of the Unpasteurized

My biggest regret about not living in France is cheese.

A few weeks ago, my friend Brian (he of 90/60 blood pressure and 48 bmp heart rate) arrived to a small birthday celebration I’d hastily thrown together for myself with several raw-milk cheeses he’d just brought back from France. I can’t even remember what I cooked — the cheeses were the stars of the night.

Contraband French cheeses

Contraband French cheeses

You are not allowed to bring soft unpasteurized cheese into the United States. Which technically makes Brian a smuggler. But these are cheeses worth any risk — rich, deep and complex in a way you just can’t find in the imported stuff. More

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