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Global Gourmet

food / travel

Faith In Food: When Kosher And Halal Go Haute Cuisine

It's hard to find a starred halal or kosher restaurant, but scattered about the French capital, such upscale restaurants do exist.

PARIS — At first glance, Le Médaillon doesn't look like much. This French restaurant, with its menu derived from organic and halal products, sits across the street from a gloomy set of hospital buildings in a not-very-glamorous sector of Villejuif (Val-de-Marne), a suburb south of Paris.

A warm handshake from the boss, Djamel Bouhadda — better known on the airwaves as Chef Voilà — helps put as at ease. But we only really settled in when a waiter arrives, lifting a silver plate cover to reveal a wonder of culinary inventiveness.

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A Quick Primer On Yapura, Colombia's Pungent "Jungle Butter"

BOGOTA — During the difficult months of the rainy season, when daily downpours put a damper on hunting and fishing, the Tatuyo indigenous people of Vaupés, in Colombia's Amazonian region, spend entire days in the jungle collecting fruit. The purpose of the forest harvest? To make yapurá.

A black paste with a pungent odor that rivals the smelliest of French cheeses, yapurá is a prized seasonal delicacy. It is also one of the stranger foods to be found in this part of the world.

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Hong Kong's Seafood Appetite Threatens Marine Species

HONG KONGHong Kong's enormous appetite for seafood and its role as a hub for the global seafood trade is having an unfortunate impact on endangered fish species.

Chinese cuisine prizes seafood, so it's perhaps not surprising that per capita seafood consumption in Hong Kong averages 70 kilograms a year, about four times the global average. But the city is also a hub for trade into mainland China, where consumption is on the rise. All of that is putting a strain on endangered marine life and driving an unexpected sustainability push.

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The Humble Brioche Goes Haute Cuisine

Every French region has its own version of brioche, which has a solid but modest history. But now in some corners, this lightly sweet breakfast bread is taking on a high-end air.

PARIS — On Oct. 5, 1789, when Parisian women, who were suffering from bread shortages, marched on Versailles with revolutionaries, Marie Antoinette supposedly said, "If they have no bread, Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," or "let them eat cake." Though this is a very famous utterance, it's also apocryphal. Book 6 of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, where the quote prefigures, was printed in 1782, a full seven years before Marie Antoinette could have said these words.

In truth, very little separates bread and brioche. In addition to the bread's flour, yeast, salt and water, making brioche requires similar techniques under virtually the same conditions and only the addition of butter, sugar and eggs. Brioche bread, a product halfway between the two, is perfect proof of their harmony. The leap from bread to brioche is the first step of social mobility in the baker's world. It's the humblest of cakes.

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food / travel
Natalya Radulova

A Russian Farmer's Sharp Response To French Cheese Embargo

A Russian embargo bans imports of French cheese and other Western products. But one farmer has the answer: bring in French cheesemakers to teach him to make his own.

MASLOVKA — "Hi, uh, do the Frenchmen live here?" asked the small delegation of women gathered in front of Maslovka's largest house. Inna Myachina, a resident from the neighboring village, had brought her mother, her sister and her niece. "People are talking, saying that Frenchmen have come to Maslovka and are making good cheese — the forbidden kind. So we are trying to be neighborly and came to see if it is true," she explained.

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food / travel
Beatriz Santos

Brazil's Magic Food Truck Recipe: Culinaria, Crisis, Creativity

After spreading in the U.S. in the wake of the financial crisis, food trucks are arriving in Brazilian cities such as Sao Paulo, which are eager for culinary adventure at a low price.

SÃO PAULO — The green, white and red flag of Mexico adorns the side of one van, and the colors are emblazoned on the retractable awning of another truck. Sombreros and ponchos hang in the big window, as customers are handed their tacos and steaming hot burritos. All this, in a parking lot in the Brazilian city of São Paulo.

The van's owner is Reinaldo Zanon, a partner in the Mexican fast food franchise Los Cabrones. Attracted by the possibility of turning over good daily cash while significantly cutting costs, the entrepreneur decided to start a food truck, the fast and not-so-fast food concept that has now spread to Brazil after first feeding the urban masses in the U.S. and some European countries over the past few years.

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food / travel
Amany Ali Shawky

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: A Pregnant Woman's Athens Food Odyssey

ATHENS — We were staying in the downtown area close to Athens' Kotzia Square, walking distance from the local fish market, the hardware market and local spice vendors. So a fishy mist weighs down the air, mingled with the opulent, nostalgic aroma of mastic (a resin used in the manufacturing of ouzo and mastika, a local brandy).

"Remind me to buy mastika for mom. She uses it for rice pudding and soups," I shout to my husband as we try to cross the congested two-way street, a mission that would become increasingly tedious as the days went by.

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Natacha Tatu

In Bangui, A Grizzled Expat Feeds Hungry Kids With Algae

The protein-rich algae spirulina is abundant and affordable in the Central African Republic, making it a nutritional alternative to help feed kids in the developing world.

BANGUI — Freddy maneuvers his 4x4 with a steady hand, skillfully slaloming between bumps and potholes. Normally, at this time of day, he'd be in his restaurant, the Relais de Chasse (hunting lodge), a popular eatery he runs with an iron grip here in the capital of the Central African Republic. Instead, the aging French expat is on the road to a cooperative hidden in the middle of luxuriant tropical vegetation, where the miracle product he's been talking to us about for the past several days is made.

The product is called spirulina, a freshwater microalgae that has almost unrivaled nutritional properties — proteins, vitamins, beta-carotene, trace elements, it's all there — and can be used therefore as a dietary supplement. It is well-known among naturopaths, who say it can boost sick people's immunity, improve athletic performance, even help students concentrate better. Most importantly, spirulina can get a child suffering from dietary deficiencies on his or her feet in just a matter of weeks.

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food / travel
Martina Miethig

Vietnamese Foodie Delights On Moped Tour Of Ho Chi Minh City

HO CHI MINH CITY — The night begins with a concerto of motor bike horns as the heat lies like a damp rag over everything. All the mopeds take off at the light, tooting their horns at once, and in the twilight we leave behind Ho Chi Minh City's tourist district, with its French-colonial buildings, town hall and theater. We plunge instead into the nightly bustle of the city formerly known as Saigon.

Nguyen Tien is a confident driver and tour guide. "We're going through Chinatown right now," she says in perfect English front the front of the moped. No sooner has she uttered these words, we smell the medical, slightly musty herbs and roots of traditional medicine. The camera in the driver's helmet is capturing the scenes around us. Too bad it can't capture scents too. Like the other smells on this "Foodie Tour" of Ho Chi Minh City, these are to be savored.

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food / travel
Boris Coridian

Can A Miracle Wine Gadget Win Over Paris?

Coravin, which allows you to sample the finest bottle without uncorking it, is being hailed as a game-changer for the wine industry. It was greeted with mixed reviews in the city that may still matter most.

PARIS — The foil covering the cork is still sealed. But the bottle is half empty. Only two tiny marks, like a vampire bite on the aluminum, are visible.

Maarten Dekker, vice president and general manager of Coravin Europe, picks up an object that looks like a classic lever corkscrew. The difference is in the drill. Instead of the classic piggy-tail curlicue, this device has a long, matte black needle. In one simple gesture he inserts it into the cork then tips the bottle and pours a glass before extracting the metal point.

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food / travel
Francesco Semprini

The Italian Mozzarella Bar Conquering The World

A second Obica location has now opened in New York, bringing the global chain's high-end authentic mozzarella experience to a new level of global expansion.

NEW YORK — When patrons come to the Flatiron District location of the Obicà Mozzarella Bar, they often say what a perfect spot it is, declares the company's U.S. manager Raimondo Boggia. With that, he welcomes us to the newest location of the Italian chain that has already conquered some of the world's key markets.

The company was founded in 2004 on the initiative of owner Silvio Ursini, and it has since grown to 20 restaurants in Rome, Florence, Milan, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and New York. With the new Flatiron District location, Obicà now has two restaurants in the Big Apple.

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food / travel
Giorgio Boatti

In Italian Forests, Where The "Bread Of The Poor" Grows

LAURINO — On the way to the mill, I stopped in Stazzema, in the heart of the Apuan Alps, where it was raining. I followed the step-by-step directions that Silvia gave me. She knows the trail well, as she and her partner Alex decided to move to the mill five years ago. This is "Friar's Mill," where for centuries the residents of the area have gathered chestnuts from the woods to grind them into flour.

After years of neglect, the mountain community restored the building and brought the old mill back into operation, deciding that someone needed to come to live and work here.

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