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Thread: Great Cities and Great Food how strong is the connection?

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    Great Cities and Great Food how strong is the connection?

    So I noticed that on two previous threads (the greatest city in the world, and is your city a world class city) that cuisine became a point of substantial pride as well as contention.

    Being from the New York Region I feel that culturally food is at if not close to the heart of the New York experience. My time in Santa Fe shared that same bond between a city identity and food, Green Chile is core to the identity of New Mexicans (Note: in the Southwest Chile is spelled with an "e" unless you're from Texas).

    In Metro New York things like the Diner culture are an amazing blend of Greek, Italian and Jewish cultures, having the best pizza is a matter of pride (sorry Chicago), and neighborhoods live or die based on their concentration of ethnic restaurants (Jackson Heights in Queens is a prime example of a revitalization tied to becoming a little India).

    Class and overall city attitudes seem to play a part as well. Blue Collar Chicago has it's Vienna dogs, Buffalo NY it's Buffalo Wings, White collar San Francisco Sushi and Smoothie bars.

    Is food core to the urban experience or just something that comes hand in hand with cosmopolitan living? What foods define your city/region? (Note this doesn't have to be limited to just food, perhaps a wine or a beer culture can substitute similar.)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I agree that food is a huge part of the city experience.

    That's why I can't stand people who don't like to try new things, I don't mean vegatarians, that's a whole different thing, something that I can never be, but I mean people who will travel half-way around the world and only eat McDonalds.

    I had a friend from Boston who was driving through Chicago once, so I took him to a hot dog stand to get a Chicago hot dog. I asked for mine with everything (salad-on-a-bun, Chicago style) and then he ordered his with mustard and katsup on it. I told him that's not the way hotdogs are typically made here but then he pointed his finger at mine and said "yeah, but I know I won't like that."

    So he traveled like 1,500 miles to have a hot dog with katsup on it.
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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Big Green Scott
    Is food core to the urban experience or just something that comes hand in hand with cosmopolitan living? What foods define your city/region? (Note this doesn't have to be limited to just food, perhaps a wine or a beer culture can substitute similar.)
    Cities I have lived in:

    Philadelphia: Without a doubt, the snack/junk food capital of the United States (water ice, funnel cakes, cheesesteaks, Tasty Cakes, pretzels, hoagies, etc.) The best street food around.

    Boston: Italian (North End) would definitely be its pride and strength, however the Asian food (Chinatown, Allston, Newton, Fields Corner) scene is pretty integral to the city now. Bostonians are also the primary connoisseurs of "iced coffee," "Maine lobster," and "soft shell clams."

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    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    The food experience is very important to the culture of New Orleans, actually to the entire state of Louisiana. It's more than the classic dichotomy of Creole and Cajun cuisine. My coworkers and I were just talking about this the other day - some of the best food is served not at world class, upscale, white tablecloth restaurants, but at holes-in-the-wall, corner stores, gas stations, etc.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

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    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
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    oh yes, food definitely is very important to experiencing a city.
    When I first arrive in a new city, I find natives and ask where the natives go eat, I don't want to go to touristy places. Simple, inexpensive real people food. Places you have to know about, there's no sign, or advertising or attractive doorway. I'll never forget one sandwich shop that looked like an abandoned building but made the best shrimp sandwiches!

    When I meet someone from a different culture, one of the first things I want to figure out is can I get some authentic recipes from them? Hey, that name sounds Italian...did your grandmother cook a lot? Leave you any old country recipes? LOL

    I love yummy food and am always seeking new recipes, ideas. Maybe I should start a recipe thread where everyone can post their signature dish...
    Last edited by CosmicMojo; 22 Mar 2006 at 2:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    I agree that food is a huge part of the city experience.

    That's why I can't stand people who don't like to try new things, I don't mean vegatarians, that's a whole different thing, something that I can never be, but I mean people who will travel half-way around the world and only eat McDonalds.

    I had a friend from Boston who was driving through Chicago once, so I took him to a hot dog stand to get a Chicago hot dog. I asked for mine with everything (salad-on-a-bun, Chicago style) and then he ordered his with mustard and katsup on it. I told him that's not the way hotdogs are typically made here but then he pointed his finger at mine and said "yeah, but I know I won't like that."

    So he traveled like 1,500 miles to have a hot dog with katsup on it.
    Imagine how hard it is to find places to take small town midwesterners in San Francisco. We're talking a guy who won't eat chicken because 50 years ago he was served a bad chicken in the Army. He also complained about the existence of "ethnic" neighborhoods (we didn't point out to him the demographic focus of The Castro).

    San Francisco is obsessed with high end food. Everything is yuppified here, it seems. Yet, sometimes this is a good thing. Artisan chocolates are objectively better than Hershey's. California cuisine can be amazing, truly taking advantage of the local produce. The bakereis are great-I had the best Banana Cream Pie I've ever had last Friday (from a pastry chef nominated for a James Beard Award). The farmers' markets are fantastic (still-Seattle's Pike Place Market has to be my single favorite American market).

    But, not only high end food. The ethnic, smaller eateries are great, too. The waves of immigrants are great for diverse, interesting food. There are Thai restaurants on every corner. The newest "in" cuisines include Peruvian and South American-and I am thrilled by this as I love Peruvian food. Heck, there is a fantastic American diner with great breakfasts in the "Town Next Door" that has lines out the door Sunday morning. Great Greek food, too.

    San Francisco's newpaper now has FOUR DAYS in which there are restaurant reviews.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    The food experience is very important to the culture of New Orleans, actually to the entire state of Louisiana.
    Two of the best meals I ever had were in NOLA: 1) real fresh and sticky jambalaya, and 2) an incredible fried shrimp po-boy on a baguette with homemade remoulade at a local lunch counter

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Yeah, Chicago is famous for their Chicago-style hotdogs.

    Additionally, I think some other good products of ours include Italian Beefs and Burgers. I've heard from many people on the coasts say that our beef is top notch and the quality is much poorer where they're from.

    We also have some fine chocolates. Fannie Mae anyone? Eli's Cheesecake is also a delicacy.

    And while thin crust could be argued for hours on end, Chicago rules deep dish. Gino's East (where the sauce is on top of the cheese) is to die for.

    Chicago's also has some fine products from our Polish, German, Greek, Italian, and Mexican populations. There's nothing like German potato salad, Polish sausage and the plentiful restaurants of fine cuisine by the other ethnic groups.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Big Green Scott
    Is food core to the urban experience or just something that comes hand in hand with cosmopolitan living? What foods define your city/region? (Note this doesn't have to be limited to just food, perhaps a wine or a beer culture can substitute similar.)
    I think in Southern California, atleast in the case of Chinese and Mexican cuisine, food transcends the boundaries of urban living. No matter where you are, in the heart of LA or San Diego, or even out in the suburbs, there are taco stands and take out Chinese places on almost every corner. It's funny and I just realized it a few years ago, Mexican food is so big popular down here that no matter what type of family function my mom hosts, she always has chips and salsa next to the veggies and dip for pre dinner snacks.

    Besides Mexican, I think that LA is also known for its Japanese and Thai cuisine (maybe not at the level of SF). Being so close to the ocean, you'd think we would be more known for seafood, not so much the case though. Being a big city however, you can pretty much get anything your heart desires, especially Asian and Latin foods.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    The food experience is very important to the culture of New Orleans, actually to the entire state of Louisiana. It's more than the classic dichotomy of Creole and Cajun cuisine. My coworkers and I were just talking about this the other day - some of the best food is served not at world class, upscale, white tablecloth restaurants, but at holes-in-the-wall, corner stores, gas stations, etc.

    mmmmm, NOLA has some of the best food!! and such a nice diversity of food too.

    my BF and i frequently talk about when we look for jobs in the "real world" we need to make sure it is a place with access to good food.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WoohWee
    No matter where you are, in the heart of LA or San Diego, or even out in the suburbs, there are...[snip] take out Chinese places on almost every corner... [snip] Mexican food is so big popular down here that no matter what type of family function my mom hosts, she always has chips and salsa next to the veggies and dip for pre dinner snacks...
    Those two things are common up and down the East Coast as well.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Detroit Area Favorite Foods:

    Coney Island Hot Dogs
    Better Made Potato Chips
    Vernors Ginger Ale
    Faygo Red Pop
    Buddy's Pizza and antipasto salad
    Stroh's Ice Cream with Sanders Hot Fudge
    Stroh's Beer (but fading fast into memory)
    Middle Eastern Food
    Saganaki - Greek flaming Cheese OPA!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  13. #13

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    I think food is core to the human experience, urban or not.

    There are wastelands out there, where it is hard to find a decent meal (SE Idaho comes to mind) when you are traveling through, but there are also fantastic little restaurants hidden away in small places: Arco, ID, for instance, Hudson, WY, Warren, VT, Espanola, NM, etc., etc.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Those two things are common up and down the East Coast as well.
    Those things are common in the Chicago metro area as well. I don't think we ever have a party without salsa. And taco stands (in the city/ethnically Hispanic suburbs) as well as fine restaurants are quite popular here.

    There is also an abundance of Hispanic markets/grocers as well.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    With respect, reading some of the culinary 'treats' that some posters listed I am left with the sense that, unlike most British people, North Americans still don't realize, as a group, just how horrible most of what they eat is.

    Obviously, as an Italian, I am biased. Our culture is almost idolatrous with regard to food. Last year I was in South Beach, hitting what were meant to be fine restaurants and the quality was embarassing. Well below, I mean miles, middle-of-the-road London restaurants.

    Off to NYC in a couple of weeks and hope to do better (also researched it more).

    Then again: I think actual US cusine, what there is of it, is vey underrated abroad.
    I would rate properly prepared biscuits and sausage gravy or chili con carne among the great dishes of the world.

    Anyone knew any good B&G breakfast places in Mahattan ? (not Manhattan KS!!, the one with the tall buildings)
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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I don't know if Toronto has any real identifiable food as being from Toronto, but it you do have the opportunity to eat meals from anywhere in the world.

    Last week i ate acceptable to very good
    Thai (VG)
    Vietnamese (Acceptable)
    Chilean (acceptable)
    Polish (good)
    Guyanese (VG)
    Russian (VG)

    The food trend here is "fusion" items such as artisinal cheese duck confit poutine, asian/canadian diner style food and organics.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    With respect, reading some of the culinary 'treats' that some posters listed I am left with the sense that, unlike most British people, North Americans still don't realize...[blah, blah, blah]
    As someone who has eaten at quite a few places in New York, Miami and London, I would have to completely disagree with you. The food in London was some of the worst I have ever had across the board. Even the Indian was disappointing, not to mention ridiculously over priced. The best meal I had in Britain was at a small pub in Wiltshire. Even there, they served "chips" with EVERY entree.

  18. #18
    One of the things that frustrates me about being a food nut is the blandness of the Yankee palate. jmello was right that we have great food traditions in Boston, but there's a certain dumbing down of the cuisine that is unfortunate. It's almost as if there's a sense of resignation in trying to bring 'authenticness' to a cuisine because the locals cannot or will not attempt to stretch themselves. I've had conversations with people who have traveled outside of this area and complained that the food was 'weird'.

    Food (and good food made well) is to me the most important thing about a place. It's one of the first things I research when I know I am going to be traveling. I spent weeks pouring over information about New Orleans cuisine (the degrees of differences between Creole and Cajun, etc.) before I went. While I was certainly no expert, I had read enough to have the food tastes reinforce what I learned. And it gave me a greater appreciation for trying it at home.

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    The food in London was some of the worst I have ever had across the board.
    "English Cuisine" is a bit of a contradiction, isn't it?
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    With respect, reading some of the culinary 'treats' that some posters listed I am left with the sense that, unlike most British people, North Americans still don't realize, as a group, just how horrible most of what they eat is.

    Obviously, as an Italian, I am biased. Our culture is almost idolatrous with regard to food. Last year I was in South Beach, hitting what were meant to be fine restaurants and the quality was embarassing. Well below, I mean miles, middle-of-the-road London restaurants.
    Well, if you were hitting trendy spots marketed to tourists and callow 23 year old models, no wonder. Just like I wouldn't suggest focusing on dining in San Francisco's North Beach (with some exceptions)

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    As someone who has eaten at quite a few places in New York, Miami and London, I would have to completely disagree with you. The food in London was some of the worst I have ever had across the board. Even the Indian was disappointing, not to mention ridiculously over priced. The best meal I had in Britain was at a small pub in Wiltshire. Even there, they served "chips" with EVERY entree.
    I agree best meal I had in Ireland was McDonalds... I still have bangers and mash flashbacks. What passes for sausage is pretty bad.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    I agree best meal I had in Ireland was McDonalds... I still have bangers and mash flashbacks. What passes for sausage is pretty bad.
    Just goes to show how everyone has different tastes. I would KILL (please let me kill!) to get proper UK sausages here. And I'm a vegetarian. Most of the time.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    1. British cooking is mostly crap. They know it. They would not tend to lidt, say, Leeds as a town that is in any way associated with a particular fine food. That was my main point; some 'merkuns seem to harbor the illusion that most food in the US is not crap. Which it is.

    2. I don't know where you ate in London, Jmello. If it was in places that serve chips withe verything I'm not surprsied you didn't eat well.

    The Indian was disappointing? No duh! Did you go to a place like Zaika or the neighborhood grease-pit?

    In comparing Miami to london I'm talking about comparable types of higher-end spots. The wine mark-ups in Miami were on the verge of criminal. I' d never thoguht I'd pay more for wine than in London - I didn't think numbers went up THAT high

    I'm not slamming the US. Perhaps it seems I am. I love the US and I love a lot of US food, like I said. I just find some people's provincial atittudes annoying. Jsut like they probably find my elitist, cosmopolitan, Euro-centric attitudes

    BKM: "Well, if you were hitting trendy spots marketed to tourists and callow 23 year old models, no wonder."

    Actually Nikki Beach had perfectly decent food. ...Or maybe I wasn't noticing the food...I dunno... I stuck to cocktails and beer which somehow weren't extortionate. What is it with wine prices in the US? Decent bottles in Miami were arounf 80-100 USD for stuff you'de get for 25-35 GBP here in London.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Just goes to show how everyone has different tastes. I would KILL (please let me kill!) to get proper UK sausages here. And I'm a vegetarian. Most of the time.

    Ya might as well eat them dammed things they were so full of cereal filler and chemecial 'smoke taste', I could not find any meat in em... tasted like bad oatmeal that had been sitting in rancid pork drippings.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    The worst food I ever had was in Chicago. Talk about garbage. . I don't think anyone there knows how to cook. The only high point of the trip was trolling for brown trout in Lake Michigan...
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


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