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The Best of Ravenna, in Valencia
L’Alquimista is a single row of tables pressed against a wall, a glass-fronted workspace, three mismatched tables outside, and a menu scrawled in chalk. It sits at the end of an anonymous street in Valencia’s Russafa, an Italian-inflected barrio of art spaces and dry cleaners, barbershops and neon-lit diners. Chef Mario Tarroni opened his restaurant in 2009 to “cook for Valencianos, for my neighbors.” The menu focuses on fresh pasta and piadina, a flatbread made with lard, in the style of his native Ravenna, Italy. Spaghetti arrives with heartthrob cherry tomatoes and licks of fresh basil. Wild mushrooms are dusted in truffle and served with an exemplary poached egg. Piadina is stuffed with slivered roast pork and sharp cheese. To drink, Gloria Silipo, the gracious one-woman front of house team, pours organic Sicilian red, deep violet Bobal from nearby Requenna, or an amber unfiltered Moscatel. In wine, as in food, Mario prizes the local, the lesser-known, the idiosyncratic – whether pumpkin’s earthy flavor in pasta or the tannic panache of orange wine. He doesn’t advertise, is unnerved by Instagram, and doesn’t have a website. “People tell me to expand,” he says, “But I’ve been feeding the same families for 12 years. Why go somewhere else?” -Cila Warncke
Carrer de Lluís de Santàngel, 1, 46005 València, Spain. +34 685 20 14 13.
The Birthplace of Thousand Island Is Clear, But the Origin Story Is Not
While I was familiar with Thousand Island salad dressing, and (thanks to tourism posters lining the TSA checkpoint area at LaGuardia) was also aware of a portion of upstate New York is referred to as “1000 Islands,” it wasn’t until I visited the archipelago in September 2019 that I learned of the connection between the two. As I ate my way through local delicacies involving the dressing (including a reuben pizza at Wood Boat Brewery in Clayton, New York that I still think about), it became apparent that while the condiment’s birthplace was clear, its origin story was not.
Interestingly, both of the dressing’s leading legends involve George Boldt — an innovative Gilded Age hotelier best known as the original proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (he spent a lot of time running interference between the Astor cousins) — who began summering in 1000 Islands in 1900. In the first version of the story, Boldt and his wife Louise went out for an afternoon cruise on their yacht, bringing the Waldorf-Astoria maître d' Oscar Tschirky along for the ride. Once they were out on Alexandria Bay, Tschirky noticed that the fixings needed to dress their green salad were left back on the dock. To ensure that no one had to eat naked greens, he whipped up a dressing using what was available on board: mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, Worcestershire sauce and a hard-boiled egg. Boldt was said to have been such a fan of this dressing that he started serving it at his hotels, and it took off from there.
The other origin story credits Sophia Lelonde, who, along with her husband (and local fishing guide) George Lelonde used to own and operate The Thousand Islands Inn, a tavern in Clayton. In addition to cooking at the restaurant, Sophia would make a variety of dressings for the “shore dinners” George rustled up for those he had spent the day guiding. One of these fishing trips included well-known New York City stage actor May Irwin and her husband. Irwin was said to have enjoyed Sophia’s dressing so much that she requested a copy of the recipe. Sophia obliged and shared the recipe with the owners of the Herald Hotel, where Irwin and her husband were staying. The hotel’s cook made the dressing — which Irwin had named “Thousand Island” — for their famous guest, and then continued to serve it after that. Back in New York City, Irwin gave the recipe to George Boldt, who began serving the dressing at his hotels.
Regardless of which story is accurate, it’s clear that the Gilded Age elite couldn’t get enough of the stuff. So the next time you order an extra packet of thousand island dressing to dip your fries in, think of its highfalutin origins and give yourself credit for your high-class taste.
Got a fun note from reader Marie Lamensch about chocolatine, discussed here a few weeks ago.
Hello Smart Mouth team
Thank you for today’s newsletter! Regarding the term “chocolatine”, I lived 7 years in France but now I live in Quebec and we use the word here as well, as you mentioned in the newsletter. One funny note is that bakeries who are owned by French expats will sometimes use “pain au chocolat” while bakeries owned by pure Quebeckers will always use “chocolatine”. Those French colonisers…
My mother lives in northern France, where she hears both.
In Belgium, where I grew up, people often use “couque au chocolat.”
We also have “chocolatine aux pistaches”, a chocolatine with both chocolate bars and pistachio cream.
Don’t even get me into the “croissant aux amandes” and “amandine” difference….
Food language is mind-boggling when you have lived in several francophone countries.
More Food Reading:
Remember a few years back when that woman tried to sue Nutella because she assumed it was healthy, and then she found out the chocolate-hazelnut spread sort of wasn’t? I am reminded of that because someone is suing King’s Hawaiian because it doesn’t bake its bread in Hawai’i. (Someone is also suing Hawaiian Host for not making its chocolates in Hawai’i. Where to begin with that. How about, if it was to use cacao grown in Hawaii, the product would be outrageously expensive. Actually I’m not sure Hawai’i even grows enough cacao to supply a company like Hawaiian Host.) King’s Hawaiian bread was originally produced in Hawaii, but in 1977 the founder moved to California - Torrance, specifically, a town with a marked Hawaiian-Japanese influence. (And, again, if this bread was shipped from Hawai’i, it would be wildly expensive.) The company is now run by the founder’s son. I guess the plaintiffs are ultimately freaking out about “authenticity,” which is embarrassing for them, because everyone knows Hawaiian bread is Portuguese.
In related news … No joke, I think everyone needs to work 6 months retail and six months restaurant, before they turn 25, when their brains are still pliable and capable of learning empathy.
A TableCakes Production.
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