Ben Abeba is a restaurant of wide-open spaces, located next to the historic architectural wonders of Lalibela.
Perched high on a hill on the north side of town, it’s often described as looking like a bouquet of flowers or some sort of cooking pot.
The whole enterprise was the dream of owner Susan Aitchison, a retired home economics professor who came to Ethiopia from her native Scotland, initially to help a friend set up a school. Faced with leaving such a magnificent place and going home to Glasgow, she opted to stay.
A chance ride with a local transportation company owner led to a business partnership, and to one of the best restaurants in Lalibela.
Aitchison and her partner, Habtamu Baye, hired local architects to put her ideas into motion, and the curved decks jutting out from the building’s central, spiraling staircase give patrons unobstructed views of the breathtaking river valley below.
The award-winning restaurant serves a menu mixing traditional Ethiopian dishes and western fare, sometimes combining the two.
Rising to the challenges of running a restaurant in a place with sometimes-sketchy electricity and less than reliable refrigeration, they pride themselves on giving valuable training to their young local staff, and especially their sourcing of local ingredients.
On a short-term assignment, I spent three months living in Mullins, South Carolina, a town of population 5,000. I grew to love the small town atmosphere where people’s histories go back to the days of “my great-great-great-granddaddy.”
Amongst the many South Carolinian traditions, there are certain specialties only known to the locals.
Point in case: Gerald’s famous ‘ice cream truck,’ where during lunchtime, you can go beyond the ice cream and get your true Southern eatin’ on.
Collard greens, mac ‘n cheese, candied yams, rice, and smothered pork chops galore with a dollop of Southern charm to match.
People like Gerald make small town Mullins big in heart.
Photographer: Alice Yen Alice Yen is an undergraduate at Duke University in Durham, NC and has conducted fieldwork research in southern Africa, the United Kingdom, rural areas of the United States, and most recently, central and southern Asia.
Lombardi’s started life as a grocery but the success of its pies led to a dedicated pizzeria being opened. Photograph: AlamyElisab
There are almost 75,000 pizzerias in the United States, and the granddaddy of them all is Lombardi’s, an unassuming place opened more than a century ago at 32 Spring Street, in New York’s Little Italy.
Its coal-fired oven, installed in the early 1900s, produces a chewy, blistered crust markedly different from the moister wood-fired Neapolitan version.
For Lombardi’s signature margherita pizza ($18.50-$22.50) that base gets a simple, classic topping of tomato sauce and creamy rounds of mozzarella. Garnished with fresh basil, the pie is a refreshing throwback to the days before pizza came strewn with ingredients you couldn’t pronounce.
“Some pizzerias add five or six toppings, but this one delivers so much flavour with no nonsense,” said Scott Wiener, founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours, who includes Lombardi’s on his itineraries.
A staff member holds a margherita pizza on a tray in front of the open coal-fired oven at Lombardi’s pizzeria in New York. Photograph: Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
The brick dining room is papered with photographs of key figures in the restaurant’s history, and one adviser to the business is the grandson of founder Gennaro Lombardi, who arrived in New York from Naples in the 1890s.
As with many Italian immigrants, Lombardi opened a grocery store and sold pizza as a way to use up leftover dough and cheese.
But his pies were so sought after that he opened the country’s first restaurant dedicated entirely to pizza.According to Weiner, if you couldn’t afford a whole 5¢ pizza, the staff would cut you a slice.
Today, pizzas are only served whole (and cost more than 5¢), but in a time when trendier, food-fad pizzerias fill the surrounding blocks, Lombardi’s old-school ambience offers a nostalgic glimpse of a disappearing New York.
An ambitious hobbyist, turned accomplished baker, turned cookbook author steps into her crafting niche by creating a decadent holiday castle.
Christine McConnell, expert baker and architecture-savvy aesthete, completes a massive, intricate gingerbread house. Putting in nearly 270 hours of work spread over 20 days, as well as pounds and pounds of icing, McConnell forms an edible chef d’ oeuvre without a single cardboard support in sight.
Fine-tuned with impeccable detail and realistic, epochal design, the creation towers over typical gingerbread houses with its castle-sized proportions and dark, romantic feel.
All of the ingredients required for the artistic creation include “simple stuff you can find at any grocery store,” McConnell shares. “This project was a huge undertaking for me.
I usually try to limit projects to two weeks, but I got so excited about this that I ended up getting a little carried away.”
“I love architecture,” she continues, “always have. When I was ten years old, I had a dream about a weird house and when I woke up, I had to build it out of cardboard and whatever else I could find, so I guess I’ve been fiddling with this sort of thing for a while.
”Photographs of her edible creations are frequently complimented by the artist wearing her own glamorous fashion designs and deft photo-editing. The artist’s claim to fame bridges many talents, but she’s best known for fashioning astonishing baked goods.
Take a closer look at the gingerbread castle and small accessories, like a chocolate-peppermint reindeer cake and tiny porcupine brownies, which give the composition a new degree of artistry.
McConnell recently released a book of creepy-cute treats accompanied by recipes, entitled Deceptive Desserts.
Christine McConnell shares her recipe for creating your own gingerbread castle in Food.com’s feature of her.
These cookies are really easy to make and because there’s extra smooshing with your thumb to be done, they’re fun to get the kids involved in making too. They’re like playing with sweetly sugared play dough that you can actually eat.
The cookies are dunked into an egg white wash and then bathed in sugar. I absent mindedly forgot to dip two of the cookies into the egg wash before the sugar and figured, hey, let’s see what happens.
I’ll tell you what didn’t happen. The sugar didn’t crisp and it soaked into the cookie rather than adding the delicious crunch that perfectly contrasts the soft cookie center.
As a first time maker of the cookies, I did end up using a bit more sugar for rolling than the recipe called for so was glad I had a little extra on hand.
After the cookies were finished baking, I used a knife to gently crack off the edges of the sugared egg white that baked off of the cookie to reveal a pretty, lightly crunchy round edge.
The cream cheese filling…do I even need to say anything? It’s everyone’s favorite bite.
These cookies are great all year round and can easily be decorated for every holiday.
A simple sprinkling of peppermint candies makes them perfect for Christmas.