I've been to the States for a couple of working visits recently, and although neither visit was very long, I spent my time profitably: that's to say, I concentrated on the food. Luckily, I've got a proper visa now - rather comically describing me as an Alien of Unique Worth or somesuch nonsense - but I've often found it hard to explain what I'm doing to the customs officials. The difficulty is it's not exactly business - generally just a bit of promo - but nor is it, strictly speaking, a holiday. In the end, I report honestly that whether my visit is predominantly work or pleasure, the real truth is, I go to America to eat. So, I feel I should report some of the highlights.
When in Las Vegas (and, no, I didn't fall victim to the gambling bug) I managed to find quite the most fabulous fried chicken. I was there to film an episode as a guest judge on Top Chef, so obviously I wasn't going to go hungry. And while I know that Vegas is stuffed with some of the world's best restaurants, it's never the upper echelons of cuisine that I want to investigate. Luckily, while I was having a massage (I had a couple of hours off and thought I'd try it, although usually it's not really my kind of thing) I interrogated Dawn the massage supremo at the M Resort about where best to eat real food. She told me about a hole-in-the-wall place called Cathy's Southern Fried Chicken and I followed her lead and was gratifyingly rewarded.
More recently, on a pit-stop tour in New York, I tried out some of the new buzzy places, the kind of see-and-be-seen restaurants that the city specialises in: to whit, the Minetta Tavern (and can reliably report that the marrow bones, the pig's trotter and the steak are utterly incredible, and I salivate as I remember them) and The Monkey Bar, a new joint that has become so ridiculously hot that you apparently can't even phone to make a reservation any more. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Luckily, I was with someone who has the sort of sway to get a table, and I had, quite frankly, the best hamburger of my life.
The funny thing is, a hamburger is so simple and yet is so hard to get right. Although I do make them at home sometimes, I have to be honest and say that they are not as good, not nearly as good, as the one I chowed down in New York recently. Luckily, the recipes all of you are loading up on this site are for the sort of food that really works at home, and for that I am greedily grateful!