Xiaolumian (Little Hut Noodles) near Mutianyu Great Wall, Huairou District, Beijing

The Mutianyu Great Wall was built up by General Xuda, who served Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the early Ming Dynasty (1386-1644AD). This scenic spot is hugged by mountains and a beautiful, serene atmosphere. Stretching 20 gates over about 7KM, Mutianyu provides a moderate to hard hike which is perfect for working up an appetite for some delicious Beijing-style noodles.

Nestled in the crevice of the mountains below the Great Wall, Xiaolumian is exactly what its name says, a friendly little hut for noodles. We ordered the sampler, which is basically everything on the menu. It included 3 types of noodles (spinach, egg and flour), many kinds of meat and vegetarian sauces (bean paste with pork, sesame & peanut, mushroom, eggplant & hot peppers, egg & peppers, chicken & ginger), two kinds of dumplings (egg & chive and pork & cabbage) and a bunch of fixings and toppings.

Imperial Chinese Restaurant at Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing

Lao Sun Jia – Sun Family Restaurant in Lintong District, Xi’an Province

Lintong is a suburb of Xi’an, the small (by Chinese standard, 8M people, basically the size of New York) city that for centuries was home to many Dynasties.  Lintong is home to a large contingent of Muslim Chinese.  Lintong is also home to one of the Wonders of the World, the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperior of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty. 

The weather in Xi’an was particularly mediocre; it had been raining for 20 days straight when we got there.  So the food at the Lintong outlet of Lao Sun Jia, a small Muslim Chinese chain founded in 1898 (!!!), was particularly well suited to the crisp autumn day.   

We started with some pickeled garlic and fresh greens, served with a salty red peper sauce.  These were also to be used as a garnish for what was up next, traditional muslim chinese soup (Rou Pao Mo).  We had both the beef and vegetarian version, which had egg and tomato.  The star of this dish is the bread, which are used like noodles in the stew.  Hand formed, the custom is both unique and interesting.  Traditionally, when you order the meal you are given a large bowl and a quantity of round, flat unleavened bread (nan bread).  You break the bread into small pieces so that it can absorb the flavor of the liquid.  The stew is then added to the bowl.  The resulting taste is similar to spatzle.  And the flavors were layered, robust and delicious.

The Rou Pao Mo was accompagnied by chicken with spicy peppers.  Simple ingrediants perfectly sauteed together, this soulful dish is rich in heat and delicate in flavor.

Pepi’s Restaurant, Vail

After a long day schussing on the slopes, German food really hits the spot. And there may be no better place in North America to find a better combination of slopes and spaetzle than Pepi’s in Vail. Known for its game (in the Antler Room, no less) and it’s Apple Strudel (yes, it’s really that good), Pepi’s is not to be missed.

The Tar Pit, Los Angeles

Mark Peel’s recently opened The Tar Pit brings a healthy dose of 1940’s Los Angeles glamour to what is fast becoming one of LA’s hottest foodie destination neighborhoods. From the lush and sexy decor to the knowledgeable service to the downright delicious food and drink, Tar Pit scratches an itch that has been developing since The Brown Derby and Chasins closed for good (how long has it been since a good Steak Diane could be found in LA?). And so it was that my friend Jeff and I de camped on a Tuesday night to check out LA’s answer to NY’s 20th century american food craze (Minetta Tavern, Monkey Bar, Waverly Inn, Freeman’s Alley, Allen & Delancey, etc…).

Lazy Ox Canteen, Los Angeles

Having been shut out of the LA Street Food Fair (bad organization and two very long lines), Sasha and I, along with Anthony and Rebekah settled for a lazy lunch at the Lazy Ox Canteen.

Tacos at La Esquina, NYC

Carne Asada and Cochinita Pibil tacos