Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food.
(Travel + Leisure) - If you’ve eaten at a neighborhood Thai restaurant, you’re likely familiar with pick-your-protein Technicolor curries. Odds are you’ve tried papaya salad, spring rolls, and pad thai improbably made with ketchup and maybe even peanut butter.
While many ethnic cuisines are domesticated to Western palates, Thai food may be the most bastardized in America. “We have the same basic Thai dishes over and over again, many of which have nothing to do with Thailand,” says Andy Ricker, the James Beard Award–winning chef behind the bicoastal restaurant empire Pok Pok, known for authentic dishes like charcoal-roasted hen with lemongrass and tamarind.
But for as many sugarcoated Thai restaurants operating in the U.S., there’s an appreciable number of spots doing it right—especially in immigrant-heavy cities like Houston, where Asia Market encourages diners to personally adjust their dishes with condiments like pickled peppers, fish sauce, and chili sauce (nam prik). L.A., meanwhile, supports both NIGHT + MARKET, which puts a hipster spin on Thai street food, and Thai Town’s Jitlada, where chef Tui Sungkamee makes traditional fiery southern dishes.
“Thai is not a monolithic culture and, as such, not a monolithic cuisine,” explains Ricker. “It varies vastly from region to region and even from house to house.”
Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
The United States is currently divided into two parts: Those who care desperately about the World Cup and are devoting the next few weeks to watching all 62 games. And those who will steadfastly ignore any and all World Cup coverage.
Like most of the rest of the world, I am in the former group. (USA! USA!! USA!!! Also Spain, France and Brazil.) Here are 10 great places to catch as many games as possible, score some good food and find some other distractions, if you’re not glued to the screen at all times.
Can a person learn the art of hospitality?
That’s the question the organizers of the first Welcome Conference want to pose to participants both within and outside the restaurant industry. This sold-out, service-focused event will be held in New York City on June 17, and the team behind it hopes their message will spread.
“Service is black and white, hospitality is color,” says Will Guidara, one of the organizers. He’s the co-owner and restaurateur of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York; the former most recently earned the No. 4 spot on San Pellegrino’s notably buzzworthy World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
What he’s talking about is the somewhat recent trend of restaurants extending beyond traditional service and taking extra measures - like Googling guests or handling special occasions - to make their diners feel like active and unique participants in their own experience.