Sue Chan (@sueperchan) is the founder of New York City food-culture agency Care of Chan (@careofchan)
“When I first went to Pantelleria, I was instantly seduced by its rough beauty. Situated closer to Tunisia than to Italy, its offerings are centered around life’s basic necessities: natural wine and capers. Due to the terrain’s ideal conditions, capers grow wild all over Pantelleria. Whenever I taste one—salty, aromatic—I’m transported back to the peaceful, tranquil island and immediately feel at ease. Who knew a small berry could pack such magic and might.”
Award-winning chef and cookbook author Anissa Helou (@anissahelou) writes about the flavors of the Mediterranean and the Middle East
“I read about saffron ice cream long before I tasted it, in Margaret Shaida’s brilliant book, The Legendary Cuisine of Persia. But it wasn’t until I visited Tajrish market in Tehran that I finally tried it. The ice cream shop was small and offered simply two choices: in a cup or sandwiched between two wafers. In both versions, frozen shards of cream were mixed in with the ice cream. I tried them both and the texture was not much different from that of Arab bouza, stretchy and chewy because of the addition of salep (a thickening agent ground from dried wild orchid tubers that acts in a different way from cornflour or agar, or even eggs for that matter) while whisking the milk over the fire. The texture was familiar but the luxurious saffron flavour was new to me.
I was hooked; but it wasn’t until I got to Kashan on a subsequent trip that I found the ultimate bastani—the Iranian name for the ice cream—in a tiny shop across the street from the beautiful hotel we were staying in. It belonged to the most charmingly hospitable couple and their daughter; and their ice cream was even stretchier and chewier than the one in tajrish market, but with a softer feel, and an even more intense saffron flavour and colour. Absolutely perfect! I went there every evening and sat on a stool perched on a perilous borderless ledge, sitting at least two metres above the main road. One false move and I would have tumbled down. Still, sitting around chatting to both the owners and passers-by while letting their luxurious ice cream slowly melt in my mouth was simply delightful.
Since then, I have taken to making my own in Sicily, where I spend most of my time, using Iranian, Kashmiri or Sicilian saffron, depending on my mood, ground and infused in rose water. And every time I make a batch, I am transported back to that perilous ledge outside my favourite saffron ice cream shop in Kashan, and the lovely sound of Iranians chatting away softly while enjoying that sumptuous treat.”
Palisa Anderson (@palisaanderson), a scion of Sydney’s beloved Chat Thai Restaurant Family, owns Boon Luck Farm Organics in Byron Bay
“One bite of a perfectly tree ripened White Adriatic or a Blue Celeste fig replete with stretch marks sends me immediately to my shady fruit forest orchard on Boon Luck Farm Organics in Byron Bay—my idea of heaven. The perfect fig is elusive, ethereal and so fleeting.
The thing to know about Byron Bay, that magical unicorn of a place, is that geographically it lies on the coast in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard of Australia and as such it possesses a unique microclimate, not dissimilar to that of Hawaii. Running alongside the pristine beaches lies a chain of dormant volcanic mountains. Historically it has always been a sacred bread-basket place for the Indigenous community, and more recently it has attracted an eclectic bunch of denizens from all around the world to its shores and into its hinterland. I am one such local tourist (as we are still termed, despite domiciling there; you are not a Byron local until you have proven your muster and lived there for 30 years at least).
The soil, if looked after well, is some of the best in the world. Why is soil important? Because the produce of this area truly stands out from anywhere I have travelled, hence we have attracted incredible culinary talent who choose to live and cook there. The figs that my neighbour John and I grow taste of the sun—deep minerally flavours of the basalt base earth, the sweetness of the sea breeze and the magnificence of eating something that you can only experience by being there in that moment, in that mystical place.”
London’s Host With The Most, Jeremy Lee (@jeremyleeqv) is Head Chef of Quo Vadis (@quovadissoho)
“I grew up outside Dundee, nearby to The Vale of Strathmore and The Carse of Gowrie, home to the great fruit-growing farms of Angus. Our house is in a small village on a road that rises gently towards the Sidlaw Hills and when I was a child, those slopes were covered in raspberry fields. They seemed to stretch endlessly, reaching as far inland as Blairgowrie, the ancient capital of Angus. Such was the fame and hunger for these raspberries that, in times past, a train waited at Cupar every day to take the vast harvest to Covent Garden Market overnight, and on to the markets of Europe.
The raspberries scented our summers. The children of Dundee were ferried out in a madcap collection of old buses and coaches to pick from morning til night, filling myriad punnets that were laid carefully in trays that were loaded on trucks destined for the station at the end of the day. I can smell those berries still, the perfume carried on the wind blowing in from the North Sea. The glory days of the great harvests are a distant memory, but there are farms still with berries aplenty.
Mum would often visit Mr. Arbuckle’s farm, reckoned to be the best. Once home with a tray of berries in neat rows of punnets, Mum would reach for the jam pan and set to with making the loveliest, brightest preserves. The scent of them bubbling away on the cooker fuelled an appetite that has never dimmed. Just the sight of those small green cardboard punnets awakes the memory of the scent of berries that never saw the inside of refrigerator.
My grandmother often stayed with us through our childhood; as a treat, she would fry the smallest pancakes, the pan lightly rubbed with lard to ensure the most delicate crisp shell holding within the lightest cloud. We would pop a nut of butter atop and add a teaspoon of raspberry jam that ran off the pancake so fast we scoffed them, dripping, in a trice, the house filled with the aroma of baking and newly-made raspberry jam. It is a scent I cherish, and one that I eagerly await every year as summertime beckons.”
Enrique Olvera (@enriqueolveraf) is the Head Chef and Owner of Mexico City’s Pujol (@pujolrestaurant) and of Cosme (@cosmenyc) and ATLA (@atlanyc) in New York City
“Chicatana’s taste reminds me of a specific place and time of the year: Oaxaca, at the beginning of the rainy season. It is the moment when thousands of chicatana ants fly away from the anthill; they literally rain in the early morning.
They are also part a personal memory, which is of a trip through the Oaxaca mountains, when I tasted them for the first time. It was a revolution in my palate— and of course it was not just the discovery of a new ingredient, but also the door to hundreds of possibilities. To me, they relate to luxury because of their rarity and uniqueness.”
The PRIOR editorial team, overseen by David Prior, works together to write and produce stories that inspire curiosity about, and the desire to connect to, places and people across the world.