Food


The napkin.

I had lunch at a tiny little restaurant just steps from my hotel in Paris. It was called Le Timbre.

Only 11 tables. A lovely young woman and her husband own the restaurant — it has been open for about five years. He’s the Chef. From my observation, she managed the restaurant.

Husband and wife were both stylish, handsome, and in total synch in presenting their food. I was quite taken by them and their little restaurant.

It took me several days to get a seat because they were always booked. I finally scored a reservation for lunch on Saturday. The menu was transcendent. As was the food.

First though – there was this evocative moment. The napkin ring.

It immediately transported me to the VSOE. Oh, that it were one of those Harry Potter portkeys and could have literally transported me to the Orient Express. At dinner, the cameriere would play this game. He would hold the ring and have me pull out the napkin. Lovely evocative memory.

Anyway – back to my lunch at Le Timbre.

I picked the mini prix-fixe: starter and main.

White Tuna and Watermelon

Great starter. Cubes of white tuna lightly marinated with equal size cubes of watermelon. The dressing was green, had a slight kick to it: composed of parsley, chervil, coriander, lemon and some of its zest, and olive oil. The “kick” might have been a little touch of chile though it was not hot. It was fabulous.

Red Snapper with Braised Baby Leeks

The snapper was perfectly seared. Served on braised leeks. The golden rectangle of potato was crispy on top with layers and layers of deliciousness below. The purée on the plate was celery root.

Chef did something quite interesting with the dish. The spices were lightly sprinkled in discreet sections. A few sprigs of thyme about 3 o’clock. Some ground cumin with a couple of seeds at 10. Thin thin thin slices of pork belly laid on top of the leeks. There was one shallot in the dish that added another level of flavor. And a few nicoise olives were scattered about.

If in Paris and you get a chance – make a reservation at Le Timbre. It’s on the tiny little Rue Sainte-Beuve.

First night in Paris at the Quartiere Vavni in Arrondissement 6.

I’ve got a bad case of VSOE withdrawal. Going from complete service on the Orient Express to fending for myself in Paris.

As it happened, I found myself at a cafe on a corner in Luxembourg for some epic people watching.

A couple in their late thirties. Both professionals. He arrived at the table first, ordered himself a glass of rosé and lit up a cigarette. 15 minutes later, a chic looking woman joined him. He then ordered a carafe of rosé and a little glass bucket with ice. She is talking – French – sounds like she had a bad day. Oh but wait – they’re flirting. I think they’ve just started dating. Why? Because he’s actually listening to her.

Unless that’s what French men do.

Behind me – I haven’t stared yet, give me a second. It’s two men in their twenties who are working in fashion. Bitching about being assistants to someone who doesn’t appreciate them. Beautiful. African I think. They seem to be a couple. With them an Asian woman who they chided should order in English if she wanted to. Odd, I thought. But, she did.

All the while I am luxuriating in sloppily eating Petites Sardines á l’huile d’Olive. Slathering the butter that came with my order on what to them is probably some mundane bread (and to me is a little piece of heaven).

Digging the little Basque fish out of the can – and strategically laying it over the buttered bread. Squeezing some lemon and trying to maneuver it into my mouth without oil dripping down the corner of my mouth and onto my chin.

Not sure I succeeded, but man it was soooo good!!

Ha! The waiter just came and took all the goodies away. No “are you finished, Madam.” By that point I had progressed to squeezing the lemon into the oil left in the can with tiny bits of fish. And just dipping the bread into it. I guess I’m done.

Over my left shoulder – as I discreetly tried to take on the scene – sits a bohemian looking woman with white hair. She was nursing her one cup of coffee and madly scribbling away on a small pad. She seems oblivious to the “scene” around her.

Oh did I mention – everyone’s smoking.

A superb perch for people watching. An elderly couple crossing the street – he has a cane – she a baquette.

A woman sitting at a table with her two dogs. I suspect this is HER table. She was sitting in an alleyway that had bins of books, a restaurant and a theatre. At least one was a stage theatre – I might go see their Macbeth (The Notes) just for the experience. And though I didn’t see where the movie theatre was located – I did see posters for movies.

Earlier, I saw a Parisian woman confident and striding across the street. She was sporting the quintessential Breton-striped shirt. She was tastefully braless, and wearing baggy denims that had a high hem. And unpretentiously and unconsciously stylish.

Welcome to Paris.

Ohhhh! THAT is how you get a whole-grain roll.

My time in Vienna is drawing to a close – and I have finally learned the proper way of getting whole wheat bread on the table.

Ask for BLACK bread!!

I’d had no luck with asking for “whole wheat” “organic” “brown” or even “dark”. At breakfast – fewer than 48 hours from my departure, I saw a man eating the roll that I wanted.

Kornspitz at the Cafe Eiles

It is apparently called a Kornspitz. I did what we uninformed often do: I pointed to it and asked the waiter “What is that, please? Bitte. I want one of those, please. How do I order it, please?”

Black bread.

Now you know.

Vienna, Day Three

I ventured out to spend the morning at the Imperial Apartments. Afterwards, I walked about 15 minutes away to the Naschmarkt. Rick Steves calls it the “nibbles” market. In all due respect Rick — it’s NOSH market.

Think Pike Place Market. Only bigger. And more exotic.

I had lunch at an Israeli joint called Neni. Figured I should give THEIR hummus a try. Pretty damn awesome. Maybe on par with mine. Okay, I just took another taste: as good as mine. Just different.

I suspect they don’t use olive oil, garlic or lemon. That is likely the proper way to make it.

But it was the visit to a stand of Mideast goods. I am guessing Turkish but maybe not. Spices. Teas. And, some unusual nuts and snacks. I asked for a little bit — A LITTLE BIT!! – of the cashews banana — seemed to be cashews glazed with some sort of caramelized banana treatment.

Same with these Wasabinuss. That is probably translated as Wasabi nuts though they are not strictly nuts. More like a crunchy carb thing surrounding probably a peanut. “A little bit,” I pleaded. I repeated.

The sack of wasabinuss must weigh a pound.

When I spotted the walnut-stuffed dates, I specifically said – and signaled: 3 – that’s three – 3 dates!

Three became six.

I am pretty sure the word “sucker” was tattooed on my forehead. However – don’t misunderstand. I. Am. Delighted with the snacks. But this guy was playing me like a dope. At the very least, I wanted him to know that I knew that he was scamming me.

Coulda been worse: it could’ve been a pickpocket. At least I ended up with nuts in bags in a bag.

I have this thing where I romanticize the “different tastes” from other countries when I travel. Whether it be “eggs” in every Dutch dish I ate when I first visited in the 90’s.

Or the “acqua con gas” I drank in Rome from a company called Claudius. It was my go-to bottled water. Likely because I imagined it was drawn from the ancient wells of “I, C-C-Claudius”.

My first night in Vienna this summer of 2019, I ate at a Greek restaurant. The meal was fabulous. Beef tasted like real beef. Tomatoes: real (you get the picture).

The water was labeled “prickelnd“.

Though I’d never seen the word before, I could divine the water was sparkling.

Onomatopoetic.

I had this view that the water was naturally extracted from some bubbling spring in the Vienna Woods NOT that it was a bloody Coca Cola product. I mean, where’s the romance in that? I bet those bubbles aren’t even natural.

Bastards.

And corn and zucchini and Kirby cukes and tomatoes and melon and blueberries.

Ahhhh – summer fruits!!

It is my tradition to share my list of foods from the Fair: what I ate and at the very least: my favorite “new” Fair Food. From the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Without further ado:

Favorite: The First Kiss®. The most delicious, juicy, and unforgettable APPLE. Yes – a fruit.

Then – what else?

  • Frozen key lime pie on a stick
  • Pronto Pup
  • Smoked ice cream with bourbon cherries
  • Sausage medley
  • Wood-grilled elote (Mexican corn on the cob)
  • Mojito beergarita
  • Flight of dark beer
  • Apple!!!
  • Blueberry rhubarb cobbler with corn meal polenta and yogurt
  • Minneapple pie with vanilla ice cream
  • Minnepumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream
  • Walleye Cakes
  • Turducken sausage on a bun

Fair Husband and I at the Fair

The annual event of pigs, crop art and food-on-a-stick calls me once again.  It was a remarkable day of endless walking, sights and sounds as only a fair delivers (particularly redolent as experienced from the Sky Ride overhead), and two highlights in particular (food to come in a moment).

Raptor Show: a little bit of environmental awareness, falconry and, yes, even patriotism.  An hour at the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) building watching up close, owls, hawks, falcons and the grand finale: the American Bald Eagle (nice way to stir up the emotions and get the crowd to donate to the predator bird demonstration).  Which I gladly did.  It was wonderful.

Miracle 0f Birth Center: as it sounds.  A building dedicated to the actual births of farm animals: from rabbits to pigs to cows, goats, and other ruminants.  Pretty much every year, by the time my fair buddy Steve (see above: Paul Bunyan) arrive at the pavilion, we have missed the LIVE births, left to just watch the videotape version of the ‘miracle of birth.’  I thought there would be a repeat of that this year, when I spotted 30-minute old piglets (‘oh, you just missed it!).  Until we saw the crowds gathering five deep around the cow pen.

We watched a calf born.  Cow in labor (and eating while doing it, btw) – baby dropped to the hay.  While little children and families and young couples and urban folks, too – all gathered around to watch this Miracle of Birth.  It was — don’t use this word lightly — awesome.

After that, we wandered to take in the rest of the fair and check off some items from the “new foods” list.

So — drum roll please: here is what we ate on the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair (not necessarily in order – the carbs killed some brain cells along the way, methinks).

FOODS I ATE AT THE FAIR

  • Slow-Roasted Pork Mole Tamale
  • Ear of roasted corn
  • Bowl O’ Dough
  • Chicago mix of popcorn: kettle, cheese, caramel
  • Pronto Pup ®
  • Honey Vanilla Bean Swirl Ice Cream
  • Beer
  • Vanilla Milkshake
  • Land o’ Lakes Cheese sample
  • Brown Ale and Onion-Gouda Tipsy Pie
  • Walleye Cakes
  • Duck Bacon Wontons

My goodness, I must be slipping — is that really ALL we ate at the fair?  There could be some updates to come, once the carbohydrate hangover passes.

 

Now this is a rare experience. I shall travel in the height of summer heat: to two nations I’ve not visited: Hungary (Budapest) and Austria (Vienna – and its Woods). 

Even rarer, I have no clue what I will be eating. Other than paprika, coffee, and a Sacher Torte. 

Let us go on this journey of culinary discovery together, shall we?

Now, I guess I should pack. 

You would have expected the Romans to spend their Buona Pasqua at home, eating chocolate and Easter bread, and roasting lamb for dinner. After attending morning mass at one of the 900+ churches in la bella città. 

Well –

Certainly that is a bit of a cliche, but I did think I would find few establishments open – and rather empty streets.  Not so.  It was a stunning sunny day – in the 70’s – and thousands of people, Italians – not just tourists – were out and about. In the historic center anyway. 

But I thought this scene on a small side street of the Monti neighborhood was rather touching.  A family held their Easter dinner outside on a wooden table – here just a few members of their group were wrapping up their meal. 

Carina. Sweet. 

So, I set out for a lake adventure on this sunny Spring day in Italy – getting an “open ticket” on the ferry, allowing me to stop in one of six towns on Lake Como, including Bellagio. 

I realize once I am on the boat that wherever I start – I would have about a two-hour wait until the next ferry departure because it was lunchtime. That’s okay – I am going to need something to eat anyway. 

I make my first visit at Lenno – walk along the waterfront. See a few tourist places – and head up the hill to find the center (il centro) of the tiny little town. And a restaurant not for tourists – which, of course, I don’t regard myself as — but a place to eat for the townsfolk. 

I stop at a post office and buy some stamps (francobolli) for my postcards (cartoline). I ask the dude behind the counter – in Italian (of course: hey, I’m no stinkin’ tourist!!!) (which is ridiculous because I am. But I digress). 

Where can I find a restaurant, I inquire. Oh, we have hundreds of restaurants, tanti (many). 10 kilometri. 

I know enough to know I am not walking 10 kilometers to find a non-tourist restaurant. Pizza would be fine. At this point. Tic toc – lunchtime is almost over. My ferry departure is closer. AND I needed a toilette!

I return to the restaurant I’d  rejected. Order a nice salad and a glass of vino bianco and ask the waitress. Scusi. Dov’è il centro?  Oh madame, she answers: here! This is il centro!!

Ha! Serves me right. 

Lunch was perfect, by the way. 

It comes to the table – steam, redolent of garlic, warmly wafting from the plate. 

A mosaic of buckwheat pasta, melted cheese and green vegetables.  Where to start?  With a bite of potato? Or some kind of perfectly cooked green vegetable: the leaf of a romanesco cauliflower, a slice of – I don’t know – perhaps fennel. Subtle little greens – maybe broccoli – maybe spring vegetables. 

And that pasta! Humor me as I wax poetic over this pasto di pasta. A thick, not wide, noodle – with that hearty bite of buckwheat, delicately covered with sauce. 

It may triumph over Cacio e Pepe.

Maybe.  I haven’t spent any real time in Roma, yet. 

My very first pizzocchere. Accent on the second syllable: pea-ZOCK-uhree. 

Oh – did I mention dessert: la meringa con fragole?
Soft and crunchy. Meringue. With strawberry sauce and a kinda squishy, gelato-like layer. 

Burp!

Janet Eats, indeed. Better head out for una passeggiata up and down those steep and narrow hilly streets called contrada.

Minnesota State Fair 2016

Every year, my trek to the Great Minnesota Get-Together is both the same.  And, absolutely different than years past.  But, always, consistently, fun and memorable.

Steve & I at the Fair

I always go to Day One of the Fair in Saint Paul with my “fair husband” Steve. We are particularly compatible as a fair couple because we like the same things, yes, but are also open to the choices of the other person. Plus, we share the food.

iron range meat

Iron Range Meat & Potatoes

So without further ado (because I know you are dying to find out) here is what we ate at the Fair:

  • Iron Range Meat & Potatoes
  • Pronto Pup®
  • Honey Sunflower Ice Cream, Honey Lemonade, Honey Lemon Sorbet (can you tell I am a big fan of the honey wing of the Horticulture Building)
  • waffle fries
  • birch beer
  • vanilla milkshake (only 2 spoonfuls; too creamy. Me, I like icey shakes)
  • blue cheese & corn fritz
  • candied bacon donut sliders
  • cup of coffee, flight of dark beer, Clown Shoes chocolate porter, lots of water
  • roasted corn
  • cinnamon banana dark chocolate Jonny Pop.

For more pictures and narrative, I invite you to check me out on Instagram @nyproducer

 

 

This little apple faces extinction in Bagnacavallo – the small Italian town not far from Bologna. It is called a Florina. It tastes like the essence of appleness: crisp when bitten, juicy but not slurpy, the perfect combination of sweet/tart. Like an apple, only better. 

I met Florina while visiting the home of Anna Tazzari – the creator of Signora Maria. Her husband Massimo explained to me that you could not buy this apple in a store – you could only pick it off a tree or buy it at a farm stand. 

Sad, this little Florina – I hope she makes it in the world of Honeycrisps. 

October, 2015: my annual voyage to Italy.

I visited my cugini in Bologna. I really love to spend time with cugina (Italo-Americano) Paul, his beautiful Italian wife Laura, and one of their daughters: the adorable Michelle. The other daughter, Alessandra, is in California right now – attending high school in the Bay Area.

Bologna is, as I mentioned in a prior post, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Pretty much when you think of Italian food, you are really thinking of food from this region: prosciutto, lasagna, tortellini, ragu, etc.

Food in Italy — as in many countries, even the USA — is regional. On this trip, I discovered many foods that, for the most part, haven’t “travelled” to American tables. Like:

Tigella – you can read about these little discs of breadliness in my post – Tigella Paradiso

Garganelli – a quill-shaped egg pasta served in brodo or with ragu. Maybe I have seen this pasta shape before, but I don’t remember. It is the pasta being held in the left hand of my new “friend” from Bagnocavallo:  Signora Maria.

You can read all about my adventures with Sig. Maria on my sister blog, rulingwoman.com. In short, I learned to make this pasta and fully intend to do so when I return to America. 

Giuggiole (JEW-joh-lay) is this fruit that grows on trees around Bologna.  

It looks like a nut. When you bite into it, it has a crunch and taste like an apple, with a pit.  Beautiful. I’d like a sweater in the colors of the giuggiole.  And, finally

Passatelli in brodo. Very VERY regional. My cugini and I went to a restaurant on my last night in Bologna. When the waitress spieled off the dishes for the night, she mentioned Passatelli. My cugina, Laura, was delighted when she heard that, and immediately ordered it. “What is it,” I entreated.  It is a “pasta” made out of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, eggs, lemon and nutmeg that is pushed through a press with holes (extruded almost like spaetzle though not quite). Passare –  passed through. Dropped into a rich, steaming-hot broth. The waitress ladled this brothy, cheesy, doughy bit of wonderfulness into our bowls. Yep, I slurped it right up, I’m sure of it! Luckily, I didn’t have my phone with me, so nothing could stop me from diving right into this sensuous repast. 

In the midst of a vacation filled with (albeit delicious) street and restaurant meals, it is a delight here in Italia to have a good ol’ home-cooked dinner. 

Dinner with the the cugini in Bologna. With typical Emilia-Romagna foods. 

At the bottom – un “panino” of prosciutto and mortadella on a handmade tigella. The tigella (seen in the basket) is yeasty dough placed in a tigelliera — a cooking vessel with two plates of six circles each.  You heat like a grill.  Put a circle of dough in each circle – and press together. Cook, then flip.  Then toss into a basket. Kind of pita meets crumpet. 

Split then fill. Funny, isn’t it, how every ethnic group has some kind of filled bread food. Pita. Taco. Dumpling. 

On the table: carciofi, prosciutto cotto, squacquerone, funghi rustici, salumi culatello, rucola. 

Squisito!

 

There are two products on the market that have been bugging me — so I gotta get this off my chest. 

A diet drink called “Diet Cane Sugar Soda” and an iced confection called “Greek Frozen Yogurt.”  Really?!

This’ll be brief. Cane sugar is, well, sugar!  Diet sodas use artificial sweeteners. Maybe the cane sugar is buried in the “natural flavors” though that doesn’t seem plausible for a drink that labels itself as cane sugar. And while we’re at it, what ARE natural flavors?

Now to Greek Frozen Yogurt. Greek yogurt is a texture — made by straining yogurt and removing the whey until you get that nice, creamy consistency. Hey, I’m not trashing greek yogurt – it is a staple in my diet. But, when you add it into the other ingredients and toss it into your industrial ice cream maker, isn’t it really just fro-yo in a pretty (that is: marketing) dress?

Just sayin’


 

Huh?

I figured out the perfect method for drying out my curly kale to make Kale Chips: the ShamWow® I purchased at the Minnesota State Fair. That ubiquitous dry-em towel takes the water and moisture right out of the freshly washed kale like nothing else. 

And, if you’re looking for the best recipe to make your Kale Chips, look no farther than Melissa Clark’s how-to video from the New York Times.

Marriage made in heaven – Kale in need of a good drying. And, my ShamWow!

 
Kale_Chips.JPG

BLUE CHEESE AND CORN FRITZ!

Corn Fritter at the MN State Fair (Photo: foodbeast.com)

Walleye Roll move over! There’s a new fave food in town. You are looking at the Blue Corn and Cheese Fritz. It is a top-notch combination of tender corn fritter with the perfect choice of blue cheese for the fair crowd (Gorgonzola) speckled with succulent kernels of good ol’ Minnesota corn. With a side of chimichurri sauce that condimented the crispy, deep-fried but not greasy, balls of wonderfulness perfectly.

If you have the good fortune of being close to St. Paul and could go to the Minnesota State Fair, you can get these little paragons of deliciosity at the Blue Barn food stand in the newly completed West End Market.

Good appetite.

Citarella Vegetable Salad

Fruits and veggies in Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Brussels were good. But, I missed my salad!!

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