Travel


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.

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. 

So busy going to the Minnesota State Fair, I have little time to chronicle my adventures, but follows is a quickie list of foods I have eaten — probably not in order, because I’m still digesting. Haha. Get it!?!?

* Honey sunflower ice cream plus multi-spoonfuls of honey tastings 
* Corn on the cob
* Sausage sampler from Cynthia’s Sausage booth of Irish sausage, wild rice with jalapeño and cheese sausage, Swedish sausage speckled with potato bits. Served in a paper tray with sauerkraut 
* Nibble of bison hotdog – Chicago style – which, btw, I don’t get. Why junk up a perfectly good hotdog with all those condiments? Makes no sense to me, but then I’m not a fan of Chicago
* Two sips of a craft beer (with a touch of cardamom) from my friend’s flight of MN beers
* Vanilla milkshake from the Moo Bar outside the Cattle Barn
* Turkey-to-Go. How good can a turkey sandwich be? Come to the fair and find out. It’s near the Poultry Barn. 
* Walleye Roll (think lobster roll – but with flaked walleye: a Minnesota-based perch, wild rice! celery and lightly mayoed on a thick slab of open-faced bread touched with butter). This might be my FAVORITE dish at the fair!
* Walleye cakes (like crab cake only with walleye and a tad bit of smoked salmon). Yum!
* Pronto Pup®
* Cup of coffee
* Deep-Fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream
 

Minni Pumpkin Pie

 

One of my favorite dishes to seek out when traveling is rabbit cooked in almost any style. Coniglio in Italy. Lapin in France, or as it turns out, in Belgium. 

This is the dish I ordered in this hip little restaurant in Brussels. In English – the joint was called “Greedy Glutton.”  There were some Americans or Brits in the room, but there were as many (if not more) locals at the tables 
 
I ordered this Lapin, a saddle of rabbit, cooked in a type of Belgian Lambic called Geuze. Served with frites, of course. On the side: a simple, perfectly-dressed green salad. To drink: a flavorful blonde Belgian beer.  

Our waiter was an eccentric-looking man. Picture an Ichabod Crane dandy with high waist pants held up by a belt that hitched up the back loop. He was laconic. And possessed just enough English to take our order, and display a wry sense of humor. I asked him if a particular lambic/beer beverage was good. He wrinkled his fringe- covered brow, paused, then answered ‘well, it’s okay.’  

He almost grimaced when my table mates ordered soup and fries. “As you like…” He muttered. With a slight smile on his face. 

It was fun. And, oh so good. 

Hippety. Hoppety. Then on to the chocolate shops. 
 

Ain’t no doubt about it, I hit the best. The BEST, the veritable mother lode of awkward English menus – at a great restaurant in Prague. 

 There were special categories on the menu for “FEEDERS” – which, after we grilled the waiter (or barbecued him, as one of our guest speakers said this week) – we are pretty sure really meant “foodies.”
 
But this was my favorite on that multi-lingual ode to gastronomy. 
 
Now doesn’t that just sound delicious? Spicy sausage of the chef. Yum. Yum. 
 
 
 

When I found myself alone (got disconnected from my peeps after looking for a cash machine – more on this misadventure on Ruling Woman) — I went looking to get me some Czech food. 

I ended up at a little off-the-path (but not too much, had to get back to the hotel to meet the group – and I didn’t want to get lost again. It was bad enough I got split from my group). And ordered a potato soup that the menu described “in bread”. No suspense — you can see the picture. But I thought it was a mistranslation – and I think the waiter was laughing under his breath when I asked for bread on the side. You know, thereto.  (see fish note)

I am told it is rather typical Bohemian. And it. Was. Delicious. Just what I wanted. 

When the Italians immigrated to Germany, yes, of course they brought their pasta. And, their gelato. But then they took it one step farther. 

 

Meet “Spaghetti Eis.” This dessert (which I bought in Dresden, but is apparently ubiquitous in Germany) is ice cream extruded through a noodle maker – to look like spaghetti. 

The Eis is piled over a mound of whipped cream — which I suspect was pre-frozen — and topped with sauces and crumbles and shreds that make it look like a real spaghetti dish. “Marinara” is usually strawberry (tomato sauce) with shredded white chocolate (Parmesan).  

 I picked “Spaghetti Carbonara” – which was covered in a vanilla sauce with walnuts, hazelnuts and amaretto cookies. 

Sounds a little weird. Tastes a lotta delicious. 

Three Eis Later




We are on the road — in our Mercedes-Benz bus, Abba and Beatles and the Who playing in the background — having left Berlin, now heading to Dresden. 

I am sad to see the Berlin leg of our visit end. Several of the other journalists will be returning — many of us not. 

I’m having my lunch on the bus right now – made from our hotel breakfast buffet. Cheese with little salami bits and another slice of stinky cheese. Bottled water. And a few crudités. All wrapped in plastic bags from our hotel bathrooms. 

I do have to laugh — one morning someone in our group said they were “sick of the bread.”

Really?!? They have the most incredible bread here. From hearty wheat to even sliced white. How can you get sick of this bread? I am reminded of people I knew back when I was in high school who, for one reason or the other, had the opportunity to travel to Europe (much rarer in those days of Pan Am and TWA). And they would come back 10 pounds heavier because of “all that bread!”  I understand. 

More coming for Dresden, I’m sure. More news. But also (hopefully) more bread. 

Pretty much you cannot go to Berlin without getting a curry-wurst — even better with frites. My first trip here in 2013, I went to one of those simple street stalls near Checkpoint Charlie, and had my first curry-wurst experience.

This trip — while visiting the studio of the artist who first devised the idea of making one very large section of the Berlin wall, a “canvas” for 180 artists (called the East Side Gallery) — our group leader pointed out Curry 36 — allegedly (one of) the most popular curry-wurst joints in town.

So – this is what it is:

Big ol’ bratwurst, cut into small rings, sprinkled with some kind of curry powder-salt mix, topped with a high quality ketchup. Served with a tiny red plastic fork, the likes of which I would love to have the patent on those perfect little plastic tined instruments. 

You can order the wurst with or without the casing. Mit darm means with the casing. With or without French fries (“frites“) plain or with ketchup or with mayo. All, some, none. 

OH

MY 

GOD


I’ve written about foreign translations of food before – like the “fantasy of artichokes” in Sicily. But — as I sit waiting – in the charming outdoor alley of Brauhaus Lemke — for what was described to me by a colleague as “the best spaetzle in Berlin” — I notice on the German language menu (in other words: not translated) under the Schwein category – a dish called Steak “Western Art”.

But we’ll have to leave this pondering for later because OMG — the best spaetzle in Berlin was just delivered to my table. Served in a hot shallow pan, the most delicate noodles in a light cream sauce, with peppers (red, green and yellow), scallions, onions, and leeks (white and green parts) – topped with a julienne of salty, crisped ham and melted cheese. 

So incredible that even the rat that ran by several tables away didn’t spoil the mood. 


 

In these days of global cuisine, food shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. So when I ordered a seasonal salad at my Berlin hotel with “fried” monkfish, bacon and shiitake mushrooms, I figured I knew what I was getting. 

Not. 

The vinagrette was berry-based, yes — except it was elderberry. The “fried” fish was lightly sautéed and tender: we’re not talking fish fry here!

The bacon was not “his first name is O-S-C-A-R” — if you get my drift. The shiitakes were soft to the tooth, not reconstituted and chewy. And the seasonal greens were heavy with the red of radicchio, though absolutely not bitter. 

Even the vinagrette receptacle was slightly altered: square with a delicate little spout at the corner.

Ah, yes. It is, indeed, the little things.  

20130929-173537.jpgEvery night I walk through Saint Mark’s Square in Venice — because it is my landmark compass to get myself to my hotel. And, it’s the same thing.

The piazza is filled with Bangladeshi vendors: selling dying roses, those squishy gel animals, and these contraptions that soar up high, dotting the sky with ghastly neon green light.

I wonder to myself if centuries ago there were immigrants in the Piazza San Marco selling stupid trinkets.

Were there Renaissance versions of drunken American students singing college beer ditties?

Did fellow travellers think to themselves “stupid tourists!”?

A simple post about a simple observation of a simple snack: the egg.

After a long day at the Giardini portion of the Venice Biennale (think the MN State Fair of art, albeit the nominally best art in the world) — and a long vaporetto ride going nowhere (at least I had no other goal in mind than to spend some time on a boat in the Venetian lagoon) — I decided, what the heck, I’d head back to the hotel and rest a bit.

Oh wait, gotta stop writing for a second, must be on the hour because the bells are ringing all over the island: my god that’s beautiful.

Here’s a picture from my room while we wait:

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Okay, where was I? Ah yes, the incredible, edible egg. I stopped to get a caffè and some water. No, I answered, I did not want a cicchetto. And then I saw it! A small plate holding little halves of hard boiled egg. Yolks deep golden and all glistening with the sheen of smoky green olive oil.

Oh, I answered, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have that!! €0,50 for each mezzo uova. When they say, it was the ambrosia of the Gods, I think I just discovered on that little cobblestoned Venetian street what they’ve been talking about. It was that egg.

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Sing it with me now:
You say chee-ketty, and I say key-chetty.
Chee-ketty. Key-chetty.
Let’s call the whole thing off!

There are these Venetian bar snacks, something Venetians pride themselves on — and many of us just stumble upon, called the Cicchetti. They are properly called chee-ketty — don’t embarrass yourself and pronounce it like we would. ‘Cause frankly it feels sometimes that the Venetians just tolerate us. Grudgingly. The way I guess those of who work around Rock Center feel about tourists during the f’ing tree season. Yes, that is what we call it: the f’ing tree. Not sure who I’m cleaning this up for, but I feel compelled.

As usual, I digress.

I was the Cicchetto of some voracious kick-ass mosquitoes my first night in Venice, so I didn’t get much sleep. And once I did, I slept past breakfast time at the hotel. By the time I got moving, it was noon. A tiny bit too early for proper lunch (well, probably not, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it) and way too late for breakfast.

I went on an errand to pick up a fan to fight the skeeters. Got the last ventilatore at the Venetian hardware store (totally COOL) experience — and on the way back to the hotel, grabbed a couple of dates from the miniature “farmers market” near my hotel. Two succulent dates and a handful of filberts I’d bought at the market in Rome later — I headed out for my first full day of art and magic. Even a trip across the Grand canal on a traghetto. The poor man’s gondola. 2€ (€0,70 for locals) and you are propelled across the water while standing.

20130926-234815.jpgI highly recommend it!

I set out to seek the best cicchetti I could find for my meals on this (again) bella giornata — beautiful day. This was not some food-on-a-stick affair although I did approach it with the same fervor I display at the Minnesota State Fair.

Oh, one type of cicchetto is a clever topping on a slice of soft, fresh of course, Italian bread. More like a Danish Smørrebrød than bruschetta. Another type of this Venetian tapas best described here by Rick Steves is a simple bite on a toothpick.

This is what I found.
A lightly cured prosciutto with a dollop of black olive tapenade on a schmear of crema.
(Strictly speaking not a cicchetto but) A tramezzino (sandwich made with crustless white bread with a filling) of egg salad, smoked salmon and thinly sliced dill pickle. I know – sounds ick. Wasn’t.
Grilled charred baby octopus, wild mushrooms, pine nuts and crema.
Lightly-vinegared sardine on a slice of tomato.

Made a reservation for dinner at the same place I got those last two cicchetti. I’ll let you know. That is, if I can find the joint again.

Ah, Venice. To be here is to get lost here.

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It is not entirely unusual to see a seagull in Rome. It is, after all, not that far from the coastline – and there is a river runs through it, but this fella made me laugh. He was one of two gulls sitting atop a delivery van. Look closely at the sign behind: Pescheria. Fish Store. Ha!

Definitely “Right place, right time.”

It was one of my favorite moments (among many) on this beautiful sunny fall day. Apparently there is an expression here in Italy: Roma Ottobre. Rome October. Just as we laud the beautiful autumns in New York, so, too, do the Italians their autonno.

I shall be sharing my international food experiences here — and invite you to come along. In the days before the @’s — this would not have been called “follow” me.

However, should you wish to “follow” me through the delicious foods of Italia on Instagram — Follow @nyproducer.

Ci vediamo a presto! See you soon!

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What a great time at the Fair this year. I often have trepidation at the outset: will I see and eat everything I want to? My fairmate always teases me: remember, we ARE professionals.

We attend the Great Minnesota Get-Together every summer, always on opening day. Gotta catch it when the deep fat oil is fresh, and there are still yardsticks to be had in the Merchandise Mart.

I train for this event like a seasoned athlete. Study the new foods, decide what I want to try: yes, on the deep-fried bread pudding, no, on the Idaho nachos. That kind of thing. Make sure I have enough room in the tum for what I want to eat. In years past, I have made the mistake of eating breakfast before attending. Wrong. Why waste the precious stomach room, ya know!?

I have seen changes in my eating marathon through the years. Honestly, I don’t have the capacity to hold that much, I have a better internal monitor for fullness. And discriminating. Yes, I know when you are weighing deep fried dill pickles with chocolate sauce against pork belly sliders, it may not seem like a gourmet challenge. But this is the fair, dammit! Whadya expect? Corn dog foam? And, when you have a companion, you can share. Which we did.

Let’s get to it: honey ice cream with sunflower seeds, battered and deep-fried green beans, deep-fried bread pudding, Pronto Pup (pictured above, you may know it as a corn dog), Walleye roll (think lobster roll except made with a Minnesota native fish that’s in the perch family), a dough-sant (state fair version of the cronut) with iced coffee, sasparilla, a sip of Guinness, thick vanilla shake purchased outside the Moo booth at the cow barn, dream peach (a big ol’ succulent, drip-down-your-arm juicy sweet peach), miniature pumpkin pie served with cinnamon ice cream, sausage sampler (bourbon wurst, wild rice sausage with jalapeño and Swedish sausage with potato), lots of water and the evening capped off with a flight of admittedly mediocre but earnest Minnesota wines.

What I loved: the mini pie with crust worthy of a French bakery and, surprisingly, those green beans. What I did not like: deep-fried bread pudding needs to go back to the drawing board, and that dough-sant was frankly inedible. Or, as I said in my Instagram post (nyproducer) “dough-sant: don’t give up your day job!”

Not all 10 hours at the fair was Food. We made our usual pilgrimage to watch Roger demonstrate the fascinating craft of bowl turning on a foot-operated lathe. He’s a talented, personable, humble man who started turning bowls because he loved history. He dispenses aphorisms as nimbly as his flying wood chips. He makes exquisite pieces for daily life — those bowls. He uses them himself to drink his beer. Isn’t it frustrating, I asked him, to put all those hours into these bowls, knowing that if you hit a knot just wrong, it will break?

This is workmanship of risk

I love that phrase. As I love those bowls.

My friend and I set out on the fair history tour: visit 13 sights, punch your card at the kiosk, win a gift! I learned that several of the notable Art Deco buildings were WPA-built. That Teddy Roosevelt made his “carry a big stick” speech at the MN State Fair. That Matisse, O’Keeffe and Picasso showed their work at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. For our prize, we each picked a sheet of State Fair postcard reproductions.

We capped our night with what seems to be becoming a tradition: a walk through the crop art exhibit (seeds and stems made into “fine” art).

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It was truly a fair to remember.

Published in the New York Times!!

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
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The trip from Berlin to the ferry in Rostock (to return to Denmark) was one of the most beautiful, sunny, peaceful days of my vacation. My friend, the priest, and I speeded along the autobahn with its general lack of speed limits (add in the kilometer rather than miles, and you find yourself driving 160 on the speedometer!) (ack!) to get to the dock in time to catch the ferry.

On the way, we decided to make a pit stop in a tiny little German town, and have coffee and dessert at a bakery — they call them konditori. I spotted the above dessert in the case and asked what it was. I recognized the meringue, meaningful in any language. But, what was that green filling? Tart or sweet? Lime? Perhaps kiwi? The baker woman didn’t speak English. My Danish friend speaks a little German but not enough to know what it was. He thought he recognized it as made from a very round, light green berry, that grows on a bush.

It was delicious. Slightly tart, a faint scattering of little blackish seeds throughout.

I had just eaten my first Gooseberry Tart.

Now, on to København!

It is true that, for me, my keenest observations while traveling occur at the cafes, the restaurants, the grocery stores: the food, what and how and even when people eat says so much about them.

Obviously that is how I frame my observations. And then there was Germany. I had stayed away from this country because of its sad and somber history. My idea of the language formed from Hollywood. Television. Hogans Heroes, ya’ know. It did not seem like a culture I wanted to learn about, much less embrace.

I admit there is so much I need to learn about this country, ugly past and all. How could I write about donuts and pastries, main dishes, caffè — after visiting the Stachenhausen concentration camp or the Topography of Terror museum in Berlin built over the former headquarters of the Third Reich. As I told a New York friend, how do I process this when I can just say — I’ve had enough! I’m walking away.

Is it really okay to stop for a curry wurst and pommes frites on the corner of “Checkpoint and Charlie?” Take vacay snaps in front of the Berlin Wall?

I don’t have the answers.

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Whenever I go on vacay, it is my sincere intention to eat healthfully while still enjoying the food of the town and county I’m in. Certainly that is/was my plan for my visit to Denmark.

This is a country where some 60+% of the land is dedicated to farming. Now, I admit I haven’t seen a lot of cows — but I have certainly seen cheese. Sometimes at lunch, always at breakfast accompanied by crusty, yeasty, mouth-celebratory (is that even a word?) bread. Blue, aged, smoked. All kinds, though there seems to be a inclination towards a semi-soft cheese called Danbo. It comes in many forms. Cuts beautifully. And makes a kick-ass sandwich, typically served open-faced.

When I made my first cheese sandwich here, I was given specific instructions: slice the roll in two horizontally. Spread a little mustard and/or butter, slice the cheese thinly usually with one of those wired kitchen tools made specifically for the task (a common kitchen tool here — in the USA we tend to have them around for cheese and cracker time). Maybe some slice of tomato. Eat. And enjoy. I once tried to make a traditional American “sang-wich” and have to admit felt a little barbarian trying to get my mouth around the bun and the filling. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally stranger in a strange land on this front. Of course, they make and eat sandwiches like we do. Just not so much.

Perhaps this is why even though they are presented with this foodstuff on a regular basis, the Danes are not a fat people. They eat naturally in moderation. And, as in many places around the world, bicycle everywhere.

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Just as I was about to accuse the Danes of eating only cheese in their sandwiches (which of course I knew was wrong thinking from this country of the fabulous smørbørd) — I am treated to an afternoon picnic by the sister and brother-in-law of my friend, the priest.

They thought it would be fun to take me on a little countryside excursion into the woods outside Odense (home of Hans Christian Andersen). The woods here, by the way, remind me of what I imagine the woods are like in Hamlet. Spindly medium-tall trees — I think they’re beech — one after the other after the other. Crowded together. If you were to gallop a horse through this fragile forest, you would be brushed by the branches, yet not thrown off.

We were in Hesbjerg Skov — it appeared to be some sort of hippie commune, though not retro in any sense. Apparently some 45 people, not counting children, are living off the land in this area. My hosts say the citizens are the type to commune with nature, but drive into town to work. At real jobs. I guess holes in the ground for toilets and shared dinners in a hall of sorts are not too high a price to pay for This Simple Life. They certainly looked just fine, thank you, to me.

We parked our car and walked for awhile until we found a pile of cut wood to fashion into seats and a table for our picnic. It was lovely. The hostess had gotten up early to make crusty fresh rolls (they were still warm) of graham flour. And, for the filling she made flattened meatballs of pork, called (and I LOVE this word) frikadeller. Pretty much pronounced like they’re spelled. Later, I called them “flubber masters” or “freakin’ blasters”.

De. Lish. Us. Pronounced like it’s spelled!

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