Tag Archives: beer

Italian in Sweden

Gobbagoo. Proshoot. It’s not really Italian. The language, like a cuisine starts a new evolutionary branch when it’s far from home and time passes. If you’ve been to the North End of Boston or Little Italy in Ottawa, you can get amazing, but North American versions of Italian food. They do stand on their own as a culinary style, but it takes a trip to Italy to see the difference.

I am traveling on business and am in Sweden and hit the spot where locals rave about the food as being authentically Italian. I want to check it out because I’ve already been here for 3 weeks and am keen to try something else besides the local food, which is absolutely wonderful. Sweden is not Italy, but it’s one ocean closer than the North End or Ottawa. Any bets the food is too?

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I go to VESPA. It’s a bright, sunny place in a dark and grey Lund November visit.

Time for a beer. They have lots of Italian choices to I go with a relatively crisp, light Italian lager, called Gradisca. It’s good, but not great. Has a bit of a chemical finish.

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Then comes my appetizer, an antipasto misto — a salad with prosciutto, salami, olives, pesto, parmigiano reggiano, and artichoke hearts with thin crispy breadsticks. Absolutely delicious. It’s fair to say that I might get something like this closer to home, but I’ve never seen it.

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But the real test is pizza. When Maureen and I went to Italy we found the pizza to be a revelation. Perfect thin, crispy yet pillowy crust, simple tomato sauce, only one or two ingredients and some fresh mozzarella dotting the pie. In Ottawa, Back Lane is the only place that comes close.

The pizza at Vespa is very, very good. I opt for one with red peppers, porchetta and olives. The sauce was perfect, the crust was thin, but a little too chewy and the toppings and cheese were very nice.

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As is proper, when you have prosciutto or, in this case, porchetta to add to the pizza, you add it just as it comes out of the oven and it kind of melts into the pie.

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I’d like to say that I’m caught up in lively conversation, but I’m by myself, so dinner goes by quickly. All in all a wonderful meal and closer to proximity to Italy really does make a difference.

Plantation Cafe, the Angel Oak & Charleston

Hitting the road for Charleston today. It is a short drive but we are taking a 40 minute detour to see the Angel Oak. We are going to breakfast around the corner at the Plantation Cafe. Full up when we get there, we wait ten minutes and are seated inside. By 10 it is too hot to eat outside.

The cafe menu has plenty of southern classics and some creative breakfast choices. I’m brought a really good cup of coffee and some oj. The chicken fried steak is frozen. Pout. I choose Ellie’s breakfast but substitute country ham for sausage. Our waitress assures me it is the real deal, not processed crap. Rob orders the True Southern Breakfast.

Plates arrive. My breakfast comes with two prefect fried eggs, a delicate, fluffy angel biscuit, three slices of fried green tomatoes, grits and a huge slice of country ham. The grits are unseasoned. This is the second time this trip. I add a pat of butter, salt and pepper and then they are delicious. A light bulb goes off. I ask our waitress if unseasoned grits are how they are served here in the southeast. She said generally yes. People like to doctor them to their own tastes…more butter, less butter, salt no pepper, and maple syrup. The fried green tomatoes are disappointing. No seasoning and no heat. I don’t eat them.

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Country ham is a thing of beauty. Salty. A slice of meat off the haunch. Real meat not processed. We do not get ham like this in Ottawa. If ham is offered for breakfast in a restaurant home, it is processed. The tomatoes are forgotten.

The true southern breakfast came with excellent golden, crispy shredded hashbrowns, 2 eggs, another fluffy angel biscuit, well made pancakes and sausage patties that were absolutely ordinary.

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Time to head north. The short drive brings us by the Marine Corp Air training center, with several fighter jets on display, trailers, open fields, swamps, vegetables like okra, butterbeans are on offer by the roadside, boiled peanut stands, antiques, churches, fireworks and a vineyard. A billboard advertizes The Edisto Beach Shagfest(!). A fireworks store announces “Everything 25 cents and up. Mostly up.” Gas stops stock camo Redbull.

About 15 minutes out of Charleston, we follow a dirt road to the Angel Oak, a live oak tree that may be up to 1500 years old. It is magnificent. The trunk is 8.5 meters in circumference. The branches arch and dip gracefully to the ground and rise up again, growing, reaching. Many of the limbs have supports to manage the enormous weight. The angel oak is something to behold and it is almost impossible to get the entirety of this tree in a single camera frame.

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Before leaving the oak we visit the gift shop and discover an interesting treat. Benne wafers. Africans brought benne seeds with them to America and made them into sweet wafer treats. They taste nutty of sesame, honey and caramel and are nice and crunchy.

We are almost upon Charleston, our destination today and home for two nights. Bags are dropped and we are off to explore. The city is charming and colonial. The waterfront park has children splashing and wading in fountains, cruise ships anchored and boaters enjoying the final weekend of summer.

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It is baking hot. We last a scant forty minutes before finding sustenance at the Blind Tiger. Vodka Gimlets. A seriously refreshing growed-up drink. A small nosh and back to the surface of the sun.

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Dinner tonight will be at The Craftsman Kitchen and Tap House, a short stroll from our hotel.

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Craftsman has 48 taps and an impressive 200-plus bottled beer selection about which our waitress is quite knowledgeable. Rob starts with a Festina Peche, a Berliner Weissbeer from Doghead Fish Brewery in Delaware and I’m having a really excellent Long Day Bohemian Lager from Red Hare Brewing Company in Georgia.

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For dinner,  we decide to split the Crunchy Dame Sandwich, stout braised pork belly, cherry jam, raclette cheese, grainy mustard aioli and a  fried sunny on sweet Hawaiian bread egg. The sandwich is small but rich.

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It’s too hot for a large meal. We order some highly recommended squid fries, beer battered squid with pickled onion, house cured bacon and a lemon aioli.

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Next, we have some some very tasty General Tso’s wings – – 8 wings in a sticky soy garlic sauce with a mild chili bite, served with a cucumber soy pickle.

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The house made pickle plate included squash, green beans, red pepper, more cucumber soy, cauliflower and napa cabbage. The pickles were salty and vinegary. No subtlety. Not a favourite for sure.

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We have a second glass of beer, local Thai white, with Thai spices, that our able waitress has selected for us. Excellent end to satisfying meal.

 

 

 

Izakaya – Japanese Pub Food!

We wrapped up our evening at an izakaya, one of several in Vancouver. An izakya is essentially a Japanese pub, serving small plates that are designed to accompany the drinks they serve. Guu Gardens is considered to be as authentic as they come.

It’s hardly a quiet place. The staff yelled greetings constantly and loudly announced the food that was ready to be served. We had seats at the bar and watched the cooks create the dishes with aplomb. Our meal consisted of:

2 jumbo Sapporo beers-  essential at an izakaya.

Izakaya 005Edamame with sea salt – Steamed soybeans in the shell. You slide the shells between your teeth to extract the beans.

Izakaya 002Tempura chicken knee cartilage. Yes, really. It tasted exactly like what you’d think it would taste like. It’s “dip” was fine ground black pepper and it was perfect.

Izakaya 003Sweet soy glazed short ribs with garlic chips. The chips were razor-thin rand roasted. They were sweet, crunchy and addictive.

Izakaya 004A Tomato-braised pork belly that was almost Italian in its preparation.

Izakaya 001Black cod cheek tempura. So luscious, but a little bit of work to get the meat from the bone.

It was a terrific meal and a great way to immerse oneself in the casual side of Japanese culture.

 

Local Chicken Gets Beer Canned

Maureen:
In our quest to eat more local produce when possible, I discovered that Scott, one of the guys I play hockey with has a small operation, Winfield’s Farm (the foodie side of his and his wife’s horse farm, Capital Warmbloods, where he sells primarily chicken and lamb and some Angus beef. He is currently thinking of dabbling in Waygu. Wouldn’t that be awesome, a local source for Wagyu beef? The lamb and beef are pastured in summer months, fed a no-corn diet, and the chickens ($3.00 per pound)  are free-range. The Winfields have 350 acres just 15 minutes from Ottawa’s downtown core. You can reach Scott at the farm for meat by email. scott@palidia.com.

This Sunday the “kids” (Hannah and her SO Mike) are coming for dinner and Rob thought he’d like to do some beer can chicken. I’m not sure he has ever done one of these with “beer”. One of the more popular chickens he has prepared by this method is a tropical style, actually dreamed up by Hannah when she was a young teen. It involves ground banana chips (this is the only conceivable use for these nasty little hard buttons of banana in my opinion).

I thought this would be a great time to try some of Scott’s chickens. I ordered up two and he will deliver them to me at our hockey game on Thursday. Cost of delivery? For me? I have to give him a free pass in the defensive zone…once. So, I’ll let him get by but I’ll force him to the center where my defense partner Andrew can take him out 😉

Rob’s Approach:
I use this recipe from Michael Smith as a basic guideline for cooking times and technique, but that’s where it ends. We’re making a tropically-inspired bird today. I use a tropical drink, mango juice, instead of beer and add two special ingredients to the BBQ rub: brown sugar (just a bit, because it can burn on the chicken under medium heat) and banana chips. I also use a special beer can chicken apparatus and drip tray I got from a BBQ equipment supplier, because I don’t trust the drumstick tripod integrity of an un-aided chicken perched on a beer can.

It was Hannah’s brainstorm years ago during our first attempt at beer can chicken to grind up some leftover banana chips with a mortar and pestle to add to the spice rub. Combined with the mango juice infused meat, it provides a nice tropical blend of flavours.

For a barbeque sauce, I use a sauce that’s lighter in flavour and sweet (even Diana Sauce for example). If I have it, I’d add a dash of pineapple juice and soy sauce to it. It’s important to wait until the last 15 minutes or so on the grill, to “paint” the chicken with the sauce blend, otherwise the sugars in the sauce will cause it to brown too much.

the chicken captures all of fthe moisture of the liquid from the can, producing a supremely juicy and moist chicken. The skin was candied perfectly.
Served with some of Piggy Market’s own pasta salad and a tropical green salad.

Night-time nosh: Spitzer’s Corner

After our huge lunch at Katz’s deli on our first day in New York, we were not hungry for a big meal in the evening. We ventured out around 9pm to the corner of Rivington, steps away from our hotel. Spitzer’s Corner is a Lower East Side neighborhood joint.

Spitzer’s at night.

The vibe is young, the decor urban rustic, the volume set to 11. Long wood plank tables provide a communal dining experience as well as an awkward exit from the table, especially for the ladies. Do not wear a skirt. We were penned in for the duration. Conversation is difficult unless you are interested in your neighbour’s chat. We were not, and yes, Tony it is you, by the way.

 

Communal tables.

The beer was local, cold and good, and the sandwiches were inspired and perfect for a light meals. Spitzer’s is a great way to try new beers. They have 40 on tap and more in bottles. The sliders, apps and small plate selections compliment the brews. The Pickle Guys, a Lower East Side purveyor of pickles, supply the half-sours.

 

mmm…beer.

At 9 pm we were advised of a 20-30 minute wait. After a comfortable 10 minutes with a Chelsea Blackberry Wheat beer, locally brewed, we were seated.

 

A bowl of half-sours.

We ordered a bowl of the pickles and a sandwich each. I opted for the Salt-Baked Shrimp (cucumber, housemade tartar sauce, parsnip, scallion, arugula) and Rob chose the Braised Pork Belly (ginger, soy, garlic, chilies, cucumber, scallions, arugula).  The sandwiches were both well made and peppery with arugula. We shared an interesting Sea Dog Blueberry wheat beer from Portland Maine, paid the bill and went out into the bustling Saturday night in New York City to recover from the noise.