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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

033 When does a busy Street Corner Diner make the grade? Since 1989, this Athens, Greece taverna, called EVGENIA. after the owner is a not so hidden of a gem, but, that few tourist would know about. The Nicodemou Street of the Plaka/ Constitution Plaza area is narrow and tremendously packed with taxis and delivery trucks, Yes, exhaust and noise is everywhere. The little Greek taverna tables and chairs are on the pedestrian sidewalk; ten in all. Why go to lunch or an early dinner here? The business folks, in suits, and the retail workers understand. The Small fried fish, called Atherina, or minnows, is the reason. There are traditional dishes made freshly each morning, like lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and moussaka. The tables get packed. The fried fish come out in a basket and are eaten like french fries, head and all, and very crunchy and good. An Alfa Greek beer helps the lunch thirst. Some diners linger, and others chow and bolt back to work. The traffic keeps up the tempo. Find the taverna on this street and one block north of the Electra Palace Hotel. Be willing to wait a few minutes for your table. Thanks to Kathy Gasparis, years back, for this great dining location tip.

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My Mojito

    This is My Mojito… Now that I’ve  got your attention, …

There is a small cookbook that was willed to me from a dear relative.  The dust cover is a bit tattered.  Over the years, I have opened it and searched for ideas that pre-online searches failed at horribly.  The oak bookshelf for these little treasures, as this book is, contains several aged cookbooks that are rare or out of print.  Many are softcover gems on ethnic cuisine that were gathered on exotic islands or at their airports’ gift shops in a last-minute purchase. Dog-eared pages, stained with gravies, give evidence of their importance to me.

Gram or Liter, Cup or Pinch

A lack of Celsius temperatures on the oven dial does not remotely cover the variety of measures, temperatures and rules in many of my cookbooks. Aside from baking, my rule is alway 325 degrees fahrenheit.  I can deal with liters, but grams baffle me, excepting hashish talk, of a prior age, of course.  In the old days, “sprinkle” was uses a lot. One book, a Betty Crocker three-ring binder, has a wonderful section on “Happy-Hour Cocktails”. In this section the talents of a chemist come to be, as exact measurements of Angostura Bitters  fulfills the perfect flavor and color of the Classic Manhattan. Holiday Punch for the wassail bowl lists a dozen ingredients.  These retro times demanded the chef to pay attention.  My simple mojito has simple rules: freshness in all ingredients and simple sugar syrup with Cachaça Brazilian White Cane Rum. Simple.

Rose Louise Sorce was native to her Italian heritage, and  a resident of Milwwakee in the early 1950’s.  Her recipes were handed down from grandmother to mother to her. A state fair booth in Wisconsin got her started on writing, according to an old Milwaukee Journal story by their staff.  La Cucina from Twayne Publishers in 1952 was the rollout of years of work.  I refer to this book from time to time.

Let’s call up some friends; like 1000! Perhaps you have a church basement around?  Can we find several 12 gallon steel simmering pots?

Can I have the left-overs? Enjoy.

Rose   sorce1recipe1000

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Good Eating: Tangy Soul and Rustic Ribs

sweetpbbq_2    You must start with good ingredients: Tenacity, Funk, and Smoke.  The Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House just might have the right combo.  As many may know, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, offers a glimpse into the mid-south culture of their University of Tennessee, pickup trucks, country tunes, white church steeples and kickback eating.  I have eaten fine BBQ worldwide. I have even served on an award-winning barbeque team in Memphis, TN.  My home cooking of this fare can be pretty tasty.  Enough about me, this is about religious experiences: or, Pork, Brisket Beef and all the fixin’s.  Put the formula under an umbrella of old school soul music and the high-end smoker ovens of Sweet P’s and all works well.

A rolling countryside of the Maryville suburb draws many to the drifting scent of burning hardwood, a low-key one story restaurant and kitchen with plenty of staffers. Trimmed St. Louis slabs of pork ribs from the smoker, rich with the crust of dry-rub seasoning and moistened from the well-balanced soul sauces will start a plate.  Adding the combinations of side dishes create a vision that fills a full cafeteria tray. The steamed collard greens, unique with onions, carrots, beans and spice are smothered in flavors.

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Lacquered picnic tables, sporting old school soul record album covers, set stage for James Brown songs pumping out of their speakers or weekly live artists on the weekends.  The price to chow down is reasonable, so warm seasonal temperature spill the diners out to the patio and tents near the smokers.  The chalkboard menu makes all easy, as the team give you your filled tray and you pay.  The  beer list is extensive. Energy is high and the turnover is brisk.  Takeout and catering round out the mix. Perhaps a long ago Food Network showing of a Man vs. Food episode opened some eyes, but this place had it together.  I suggest the half-rack, fixin’s, of mac-n-chesse, collards and a brew, like Sweetwater IPA. Wait, get some smoked chicken wings first! Drizzle the blend of soul and hot sauce on all.  The folks of Sweet P’s can be found at 3725 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920 and http://www.sweetpbbq.com.  This place is smokin’.

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Oia Town Can Stimulate Every Appetite

ACaiqueFloatsAtArmeni-AmmoudiA Must Do, Go down to Amoundi Bay below Oia and have lunch at one of the fish tavernas down there: Ammoudi Fish Tavern . I found this to be so relaxing sitting right next to the sea and watching the fishing boats bringing in the catch of the day (Early Morning) which is then freshly cooked either on a bbq grill or in the kitchen, try Marides, (fried shiners: eat the whole thing, like french fries.)

Now the Amoundi Beach I talk about is to the Left at the bottom of the Mule path steps. Go past the tavernas, up and over a ledge on a gravel path. Continue to the Rock bluffs and pick one ledge to spread towels on the edge of the Caldera.

The Inky Blue sea goes down some hundreds of feet right here. Dive in and swim to the left side of the little island ( 40 yards) and find the steps to climb up to the White Greek Chapel on this little island. Wait for a CruiseLiner to pass and when the wake surge arrives jump into the sea. Nudist may find a spot here also. There is a long utility road down to the Amoundi port and some parking on the side of the road to save the knees on the 300 steps! Mule drivers can get you up the steps to the Oia cliffs above. Find the Oia Cathedral in the middle of the village. Sit down and drink it in.

Oia also has some great eating for dinner (Thalami Taverna) . I also have discovered local Oia tavernas off the beaten path: There are two on the Finikia area down to the right to the plains below Oia: Anemomilos Restaurant, 30 22860 71410, at the bottom of the road down to the sea. Outdoor eating and the smell to the sea is to die for. Another one is just before the entrance to Oia on the Main road, on the Right, called My Santorini. The Owner, Mihalis, sings and plays Bouzouki.  See below. Look for my photo, as a guitar playing musician with Mihalis, among the hundred photos hanging from the grape arbors.

Kamari Beach area has lots of tavernas and Pizza places along the “boardwalk”.  All are at different price points, you must shop first.  Sit on the boardwalk of a restaurant and people watch in the late afternoon.  At midday, the black sand beach is best used by the farthest end of the stretch.  Get the two chaises and umbrella at water’s edge and park for a bit to swim and sun.  Perissa Beach on the other side of the mountain is very enjoyable and may be reach by ferry boat from Kamari for a few hours. The Caiique  (ky-eeek-cay) Boats travel back and forth.

 

As for other restaurants/tavernas I have to say that as I stayed in Imerovigli, I just tended to eat there on a night or two. There was a taverna of great food and a value, family run, with my given blessing:  Taverna Imerovigli, along the cliff before Firostefani,  a good Greek taverna with decent food if you ever wander into Imerovigli on foot on a night. These nice folk sold out  and another is in its place. I passes on it.  Alternative is ANOGI in the square near the Bus stop and basketball court.  A lot for your money here and very professional service, with Greek taverna/ fusion fare. As for Thera Town, there are dozens of places to eat.  There are some pricey restaurants in Thira on the cliff edge, some not that great. Some good ones are not on the cliff but on the street by the museum up the stairs from the street level “Stani” and Roof Garden and Dionysus is in the same area.  As many cultures, Greeks will dine in the evening fairly late. A sit down dinner in a popular spot might begin at 11:00 PM.  After din-din may end at 4:00 AM.  Santorini is just a bit more laid back and some areas close by 11:00 PM.

Clubs will keep going while guests partake.  Greek coffee helps!

 

 

ANOGI RESTAURANT, Progressive tavern

Imerovigli, 84700 Santorini Tel: 22860 21285

The two owners and fantastic chef have come together to convert a past sleepy area in Imerovigli village into a hopping dynamic place.

There cuisine, they say, is composed by four secrets: unique quality of fresh ingredients of the Greek land, well known use of herbs and spices, the famous Greek extra virgin olive oil and the simplicity of the dishes.  I loved the grilled “over-sized” Pork Steak.

Eat in the garden tavern space under the stars.  Have a Raki toast by carafe.  Dig in to Lamb in Parchment or the other casseroles. Dip breads into fine olive paste and oil.  The wine will satisfy here. Make the call and get the reservation early in the week.  Walk-ins will eat at 10:30PM! The chef is real good, oh, I said that! Note: this is not a cliff view. It is a busy little village with much foot traffic. The staff will make you feel special.

Tel: 22860 21285

Taverna Roza, Vourvoulos,  22860 24378, far below Imerovigli

The ten tables may give a hint. This family run village taverna is potentially overlooked by the passing tour busses. The kitchen is open to the guests. These owners use the freshest local items, i.e., Skate wings from the local port, and fresh greens from their garden.

The menu could be traditional or very seasonal.  All is made to order. Eat on the covered porch. Flowering trees surround the spot. Grilled sardines or skate wings can be followed by plates of lamb chops.  An Ouzo “mini” wets the appetite for more. Go for more. Tour the mini kitchen and you’ll find it. Very affordable here.

Santorinimou: Traditional Taverna & Live Music, Oia Tel: 22860 71730

Aka: My Santorini: In season go to the simple but idyllic roadside taverna-in-a-garden, on the right as you drive into Oia. The food and barrel wine here are plentiful and reasonably priced but, after 10, it’s Mihalis Hionas, singing and playing his own compositions on guitar and bouzouki, which charm utterly. Ask for the songs “Santorinimou,” and “Eleni and Frank,” pick up a CD, and give Mihalis a hug from Ron & Sharon. If you’re lucky enough to hear some of his stories, you’ll feel you’ve caught a glimpse of the real Santorini.

What not to consider on Santorini: Many go to the live volcano tour in the Caldera by the boat at the bottom of the Thera cliffs.  Note, this is a full half day trip and can be grueling as well and quite smelly (sulfur) and packed with hundreds on the several tours at the same time. Oia does have an evening sunset cruise by sail and that might be most enjoyable. Your call.

What else: Avoid the high noon roaming of the town of Thera when the several Cruise Liners are in port. It is a madhouse.  Also avoid the switchback steps to the Thera Port when the tourists are on the Mules rising from the ships on those steps. Lastly, the Winery Dinner theaters might entertain many groups, but it is kind of contrived, certainly the food served is not to standard.  Stick with the keepers.

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The Boston Globe Newspaper’s Travel Show heats up a Chilly Weekend

giveaway-banner-azoresGive away twenty-four vacations and promise untold discounts to vacation hungry and they will come, and they did come.  The winter season provides the inspiration to the masses and the purveyors of varieties of travel near and far produce.  The anchor vendors to the 2014 Boston Globe Travel Show on February 7th, 8th, and 9th on the harbor front bring the warmth of the Caribbean, Europe offbeat retreats, Asia and the Pacific, while New England regions champion the cultures of food, the sea and mountains and day trips away to inns.

The hunger for taste and drink sets the stage.

07_NSTourism_010924Nova Scotia, Canada may be imposing in the dead of  winter but the heart and humor of the province comes through in the culinary specialties of the near neighbor. The taste of the sea and the wealth of the vines combine to give the attendees flavors that excite. Chef Jason Lynch of Le Caveau Restaurant and sommelier Amy Savoury of Tidal Bay Wines take you on a culinary journey featuring Nova Scotia scallops and wine.  Nova Scotia is now recognized as a culinary tourism destination and the trade has stepped up to provide. Local cheddar cheese, seafood and white wine round out the preparations with samples for the many throngs eager to partake.photo4

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Pan seared Atlantic sea scallops served over a wild beet puree, beure blanc sauce and a hint of creme. The  wine was white and crisp.

Your coupon may just be the ticket.

Area 2 bustles with dozens of Travel Booths dedicated to the warmth of the Caribbean Sea.  Salsa  music lilts  in the aisles and the Dominican Republic triple booth has swarms with activity.  Winning drawing gifts of bottles of Brugal Rum and on-site hand-rolled cigars, as well as island vacations under palm trees is good reason for the buzz.  Attendees sign up at the many terminals and the business is brisk.

The Boston Globe Travel Show offered a  successful season to present the best of values and creative ideas for winter weary vacationers.

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 Living Santorini Greek Wines: Let the Lava Flow

My first remembrance of this mystical island was the Byzantine chants drifting on Sunday morning through my open window on the edge of the caldera. The chanting Greek priests in the Cathedral of  Thera set the bar high for further Santorini experience.  Several visits in the coming years proved that a surprise was welcomed around every corner on those September island vacations.

Thera, Santorini pathwaysA very fond encounter, on one hectic noontime visit in the village of Thera, made  friends for life with Yannis and his mother, Ruella.  The touristic streets and paths in the center of Thera were filled with the Cruise Ship visitors, yet the littlest shop under the steps near the postoffice proved to be the perfect refuge.  It was the strumming guitar and the humming to a Greek fisherman’s song that drew me in to sit and listen. Captain John, Yannis’ friend,  put down the guitar and we all greeted each other. The postcards, lottery tickets and the aging souvenirs on dusty long forgotten shelves were behind Yannis.  His diploma of Notary and the religious icon art on the walls, and the stacks of documents in organized piles proved the 60-year-old man was more than perceived. Yannis lived on Santorini his entire life. He and mother, Ruella, perhaps at age 80, lived steps away in the vine-draped whitewashed house, situated on a narrow path in a Greek courtyard.  A rusted and dented Vespa motor scooter gave Yannis his mobility.  The shop was alway open.

The full white beard and the stock of white flowing locks contrasted with the well tanned face and arms on his near five foot frame.  St. Nicholas in khaki shirt and pants was more of the total vision of his appearance.  Yannis spoke english, though a nod and the Greek expression, “Nai” or yes, always with a smile, made most conversation flow.  The visitors to the shop were steady and regulars of local commerce, some farmers, fishermen and several realtors.  In island government, Yannis made the official transactions happen. He knew them all.  Captain John, the guitarist, but also island real estate developer, was a fine friend. In fact, Yannis had dozens of very close friends, very few local family members, and was a life-long bachelor.

The ability as an outsider to be humbled with acceptance into the home of a proud and stoic traditional family on Santorini is very special.  The thongs of tourists and day trippers that come to this speck in the Aegean Sea, an angelic perch above the crater of a still active volcano, dominate a very short island season.  The year-round families and businesses endure for the considerable “off-season”, in an isolated and protective life.  Ruella, on her four and one half-foot height, and dressed for decades in her widow’s black, maintained a simple house.  Discarded olive oil tins hang filled with fresh herbs, amongst the red bougainvillea flowers that climb the front porch.  Cats sit on the stoop and canaries sing in the wire hanging cages in and out of the house.  Cycladic dark cedar furniture, linens and religious icons fill the house.  The china cabinet and several  fine porcelain vases fill the one wall with the photograph of Ruella’s second son, Father Vlavianos, the Greek Orthodox Arch Bishop in Chicago, IL, USA.  The invitation to eat dinner and join with Captain John,  at their home with Ruella to cook was easy to accept.

My beautiful pictureI love all Greek food.  I will try anything, yet, much of the local foods of Santorini are imported, with exception of produce and some fishing.  Yannis’ household was all natural: locally caught, locally grown, and most importantly locally pressed and bottled!

The night began with a dram of raki.  The distilled spirit had a tendril of fennel immersed in the thick bottomed aged glass wine bottle. It was potent and hot on the throat, made to open the senses. Yiamas was the toast to our health.  Soon Ruella’s icebox was opened to produce the dark green unlabeled wine bottle from Yannis’ vineyard.  Yannis proudly talked about his father and grandfather’s grape vines.  Several acres on a track of land toward the caldera road to the Village of Pyrgos is the location of the vineyard.  The soil is ocher, appears very dry, contains one small cinderblock tin roofed structure and a wire fence encircles it with one gate.  Tourbuses on way to Akrotiri rumble past this nondiscript location without fanfare.  The grapes are white Assyrtiko and Athiri.  The rows of Yannis’ grapes are non existent, as the land is planted in clusters.  The vine stems are now ancient and five-inch base stems throw off the vines each year in the volcanic soil of Santorini.  The morning air is rich in moisture up from the sea far below in the crater. The heat of midday pulls the sugars up into the grapes. Very little rain in the summer and fall months requires the porous subsoil to give up the winter deposits from deep below the surface.  These characteristics make a dry, citrus aroma, hinting of salt, acidic full-bodied wine.

Yannis explained the family church.  Most older family landowners retain a small church on their property.  It is used for religious events from year to year and maintained with the proper icons and candles and offerings.  Yannis takes the harvested September grapes to his church and spreads them to air dry on the stone pavement adjoining the church for ten to 14 days. Covered with gauze to protect from birds, they mellow and concentrate the sugars ready for pressing.  Soon the grapes are brought to a local press and filtered and barreled.  They are stored near the church and some are bottled.

The dinner was wonderful. The start became a hit as a filefish was baked in garlic and olive oil and the crusty local bread combined well.  Ruella grows the special baby white eggplant, unique to the IMG_1733island.  These were sliced into discs and fried in light egg and flour batter.  The finish was the morning harvested local rooster, baked on Greek oregano stems, and feta cheese cubes over warm slices. Horta greens were bathed in lemon juice, salt and olive oil.  The desert was local pastry shop, daily baked, sweets.  The local made wine was two years in the process and paired perfectly with the food.  It was a couple of percentages more in alcohol, but refreshing to taste.  The night went a bit longer that imagined.  We all laughed and Captain John played more guitar.

20130428_22When September comes the vineyard owner must act.  Three days after the dinner we went to the vines.  The time was right.  Yannis opened the little structure, we took wicker baskets, hook-shaped paring knives and we headed to the closer grapes.  The vines are twisted into wreath like circles.  Inspecting the grape bunches was a shocking treat.  Those nearer the ground were so robust in swollen juice, that each grape pressed against its neighbor into a cubic block of grape bunch. A flick of the wrist and the block fell into the wicker, then on to the next.  Several baskets finished the task.  At noon, the work was, well, hard.  A breeze was blowing off the lip of the crater’s edge.  We transferred all to the little church, said a prayer, and had a sip of last years wine out of a plastic liter jug, a little warm but alright.  All was perfect to finish a great day.  I am certain the grapes seasoned and were pressed into a fine batch.  Yannis was a perfect host this visit.

Yannis hopped onto his Vespa and had plenty of people looking for him back at his little shop.  The restaurants on Santorini are supplied by several commercial wineries. A carafe at a favorite taverna is the way to go.  I especially like the dry wines of Santos Winery, and Boutari assyrtiko white is readily available away from Greece.  Prices have risen some over the years but the cost is worth the pleasure.

Down the Caldera My beautiful pictureMy beautiful picture

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Vegemite, Cloaked in Mystery, a Non-Vegemite World Scratches Its Head.

Credit: Kraft Foods

 When I think “Malty Yeast Extract”, I’m thinking Foster’s Beer and blokes singing Australian bawdy drinking songs around a beach bonfire. Don’t you?  I grew up around Skippy Peanut Butter, and maybe a slather of Welch’s Grape Jelly. Let us drop discussion of the Wonder Bread dillema at the time.

Vegemite, a product of the land of  “down under”, has permeated the world culture for nearly 100 years, and yet few consumers have tasted, let alone seen a jar of this food.

So, Cyril Callister under the Aussie Fred Walker Co. came up with a spread using the dumped yeast of breweries that had a dark pasty, almost beefy flavor. By 1923 the product needed a name to market the food as a health and nutritional item.  Marmite failed, but a national contest produced Vegemite, that has stuck. There is some truth to the nutrition angle: as it is one of the riches sources of B vitamins, yet no fat, sugar or animal byproduct.  Several years later Kraft Foods figured it out and bought them out.

The Sales Continue

Source: Kraft Food Jingles Work:

 We’re happy little Vegemites,  As bright as bright can be.  We all enjoy our Vegemite, For breakfast, lunch, and tea.  Our mummies say we’re growing stronger Every single week,  Because we love our Vegemite  We all adore our Vegemite.  It puts a rose in every cheek.

Sourcing a Jar of Vegemite may be not that easy, import laws are very strict in the USA.  The Food and Drug Administration and the US Customs and Border Control dispel those claims with no official policy. Gourmet and British import retail food outlets may be the best resource.  The US popularity may have spurted likely to the Australian rock band Men at Work refer to a “Vegemite sandwich” on their 1981 hit song “Down Under“, from their début album Business As Usual.  Recent 2011 notoriety came from an encounter jab of US President Obama toward a visit with Australian PM Julia Gillard, dissing the favor and concept.

Source: Kraft foods

Toast of the Town

 Take a piece of sliced bread, toast it, schmear a thin layer of butter on the bread as a base, spoon Vegemite on as a second layer, spread, pour a cup of tea and eat. That’s it!

Vegemiteontoast

 Did I mention Peanut Butter and Jelly?  How about Foster’s Lager Beer, didn’t I mention that?  My Ostrich Skin Lucchese Texan Boots started in Australia.  Yes, I love beach volleyball.  As a Scuba Diver, I’m all for the Great Barrier Reef.  I will pass on the Vegemite.  As for Fred Walker, founder of the Kraft Walker Cheese Company and responsible for the product, Vegemite, little would he have envisioned, after his death in 1935, of the Empire built on discarded yeast, and cherished by so many.

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