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We all make mistakes.

18 Feb

Do you know food-bloggers never make mistakes? Never. Not even a slice of burnt toast. It’s in the contract. I tell a lie. I wish this was the case- as if it was I would have had a pleasant meal the other night. I didn’t.

Myself and my other half decided we would attempt sushi as we are both big fans. I consulted a few recipes online about how best to cook the rice. I duly set about washing it, cooking it slowly at a low boil. In the meantime I prepped the seasoning for the rice. While I did this- we seared some delicious fillet steak (We didn’t want to brave raw fish at home,) and sliced some perfectly ripe avocados. The omens were good.

Then we assembled our first rolls, it took some practice getting the level of filling correct- but we got there. We cling-filmed them, flung them into the fridge and then sliced.

Unfortunately- despite our care at looking over the rice- it came out tasting like wallpaper paste mixed with vinegar. It looked not dissimilar also. The proportions of the recipe were all wrong. We got halfway through the plate of sushi, before we started picking out the steak and avocado. Then we just gave up and ordered a pizza.

 

Hi I’m David and I make mistakes.

 

 

New York food guide

5 Sep

Manhattan skyline

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to travel to New York and grabbed it! I lived there during the summer of 2008, while on a J1. I had an incredible time and fell in love with the place. It constantly changes and never sleeps- it is absolutely infectious. I hadn’t been back since The Silver Chicken hatched, so I was more eager than ever to discover the best and most interesting food spots I could find. I arrived in on  a Monday evening and left on a Thursday evening- so I tried to cram in as much as possible.

Monday:

Burger at Bubby’s

The first spot I ate in was Bubby’s in Brooklyn. It describes itself as ‘American Cookery’ and has a decent choice on the menu. Slightly flagging from the flight, I went for a burger. It was good. Served with excellent stringy chips, a wedge of gherkin (more places should do this). It went down a treat. It’s a cool restaurant, with a slightly vintage theme. My sister who lived nearby assured me that it was a very busy spot at peak times.

Tuesday:

I was staying in the Meatpacking district. In the Jane Hotel. It was a fantastic find. Now I was a solo traveller, spending most of my day out and about, so I didn’t  mind the fact that the cabin was not the most spacious room I have ever stayed in. For the price- you won’t beat this is NY if you are travelling alone. The staff were excellent, there is wonderful character to the place and it had a beautiful bar area- which I sadly only found my way into after checking-out. The Jane was a real find and one I look forward to going back to!

The reason I mention this? In my current health-kick- I thought I would be virtuous on my first morning. The hotel is situated on the Hudson. So I got up, threw on a pair of  ‘runners’ ( not my running ones crucially) and set off towards the new Freedom Tower which is extending at pace into the Manhattan skyline. After a very modest run- my feet were ruined, and remained so for the entire trip.  Luckily for me attached to the hotel was Cafe Gitane. So after limping back, I wandered down, took advantage of the free wifi, and had a wonderful breakfast of baked eggs with smoked salmon. It was a lovely spot. You could have been in Paris- high ceilings, space between the tables and staff that broke with the traditional American approach to ‘service’.

Once my feet recovered sufficiently- I set out to explore parts of Manhattan that I didn’t have the opportunity to before.

Given my location parts of Greenwich village and SoHo were ripe for discovery. One find of the trip was Murray’s cheese shop. It was a temple to all things cheese- and other produce. Worth a visit.

Mozzarella chilling out in Murray’s

The highlight of the trip from a food-shop perspective was my first visit to Dean & Deluca. I had heard a lot about this place. Its reputation as a mecca for food lovers was not misplaced. I walked in and was speechless. I wandered open-mouthed for probably 30 minutes. All I can say is: Go! The header photo on the blog is actually taken there.

Dean & Deluca

As I needed some nourishment mid afternoon- I happened across the newer (posher) Chelsea branch of Doughnut plant. What can I say? When I lived in the Lower East Side I lived only a minute’s walk from their original incarnation. As a result- I frequented it with some regularity! They are not like any doughnut you will ever have experienced before! Check out their website to see the assortment of flavours. The Chelsea branch came with free wifi and friendly staff.

As I was meeting some friends that night, and I ran out of time, dinner was in McDonald’s. What can I say- I had these wonderful tapas style chicken pieces. The McNugget. Little morsels of tender chicken, fried in a delicate batter. Served with a piquant sauce that had both sweet and sour notes. Stunning.

Wednesday:

Clinton St. Baking Company

Wednesday was by far the most rewarding foodie day in terms of eating. I started off by meeting the younger sibling and went on an unduly marathon walk ( I may have slightly underestimated the distances involved) to the Clinton Street Baking Company. A very well-known and very, very busy breakfast/brunch spot. As we had intended breakfast- I had my heart set on pancakes but by the time we got there a lunch/omelette seemed more appropriate! It was good, service was efficient, and I would definitely recommend it as a breakfast spot in the LES. En route here we walked by Katz’s Deli– which I am yet to try despite its fame!

When people find out I’m a food-blogger, 90% of the time, their first question is: “What’s your favourite restaurant?” This is not a question I like answering I always say it depends on the company, occasion and of course budget. I will break this rule here though. I think Nha Trang is my favourite restaurant. Every time I have eaten there the food has been excellent. It is also cheap! Now this place doesn’t look much- tiled walls, you get a teapot as your water jug. The staff are also robust to say the least. If you order too much or too little, they will let you know!

Asparagus swimming with crabs

The sister had the crab and asparagus soup. Any soup that you can eat in the middle of the summer in NYC is worthy of a mention. It’s a very fresh dish and is enormous. I also love the grilled pork and mint rolls. The pork is full of the flavour of the grill but its richness is cut by the fragrance of the mint and the freshness of the other ingredients in the roll and the dipping sauce.

I also had a plate of spicy squid and it was really lovely. It was hot, had lots of flavour and the squid was very tender. The bill for the two of us came to a grand total of $26. Go to Nha Trang. It’s on Baxter Street- so if you are doing the tourist on Canal Street, it is only a short walk away.

Afterwards I tried the famous Chinatown ice-cream factory– which is on the same block. I wasn’t wowed by the ice-cream, but it may have been a poor choice on my behalf- others I know have raved about it.

Thursday:

Boarding….plate?

For those of you into quirky kitchen utensils/plates/ props- take a trip to Fishs Eddy. There were so many things I wished I could have bought. Very funky plates, mugs- all sorts. As I was limited by suitcase space- it took an awful lot of restraint not to buy anything here. I especially liked the plates made to look like old airline tickets. Just down the road is Whisk– another nice cookery shop. It’s a great few blocks for kitchen paraphernalia!

Another new-ish food shop in New York that is starting to attract a cult-following is Eataly. It is a massive Italian food shop. The variety of products on sale is incredible. They have everything, but as you can see in the photo they have lots of everything- countless types of pastas, cured meats, cheeses, the list goes on. The cool thing about this place is that they mesh food shop with somewhere to dine- so as you wander the aisles there are people munching away at tables. I also like the espresso bar you can stand at and revive yourself at. Something to combat the jet-lag with!

Strong pasta crops this year…

As I was flying out of JFK that evening- there was one more thing I needed to do before grabbing the subway out to the airport. I wanted to visit Shake Shack. I had heard a lot of hype about this place. I hasten to add- I beat the lunch rush ( I went to the Theater District branch) and there was still a queue out the door. A nice touch was that they brought out iced drinks to those of us baking outside. The burger was good- it was everything a burger should be, good bun, well cooked and all the ingredients combined for a very pleasing taste.

The shake was delicious and the fries were good. They also had a few beers from the Southampton Publick House . This is a small brewery/bar on long island which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years back. They have a beer called the double white, available in Shake Shack- a deceptive 8.5%-er. There is a small wait for the food- and most people who were there with someone else used this time to scout for a table or ledge to eat on. As a solo diner- I lacked such a scout. I ended up wedging myself in amongst another group- but they were kind enough to let me join their table.

By now it was nearly time to go to the airport- but I had just enough time to meet some friends and the sibling for a pint before dashing to the airport. In fact Jack, Debs and PJ were such good company- I lingered a little too long- and let’s just say I had an energetic dash to the airport to make the flight.

New York is one of those places, where if people have been- they typically have at least a  few suggestions on where is there favourite little place to eat or shop. I’d love to hear yours, so please comment below.

Brussels food guide: Beers, Frites and all things nice

3 Jul

I recently travelled to visit a friend in Brussels for a long-weekend. I was very excited as I had heard much about the food, frites, beers and of course the chocolate!  I was in unsafe hands- as Shane had been living there for 4 months at that stage- so knew all of the haunts I should visit.

Stoemp

Eating out: We spent the weekend grazing around the city, and thus only ate out a few times- two places are worthy of a mention- one is 9 et Voisins. The restaurant was very full upon entering and we were seated at demi-communal bench seating.  Service was very friendly and enthusiastic. We both opted for Stoemp, a traditional dish of sausages served with mashed potatoes- infused with a purée of some sort (I opted for spinach). It was delicious. The sausages were chargrilled and the mash was wonderful. Simple food, but delicious!

Busy counter at Noordzee Mer du Nord

The second place that we both enjoyed was Noordzee Mer du Nord. We ate here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It serves tapas- style plates of fish. We had one plate of small pieces of fried fish and a plate of brown shrimp croquettes. Topped off with two glasses of white wine- the total bill came to about €16. The ‘restaurant’ is a long metal bar which you can stand at, or they have a few tall tables on the neighbouring square. The service is certainly robust, but good fun. If you don’t collect your order promptly- expect your name to be screamed over a megaphone. Really. Definitely worth a visit if the weather is good.

My favourite frites from the weekend

Monument to the frites

Frites: When I asked you nice people for tips for Brussels- my friend John got quite enthusiastic about the frites. I didn’t realise what a feature of Belgian life they are. There are even statues of them currently dotted around the city to mark the fact they are celebrating a special year of gastronomy in 2012. Shane is currently busy with the onerous task of compiling a list of the 10 best Friteries in the city. We sampled 2 of his favourites. La friterie de la Barrière de Saint-Gilles is regarded as one of the best in the city and this was certainly the case, however my favourite was Chez Antoine on Place Jourdan. The latter is surrounded by bars- some of which will allow you eat your frites at their tables if you buy a beer. We whiled away a very pleasant half hour there.

Bars:Here is a brief round-up of some of the bars we visited:

Potemkine – my favourite- retro with fantastic, old-style fridges behind the bar. Front opens right up and was the perfect place for some people watching.

Flamingo– big, little bit like a canteen. Newly gentrified area, thus a very good place for people watching.

Moeder Lambic– nice long bar- great selection of beers. Frequented it more than once.

BarBeton– nice bar- smallish but good atmosphere.

Walvis– little alternative music wise- good bar with a Villo (Their version of Dublin bikes- €1.60 for a day pass- brilliant for getting around the city) station right outside for the journey home.

Somewhere that is well worth a visit that also has a percentage volume is the Cantillon Brewery. It is a traditional brewery, brewing only in the winter months (to make use of the low temperatures) but still open for tours during the summer. It is very informal- they give you a brief, but insanely informative talk and let you wander the building at your own pace. Afterwards they will give you some samples of the beer. Admission is €6.

Aksum Cappuccino

Sweet tooth stuff: Belgium is very famous for its chocolate, it goes without saying. Brussels is hanging down with chocolate shops- most of them catering to the tourist trade. There are exceptions to this though. Shane happened to be living very near one of the chocolatey highlights of Brussels, Pierre Marcolini. The chocolates and other sweets in this shop are incredibly beautiful. They are works of art. Wouldn’t a photo be ideal here to illustrate my point? Unfortunately- no photography allowed. I ate one of their almond milk and raspberry ice-cream cones. It was delicious, but be prepared to pay more than you would for a Cornetto. If you are a caffeinated individual- I would have to recommend Aksum, an Ethiopian coffee-shop. It is a friendly and cosy place to recharge the batteries on a quiet street. Free wifi too.

Finally- over the course of the weekend- we tried to sample as many different beers as we could- in the tasting sense rather than the binge sense.  Aided by the fact most beers are served in 200-300ml measures. We managed 23 different varieties between us- ranging from the lowest supermarket own brand- to the delicious craft brew.

Here they are:

Lindemans framboise – like blended raspberries.

Stella Artois

Westmalle tripel

Omer traditional blond

Taras boulba

Zinnebir

Maes

Volga- brewed with vodka.

Vedett wit

Cantillon lambic- the basis for their other brews- sour!

Cantillon framboise

Cantillon gueuze

Mac chouffe

Rond blanc sureau- flavoured with elderflower. Served with a strawberry and wedge of orange. My favourite I reckon Rond blanc sureaufrom the weekend.

Leffe blond

Jupiler

Delhaize 365

Hoegaarden

Grimbergen blonde

Delirium Tremens- deceptively light! 8%

Leffe radieuse

Adelardus triple- sweet and again deceptive. Another 8%-er

Witkap stimulo

Chicken, chorizo and chickpea stew

26 Jun

Tonight was one of those nights where I was tasked with putting together a dinner and there was no chance to shop- it was a ‘use up what’s in the house’ type dinner. Luckily there were some nice bits and piece lying around.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

olive oil

4 chicken breasts (chopped)

150g chorizo

400g tin of chickpeas

2 glugs (technical term) of dry sherry

5 cloves of garlic. Crushed.

2 tins of chopped tomato

1 tablespoon tomato purée

I started off by heating some olive oil in a pot. Peel the chorizo and chop it into whatever size you like, you’re the one who is going to be eating it. I prefer a smaller dice for dishes like this one. Fry it in the oil until it is crisp. Remove the chorizo, keeping as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Throw the chicken in and fry until it is sealed. Set aside the chicken with the chorizo.

Into the pan add the garlic, fry until slightly coloured. Then add the tin of drained chickpeas. When they have started to sizzle- add glug 1 of the dry sherry into the pan. After frying for a short while- add the chicken and chorizo back in. At this stage add the two tins of tomato.

At this stage add glug 2 of the sherry, the tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper. I also added a little pinch of sugar. I gently simmered the whole lot for about half an hour. I also happened to have a few stray green beans in the fridge so they were chopped and thrown in. I served it with some brown rice which soaked up the juices very nicely.

Enjoy.

Food tips for Brussels?

11 Jun

I have a weekend in Brussels coming up- with the same character who was my dining companion in my London post. We both like our food, so I was wondering if you kind people would have any food suggestions for Brussels? Are there any restaurants you have been to? Any food shops that I simply must see? All suggestions are welcomed and appreciated!