The Weekly Whisk 6/18/18

Musings from a foodie…

In my recent visit to Southeast Asia, we had the opportunity to visit Cambodia.  The focus of the visit was a trip to the temples at Angkor Wat, which are quite incredible.  There’s a reason that they are considered one of the top ten sites in the modern world.  While there, I naturally wanted to visit some local cuisine.  Well, if for any reason, you’re in the neighborhood - I’d highly, highly recommend Viroth’s Restaurant [ * * * *].  Our guide for the day recommended it as one of the best representations of local food in Siem Reap.  And, we were not disappointed!

For starters, let me be clear that I thought it was a fabulous restaurant.  In fact, I’ve already had some folks visit who concurred with my assessment.  We started with the obligatory banana leaf adapted salad that included onions, shallots, pineapple, shrimp and an unfamiliar spice from the parsley family.  The dressing had a coconut flavor which is always refreshing.  They then brought a second salad of Green Mango.  It included spicy carrots, onions, green beans, shallots and small pieces of pork.  Again, quite tasty.  We then moved into the main course with two major options.  First, the “Amok Fish” is a local white fish cooked in a ceramic bowl with a light curry and coconut milk sauce.  It also is flavored with “agor leaves” which are from the basil family.  Extraordinary and the fish was cooked to perfection = not overcooked.  We also had the Chicken Laab.  “Laab” is basically ground up meat from various sources.  Chicken, pork, lamb and beef were the dominant choices during our Cambodian trip.  The Chicken Laab was seasoned with ginger to give a spicy flavor along with shallots.  There were some other spices as well but, they were foreign to my tongue…  So, you’ll just have to travel there and try them out.  Finally, we ended the extravaganza with Mango Sticky Rice (one of my very favorite desserts) and Gravita Lemon which was incredibly refreshing.  And, if that were not enough – they then brought us some Bananas Flambe as the piece de resistance!!  All of this for about $25/person!!! 

Not only is the food outrageously good but the prices were incredible as well.  It makes me want to go back but, I think I’ll wait till I recover from the 30-hour flight and 12-hour time lag first (in about a year 😊) before heading back.  Cambodia is a wonderful country.  It should be on your bucket list.  Check ‘em out:  Viroth's Restaurant – 99 Street Wat Bo – Siem Reap – Angkor, Cambodia – +855 (0) 12 828 346

The Weekly Whisk 5/11/18

Musings from a foodie…

I don’t usually go beyond Page 6 for my blog but I’m making an exception for this one because the dinner in Spain was over-the-top wonderful.  Dinners in Spain are a festive occasion that is marked with lots of hugging, smiling, laughing and general conviviality.  So, it was with excitement that we were invited to a “special” invitational dinner for the international guests at a Spanish Dermatology conference on Mallorca.  For starters, there is Mallorca.  What an island!  It’s like Kauai, the Big Island and Maui all wrapped into one convenient package.  We were then just days after the Mallorca 312 finished which is one of “the” cycling events in the world where the cyclist circumnavigates all 312 miles of the island.  But, I digress.  Back to food…  Off we went to Flanigan [ * * * * *] or, what we were told was King Juan Carlos’ favorite restaurant.  I can believe it.  First, if I were King Juan Carlos, I would travel to Mallorca as much as I could to get away from the stress of leading the country.  And, second, I’d stop in at Flanigan on every visit.  They would be my hideaway on the island.

The dinner started with Jamon Pata Negra.  The term refers to the color of the pigs' nails, which are white in most traditional pork breeds, but black for the Black Iberian breed. I got a short lesson in the differences between all of the “jamon’s” and they are definitely not the same. The term pata negra is often used to refer to jamón ibérico in general, which generally refers to any one of three types of jamon. The finest is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, eating only acorns. The ham is cured for 36 months with the meat divided into two types: 1) Black label – which identifies the jamón as derived 100% from pure-bred Iberian pigs; or, 2) Red label – which identifies the jamón as derived from free-range pigs that are not pure-bred. Since 2014, the percentage of Iberian ancestry in the animal must be specified on the label.  The next grade is called jamón ibérico cebo de campo or Green label where the pigs are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain.  Finally, the third type is called jamón ibérico de cebo or White label which is ham derived from pigs that are only fed grain. These latter two types of ham are cured for 24 months.

Following the obligatory Black label Jamon, we moved on to the Tostadas Tomate or, diced tomato on toast with olive oil.  It was fabulous.  They then served a salad of Malloca tomatoes, which are much more solid than other tomatoes bought in the US with less fluid and a much more tart flavor.  The tomatoes were served with Ventresca de Bonito or white tuna in olive oil. Then, came the “Spanish tortilla” or a diced potato and olive oil combination lightly cooked inside of an egg omelet where onions can be added as an option.  This was followed by a very small fish (I didn’t get the name) cooked in olive oil.

After this amazing start, we moved on the main course where we had the option of Hake, pan seared in olive oil or a classic seared beef filet with both options served with French Fries.  The fries were quite like McDonalds except made from real potatoes and they were crispy with slightly less salt.  And, if that were not enough, they served a small salad of cut lettuce and sliced white onions topped lightly with a sweet vinaigrette dressing.  But, the piece de resistance was the ultra-thin apple tart served with a creamy vanilla ice cream.  It was to die for and, at the end of the meal I figured out why King Juan Carlos liked the place so much. 

It was a classic upscale Spanish restaurant with dinner starting at 10:00 PM and ending around 12:30 AM for an “early” evening.  Consider it if you get to La Palma, Mallorca.  It’s about a 20-minute cab ride from the downtown/beach area.  The cabbies will know how to find it.  And, the VERY BEST part was their business card which is a wooden clothes pin with the name, address, phone number and web address marked on the pin.  It’s quite a reminder.  I’m thinking about handing out baby whisks with my contact information.  They’re remember me then…  Enjoy!!!  Flanigan – Puerto Portals, Local 16 – 07181 Calvia Illes Balears, Mallorca, Spain +34 (971) 67 91 91 – www.flanigan.es

The Weekly Whisk 5/1/18

Musings from a foodie…

I realized this week that my newer lifestyle of not traveling as much is getting in the way of finding new restaurants for my readers to consider.  And, since “The Weekly Whisk” is the most popular part of my blog – I’d better focus on it.  However, that will have to wait until the next blog when I return from Spain.  For this one, I travel three blocks from the hotel a short distance from McCormick Place (the convention center) to Ricobene’s – a pizza and sandwich joint on the South Side [ * * *].  What can I say, it satiated me.  It was filled with calories – enough to fill a day – more than ample.  It was also swarming with people – families of all strips and colors – a truly American scene!  And, while I loved it, Charlie Trotter would likely be disappointed in me.  What’s a person to do when it’s getting late, you’ve got early morning meetings, no local transportation except your well-worn shoes, and hunger that’s biting.  Head to Ricobene’s – if you’re on the South Side of Chicago and, if you’re on the Northwest side head someplace else :-)   Ricobene’s – 252 W. 26th Street – Chicago, IL. 60616 – (312) 225-5555 and, other locations in the Chicago metro area.

The Weekly Whisk 12/12/17

Musings from a foodie...
We recently had the opportunity to visit Kyoto, Japan - a wonderful city and far better than the "pass through" city of Tokyo.  First, there was one consistent observation about Kyoto - it was about the traffic.  The majority of vehicles on the road are clearly hybrid because it was incredibly quiet even when there was substantial traffic.  Second, it's a very walkable city with a very large number of temples from various Asiatic religions.  It is quite the city!  Then, there is the food...

Our first visit was to Higashiyama Nijo Nanahachi [ * * * * *], a boutique restaurant that offered up seafood as their specialty which they did with aplomb.  The head chef was "Bab Kinji" who was assisted by "Hara Ketivo".  The restaurant opened in 2011.  What was interesting is that the two of us were the only patrons that evening.  We were told that our weekend in Kyoto was one of the slowest of the year because it was the week before the height of the change of colors - a major event in Kyoto.  The dinner started with a shashimi of sea urchin, bonito tuna and sea bream served with a wonderful flow (= "perilla") and freshly grated wasabi.  This was followed by red horsehead (a local fish) served with tofu of steamed wheat flour and mushrooms.  The third dish was a smoked sea bass - cooked to perfection - with sea salt and lime sauce on the side but, we never made it to the sauce.  The bass was outstanding.  The fourth setting was taro accompanied by salted fruit from the ginko tree, which looked like a small grape but tasted like a chestnut with a bean-like flavor.  From there the menu continued with all variety of seafood, seafood broth, miso and very special rice which was harvested from only two fields near Kyoto.  The finale was a perfect (my description) pear and grapes.  The only downside was the use of plastic glasses.  The food was outstanding with only the occasional misstep and the banter with the chefs offered up a perfect evening.  The place deserves more than two patrons in an evening; however, so I heartily recommend if you get to Kyoto - check it out!!  Higashiyama Nijo Nanahachi - 7-8 Okazaki Tokusei-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto - https://savorjapan.com/0006065085/map.php - 075-771-7168.
The next night was dedicated to checking out a traditional Japanese steakhouse.  We were able to secure a seating at Askyia [* * * * *]- the "oldest" traditional steakhouse in Kyoto.  It was started nearly 65 years ago by Tokiko, the 86 year old patroness of the restaurant.  She was more than delightful.  In fact, our discussions with her - throughout the evening - were the highlight of the visit.  The dinner started by first finding the place J.  It was located down a back area pathway off of a quiet street in a neighborhood with few signs.  Even the taxi driver had a hard time locating the place.  The evening started with a tour of the top floor where we experience a review of the picture gallery of famous types who had visited the restaurant.  It included Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, both Bush I and Bush II, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks and various other movie stars, a bevy of industrial icons and miscellaneous others.  She committed to hang my picture if I sent one (so far, I've demurred).  Following the picture gallery, there was a review of the picture and sculpture gallery of various local artists.  We then started dinner in a classic steakhouse fashion with a salad of egg tofu with crab and a 1000 island-type dressing.  This was followed by drunken chicken which had been marinated in sake for at least 24 hours.  Then, we got down to business - steak!!  It was Japanese Waygu steak which was incredibly tender and bit more fatty than its American counterpart and rich in flavor.  The steaks were cooked to perfection and served with Okido potato, garlic chips, Japanese eggplant and - of course, tea!  It was a fabulous dinner but the real experience was our constant companion - Tokiko.  Again, there were only two of us in the restaurant for the entire evening and so we received her full attention. It was one of "must do" Japanese experiences.  There was no "show" - which was one of the best parts of the experience.  The "show" was replaced by talking with Tokiko and, she was fabulous!  The ending was green tea ice cream served with grapes soaked in Mandarin orange juice. Check it out: Ashiya Steakhouse and Gallery - 172-13, 4 Chome Kiyomizzu Matsubara - Higashiyama-ku - Kyoto 605-0862 Japan +75 541-7961.
 
Finally, on the food front - we fell in love with Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋 or 八橋) is a Japanese confectionery which is evidently mainly sold a sweet morsel (miyagegashi) for tourists. It is one of the best known meibutsu (= famous regional products) of Kyoto. It is made from glutinous rice flour (上新粉 jōshinko), sugar and cinnamon. Our favorite was the raw, unbaked version (Nama yatsuhashi) which has a soft texture cut like a ravioli serving and is often eaten wrapped around red bean paste ( an).  My favorite; however, were the chocolate and strawberry versions. Oh la la...

The Weekly Whisk 4/3/18

Musings from a foodie…

McDonald’s is still McDonald’s [ *] If you haven’t tried it, try it once.  If you have tried it, try to stay away (except for the fries, of course :-)  ).  And, Coke is Coke regardless of where you get it.  The burgers are the same world over so there is some comfort in that part of the McDonald’s equation.  But, it’s small comfort.  Enjoy.

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