The Weekly Whisk - 11/14/19

Musings from a foodie…

Gerda’s Kitchen started in 2004 by Chef Wael Hammed Shahwan, Luxor, Egypt is the place to visit. His motto: “Look to the future not under your feet.”  If you ever have the opportunity to visit Luxor, Egypt :-)  – make it a priority on your bucket list.  The various Egyptian temples and Pharonic displays are absolutely amazing.  While National Geographic does a great job of explaining the history and showing great photos, there is nothing quite like standing in front of one of those exhibits!  Then, at the end of the day, to recuperate from the heat, sweat and walking – you’re going to need to some good food.  Luxor has any number of establishments but I highly recommend Gerda’s Kitchen [* * * * ].  Why?  It’s primarily because of the Chef and Owner, Wael Hammed Shahwan.  He started the restaurant after returning to Egypt following a culinary excursion to Switzerland.  After several years of “learnings”, he decided to return to his homeland and pursue his passion.

Gerda’s Kitchen is truly a fusion type restaurant.  The mix and blend of culinary styles was great but an equally important ingredient to the food offerings was Wael himself.  He was a wonderful storyteller and culinary enthusiast.  He delighted in serving us over the course of our evening meal with lots of different bits. It’s hard to highlight but, let me start with the refresher at the beginning.  I became somewhat of an aficionado of minted ice tea during my Egyptian trip.  He did a fabulous job with blended mint and just the right mix of lemon with dark brown sugar to offer up an incredibly fresh starter.  We then moved on to Baba Kanosh made from eggplant mixed with diced peppers, cumin and cinnamon.  He also had a side of tzatziki but I didn’t get the recipe.  On the other hand, I was able to wrangle the recipe for the beef tagine which was cooked in a mix of Greek yoghurt and garlic. The address is: Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, Gazirat Al Awameyah, Luxor, Luxor Govenorate.  Rather than calling yourself, it’s best to have the hotel call for you.  If you Google: “Gerda’s Kitchen, Luxor” – you’ll find them right away.  Tell Wael that “Kevin” sent you!  He’s ready and waiting!!!

The Weekly Whisk - 10/18/19

Musings from a foodie…

There are lots of reasons for travel to Greece.  We try to go there at least once a year.  Fabulous culture, fabulous people and fabulous history.  Our most recent trip took us up to Meteora – a region in the north central portion of the Greek mainland.  The geology is fascinating and I’m still unsure exactly how the peaks were created.  But, long story short, at the beginning of the 11th century, monastic monks came to the area and started living in caves in these up-thrusting pinnacles on the edge of the Thessaly valley – a flat land area that extends to the Aegean Sea.  These same monks eventually gravitated to the tops of the pinnacles and created monasteries that were literally located upwards of 1,000 feet above the floor of the valley and could only be reached by ropes and ladders.  Following World War II and the civil war, the area returned to its civil roots and now is the second most sought tourist attraction in Greece after the Parthenon with more than 3 million visitors per year.  And, once you see them, you understand.  So, travel to Meteora is an experience to behold and one that should be in your bucket list. 

There are two small communities that huddle near the bottom of the pinnacles.  One is Kalambaka, a town of about 12,000 that hustles and bustles.  To satiate the soul, there are many tavernas in the area.  I got several recommendations but the one constant for a “You’ve-got-to-check-it-out” restaurant was Taverna Gardenia [* * * * ]. The Plakias Brothers run the place and do an outstanding job.  Not only is the place friendly but the food is Greek through and through.  During our most recent trip we were on a Souvlaki hunt.  We opted for Chicken Souvlaki which was cooked perfectly.  We added an order of meatballs which were special because of the mixture of finely diced mint mixed in the meatball.  The tomato sauce was more-or-less pure Italian :-)  .  And, what Greek lunch would be sufficient without Tzatziki, grilled saganaki cheese and a tomato-onion salad dressed with olive oil and salt (yes, that’s it – a “perfect” olive oil is the trick).  Following lunch, they surprised us with Greek milk cake made with semolina flour and sweetened with honey.  The best part was the final of Karathaki (the fruit surrounding the walnut), Kadoni (a Greek fruit that I could not figure out); and, Viceno (dark cherries) – all having been marinated in a sweetened sauce for a fair amount of time.  At €59.00 (or, $64.95) – the price for a very filling luncheon for four was exceptional.

As I said, there are lots of options for food throughout Greece.  In the fact, the night before, we stopped at a Gyros walk-in place for dinner at €7.00 (= $7.71) for two. Again, stuffed – what a deal.  McDonalds, watch out!!  So, if you head to Meteora try Taverna Gardenia – Kastraki (no need for an address – just head to the town square) – +30 24320 22504 – www.meteora-plakias.gr.  The ambiance, the friendliness, the service are exceptional – and, all of that is on top of the Greekness!  Good luck…  PS – save time for the monasteries… We’re headed to Egypt tomorrow so the next recommendations are likely to come from somewhere inside the ancient land.  As always, more later…

The Weekly Whisk - 9/19/19

Musings from a foodie…

I was going to report on an elegant little restaurant that opened a mere three weeks ago just a short distance north of Kittery, Maine where I live.  It was opened by Eloise and John and represented an elegant addition to the local culinary scene.  However, after only a mere three weeks of operation, it closed. While the microgreens with truffle salt dressing and gazpacho made with local farm raised tomatoes in the “Salmoregia” (Catalonian = strained not just blended) style and the duck were all outstanding, the business model – for whatever reason – was not in place.  So, it folded. 

So, I turned to Zaytinya [* * * * * ] based in Washington, DC to celebrate the culinary skills of Jose Andres who not only does an outstanding job of turning out wonderful Mediterranean cuisine but also can be found handing out food to hurricane victims on a moments notice.  So, my message to all if that if you make it to our Nation’s Capital, stop in a Zaytinya – one of my favorites to help out Andres who will turn around and help others.  He brings the best of the best to culinary practices…  Zaytinya – 701 9th Street, NW (Corner of 9th and G Streets, near a DC Metro stop) – Washington, DC 20001 – (202) 638-0800 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Weekly Whisk - 8/5/19

Musings from a foodie…

In recent years, I’ve become a fan of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods of various styles – especially Greek and Iranian.  I’m always on the hunt for good places that offer true-to-form style cooking.  Well, I found one in New York City.  Head to Limani [* * * * * ] the next time you are in the Big Apple.  While it’s a bit on the expensive side, the food is Greek, the cooks are Greek, the waiters are Greek and the ambiance is Greek.  It’s a fine establishment and a worthy destination on any foodie’s checklist. 

We decided to go with a family style dinner which they very nicely adapted from the menu.  The dinner  started with a bang when we order the octopoli (octopus) which was the best I’ve had in the states.  In fact, this was one of the best octopus I’ve had across the lands.  Not only was it cooked to perfection but the aging was also exceptional.  The Saganaki was equally outstanding. Then, came the Greek salad which had the only ding of the evening and, it wasn’t the salad, but the tomatoes that were disappointing.  The reason?  They were American tomatoes – you know, those bright red, harddddddd (ready-to-ship-across-the-country tomatoes).  They were acceptable but not garden quality tomatoes.  The Horta was OK although I’m not a big fan except for the spinach portion and the asparagus was cooked to perfection.  The Dorado was the main entree and, again, was cooked to perfection with an olive oil/lemon sauce.  Finally, what Greek dinner is not complete without Greek yoghurt, walnuts and honey (from Kythera where the bees suckle on thyme instead of clover).  It was fabulous. 

So, if you’re in the mood for a wonderful dinner with equally wonderful ambiance – head to Limani – 45 Rockefeller Plaza (near Radio City Music Hall on 51st) – New York – (212) 858-9200 – www.limani.comEnjoy!!

The Weekly Whisk - 6/12/19

Musings from a foodie…

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit the “Northern Neck” of Virginia.  It’s a specific rural area of the state where a peninsula juts out into the Chesapeake Bay.  And, while you can sort of see the lights of DC and Baltimore late at night with the lights bouncing on the upper stratosphere, you are definitely in rural America. It’s a charming area and in particular, the town Irvington, Virginia is where you’ll find the Hope and Glory Inn [ * * * * ]. The owners are Peggy and Dudley Patterson – and, Dudley does exactly what Peggy asks him to do!  Each room in the bed and breakfast is like a small cabin with a small living room, a sitting area, as well as sleeping space.  And, the crème de la crème of the place is Meserata, the cook.  She hails from Addis, Ethiopia and she was exceptionally accommodating to all the culinary needs of our small group.  Peggy and Dudley are lucky to have her as part of their team. Besides, even though Dudley is a nice guy, I’m not sure he would cook as well. 

We started the evening with local roasted oysters with pesto sauce accompanied with soft bread mixed with thyme and tobacco (yes, you got it although I could not taste it). After lots of talkin’, discussin’, and assumin’ we moved on to the main course of rock fish and blue crab.  The fish was cooked to perfection and accompanied with lentils and peas. Meserata noted that the sauce had “Ethiopian spices” but she demurred and smiled when I asked which ones.  For starch there was a potato scallop.  Not to be forgotten were the carrots with dill – in a traditional French style, brussels sprouts with red pepper; and, asparagus steamed and braised with butter.  To top off the evening, Meserata prepared a crème brulee with fresh blackberries and, it was over the top wonderful!!!  As important as the meal was the presentation which was wonderful as well.  It’s truly an undiscovered foodie place and, after the meal, you can simply retire to your room for a nap!  I highly recommend it.  Call ahead and make reservations if you’re not staying there and, even if you are staying there, call ahead to make sure Meserata will be tending the culinary delights of the customers that evening.  After all, you probably don’t want Dudley to step in :-)   Enjoy…  Call ahead and check it out: Hope & Glory Inn – 65 Tavern Road – Irvington, VA 22480 – (804) 438-6053 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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