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In the defense of ‘Travel Guides’…

It wasn’t that long ago that a cornerstone of having the exotic travel experience was the act of heading off to the travel bookstore and picking up a travel guide, and using that as, well, a guide to your travel. Selecting an itinerary, figuring out the sights, finding hotels and meals… The arrival of the internet didn’t change it much, at first. Indeed, it was mostly positive (some guides, like Lonely Planet, really started coming into their own in the internet age, and Amazon certainly made it easier to get obscure titles). But I’ve noticed that in a few cases in recent travels, the market has shifted a bit. Indeed, when discussing the planning of my recent trip to the Faroe Islands (an obscure destination, at least for the non-Danish tourist), I noticed that when I brought out the travel guide (a rather good one from Bradt Guides), more than a few of my friends and a fellow traveler both made comments about “Wow! You’re still using travel guides?! Don’t you have the internet?”

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The Faroe Islands, Tourism, and Self-Catering

While we generally had a great time in the Faroe Islands, especially on the culinary front, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the broader Faroe Island dining scene from a tourist’s perspective. The Faroe Islands themselves are rather small (about 60,000 permanent inhabitants), and aside from the occasional festival or special event (the Klaksvik Summer Festival or the 2015 Solar Eclipse being good examples), aside from Tórshavn (which gets the occasional cruise ship and regular stops by the Smyril Line ferry between Denmark and Iceland), the tourism amenities drop off precipitously once you leave Tórshavn (with a minor exception for Klaskvik, the second largest town). Indeed, there are quite a few towns where the dining options, and heck, even the food options like stores, are limited. So it’s always important to plan ahead a bit.

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Concerning The 99 Flake

Every once in a while, instead of the standard restaurant review, it’s nice to take a few steps back and discuss broader food topics, or those sorts of things that don’t really lend themselves to a review, per se. With this being my first visit to Britiain since 2008 during "summer" (in this case, the trailing edge of it), I was able to finally try one of those British traditions of summer, the "99 Flake". Okay, at this point, my UK readers are probably saying to themselves, “Great, now he’s rambling on about 99 Flakes. What’s next, the finer points of Jaffa Cakes?” While my US and other readers are probably asking themselves, “WTF is a 99 Flake?” Well, the 99 Flake is a standard British dairy treat. At it’s most basic, it’s basically what us Yanks call as soft serve cone, with a large dollop of soft serve ice cream served on one of those wafer cones. And, to top it off, the very pièce de résistance is the insertion of a half-length Cadbury Flake into the ice cream.

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Concerning the Horchata (Various Valencian Locations)

Right after getting into Valencia, we had to go strait to our hotel in the outskirts of Valencia in a quiet little suburb known as Alboraya. Alboraya’s claim to fame is being the birthplace to the Horchata (also spelled Orchata, or Orxata in Valencian), the drink common to several Hispanic nations. The proper Valencian version has exactly three ingredients, water, chufa (tigernuts), and sugar. (The related Mexican horchata is generally made from rice or almonds and is spiced). One legend links the origins of the name to James I of Aragon, who after being given the drink for the first time by a local in Alboraya, was said to have exclaimed “Això és or, xata!” (“That’s gold, darling!”). In any case, the town of Alboraya is almost a shrine to the Horchata. The main street is Avenida de Horchata, and there are about a dozen horchaterias nearby, with Horchata Daniel being one of the most revered.

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Concerning Eggs Benedict…

Anyone that has dined with me for breakfast know that I generally don’t do breakfast, usually opting for just a cup of coffee, and maybe a sweet roll or something. But when I get breakfast, I generally go all out. My favorite breakfast dishes include pancakes (yeah, I’ve got to write up my favorite pancake joints as well), waffles (my college roommate Steve still likes to tell people about my late night waffle cravings in college), a proper biscuits and gravy, all things hash brown related, and eggs Benedict…

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TCHO Beta

One of the odder topics bouncing around a few of the food-related messageboards and magazines is TCHO Chocolate’s “Beta” chocolate samples. TCHO is a San Francisco-based start-up which is trying to develop new chocolate varieties from scratch by making chocolate from single varieties of cacao, trying to find those that express the basic flavors of chocolate. So far, they’ve released “beta” versions of their “Fruity” (from Peru), “Nutty” (also from Peru), and “Chocolately” (from Ghana) varieties…

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Hot Dog varieties: The Half-Smoke

One of my simple guilty pleasures that I indulge in on every trip to the DC metro area: A “Half Smoke” hot dog , with mustard and “cooked onion” sauce. Many of you that aren’t from broader Washington, DC metropolitan area are probably asking, “what the heck is a half-smoke?” Like many areas (Chicago and Rochester being particularly good examples), Washington, DC has it’s own particular variant of the hot dog, the half-smoke. A half-smoke is a close cousin to the hot dog, but is a slightly larger and spicier sausage, with a level of seasoning halfway between a typical smoked sausage and a hot dog, hence the name. Interestingly, however, the sausage itself isn’t smoked (halfway or otherwise).

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Concerning Pasties

During last month’s trip to London for my brother’s wedding, Carol and I took a long side-trip down to Cornwall to visit with my sister-in-law’s family and visit some of Cornwall’s many scenic attractions (as well as learning the joys of barreling down narrow Cornish B-roads at 50 mph, a treat not to be missed…). And no visit to Cornwall is complete without at least one sampling of the hallmark of Cornish cuisine: the pasty.

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The Full English (various UK establishments)

One of the great joys of visiting England is the ability to enjoy the masterpiece of English breakfast cuisine: the “Full English”, also known as a “fry up”. Many philosophical discussions revolve around the ingredients constituting a proper “Full English”, but this is basically a dish built upon a combination of English-style bacon rashers and some eggs. However, bacon and eggs alone does not a “Full English” make…

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Concerning Chicago Style Hot Dogs (Chicago, IL)

One of the great things about hot dogs is that they really do have a fair bit of regional variation. I’ve had “rippers” from Rutt’s Hut in New Jersey. I’ve had Coney Islands in Detroit (not to be confused with a Nathan’s hot dog from the actual Coney Island). I’ve had Rochester whites. Rochester red hots. Carolina slaw dogs. The list goes on. One of my favorite varieties, however, is the Chicago-style Hot Dog. Not content to just have an hot dog on a bun, Chicagoans demand that pretty much every aspect of the hot dog is pimped. The hot dog itself must be all-beef (preferably Vienna brand). The bun should have poppy seeds on it. The preferred condiments are chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, livid-green relish, celery salt, a pickle, and just enough “sport peppers” lined up to match the length of the hot dog. It’s known as “draggin’ it through the garden,” and, quite frankly, I like the result, even if it does bury the hot dog a little bit.

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