Monthly Archives: August 2017

Eating in Istria

IMG_3785“What, no Seafood?!?  No problem, I give you Octopus!”  No, I didnt crash a Greek wedding, nor have I actually heard this said before.  It was simply the pre-trip imagination at work, anticipating yet another seafood heavy leg.  I imagined after 10 fishfull days, we stumble onto a small family Konoba somewhere on the Istrian coast, begging an English speaking baka (a Croatian Babushka) for some meat.  But luckily for us, not only we never really got tired of those Adriatic crustaceans, we wanted more.  And just like its big sister to the north and across the pond, inland here means meat.  Wonderful glorious meat! 

Istria was the one.  The most highly anticipated leg.  But what I didnt anticipate was that we would have plenty of exceptional meals going in (In this case quite literally).  Places like Amfora in Dubrovnik, Nostromo in Split, and the brilliant Konoba Pece in Vinjerac.  The bar was raised pretty high.  But overall, we did… borrowing from Mr McConaughey … alright, alright alright.

La Vela (Rovinj) – Whats better than a slow long dinner in that part of Europe?  A slow long lunch.  And after doing one of those one day, a fast pizza may be in order.  La Vela, tucked inside a side street, feels almost like a local speakeasy.  And the pizza, while it wont win any awards in NY, is satisfying.

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Barba Danilo (Rovinj)– One of the finest gems in Rovinj just so happened to be a 5 minute drive from our apartment.  On the modern, elevated side with a refreshing oddity of the owner being one of the waiters.  Food ranged from delicious crafty combinations like Polenta with shrimp and sun-dried tomato ‘toasts’, to a spicy squid and veggies concoction.  There was also a nicely seared tuna (though could have used some sauce), and a fantastic crab salad.  And of course that famous Istrian pasta with meat ragu we were enjoying on this leg

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Batelina (Pula) – One of the premier seafood destinations in the country.  The menu is all… wait.. do they even have a menu?  “So, lets talk about tonight’s menu” is the menu.  This is what I like about Croatian dining scene.  Menus in many cases simply serve as eye candy, until the real eye candy comes in a form of Today’s Catch tray.  At Batelina your meal may start with an array of clever cold apps like conger eel pate with scallions (so good), sea bream carpaccio with Tapioca ‘eggs’ doing their best caviar impersonation, sardines, shark liver pate, a tuna like Bonito fish.  The anchovies here were the only thing I didnt care for.  Middle course may consist of perfectly cooked scallops, and/or pasta with bay scallops, before sharing the mammoth  seabass cooked two way, because the woman behind you just snagged the last Scorpion Fish!  Note: after she finished eating, the scorpion thief went into a long violent cough which I believe I may have caused with powers I didnt know exists.

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Konoba Stari Podrum – You go for the location, the family, the look, the food, the wine.  You just go!  when you arrive it feels like you just entered a mystical gateway into Tuscania, with unicorns, puppies and flying Bisteca Fiorentinas ready to come into the picture.  The place is right next door to the stunning Kozlović winery which is another reason to visit.  We enjoyed the app plate of mushrooms, prosciutto, salami, and truffled cheese.  Gnocchi with meat ragu featured very tender, juicy beef, but surprisingly the pasta with asparagus and cheese won me over more.  So light and delicate, yet so delicious.  And yes there was a Bistecca, while cooked slightly longer than across the border, a delicious one nonetheless.

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Viking – Sometimes its the unexpected and unanticipated that produce the fondest memories.  The only place in Croatia we visited twice.  The second time, we were greeted with hugs and kisses.  And while I dont usually recommend places for their location, this lake like setting is hard to pass on.  Though its not a exactly a lake, but a gorgeous Fjord called Limsky.  This is the kind of old school I admire.  No fuss, keeping it simple, doing things the same way generations of Vikings have done before.  Another solid prawn risotto.  Fresh seafood plate (top of page) featuring some of the sweetest scampi of the trip.  During the meal I recalled that Char-grilled oysters were first introduced in NOLA by Croatian immigrants and sure enough they have them here.  So we had to come back the next day.  Cant say they were amazing, but the raw oysters here tastes mighty fine.

Histria Aromatica – A very unique herb plant farm.  Striking views from its modern building that also serves as an education center.  You can stroll around for a small fee, or take a tour for a bigger fee.  Restaurant and pool on siteIMG_3388

Stancija Kumparička – A goat cheese farm near Pula.  We had a blast spending time with Sasa, Ales and their goats, dogs, and chickens.  A educational tour, tasting and plenty of animals to keep us entertained.  Their fresh ricotta with the homemade Dulce de Leche was insanely delicious.  By the end, sitting there in that table in the country side under a tree was like visiting new old friends.

Karlić tartufi – I already wrote about this truffle gem and their scrambled eggs here

Stancija Kovačići – Technically not in Istria, but worth mentioning.  We need to get to Istria somehow and legally we have to leave at some point.  Might as well make this your resting spot

Karlić Tartufi Eggs

 

 

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Legend of Taste – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Eating With Ziggy

legend-of-tasteAugust 10th, 2017 Update:

Note to self, when taking your family and taking the Chengdu Fish home, you will be the only one eating it the next day or 3.  That sneaky heat will be in your face, slap you mama kind of heat, the next day

Note to self 2, When ordering the Chongqing Diced Chicken (or at least I think thats what it was, from the first page of the new menu), you will be the only one eating it right off the bat.  But that’s fine, since its delicious.

February 18th, 2017 Post:

This one is for the 1%.  No, not that 1%.  But the 1% of the readers that can make it to this one.  The location is, well, let me put it this way.  When you sit around with 5 hounds (as in Chowhounds), and one of the topics of conversation is where…

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Seafoodpalooza – South Maine Style

I didnt think it would take 7 years and 348 days.  That’s 2,903 chalk marks of lower L (for lobster) in my man cave that I can finally erase.  That’s 2,886 days without a proper lobster roll, 2,872 without clawed lobster, and 2,745 without any lobster at all.  I have a Sheldon Cooper style spreadsheet that helped me cope.  The occasional Caribbean spine lobster did help, dont get me wrong.  But that’s only after choosing BYOC establishments that would allow us to bring our own claws.  My father always used to say, “a lobster without claws is just a tail”.

The game plan was not to go Meshugenah, and have lobster for only lunch and dinner.  We stayed in a little resort town called Ogunquit.  It means “A beautiful place by the sea” in the Abenaki native American dialect who settled there in the late 1600’s.  However judging by the type of crowds that visit this place, one may think it means “she whose bosoms defy gravity”.  Essentially we came, we ate, and then we came and ate somewhere else.  Pretty much sums up the trip in a nutshell.

West Boylston Seafood (MA) –  This was a worthy stop on the way over from NYC. and a nice welcome into seafood country.  A perky hostess and waitress takes your order in the front, and brings your food to your table.  By the end of the hour, perky hostess will know everything about you including your favorite color, and where you stand on stem cell research.  Simply grilled swordfish seemed fresh, and cooked without crossing to the dry side as Swordfish often do.  Haddock stuffed with bacon (who knew!) was excellent as well

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Perkins Cove Lobster Shack (Ogunquit) – Those Steamers!  Plump and very flavorful.  But I never had to clean my own clams before.  They give you hot water and you need to work it.  You taste the sea and then some.  Our first Lobster of the trip did the trick  But it was the wonderfully spiced and sauteed haddock tacos that perhaps stole the show.  A classic shack in the middle of picturesque Perkins Cove.  A smaller than expected line outside to place your order, managed by one of many Eastern European students flocking Ogunquit in the summer.  So you may want to brush up on your former Yugoslavia geography

Jake’s (Ogunquit) – Another fine lobster stop though in this case not planned.  The plan was to eat at Beach Plum lobster but… Houston we have a problem.  This is the point a father realizes that one of his children is not exactly fond of the lobster.  Beach Plum turns out serves nothing but cheap lobsters (and steamers), with picnic tables outside.  It is just about as shacky as it gets.  Jake’s, recommended by Mr Plum to the rescue.  In addition to the lobsters and fish and chips, we particularly liked the crab roll.  And for this NYer $26 for a double lobster seemed like a reverse robbery.

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Surf Portsmouth (NH) – The big miss of the trip.  The seafood heavy menu looked extremely promising and prompted me to come for dinner instead of lunch on the way back.  People wait for hours to eat here.  But for the most part if felt amateurish and pretentious.  Low grade, flavorless tuna as tuna crudo.  After eating that I should have cancelled the almost eatable sesame crusted tuna with wasabi mash.  Uninspiring Portuguese Seafood stew, and Shrimp Vindaloo that was missing its Vindaloo (more like regular Thai curry).  Other than that it was great!

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Eventide Oyster (Portland) – Come for the lobster roll, stay for the Lobster Stew!  A revelation of sorts, and the only thing on the trip we had to order seconds.  Like the most delicious creamless lobster bisque you will ever eat.  Ample amount of Lobster and Maitake swimming in this ridiculously delicious broth.  And while I loved the famous brown butter lobster roll, I was missing that toasty crunch (see next).  Good burger too.  I deliberately chose Monday for the full day in Portland and still had to wait 40 minutes for a table (lunch)

Bite Into Maine (Portland) – A food truck dishing out killa lobster rolls in For Williams overlooking the stunning, and I mean stunning Portland Headlight area.  If there’s a better lobster roll/setting combination on this planet, I would like to know please.  Sinful, sinful stuff!

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Street and Co. (Portland) – Over those 8 incredibly difficult lobster challenged years, I had a lot of thoughts, sometimes inappropriate, about this place.  Yes, Portland has an amazing dining scene with trendier places like The Honey Paw and Duckfat.  But its the menu of Street that continues to speak the most to this Seafood challenged New Yorker.  A whole fish, Branzino in this case was simply sensational.   Lobster with Linguini and garlic/butter sauce as good as I remember.  And a tomato based Fishermans stew with Romesco was a lot more Portuguese than the Portuguese stew from the day before.  They love the nutty Romesco here judging by some of the dishes.  Great mussels as well.  The only miss was with some of the small “Tastes” like the haddock and the mushrooms plates which didnt quite work.  In the mushroom dish the pesto for example completely overpowered the Chanterelle

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Roost Cafe (Ogunquit) – Enjoyed this one for breakfast overall.  A little stuffy inside.  $4 for real maple syrup sounds excessive, considering the pancakes cost $11 already.  I’ve seen them for $7 on other menus throughout Maine.  The blueberry pancakes, another Maine staple dish, were a little too thick for my liking.

And…  We also visited Maine Mead Works, one of the only Mead producers on the east coast.  Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey.  We got a tour, got educated, and got drunk.  On the way over to Maine, we stopped by Exeter NH, and visited a fine Chocolate store called La Cascade Du Chocolat where we sampled and purchased chocolates that may last till the end of the year.  In the store I was flipping through a pastry book by Standard Baking Co whose delicious pastries we enjoyed two days later Portland.

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Hell’s Kitchen – Dining With the Family

There was a time when Hell’s Kitchen was just about the last area in North America you would take your family out to dinner.  There was a time, not too long ago, when I would drive with friends just to see the prostitute action along 10th and 11th.  We would not even roll down the windows, let alone get out of the car in this neighborhood.  Of course I’m talking about when I was a teenager, not in my mid 40’s.  Hell’s Kitchen was a rough neighborhood.

But boy is it different today.  Not only its safe to dine out with your family at all hours, the options out there are endless.  In this month’s W42st magazine you see all over the neighborhood, the theme is family.  In the insert you will find these 5 places I would take (and took) my family in Hell’s Kitchen.  Notice there’s no Trip Advisor family darling Carmines on the list.  Works for some families.  Not so much for mine.  “Family style” sharing is something you can do easily with any of these places

Pio Pio – The sprawling high ceiling basement space of this Peruvian is perfect for families of all sizes.  The usual Peruvian suspects like the Chicken and Ceviche are spot on.

The Marshal – Small space with a sound family friendly menu.  Whether its Frittata and Mac and Cheese for brunch, or Meatloaf, Chicken, and the best bread and butter in town for dinner

Mercato – Who says family style means large plates of chicken and eggplant Parm.  A pasta feast at Mercato is a lot more interesting for Hell’s Kitchen kids

Ippudo – Kids love the atmosphere, energy, and all that yelling…”Welcome in”, “thank you”, and presumably “aim well” when going to the bathroom

Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus – This pick may raise a few eyebrows, until you see how shareable some of the hits are like the fried chicken, oxtail fried rice, and sauteed squid.

 

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