InspiringTravellers.com » Food http://inspiringtravellers.com ...ideas from the road Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:43:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Win A Year Of International Edibles From Try The World http://inspiringtravellers.com/win-try-the-world/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/win-try-the-world/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:30:09 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=9412 Win a one year subscription to Try The World.

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If you love trying new foods and gourmet products when you travel but don’t have the time or resources to make it to places like Paris, Tokyo, Rio, Rome, Istanbul or New Delhi all in one year, a new subscription makes your passion possible. Try The World has recently re-launched their website and, to celebrate, they are giving away a year’s worth of gourmet delights (that’s six boxes)!

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Each Try The World box contains a selection of authentic food products from that month’s featured country. Open to residents of the United States and Canada only. Enter via the form below. To learn more visit TryTheWorld.com

 

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Roadside BBQ: Jerry Mikeska’s, Columbus, TX http://inspiringtravellers.com/roadside-bbq-jerry-mikeskas-columbus-tx/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/roadside-bbq-jerry-mikeskas-columbus-tx/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 00:03:56 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=9356 We made a pit stop for BBQ on the way to Austin.

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On the way to Austin from Houston we wanted to stop somewhere authentic for lunch. Bar-B-Q always sounds good so a roadhouse just before we left I-10 beckoned.

mikeska's BBQ

One half BBQ joint, one half monument to taxidermy, Jerry Mikeska’s Bar-B-Q is just one outpost belonging to a member of “Texas’ First Family of Barbecue.” The children of a Czech immigrant have been serving up specialty BBQ since the 1960’s, each with their own style.

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jerry mikeska's taxidermy

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We indulged in tender, succulent pork ribs, sausage and boiled potatoes. The sauce was delicious and we enjoyed the atmosphere of locals filtering in and out.

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Jerry Mikeska himself was circulating around the room as we prepared to leave, handing out little trinkets to customers and shaking people’s hands. He gave us a couple of business cards and thanked us for coming in.

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Tummies full, we enjoyed the rest of the drive to Austin, with the seasonal bluebonnets guiding our way

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Austin Snapshots: Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden http://inspiringtravellers.com/austin-bangers-sausage-house-beer-garden/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/austin-bangers-sausage-house-beer-garden/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 22:14:52 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=9334 A day out in Austin wouldn't be complete without some great local food and beer.

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Before arriving in Austin, we both had Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden (79 & 81 Rainey St, 512-386-1656) on our to-do list and we weren’t disappointed. Rocking up at a touch after 11 am and despite the threat of rain, we sat at the long wooden tables in the beer garden ready to sample the diverse menu. There’s even a fenced area for dogs to hang out while their masters revel in sausages and local beer.

bangers austin austin-280 bangers austin menu austin-220 austin-264 Every main dish comes in sausage form and the vast selection of beers on tap has anything you could want. Andrea started with the more traditional Bockwurst: a Berlin original pork and veal sausage in a bun, while I went with the BBQ Bacon & Shrimp that came with white cheddar grits and house-made BBQ sauce. 

bangers sausages austin austin-249 austin-277 Having heard of Austin’s great craft brews and already trying the 512 Pecan Porter (6.8%) the night before, I accompanied my sausage with the Thirsty Planet Thirsty Goat Amber (5.5%). This was quickly followed by the Revolver Bock (6.5%), that made the cool breeze more bearable while we perused the menu some more.

bangers austin craft beer

bangers sausage case We shared the delectable Fried Chicken, with horseradish mustard, honey and Chef’s Momma’s biscuit. Any description of this sausage will not justify just how good it is, so it’s a must-try if you’re there. The Independence Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout (8.0%) completed my meal and I was ready for day of walking…and it wasn’t even 1pm yet.

bangers fried chicken

Independence Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout

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Austin Snapshots: Food Trucks http://inspiringtravellers.com/austin-food-trucks/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/austin-food-trucks/#comments Sat, 26 Apr 2014 22:50:36 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=9284 Austin's 2,000 food trucks offer something for everyone.

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When people told us that Austin has a lot of food trucks, we expected to see a few. But they are literally everywhere – there are over 2,000 licensed eateries on wheels across the city (approximately one for every 500 residents according to the Austin Insider). While some don’t open until the evening, others are serving up tasty, interesting fare all day long.

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8 Restaurants To Visit In Marrakech, Morocco http://inspiringtravellers.com/8-restaurants-marrakech-morocco/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/8-restaurants-marrakech-morocco/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:32:29 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=9210 Anna Rice shares eight places to delight your tastebuds on a visit to one of Morocco's most famous cities.

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Today’s guest post takes us to the exciting Kingdom of Morocco where variety, flavor and spice have no limits. Anna Rice takes us on a culinary tour of Marrakech…

Are you planning a trip to Marrakech? These eight restaurants should make it onto your to-do list.  While dining out is certainly about the food, in Marrakech it’s also about the scene: after all, this city is the vacation playground for the fashion set. Hit up all of these spots for a well-rounded mix of tasty cuisine and glitzy nightlife.

marrakech riad

Le Comptoir Darna

Walking into Le Comptoir was like stepping into another world: beautiful people gathered around the bar and a smoky haze filled the air, while belly dancers moved wildly on the actual tables while people were eating. Make reservations well in advance for a prime time dinner at Le Comptoir, and prepare to splurge in exchange for a spectacle. This lounge slash restaurant is a staple of the city’s scene. It’s not the newest or the hippest, but Le Comptoir certainly can’t be missed. (Avenue Echouhada, +212 5244-37702)

Bo-Zin

This stylish hotspot in the new city of Marrakech is another good place to get your night started. The food is a fusion of Moroccan, French and Asian-inspired cuisine, although the restaurant is more of a trendy nightlife destination than a place for serious foodies. As the night goes on, Bo-Zin gets livelier so err on the later side when making reservations. Don’t be surprised by loud dance music and a general celebratory atmosphere. (012Douar Lahna, Route de l’Ourika 3,5 Km, +212 (0) 524 388 )

Kafe Fnaque Berbere

Escape from the souks to this French-owned café above a Berber bookstore in the medina. They offer WiFi, an affordably priced menu of simple French and Moroccan dishes, and coffee. You can choose to dine inside on the comfy wrap around couch or on the rooftop overlooking the bustling souks. As it was down the street from my hostel, this café was my favorite place to get coffee and use the Internet to plan the day’s adventure. The friendly atmosphere also makes meeting and chatting with other travelers easy, and they serve iced espresso, a real treat on a hot day. (Derb Ksour, Medina, +212 649-583165)

kafe fnaque berbere

Kechmara

The new city of Marrakech seems like it’s reserved just for the glamorous elite, so I was thrilled to discover this hipster-esque gem. After eating Moroccan food for a week, I couldn’t have been more excited to take a big bite of a burger. And what a delicious burger it was! During my stay in Marrakech I became a repeat customer at Kechmara. I couldn’t get enough of the contemporary French bistro menu with an American twist, the small plates for sharing and the cocktails. In warm weather, they also have a lovely rooftop terrace. (3 rue de la liberté – guéliz, + 212-524-422532)

kechmara marrakech

Azar

Owned by the same folks as Le Comptoir, newer restaurant Azar also offers a show with dinner. The menu consists of Mediterranean food with Moroccan and Asian influences. So you can enjoy hummus and falafel, as well as traditional Moroccan pastilla and a more modern artichoke & scallops tart. Unlike many other scene-y restaurants in Marrakech, the food at Azar is actually delicious. (Rue de Yougoslavie (côté boulevard Hassan II) Guéliz, +212 524-430920)

Dar Moha

If you are planning to eat a traditional Moroccan meal at a restaurant, Dar Moha is the place to do it. Set in a beautiful old Moroccan home, once owned by fashion icon Pierre Balmain, this restaurant offers poolside dining in the garden or indoor tables in the richly decorated dining room. I would recommend starting off with the small plates appetizer, where you can get an array of tiny, bite-size dishes to share. It was fun to try so many new things without having to commit to a whole dish. For an entrée, I had the Seffa Medfouna, a Morooccan dish of steamed vermicelli mixed with meat and sweetened with raisins, cinnamn, almonds and powdered sugar. (81 rue Dar el Bacha, +212 5243-86400)

dar moha marrakech

Café Henna

A short walk from Dar Moha, Café Henna is a small and casual rooftop café serving an extensive tea menu along with hummus, Moroccan salads, sandwiches and falafel. The café also offers safe, reputable henna tattoos (done right at your table!) and serves as a community center, providing free education such as English lessons to locals. I made it a point to stop by as I thought their mission to educate and employ locals was fantastic, and was pleasantly surprised that the food was also quite good. (Arset Aouzal Rd, +212 658-028697)

cafe henna marrakech

Terrasse Des Epices

This stylish café is another laid back spot, where you can escape from the madness of the medina for a bit of calm. Go for lunch and enjoy the sun, or make it a destination for watching the sunset from the rooftop. The food is reasonably priced but just OK – the real reason to come here is the view. It’s the ideal place to relax with a freshly squeezed juice after a long day of haggling! (15, souk Cherifia. Sidi Abdelaziz. Médina, +212 5243-75904)

Bio: Anna Rice is the writer behind The Blonde Banana, a style-focused travel blog written for those who suffer from both a lack of closet space and incurable wanderlust. A fashion publicist by day, Rice spends her spare time exploring her home base of NYC and planning the next chic escape. You can read more of her Morocco tips on her site, or follow her on Facebook.

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Houston Restaurants: Corner Table http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-corner-table/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-corner-table/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 20:24:32 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8969 Houston's paleo restaurant serves up hearty portions of your favorite comfort foods.

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Despite the prevalence of steakhouses, barbecue joints and Tex-Mex restaurants, I’ve been pleased to discover that Houston has its share of healthy, organic restaurants. Corner Table (2736 Virginia St, cornertablehouston.com) features a hearty paleo menu among other delicious offerings. Eating paleo means that you eat food that is inspired by the way our ancestors used to eat, choosing foods that are available only by hunting and gathering. The philosophy is that humans were intended to eat only food that could be hunted and gathered, not the processed garbage that dominates our Western diets. I was eager to check out this restaurant and try chef Bruce Molzan’s exciting cuisine.

corner table paleo menu

We began with two appetizers, Squash Blossoms and Pork and Duck Confit Spring Rolls off the regular menu. Both were served with delicious sauces and the blossoms were particularly tasty.

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While I don’t eat strictly paleo, I do try to eat gluten free as much as possible, so I was really excited about the paleo menu. I wasn’t disappointed by the paleo Fried Chicken, dusted with almond flour and served with fresh vegetables and cauliflower mashed potatoes.

paleo fried chicken

John tucked into the Corner Table Burger, which included crispy shallots, cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles and the chef’s special sauce.

corner table burger

In between courses we relaxed and took in the fun atmosphere. It was actually Halloween the night we dined here and the staff were wearing elaborate face paint. We could hear preparations being made for the party that would start later on that evening. Corner Table is actually located within the Corner Entertainment complex which is also home to a couple of bars and other venues.

corner table houston

We were so surprised when the dessert tray came around, piled with cakes and sweet treats. All of them were paleo! We chose the Chocolate Cheesecake, which arrived with pretty sauces and coconut milk ice cream. It was delicious! If you eat paleo or are just looking for a healthy restaurant in the Upper Kirby/River Oaks area, definitely check this place out for lunch or dinner.

paleo lemon cheesecake

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Sunday Dinner With the Pope http://inspiringtravellers.com/sunday-dinner-pope/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/sunday-dinner-pope/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 14:57:14 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8831 An engaging evening for real estate buffs and foodies alike.

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Just so we could say that we’ve been to a party at a $14.5 million dollar mansion, John and I attended a unique event on the weekend following Thanksgiving. Tucked away in one of Houston’s most affluent neighborhoods, River Oaks, is this over-the-top resort style estate that was designed for entertaining. We practically forgot that we were in Houston wandering around the grounds, which feature three swimming pools, a tennis court, an outdoor party pavilion and walking paths.

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The reason for the evening was an installment of the “Sunday Suppers with the Pope” series, featuring delicious food from chef Monica Pope of Sparrow Bar + Cookshop. The parties combine refreshments and real estate, with wines from around the world, beer and a signature cocktail on offer as the guests explore the property, followed by a light meal and the chance to chat with other guests in a communal setting. Everyone brought their own plates from home, allowing for an interesting ice breaker.

3940 inverness tennis court

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3940 Inverness

This week John Daugherty Realtors were showcasing 3940 Inverness (more photos at the link), a renovated 1958 home that was featured in the 1973 film, The Thief Who Came to Dinner. We snuck up to the panoramic back windows for a peek at the interior before heading off for a long walk around the pools, one of which may be the largest private pool in the United States. It had a boat moored in one corner so I believe it!

sunday supper with monica pope

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Dinner featured Beet Cured Salmon with hazelnut pesto, Creamed Greens with pickled stems and radishes, Turkey Hash, Crab Wonton and spicy shrimp broth and Lentil Salad with quince, pecans and herbs. Dessert offerings were White Chocolate-cranberry Cookies, Mini Gingerbreads and Cardamom Thumbprints. Tickets to this engaging evening for real estate buffs and foodies usually go for $75 each.

We were guests of this “Friendsgiving” Sunday supper event but all opinions are our own.

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An Evening At Line & Lariat and Hotel ICON, Houston http://inspiringtravellers.com/line-lariat-hotel-icon-houston/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/line-lariat-hotel-icon-houston/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:29:49 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8775 An evening of tucking into Line & Lariat's modern Texas cuisine and the beautiful, historic Hotel ICON in downtown Houston.

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We’re enjoying our recent foray into Houston’s best restaurants so it was lovely to receive an invitation to Line & Lariat’s media dinner on Friday. Settled in under the grand ceiling of what was once the Union National Bank building, we nibbled on a variety of tasty bar bites as the evening got under way. First, shots of Dripping Springs Vodka and Raw Oysters, which I’ve never paired together before but quite enjoyed. The next few bites reminded us of the restaurant’s theme: modern Texas cuisine from the state’s “coast, waterways, farms and ranches.”

coffee crusted ribs

Chef Tyler Malson doesn’t shy away from spice. We encountered jalapeños and chilies a couple of times during the evening, beginning with Bacon Wrapped Jalapeños with Oaxaca Cheese and Lavender Syrup, then Beer Battered Texas Cheese Curds with Chipotle Ketchup and Ranch. Coffee Crusted Baby Back Ribs had a lovely flavor, reminding me that we don’t eat nearly enough Texan fare.

line and lariat starters houston

Malson came out to greet us before dinner, demonstrating a passion for his craft and an enthusiasm for the menu to come. The space occupied by Line & Lariat was formerly a Jean-Georges restaurant, so Malson mentioned that he had inherited a traditional French kitchen with coveted equipment. The food was certainly distinctive and original, presented to us in three courses of sampling plates with three dishes each.

main dishes line and lariat houston

The starter course featured Bacon Wrapped Grilled Quail “Wings Style”, Fried Oyster Tacos with ginger coleslaw, pico de gallo and scallion remoulade, and Gulf Coast Coconut Shrimp with a spicy tropical fruit relish. Main dishes were the Roasted Rack of Lamb with olive and tomato demi, candied lemons, potato puree and broccolini; Chile Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin with red rice, crispy brussels sprouts and black bean demi; and Pan Seared Scallops served with Texmati rice, aged Parmesan cheese and sautéed mushrooms. A collection of cocktails were also presented, including one featuring brown gin that I had never tried before but was delightful.

line and lariat desserts

Dessert brought a Texas Gingerbread Pig with cinnamon and sugar, a Dark Chocolate Cupcake topped with vanilla butter cream and a chocolate jalapeño and Pumpkin Panna Cotta with maple syrup and spiced pecans. It was my birthday weekend so I indulged in all of it!

hotel ICON houston bed

hotel icon sitting room

Afterwards we tucked in for the night upstairs at the Hotel ICON, a unique historic hotel housed in one of the earliest skyscrapers in the United States. The building was finished in 1912 but the hotel was renovated in 2012 and features modern amenities like free wireless internet throughout. The location is right downtown and along Houston’s light rail so you have access to everything along that line. There is also a complimentary downtown shuttle service providing easy access to all the centrally located attractions. Nearby are Buffalo Bayou Park, Minute Maid Field, Toyota Center, BBV Compass Stadium, trendy bars and the theatre district among others.

hotel ICON bathroom

hotel icon shower

hotel icon rubber ducky

Our room was equipped with a stereo CD/iPod/MP3 clock radio, mini-fridge, safe, robe, TV and work desk. The hotel also has a spa, fitness center and a variety of event venues and meeting rooms. We loved the Texas-inspired artwork hanging on the walls, the comfy bed and the over-sized bathroom complete with a large spa tub and rubber ducky. All in all, a delicious evening in the heart of Houston and celebrating Houston’s heart.

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Houston Restaurants: Uchi http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-uchi/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-uchi/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 13:24:30 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8736 Uchi is doing amazing things with Japanese cuisine in Houston.

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Japanese cuisine has become one of our staple favorites and we get especially excited when we find a restaurant that serves compelling dishes aside from just sushi and sashimi. So we decided to celebrate John’s recent birthday at the Houston outpost of Uchi.

uchi houston

I should note that most of the exciting restaurant action in the Houston metro area takes place downtown or close nearby. We live a bit further out in the Energy Corridor, so when we want to get out and have a few drinks, we have to hire a taxi. We’ve been looking into some Houston hotels over that way so we can make more of a night of it and have fewer miles to trek home afterwards when we want to go out and celebrate a special occasion. Hopefully we can bring you some hotel reviews from the city in upcoming posts.

dreaming clouds sake

Uchi was worth the journey, however, with friendly service and a huge menu of inventive dishes. We began with Uchi’s answer to nachos, Machi Cure. We ate this smoked baby yellowtail, yucca crisp, marcona almond, asian pear and garlic brittle concoction with our hands. The yucca crisps had a buttery, almost bacon flavor and the cool, succulent yellowtail complemented it perfectly, a sweet and salty delight that was the perfect start to our meal.

uchi nachos

After that came the Komorebi, with dayboat scallops, potato, tomato and a quail egg. We loved the large, juicy scallops (John’s favorite!) with tiny potatoes and a runny, delicious quail egg.

scallops uchi

Next up was Yokai Berry, with little morsels of Atlantic salmon, crisp fried dinosaur kale, Asian pear and yuzu. I’ve been obsessed with deep fried, crispy kale since first trying it at Fathom in Bar Harbor, Maine so I was delighted to see it appear on our table, slid in between pieces of delicious fresh salmon, sweet pears and tiny berries.

 Yokai berry

Our last dish before the sushi rolls was the Bacon Tataki, which was composed of pork belly, black lime, cilantro, scallion and an espresso fish caramel. Who can resist pork belly on a menu? These generous chunks melted in our mouths and the only wish we had for this plate was more of the incredible sauce.

Bacon tataki

Our Mustang roll was the first one to arrive, filled with freshwater eel, yellowtail, tobiko and avocado. Served with a generous helping of eel sauce for dipping, this is just the way I like my sushi rolls: simple, small and with my favorite kinds of seafood rolled inside.

mustang roll

This was followed by Uchi’s California roll, with krab, avocado and cucumber. We made a mistake here and didn’t specify that we wanted the more expensive version, which is made with snow crab. This roll was nice but I’m sure we would have preferred the snow crab.

uchi california roll krab

The desserts at Uchi are as delicious as they look and so beautifully presented. We ordered the Lime Ash Sorbet with chocolate croquant, meringue and kefir lime, as well as the Peanut-butter Semifreddo, served with apple-miso sorbet. I’m not sure if they did this because of John’s birthday or they read my mind as I tossed between the lime ash and the lemon gelato, but when the desserts came out the Lemon Gelato with pistachios and white balsamic was with them, on the house. Every bite of these treats was heaven.

lime ash sorbet uchi

uchi peanut butter

uchi lemon gelato

John and I are huge Nobu fans and I think the rule we always have when we dine there applies to Uchi as well. The sushi rolls are delicious but I think there are so many incredible things on the rest of the menu to try that we never get sushi at these places. After all, one can find sushi rolls at any other Japanese restaurant. What Uchi is doing with their inventive cold and hot plates makes those dishes worthy of trying as many as you have room for. An exception here would be the fresh sashimi selections shipped to them directly from Japan and sold in limited quantities at the top of the specials menu. We missed out on those but were definitely intrigued.

Thank you to Trivago for making this post possible.

 

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Houston Restaurants: Underbelly http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-underbelly/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/houston-restaurants-underbelly/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 15:59:46 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8665 Explore the tastes and traditions of Houston while enjoying local, organic food.

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Enthralled with the concept we’d discovered at Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio, we were eager to try something like it in our own backyard. Underbelly is the pioneering restaurant of Chef Chris Shepherd, a man determined to tell the story of Houston food while staying true to local, organic principles.

underbelly houston dining room

Settling in at our American Walnut table with my father during a weeknight, we were eager to peruse the menu. Such diversity! Referring later to the website I learned that Shepherd has been inspired by all aspects of Houston’s culinary and cultural history, drawing on many influences. This certainly showed in the selections on offer.

underbelly bread with smoky pit butter

I cook at home almost exclusively these days because I have strict standards about where my food comes from. Occasionally we’ll venture out but I usually insist on the food being organic and local (at home we use a produce delivery company that sources from local producers). Underbelly fit these criteria perfectly. Shepherd does all his butchery in house and has a relationship with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Our waiter told us that nothing served comes from more than 150 miles of the restaurant.

Creole Shrimp and Squash Casserole

Everything on the menu here is meant to be shared, like tapas. A few dishes are large, family-style platters, which made us especially happy that we were eating with Dad. The more people you bring, the more dishes you can try! We began with Warm Slow Dough Bread served with Smoky Pit Butter, which smelled heavenly and was quickly pulled apart for dipping.

eggplant hummus underbelly

Next came the Creole Shrimp and Squash Casserole with its crackly topping and creamy texture. This was John’s favorite dish of the starters and also scored big points with me. After that we were on to the tender, flavorful Roasted Eggplant, Tahini Vinaigrette and Hummus – a perfect trio. Finally we had the Korean Braised Goat & Dumplings. This was a spicy dish and seemed perhaps a little overcooked – though this could just be our interpretation. We’ve had many goat dishes and are used to larger more succulent cubes of the meat and a different sauce. It still won points for surprising us though.

korean goat dumplings underbelly

We chose the Slow Cooked Pork Roast, Tomatoes, Onions and Tzatziki for our main course. This was an incredible dish featuring some of the most tender pork I’ve ever had. The tomatoes were fresh and plentiful and everything went well with the sauce. I’ve had a lot of Greek food but never the pairing of pork with tzatziki – a wonderful combination.

slow roasted pork underbelly

We couldn’t pass up dessert and opted for their signature sweet finale: Caramel Popcorn Pot de crème with Fried Pretzel and Vanilla Ice Cream. I could have eaten about five of these – I’m a sucker for the pairing of sweet and salty and the flavor of the crème was divine. All in all we enjoyed our experience at Underbelly. The service was excellent and the food not only fresh but inventive too. It was difficult to decide what to order from so many tempting offerings. And this is what you want in a restaurant: a place that is committed to its values with a warm, inviting atmosphere and the element of surprise.

caramel popcorn pots de creme underbelly

Underbelly is located at 1100 Westheimer Road in Houston, Texas (underbellyhouston.com)

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…But Maine Lobster Is Amazing Too http://inspiringtravellers.com/maine-lobster-amazing/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/maine-lobster-amazing/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 18:11:56 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8467 Eating fresh whole lobsters is a highlight of any trip to Maine.

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I’m not going to lie. Dreams of eating delicious lobster were definitely one of the primary driving forces that caused us to take our big summer holiday in Maine. Fresh lobster is everywhere and we didn’t gobble up nearly enough on our trip.

maine lobster

maine lobster menu

One of the most endearing things about the lobster is the price. Head to a restaurant anywhere else in the country and you can expect to pay perhaps $80-120 for a lobster tail. In Maine we sat down to 2.5 lb lobsters (each) and, with side dishes, walked out with a bill of less than $70. The prices vary, of course, but you’ll be able to afford the lobster experience in Maine. With the warming of Maine ocean water, the population has not been kept in check, which has meant a glut of lobsters at reduced prices.

maine lobster sign

maine lobsters live

maine lobster tank

It’s easy to try lobster at one of the many lobster shacks along the coast. Just tell the staff what size lobster you would like to enjoy and they will do the rest. Choose your side dishes and beverages and then head to the seating area where you’ll join the other lobstah’ lovah’s.

lobster shack maine

eating maine lobster maine-food-22 maine-food-23

The bib is crucial. Eating lobster is messy. You’ll be cracking them yourself, which involves a lot of trial and error if you’re new to the game. Then there’s the squirting of lemon juice that never goes where you intend it to and the melted butter to contend with. It took me three times to escape the scene without having lobster in my hair.

lobsters maine

lobster high five

Eating these delicious creatures is easy once you know the technique. First, hold the lobster from the back and twist off the two large claws at the first joint. Remove the joints from the claws. Use the nutcracker to crack the claw and joint pieces, using the pick to remove the meat. Dip in butter as you go as desired. When you’ve eaten all the juicy, delicious meat from the claws, it’s time to move on to the tail meat.

eating lobster maine

Hold the back of the lobster firmly with one hand and the tail in the other. Twist gently to separate. Remove all the green and red waste material from the meat (it’s called tomalley and it’s full of mercury and other toxins that you don’t want to eat). Then lay the tail sideways on your plate, curling it in a circle. Use the heel of your hand to press down on the tail until you hear crunching. This will make it easy to pull the shell off the tail. Hold the tail with the underside facing you and pull at the sides where the legs are to open the shell. Now you get to enjoy the fun part: eating the succulent tail meat. Hopefully you haven’t run out of butter yet! When you’re finished you can extract the meat from the legs and smaller claws by biting down on the pieces and using your teeth to squeeze the meat out.

lobster roll maine

The lobster shacks have some other items on the menu besides just whole lobsters. John first tried a lobster roll but decided that there just wasn’t enough meat there to satisfy him. So he stuck to whole lobsters from there on out. Many of the lobster shacks will ship lobsters anywhere in the United States so if you haven’t had your fill you can always take the number of your favorite shack and order them from home! We only ate five between us during our time in Maine and I know that wasn’t nearly enough.

maine lobster whole

Have you tried Maine lobster?

 

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There’s More To Maine Than Lobster… http://inspiringtravellers.com/maine-food/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/maine-food/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:23:17 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8457 The delicious lobster aside, Maine has plenty to offer foodies.

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Never mind the gorgeous scenery; Maine is a place to come to eat! Aside from the ubiquitous lobster, I never really thought of Maine as a foodie destination before arriving. But since our first meal at the famous Becky’s Diner in Portland we were hooked.

cafe miranda pizza

Lobster pizza at Cafe Miranda in Rockland

Maine cuisine is creative, fresh and inspiring. In every town we visited there was a variety of unique restaurants and cafes, which offered up organic, local and seasonal ingredients. We never had to look far for a good meal. Be sure to check out the classic diners for an authentic Maine experience.

mainely meat BBQ bar harbor

atlantic brewing bbq bar harbor

Tasty fare at the Mainely Meat BBQ – Atlantic Brewing Company, Bar Harbor

Recently I wrote about having to change my diet and lifestyle for health reasons. Those who are on “alternative” diets like mine will have no trouble finding food in Maine. Not only did I find gluten-free bread and baked goods in most places, I also enjoyed local, organic produce and inventive dishes. Vegetarians and vegans will have no trouble finding excellent meals across the state. Just pick up a copy of Green & Healthy Maine for a directory of healthy offerings.

green and healthy maine

popcorn fog bar rockland

Flavored popcorn at Fog Bar in Rockland

Here is a list of places we taste-tested (and approved) while we were there:

Portland

Becky’s Diner – 390 Commercial St., 207.773.7070

Miyake – 468 Fore St., 207.871.9170

Rockland

Cafe Miranda – 15 Oak St., 207.594.2034

Primo – 2 South Main St., 207.596.0770

Bar Harbor

Fathom – Cnr. Cottage and Bridge Sts., 207.288.9664

Mainely Meat BBQ, Atlantic Brewing Company – 15 Knox Rd., 207.288.9200

lamb wowie cafe miranda rockland me

Lamb Wowie at Cafe Miranda

Be sure to book ahead during busy seasons like summer because these places get very crowded!

What’s your favorite place to eat in Maine?

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Don’t Forget the Food In Bordeaux http://inspiringtravellers.com/food-bordeaux/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/food-bordeaux/#comments Sun, 12 May 2013 13:15:34 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=8009 With its location close to so many fine food producing regions, the cuisine in Bordeaux is not to be overlooked.

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Aside from being France’s wine capital, Bordeaux is also a premier gourmet city. We found so many restaurants on offer that it was difficult to choose. Not to mention the fine food shops and gourmet staples like canelé cakes, lamb, oysters, foie gras and cured meat. It’s just as easy to get excited about the food in Bordeaux as it is the regional wines. Here’s a quick guide on where to eat well in Bordeaux (it won’t be difficult!)

cafe salad bordeaux

veal cafe lavinal

Roasted veal from Cafe Lavinal in Medoc

What To Eat

If it’s authentic dishes from the region you are after, be sure to enjoy a rib steak (entrecote) with Bordelaise sauce or any of the fresh fish and shellfish on offer. Near Bordeaux are important meat producing regions like Bazas (for beef) and Pauillac (for lamb). Traditional French fare like snails, tripe, foie gras, duck confit and, of course, cheese are plentiful and everything is fresh. Vegetable lovers are also catered for with delicious Blaye asparagus, truffles and mushrooms (cepes). Local specialties continue with eel, chicken, Medoc pork belly, canelé cakes and macaroons.

lobster bordeaux

Lobster cooked in fricassee; mashed potatoes with vanilla and Sauternes stock juice at Les Pavillon des Boulevards

canelé cakes and sweets

On the far right are canelé cakes, ubiquitous in Bordeaux. Their caramelised shells give way to a tender centre with custard, vanilla and rum flavours.

Where To Eat

Start your day as the French do and (if you choose not to take breakfast at your hotel) enjoy a simple coffee and croissant at a café or bakery. Save that appetite for lunch where you can linger over a three course meal.

Oeufs meurette lavinal

Oeufs meurette at Cafe Lavinal

oysters

Oysters at Le Bordeaux

If you’re hungry in between, or trying to eat cheap, you’ll have no trouble on your holidays anywhere in France. Simply head to one of the supermarkets, which will have plenty of fresh ingredients for a picnic, including ready-made sandwiches and salads.

pavillon des boulevards bordeaux

Le Pavillons des Boulevards amuse bouche

Dinner in Bordeaux is usually between 7.30 and 9pm and it will be difficult to choose a venue. From brasseries to Michelin-starred restaurants, Bordeaux is full of delicious places to dine. Le Bordeaux brasserie has incredible dishes in an unbeatable historic atmosphere, or tuck into Cote de Boeuf for two and a well-priced bottle at La Brasserie Bordelaise (50 rue Saint Rémi, www.brasserie-bordelaise.fr) – be sure to book ahead as this place is always packed. For a fine dining experience, we recommend Le Pavillon des Boulevards (120, rue de la Croix de Seguey, 05 56 81 51 02).

dessert le pavillon des boulevards

Tarragon biscuit, lemon cream and yuzu sorbet at Le Pavillon des Boulevards

Where To Shop

Don’t miss the many gourmet food shops around town for your picnic along the quays or souvenir shopping. Bordeaux also has quite a few markets, the main one being Le Marche des Capucins at Place des Capucins (every day except Monday).

chocolate sphere michelin restaurant bordeaux

Chocolate sphere Fôret Noire inspiration at Le Pavillon des Boulevards

Chocolate sphere Fôret Noire inspiration

For cheese, Baud et Millet (19 Rue Huguerie) and Fromagerie Deruelle (66 Rue du Pas St George) both have excellent selections. Bread lovers must visit Fabrique Pain et Bricoles (47 Pas St Georges) while those with a sweet tooth will enjoy Palais des Saveurs (69 Rue du Palais Gallien) and Antoine (19 Cours Portal). You’re sure to find more of your own favourites around town. For spices, check out Dock des Epices (20 rue Saint-James). We were hard pressed to walk a street that didn’t have some sort of shop offering exquisite edibles, so just use your senses and explore.

Pair your selections with a bottle from any of the fine wine shops around town and just enjoy the day!

What do you like to eat in Bordeaux?

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Lyon: Gastronomic Paradise http://inspiringtravellers.com/lyon-gastronomic-restaurants-michelin/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/lyon-gastronomic-restaurants-michelin/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 14:08:42 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7758 From the lively atmosphere of the bouchons to the more rich and reserved Michelin-starred restaurants, food in Lyon must be devoured with pleasure.

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If you do only one thing in Lyon, be sure to eat. Eat a lot. Spare no expense. Try everything, even if you’ve never heard of it before or it falls outside your normal gastronomic comfort zone. Just eat.

Lyon is home to 2,000 restaurants, 14 of which have been awarded Michelin stars for 2013. The tradition of incredible cuisine in Lyon began in the late 19th and 20th centuries with a group of women called the ‘Mère Lyonnaises,’ or “Lyon mothers.” Wealthy families at that time had to let their cooks go and some of these women went on to find work in local restaurants or to start their own. And so began the ‘bouchons,’ which are the small traditional restaurants of Lyon that serve up local specialties in a convivial atmosphere. You’ll often be eating at long tables with family-sized portions of at least some of the dishes to be shared.

The region is known for its excellent produce. So what you’re eating didn’t come from very far away. It doesn’t matter where you eat or at what price range; the food will be fresh and local. We had dinners at both a bouchon and a brasserie, and one lunch and one dinner each at Michelin-starred restaurants. Perhaps I’ll stop talking now and just do a little show and tell about what we ate. We paid for these meals on our own, by the way, so there is no bias here. The food was absolutely sensational.

Beginnings

A long dégustation lunch at Mère Brazier (12, Rue Royale, lamerebrazier.fr, two Michelin stars) is a foodie must. Just relax as we did and ask them to choose some wines to pair with each course and you cannot go wrong. Long lunches are a French birthright and you can rationalize away the bill by reminding yourself that this isn’t just a meal, it’s a cultural mainstay.

Snails and frogs Mere Brazier

Snails and frogs on watercress with raw and cooked asparagus and a garlic emulsion at Mere Brazier

I have been enjoying my review of these photos and the menus that accompany them (don’t forget to ask for your ‘copie du menu’ as you leave) because I speak enough French to get around and I really try hard to speak as much of the language as possible when I’m in the country. It’s particularly helpful in France because even in the large cities you will encounter many people who don’t speak much or any English. Of course, in the finer restaurants English is almost always spoken and you can often get an English menu. But I am stubborn! Anyway, sitting here now translating the menu at home, I had no idea there were frogs accompanying the snails in this dish but it was absolutely delightful. As were the two seafood dishes that followed.

Crustaceans Mere Brazier

Crustaceans with a citrus emulsion at Mere Brazier

Scallops with lemon, green pepper and fennel.

Scallops with lemon, green pepper and fennel at Mere Brazier.

At a bouchon, the first course may be a trio of salads, as we found at the wonderful Le Bouchon des Filles (20, rue Sergent-Blandan, 04 78 30 40 44). Typical bouchon dishes include (in English): chitterling sausage, dumplings, different chicken dishes, roasted pork and all kinds of offal. I had actually never seen a “triperie” until visiting Lyon.

Salads at Le Bouchon des Filles

Salads at Le Bouchon des Filles included a traditional ‘salade Lyonnaise’ (right), one that was like a coleslaw with spicy mustard and another with lentils. They’re all delicious but don’t fill up!

Our second Michelin-starred experience was at Le Gourmet de Sèze (129, Rue de Sèze, le-gourmet-de-seze.com, one star). Here I had one of my most memorable dishes in Lyon. Again, I did not know what it was and could not figure it out with the waiter due to a language barrier but I should have known it was one of my all-time favourite things to eat: sweetbreads.

Veal sweetbreads gourmet de seze

Veal sweetbreads with a creamy Port glaze, creamed peas and glazed carrots at Le Gourmet de Seze.

Main Dishes

Main dishes are always a bit heartier, even more so at the bouchons…

A large quenelle (ground fish dumpling) at Le Bouchon de Filles

A large quenelle (ground fish dumpling) at Le Bouchon de Filles

Blood sausage with apples in a crispy puff pastry at Le Bouchon des Filles

Blood sausage with apples in a crispy puff pastry at Le Bouchon des Filles

Move over Argentina. This blood sausage was the best I’ve ever tasted and the pairing with warm baked apples in a pastry was divine. The blood sausage (boudin noir) is traditionally served with apples (pommes). Look out for it. Back at Mère Brazier, we were enjoying pigeon during the main course, which I’ve never had before but thoroughly enjoyed.

Pigeon breast with glazed turnips; the puff pastry sits atop a portion of giblet consomme with wasabi and lime - at Mere Brazier

Pigeon breast with glazed turnips; the puff pastry sits atop a portion of giblet consomme with wasabi and lime – at Mere Brazier

Mère Brazier is an important historical restaurant in Lyon. Mère Brazier was the first woman to receive three Michelin stars. It was here that France’s most famous chef, Lyon-based Paul Bocuse, did his apprenticeship. Since 2008 the executive chef here is Mathieu Viannay – and he is doing a spectacular job.

Tender delicious roasted lamb with a cauliflower tart at Le Gourmet de Seze

Tender delicious roasted lamb with a cauliflower tart at Le Gourmet de Seze

Endings

We really should skip the cheese course but that is impossible for us when in France – we love it too much. At least if you are eating so much at lunch you have the evening to recover…

Cheese plate at Le Gourmet de Seze

Cheese plate at Le Gourmet de Seze

The reason to skip the cheese becomes apparent when you realize how seriously the French take dessert. The sweets never stop coming, each one more beautiful and decadent than the last. The French are also obsessed with chocolate fondant, which is great because we are too.

Chocolate fondant with caramel ice cream at Le Bouchon des Filles

Chocolate fondant with caramel ice cream at Le Bouchon des Filles

Chocolate fondant at Le Gourmet de Seze

Chocolate fondant at Le Gourmet de Seze

 

The best madeleine I've ever had at Mere Brazier

The best madeleine I’ve ever had at Mere Brazier, with other sweets

 

My beautiful lychee and grapefruit dessert at Mere Brazier

My beautiful lychee and grapefruit dessert at Mere Brazier

Three more desserts at Le Gourmet de Seze

Three more desserts at Le Gourmet de Seze

gourmet_seze_sweets_lyon It’s also fun to try new things when dining in a foreign country. Our big discovery in Lyon was a drink called Chartreuse. It’s green.

chartreuse_bottle And it’s 54%. Something I would only try after already having an aperitif and sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir with my husband.

chartreuse It’s made, surprisingly, by monks from Grenoble with 130 different herbal extracts. If you’re thinking a medicinal taste, I might say yes but that would be doing this liqueur a tremendous disservice. It’s pretty delicious, starting out very sweet in your mouth but with a powerful, extremely complicated finish. I couldn’t have more than one or two sips, albeit big sips. But I couldn’t believe how much I liked it.

Bon appetit!

What is your favourite French dish?

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Visit To a Supermarket in Norway http://inspiringtravellers.com/supermarket-norway/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/supermarket-norway/#comments Sun, 17 Mar 2013 14:54:02 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7620 A peek inside a couple of Norwegian supermarkets to see some of the unique items you'll find in this country.

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Planning a move or visit to Norway? We lived there. Check out our Norway stories and resources.

I know I’m not alone in my enjoyment of visiting foreign grocery stores and markets when I travel. Today I thought I’d take you on a little tour of a typical supermarket in Norway, which I visit once a week to buy our groceries. We have several major chains in Norway and they pretty much dominate the food shopping scene for better or worse. In Stavanger I’m familiar with ICA, Co-op, Rimi, Kiwi, Rema 1000 and, my personal favourite, Helgo Meny. Meny has the best selection of international brands and food though the prices can sometimes be a bit higher than the others. Rema 1000 is the bargain store for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. These photos are from there and Co-op.

The first thing to remember on a visit to a Norwegian supermarket is to bring along a 10 kr coin because you’ll usually need it to provide a deposit for the shopping trolley if you wish to use one. Otherwise just grab a plastic basket at the front of the store when you enter.

cold seafood section supermarket in norway I’ve only photographed the things that I find to be unique to supermarkets in Norway for this post. The rest of the items can usually be found elsewhere in the world. I find the selections in some of the stores to be quite limited, both in the range of brands and also in the availability of sizes. As I mentioned in my last post you don’t find a lot of bulk items in Norway. In some shopping categories, however, the selection is tremendous. Look at the range of fish cakes, fish balls, shrimp, caviar in a tube and other fish products available here, for example.

fish cakes fish balls supermarket norway

caviar supermarket norway

In this section you’ll also find that mayonnaise in a tube, which is popular in Europe, a variety of prepared cold salads and quite a few varieties of jarred fish. I really need to be more adventurous in my eating habits here in Norway and try some of this stuff. I assume these are Norwegian dietary staples because this section exists in every supermarket. I rarely eat processed foods so this is the main reason I haven’t explored the cold seafood section.

sausage section norwegian supermarket

Norwegians love their sausages so there is also always a large sausage and cold meats section of the supermarket. The bacon here is delicious, though I do prefer to buy my sausages and bacon at the butcher in Stavanger town centre.

bread at supermarket in Norway

I am in love with the bread section of the store. We’ve been stupidly buying packaged sliced bread until I recently started exploring the fresh bread loaves and the slicing machine. Just select your loaves from the huge variety, remove from the paper wrapping, place the entire loaf into the automatic slicer and close the lid. The bread is cut automatically and then you simply place it onto the metal rack (see it sitting at an angle there?) and slide the paper wrapper back on. Most shops have plastic bags that you can put the bread in before placing the paper back on (the cashier will need the barcode on the outside so don’t forget) – handy if you want to freeze the bread.

kavli baconost and other ost tubes

Another must-try for me…sandwich spread in a tube. These are flavoured cheese spreads that come in varieties like ham and bacon. I’m wary of products like this in any country, but should probably give it a go…

fresh fish supermarket in Norway

If you’re after fresh fish, some of the grocery stores will have a counter where you can ask to have fillets sliced from the large pieces. I serve ørrefillet once a week – it’s trout and it’s delicious, especially when the skin is crisp. Salmon is also available. We’ve only tried another white fish once – because I don’t really know what they are, I just stick to the ones I know are good. Norwegians also eat lutefisk, which you can sometimes find in this section of the supermarket. Sometimes this is translated as ‘rotten fish.’ It’s made using air-dried or salted whitefish and lye, giving it a gelatinous texture. John tried this in a restaurant with his co-workers once but I have not been so adventurous. I also see things like fish organs at the counter. As you would expect, Norwegians enjoy their fish. I recommend Helgo Meny if you want to explore this section of the supermarket – their counters usually have the widest variety and, I think, some of the freshest offerings.

fish_counter1_norge

grotris norway

I tried making this the other day – it translates to paella rice but is actually more of a porridge that requires a ton of milk to make. It’s tasty enough but I find it to be more of a meal than a side dish. Perhaps for breakfast on a cold morning?

asian section norway supermarket

Most Norwegian supermarkets have large Asian sections, which is wonderful for some variety. If you want to make sushi, Thai or Indian food, you won’t have trouble finding ingredients. Though I prefer the smaller Asian grocery stores for these items. Mexican food is also popular and several brands of Tex-Mex staples may be found.

brown cheese norway

Apologies for the blur but it wouldn’t be a Norwegian supermarket post if I didn’t show you the famous Norwegian brown cheese. Brunost is a caramelised whey cheese that tastes a little like hardened peanut butter to me. It’s slightly sweet and usually served in thin slices, perhaps on a piece of toast. The Fløtemysost is a variation made from cow’s milk that is more mild, though as you can see from this photo, there are several varieties of Brunost to choose from.

coca cola expensive norway

It can be easy to avoid products that are bad for your health in Norway for a couple of reasons. The first is price. Here you can see that a six-pack of Coca-Cola costs around $10. So we don’t drink soda here. Ever. The prices help me avoid the candy aisle as well (John is not so good about this). Another reason I feel I’m eating healthier in Norway is the requirement for labelling of GMO food.

yarn in a supermarket in Norway

Sometimes you’ll find random things in a supermarket, like this almost entire aisle side devoted to yarn at my local Rema 1000.

Once you’ve finished shopping it’s time to head to the checkout counters. This is my least favourite part of the shopping experience because there is usually a line. Cost-cutting is a must for businesses here so I’ve never seen more than two cashiers working at the same time. Once it’s your turn, prepare for the mad scramble if you buy a lot of stuff at once. Norwegian cashiers must be some of the highest paid in the world but I’m pretty sure they also have the easiest job. They don’t bag anything so you have to hurry to pack all of your things. It’s a race because you only have the one person behind you as a buffer. If they are slow in packing, you have to move faster so the purchases of the person after him don’t start crowding yours on the conveyor belt. Some of the cashiers don’t even have to count change. They simply insert each bill into the correct slot on a large machine and the correct amount of change is spit back out. How’s that for progress?

Do you enjoy exploring foreign supermarkets?

Planning a move or visit to Norway? We lived there. Check out our Norway stories and resources.

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Chelsea Market in NYC http://inspiringtravellers.com/chelsea-market-nyc/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/chelsea-market-nyc/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 13:03:52 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7512 The Chelsea Market is a foodie and shopper's haven covering two blocks on Manhattan's west side.

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Denied by a local beer bar and restaurant that apparently doesn’t serve between lunch and dinner, we found ourselves in the pouring rain with no other business out on 10th Avenue. I had completely forgotten about the Chelsea Market, looming over the border between Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. We popped inside for a quick look and, being a Saturday, joined the masses already congregating inside.

chelsea market nyc

The Chelsea Market complex is huge, covering two city blocks. It’s definitely a hybrid – part indoor mall, part food court, part office complex – built within the old National Biscuit Company factory, which is over a hundred years old. I love it because it’s an excellent hangout for foodies.

lobster chelsea markets nyc

 

spices chelsea market nyc

What can a hungry person find at the Chelsea Market? Pretty much anything. We didn’t spend too much time here because crowds kill our buzz, but on our quick tour we saw succulent lobsters, craft beer, delicious cakes and pastries, gourmet cheeses and a wonderful spice table, among many other yummy things.  And hey, if it’s good enough for the Food Network (who film shows like Iron Chef America here)…

Crowded at Christmas-time: Chelsea Market, NYC

Crowded at Christmas-time: Chelsea Market, NYC

designer cakes chelsea market Visit: Chelsea Market is open daily from 7 am until 9pm (8-8 on Sundays). Find it at 75 9th Ave between 15th and 16th streets. You can pick up the High Line here as well.

What’s your favourite NYC foodie haunt?

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Taste Testing New York City’s Trendy Restaurants (Part 2) http://inspiringtravellers.com/trendy-restaurants-nyc-2/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/trendy-restaurants-nyc-2/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 13:20:49 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7428 Part two of our New York City restaurant adventures from our recent trip.

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In part one, we shared our experience with three popular Manhattan restaurants, including the amazing Blue Ribbon Sushi. Let’s look at a few more.

Brick Lane Curry House (306-308 E 6th St, www.bricklanecurryhouse.com)

We love Indian food, especially curries. Before reaching the States, we had stopped off for a few days in London, where we always find the most delicious Indian fare. So we were attracted to Brick Lane Curry House because of its association with that famous street in London that can pretty much be thought of as an Indian cuisine marketplace.

bricklane curry house nyc

With a large traditional menu of tandoor specialities and curries that can be made with chicken, lamb, goat, fish, shrimp, paneer, tofu or vegetables, it was difficult to choose what to have for our meal at Brick Lane. We settled on the Butter Masala with chicken and  goat Nilgiri Korma. The curries were delicious with generous portions of meat. Serious lovers of spice will no doubt be intrigued by Phaal, which actually requires a disclaimer before the restaurant will serve it. Brick Lane also has locations in Midtown, the Upper East Side and New Jersey.

brick lane phaal dare nyc

Ilili (236 Fifth Ave, www.ililinyc.com)

Ever since we visited Jordan I’ve been obsessed with Jordanian food, along with that of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, which have similar cuisines. So whenever I’m in a city large enough to have such diversity, I investigate our chances to enjoy one of my favourite types of food in the world. Ilili offers Mediterranean-inspired authentic Lebanese dishes in a fine dining atmosphere. Personally I prefer smaller and more “family-style” restaurants for this type of food, but the menu looked delicious and so we gave it a try.

ilili nyc hommus

Hommus at Ilili

Ilili is massive inside. High ceilings and stylish decor dominate the large downstairs dining room while other guests are seated in the upstairs dining area or a smaller room adjacent to that. We ordered some hommus while we perused the menu and questioned our server about the selection of Lebanese wines on offer. We ended up sipping the 2003 Chateau Muscar red, which was a marvelous introduction to wines from this region.

ilili fattoush

Fattoush at Ilili

The hommus was really tasty and served with delicious Lebanese bread, which kept appearing at the table any time our basket became empty. Fattoush, a tangy traditional salad, was just ok. For our main we shared the Lamb Shank Makloubeh, which was served with egglplant, spiced rice and toasted nuts. This was a very tasty dish, the lamb tender and succulent with a perfectly balanced sauce.

ilili makloubeh lamb nyc

Lamb Shank Makloubeh at Ilili

If we didn’t love Ilili, it wasn’t because of the food. I’m a little hard on my Middle Eastern food, having had such amazing experiences with the cuisine when travelling in the Middle East. I have yet to find food anywhere outside the region that compares. The dishes at Ilili are tasty, if not a little pricey for this kind of fare. I’m not a big fan of massive restaurants with DJs and crowds, so this was a drawback for me. But if you’re after a hip and buzzing restaurant for a big night on the town, and you enjoy this type of food, you’ll probably be pretty happy with Ilili.

Gastropubs

Here is a category in the city that rarely disappoints. John has presented his reviews of American craft beer and we encountered some pretty awesome places to eat while trying all the great craft beer around Manhattan during his research. He’ll talk more about the different bars in his posts, but I want to highlight three recommendations if you’re after yummy food in an unpretentious atmosphere while out drinking on the town.

The Stag’s Head (252 E 51st St, www.thestagsheadnyc.com)

This Midtown pub promises “all American craft beer with the deer.” Indeed the atmosphere inside feels like the living room at your uncle’s hunting lodge in the mountains, making it the perfect setting to enjoy 16 rotating drafts of American craft beer (check their homepage for the current pours). We got a bit hungry while exploring that menu so we ordered up some bar snacks: Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls and the chef’s special chicken and waffles, which were incredible: tender breaded chicken tenders on top of mini waffles with a delicious sweet and tangy sauce drizzled over. A further exploration of the menu revealed some pretty inventive nibbles along with sophisticated takes on the standard pub fare.

Earl’s Beer and Cheese (1259 Park Ave, www.earlsny.com)

Yes, a place like this does exist. As with other boutique spots devoted to the best examples of the substances they serve, our only complaint was that this place could be bigger. Gourmet cheese-based fare like Mac & Cheese with goat cheese, rosemary and shredded chicken and unique variations on the grilled cheese sandwich lead the menu. You can wash those down with delicious local beer selections.

earls beer and cheese nyc

Earl’s Beer and Cheese, NYC

Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen (87 2nd Ave, coopersnyc.com)

We came for the beer and stayed for the food. Truffled hand cut fries, gourmet burgers, Mac n Cheese with gruyere, cheddar, bacon and a jack mornay sauce…but don’t stop there. Cooper’s has a tremendous list of craft beer on offer and plenty of tasty dishes like these to accompany them. They also do brunch.

And last but not least…

Our favourite meal of the trip was, unfortunately, consumed without the presence of our cameras. While it might have been so good because of the company we enjoyed it with, I’m pretty sure it could have stood on its own as our favourite without the presence of our close friends. Local ingredients feature heavily in the dishes at the Indian Road Cafe (600 W 218th St, www.indianroadcafe.com), some from the nearby Inwood farmer’s market. We shared the Traditional Caesar Salad and Farmhouse Baked Goat Cheese, served with crusty bread, to start. Then there was joy around the table when our mains arrived, from fish to lamb to toasted paninos. The menu changes often and to sweeten it all, the cafe boasts an incredible craft beer list. Here’s a fun bit of trivia: one of the owners spent a decade producing The Sopranos before deciding to give Inwood this incredible neighbourhood cafe.

What do you look for in a restaurant?

Thank you to The MAve Hotel for hosting us during our time in New York City.

 

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Taste Testing New York City’s Trendy Restaurants (Part 1) http://inspiringtravellers.com/trendy-restaurants-nyc-1/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/trendy-restaurants-nyc-1/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 13:47:28 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7418 We tried at least a dozen new restaurants on our latest trip to New York City. Here we highlight the good and the not so good.

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New York is definitely a great place to eat. One of the things I love about visiting mega-cities like this is the vast array of options. Almost every world cuisine is represented and there’s something delicious in every price range. An observation I made when writing about London’s unusual restaurants, however, is the difficulty of discerning between the faddish and the fabulous in a city of this size. We usually face a few years gap between visits to NYC, and while our tried and true favourites usually remain, it’s harder to suss out which of the newer restaurants are worthy.

So it becomes a case of trial and error, though who can complain when the challenge involves food? Let’s see where our gastronomic explorations took us on this latest trip to the Big Apple…

Fedora (239 W 4th St, www.fedoranyc.com)

Arriving in the West Village late in the afternoon on our first day in the city, we were after something close and happening.  Fedora’s interesting American menu had us interested at first glance and we headed over for a somewhat early reservation, the only one we could get at such late notice. Here the bar takes up almost as much space as the dining area, with a boisterous yet friendly atmosphere.

fedora nyc sweetbreads

Crispy Pimenton Sweetbreads

The menu was hit or miss for us. I’m a huge fan of sweetbreads, though I found the sauce presented here to be a little overpowering. John tried one of the specials: toast served with a delicious pate-style spread that stole the show for both of us.

fedora pate

For my main, I enjoyed my dish of ‘Krispie Fried Chicken,’ presented right along with the chicken foot. John was less impressed with his Pressed Pork Sandwich, served with gruyere cheese and chipotle mayo and a side portion of shoe string potatoes. We still had a nice evening at Fedora, but had expected a bit more overall from the food, which felt a bit more like picnic lunch fare than a proper supper.

Fedora's 'Krispie Fried Chicken' and 'Pressed Pork Sandwich'

Fedora’s ‘Krispie Fried Chicken’ and ‘Pressed Pork Sandwich’

Blue Ribbon Sushi (308 W 58th St, blueribbonrestaurants.com)

I would not file any of the Blue Ribbon restaurants under ‘trendy.’ Back when I lived in New York City, the original Blue Ribbon Brasserie used to be (and perhaps still is) THE place for the city’s chefs to eat. It’s open until 4am. so naturally the area’s culinary talent could flock there after their shifts finished. I loved it because of the diverse menu and fresh, delicious produce. The same restaurant group also operates Blue Ribbon Sushi, which is my favourite place for high-end sushi in New York. While the first location opened in SoHo on the same street as the brasserie, they now have another outpost in Midtown West, inside the 6 Columbus Hotel.

blue ribbon sushi sashimi

I was not disappointed by my return to Blue Ribbon sushi. Simply fresh sashimi and sushi, along with carefully prepared cooked Japanese dishes are what you’ll find here. We enjoyed a delicious bottle of sake and relaxed after seeing a Broadway show. Most of all I love the variety of fish on offer at Blue Ribbon Sushi. A list of daily specials is a great place to start your journey.

blue ribbon sushi

Quality Meats (57 W 58th St, www.qualitymeatsnyc.com)

Steakhouses are abundant in New York City. While Peter Luger is always my first choice, we didn’t want to make my father trek out to Brooklyn  because he was only in town for one night. So we thought we’d try a new place, which seemed a good bet because it was part of the Smith & Wollensky group. Unfortunately we were pretty disappointed with the entire experience. My father’s baby back ribs arrived already separated and weren’t to his liking. John and I both had the Aged Rib Steak, which was good but not excellent. The side dishes were unique and not too bad; the restaurant divides them into “sides” and “new classics,” and I actually really enjoyed the corn creme brulee. But when you go to a steakhouse, you want the steaks to shine. Service was chilly yet efficient, but I wasn’t happy with the way staff hovered over us as we lingered to enjoy the rest of our conversation after we had finished eating. I know they probably wanted to go home, but when you drop a few hundred dollars on a meal and no one is waiting for your table, I think you should be allowed to stay until closing if no one else needs your table.

In part two, we’ll explore a few more New York restaurants and share the best meal we had of the lot.

What’s your favourite place to eat in New York City?

A great place to stay in Manhattan, with plenty of great restaurants nearby, is The MAve Hotel. Here you’ll find affordable boutique accommodation with excellent amenities. Thanks to them for hosting us during our time in New York.

 

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London’s Unusual Bars and Restaurants http://inspiringtravellers.com/london-unusual-bars-restaurants/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/london-unusual-bars-restaurants/#comments Thu, 10 Jan 2013 12:37:49 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=7214 Four interesting restaurants and bars to experience on your next trip to London.

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Big cities can be harrowing for travellers in the food and drink department. First-time visitors are faced with a minefield of options, from trendy restaurants and bars to old classics to traps that annoy both locals and tourists alike. I often head to Time Out, Trip Advisor and travel blogs for recommendations when planning a city break, but when a new guide comes across my desk I’m always keen for some alternative inspiration. This trip to London we spent some time with the Secret London: Unusual Bars & Restaurants  guide to find a few hidden gems.

le beaujolais london

Le Beaujolais, a quirky and authentic French wine bar in Soho

As author Rachel Howard notes in her introduction, this book is a “collection of unusual places in unlikely locations,” celebrating local, independent institutions. Carefully curated, it includes restaurants or bars with fascinating owners and decor, incredible food and hidden locations, barring those considered “too trendy, tacky, classic, unwelcoming, or downright ghastly.” We only had time to visit a few out of over 100 featured but from what we sampled, this guide does a great job of helping people avoid bad bar fads and truly awful eateries. Most of all, I loved reading all the little stories about the different places we visited; how they came to be, who runs them, why they are decorated the way they are and more. I can’t wait to return to London and visit more places in the guide, which you can now get as an iPhone app as well.

Le Beaujolais (25 Litchfield Street, Covent Garden, 020 7836 2955) was one of our stops for a drink after a day of shopping and exploring London’s Christmas markets. This might be the first French wine bar in London, packed by 5pm with local regulars and expats. The decor is cluttered – beer tankards and French bric-à-brac hang from the ceiling, along with an interesting collection of ties that the book claims are taken from customers of the members-only restaurant next door after they loosen them up. We ordered our glasses of wine (French, of course!) from the French-speaking bartender and managed to squeeze into the one of the last remaining tables by the door. I enjoyed the ambiance of this place the most, dark, cosy and filled with chatty Francophiles. Visitors will find wine from all over France here and, if you can get a seat, it’s a great place to people-watch.

inamo london table

High concept dining at Inamo

Inamo (134 Wardour Street, Soho, www.inamo-restaurant.com) Given its gimmicky premise, I did not expect to love the food at this “high concept” restaurant as much as we did. Each table is outfitted with an overhead projector and touch pad, which transforms your seat into an interactive dining extravaganza. Each person at the table can browse the menus, add items to your order, change your virtual tablecloth, spy on the cooks in the kitchen and much more with a single click. Items are then brought to your table, which saves you having to hail a waiter. After enjoying this experience so much, I’ve decided that every restaurant should operate this way.

inamo london menu

Not only is dining at Inamo a fun experience, the food is also delicious and carefully prepared. The cuisine is pan-Asian, which allowed us to enjoy tasty dishes like sushi rolls, satay, grilled seafood and their incredible Cinnamon Chicken. Getting the check was as easy as clicking a button and we were able to constantly review our total bill to see how we were going. The food isn’t cheap, so you have to be a little careful (it’s easy to get carried away here), but it’s also nice to be free to order as you go without having to keep clunky menus at your table or have to keep asking a waiter to bring them back.

inamo kitchen spy

Spy on the kitchen at Inamo.

Next on our list was the Courthouse Hotel Bar (Courthouse Doubletree Hotel, 19-21 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, www.courthouse-hotel.com), another place I thought might be more gimmicky than good given its concept. I was happy to be wrong again, thoroughly enjoying cocktails and food in one of the three holding cells that have now been converted into private drinking rooms at this hip Soho bar.

courthouse hotel bar london

courthouse hotel bar cell In 2005 the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court was converted into a Doubletree hotel. It was the second oldest magistrates court in Britain and the building has seen some very interesting people within its halls, including Charles Dickens, who used to cover criminal trials here when he was a reporter, and Oscar Wilde. The three cells have given shelter to the likes of Mick Jagger, Johnny Rotten, Francis Bacon, Keith Richards and Bob Marley, who have all spent a night here at one time or another (guess who was the worst offender of those five?) The cocktails are excellent and we feasted on a delicious trio of bar snacks here (chorizo, spring rolls and cheese biscuits), so there’s more to this bar than just fascinating history.

courthouse hotel bar cocktails

courthouse hotel bar food

On the day we visited Portobello Road we sought out another gem from the book, Notting Hill institution, Books For Cooks (4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, www.booksforcooks.com) As its name suggests, this is a cook’s comprehensive book store, filled with every type of food-related book imaginable (over 8,000 titles). I was super-impressed with their international cookbook selection and even more impressed with the little test kitchen at the back. We’re still smacking ourselves on the head for not coming at lunch time because apparently this is THE place to be for excellent-value two and three course set lunches.

books for cooks london Every day the shop’s three chefs test recipes from the cookbooks in the kitchen, tweeting the selections in the morning to customers who swarm in droves at lunchtime (it’s noon sharp if you’re headed there – the food sells out FAST!) While we didn’t taste anything, I’m going to take the fact that the shop is quickly selling out of their “best of” compilation cookbooks at every edition as a vote of confidence in the cuisine. The shop also offers cookery classes and workshops in the demonstration kitchen upstairs – check the website for listings.

JonGlez Publishing provided us with a review copy of  Secret London: Unusual  Bars & Restaurants for our trip to London but all opinions are always our own.

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Romantic Russian and French Fusion at Tchaikovsky Restaurant In Tallinn http://inspiringtravellers.com/tchaikovsky-restaurant-tallinn/ http://inspiringtravellers.com/tchaikovsky-restaurant-tallinn/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:02:45 +0000 http://inspiringtravellers.com/?p=5653 A taste of Russia is always in order on a visit to Estonia and Finland. We enjoyed a romantic dinner at Tallinn's award-winning Tchaikovsky restaurant.

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I do love a sultry pairing. When we first received an invitation to dine at the best restaurant in Tallinn, Tchaikovsky, I had no idea the kind of treat that we’d be in for. Russian food is already like no other, but to discover a place where it’s created under the influence of one of my favourite cuisines was a palate-changing experience. I couldn’t even imagine what was in store for us but I soon learned why this fine dining gem in Tallinn’s Old Town has been named Best Gourmet Restaurant in Estonia for 2012 by the Silverspoon gastronomic awards.

tchaikovsky cocktail

Restaurant Tchaikovsky is situated inside the beautiful Hotel Telegraaf. Under a glass ceiling and the opulent chandelier, diners are serenaded by the sounds of classical music as they enjoy Russian and French fusion from Executive Chef Vladislav Djatšuk. We chose a somewhat private table in the adjoining room, though I did sneak in a few photos of the talented musicians.

tchaikovsky tallinn restaurant musicians

We perused the menu over a couple of cocktails. I enjoyed the signature Tchaikovsky cocktail, which I highly recommend. With a blend of vanilla vodka, sour apple, crème de cassis and lemon juice, it was the perfect pre-dinner enticement.

I could tell this would be a meal to dream about forever just by the sight of the first kitchen greeting. Each dish was modern and inventive while still capturing the traditional styles of both Russian and French cooking. My first course was the largest blini I have ever seen, served with white fish roe and classical garnishes. John enjoyed pelmeni of langoustine with a capers and tomato ragout and shells cream sauce. Pelmeni are traditional filled dumplings, similar to Polish pierogi, however pelmeni are made with a much thinner dough and the fillings are usually raw rather than pre-cooked.

tchaikovsky restaurant tallinn royal blini

Royal Blini with classical garnishes and a white fish caviar

I’ve always had blinis that were quite thin but this thick version was hot and delicious, perfect for tearing apart with my fork and knife to eat with the tasty caviar, cream, egg and onions on the plate. By the time I finished our wine had arrived, a perfect French Bourgogne from their excellent list, which is European dominated but with several new world selections as well. Guests can choose from a wide variety of wines in both price and style, everything from Cristal Champagne to a non-alcoholic Muscat from Spain.

Rabbit en croute with carrot, raspberries and fricassee sauce

John adores rabbit and was delighted to find his dish on the menu, served en croute with carrot, raspberries and fricassee sauce. The pastry was light and sealed in the juices of the rabbit – delicious! I cannot usually pass up venison dishes and thoroughly enjoyed my roasted deer fillet with parsnip puree, marinated rowan berries and beetroot sauce. As we hoped for with such a French-inspired menu, the sauces were perfectly balanced while letting the flavours of the meat shine through.

Tchaikovsky deer

We probably should have skipped dessert but how could we when we saw the menu? John can never resist chocolate and was intrigued by the Valrhona chocolate cake with hazelnuts and blueberries sorbet. I ordered the very special Pavlova à la Tchaikovsky, which arrived at the table with such a dramatic presentation: a topping of the season’s first snow resulting in an enchanting cloud over my plate. Both provided a sweet ending to a beautiful meal.

Pavlova à la Tchaikovsky

valhrona chocolate blueberry

I cannot conclude without mentioning the wonderful service we received and the romantic atmosphere at Tchaikovsky. We will definitely return on our next trip to Tallinn, especially because there was so much we missed from the menu. The guests at the table across the aisle raved about their soups and, of course, there is always the degustation menu for a slightly longer evening. This unique restaurant should not be missed on a visit to Estonia’s capital.

Many thanks to the Hotel Telegraaf for hosting us.

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