Danish Breakfast

21 Jan 2012


When I teach here in Naerum, Denmark (which is about 25km up the coast from downtown Copenhagen), I usually stay at the Marina Hotel in Vedbaek. This hotel used to be part of the Quality/Choice chain, but the logos and banners and such here have all been changed to "First Hotels." A lot of hotels in Europe are privately owned (not corporate locations), and they occasionally change franchise allegiance.

You're looking at my breakfast for a quiet Saturday morning--soft boild eggs (I had two, but only put one in the pic), bacon, a wedge of Havarti cheese, a mini-croissant, and a mini-pastry. Yes, the danish are tasty in Denmark. :-) They do have scrambled eggs in a bit warming tray, with boiled potatoes, and mini-frankfurters. Many European hotels think of hot dogs as a breakfast sausage. Scrambled eggs from mix or powder don't really do it for me, hence the soft-boileds.

Here's the cold breakfast buffet at the hotel. In most European cities (except for the UK), I'll make a ham-and-cheese sandwich of stuff from the cold buffet and a small kaiser roll or whatever hard rolls the hotel serves. Here, I bypass this in favor of the croissants and pastry. In the UK, of course, there's always some variant of the "full English."

The weather is cloudy and iffy, so I'll stay out here in Vedbaek rather than go into Copenhagen today, catching up on writing and stuff, while you Nortreamericanos sleep.

The "Hot" versus "Cold" Muffuletta explained (with help from @KatiesMidCity)

20 Jan 2012

Homemade "half a muff"

Before the holidays, I had lunch with several people to Katie's Restaurant in Mid City. While I was dying to get Chef Scott's babyback ribs, I saw he had a muffuletta on the menu. The muff is an impulse selection for me; rarely do I go somewhere (other than Napoleon House or Central Grocery) knowing this is what I want.

The muffuletta is a wonderfully New Orleans twist on an Italian classic, antipasti. You've had antipasti, literally, "before the pasta," as starters in your favorite Italian restaurant. The Sicilians who worked in the French Quarter would go to Central Grocery and a number of other places and grab antipasti for a light lunch. The problem was time and logistics. That's when the folks at Central Grocery solved the problem in true NOLA-style. Take the antipasti, meats, cheese, olive salad, and put them all in between two pieces of bread to make a sandwich. They used the round loaves of seeded Italian bread made by United Bakery on St. Bernard Avenue (may it rest in peace, a victim of the storm). Now the workers in the Quarter could grab their antipasti and eat it in a very-convenient, fast-food format.

Like the porridge of the Three Bears, there are three ways to serve a muff: hot, cold, and just right.

The "cold" style is what you get at Central Grocery. Pre-refrigeration, this meant room-temperature for the ingredients. These days, "cold" really means "cold," since the meat and cheese is kept in the deli cooler. The walk from the grocery over to Jackson Square or the Moonwalk on a sunny May afternoon will take the edge off the chill, and you get the antipasti-sandwich that those workers got all those years ago.

Many po-boy places and other restaurants will toss a sandwich in an oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese. They do the same for a muff. The problem with the "hot" muff is in the meat. Salami and mortadella are fatty cold cuts! Heat up a slice of mortadella in a frying pan and watch how much grease it generates. When it's at room temperature, or just starting to warm up, these cold cuts are great; hot, they're dripp and (to some) unappetizing. Think double-pepperoni pizza here, where the grease runs down your arm when you eat a slice.

So, back to Katie's. When my sandwich got to the table and I picked it up, the bread was very warm. When I bit into the sandwich, the cheese had started to melt, but the meat wasn't hot. Chef Scott, working the room as he often does, stopped by and told me how he likes to heat up the bread but not the meat and cheese, so the sandwich isn't too greasy.

Chef Scott Craig of Katie's in Mid City, holding the restaurant's award from New Orleans Magazine (pardon my poor framing of the shot, I was stuffing myself with Scotty's char-grilled oysters at the time).

That's exactly why Katie's is one of my fave places! Chef Scott gets it. The first time I heard this muff-construction vocalized was back on Fitzmorris' radio show, well over twenty years ago. I thought about it at the time. Central Grocery are the masters of the "cold" style. Napoleon House do the "just right" style, as does Katie's.

Making Your Own Muffeletta

Basic components: Round Italian bread, provolone cheese, mortadella, salami, ham, and olive salad. With United Bakery "ain't dere no more," this loaf comes from Binder's, in the Marigny. The cheese is provolone, from Zuppardo's deli counter. The salami is from a specialty company, purchased at Zuppardo's. I tried these folks' chorizo and it was good, so I thought I'd give their Genoa (hard) salami a try. Not bad! The ham here is Chisesi's boiled ham. The olive salad is from Progress Grocery.

Mortadella, from Zuppardo's. This meat is in the same family of cold cuts as Bologna, but much fattier, as you can see. This is the big culprit in the "hot" muff.

The bread. Heat up the bread, nice and warm. When you assemble the rest, it'll transfer.

Assembly. Put it all together and eat!

Keep in mind that this is an "antipasti sandwich." There are many other types of meat, fish, veggies, and cheese that are served on the antipasti buffet. While others may cry heresey if you add or subtract from this basic formula, do what works for you.

Life is short, eat good food!

Katie's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Vienna: Ristorante Fratelli

15 Jan 2012

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I discovered Ristorante Fratelli three years ago, on my first trip to Vienna. It's just two blocks from Stephansplatz, the Metro station next to St. Stephen's Cathedral. Wandering around the general vicinity of the Cathedral, I came across what looked like a nice place that had pizzas at decent prices, so I gave it a try. It's been one of my go-to places ever since.

My trip to Vienna in December was over two weeks, a 5-day class one week, the weekend to myself, then a 3-day class, home on Thursday. Over that time, I dined at Fratelli twice.

My starter on the first visit was a pumpkin cream soup. This was the second pumpkin soup I'd had in a few weeks, and it was excellent. On the second visit, I had a true pasta course, tagliolini with mushrooms in a cream sauce. The pasta was cooked just right. You can see the half-litre of the house white wine I enjoyed on that trip in the background.

My main on the first visit was Penne Ai Medici - Home-made pasta with mushrooms and meat sauce, peas, and tomatoes. Was it unique? No. Still, it was excellent, filling, and I didn't feel overwhelmed and bloated. It had been a busy day, so the soup-and-pasta combination, along with a half-litre of the house red was just what I needed.

On my second visit, I went with pizza. The creamy pasta starter was tasty, and this was why I keep coming back to the ristorante. That's salami, red onions, green onions, cheese, and a red sauce pizza. European places don't do "pepperoni" that you get at Pizza Hut. They do classic salami and other sausages. That makes their pizzas much less greasy and drippy than your average New York style slice.  This pizza really hit the spot.

Desserts! House-made tiramisu on the first visit, then a combination of dark and white chocolate mousse on the second. Both tasty, but I'll admit, this is one of the bist tiramisus I've ever had. I rememberd that from previous visits.

I noticed Grappe on the dessert menu. I always remember Chef Cat Cora and her sous-chefs would do a shot of grappe after time was called on "Iron Chef America," and reflected that I'd never tried it. There were several different Grappes on the menu, so I went for one in the middle of the price range. Not too firey and tasty. Good thing I did this on my last night in Vienna and all I had to do the next day was sleep. :-)

Coffee, of course, to end the meal...Cafe Latte for me!

Atmosphere - December in Vienna! Very festive, but even when I've been there at other times of the year, you can tell when you're in a restaurant that people really enjoy. I've always dined i the downstairs dining room, which is below street level. You enter the restaurant, and there's table seating at that level, but the main/larger dining room is one level below.

Service - always excellent. They tag-team service here. If a waiter passes you and sees you need something, more wine, you're done with a course, whatever, they pour some more, take the plate, etc. Polite and responsive.

I sincerely wish I had caught the name of the gentleman who was maitre 'd for both of my visits. For the first visit, the place was a quite busy, but he managed to find me a table with not that long of a wait. They had a big group (30 people--they put tables together in a long line running the length of the room) that created complications with seating. On the return visit the next week, he remembered me, shook my hand, and got me a small table as soon as someone got up. You can't ask for more without a reservation!

Fratelli is just a two-block walk from the Metro stop by the Cathedral. Check the map, it's not hard to find at all.

Check out the website - It's in English. The staff all have good English as well, so you won't have problems. Enjoy!

Crabmeat-Artichoke Dip

17 Dec 2011

My wife and my neice are throwing a baby shower today, so I was tapped to make a couple of appys for the soiree. This is a crabmeat-and-artichoke dip.

  • 1lb lump crabmeat
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic, chopped/pressed
  • 1 8oz box of frozen artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2-3 tbps flour
  • Tabasco (to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Old Bay seasoning to taste (optional if you're from New Orleans and think Old Bay is heresy)

Saute the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and artichoke hearts in the butter until the onion is translucent and the rest are wilted. I cheated on the veggies for this--notice the container of chopped stuff in the ingredients pic.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies, then mix so it all becomes a thick, sticky, mess. Add the wine, stirring continuously. Add the half-and-half, stirring. Let this simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the crabmeat. Fold in the crab thoroughly. Season with tabasco, salt, pepper, and Old Bay to taste.

Test the dip with the crackers you'll serve it with. Too thick? Add some more wine and/or cream. Too thin? Let it simmer a bit longer.

Serve and enjoy!

Veal Parm!

16 Dec 2011

Kiddo wanted red gravy tonight, so I gladly obliged! buried under there is breaded veal round, with two veal chops, as well. I double-breaded the meat, covering them with Progresso bread crumbs, then dipping in an egg wash, then more bread crumbs. Brown them in some olive oil, cover with copious amounts of provolone, and red gravy.

For the sauce, I cheated tonight. It's Emeril's "Eggplant and Gahhhhhlic" from the jar, with some creole seasoning, fresh basil, and red wine.

Came out pretty good!

Food Truckin' with @LaCocinita! (check them out tomorrow at @NOMA1910)

15 Dec 2011

One of the most important things I do when I'm home after a run of classes out of town is to re-connect with my twitter buds. For lunch on Tuesday, I connected with my friend and most-awesome writer, Anne Berry. I got a tweet from the folks running a new food truck the day before, so we decided to give them a try.

We caught up with La Cocinita over by Hollygrove. Nice looking truck! Turns out the owners have a steady gig at Commander's Palace. Busy folks!

La Cocintita has a "step-by-step" menu...

  1. pick your shell (we did arepas rather than tacos)

  2. pick your protein - they had pollo and pork, but no carne biggie for us, so chicken and pork it was.

  3. pick your sauce - these folks have a good selection of sauces, For the first two orders, we got the "avacado vinaigrette" on the chicken (above photo) and their mango sauce on the pork.

(Rachel, if you read this, please e-mail me the menu...I forgot to take a pic of the board :-))

  1. add extras. Anne wanted plantains, so we got an order of savory-fried. That's them in the center of the photo above. I got a "Mexican" Coke, which is made with real sugar rather than corn syrup.

The verdict: we honestly couldn't decide which was better between these.

Naturally, we had to go back for more.

Pork (left) and chicken, again, but this time with the roasted corn (on the chicken) and onion sauces. These weren't bad, but the first two were better. I'll try the garlic next time, but I'll go back to the avacado or mango as regulars, methinks.

Overall, we spent about $35 (plus tip) for all this food, eating it in the car just down the street from the truck. Nice lunch!

These guys are out and about a lot. Here's this weekend's itinerary, from their Facebook page:


  • TONIGHT: Le Bon Temps Roule for the Soul Rebels Brass Band show, 9 PM-3 AM, 4801 Magazine Street
  • Friday night: Across from St. Joe's Bar, 9 PM-11:30 PM, 5535 Magazine Street
  • Friday night: NOMA 100th Anniversary Celebration, Midnight until ??, One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park
  • Saturday night: @PechakuchaNOLA, 6-10 PM, Joan Mitchell Center, 2275 Bayou Road
  • Saturday night: The Rendezvous, 10:30 PM-1:30 AM, 3101 Magazine Street

Seriously contemplating going out at Midnight for a snack on Friday...the NOMA 31-hour Celebration looks like a lot of fun.


5 Dec 2011

cross-posted to YatTravel

While we must give props to certain coffee shop chains in the US for increasing the awareness and appreciation of coffee drinks such as the latte and the cappuccino, the Europeans still kick our ass when it comes to presentation.

A "Cafe Latte," properly presented, at the cafe in the Julius Meinl store in Wien Mitte (Vienna city center).

a cappuccino from Italic, a restaurant in Vienna center.

and here's a latte from the Seggafredo cafe in Gasometer City


Thank you, @FightTheStupids!

20 Nov 2011

Thanks to Maple Street Book Shop for having me in last night to sign the book! It was a lovely time.

Before going into the "new book" store, I stopped next door to the "used book" shop, to say hi to @brookssigler, who is (usually) the "voice" of @fightthestupids on Da Twittah. While chatting to Veronica, I noticed this calendar on the counter. I'm not a big Tulane fan (UNO 1980 here), but what a neat collection of vintage NOLA stuff!

And you just gotta love this guy...Of the four or so cats hanging out at the used shop, this guy just looked at me like, who the feck are you? :-)

Thanks to everyone who came out, and again, to the Shop!

Gorgonzola-Avocado Dip

20 Nov 2011
Putting this here mainly so I don't forget it...recipe was shared with me by a FB friend.
Gorgonzola-Avocado Dip
(adapted from "Roquamole" in Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson)

• 1 c. crumbled gorgonzola (or other blue cheese); I often only use about ¾ c., since this is rather strong**
• ¼ c. sour cream (I use lowfat)
• 2 ripe avocados+
• ¼ cup finely diced dill pickle**
• shot of chili or Tabasco sauce**
• 1-2 TBSPs fresh snipped chives**
• ¼ tsp paprika
• juice of 1 lime, or a shot of bottled lime juice (optional)**

Let the gorgonzola and avocado come to room temperature (this will make them combine much more easily).

Then mash together well, in a bowl, the gorgonzola, sour cream, dill pickle, chives, and (optional) chili sauce and lime juice.

Add the avocado to the mixture and mash well, until you have a thick, creamy dip. (It's okay if there are still some little lumps of cheese here and there.)

Put in a serving bowl, sprinkle paprika over the top. Serve with tortilla chips. (I prefer tortilla "scoops," because they make it much easier and less sloppy for people to eat dips. Nigella's recipe recommends blue corn tortilla chips for this dip.)

Note: The avocado will go brown quickly, once it's exposed to air. Adding lime juice helps slow this process. Even so, it will go brown. So I find this isn't a good dip to put out at a large party where it'll sit for a long time. It's best to put in front of hungry dinner guests as an appetizer, so they eat it before it has a chance to go brown. (For this same reason, I add the avocado to this dip right before serving; never ahead of time—though you can have everything else already mixed in the bowl and ready-to-finish.)

+ The easiest way to deal with an avocado is cut it in half, remove the pit, then use a small spoon or teaspoon to scoop out bite size chunks of it, directly out of the shell and into the dip.

** The original recipe calls for Roquefort or Saint Agur (instead of gorgonzola), sliced green pickled jalapeños from a jar (instead of minced dill pickle and an optional shot of chili sauce), and finely sliced scallions (instead of chives). I substituted ingredients that I prefer or am more likely to have in my kitchen, and you should do the same. The original recipe does not call for any lime, but it does help slow the browning process.