Meal of the day

They say it’s breakfast, right? Well, when in New York get some time on your side; and I dont mean the famous Times Square. From there take one block over and 12 down on the grid, which brings you to the New Yorker on the corner of 34 Street and 8th Avenue…

Tucked away in the very corner you find time is ticking for the start of the day…

Step aside Starbucks! You’re now experiencing a slice of Americana, in an authentic diner.

But beware, the menu involves reading a book; and for that, time is not really on your side.

So, I will offer you a brief taster, with a Denver Omlet of ham, onions and green peppers, hash browns and a side of toast…

One of my readers reminisces over the Eggs Benedict, but I take a rain check (during an unseasonal heatwave). Instead, maybe you have heard of the famous American breakfast of blueberry pancakes (with a side of atherosclerosis!)…

Until we speak again, I assure you I am not an American; these were consumed on separate days. And in any case, there is the clear consistency of self-deception, as I convince myself fresh strawberries and an orange juice make any breakfast healthy.

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Resurrection NYC Style

New York City has constantly been in the process of reinvention, and sets a great example for taking old industrial relics and creating new spaces that people love. Chelsea Market is now 20 years old, but could easily have become a bland new-build paean to commercialism. Instead it is a cool use of an 800 metre long former biscuit factory in the meat-packing district.

A long and meandering thoroughfare now occupies a complete New York block with quirky shops and delis of all shapes and sizes that put the art into artisan…

You might even be serenaded by an impromptu jazz combo when you least expect it…

Then there is the thorny issue of what to do with a derelict rusting elevated railroad. The reborn High Line was first built to get goods out of the heavily industrialised Chelsea and MeatPacking districts without adding to the road traffic in midtown Manhattan
Many places would dismantle the old eyesore, and New York nearly did. But the foresight of a couple of environmentally savvy guys kept the structure standing. And now it is a stunning elevated walkway that provides tranquillity at the heart of the madness!

But, perhaps the best reinvention is actually a rebirth of a 1940’s institution. How could the Empire Diner on 10th Avenue in Chelsea possibly have been closed down? 

Fortunately for me it reopened 6 months ago, and I get to tuck into an American meal I can actually finish. Just add a berry-based fruit salad, and you might even lay claim to something healthy going on!

Until we speak again, if you’re feeling slightly dilapidated, why not reinvent yourself? You could do worse than take a lead from NYC-style reinterpretation.

This is not America

As the late great David Bowie once said, aided and abetted by Pat Metheny… This is not America. After all, a pub is surely a British confection…

Millers Pub sign

… a place where people come to experience those strangest of contradictions, private conviviality in a public space, a pretence of lucidity born through imbibing intoxicating liquids, where you may elevate yourself to bar room philosopher status while talking bollocks…

Millers Pub [2]

But This is not America, it is a Greek Salad after all. The freshest, juiciest, most tasty of Greek Salads, topped with succulent mouth-watering chicken, with that give-away sign that just maybe this is America… size! At this point I had been eating my way around a continent for 9 days, failing to completely finish a single meal. Constantly being portion-challenged. Surely I was not going to be beaten by a salad?!

Millers Pub Famous Greek Chicken Salad

Staggering into the daylight, a brisk walk was needed to help digest a meal successfully devoured. Then it dawned on me, an El Train was a clear Chicago give-away… This is America.

Millers Pub [1]

Until we speak again, just remember, if you haven’t voted a grotesquely unqualified egotistical megalomaniac into the most powerful job on the planet, you can safely look around and say… This is not America.

Chain reaction

Don’t be fooled by first appearances. These could easily be disgruntled punters beating a quick retreat; or troublemakers that have been shown the door. In reality this is the former Juno’s fan club President and Vice President, braving the elements following an anniversary meal at Miller and Carter’s Steakhouse on the outskirts of Cardiff.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [1]

I might be a little fussy about where I eat; but then I wouldn’t have been looked after so well by Juno and Bella, in their respective times, if I hadn’t been so fussy and discerning (or, that is what they would frequently remind me anyway).

One way in which these fastidious ways present themselves is a well-developed scepticism of anything chain-related. Not because I am aspiring to be a narrow-minded snob (I’m saving that treat for the full-on retirement years). More on the basis of having spent far too much of the precious time I have on this planet sat in chain-related establishments. In the interests of avoiding libel suits they shall remain unnamed (but you know who you are… and there are a lot of you littering otherwise interesting places).

Miller and Carter Steakhouses seem to be a chain who like to advertise their ‘love of Steak’, on their windows and just about everywhere else where space permits. Personally, my only previous visit, to another branch, didn’t quite provide that loved-up steak vibe. So, I attended this soiree with the full knowledge that the choice of eatery would be out of my control.

So, much to my surprise the whole experience can best be described as ‘succulent’!┬áThe King Prawns had just the right amount of spice to claim the description… garlicky. And, in an expression of modern culinary delivery, why affect the taste by tipping the pan contents onto a plate when you can simply put the pan on the plate? I’m not sure the pile of leaves constitute one of your five-a-day allocation for the fruit and veg stuff though.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [2]

But, the big test was yet to come. Fillet Steak is a mainstay of this gastronome’s on-the-road diet. No worries (as I turn Australian for a second), as the steak was cooked to medium rare perfection. The bowl of lettuce with a choice of slop to add on (bacon and honey seen here is recommended) was a nice twist for imposing some healthy note to the otherwise cholesterol infusing presentation…

Miller and Carters Thornhill [3]

The Argentinian Malbec (Aguaribay, in this case) was a great complement to the succulent fare.

Until we speak again, circumvent any car crash catastrophes… choose culinary chains with considerable caution.

Cultural appropriation

Who really needs to go to America when America has arrived in Smallsville UK? Take a slow stagecoach up the spine of England to somewhere near the mid-point, then hang a sharp right. Keep going until you nearly fall into the North Sea. Open your heart and prepare to fir up your arteries.

You might just be in the historic fish town of Grimsby, but the welcome when you get down off your horse is distinctly hog and steer focused. 

A mouth-watering menu invites choices of ribs, steaks, burgers, dogs all properly slow smoked. There again, if you want the authentic American experience try doubling up on your order; or even the ambitious ambiguity of the house challenge, which I suspect few win and will spend many days living in gastric regret if they did! 

Shooting for the moon could result in all kinds of medical complications in this place. So I go for the simplest version…

Choice made; when on a rare visit to Grimsby how could I resist the offer of a ‘Dirty Dog’? This one has been smoked for 5 hours, and comes with added pulled pork, salsa, sour cream, and hidden fire. Just as well it was too long for the bun, because once those sadistic Jalapeno guys grip your throat smoky thinking gives way to howling for more moon’s… of the blue and liquid combination, that is.

Until we speak again, just remember, you can now experience a little bit of America in Grimsby. But, who in America can honestly say they have experienced a little bit of Grimsby? 

Who needs Glastonbury?

If it’s July then it must be time for Cardiff Bay to host the International Food Festival. That’s the one where cuisine from all over… well Cardiff, masquerades as being representative of the four corners of the globe (who said the world is round?). And, while I am asking the fundamental questions of life, why go continental when you can have Welsh crepes?

Food Festival 2017 crowd [2]

But then again, it’s all about folks coming together and having fun, not serious authenticity…

Food Feestival 2017 crowd [1]

The music line up is to be marvelled at… here you will find a whole lot of musical concoctions you’ve never heard of… and quite probably will never hear of again!

Food Festival 2017 music

And, though Martin Scorsese is known for his music documentary films, such as ‘The Last Waltz’ (The Band) and ‘Shine a Light’ (The Rolling Stones)… move over man, it’s time for some revolutionary music filming techniques. Check out 40 seconds of ‘Bae Caerdydd‘… a sideways glance at a fusion of African, Irish and Caribbean flavours!

But it’s really all about the food. And, until we speak again, this cat is going to be immersed in a black pudding scotch egg (courtesy of the Handmade Scotch Egg Company) with cheese to blow your socks off (courtesy of Blacks Cheeses). What’s not to love about cheese with combinations like Irish Whiskey & Stem Ginger, or Caramelised Onion & Rioja, or Jalepeno & Lime, finishing off with some Sticky Toffee cheese?

Blacks Cheeses

‘Titanic’ for dinner, anyone?

A trip to Belfast shouldn’t induce any kind of sinking feeling, even when you are greeted with a sign that could easily be directing you to some dismal place at the bottom of the Atlantic

Road sign

There is a distinct landmark offered by the twin cranes, Samson and Goliath, of Harland and Wolff providing a beacon to draw you towards the location where the Titanic was built (even when gazing out of the hotel window).

However, these are a relatively modern monument to past industrial glory (circa 1969). Back in the day, the Titanic was built in a backdrop of harsher times, and the following pictures contrast a vision of the early 20th century with the present day exact location of its construction (actually marked out in detail on the ground)…

In a world where everything that is rooted to the spot can now be classified as a museum, to something or another, the Titanic has been commemorated by a particularly spectacular building, where every dimension and use of materials symbolises something about the original short-lived icon…

Museum building [1]

Museum building [3]

But, what about that dinner? Well, you could try the Bistro in the museum itself. My time was limited so I sampled the wares of the sleekly designed Premier Inn hotel. After all, some of us are visiting Belfast for work purposes you know (with a wonderful welcome from the Belfast Home Treatment Team)!

Premier Inn

Here, a Sirloin Steak can be adequately complemented by a glass of a Malbec Reserva. Just remember, when your waitress asks if you would like water with it, the reply is ‘NO ICE’!

Premier Inn steak

Until we speak again, you surely didn’t expect a carnivorous cat to ask for a vegetarian steak, did you!? For the record, unlike on that horrendous day in April 1912, only one animal suffered in the making of this blog post.