Breakfast in America

What goes on in America stays in America… eh? It seems not. A couple of weeks touring the diners of Chicago and New Orleans will certainly give any returning traveller a few extra pounds they didn’t originally take with them; and I’m not talking sterling currency here.

Breakfast in America is not just an album by the old UK rock band Supertramp. It’s an institution not to be taken lightly (as if ‘lightly’ could ever apply to food in the US); it demands time and effort… and an expectation that you might be beaten by the challenge on more than one occasion.

Yolk is a great starting point on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. An unpresupposing exterior camouflages gastronomic morning mayhem. That’s why people are often queueing to get a table; but quintessential US counter culture (of the eating at the counter variety, not the return to flower power variety) gets me in immediately. The more than pleasant greeting of a young woman in a tee-shirt claiming to be ‘Handling your huevos since 2006’ provides a warm inner feeling long before the order arrives. It also leaves me lamenting… “who is going to handle my huevos when Duck One achieves his infantile wall building wish?” The ‘Works Omlet’ with a side of joyous noise eases me nicely into the lazy challenges of the day ahead. Marvellous!

Eggsperience, off the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile, keeps the theme of the hen going strong. Omelet or pancakes is the first decision of the day. Oh for such difficult decisions every day! A fleeting thought about a healthy orange juice and blueberry start to the day quickly succumbs to the need for sides of a pancake stack and bacon…

Eggsperience blueberry pancakes

But, a gaze over a shoulder also suggests another visit could be needed for that omelet option! Perhaps a vegetarian compromise could be made. Though perhaps all good vegetarians should be introduced to the necessity of a side of bacon!

Eggsperience vegetarian omlet

The famous Lou Mitchell’s, west of South Loop is an institution that should not be missed on any visit to Chicago. tired of blueberries? Why not add bananas to your pancake stack to bring some variety to the practice of indulgence? I think a side of raisin toast is also called for…

And, before leaving Chicago, get messy with a late morning Cubana sandwich at Xoco, a mere waddle from the aforementioned Eggsperience. A cucumber and lime drink might help balance the spicy fried pork and avocados wrap.

Not to be usurped in the breakfast challenge, New Orleans has its own crowds gathering to sample the delights of Ruby Slipper on Magazine Street. Again, the solo traveller gets to jump the queue with a stool at the counter. Time to try out the Louisianan Omlet of shrimp and grits, with a side of sourdough toast. A foundation fit to build any day upon.

Then there is the splendour of the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. A fine location to keep exploring the unique pleasures of a southern breakfast. This time the shrimp and grits are accompanied by a creole muniere ( don’t ask me, I’m just here to eat the stuff) for added spice to kickstart yet another day of challenging levels of relaxation!

Palace Cafe Canal Street [1]

Palace Cafe shrimp grits and creole muniere

Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square is a place to trade the creole for a touch of the cajun in your culinary morning. A cajun omelet with side of cajun potatoes could just about provide sufficient ballast for a steamboat trip along the Mississippi…

Talking of Jackson Square; for those of us with an interest in cathedral architecture and the Louisiana State Museum, a corned beef hash at Stanley’s comes highly recommended while you gaze at the architectural heritage from the comfort of your diner counter stool.  If you like your eggs ‘sunny side’ let the yolks drain into the corned beef. Just don’t shout out ‘Stella’ in a Marlon Brando impersonation, lest you startle the staff and clientele alike.

Alas, it’s getting near the time to head for the airport. The hotel provides a last port of call, and quite possibly the last eggs I will want to see for, well at least a few days!

Hotel St Marie 2 eggs breakfast

Until we speak again, it is time to return to a good old UK diet. Next time you’re in America check out the title of an old Supertramp album for guidance, but drop any notion of three square meals a day being a good idea (unless square is the shape you are aspiring to achieve).

Zak Show dot Com

 

Culinario gatti

Calling all you culinary cats… Giovanni’s has been established on The Hayes in the centre of Cardiff since 1983; but in 2013 a second branch opened on Park Place, conveniently opposite the New Theatre. But, don’t expect any Godfather III operatic grandstanding here… for a start, you may be greeted by a less than appetising facade of scaffolding, as painting is in progress.

Front [1]

It is worth getting past your penchant for deciding the quality of a restaurant based on the external appearance (particularly as this will change sometime soon). After all, you should be in food critic, not architectural critic mode, if your aim is to satisfy gastronomic urges. I know, I’m a hypocrite, as I am often critical of sloppy architecture, including that of modern restaurants.

On a recent post rugby match visit, there were plenty of persone che mangiano di ristoranti, with everyone engrossed in the menu under the expert tutelage of the resident maestro…

Giovanni's [1]

It is worth lingering over the menu, as this is no run-of-the-mill Italian chain. We are talking a family-run restaurant with plenty of amore put into the whole experience as well as the culinary produce. For the visiting young one it was Scallops Al Limone for a starter, which received glowing praise from someone who knows his scallops. I opted for the Gamberoni all Marchesa (roasted king prawns in garlic, white wine and parsley)…

Giovanni's [2]

Yes, I know it should be white wine with any seafood; but my inner Lecter couldn’t resist a nice Chianti! As for main courses, the visiting ‘Son of Cool’ went for the traditional option of a good home cooked Lasagne Emiliana Fatta in Casa, and yours truly was in the mood for a main that would live up to the red wine accompaniment. So, what better than a Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak in garlic, wine and tomato sauce)…

Giovanni's [3]

Some of you might be licking your lips with anticipation of what quintessential Italian desserts are about to be laid out before you. Well, tough… this is early evening, and space needs to be left for a few beers elsewhere (you can only have so much of a good Italian thing before reverting to what the British do better!). But, before I leave you, and in the continuing spirit of hydration, I did indulge in a double espresso and Sambucca on the side. There are some liquids that only the Italians really know how to make!

Giovanni's [4]

We both left full of culinario contentezza, as we transitioned from Italian delicato to the bustle of a Saturday night in a British pub. Until we speak again, may all of your cornetto’s be less than vanilla. And Bella says ciao.

Farewell

Surfing the turf

So there I was, in this crazy cats kind of world, suddenly finding myself back in Llanelli. Now, for those of you who haven’t been, you might just be wondering why go in the first place? And, for those who have been to this run down post-industrial area of south-west Wales, the source of wonderment is… why go back a second time? Well, we can’t always choose where the work is going to take us, is the plain simple answer to that conundrum.

However, once drawn into its web of intrigue, don’t expect things to be as they usually are! For a start there are the Castle Buildings as a prime place to stay… but it’s not the traditional Welsh castle that you might have been led to expect?

Vista Hotel

The hotel occupying this so-called castle site is the Vista Hotel… but I suggest you revise your expectations of vista’s before you arrive!

Church from hotel window

However, there is one thing that should cause most unsuspecting cats to pause (or is that paws?) before they pounce… it’s always interesting when your meal looks you in the eye and says ‘Your move!’

Surf and Turf [2]

The thing is… where to get the energy to launch an escape beyond the orbit of Llanelli’s gravitational pull? Rest assured, cats wishing to get out of the bag can take on an early morning full (Welsh/English) breakfast…

All Day Breakfast

Though be warned… the food in this place might just be enough to tempt you stay… at least until the next meal, if for no other exciting reason!

Until we speak again, Juno will display the level of industriousness now associated with the former powerhouses of Welsh industry…

Armadillo pose

 

 

Trump’s first nightmare

Take a picture of this… it’s a quiet afternoon the night after the celebrations, and ‘the Donald’ is looking for something to eat. His innate tendency to seek a confrontation draws him towards the promise of a grilling at ‘Mesopotamia‘.

mesopotamia

Not one to let any reference to the cradle of civilisation cloud his own vision of personal greatness, he accepts the perceived challenge and grumbles his way through an astonishing menu. A mesmerising presence of Iraq is peppered with Lebanese references, and an unexpected Mexican insurgency…

menu

As thoughts drift towards the need for building walls, he realises that the incumbent occupation has already created a tasteful arrangement of bricks, tiles and wood without the need to create any semblance of a barrier.

restaurant-1

The food is fit for any self-elevating despot. Starters of Vine Leaves and Halloumi Salad were preceded by complimentary bowls of a tasty broth, and accompanied by Ayran (a yogurt based refreshing drink). Who needs alcohol when the world is already laid out before you?!

starter-of-vine-leaves-and-halloumi-salad-and-ayran-drinks

While ‘the Donald’ reels in amazement at the strange collaboration of Iraq & Mexico the taste buds are further assuaged by a Mixed Kebab and Okra combination…

mains-of-mixed-kebab-and-okra

The overall mirage is completed by what appears to be a cocktail crescendo. But this is the peak of non-alcoholic consumption… so it is the taste of a full flavoured Virgin Mojito that satisfies the feast.

virgin-mojitos

To any self-respecting, world-appreciating, liberal-minded individuals, this is an experience to open the mind and satisfy the soul. If you are ever strolling along the infamously diverse City Road in Cardiff you are advised to pay a visit. ‘The Donald’s’ of the world need not apply; they deserve little more than a wall building around them, within which they can indulge their own nightmarish visions of the world. Bella would have been first to supervise and contain the nightmare from encroaching on the ordinary people.

x-ray-eyes

Until we speak again, may your culinary excursions be mind expanding.

A White Witch at Christmas

It’s that time of year when raucous party going crowds cram into garishly lit and decorated venues to indulge in over-consumption. So, here is the antidote, with a warmly seasonal scene… a Burnley brew (Moorhouse’s White Witch) found in a quiet corner of Carlisle.

the-griffin

Meanwhile, Bella could always be distracted by the thought of a Duck in the vicinity…

duck-in-carlislerear-view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until we speak again, enjoy your Christmas festivities, raucous or otherwise.

Death in the Sun

Is it the sun or is it the moon? How am I supposed to know, after all this is Lancaster, and I am merely a cat from Cardiff!

sun-at-night-sign

A view from a different perspective confirms it is the sun, but not as astronomical scholars know it. This is Lancaster, a place of history, sandstone architecture; and it’s cold and dark so time to find out what else this historical place has to offer travelling cats.

sun-at-night-outside-view

What will greet the inquisitive traveller to this promised source of light and heat? Why, death of course!

Dead cow

sirloin-steak

Dead pig

full-english-breakfast

Dead lamb

lamb-steak

Vegetarian deadly options are available, but this being the north of England, a mere southerner cat from Wales would hardly want to invite a scourge of ridicule by even enquiring of such things. This is a place where Lancaster Blondes are apparently smooth and tasty temptations for the unsuspecting weary traveller…

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When daylight dawns there really is an abundance of old sandstone to navigate and cast an architectural eye over.

The good folk of Yorkshire might well lay claim to their county town of York being far better known; but the rival Lancashire has a county town well worth exploring, full of interesting knocks and crannies.

Until we speak again I can fondly remember a couple of ex-cats who would have gratefully ignored any architectural indulgence in favour of exploring death in a bowl! Juno and Bella always wore an indignant look when it came to food choice!

cat-matecall-this-food

Coffee Industry

capital-quarter-new-build-1

Something’s happening in a strange space outside of the city centre of Cardiff, known as the Capital Quarter.

For many locals the sight of a blue sky takes on a mythic status. But with the help of an over-sized set of chopsticks, there seem to be some complex metal jig-saw puzzles rising where once there was mud and the dereliction of industry from a bygone age…

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What this emerging conglomeration of metal and glass structures are meant to offer is anyone’s guess. The well-being of indigenous Cardiffians, and the post-Brexit still welcomed immigrants of the world, is duly promoted by the purveyors of dubious post-industrial dreams. But surely, the only real industry of any note in the developed world of the 21st century is coffee shops. You don’t have to look too far (about 5 yards buys it) for the nearest coffee shop, as Kin + Ilk promise a future marriage of coffee and industry, in the form of a ‘small business’ promoting venture.

kinilk-1

In modern parlance, we now have an artisan coffee shop, whatever that is! A quick glance at the menu offers the first hint…

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If you prefer your avocado + chilli + lime on toasted sourdough to be sampled in a minimalist setting, this is your place…

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The cappuccino just about holds its own against the masses of competition occupying the city centre.

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But clearly it is early days, and these premises look perfectly located for the hundreds of anonymous captains of industry who will no doubt descend on the business edifices (or is that edify?) sprouting out of fertile former docklands grit. Located on Smart Way, it is yet to be determined if it is a smart move, but they are at least extending a daily welcome to anyone passing by (or is that lost?)…

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computer-cat

 

Though she is sadly long passed, Juno was always one for a contemporary coffee shop pose, as no self-respecting cat has a cup without an accompanying screen.

Until we speak again, don’t forget that those cups of coffee are not only your pleasure, they are also contributing to the next industrial revolution (or should a ‘not’ be inserted somewhere in that sentence?).