Cultural defiance

In an America so captivated by the deal-driven marketing dream; of hyper-efficient profit-making; Dan Baum reminds us that New Orleans is ‘a citysized act of civil disobedience‘. 

Ain’t nothing tidy about New Orleans. A big brass band can suddenly strike up a ear-splitting tune from any available public bench, any time of day or night…

Here is a place that speaks to the truth; they may not haunt you in a ghostly sense, but, financially, well that could be another matter…

You can do your laundry in a former recording studio that was graced by some of the musical greats… where else will your shorts and panties be indelibly linked with Ray Charles, Little Richard or Fats Domino?

And the nailing down of the corporate lid will be stubbornly resisted with the darkest of humour…

Where the hustle and bustle of busy 21st century complexity receives short shrift…

In a world renowned act of rebellion this is where the simple act of eating out requires that you learn something akin to a culinary foreign language…

But it is also where the built environment can speak to you in understated emotional tones that eminate a great warmth of welcome…

Where human and avian worlds meet in an elegant balance…

Where glass ceilings have no place…

So, until we speak again, come to New Awlings, and…

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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.

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

 

Look through any window

It may be a famous old Hollies track, but the instruction also offers a taste of nostalgia. Here is a bygone age, when Brains were truly great beers to challenge the best around…

look-through-any-window

But this scene in a Cardiff Coffee#1 shop just got me reflecting back on a recent trip to Llanelli in west Wales. This was once a boom town built on heavy industries with a specialist focus on tinplate, but now it’s a faded shadow of itself. Perhaps it might still look like a big place to someone steeped in the rural ways of life, but to the average urban dweller Llanelli leaves you asking “what’s the fuss?” If you look closely enough you might find something resembling a modern welcome…

thomas-arms-hotel

But then again, as the first image implies, Brains used to be something once, but what’s the fuss? Better to settle for a smooth New Zealand Pinot Noir when the beer offering is the range of modern day corporate Brains!

fire-and-wine

Come to think of it log fires were something once, but now they have succumbed to a strange elevated form of designer chic as a centrepiece of a room…

fireplace

Then again, pork chops were something once, but what’s the fuss? Now they have to be Harissa spiced with a side of creamy slaw!

harissa-pork-chops

It’s good to know that a hearty cooked breakfast still is something, even if beans now have to come in a gravy pot!

Full Welsh breakfast.jpg

If you find yourself in the time warp, aka Llanelli, The Thomas Arms should provide that comfortable reality check that the 21st century is soon to make an appearance. Meanwhile, looking through any window provides me with a nostalgic remembrance that it was a favourite pastime of Juno

sunshine-at-14-3

Until we speak again, remember that nostalgia is a thing of the past. Spare yourself a moment or two, and look through any window

 

And so to eat

Call this food!Here in Cardiff it is a weekend where the events just keep coming. After the triumphant return of the national football heroes it is time to eat.

Fortunately, for local culinary cats, the timing just happens to coincide with the annual International Food Festival in Cardiff Bay. Drizzle-like periods of rain are a staple of Cardiff weather, but does little to dampen the crowds or the atmosphere of eating, drinking and live music.

Stalls display their wares from far and wide, with vegetarian options for ethical cats, and a smorgasbord of flesh cooked in every which way for the Juno’s and Bella’s of the world.

If it’s beer you want then Cornwall and Ireland provide a range of Sharps and Guinness lotions and potions, for those who are not so pernickety about drinking out of plastic cups:

Beer [1]

Beer [2]For those who don’t wish to get wet on the outside while watering on the inside, there are a selection of appropriately stocked tents around the site.

But for your loquacious reporter, it was time to talk less and eat more, with some exquisitely tasting morsels to be sampled. Good Welsh fare is represented by Cambrian Organics meat, with the choice of Lamb Burger being one this cat couldn’t resist…

Cambrian Organics [2]Lamb Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile the Hand Made Scotch Egg Company tease the tastebuds with approximately 40 varieties (including vegetarian versions). Your able representative chose the Casablanca, flavoured with harrissa, chilli, paprika & red peppers.

Scotch eggs

To round off the culinary voyage of discovery, Blacks Cheese stall presented a range of previously undiscovered delights. As much as the Piri Piri taunted the tastebuds, it was the Jalapino & Lime that seized hold of the wallet for further indulgence.

Cheeses

The event was not short on entertainment, with a full line-up of musical diversity to provide a back-drop to the informality of the grand social occasion…

Music line-up

And on the occasion of a Saturday afternoon at 3.00pm it was the turn of Immigrant Swing to provide a lively set…

Music [3]

Until we speak again may your jalapeno’s and limes enjoy a cheesy coming together!

Culinary cats on tour

B and JBella and Juno were never slow on taking any opportunities for adventurous dining; usually giving me the dead eye as I was trying to eat, but on many occasions just camping down near the fridge lest I forget there was plenty of cat-friendly contents lurking inside. The question is whether the spirit of culinary adventure was lost on me or not. A recent opportunity arose for a trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia, and when in such a fabulous place there was nothing better than taking the Juno/Bella challenge of trying to eat your way out!

First stop is Dubravka 1836, a delightful restaurant located just outside the Pile Gate of the old city…

Dubravka 1836 at night

 

 

The interior decor is a reflection of the historic surroundings…

Dubravka 1836 [3]

Dubravka 1836 meal [1]

 

So, the next challenge is to decide from a mouth-watering menu what to eat. Check out reviews in advance, as they can often point you to signature dishes. On this occasion a Dubravka beef steak coated in cheese presents discerning cats with a rich source of flavours. The Dingac local red wine is a perfect companion to, well just about everything!

After a necessary nights sleep, just to allow the previous feast to settle, and gentle strolling around the old city (see future blog posts), it is time for a satisfying afternoon snack. Restaurant Arsenal is located overlooking the old port… Restaurant Arsenal [2]… and where better to sample some of the local seafood delicacies. You can almost see the anchovies, calamari and shrimp queueing up to leap onto your plate! A glass of the Posip white wine compliments the seafood salad perfectly…

Restaurant Arsenal [3] food

Koloseum [2]Most cats will let you know that fish is the dish of choice every time, so suitably instructed an early evening call into the Koloseum restaurant provided the perfect opportunity to relieve the establishment of one of its delicately grilled Tuna Steaks. Oh, and a glass or more of the Grasevina white wine doesn’t go amiss!

Koloseum meal

 

 

 

 

Most places in Dubrovnik old city are back streets, but a meander around the narrow passageways presents an enormous choice of places to re-fuel. One such establishment is Domino restaurant, serving up a tender and juicy steak to interrupt the flood of sea-based sustenance…

Domino [3]

Domino [1] food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can only eat so much in a few days; a statement that neither Juno or Bella would ever have understood! There comes a time when you need to consider the return journey to the local airport. But not without a lunchtime visit to the starting point of the whole culinary adventure. Dubravka 1836 has its signature pizza dish, and who am I to leave without sampling it? This also gives me an opportunity to see in daylight that which had drawn me in so seductively as a beacon in the darkness.

Dubravka 1836 [1]

Dubravka 1836 daytime [2]

Dubravka 1836 daytime [3] food

Going back to apartment [5] cat

Strolling back through the old city to the apartment one evening, following an inevitable feast, I had this strange sense that Juno and Bella had arranged for eyes to be kept on me. Or perhaps that was just my over-excited imagination coping with the volume of fabulous vittles.

Until we speak again, eat well, drink well, and don’t feel the need to keep looking over your shoulder!

The Good Burghers of Cardiff

Here I am just getting ready for the most important function of my waking hours… it’s time to eat!

Ready to eat

But then comes the big decision… what to eat today? If you’re in the centre of Cardiff and facing a similar dilemma, no worries, as I occasionally send my ‘Culinary Novice’ out to collect some useful intel. Though when I suggested they get out there quick, to find me good cuisine, I wasn’t indicating they come back with information on fast food!

Grazing Shed [1]

Having already established themselves in a quieter corner of the city centre, it seems that  of The Grazing Shed’s brand of Super Tidy Burgers are doing well enough to take up an additional position in the busy south end of St Mary’s Street. But did the good Burghers of Cardiff realise that they were giving permission for a ‘shed recycling business’ when they agreed to the advancement of high quality burgers in their midst?

Grazing Shed [7]

I’m reliably told (if reliable is something I can apply to my ‘in-house infarct’) that this place is all about locally sourced, i.e. Welsh, products and produce. I’ve always been the type of cat who likes my cow to be within visiting distance, and preferably with an individual name!

Grazing Shed [6]Water [1]

“But let’s see the produce!” you impatient burger jockeys are saying. My ‘resident imbiber’ decided that a can of beer was the first priority; but then how can a self-respecting water slurper like myself impose any discipline on the easily tempted, particularly when they are out of my sight?

The Waen Brewery have cleverly tempted my resident ‘willpower deficit’ with an advertising slogan of ‘Hellish Good Beer’!

Grazing Shed [3]

 

Once the initial thirst is quenched it’s time to see what Ermentrude and Daisy have to offer for satisfying both taste and hunger. My ‘culinary chancer’ goes for a Spicy Uncle Pedro, and I demand a quick pictorial explanation to assuage my worst fears of what might have been going on out the back of the dining area! Meanwhile ‘gastronome junior’ apparently went for a more conservative bite of chicken in a bun.

Grazing Shed [4]

The reviews are both very complimentary of burgers and the associated accoutrement. Meanwhile the good Burghers of Cardiff can satisfy themselves that they are contributing to demand for the paper and the food basket industries, wherever they happen to be dominating the Welsh economy.

Until we speak again this Bella hopes that all of your burgers are chain-free!