Seafood diet

Nowhere is the old adage “a see food and eat it diet” more apt than in a culinary navigation of New Orleans. What is it with that fundamental cats to fish attraction? This cat has always been rather circumspect about eating them, and much happier to enjoy them as a visual display. But, as I stroll around New Awlings anything that enjoys a water-based existence had better look out.

If you are looking for a tasteful starting point, listen when your knowledgeable company interrupts the fine Californian Pinot Noir with a recommendation. “Have you tried Turtle Soup?” she asked. A quick scan of the cans in my mind suggested that neither Heinz or Campbells have yet delivered up such a delicacy in my local soup kitchen. “Garçon, crack open some turtles!” I thought, fortunately without actually saying it. And Tableau on Jackson Square introduced me to a whole new gastronomic pleasure…

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Then, if you fancy a salad to satisfy the palate in the build up to the main event, why not drop in on Vacherie on Toulouse Street for a fried oyster and spinach salad. Sophisticates amongst you may say that a cool sauvignon blanc will complement it just fine; unsophisticates such as I, will find a glass of porter does the trick…

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When thinking about main dishes I rarely find myself wondering what will go with the brussels sprouts. But, at EAT on Dauphine Street the blackened salmon provides the perfect mix of crispy and tasty accompaniment. They just don’t know how to do great chips in America though! Fries! what’s that all about?

Meanwhile, back at Tableau on Jackson Square, the gulf yellowfin tuna with a poached egg came with a waiter recommendation of “cooked rare”. My lifetime scepticism about the edification of fish led me to go medium rare; which convinced me that the rare variety would probably have been eyeing me up for a fight or making its own way back to the kitchen…

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And my dining companion decided on the ‘heads on’ shrimp and grits. Nothing like having your dinner eyeing you up! Though hiding behind some plant-like camouflage wasn’t really going to fool a ravenous Mississippi belle…

Until we speak again, if it is the Oceana Grill in the French Quarter it must be time to share half ‘n’ half blackened and fried alligator bites… and make it snappy! The old ones are the best (jokes, that is, not alligators). Okay, so it’s not exactly a seafood dish, but that’s not a conversation I’m having with any alligators, so they’re in…

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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…

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’! The 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.

Home of the Black Cats

Black Cat House

Sunderland is a city with a claim to be first to return their count at just about any national vote. Indeed the shock Brexit vote of 23rd June 2016 can be claimed to have started here. A recent visit gave some insights into why they are quick with the count… as a tour of the city centre suggests there is little else to do than stay in doors and count votes! What the Luftwaffe started in the 1940’s the city planners completed in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The local people are informally known as ‘mackems’, one explanation emerging from their former shipbuilding tradition, whereby it is the Sunderland shipyards that ‘mackem’ (or make them); and the rival Newcastle shipyards that finish them off… ‘tackem’ (or take them). My recent visit to the city was perhaps summed up by a representation of this very name, but closed to business…

Machem Pizza

Even their strangely named football ground, the Stadium of Light was shrouded in darkness (though it wasn’t a match night).

Stadium of Light

However, all is not doom and gloom. If you have a spare couple of hours, that should be just about enough time, then get your Google maps out. A stop off at the Hilton Garden Inn, next door to the Stadium of Light offers a great steak and glass of Rioja.

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Then take a stroll over the old iron bridge into the city centre…

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Navigate your way passed the colourful Magistrates Court (Tip: don’t end up inside as a result of thinking you can vandalise or litter the place as a means of visually improving the city’s demeanour!)…

Somewhere within the tribute to grim concrete lies a couple of interesting pubs with good ale selections. If the local CAMRA reps are to be believed, then The Ship Isis is the best pub in the area. Test that claim for yourself, but I would certainly recommend a visit if you like a pint of Allendale Mosaic &/or Camerons Strong-arm in restored Victorian surroundings…

But if you want to experience the real deal, there is always the likes of an Anarchy Blonde Star waiting at the Dun Cow, next door to the Empire Theatre…

Dun Cow and empire Theatre

As I write it seems the local football team are hurtling towards relegation out of the Premier League. I can only muse that if the disgruntled of one Stadium of Light decided to smash up the town to vent their anger, it would take Sherlock Holmes like attention to detail to spot the difference.

Until we speak again, I am sure that Juno would advise no more than a couple of hours needed to sample all that Sunderland has to offer, and then quietly make your escape!

Plotting an escape

 

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…

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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.

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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?!

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

Pigs ear of a meal

Juno and Bella both demonstrated a special fondness for a pig. Particularly one that came in morsels! As for a pigs ear, that was more likely a description they would attribute to me, or anything I attempted to do. But they sure would be salivating if they had an opportunity to share a recent experience of The Potted Pig

2. Outside sign

Following the financial crash a few years ago, there are many things that people can think of using an old bank vault for… not the least being a dungeon for locking away greedy bankers! Here in Cardiff we have more creative ideas, like a space where local people (and even a few visitors) can sample a range of pig-based fayre, with a drop of the falling down juice on the side…

3. Bar4. Bank vault

You might even be lucky enough to be placed where the eponymous pig can shun you, in favour of a little rest…

5. The Potted Pig

As for the food, I am pleased to say that this restaurant comes with that special characteristic of a small but perfectly formed menu. No unnecessary elaboration here, this is a place for serious quality at reasonable prices. Though the pursuit of pig clearly features as the centrepiece of our gastronomic quest, your choice of animal will be far from limited. However, I could not resist a starter that offers crispy pigs ears, particularly when it came with succulent black pudding, the smokiest of bacon, topped off with a delightfully poached egg. The pigs ears were pork scratchings of the highest order. My compardre chose a belly pork starter (but that was to be my main course)…

 

6. Starters

This was a breakfast like I had never tasted (particularly at 8.30pm). So now, after a delicate tasting of Rioja, it was onward, dinner beckoned. With ducks, lambs, fish, and even a vegetarian dish on offer, my friend succumbed to the sound of a quack, while I could not avoid the continuation of the snort. Slow cooked free range pork belly had to be the order of the day; even if it did come with something requiring the gastronome’s dictionary… choucroute. Me neither! It turned out to be something akin to sauerkraut, and perfectly adorned the sacrificial pig. They even do great chips here!

9. Both mains

All I can say is, that next time you find yourself on St Mary Street in Cardiff, with that knot of hunger and a desire to assuage the temptation of more vegetables, get your timing right. This is a place that has limited opening hours, and you may need to book, but it is worth it.

Sleeping catAs for Bella, had she been on this particular escaped, it would surely have ended in a cat-like impression of the potted pig itself.

Until we speak again, may your pigs ears be crispy.