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.

Assault by noodles!

Is it a cafe or is it a pub? Only one way to find out I guess…

The Ship & Castle in Portsmouth is a quirky place, to be sure. Situated directly opposite the main gate to the Historic Dockyard, you would expect something nautical and historical to inform its character and ambience, wouldn’t you? Well, you get something that is long and narrow, maybe that’s like a boat, I suppose?  Then there is the rope tightly wound around the base of a couple of metal pillars… exponents of sailing paraphernalia may genuflect with respect…

Ship and Castle [5]

So, I decided I would go for the fish-like part of the menu, so I could at least pretend to myself that I was eating in the historic heart of nautical England.

Ship and Castle [4]

The Teriyaki Salmon and Roasted Vegetables were cooked to ensure scurvy would be far from any landlubbers mind. But, beware the crispy noodles! You can’t eat them whole, but when you try to cut them with traditional eating irons, they ping everywhere. The experience of being assaulted by your own food was not listed on the menu, but adds a worthy distraction from the watery thin Young’s London Gold liquid accompaniment.

Ship and Castle [3]

Until we speak again, there might well have been a backdrop of an old metal anchor outside the window, but look elsewhere if you want authentic nautical history infusing your your choice of vittles.

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.

‘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.

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