Dumfries Surprise

Ever found yourself somewhere you never expected to be… only to wonder why it hasn’t appeared on your radar before? No! Well take a picture of Dumfries in the borderlands of Scotland. Better still, take a visit. It will only take a day or so of your time, as it is hardly a metropolis. But it will hold a few surprises.

A day in the life of Dumfries can only start with a wholesome B&B freshly cooked full Scottish breakfast, featuring a haggis cameo and the quintessential lorne sausage

Having partaken of the traditional sustenance it is time to explore red sandstone in all its native forms. The architecture definitely speaks of bygone important days, and was built to withstand anything the Scottish weather could hurl it’s way…

Scratch the surface and you may find that not everything is distinctly local. Having wandered around the tightly packed streets it is unlikely that the ballast of breakfast is wearing off; but let’s say for arguments sake that a dream of globalisation is intruding on your sandstone meandering. Americana Scottish-style awaits you on, of all places, English Street

If a Blueberry Delight pancake stack doesn’t remind your arteries of the concept of mortality nothing will! Suitably fortified the Cavens Arms is the best place locally for liquid refreshment. A good selection of the falling over juice (Orkney IPA and Jarl Blonde Ale were the main culprits) interrupted any photographic evidence.

Ask any self-respecting Scottish local and they will surely remind you of the hunger-inducing powers of imbibing the intoxicating liquids. Crumb will be there on of all places, Irish Street, to satisfy many cravings… Teriyaki Salmon, Beef Chilli or Southern Fried Chicken as particularly favoured samples…

Until we speak again, particularly sated cats recommend more than a day if you want to discover a Dumfries Surprise.

When Scotland met Ireland

Haggis Bon Bons turned out to be a sublime way of ending a working day in sunny Stranraer. What could possibly complement them? Step up to the plate Dublin, and serve up a pint of your finest Guinness

Until we speak again, if you ever find yourself in the Independent Republic of Stranraer, sample an international combination of Scotland and Ireland’s finest (as sampled at the Craignelder Hotel).

Wales by the Med

It’s springtime in Wales… blowing a gale and shivering! The deceptive kind of inviting day where any sensible cat would ignore the sun and blue sky and stay indoors. But where did sensibility get any of us anyway? Thoughts drift towards lazy balmy Mediterranean days of summer; but why wait… when The Mumbles can bring a piece of the Mediterranean closer to home!

Outside

Don’t be deceived by the empty tables, as this was a lucky early visit; and before we had finished the meal all tables downstairs were taken as were most upstairs. This may be a place worth booking to avoid disappointment!

Inside

Cheese may be what cats use to trap mice, but grilled Halloumi is always going to be a trap for me. But the real surprise was the cubed liver starter, far more tasty than any throw back to the dreaded school meals of shoe leather and cold onion fame. ..

Haloumi and Liver starters

Then came the main event… with so many different tasty kebabs to choose from the Turkish residents of The Mumbles certainly came up with a stunning twist on the Patlikan Kebab… Skewered Lamb, aubergines and tomato came vigorously sizzling across the restaurant to the table; and the addition of the spoon was an essential implement for what could easily have been mistaken for a supreme stew…

Patlikan Kebab

Until we speak again, enjoy your days in the Mediterranean, but if the cost of flights and hotels appear prohibitive, well, just pop over to The Mediterranean (Mumbles style) where the welcome will be just as warm.

Dandelion in the breeze

Cats purring on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Gower peninsula

What could possibly add to the tranquility of a brisk Welsh coastal breeze? How about a Dandelion? Well that wasn’t the answer that immediately came to mind…

Such an unassuming frontage hides unique delights… a place where Wales meets America, as local laverbread and samphire can be served up alongside pancakes with maple syrup!

Until we speak again, cats just love pigs… particularly when they come dressed as bacon!

[Note to certain readers: vegetarians are also served… and not just on plates!]

Feast of New Orleans

Is it really 20 years since Jeff Bridges uttered the memorable words in his role as Jeff LebowskiThe Dude Abides! Well, I don’t know about you, but when in New Orleans your taste buds will be on a collision course for which that phrase is definitely the most apt response.

Lets start with a stroll along Dauphine Street calling into EAT for a dish to truly baffle the likes of Juno and BellaBlackened Catfish… a lightly crusty outer skin with soft meaty fish. Just add cups of gumbo, rice, and generous portions of gherkin and tomato to provide an introduction to the coming days of what is likely to be a culinary explosion.

Meanwhile, at Joey K’s over on Magazine Street I stumble across a NOLA staple of Red Beans and Rice. A slice of Andouille Sausage brings out some spicy flavour. Not exactly the best accompaniment to a full on Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, so my recommendation is to sample the free water with the food, and then gently sip the wine.

For an introduction to the definitive ‘Taste of the BayouThe Creole House on Canal Street offers a trio of cups to tantalise the taste buds, as the gastronomic Louisiana trilogy of Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya are presented for inspection. If you know what you want, dive in, but if you are unsure this option helps you decide what next to dive in to…

Strolling further along Canal Street why not try the Palace Cafe for a hint of Shrimp & Grits with a Creole Muniere, or maybe Turtle Soup followed by their signature dish of Crabmeat Cheesecake. The creole munière is a gravy with just the right level of spice to give an amazing dish extra oomph. As for the cheesecake… you have probably never tried anything like this before, and will then probably want to spend whatever it costs on returning to NOLA to check out what you just tasted! As for the poor turtles, well, you just have to when the opportunity arises… don’t you?

But, not everything here is about visiting restaurants. In between the dining establishments that provide great drinks there are, you guessed it, the drinking establishments providing amazing food. Try Vacherie on Toulouse Street, and while sitting at the bar sipping a range of local beers why not wrestle some Alligator Bites, Collard Greens, Bacon & Brussels Sprouts, oh, and a House Salad for balance…

And New Orleans may just have a welcome and forthright message for any youngsters dreaming of eating their usual fayre… take a hike Colonel Sanders! For the real taste of Fried Chicken check out the Treme based institution of Dooky Chase, particularly with a side order of Candied Yams (and that’s a Shrimp Creole that my friend is choosing, in case your concentration was drifting across the table!)…

Talking of Treme based institutions, a Shrimp Po-Boy slides down well, even with Tabasco Sauce, at Li’l Dizzy’s on Esplanade Avenue, but as a Brit I note that not even NOLA can hold a candle to our chips (that’s proper chips, not the fries nonsense inherited from somewhere in the basement of French cuisine)…

By now you are probably wondering how your health is coping with all of this gastronomic fabulousness. So, if it’s something a little lighter your looking for, but, being America no less enormous… try a salad or two, or more! Starting with the sumptuously named Satsuma Cafe on Maple Street the recommendation would be a boiled egg and avocado surrounded by the funky leaves of a Kale Salad washed down with a Beet Lemonade

Or, drop in to Luke on St Charles Avenue for Fried Oyster Salad accompanied by something distinctively fabulous that they do with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Then again, if it’s music you like with your salad, try BB Kings on Decatur Street. The Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken is a terrific accompaniment for the Blues, man!

BB King's Club Spinach Salad with Blackened Chicken

Did you say fine dining? Bayona on Dauphine Street provides a more delicate option than the soulful sounds of a blues club; but, starting with a Fig Salad or Quail Salad, the need for a deeper wallet will be more than compensated for on the tantalised taste buds…

Ultimately, thinking about all of this food, Envie is a place you may well be contemplating at this stage. Well it exists on Decatur Street and provides just the right accompaniment to a start of the day large cappuccino and OJ in the form of an Asparagus and Prosciutto Omelette with a side Biscuit (US rather than UK style of biscuit, that is)…

Until we speak again, not all institutions are necessarily good! NOLA is just waiting to ensnare you with a distinctive plate of their trademark Beignet. An avalanche of sugar covering a doughy case to a gloopy mess; think doughnuts ramped up to warp factor 10, this is something Juno and Bella would definitely turn noses up at and simply walk away… you may be well advised to do likewise, but when in New Orleans sometimes you simply have too dive in and hope!

Alka-Seltzer anyone!?

Meal of the year!

Okay, so Christmas festivities are enveloping our gastronomic juices at these very moments; but for me, nothing is going to quite equal the most breathtaking of many experiences of New Orleans back in October.

Crabmeat Cheesecake… yes, you read that correctly! The Palace Cafe on Canal Street have developed a signature brunch dish for those who can’t quite make their mind up… is it going to be shellfish or a desert that will provide the best kick start to yet another day of sensory overload?

Until we speak again, why not spice up your start to the day the NOLA way!

Palace Cafe Crabmeat Cheesecake [3]

Winging it in Bodmin

Who said there is nothing good in Cornwall? Oh yes… my regular Devon correspondent! Well, a brief sojourn in Bodmin has just served to remind me how much I love chicken, particularly when satay is involved.

Until we speak again, my favourite duck is most certainly aromatic and crispy. As discerning cats I am sure Juno and Bella would have agreed.