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.

Who needs Glastonbury?

If it’s July then it must be time for Cardiff Bay to host the International Food Festival. That’s the one where cuisine from all over… well Cardiff, masquerades as being representative of the four corners of the globe (who said the world is round?). And, while I am asking the fundamental questions of life, why go continental when you can have Welsh crepes?

Food Festival 2017 crowd [2]

But then again, it’s all about folks coming together and having fun, not serious authenticity…

Food Feestival 2017 crowd [1]

The music line up is to be marvelled at… here you will find a whole lot of musical concoctions you’ve never heard of… and quite probably will never hear of again!

Food Festival 2017 music

And, though Martin Scorsese is known for his music documentary films, such as ‘The Last Waltz’ (The Band) and ‘Shine a Light’ (The Rolling Stones)… move over man, it’s time for some revolutionary music filming techniques. Check out 40 seconds of ‘Bae Caerdydd‘… a sideways glance at a fusion of African, Irish and Caribbean flavours!

But it’s really all about the food. And, until we speak again, this cat is going to be immersed in a black pudding scotch egg (courtesy of the Handmade Scotch Egg Company) with cheese to blow your socks off (courtesy of Blacks Cheeses). What’s not to love about cheese with combinations like Irish Whiskey & Stem Ginger, or Caramelised Onion & Rioja, or Jalepeno & Lime, finishing off with some Sticky Toffee cheese?

Blacks Cheeses

‘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

 

Cat not home

So, there I was at BB King’s place. What else do you do for your 60th? He wasn’t there, but that was my fault, I didn’t tell him I was coming! However, some cool blues cats were present…

Thirst needed to be quenched, so do what the locals do… An ‘Urban South Holy Roller IPA’ might do the trick… 

But fabulous blues also seem to drive an  appetite. It looks like a hot beef ‘po boy’ is also called for…

So who needed the appetite interruption act? It seems that some cats just get preferential treatment, eating or not. 

Maybe I’m just being an over sensitive old git! Clearly some bluesmen have different priorities (if you catch my drift).

Anyway, the whole point of this ramble is just to remind my follower that a visit to Newawrlings is going to provide fabulous experiences, if you are ok about expecting unusual stuff!

Until we speak again, worry more about yourself. I’m just taking in ‘The Big Easy. 

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