World Dinner Club

World Dinner Club
World Dinner Club

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Class, Then and Now - AOL Travel News

First Class, Then and Now - AOL Travel News

About to catch a flight from Washington Dulles to the Quad Cities and reading about the death of First Class, which has me thinking wistfully of a different age of travel when this was sort of glamorous and there was no TSA pat down, etc.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Porto Party - NYTimes.com

Porto Party - NYTimes.com

Funny, I don't remember Porto being much like this article.  I must have been too focused on the Port and captivated by the historic area to find the hip stylish quarters.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eating through Tanzania: Swahili Food from Savannah to the Shore

“You’re going where for your honeymoon? “
“Shouldn’t you be considering something more relaxing? “

Many comments and opinions surfaced around our plans to go on our honeymoon in Tanzania in September, but while a few were signs of confusion, most were whole hearted expressions of support.  After a whirlwind of activity in which I survived the circus of an Indian wedding and the months of preparation in advance, we hurriedly packed our new back packs and headed to Tanzania.  Pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food on KLM, but especially thankful for the ample supply of the wine, we arrived at night at Kilimanjaro International.  After a stay in a rustic lodge with variable running water on a coffee plantain, we got up to a cold an foggy sunrise.
The day began with a very English breakfast of bland baked beans, English pancakes that are neither crepes nor flapjacks, and some fresh pineapple. The food was rather disappointing despite our hunger. Fortunately it was possible to order some eggs.  Our guide, Patrick, picked us up and took us to Ngorogoro Crater Park.  

Awed by the concentration of game, we ate one of many packed lunches of hardboiled eggs, noodles, sugar cookies and bananas from inside the Land Cruiser.  I felt like I was still on an airliner and becoming for the first good meal.  By evening, we were at Olduvai Camp near the famous Olduvai Gorge where the Leakey’s discovered our oldest ancestors, the Australopithecus.  We had a quick briefing on the camp from one of the staff members.  Reviewing our dietary requirements, S explained that she does not eat beef.  I confirmed that I was fine with anything.  Asked if I was ok with elephant barbeque that evening, I semi-enthusiastically responded “ok sure,” causing much chuckling from the facetious manager. After watching the sunrise over the cliffs, I had my first Kilimanjaro beer and a dinner of roast chicken that was peppery and lean and sans elephant.

The next morning we went on a walk with the Masai who lived near the camp.  We noticed many guinea fowl that scurried around the bushes and rocks that dotted the landscape.  When I asked the Masai if they liked to eat it, they explained that they never did because they didn’t think it tasted very good preferring beef and mutton.  I was floored by this (more so than by the suggestion of having elephant for dinner).  Here the Masai had an abundance of perfectly delectable guinea fowl there for the taking and they were totally disinterested.  Trying to decipher what at all they did like, I learned that they like cow’s blood. Having seen this meal procured by Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, by inserting a sharpened wooden pipe into the neck of a very alive and reasonable distressed cow a calabash of blood is extracted.  
Confirming that this exact practice was in fact the case, I was also assured that you could have cow’s blood for breakfast and not have to eat the rest of the day. Truly this was the real breakfast of champions or a good energy drink. Does Gatorade know about this?


Our Guide drove us into the Serengeti.  The park is six times the size of Masai Mara in Kenya and about the size of the State of Connecticut.  In all, the vastness of the landscape of the Serengeti is incomparable. After seeing many more elephants , antelope and even the elusive leopard, we arrived in the evening at Dunia Camp. 
This luxury tented camp served us dinner at a long table where we got to enjoy an almost obligatory gin and tonic by the outdoor fire followed by a extraordinary dinner of chapatis, simple salads, chicken and peanut stew, marinated steak, root vegetables, potatoes and rice washed down with ample South African wine.  Desserts were fresh fruits with overly sweet crème anglais.

Our breakfasts got better.  My fried eggs were accompanied by thick round rashers of bacon, mushrooms or beans sautéed in onions, perfectly browned toast, fresh fruit juice and a choice of different jam or honey, which one morning attracted so many bees I had to move it to the next table.  Lunches became feasts of chicken baked in crisp pastry with potato salad and green salads with cold Kilimanjaro beer.

It was painful to leave for the airstrip to return to Arusha and knowing we had a few days of very different camping ahead of us on Kilimanjaro.

Smoking turkey with Jim Shahin

Pumpkin stuffed with Everything Good from Tasting Table

I think I just found the perfect potluck dish for fall!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Celebrating fall in New York: seasonal food and drink at Gramercy Tavern

I like to avoid something that sounds like a restaurant review, but my last visit to New York was made extra special after a visit to one of its famed restaurants. After reading Danny Meyer’s book on serving up success as a restaurateur last year, I was eager to try more of his Union Square dinning empire.  One place that was described with passion and warmth was Gramercy Tavern.  Described in Edible Manhattan as a modern tavern that George Washington would recognize, one is instantly enchanted by the old beams and modern casual paintings of fruit and vegetables amidst the more studied and formal portraits.  I was also excited to try eating chef Michael Anthony’s seasonal and local food knowing his experience working at Blue Hill and his focus on cooking local and seasonal produce as well as sustainable meat and seafood.  After unsuccessfully trying to make a reservation for dinner, my sister advised me that we could likely get a seat at the bar.   Arriving about 9.45 on a Saturday, we found unsurprisingly that it was packed.  Rather than get the cold shoulder from so many high profile restaurant, we were greeted with such charm by the host and hostess who apologized profusely for the long wait.  My sister who hosts Sunday brunch in the oh so too-cool-for-school Lower East Side gave the staff at the front of the house and behind the bar, a nod of approval. 

Retreating to nearby Tamarind for a drink and then returning in time to find a place where we could perch near the bar around 10.30 and then find a place to sit, we enjoyed some well crafted cocktails that creatively spoke to the time of year.  My Good Fellow combination of Famous Grouse Scotch, orange bitters, oloroso and walnut liquor was a harmonious blend of potent flavors that didn’t overwhelm.  Success!  A couple gets up and we get to slide on to high stools behind the dark, burnish wooden bar, rich lines running over the surface that made it look not as if it were scratched but as though it were a well-aged leather bag.  Nuts were placed on the table and I was delighted to finally eat the famed Union Square Cafe nuts that have been celebrated in cookbooks like Nigella Bites.



Our menus arrived and the seasonal dishes all took advantage of area produce and the hearty kind of cooking that best represents fall.   Torn between options, I settled for duck liver mousse that arrived with buttery toast of yeasty bread and pickled vegetables that were mildly vinegary.



 I knew I needed a glass of wine to enjoy this and my next course.  An unorthodox, but successful choice of a Rioja Gran Reserva circa 2001 was a good way to cut the gaminess of the duck liver with a spicy yet full-bodied red, without a mouthful of tannins.  My sister’s first course, a subtle squash soup with fried oysters on the slide had dimensions of deep root flavors and ocean crispiness.

Next came my entrée.  I usually don’t get soups or stews as a main course, but the description of the seafood and saffron chowder had sounded intriguing.  Rather than consistently heavy bisque, the chowder had minimal diary and had a conspicuous piece of poached fish that I needed to take apart with my knife, before enjoying its nearly meaty texture in the soup along with shrimp potatoes and some radish. There were allegedly mussels in this bowl, but they were rather absent. My neighbor’s trout was buttery and luxurious.

Dessert was certainly a requirement as despite the formidable options I settled on a happily overblown version of classic American comfort food:  chocolate pudding.  This was no ordinary chocolate pudding. Brioche and caramel croutons were tumbling over a spoonful of vanilla cream.  Breaking apart these and diving one’s spoon into the dense mousse is done with slight trepidation in light of a near avalanche of croutons.  The fun of extracting one’s coated spoon and eating it child like, I almost asked for a glass of milk, which Jeremy our affable barman would have no doubt only been too happy to accommodate.  We retired from Gramercy Tavern into the cool night air content in our choice and so pleased to have experienced the season at a restaurant that continues to set a new standard in not-so-haute cuisine.





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Duck liver mousse at Gramercy Tavern


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Wednesday, November 10, 2010