Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Way Out West: The Remains of the Day...Turkey Tetrazini so good, you may want to roast another Turkey

         This is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipe.  It is such a favorite that I have been known to cook a turkey or turkey breast just to make it.  It also is a great sentimental favorite because it was one of the first pieces of food writing I ever had published In Saveur Magazine. And then there is its provenance: Our dear friend Michael Grim introduced me to its creator, Anne Jaindl, a family friend with whom Michael’s late father Bill had worked.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cornbread and Sausage Dressing

Let’s face it: Turkey and Stuffing and/or Dressing is one of the brownest things you can make. By the way, the only difference between stuffing and dressing is whether you put the stuff in the bird or cook it separately. And between turkey and stuffing or dressing there’s very little color difference which may be one reason green beans are so popularly served with a Turkey dinner. But a few year’s ago, I found a recipe for Cornbread Dressing that included copious amounts of parsley and celery and, then, triumphantly for those of us desperate for color, red pepper.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Day Fourteen of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Split and the Cetina River

A Bas-Relief Map of Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace helps you get your bearings in Split         
The Bell Tower of the Cathedral of
St. Domnius dares from 1100 AD
When I was growing up there was a rivalry between my hometown of Montreal and the capital of English Canada, Toronto. This never made particular sense to me, as the argument that Toronto was inferior seemed to revolve solely around that city’s inability to drink alcoholic beverages on Sundays.  Or so my parents said.  It appears that in Croatia, a similar rivalry exists between Dubrovnik and Split, the two Dalmatian coast town Viking visits on its Mediterranean Odyssey. After considerable research, it seems to come down to this: Dubrovnik has altogether too many…cruise ship passengers.  Split on the other hand is ‘a real town’ where you can mingle freely with the locals.
Two Cruise Ships in Split: Viking Star
and Splendour of the Seas...the latter
just a little over 50 percent bigger than the Star
but with over twice as many passengers.
Oddly, on our visit to Dubrovnik, Viking Star was the only cruise ship in town, whereas in Split we were one of two.  The other carried twice the number of passengers we did and they were much in evidence in beautiful downtown Split. Nevertheless, I loved Split.  Just keep in mind that I never actually saw Dubrovnik.
         Split is dominated by an extraordinary structure.  The Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian
Diocletian's Palace 
dominates the entire center of the town. One of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean, Split is considered to be 1700 years old to coincide with the building of the Palace.  However, archeologists discovered evidence of a Greek colony that thrived in the 4th century BC.  Like so many places in this part of the world, Split has had many masters.  It was Byzantine then became part of the Republic of Venice, until Venice fell to Napoleon when it was given to the Hapsburgs of Austro-Hungarian fame.  With the fall of that Empire, in 1918, the city became part of Yugoslavia.  During World War II it was annexed by Italy until that country fell to Germany.  It went back to Yugoslavia after the war and finally in 1991, Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia following the Croatian War of Independence.  Phew.

The net effect of all these many masters over Millennia is seen in the Palace. It   has been added to and restored and reconstructed and contains architectural elements from a dazzling number of periods and styles.   But this is no monument to yesterdays.  It is a vibrant hub of city life, its shops and restaurants a fascinating mix of ancient doorways and mantels and decorative styles with up to the minute offerings in their windows.   You could spend hours just walking it’s narrow passageways, a new discovery around each corner.  And just outside its walls is a vibrant marketplace filled with produce of every description and clothing and bric-a-brac and flowers and plants.  I wandered here for the prescribed period of personal time and then joined the others for the second part of our Viking excursion: to the Cetina River and a boat ride to a tavern on one of its banks.
Driving to the town of Omis, where the Cetina empties into the Adriatic, the sea is on one side and mountains on 
Fishing Shacks on the Cetina,
a river known for its trout. 
the other.  It seems impossible to believe that any river could penetrate these massive walls of limestone but then you come to the Cetina.  We boarded boats for a thirty-minute ride up to Kaštel Slanica, a restaurant known for serving local specialties.  These include frogs, eels and trout from the river, and game—venison, boar and water hen-- from the forests.  I was disappointed to see that all that was on offer to us was a platter of ham and cheese, some rather good bread and red or white wines.  And in keeping with all
Kaštel Slanica
my culinary activities this cruise, the wine was served at about 11:00 in the morning.  As we approach the shank end of the cruise, several fellow passengers wondered what on earth they were going to do when not served wine every morning before 11:00. 
         We returned to Split, passing through the ‘modern’ side of the city, which features numerous buildings that would be at home in any Soviet bloc country.  Our guide, a fabulous woman named Lela, was quick to point out that Yugoslavia, while Communist, was not aligned with the Soviets and in fact had a complete break with them in 1948.         

After it’s war of Independence from the former Yugoslavia, Croatia remains socialist with staggering tax rates and an unfortunately unemployment rate hovering around 20 percent.  Still, I have to say that Split is full of luxury cars with Croatian plates and as we passed through the city on a sunny Friday afternoon, dozens of people crowded its coffee shops and outdoor venues looking as prosperous as can be. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One of Andrew's Top Ten Cakes of All Time: Rumfest's Ding Dong Cake


Rumfest's Ding Dong Cake in a blaze of glory
         Every year, our friend Jayne’s Birthday Celebration is declared Rumfest.  That’s a combination of her maiden name and the fact that Jayne’s Birthday is never confined to a single day. It seems to carry on for at least a week, punctuated with multiple events to celebrate her big day.   Before you go thinking this may have something to do with the fact that Jayne was born on a Friday the thirteenth, I have to stop you.  Triskaidekaphobia has nothing to do with it.  “Unlucky” thirteen has little to do with Friday at all.  It's a superstitition relating to Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Supposedly he was the 13th to sit at the Last Supper.  But the Bible doesn't say anything about the order in which the Apostles sat.  And if we’re discussing unlucky numbers, Hexakosiohexekontahexaphobia, or fear of the number 666 has to be added to a list that includes Tetraphobia, or fear of the number 4, which leads buildings in most Asian countries to lack floors that include that digit.  17 is unlucky in Italy and 39 in Afghanistan and 87 is unlucky when Australians play cricket.  And get this, 13 is actually a lucky number in Italy!  I hope this clears things up for you.  But I digress… 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day Thirteen of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: You say Croatia, I say Hrvatska

         Of the six countries on Viking Star’s Mediterranean Odyssey, the only one I had never visited was Croatia, better known to its inhabitants as Hrvatska.   We made two stops there along the stretch of the country that makes up the Dalmatian Coast.  This where the Adriatic is at its cleanest, the water as pure and see-through as anywhere on earth.   It’s a rugged coast and because there are no waves to speak of, its rocky shore offers no sandy beaches, just miles of glorious views.   Our first stop there was the city of Dubrovnik.  All I knew of Dubrovnik was the lyric of a very old Liza Minelli song.  The song was about a New Yorker who went to Europe in search of love, or at least a husband.  She had not had a successful trip: “She bombed out in Brussells, in Mallorca and Rome till someone said “Try Dubrovnik, dear, before you go home”,  ‘Cause it’s the kind of town where you’re likely to fall and all the gente cognoscenti find the Balkans a ball…”.  Truth is, I never made it to Dubrovnik. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Days Eleven and Twelve of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Getting to know Viking Star and Corfu, I hardly knew you.

On our Sea Day, we sailed past Stromboli at Sunrise.
Called "The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean",
Stromboli is one of Italy's 3 active volcanoes as seen in the steam rising from its core.
Viking Star docked in Venice 
There is only one sea day on Viking Star’s 13 day Mediterranean Odyssey.  Since this is truly a dream boat, offering so much more than one could ever experience in two weeks, let alone a single day, this day is much anticipated.  Coming as is it does after long days touring Florence, Rome and Naples, the chance to sample the spa, the swimming pools and everything else on offer, is much appreciated. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day Ten of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: See Naples and Make Pizza.

        We sailed into Naples, mid-morning.  There is a famous quote about Naples…”Vide Napoli e Mori” which translates to “See Naples and Die”.  The phrase is not attributed to any author and is meant to suggest that once you’ve beheld the beauties of Naples, there’s nothing left to live for.   This is probably one of the most puzzling phrases on earth because the first view of Naples is nothing to write home about.  Some wag has suggested that to see Naples from the deck of a ship is to die of disappointment.  There’s an ancient city and just outside it, a group of skyscrapers that could be anywhere on earth.  But they do come as quite a shock.  And disembarking doesn’t exactly change one’s mind about seeing Naples and dying. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day Nine of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Roma. A Sentimental Journey

Some things in Rome are eternal.  Like St. Peter's and Vatican City        
Others. like Campo de'Fiori are not so.
For years, I’ve actively avoided going anywhere near Rome.  Despite travel to Italy over the years, I wanted to lock Rome in my memory: To make Rome eternally the way it was in 1968 when I was 21 years old and had spent one of what turned out to be, the best years of my life there.   
I had gone to school there starting in the Fall of 1967, one of 28 students enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design European Honors Program that year.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day Eight on My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Florence, David and the Selfie Stick

David, 500 year old hunk
         Initially, I’d signed up for a tour that took its participants into the countryside where we’d tour a winery and make ‘afternoon snacks’ called ‘marende’.  Now I lived in Italy and have gone there several times afterwards and I have never had nor heard of marende.  Could  this be some Italian cultural shift?  Were the Italians now following America’s lead, and its enormous weight gain, by snacking away between meals?  Should I take this tour if only to discover this lamentable development?  Hell no, I thought. Not when the alternative was an all-day trip to the Renaissance Capital of Culture, Art, Sculpture, Architecture and beauty, the jewel of Tuscany, Firenze. So I cancelled my afternoon snack tour and signed up for Viking’s Art and Architecture itinerary.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day Seven of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Putting the Monte in Monte Carlo

The smallest yachts in Monte Carlo.  The larger ones would fill the frame.
         There’s something magical about just saying “I’m spending the day in Monte Carlo".  This postage stamp Principality, which is actually the size of Central Park, simply reeks of money. Towering apartments shoot upwards.  And everywhere you look there are yachts the size small cruise ships. Even now, with the “Season” at its end, the harbor is still packed with mega boats, some of the largest I have ever seen. Many of them would never even fit into the harbor at Gustavia in St. Barth which is where I generally see enormous boats tied up along the quai.  There are the Rolls and the Bentleys, the stores that close when preferred customers show up and the prices of absolutely everything are guaranteed to make a mere millionaire blush.  A walk through the market features flowers costing twice what they did in Toulon just yesterday. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Day Six of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Provence...and not the one of Québec

Sanary-Sur-Mer,  Picture Postcard Perfect 
         Today we visited the town of Toulon, the headquarters of the French Navy, the departure port for ferries to Corsica and Sardinia and a perfect jumping off spot to the magical places of southern Provence.  Every Viking cruise, whether on rivers or sea, offers a tour that’s included in your fare.  Then to satisfy the special interests of its passengers there are any number of optional excursions.  Today you could go as far as Aix en Provence, or tour Marseilles on your own.  Because I am taking this trip to create articles for The Daily Meal, all of the excursions I’ve chosen are food and wine oriented.  Today’s was no exception.  Off I went with about 25 other passengers to two stops:  the fishing village of Sanary-Sur-Mer and the tiny town of La Castellet, in the heart of the wine country of Bandol.  Viking guides are always locals, people who know every idiosyncrasy of their home towns and the region surrounding them.  Today, a very pretty Frenchwoman named Audré was ours. To me, her wonderful French-accented English added so much to the charm of her commentary.  But some Americans, who make up about 90 oercent of the ship’s passengers, seem to feel that now that English is the lingua franca of the world, everyone speaking it should sound like they just graduated from Harvard.   Despite the frequency of “What she say?”s,  which only made it harder to hear Audré, she forged ahead sprinkling her talk with information about everything….from history to botany to fables, myths and mysteries of this incredibly scenic part of France. 

Day Five of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Cabin Fever

         One of the differences between Viking and virtually all other cruise lines is that each voyage allows its passengers to board the ship and stay in port that day and the next.  This allows its passengers time to explore the ship thoroughly and settle into their staterooms before she even sails.   And oh what staterooms!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day Four of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2. Aboard Viking Star at last!

First glimpse of The World's Best New Cruise Ship of 2015
         Day 4 dawned rainy and the roof top breakfast room at the Hotel Cram was filled with unhappy tourists.   I could not have cared less.  Because from the rooftop, I could see the funnel of the ship.  Boarding time was 11:00 am and it was all I could do to contain myself from racing down and waiting for embarkation to begin.  I barely restrained myself, packing up and finally getting into a taxi at the stroke of 11.  Off I went to Moll Addosat, the enormous cruise ship facility constructed to welcome up to 11 cruise liners in a day.  One day last summer, 56,000 passengers came and went from the port, the largest cruise ship stop in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in the world. I am relieved to tell you that there was nowhere near that number of cruisers the day we arrived on board Viking Star.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day Three of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Eating my way through Barcelona

My kind of town. Even the Medieval City pictured in this mosaic featured
food stalls outside the city walls.

Choose whatever Tapas you fancy.
Then count the toothpicks.
Five toothpicks at Sagardi rang up a tab of
14 Euros with a glass of Rioja.

La Boqueria is Barcelona's central
food market...
Barcelona is one of the most food-centric cities I’ve ever visited. Amazing pastry shops, candy stores, cafes and markets seem to be on every corner.  There are a staggering number of restaurants of every description and nationality.  And surprisingly, Barcelona is not an expensive place to eat. Lunch is a Catalan obsession and Prix Fixe menus of about 12 Euros abound.  And of course, there are Tapas and Tapas and more Tapas.  With a glass of Copa, Spain’s champagne, or Rioja, these morsels of food serve a purpose.   Spain still lives on its own schedule.  Even major business shuts down between 1:30 and 4:30 ostensibly so that workers can go home and partake of the main meal of the day.  But commuting times have made that a difficult thing to do.  So tapas are served at lunch and then later in the day to tide the populace over until their very late dinners.  Fortunately, you won’t be alone dining at, say, 8:00 pm, because Barcelona is such a huge tourist draw that hungry nationals from the rest of Europe and beyond will surround you.