Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day One: About Last Night...Air France's Airbus 380 New York to Paris

Air France Flight 7 380 Airbus New York to Paris

At least, there was wine.
I think of myself as one of those travelers whose attention to detail leads to flawlessly executed travel plans.  But yesterday,  I forgot one very important detail.  I spent most of the morning packing for this 8 day trip.  I arranged my suitcase, and two carry-ons down to compartmentalizing documents, chargers, reading materials with a place for everything.  I even took Viking River Cruises advice and made a photo copy of my passport--just in case.  Then I trundled off to Kennedy leaving plenty of time to catch my 4:10 Air France departure.  A really early flight, I realized, but one that put me on the first flight out of Paris for Budapest.   I happily approached the check-in counter and then I reached into my bag passport.  I did of course have that copy I made but you cannot travel on a Xerox.  I knew what I'd done immediately.  Frantically I called Andrew who was in the midst of the compulsory Continuing Education courses that he takes to keep his Real Estate license in New York.   He dashed out of the class, raced to our apartment, grabbed the passport and tore  out to the airport.  In all honesty, the Air France people could not have been more solicitous or helpful and I came away very impressed.  They checked the suitcase and assured me that once the passport arrived, they'd race me through security.  Andrew
This is Dinner.  Top left Champagne, Applesauce,
Butter atop the American cheese, water, a Brownie
Pearl Couscous and Vegetables with Basil
Chicken with wine sauce and egg noodles
arrived.  We raced to the counter...only to discover that we were perhaps two minutes late.   That is how I ended up on the massive Air France 380 which carries 516 passengers on two decks.  There are four classes of service.  First, Business, Premiere Economy and Economy which has a further division into Economy Comfort and regular Economy.  I'd read so many bad reviews about Premium Economy that the $360 difference just couldn't be justified.  The meals are identical, the seats just a little wider and the complaints a lot louder than they should be.  So I sprung for Economy Comfort which is another way of saying you will now be charged $53.00 extra to sit in a Exit Row.    Quite frankly, the immense plane is scary.  I am sure in Business and First, it's all perfectly lovely. In Economy, it is rather alike sitting in a giant movie theater with very narrow seats that are on top of each other.  The huge advantage to the Airbus 380 is supposed to be its smooth ride.   Somewhere over Labrador, we hit turbulence that truly put that myth to rest.   The only saving grace was imagining what my earlier flight on a 767 would have been like in that monstrous
Breakfast:  Plain Yogurt, Blueberry Muffin,
Orange Juice and Coffee
bumping and shaking.   And how was the food ? ....well, I assure you that any French chef worth his salt would curl up and die before he served the amazingly mediocre Economy class menu.  There was a choice between chicken and salmon.  I don't eat fish on planes.  Somehow I feel they are too far out of their element in every sense of the word to be any good at 39,000 feet.  Chicken, on the other hand, has wings, not very serviceable ones, but enough that they seem at home in the air.  Then it occurred to me: This food is straight American fare:  There's applesauce (?), two miserable slices of Chillimook cheese--nothing that would suggest France.  It will be interesting to see how the flight home's food is: It will at least be genuinely French, which has to be an improvement. Now on to Budapest.   

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We're off on a Great Adventure! Join me on a Viking River Cruise of the Romantic Danube.

The Daily Meal, that great food resource whose banner heads up every page of Chewing the Fat, is sending me on a great adventure.   I'm off today for Budapest, flying through Paris on Air France to arrive there in the early morning Friday. There, I will board Viking River Longship's Tor.  Viewers of Downton Abbey will no doubt recognize the sleek white ship.  It's identical to one shown at the beginning of every episode, languorously cruising a river over whose banks loom castles worthy of any fairy tale.  For the next 8 days, the Tor will carry 180 passengers along one stretch of the 1775 mile Danube River.  Budapest, our starting point is about half way along the river which, when added to its Main River link, connects the North Sea to the Black Sea.   We'll be on the Upper Danube, sailing up river.  We'll sail west to Vienna, then onward to Melk in the Austrian wine country.  From there we glide into Germany stopping at Passau, then Regensberg and finally to Nuremberg where we'll disembark.  At every stop, Viking has guided shore excursions all part of the cruise fare. And at every meal, Viking will serve complementary wines and craft beers, all part of the cruise fare.  I'll be on board with one special goal in mind: to cover the trip from a culinary standpoint from the first hors d'oeuvres to the last dessert.  Viking promises regional specialties and cooking demonstrations all along the way.  At every stop, I'll track down shoreside food discoveries.  First stop, the Central Market in Budapest.  On to the Konditorei's of Vienna for their coffee and pastries.  Austrian wines in the Wachau Valley.  The oldest restaurant in Germany and after 800 years still going strong in Regensberg.  We'll visit an Abbey that's been brewing beer since 1050 AD.  And finally we'll end the week at  the "Sizzling Center of Europe", Nurnberg, the birthplace of Bratwurst.  It promises to be a terrific trip and I hope you'll enjoy every minute.  I know I will.  And I'll keep you posted daily.  And with that, I am off.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dorie Greenspan's Bacon and Egg and Asparagus Salad

I could eat our local asparagus until it was coming out of my ears.  Thanks to growers in Mexico and Peru,  asparagus is now a 12 month a year vegetable in New York and almost everywhere else. However, nothing but nothing comes close to the glorious look and taste of the asparagus grown right over the hill from our house at the Falkowski’s farm. From there, it goes to Country Garden, their farm stand that’s just down the road.  The Farm stand just opened this weekend and for a short while, the asparagus will be the only field grown crop at the stand.  There are also hothouse tomatoes and lettuces but it will be a while before the stand brims with the fruits and vegetables that are summer staples here.  Instead, I will gladly eat asparagus and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to serve it.  That’s how I found this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s  “Around my French Table” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010).