Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pluot Upside-Down Cake adapted from Fine Cooking


What is a “pluot”?, you may well ask. It’s the Labradoodle of fruits.  Actually it’s more like a Cockapoo or even a Maltipoo in size. The Pluot is a plum and apricot hybrid bred first in California in the 1800s.   Initially it was called a Plumcot, which is the way most 50/50 hybrids get their names.  However the original fruit was hard to grow.  Then in the 1920s, another California nursery discovered that if you heavied up on the plum side of the equation, you got a more reliable fruit.   They experimented for years finally trademarking the name Pluout in the 1990s.  There are pluots of various sizes and colors.  They’re no longer rare and the proof of that is that I got Andrew his pluots at Costco.   According to Fine Cooking, originator of this recipe,  you should look for pluots with a little ‘give’ and avoid any that are rock hard because they simply will not ripen.  You may still want to ripen the fruit further by putting them in a paper bag and keeping them at room temperature for a day or two.  Then you can make this wonderful upside down cake that pairs the fruit with almond flavor. Served with fresh whipped cream, the sweet juicy fruit is the star of the show and the cake a great supporting player.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My complete review of Viking River Cruises Romantic Danube has just been published by The Daily Meal!

On the Danube River with Viking River Cruises

On this cruise, your next meal is right around the bend in the river

Monte Mathews
This cruise is one of the best ways to experience Europe.
There are two universal truths about Viking River Cruises. One: literally everyone you talk to wants to take one. And two: everyone who wants to should. These are some of life’s most fascinating journeys, a way to experience the heart of a country in pure comfort and style. Whatever voyage you choose — from the Douro River in Portugal to the Mekong River in Vietnam, and points between including France, Germany, Egypt, Burma, and China, or, the most popular of all, the Danube — you’ll sail on a cruise for people who swear they’d never take a cruise.
Viking River Cruises is the brainchild of a man named Torstein Hagen, whose passion for cruise ships goes back to his leadership of the late, lamented Royal Viking Cruise Line. In the 1980s, Royal Viking became the first cruise ships with all of nine balcony staterooms, and set the standards for high-end cruising. Viking is Hagen’s similar deluxe gift to River Cruising. In an unprecedented shipbuilding project, Viking River set a Guinness World Record this year when it launched 10 of its so-called longships in a single day, bringing its fleet to a total of 60 vessels. The name “longship” pays homage to the long, narrow warships powered by oar and sail that the Vikings used for trade, commerce, and exploration. The modern longships carry just 180 passengers in luxury the original Norseman could never have imagined. When Hagen took to the rivers he brought along his passions for comfort, superb Scandinavian design, and culinary excellence. And that is just aboard his ships.
On land, at every stop, local guides shepherd small tour groups through the historic towns and cities that line the shores of the rivers. On their Danube itinerary, opportunities abound for tasting the local wines and beers, the paprikash of Hungary, the sachertortes of Vienna, the wursts of Germany, and wines and beers of every description. In a move unheard of in the cruise industry, passengers are encouraged to bring local wines aboard to sample with no corkage fee and no restrictions. Or you can choose to stick with Viking’s superior reds and whites, poured with great gusto at every lunch and dinner. There’s even sparkling wine on the breakfast buffet for those who can’t start the day without a mimosa.These voyages are not for casino goers, tuxedo wearers, or children under 18. They are for lifetime learners — people who want to experience a culture with like-minded adults.
As you float along the Danube, your meals offer a taste of the countries you are passing through. Every day features small samples of local specialties. Many of these are served at breakfast. The maître d’ circulates among the tables in the dining room with tapas-sized portions of specialties like Viennese gabelbison, a potato salad topped with egg or pickled herring, and quark mit Fruchte, or curd cheese with fruit. Viking River believes in big breakfasts with a lavish array of every imaginable breakfast food. The omelette station is a popular destination. Eggs with yolks the color of Tropicana are also cooked à la minuit. Can’t drag yourself to the buffet station? Your charming waiter or waitress will do the heavy lifting for you with offers of eggs Benedictpain perdu, or pancakes.
Don’t expect ethnic food to dominate the menus. While there are familiar Hungarian, Austrian, and German specialties like goulash, wiener schnitzel, and a complete “Salute to Germany” dinner, Viking River plays to its overwhelmingly American passenger list with food that’s beautifully prepared and presented, but most of all, familiar.
Your breakfast prepares you for the tours included in your fare. On spanking new Mercedes coaches, the 180 passengers are divided into smaller groups of 25 to 30 people. In addition to giving passengers a thorough introduction to every port, all include at least an hour’s time to indulge in personal pursuits. For food enthusiasts, that could mean the 100,000-square-foot Central Market in Budapest, the Viennese coffee and pastry palaces of Vienna, biergartens that pop up, oddly enough, in front of major cathedrals and monasteries, and of course, the best of the wurst along the river in Germany.
Back aboard the ship, you retreat to snug staterooms that are the epitome of Scandinavian design genius: a place for everything, your own mini-fridge, and cabin service that surprises with its gnome-like ability to service your room while you’re at breakfast. If you can, spring for a balcony, which allows you a breath fresh air anytime you wish. But even the minimum grade will give you first-class comfort, if not the striking views you’ll see from the upper two decks.
And oh, the people you’ll meet! These voyages are not for casino goers, tuxedo wearers, or children under 18. They are for lifetime learners — people who want to experience a culture with like-minded adults. The passenger list is filled with successful, accomplished people. And your greatest surprise may be how much fun people have. Unassigned tables for six, eight, or 10 find people mixing and mingling as the decibel level rises by the day. Toward the end of the voyage, the whole ship seems to know and adore each other. That likely explains why a passenger-organized talent show was the hit of the trip. And why, on the last night, there was actually a group of people dancing on the tables. And nobody asked them to stop.


Monday, July 27, 2015

My story on the Oldest Restaurant in Germany has just been published by The Daily Meal.

The Restaurant in Regensburg, Germany, You Must Travel For

Don’t miss the bratwurst in this city by the Danube River
Monte Matthews
This wurst is the best.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Regensburg, the second-largest city in Bavaria. You could go there to pick up your new BMW, for instance — since their Regensburg factory opened in 1986, five million cars have rolled off the production lines there. Or you could travel there to satisfy a passion for medieval architecture, which the town’s 1,300 buildings from that era would quench. But for the culinary adventurer, the call to Regensburg is the call to Germany’s oldest restaurant: the 800-year-old Alte Wurstkuchl, or “the Old Sausage Kitchen.”
Germany creates 1,200 different kinds of wursts, and every region has one to call its own. In Regensburg, the wurst of choice is the bratwurst. Brat is the German word for “finely chopped meat,” but most contemporary Germans associate bratwith the word braten, which means pan-fried or roasted. In the case of Alte Wurstkuchle, that meat is pure pork, and they’re neither pan-fried nor roasted but cooked over charcoal on an ancient stove, visible through a window in the restaurant’s wall.Germany creates 1,200 different kinds of wursts, and every region has one to call its own.
While the place has a minimal number of other dishes — a potato soup and three local specialties: roast pork, marinated beef and a stuffed cabbage called krautwickel — the name of the game here is sausages. Choose six, eight, 10, or 12. They’ll arrive at the table on a bed of sauerkraut that the Kuchl ferments in their cellar. They’re almost addictive, especially when slathered with Wurstkuchl mustard, which they proudly attribute to the “original, historical” recipe of one Elsa Schricker. A blend of honey, mustard, and a soupçon of horseradish, Frau Schricker’s mustard would likely make cardboard taste great. It’s sold at the restaurant. But if you make the mistake of not buying any, you can find it on Amazon straight from the Wurstkuchl.
The Wurstkuchl is a pleasant stop on the side of the Danube, right next to the Old Stone Bridge and down the way from where the Viking River Cruise ships dock. There are 28 seats in the Tavern, 100 on the outdoor terrace, and 65 in the “Strudel Room.” The Wurstkuchl is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Watermelon Gazpacho from Tyler Florence

Several years ago we discovered the joy of watermelon and tomatoes combined in a salad that takes advantage of these summer favorites.  We enjoyed it again and again and if you haven’t tried it, you should too.  Here is the recipe that brought the salad into our repertoire:
Knowing what a winning combination the sweetness of the fruit and the tang of the tomatoes bring to the pairing, we were intrigued by this Tyler Florence recipe. Here was a cold soup containing not just melon and tomatoes but also the cool delight of English cucumber spiked with chiles, dill and red onion and then topped with even more cubes of watermelon and the tang of Feta Cheese.  Not only is the dish incredibly easy to make, it’s one of those summer coolers that you can make a big batch of and then ladle away.  I served it as a starter one night and then two days later as part of a poolside lunch.  Andrew, who is not a big fan of cold soups, pronounced this one a winner.  And as long as you have a blender, you’re home free.