Scandinavian Yums

The April 2020 box from Universal Yums had snacks from various Scandinavian countries one of which was my hoped for licorice.

The countries represented in this box were: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. I expected the licorice to be from Denmark but it turned out to be Finnish.

As the package says it was indeed salty. It was packaged such that you could peel the strips apart and there were three layers of strips together so you could stretch out the fun of this for a long time. In spite of the the fact that I’ve mentioned it so many times it wasn’t my favorite item from the box.

My favorite item turned out to be the Choko-Flager, an oat cookie sandwich with chocolate filling.

The cookies were light and crispy with some really nice darkish chocolate. Was amazing with a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t have known they were oat cookies. It had a nice texture and that dark chocolate had just the right amount of bitter to compliment the sweetness of the cookie.

The runner up for me in this box turned out to be one of the little candies in the Yum bag. Sadly I didn’t snap a picture of any of these which is truly unfortunate because they made up two of the four highlight spots.

Number 2 was the Nöt-creme cookie dough pralines. Man these were close to number 1. The chocolate outer shell was okay but the cookie dough flavored filling was excellent. It was definitely thinner than real cookie dough but the taste was spot on unlike my least favorite snack in the box.

The Kolafabriken Fizzy Toffee was supposed to be bubblegum toffee and it was a pink and blue sugar bomb that would pull teeth out. It was very colorful and that’s about all I can say for it. At least the one I’m classifying as the weirdest got cool points for the shape.

When I first saw this package I thought that was an octopus and was very afraid of what this might be but then I noticed the name and looked closer and saw it was a skull and crossbones. Well nothing says cheery snack like pink skulls and crossbones. Turns out that’s true. These little raspberry gummies had a sour sweet outside dusting that dissolved into a sweet chewy raspberry workout for your jaws. It was a big bag and required more than one sitting to finish. I don’t know what the Swedish fascination with skulls is but there was another snack shaped like a skull as well (chocolate with strawberry filling).

Have to give a shout out to these Norwegian chips just for the name, although they did have a nice spice blend.

Overall not a bad box. I think they could have done better but I enjoyed most of the treats. Next month is another repeat country, the Philippines.

Time to Make the Sausage

Since we’re all sitting at home avoiding a global pandemic and looking for stay at home things to do I thought I’d drag out the old meat grinder and make some bratwursts.

When I was out buying essential provisions to shelter in place I saw this big old hunk of pork shoulder on sale and this 7 lb slab of meat made the trip home.

Now cleanliness is very important and the first thing I did was sanitize all the work surfaces and the sink I’d be additionally sanitizing the various tools and parts in with a mild bleach solution. Then using the same one step sanitizer I use in brewing sanitized everything in the cleaned sink.

Once everything was clean and sanitary it was time to cut the meat into pieces that would fit in the grinder chute, about an inch or so. I had enough brat seasoning for 5 lbs of sausage and a 7 lb piece of meat so as I was slicing I grabbed a piece that happened to weigh in a 2.1 lbs and vacuum sealed it for later use in a pot, either Crock or Instant depending on what time of day inspiration strikes.

After getting the meat cut into manageable chunks they got to chill out in the freezer for a bit because firmer bits go through the grinder easier. This gave me some time to clean up the work area and get started on the casings.

I used natural hog casing. They came packed in salt so I had to rinse them off then soak them for a bit before running some water through them to make sure the insides were rinsed as well. Let me tell you if you think getting the plastic bags at the self check out to open up is a pain they have nothing on trying to get a slippery wet hog casing to open up. Once that was all done I could set it aside for later. And back to the meat.

The little meat grinder I have was a Christmas gift that I had only used a few times up to this point and with mixed success. This turned out to be the most successful usage to date. The meat was nice and firm and the flow was consistent so the job didn’t take very long. The next part was adding the spice mix and combining it with the meat.

I had premixed bratwurst spices so fortunately all I had to do was dump and blend. I didn’t have a bowl big enough initially to hold all the ground meat so I did two bowls and split the seasoning. The mixing reduces the volume so I was able to ultimately add the two together and do some more blending to get a reasonably uniform dispersal of the spice blend which is key. Now I was ready to stuff the sausage.

My meat grinder came with a sausage stuffing attachment but it didn’t work well for me the first time so I bought a dedicated apparatus for the situation. Upon reflection the issue was probably more inexperience rather that machine fault but that’s in the past now.

So after clamping the stuffer in place and filling the barrel came the lubing of the tube so the casings slide on nice and easy. This is actually more time consuming than you might imagine because you’re trying to keep it even and not tear the casing while carefully sliding it over the plastic tube. Once I had that done it was tie off the end and start cranking. You have to be careful and try to avoid air pockets and there is even a little pricker tool you can use to make small holes in the casing to let the air out. I wound up going through 3 casings and some hiccups that left me with a busted casing and some bulk sausage not to mention the uneven link sizes but overall not a bad haul.

If I had a bigger freezer I’d have probably made more but as it was this would be enough for this round of sausage making. It’s really not that hard to do and if you want to get started they have manual grinders that aren’t very expensive and little electric ones like mine that aren’t that bad and even attachments for some stand mixers that do the job. It’s an interesting way to control what goes in your sausage and maybe add some flavors you might not get just anywhere.

After a trip to procure some buns the end result was grilled, topped with a little spicy mustard and some homemade sauerkraut. Deee-lishus.

Polish Yums

The most recent box from Universal Yums was loaded with great snacks from Poland. I was excited for these because I’ve been to Poland a couple of times so I felt more connected even though I didn’t have any of these.

Another pretty solid box, nothing that would make a top 10 all time snack list but nothing making the worst 10 either.

It was actually difficult to pick a favorite because there was no “star” but several I really liked. Upon reflection I enjoyed one of the simple ones most.

E. Wedel Ptasie Mleczko are dark chocolate covered vanilla marshmallow treats. The chocolate was moderately dark and had a good cocoa taste. The marshmallow was a slightly different texture than most I’ve had. It was almost like a cross between marshmallow fluff and a gummy. Very sweet with a hint of vanilla. As I said simple but tasty. The next favorite was more complex in the flavors dept.

This big bag of Pierniczki Basniowe turned out to be heart shaped gingerbread covered with dark chocolate and filled with an apple jam like substance. Lots of flavors going on here. The chocolate was decent, the gingerbread was mild and the touch of apple filling was appley and sweet. Very nice combo and hard to stop eating. Weirdly it was also hard to stop eating what I’m putting in the “worst” category.

I didn’t even get a picture of these so here’s a photo from the internet.

Image result for beskidzkie paluszki

These were poppy seed covered pretzel sticks. Worst in this case means they were the most disappointing, not that they were bad. The pretzel stick was actually delicious and the poppy seeds were plentiful but there was no salt other than what might have been in the stick batter. In my opinion that was a significant lack. However once I started munching on them I kept going back for one more crunchy little stick.

The oddest one was also one I’d say was probably my third favorite of the box.

Rarytas Crackers were little Ritz like crackers with black cumin seeds and onion. I like cumin as a spice but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to add it to a cracker, fortunately someone else had better vision. After tasting the first of these I immediately went and made a bowl of soup to go with the crackers and make no mistake the soup was the side dish for the meal. I mean I really enjoyed these crackers.

I’m going to throw out a mention to the first of the snacks I had out of the box just because they were fun.

These little ghost shaped potato crisps were light, crisp, salty and potatoish. A tad on the greasy side but still made me smile as I devoured the little spirits.

I think next month’s box is going to be from France so I’m hoping for wine and cheese but no snail flavored snacks.

Spaghetti Western

Italy

To be fair I didn’t have spaghetti but the restaurant was such a ghost town tumbleweeds were blowing through.

It occurred to me that I have really given Italian restaurants a short shrift for much the same reason I avoid the standard Chinese & Mexican restaurants in every shopping plaza in America. They tend to be generic and for all practical purposes share the same menus. Acknowledging that prejudice I decided to give a local Italian joint a chance.

Right around the corner from me I have two to chose from, located in adjacent shopping plazas, Mario’s & Luigi’s. It makes me chuckle every time I think about it, all we’re missing is a Princess Peach Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve eaten at both since moving to Rock Hill so I knew Mario’s had very little in the way of atmosphere and the menu was pretty standard. Luigi’s has the Italian restaurant aesthetic with pictures, vines, and wines.

When I got there the staff was already outnumbering the customers and the single table of 3 left shortly after I arrived so I was soon the lone diner. My server was very nice and attentive throughout the meal. The menu did have the staples of various noodles with red sauce or alfredo and various parmigianas plus of course pizzas. I decided on the Chicken ala Luigi as something that was a little different.

The Chicken ala Luigi was a couple of thin chicken breast pieces lightly floured and seasoned along with mushrooms and artichokes in a garlic, white wine sauce over fettuccine. It came with 3 little garlic bread sticks. The first bite was not impressive. The sauce was decent but it felt like it was missing something. I got a bite with some of the chicken and the blank was filled in, salt. The bit of salt from the seasoned chicken made the difference and the same for the bread that had garlic salt on it. It had the effect of making one appreciate the chicken and bread more than usual. Now lest you wonder why I didn’t just add some additional salt, I probably would have as a reflex except there was no salt or pepper on the table. I decided not bother requesting any and just enjoy the extra importance the chicken and bread assumed.

Honestly if I had to pick between this and Olive Garden the only reason I’d pick Luigi & Sons is because they were local and not a chain.

One bit of amusement I probably wouldn’t have gotten at the Olive Garden was my server talking with a co-worker about things going on in their lives and a subject came up that the one said to the other, “That’s probably not something to talk about out here”. They walked into the kitchen and because of the noise raised their voices so I heard the conversation even clearer than when they were standing in the dining area.

It was good enough I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it even if I’m not making it a regular on the “I’m too lazy to cook tonight” tour.

Holiday Yums

Well after several weeks of laziness I decided to drop the December Holiday Yums box entry.

The 2019 Holiday box had 13 snacks from 13 different countries; Spain, Uruguay, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Philippines, France, Jordan, Austria, Croatia, Belgium, Japan, and Poland. There were a couple of repeats from previous boxes but mostly it was new stuff. My favorite was a repeat.

The Jabri Mixed Baklava was my favorite from last year’s Holiday box as well. The regular is great but the birds nest version with pistachios is just a special treat. It did have some competition this year in the form of a Belgian treat.

If I haven’t said it before I’ll say it now, white chocolate is not my jam but add some cinnamon cookie bits and I’m inviting you to the party. It was like an uber-sweet snickerdoodle. A little went a long way sort of like the most unusual paring of the box.

The Spanish weighed in again with a twisted chip flavor because someone thought, “you know what this chip needs? Raspberries!” It really didn’t. It was better than I expected but I had the bar pretty low going in. The raspberry flavor was reasonably muted so it was more like a distraction from a quality chip that an enhancement. The French, not to be left out of the chip wars said “hold mon bier”.

Roasted chicken chips? I had high expectations in spite of past experience with most “meat” flavored chips. First chip had me impressed and thinking “by golly these do have a roast chicken flavor” by about the 4th chip though I was over it.  It was just too much of the roast chicken flavor, which is something I never imagined saying. I could’t even finish the bag. Croatia managed to come in with powerful entry though that I did finish.

As soon as the package was opened the garlic smell ventured forth like it was planning to conquer the world or at least the room.  The pretzel sticks were good and crunchy even with the hollow core that was loaded with garlic.  I do mean loaded.  It was so garlicky I had to go brush my teeth and gargle just so I could move on with my day. 

Most interesting taste sensation goes to the Polish gingerbread.

This was actually the first thing I had from the box. Gingerbread snacks have been hit or miss but this entry with black currant icing was tasty and light with a hard glaze icing.  For the interesting taste sensation. As I was biting it I got a strong hint of black currant that was like a combination of scent and taste but it hadn’t yet hit the tongue. This certainly has happened with other foods but this was probably the most remarkable because the black currant taste on eating it was very subtle until I was finished and then it lingered. Good start, good finish.

The other snacks were mostly good with a couple of so so but the grade for the Holiday box was an A-.

The next blog entry will have me out and about again for a lunch at one of a couple of new (to me) restaurants I’ve found.

   

Spanish Yum

The Culinary Passport has been gathering dust recently and I need to get that turned around and do some searching for new restaurants. Until that happens here’s another box review. Goodies from Spain as curated by Universal Yums.

I didn’t have any ideas what the folks in Spain may be snacking on but if the box is a good representation they have a bit of a sweet tooth. I was definitely looking forward to trying them out.

The snack I enjoyed most was the Lucasas Trufas, cocoa dusted chocolate truffles.

These little treats were a chocolate lovers friend. The chocolate was very good quality showcasing the why people would go to the dark side for their chocolate. Very rich and smooth and more than enough to enjoy over several days. The cocoa dusting was a good addition from a flavor standpoint but it was kind of like glitter in that it got everywhere.

My second favorite was about as far away from the truffles as you could get and still be a sweet.

The Gummi Spicy Mangos were definitely a fun treat. Of course they have the chewy, stretchy gummi consistency and a pronounced mango flavor that lulls you into a false complacency. I was thinking to myself, “these aren’t too spi…Hey now!” That spice comes out of nowhere to tango with your mango. It was quite the surprise and the combo was great.

There was a tie for the worst snack. Unlike some other months where that is really just my least favorite these were just not good.

The first one was supposed to be a ham flavored corn puff but it was mostly just puff. The flavor was not good and the texture was more like a decades old cheese puff without the cheese flavor or the unnatural orange color. The second was also supposed to be a corn based snack that was ketchup and mustard flavored. I was skeptical of these off the bat and they lived down to my expectations. The flavors were just nonexistent. The best use for them was as packing material to make sure the other snacks didn’t get damaged in transit.

The most unusual was probably more of a mental thing plus some bias based on hearsay.

I figured this one could go either way. I’d heard people who’d tried egg chips before comment they were nasty, smelled bad and / or were just weird. With that feedback I opened the bag with mild trepidation as I expected an assault on my nasal passages. There was not so much as a skirmish. I even decided to get in there and take a good whiff and while it did smell a tad eggy it wasn’t as bad as a boiled egg. The flavor was mildly eggish and not unpleasant at all. The chip was a quality chip to boot so I enjoyed them even if it was a combo I would not have put together.

For me the Spanish box was a mixed bag or box in this case. In addition to the favorites covered I really enjoyed some lemon cookies, a smoky snack mix, some dark chocolate covered peanuts and the Cortadillo Relleno de Crema that was OMG sweet but tasty. But there was also an olive oil, almond and spice cookie thing that couldn’t commit to being sweet or savory and suffered from the indecision.

The December box is a holiday box that is a virtual UN of snacks with 13 different countries represented and I already tried one from Poland and it was delicious.

Austrian Yum

The October box from Universal Yums had delicious snacks from Austria.

I had some high expectations for this one and there was plenty of chocolate plus some savory items that left me with a positive impression of the snack scene in Austria. There was nothing I didn’t like at least a little so the “worst” item will be the least liked.

My favorite was the Pischinger Mandel Ecken, little chocolate covered, almond topped wafers with almond creme in a tasty little square.

The milk chocolate was decent quality and the almond crunch paired with the crispy wafer worked well. There were a generous number of them and as an accompaniment to a cup of coffee it was outstanding.

My second favorite was a toss up between some Cool Mint Lemon patties and the winner, Schoko-Erdbeeren.

This was a big old bag of strawberry shaped treats. The dark chocolate shell covered a strawberry filling of an interesting consistency. It was like a cross between cream and jelly fillings, very odd but full of artificial strawberry flavor. It was weird and delicious.

My least favorite wasn’t bad but just the laggard in a decent box.

The Milch Wafflets also had strawberry flavor and chocolate but it just wasn’t in the same class. The wafers were not as crispy as the ones in the several other snacks that had wafer cookies. They were a bit styrofoamy. So they were meh.

The weirdest one in the bunch was the Big Banana.

It was a chocolate shell very much like the strawberries but not quite as dark. That shell covered a banana flavored core that again shared a consistency with the strawberries but the artificial banana flavor was not top of the line. It was pretty darn big though.

Everything I’ve highlighted was sweet but there were a couple of savory snacks as well; some Paprika Chips of the potato variety and some Creamy Onion Mini Fritts french fry sticks. There were some additional chocolate snacks and a gingerbread cookie that had hazelnuts, almonds, honey and candied orange peel. Overall the box was loaded with leckerein.

Next box is from Spain and I have no clue what to expect.

Greek Yums

Snacks from Greece

The September box from Universal Yums was loaded with treats from the land of Greece. I’ll say up front it was a mostly solid box with nothing being awful but there were a few I’m ok with never having again.

We’ll start off with my favorite and also the winner of the least photogenic of the snacks.

The poor Serenata Triplo Hazelnut did not fare well in transit due to the ovenlike temps we were having. As much as it looked like something that would empty a public pool it was quite tasty. The milk chocolate was good quality, the hazelnuts were big generous pieces while the wafers and cream filling provided a delicious platform adding even more textures. A case of don’t judge the snack by it’s melty cover.

The second place finisher was a baklava variant call Soragli.

Phyllo pastry dough, almonds, walnuts, a hint of cinnamon and syrup wrapped in a roll, how can you not like that? I will say it did spike the old blood sugar but in small doses it’s a straight up winner.

I didn’t have a “This was nasty” experience so instead of a least favorite I have a most disappointing.

OK look at the package, now look at the inside of the cake. Notice the difference in the size of the cocoa cream filling? I know the pictures always show a best case scenario but come on that’s just false advertising. Aside from being a tad dry the bread itself wasn’t bad and the filling had a decent flavor even if it was spiced with disappointment.

Most unusual goes to another one that was also a bit of a let down.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the donut shaped, cakey looking item with the grapes on the package. I did expect something grapish about it though and that expectation was met only minimally. It was a wheat cake that was sweet and the 8th ingredient was grape juice and it tasted like that’s where grapes were in the priority. The texture was crumbly and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet in spite of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sorbitol beating out the grapes on the ingredient listing. It went ok with some strong black hot tea. There are too many other better snacks though to bother with this one again.

I want to give a shout out to the candies from the Yum Bag.

They were all three a hit with me and each was very different from the others. The white ball was an ouzo flavored hard candy that had a great anise taste. The middle one was a honey flavored toffee chew that nailed the honey flavor and the toffee just about melted in my mouth as I chewed it. The pomegranate jelly candy had the tartness of the pomegranate and the consistency almost like a Turkish delight with a light dusting of sugar crystals. All nice little nuggets of goodness.

There was also a peanut and honey bar that was reminiscent of a peanut plank, some oregano potato chips, a bruschettini pizza cracker, and some mini breadsticks with pesto flavor plus a chocolate coated wafer cookie that rounded out the box. According to the hints the next box should be an assortment from Austria. Looking forward to seeing what that includes.

Arlington/DC edition

OK this is multi-day blog so it’s longer than the average entry.

A couple of weekends ago a number of family members went to Arlington, VA to have my Father’s urn placed in Arlington National Cemetery with the accompanying military honors. The service was on Monday so my sisters, their husbands and my two youngest nephews met up the Friday before and started our dining experiences at Ireland’s Four Courts pub just a couple of blocks from our hotel. My sisters both went with the Chicken Boxty and my brothers-in-law both got the Shepherds Pie. Both dishes got high marks. My choice was the traditional Irish Breakfast.

If this is a normal breakfast I don’t understand how all of Ireland isn’t a bunch round people just rolling off the island based on the quantity of food. There were eggs, sausage (kind of bland), beans, fried potatoes, roasted tomatoes, toast, black and white pudding and hiding in the picture are two rashers of bacon. I’ll tell you right now this did not all get consumed but damage was done. The white pudding was the only new item for me and for taste was just a bit milder version of the black pudding. I guess the blood does make a difference. Since I had low expectations of the sausage links I was not disappointed and overall I enjoyed the breakfast for dinner alongside a Magner’s Irish Cider, which was just OK.

Our next group meal was in DC at a place just off the Mall, b DC Penn Quarter. Their sub-title is burgers. beer. bourbon. I can vouch for 2 out of 3. We’d been to one of the Smithsonian museums and had built up a thirst and appetite. Many burgers were ordered and water consumed in large quantities. My choice of burger was the 3 Shrooms.

Now I’ll admit the picture doesn’t look appetizing but let me tell you it was fantastic. The burger was a 7 oz patty of in-house ground beef with sauteed mushrooms, a mushroom spread, truffle mayo and lots of melted Swiss cheese on a soft bun. If you’re a shroom fan I don’t need to say much more and if you’re not I’d be wasting my breath so I’ll just leave you with the fact that I left an absolutely clean plate. To partner with the burger I selected a local beer, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager. It was a light easy drinking beer that went well with the very flavorful burger. Oh and there were crispy tots involved too.

The evening meal was Italian with local friends not seen in person for 40 or so years. We knew them from Geneva, Switzerland and the wonderful years we lived there. This was automatically going to elevate the meal. The place picked for us by our VA friends was Pazzo Pomodoro. Now the expectation got ratcheted up quickly as on the way in a gentleman I was holding the door open for to exit stopped to tell me this was the best Italian food in the area and I’d love it. Since I had no local frame of reference for Italian food I’d have to take his word for the first part but the second I’d decide for myself. I elected to try one of the Chef’s signature dishes.

The Involtini di Vitello was veal stuffed with prosciutto, fontina cheese, and wild mushrooms in a marsala sauce with vegetables on the side. I just realized the mushroom theme of the day. The veal was tender and the stuffing was savory and delicious. I had some local beer that I didn’t bother to keep track of because I was honestly more interested in catching up and enjoying the company of friends. I don’t know if this is the best Italian food in Vienna, VA but the dish I had was well worth the going for.

The next day we decided to get our cheese on and headed to The Swiss Bakery in Springfield, VA. This is a great little place that is a bakery with a side of Swiss market and oh yeah a restaurant. The cheese several of us got was raclette over potatoes. I went to the drink case to pick a beer but saw the Sinalco and had to get that instead. It is a citrus soda that was the first Swiss drink we had at my dad’s bosses house the night we arrived in Geneva so I had to get that. It was just like I remembered.

As mentioned I got the raclette cheese over potatoes which also came with bread, dried beef slices, pickled onions and baby dills. I also got a side bratwurst.

If you’ve never had raclette before I’ll say up front it smells like feet, after a long walk, but it is good. The pungent cheese and the plainness of the potatoes go well together. The salty dried beef and tangy pickled vegetables are perfect pals to have with this. The bread clears your palate so you can load it up with flavors all over again. The brat was good but really I could have done without it and been just fine. Since this was also a market we may have purchased some Swiss chocolate and there’s a possibility some pastries were procured.

The next day the international theme of meals continued when we walked the short distance from our hotel to MeJana Lebanese restaurant. It was just a little too warm for outside dining so we got a booth by the window so we could still have a good view of the street. We started with some hummus and warm flat bread and then right into various kebabs. I got the mixed grill.

The mixed grill had one chicken, one lamb and one kafta kebab plus rice and some vegetable matter on the side. The kafta was the most flavorful but a bit chewy. The chicken was probably the best overall as it was spiced just right and very tender. It was a ton of food and under other circumstances I might have carried some leftovers home but instead I plowed through. Thank goodness for the walk back to the hotel.

My final day in DC found me at the National Archives and the Smithsonian castle working up a lunch appetite. Checking out Yelp for stuff in walking distance I did a double take on the USDA Cafeteria and the high ratings it had so I needed to check this out for myself. After going through security and getting a visitor’s sticker I followed the stream of people to the cafeteria.

Wow this was one bad-a$$ cafeteria. It had a salad bar and hot bar that you pay by the pound plus deserts including cold and frozen options. Around the perimeter of the cafeteria are specialty stations like Korean BBQ, Italian, Deli, Mexican, and at least one more I’m forgetting but the choices were quite varied and the food all looked fresh and delicious. I decided to go for the Korean bowl, specifically the regular bowl. The small would have been sufficient.

The way this worked is you picked your carb, I got brown rice, then 4-6 vegetables, your meat or tofu then sauce. For vegetables I got some kimchi, something else spicy and pickled, some broccoli and sprouts. I got the beef and house sauce that was tangy and spicy. It was very good but I only got about 2/3 of it eaten before I had to tap out. The beef was good and the sauce was just spicy enough to make me sweat just a bit.

That pretty much wrapped up the culinary experience for my northen Virginia / Washington DC trip. I do want to say thank my family and friends who shared various meals with me; Lynn, Keith, Dee, Chris, Alex, Haley, Lauren, Jesse, Jay, (we missed you Paige), Ellie, Jackie, Shelley, Stephanie, Kallianna, Kyle & Julie. The meals were all enhanced by your presence.

France via Latrobe

Apparently I wasn’t done with French food in April although it wasn’t a close to home experience. I was on a work trip to Latrobe, PA and the first night I went to a long time staple when staying in Latrobe, Sharky’s Cafe.

My intent when I headed over was to get a stromboli, which has been a comfort choice on more than one occasion but instead I decided to try something new. In this case something new was their French Onion Burger.

This 10oz burger was topped with caramelized onions and a Gruyere and Swiss cheese sauce. Actually topped is an understatement, smothered is probably a much better word choice. Let me tell you when the server dropped that off and I looked at that and the one napkin the silverware was wrapped in I knew that wouldn’t do. When she came back around I let her know this looked like a multi-napkin affair and it was. The bun also wasn’t structurally sufficient to the task either and this was just a delicious mess that I’d recommend to anyone. As a side note dredging the tots through the excess cheese sauce was a pleasant experience.

On my last evening I didn’t feel like a restaurant but I wasn’t in the fast food mood so I was scrolling Yelp looking for something different and came across French Express just down the road. This was a take out cafe that just like the name says specializes in French cuisine. If I live in Latrobe I’d be a semi-regular here.

It’s a nice little shop with a few tables in the front of the store and some spices, honeys and other food stuffs around the edges of the store. You have the counter where you can order hot and cold items ready to eat or take home and heat. I selected a crepe, a slice of quiche and desert. The crepe and quiche were both larger than I expected so either would have been sufficient alone.

The quiche Lorraine was very good, light, fluffy, cheesy and hammy. Couldn’t ask for much more. The crepe was the biggest surprise. I went with a smoked salmon crepe which came in two separate containers. The crepe was very large with diced cucumbers wrapped up in it. The smoked salmon was in it’s own container and there must have been a half pound of quality salmon. So I embraced the roll-your-own philosophy and ate about half before I had to tap out. Nice choice and it was a great value for the price. Lastly was the desert. I don’t recall what it was called but it was a flaky pastry with a hazelnut flavored filling that on top of the other items capped evening and just put me over the top into a food coma.

So while Latrobe isn’t a local spot for me I found a couple of local spots while there that did the French cuisine thing proud.