Surf City 2019

I was running a little early for check in and decided to stop for lunch when I got near Surf City. I was keeping an eye out for something that looked local rather than fast food or a franchise. I saw the Village Cafe in Hampstead, NC and decided to give it a try.

There weren’t many cars in the lot but it was a little after the prime lunch hour so I wasn’t that concerned. When I walked in it took a few moments for anyone to see me waiting and when they did I got a lady who walked over and smiled and asked “Can I help you?” “I thought I might get some lunch,” was my response and that got a surprised “Oh, OK.” I don’t know what she thought I was doing there and I’ll admit I wasn’t sporting my dress shorts and beach polo shirt but I don’t think I was channeling my inner hobo either. She offered a seat at the empty bar first and then reluctantly offered to seat me with the other patrons if I really wanted. I flirted with asking to sit right next to one of the two other occupied tables just to freak her out but I preferred the bar anyway.

After sorting this out and spending a minute with the menu I ordered the chicken Gouda sandwich with house made chips.

The sandwich was not bad. The avocado was an interesting touch but the chicken breast was really small, chips were probably made the day before and the bun was meh. Definitely not a great start to a culinary week.

Sunday morning I decided to venture forth for breakfast and set out walking towards the business area. I passed up a place I visited last year and was lured in by the aroma of the Xanadu Market bakery.

The shop is split into two sections customers can wander around in. As you enter there are a few tables and the bakery case, coffee urns and cashier in the first section. A large opening lets you into another section where you can see the bakers busily going at it and the products on cooling racks plus some being packaged.

Unlike most bakeries I’ve visited these had a lot of items already wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled so grab and go was certainly quick. From the case I got a cranberry orange muffin and just because I love them a blueberry scone. The cranberry orange muffin was good, a little moist and enough of both flavors to enjoy but let the batter taste still make it through. The scone was not as pleasant. The flavor was ok but it was too dry and crumbly and the consistency was not quite sconey (I’m sure that’s a word) enough. I also got some croissants to take back for the family and discovered they were the real deal. I got plain, chocolate, spinach, and red pepper & cheese. I had half of a spinach and half a red pepper & cheese and they were both great. They were buttery, sweet and savory with a fantastic texture. Definitely better than the scone.

The next new experience was lunch at Surf Dog with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Another place in walking distance so we got a little exercise strolling down to the shopping plaza where Surf Dog is located. They atmosphere is beachy. They have a decent number of tables and a good size bar / counter to eat at. The menu isn’t complicated but they certainly embrace the dog theme with the names of the hot dogs. I settled on a Boxer & a Mutt with homemade chips.

I liked the presentation of the dogs with the interesting bun that was like a cross between Texas toast and a top sliced bun. It did a good job of holding the grilled all beef dogs and the toppings. The Boxer was topped with pimento cheese, bacon, onion and jalapenos while the Mutt sported their secret sauce and sauerkraut. The pimento cheese was warm but not messy like I’ve had when it’s been a topping on burgers I’ve had in the past. The secret sauce wasn’t special but the kraut was tasty. Both were delicious. In summary the dogs were tasty and toppings were plentiful without being too messy. The chips were thick, fried enough to be crunchy, and based on the nice color in oil changed reasonably often. My sister gave the fried chicken sandwich a thumbs up. Surf Dog definitely worth a do-over unlike the next contestant.

We had just about the whole crew rounded up and carpooling to Coastal Wing & Spirits Co. We had high hopes for this place and they were across the street from a brewery so it felt like it should be a twofer; good food and local craft beer. It was barely a onefer. We were seated relatively quickly by the one person working the floor when we walked in. She pulled some tables together so we could sit in a big group so the initial impression was good, from the service point anyway.. The first bump came when the other server came to get our drink orders. They didn’t have any of the beer from the place, literally across the street, and the one beer I tried to order they were out of. At noon. On a weekday. Spoiler, it wasn’t going to be the last disappointment.

We got our food order in after determining they were out of something else, I can’t recall what. I ordered Uncle Carter’s Chicken Bog.

So the description on the menu was Long Grain Rice, Pulled Chicken, Smoked Sausage, Spices, Roll. That’s lifted right from the menu. The rice was long grain and the sausage might have been smoked at some time, there were some grey bits. The chicken was pulled alright, from a can. It still had the rounded contours from the can on some hunks. The main flavor was salt with stray hints of other spices. I never saw a roll so that might have been a warning to roll on out of there but I wasn’t smart enough to decode it. On the other hand the fries were competently done and the tea didn’t suck. And to be fair the waitstaff was very nice and friendly trying to work with what they did have. In case you haven’t guessed I’d not recommend this spot.

The last place I want to mention is Topsail Steamer and the food we got there. We take turns cooking supper for the whole group and my folks know how to make good grub. Each year I do a low country boil which other folks know by different names but it is essentially shrimp, sausage, corn & potatoes all boiled together with seafood seasoning. In the past I purchased the ingredients and we always had local shrimp. The issue in the past has been big cooking pots at a rental spot. Last year I saw Topsail Steamer (it’s next to the doughnut shop) and had been mulling that option for a year. In addition to the combo I wanted they have several others varying or adding the seafood plus you can add additional amounts of this or that ingredient. The big deal is they put all of this in a light single use (but you can find other uses for them) pot and they use local shrimp and have options for the seafood spice as well. Simple steaming instruction and a few containers of butter and cocktail sauce not to mention the brown paper for the table. It’s not as cheap as buying all the ingredients yourself and putting it together but I loved walking in, paying for it then coming back and picking it all up at the time I wanted. The end result was fantastic. This is the first of 3 piles to hit the table.

Photo courtesy of Keith Beasley

The quality of all the ingredients was good. The shrimp were a nice size, we had two kinds of sausage and they both had good flavors and the corn was sweet and the potatoes did their potato job and filled you up. They will be my go to next year on my night to cook.

This year I didn’t try as many new spots and my luck wasn’t as good as last year but as the saying goes, “just wait ’til next year.”

Beach Beer

I decided to add a new activity to our family beach vacation this year. On the way to get some cider for the trip I thought it might be fun to have a beer tasting and introduce people to beer they might not otherwise try and have some fun with their reactions. My thought was to keep it local by only including NC & SC beers and have 4 pretty different styles.

We used small cups as our tasters so it only took two bottles / cans for everyone to have a decent taste with little waste in case someone didn’t care for one of the selections.

The first one we tried was RJ Rockers Peachy King. Let me say now I’m using internet images because some brain surgeon forgot to take snaps of the containers.

RJ Rockers is out of Spartanburg, SC and the Peachy King is a wheat ale brewed with, you guessed it, peaches. It’s also 9% alcohol which got peoples attention even with the little shot cups. I didn’t do a word cloud but some comments were; creamy, bitter, peachy, pecan?, yuck and a straight up shiver of dislike. We had one person enthusiastic about it and several others like it while a third did not and a couple were in the OK camp. Personally I liked it.

Our next contestant was the Lenny Boy Ground Up Coffee Stout.

Lenny Boy is a Charlotte brewer and the name of the beer pretty well lays out what it’s all about. It is a 5.3% beer. The consensus was the coffee taste was there but it was mild. It was not as bitter as the Peachy King but we had several people who weren’t coffee fans so that didn’t help them much. No one was enthusiastic about this one, although a third liked it. It did get a nod for best aftertaste from one of the panel. As much as I like stouts I have to say I didn’t love this one.

Our third beer was from Sycamore Brewing, their Strawberry Lemonade Gose.

Sycamore is from Charlotte and I’ve been there a couple of time on a Friday when they had food trucks so I was already feeling positive towards the beer. If you aren’t familiar a gose is a sour beer that usually has a salty taste as well. This one is tarted up even more by being brewed with lemons and they say there are strawberries involved as well but it was a real struggle to find any. Initial impressions were; sour, lemon, lemonade flavor, acidic, and no. It is a summer beer that should be ice cold when you’re drinking it. About a third liked it, most were jumped on the OK bandwagon and one just didn’t like it at all.

Our final entry was the White Zombie white ale from Catawba Brewing.

Catawba is headquartered in Morganton, NC and I’ve visited the Charlotte location which has a very nice taproom. The White Zombie is a Belgian style wheat beer of 5.1% alcohol and a hint of citrus courtesy of the orange peel added to the brew. Interestingly this had the most initial likes but didn’t finish as the top beer in our final review. Early comments included; pissy (yes that’s what I typed), light, least bitter, watered down, a hint of orange. My feelings were it was meh.

When all was said and done Peachy King was the overall number 1, White Zombie took second, Strawberry Lemonade avoided last place by being third and the poor old Ground Up Coffee Stout was easily in 4th place.

Thanks to all the guinea pigs, I mean tasters; Lynn, Mr B, Dee, Alex, Haley, Chris, Paige, Garrett, and Lauren who joined us in spirit and can for real next year.

We all enjoyed the activity and plan to do it again on next years trip with the twist that everyone who wants to participate will bring a beer to ante up. Very much looking forward to it. Only 51 weeks to go.

Nice Doggy

You’re probably saying to yourself “I hope he’s eating hot dogs and not hound dogs,” and I can understand why you might not be certain.

Well let me assure you no dogs were done in to further this blog. Puppies however were consumed. Hush puppies that is.

I’m traveling to a family reunion and lunch time rolled around just as I was getting into Kinston, NC where there’s a BBQ place called King’s and it reminded me they have an item worth blogging about.

First a bit about King’s. It’s been around longer than I have so you know it’s old and it has a loyal clientele built on years of serving good Eastern NC style pork BBQ and since that’s where my people are from that has always been “real” BBQ to me. The outside looks like a step up from a warehouse so pretty isn’t going to pull you in. Over the years they’ve expanded and the inside is nice but still definitely a BBQ joint. They have a buffet dining area and one for a la carte dining which also has an oyster bar. I was seated in the latter and soon had my dish of choice in front of me.

This, my friends, is a Pig in a Puppy. Just about the ultimate barbecue sandwich. It is a generous helping of pork topped with coleslaw (optional) served in a giant hush puppy instead of a roll or bread. I don’t know who had the idea but it was genius.

Amazingly with a puppy that big they manage to cook it just right so it’s not doughy inside or really overcooked outside. It is a little crumbly but that’s why they bring you a fork too. I said it was about ultimate, if I’d had some of the Pucker Butt Voodoo something or other hot sauce I have at hot to lightly sprinkle on it that would have pushed it over the edge.

In case the sandwich didn’t melt your heart they give you a basket of puppies too.

How cute are they? They were good but a little sweeter than I prefer. If they dropped the added sugar and maybe added some onion powder it would be better in my opinion.

If you find yourself in Eastern North Carolina around meal time and Kinston anywhere near your route give King’s a try.

Side note, this is the first blog entry I’ve done entirely on the phone so fat fingers are going to be my excuse for any errors, factual or otherwise.








TGIFTF

June’s Food Truck Friday

It was my time of the month, that third Friday when the food wagons circle around the fountain and feed the crowds. This month was one of the best attended I’ve been to so crowds indeed.

My regular parking lot was closed and I had to find a spot further away. That gave me the chance to put in some additional walking time which worked out well in the end. As protocol dictates I grabbed my beer on the way in, a nice cream ale from local favorite Legal Remedy Brewing.

I had my eye on three trucks and after writing off the heavy Italian menu of one and another not convincing me the fancy chicken slider was going to be worth what they were charging I strolled down to the Herban Legend truck and there menu board had more than one item I would have been happy with.

I was just about to order the Filipino Friday Pork Sisig but swerved at the last minute and chose the Caribbean quesadilla hoping it wouldn’t be as heavy on a 90 degree evening.

This was just about right quantity wise and it was delicious. In case you didn’t read the board it was Jamaican Jerk beef (ground), mango salsa, cheddar and jack cheeses topped with an island remoulade sauce and grilled in a tortilla, as you do with quesadillas. As much as I enjoyed it I have to say the Jamaican Jerk spices were less like a jerk and more like a tug. On the other end of the scale the mango chunks were huge. Just what was called for.

So one thing that annoyed me was all the skinny people walking around showing off by not sweating in spite of all the heat. Fortunately I was sharing a table with a good sized bald guy and his kids and he was eating spicy food and having my back as a fellow sweater. Solidarity.

After eating I strolled a bit and listened to the band, whose name I don’t recall but they were good. I did crack up at this older couple who was checking out the menu on the expensive truck and the lady says,”The cheeseburger is $12.00!” in an tone of total incredulity. Her husband turns to her with a disbelieving look on his face and says, “But it’s coming off a truck!” While I don’t disagree the price was high I’m guessing they aren’t big into the food truck scene if they were that scandalized by the pricing.

Well after being smart and eating lightish plus walking around instead of sitting like a lump I thought I deserved desert and found myself standing at the window of The Art of Baking truck. The desert I went for is probably something my southern ancestors would consider blasphemous but it was called The Golden One and was banana pudding (ok so far) with sliced strawberries (what?) and golden Oreos (well now you’ve gone too far) in addition to the traditional Nilla wafers.

I wasn’t visited by ghosts of disappointed relatives so I guess it was alright. I know one thing it was delicious. The strawberries tasted fresh like they’d been added just before I ordered and the Oreos were used sparingly so they were like a little treat added to the banana pudding experience. I ate it sitting in front of the fountain waiting for the shifting wind to send a little mist my way.

I had one more beverage ticket in hand and nowhere else to be so I got a Funky Buddha Coconut Porter. I mean come on who doesn’t love a good porter and coconut is great so how could this not be a winner.

It was a winner too but not without consequences. The porter was smooth and with moderate bitterness. The coconut aroma is the first thing that hits you as you go in for a sip. Then the flavor hits after the initial porter taste rolls past your tongue. The thing is porters aren’t really light even if they add tropical flavors and on top of the desert I felt like I was filled up like a big bellied Buddha. I’m surprised no one rubbed it for luck. This is where that longer walk back to the car came in handy.

Food Truck Friday never disappoints.

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.

CC:FTF

Food Truck Friday

This blogs been in the hopper waiting a while since the event was May 3rd. I was meeting a friend and former colleague to catch up and I was in charge of finding a spot with food trucks. After a bit of searching, filtering and decision making our target was the Cabarrus County Food Truck Friday. The event is held at Gibson Mill in Concord and I have to say it was worth the drive.

The parking is around back by the Cabarrus Brewing Co., what a convenient thing. There are plenty of picnic tables with umbrellas outside and some seating in the brewery’s tap room. Another convenience is a satellite bar outside in a corner of the picnic area. The evening temp was just about as good as you could ask for and since I got there first I decided to recon the satellite bar and picked up a Spring Street Blue which was a blueberry wheat beer. It wasn’t bad, the blueberries added some nice color but the flavor I thought was a bit muted.

After a just a bit my friend showed and we toured the food trucks to find out which one was going to receive our patronage. After much consideration Big City Bites was the winner.

We jumped right on their special of 3 sliders and added a side of fries each. As they were taking a while to get the orders up we ventured into the taproom to acquire liquid accompaniment for the meals. Jody went with a bourbon barrel aged ale which looked, smelled and tasted like it meant business. I selected something more on the tropical scale with their The Floor is Guava. I only got that reference as I was writing the blog, initially I just thought is was a weird name but now I get it. In any event, the drink was a sour beer made with, surprise!, guava. The sour actually went pretty well with the sliders, especially the Cubano. Speaking of the sliders.

From left to right they are the Cubano, the Pulled Pork Italiano and the Chicago Italian Beef and anchoring the top of the take out tray were the crispy, well cooked fries. All three of these sandwiches were good and offered a nice variety of tastes. The beef sandwich had some peppers and crumbled cheese and was pretty good but #3 of the trio for me. The pulled pork had green peppers, roasted red peppers, shaved cheese and some tender, moist pork slotting it solidly in second place. As mentioned the Cubano was my favorite with the tender slow roasted pork, ham slices, with Swiss cheese, pickles and tangy mustard pressed and grilled. An excellent choice of meals to go with a years worth of catching up with a friend. Thanks Jody Sneed for sharing the meal and time.

As a postscript I believe they are running the Food Truck Friday every Friday until sometime in October. They had live music, are family and pet friendly so if you’re lost for someplace to eat on a Friday pile the family in the car and explore your food truck options.

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.

Opening Day

Food Truck Friday

I am a couple of weeks behind posting and this was actually a couple of Friday’s ago. I’ve got stuff in the hopper now for the next few weeks but I wanted to start the catch-up with this one.

I’m not a hunter however I look forward to the opening of another season, my local Food Truck Friday season. I guess I do hunt for new food trucks and dishes to try during this season but my taxidermy bill is nil.

My day hadn’t been stellar up to the point I departed for the event. I’d flown earlier in the day and there was an almost hour delay getting bags from the plane to the carousel which peeved me a tad. I was counting on this first FTF to counteract that and it did. I rode in listening to 80’s music on the radio and got out to the strains of Journey’s Any Way You Want It from the evenings band, Kids In America an 80’s tribute band. They did a great job and as you can see from the photo committed to it with the hair and wardrobe.

With that promising start I was off to the beverage tent where the rotating tap selections included, Funky Buddha Black Currant beer.

It had a purple hue and tartness from the black currants that made this Belgian ale enjoyable from sip one. They call it a Tripel Lindy which seems like a Back To School reference to me and just added another point in its favor. It also had a 9 point something alcohol percentage which I noticed by the time I hit the bottom of the cup.

From that point I was in hunter mode searching for signs of something different and tasty. After reconning the array trucks available I backtracked to Momo Food Truck.

They had several options I was interested in but the special of dumplings over a rice bowl looked like a winner to me and spoiler, it was a winner.

Talk about fusion, there was a lot going on in this dish. The chicken was served with a gravy that had a definite Indian influence kind of like tandoori flavor with light tomato gravy. Accompanying that was plain basmati rice, steamed vegetables and oddly pico de gallo. The steamed dumplings were filled with minced chicken that was lightly spiced and had what tasted like a hint of coconut and the whole drizzled with a mustardy sweet sauce. Like I said a lot going on. I have to say this was absolutely worth having again.

I almost forgot, check out this utensil they were supplying with the food. I’d not seen this before and thought it was worth a pic. I didn’t need to cut anything so I didn’t test how sturdy it would have been with the knife snapped out.

The evening was a perfect temperature and as I shared a bench with a family, who’s kid knew every one of the 80’s tunes (good parenting), enjoying the breeze and my Sugar Creek Blood Orange IPA I felt the satisfaction of a successful opening day.

Ma-ka-rohn

France

What’s this you say? That’s not the correct spelling of macaron. Well you are correct but that is the spelling of the company name that I got this box of assorted macarons from.

I was enticed to trying these because being originally a French confection so that put them squarely in the culinary-passport purview and they were colorful plus unusual flavors not to mention sprinkles and gold leaf. I had a lot buttons being pushed here people.

There were nine distinct flavors and all of them were quite sweet and most of them had additional qualities that made them worth mentioning. Two of the macarons were March specials and not on the card, there were the Irish coffee couplet in the back of the middle row and the Lucky Charms dark green one in the right hand row.

The Irish coffee tasted of coffee but not that much like whiskey but that’s ok it was still a favorite. Lucky Charms surprisingly tasted a bit like the cereal bits in the box but not so much like the charms so as you might imagine it didn’t rank among the top. It was sharing basement space with the Fruity Pebble macrons. I didn’t like them when I was a kid and that didn’t change by morphing them into a fancy cookie. Those flavors kept Pistachio from being the least favorite. It had a mild pistachio flavor but it was a nice color so it had that going for it.

The cotton candy and birthday cake both lived up to the names on first bite but the sweetness hit hard. The galaxy and brownie batter were both great and they had gold and silver shiny bits respectively. They shared their blinginess with the Ferrero Rocher macaron and all three had chocolaty goodness going for them. I expected more from the Ferrero Rocher but it really didn’t have much hazelnut flavor. In spite of that it was in the top half of the group.

If you want to try some interesting flavors you might not get at your local French bakery you can check these folks out at ma-ka-rohn.com. I’m glad I did but I think I’ll support the local bakery next time I have the urge for a macaron.

P.S. I tried something that falls squarely in the France category so I’m throwing this postscript on the blog.

I enjoy going to the grocery store Lidl, which is a German based grocer that often carries European sourced products. They have things you just don’t find in the domestic based stores. As I walked through the other day I saw they had this:

“James we don’t know what that is.” I hear you saying so let me tell you. Those are puff pastry stuffed with escargot topped with parsley garlic butter. Some of you are now gagging and others are going “Yum!”.

In spite of living in Geneva for almost 3 years and eating at more than one French restaurant in the many years since I’ve never tried these mobile home carrying slugs. I figured I might as well bite the bullet in the privacy of my own home in case I felt the need to regurgitate. After baking they came out looking interesting if not exactly appealing.

I steeled myself and tried the first one. It was almost a disappointment because I think I wanted it to be gross so I could feel justified in my years avoiding this garden pest. Turns out the puff pastry and garlic butter overpowered any flavor the snail might have had so the only contribution of the snail was a bit of chewiness in the center. The snail was like a fried clam or maybe a piece of calamari after it starts to cool down and get chewy.

Having cleared this hurdle I might try them in a restaurant in the future where I’m sure digging them from the shell with a tiny fork will be a treat.

Ukrainian Yum

Ukraine

The March box of goodies hailed from the country of Ukraine and looked promising right off the bat with the amount of chocolate I could see. Before I get on to the snacks let me say that the little booklet that comes with this as well as the intro card are educational and interesting so if you have kids at home these boxes are educational as well as mostly delicious.

Now on to the goodies. The one I liked the best was a pack of little chocolate squares that had a caramel and cinnamon filling in the center.

I was kind of skeptical at first but the bitterness of the dark chocolate paired with the sweet caramel was a given winner and the hint of cinnamon was a very nice add in. The number two snack was also a chocolate based snack.

I had not read the description in the booklet and took this at face value expecting nothing more than a milk chocolate bar. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to have a creme brule center. That was the kind of unexpected good fortune that cements a high rating in the snack competition. Another surprise, without the same result, garnered the middle of this trio the weirdest snack title.

If you look closely you can see a dark spot in the center. The outside of this was like a cross between a jellied candy and a gummy worm and in the center was a viscous liquid artificially flavored core. There were a mix of flavors and none were bad per se but just an odd combination of textures and flavors. No the only bad snack was the hands down winner of the worst snack moniker.

I had mixed feelings going into this trial. When I saw the flavor was meat jelly I recalled the Russian snack that was meat jelly flavored and how unappealing that was. On the other hand I was hoping the novelty of the potato planks and horseradish might redeem it. My hope was for naught. These smelled disgusting as soon as the package was opened and the flavor was every bit as noxious as the Russian snack had been. It left a foul aftertaste and gave me heartburn even though I only powered through a couple of the chips.

There was another box of chips with dill and sour cream flavor and they at least redeemed the company’s name and let me enjoy the unique chip. I have to say I was digging the packaging and long slender potato crisps. They were kind of like Pringles in texture but a touch thinner. Very little wasted space unlike our 1/3 filled bags of chips.

Other snacks in the box included french fry shaped snacks made from corn with potato flakes added. Two varieties were included, one onion and one veal and adjka flavored. There was a pack of really nice caramels with a great dairy taste. For breakfast one morning I had the ham and mustard corn puffs. Aside from the little candies there was a big bar of dark chocolate with bits of dried fruit stuck to the outside.

Overall the box was a winner in spite of the meat jelly assault. I can’t wait to see what’s in the April box from Israel.