Monday, August 27, 2018

"Lamburger" - Middle Eastern Flavored Lamb Burger

Since I had some ground lamb, extra pita bread and other ingredients from a Levantine Arab meal I was preparing, I decided to make a burger using Middle Eastern flavors. It was very easy to make; and I was very happy with the results.

The recipe below is for a single large burger - half a pound. The size can easily be adjusted.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound or less of ground lamb
1/2 a large piece of pita bread
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 stalks green onions, sliced into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons labne (Lebanese-style yogurt) or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped cucumbers

Ingredient Notes
1. Labne is thicker than Greek yogurt, and is spreadable. There's lots of info about labne on the Internet. It's available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. I bought mine at Oasis Cafe, a Lebanese cafe and store on U.S. 41 just south of Bee Ridge in Sarasota. 
2. If possible, get really tasty pita from a place like Oasis Cafe, not  the pita found in supermarkets.
3. You could also add chopped fresh mint to the labne and cucumber topping.
4. To give the burger a bit of a kick, you could add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne.

Preparation
1. Mix spices
2. Knead spices and green onion into lamb, and then form patty with indentation in the top.
3. Pour olive oil into skillet and heat skillet on medium for two-three minutes
4. Cook burger for about 5 minutes on each side for medium burger.
5. Place burger into pita bread.
6. Spread labne on top of burger; then sprinkle cucumber on top.
7. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Schwaige Restaurant & Beer Garden, Nymphenburg Palace, Munich

The restaurant - beer garden of the Schlosswirtschaft Schwaige at Nymphenburg Palace, Munich serves delicious, traditional Bavarian food in a very pleasant setting, with good service. It's a great place to have lunch or dinner during a visit to Nymphenburg Palace.We sat outside in  the beer garden with friends on a very pleasant late afternoon in July.

Our meal was terrific. My grandson had the the Munich Meatballs with Shallot Sauce and Potato Cucumber Salad (Münchner Fleischpflanzerl mit Schalottenjus und Kartoffelgurkensalat) for €13.20, and I had the filet of piglet with Port Wine Gravy, Ragout of Chanterelle Mushrooms, Leaks, and Peaches and Potato Horseradish Gnocchi (Spanferkelfilet mit Port-wein Jus auf Reherl-Pfirisch-Lauf-Ragout und Kartoffel Meerrettich Gnocchi) for  €20.90. 


Our dessert was an incredible cake – Royal Bavarian Kaiserschmarrn with Applesauce and Stewed Plums (Königlicher Bayerischer Kaiserschmarrn mit Apfelmus und Zwerschgenröster). This is a traditional Austrian and Bavarian dessert. The name Kaiserschmarrm means, “Emperor’s Mess.” The dessert is named for the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, who was very fond of it. It was a large, light, caramelized pancake with apple and plum sauce. A serving for two was €8.90.The serving was more than enough for two.

My grandson had a half liter of draft Hofbräu Helles beeer for €4.60. I had two glasses of the 2015 Peter Dolle Blauer Zweigelt Austrian red wine - a .2 L glass for €5.90 and a .1 L for €3.30. I had not had Austrian Zweigelt wine before visiting Germany. I had it several times while there, and really enjoyed it.

While we at the restaurant, the first part of a wedding reception was being held. They would later move inside for the main event.

The restaurant has menus in both German and English. The restaurant is not easy to find. It's at the southern edge of the palace, i.e., the side toward the left as you face the front of the palace.

Napulè, Sarasota - Terrific and Authentic Italian Food

There are lots of good Italian-American restaurants around, but very few that serve authentic Italian food that great and hard to find elsewhere in the area. Napulè (https://napulesarasota.com/) is one of the few. I had lunch there with a friend recently and can't wait to go back.

Many of the foods there are from southern Italy, but there are others from the center and the north as well. Their pizza oven is wood-fired. 

In addition to the evening menu, there are two types of sandwiches they offer only at lunch - panuozzi and ciabatta. I have never seen panuozzi sandwiches. This style of sandwich is from the Campania Region of Italy, which is in the southwest, where Naples and Sorrento are located. The bread is made from the restaurant's pizza dough. 

Napulè offers six types of panuozzi. I chose the Porcellino, which means, "Piggy." It contains porchetta, mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella, and sells for $10.95. Porchetta is a boneless pork roast with garlic, rosemary, fennel, and other herbs. In Italy, it is typically roasted over wood for at least 8 hours. Porchetta sandwiches are usually sold from white-painted food trucks. It is popular all-over Italy, but the Lazio and the Abruzzi are where it is most popular.

When I was in Umbria a few years ago, my wife, my niece, and I all had porchetta sandwiches from a food truck at an outdoor market. The sandwiches were incredible.

My Porcellino porchetta sandwich at Napulè was great!!!

I also had an order of Salame Felino, a special salami that is made in the town of Felino, just south of Parma in the Bologna region. The town is famous for its pork. It even has a pig statue in Charlie Chaplin park in the center of town. The Salame Felino, which cost $6.95, was terrific.

With my meal, I drank a 2015 red wine - Marramiero Dama - a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine for $8.95 per glass. It was very nice.

I can't wait to go back and try some of their other menu items. I recommend checking out the menu on their web site.

Napulè is located on U.S. 41, a short distance south of Stickney Point Rd. Their parking lot is fairly small, but they have complimentary valet parking. It's best to have reservations for dinner.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hotel Rothof Bogenhausen, Munich – Hard to Beat

My grandson and I recently had the good fortune to stay at the Hotel Rothof Bogenhausen (https://www.hotel-rothof.de/en/index.html) while on a recent trip to Munich. I was looking for a hotel that was not a chain hotel and that had a local feel; that was clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced; that was located near friends whom we were visiting; that had a nice breakfast; and that was near public transportation. On the basis of reviews and consulting with our friends,, I chose the Hotel Rothof. It exceeded all my expectations, thanks to the friendly and efficient team led by Hotel Manager Isolde Wolf-Speitzer and Assistant Manager Ahmed Ismail.
This four-story hotel is located in a park in the Bogenhausen area of Munich, and has its own beautiful sports complex where guests can work out. Ground floor rooms open out onto a beautiful green courtyard. Rooms on the next two floors have their own balconies.
                 View from the Room onto the Lanai

The breakfast buffet at the Hotel Rothof probably offers the best selection I’ve encountered at the many hotels I’ve stayed at on four continents. There were at least fifty different selections, including seven custom egg dishes, pastries, rolls, breads, yogurts, cereals, fruits, cheeses, cold cuts, hot sides, vegetables, juices, teas, coffees, etc. The eggs selections included a delicious Bavarian omelet (with sausages, of course). In pleasant weather, you can enjoy breakfast outside. I get hungry just thinking about it.
The hotel offers regular rooms and apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes. The rooms were recently renovated. Mine was kept spotlessly clean. The bed in my room was more comfortable than my bed at home. Like most hotels these days, free Wi-Fi is included.
The hotel is about a five-minute walk from the Richard-Strauss-Straẞe subway station , which is five stops away from Odeonsplatz in the heart of the old city of Munich. Near the subway is a large Aldi’s Süd supermarket. Every Thursday, there’s an interesting outdoor market at Rosenkavalierplatz, about a five-minute walk from the hotel. The market stands have beautiful selections of fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, olives, etc. It’s worth a visit to see a shopping option that’s available to locals. The hotel has its own restaurant and there are others a short walk away.
Key staff members speak fluent English, and all staff members are friendly and professional.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Delicious, Fast, 'n Easy Tomato-Basil Grouper

In my search for a fast and easy way to prepare the grouper I love, I found this very nice recipe for tomato-basil grouper at: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/grouper-with-tomato-and-basil-106744. It makes two servings and takes about 25 minutes total.

The only change I made was to use cherry tomatoes cut in half vice chopping a tomato. 

I purchased the grouper from the terrific seafood counter at the University Parkway Detwiler's Farm Market.

Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- A one-pound piece of grouper or red snapper fillet (3/4-inch thick), skinned and halved cross-wise. 
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil (FYI, it's easy to buy a small, potted basil plant at Publix or Home Depot and leave it to grow in the pot on your porch or lanai.)

Preparation
1. Put one tbsp olive oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet at medium high heat, and add fish, turning to coat on both sides. Arrange fish skinned side down and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Toss tomato, garlic, basil, remaining tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Cover skillet with a tight-fitting lid and cook over moderately high heat until just cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Outdoor Market at Lakewood Ranch - Worth a Visit

We've just enjoyed a visit to the new weekly outdoor market at the Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch, and found some very interesting vendors with terrific products.  We bought items from five of them.

One surprising vendor sells a variety of Italian Tuscan salumi produced at a farm just north of Florence near Barberino del Mugello. He had at least six types of salumi - which are salt-cured meats primarily made from pork.. The ones sold by this vendor included Tuscan-style prosciutto and finocchiona - fennel-flavored salami, which is uniquely Tuscan. He also sells Parmigiano Reggiano cheese which he cuts to order from a giant wheel of cheese which has been aged for 36 months. We sampled and purchased both prosciutto and cheese. He accepted only cash.

Another surprising vendor was a seller of Italian truffles, oils, dried porcini mushrooms, and other products from the Alba area of the Piedmont Region in northwestern Italy. Alba is famous for its white truffles. The vendor will obtain fresh white truffles from Alba at a cost of $300 per ounce plus $65 for shipping. The cost of truffles at this year's White Truffle Fair in Alba in November reached an all-time average high of about $3,200 per pound. At this vendor, we purchased a towel that was nicely decorated and displayed all the wines produced in the Piedmont, which is one of the best wine-making areas of Italy.

One vendor I was delighted to find was Peperonata Pasta, a Sarasota company that makes great empanadas and fresh pasta. They had about nine types of empanadas. They did not have my favorite lamb empanadas with them. We bought steak and onion, beef, and cheese and onion empanadas for dinner. They were terrific. Pasta and empanadas are a logical mix of products for the owners of Peperonata Pasta because they are Italian immigrants from Argentina, which has a very large Italian community.

Another vendor sold various types of fresh poultry, eggs, cheese, and butter. The poultry and eggs come from one farm on Fruitville Rd. and the cheeses and butter from another. They offered three types of cheddar cheese - plain, pepper, and cajun. We bought the plain.

From a fifth vendor, we bought a jar of gallberry plant honey. They also have wildflower honey.

One main player at the market is Worden Farm, which brings boxes of mixed vegetables to its subscribers and has some available to other buyers. This week, they also sold beautiful bouquets of large sunflowers. The farm specializes in organic foods.

Other sellers included a baker offering at least six types of fresh bread, and others selling salsas, soaps, and pet products. There was also a knife sharpening service.

The market is open every Wednesday afternoon through April 18 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is located off Lorraine Rd. just south of University Parkway. For more information about the market, see: https://www.lakewoodranch.com/life-on-the-ranch/themarket/

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Acropolis Greek Taverna - A Nice Meal

My wife and I both enjoy Greek food, so we wasted no time in trying the new Acropolis Greek Taverna (http://www.acropolistaverna.com/) close to University Town Center in Sarasota County. We were very happy with our meal, but were disappointed that they had sold out of two dishes.

The sold-out dishes were:
- Fried Kibbeh, which is a wonderful Lebanese dish made of bulghur wheat, beef (or lamb), sauteed onions, and pine nuts.
- House-made rice pudding.

(I noticed several other Levantine Arab dishes on the menu - Felafel and Baba Ghanouj, so I checked out the owner's name - Sam Waez, which I believe is Lebanese. He grew up in Greece.)

We started with an appetizer of Tzatziki and Pita Bread. It was fantastic!!! I could have eaten just that. It was $8.

My wife's main course was the Pastitsio - pasta with seasoned ground beef, with bechamel and tomato sauces and topped with feta cheese. It was very nice.

My main course was Chicken Rhodes - grilled chicken breast in a lemon white wine sauce sauteed with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives, and topped with crumbled goat cheese for $17. It was very tasty, but the chicken was slightly overcooked. It came with two sides. I chose Mediterranean Rice and Greek Potatoes. The rice dish was a mixture of lentils and white rice. The potatoes were delicious, but the rice dish was very ordinary. I would not order it again.

My wife's drink was a Santorini Sunrise Cocktail, which was a very nice mixture of grapefruit vodka, muddled oranges, mint, honey syrup, red grapefruit, orange juice, and club soda for $9. The only reason we knew about the cocktails was the we had looked at the menu n line before going to the restaurant. When we asked our waitress for a cocktail menu, she said they did not have one. She checked to make sure.

My drink was 2015 Tsantali Naousa red wine by the glass for $8 per glass. This pleasant wine is made from Xinomavro grapes from the Macedonia area of northern Greece.

I also had a cup of Greek coffee for $3.50. It was terrific!!!!!!!!!!!!

While we were there, there was various entertainment - the servers danced a lively Greek dance, plates were broken, and hundreds of napkins were thrown in the air, landing on tables and the floor. I could  do without the napkin-throwing and plate breaking. I'd think that the napkins on a tile floor might be a slipping hazard. We did enjoy the dancing.

On Friday and Saturday nights, they have live belly dancing and bouzouki music.

The menu has a number of nice-sounding dishes that I have not seen on Greek restaurant menus in the U.S.

They also have a Sunday brunch with some dishes that I'd intend to try.

Our server, Mariange, was super. She was professional with a very warm personality.

The taverna was full on the Sunday night we were there, so I'd recommend reservations.

Acropolis Greek Taverna is a chain of six restaurants, all located in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota area.