Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Really Simple, Tasty, South African Cape Malay Salad

When I prepared one of my favorite stews, Cape Malay Curry ( for a visiting friend last week, I found a tasty and easy Cape Malay tomato salad to go with it. I found this recipe at

3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar
½ tsp ground cumin
1 hot green chili pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
place tomato slices on serving platter.
Mix together salt, sugar and cumin and sprinkle over tomatoes along with chili and onion.
Drizzle with sherry vinegar and olive oil.
Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thai Food Jackpot, Salt Lake City

On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, a colleague and I hit the Thai food jackpot at Simply Thai Restaurant ( in the southern suburbs of Salt Lake City. My colleague and I both enjoy Thai food, although he is much more knowledgeable than me. On the basis of Internet reviews, he identified Simply Thai as a good possibility. It turned out to be fantastic.

We both felt that it was the best Thai food we'd ever had in the U.S. It was so good that we returned the next evening. The second experience was every bit as good as the first.

Our initial impression when we walked into the restaurant made us wonder how much Thai influence there was. There was not the slightest hint of Thai ethnicity among the staff we saw.

Our misgivings were soon dismissed when we tasted our first course - two different soups. He had Tom Yum - spicy hot and sour soup with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, red and green bell peppers, baby corn, lemon grass, and spicy lemon sauce. He asked that they make it extra spicy. He is normally disappointed when he makes that request. This time, he was not. He said that it was the best Tom Yum he had ever had. He ordered it again when we returned the following evening. This soup can be ordered with chicken or tofu. A cup is $3.95, and a bowl, which serves 2-4 people, is $11.95.

I had Tom Kha - creamy coconut soup with sliced chicken breast, galangal (Southeast Asian ginger), mushrooms, onions, cilantro, red and green bell peppers, baby corn, and lime sauce. I asked that prawns be substituted for the chicken. I love Tom Kha. This was by far the best I have ever had. In addition to the wonderful taste of the soup, the prawns were terrific. I ordered it again the following night. The prices for this soup were the same as those of the Tom Yum.

My colleague's entrée the first night was Pad Gra Tiem Pik Thai - stir-fried meat in garlic and black pepper with carrots, onions, and bell peppers for $12.95. He substituted tofu for the meat. He had the highest praise for this dish.

On the first night, I chose Pad Him Ma Parn - stir fried meat with onions, bell peppers, carrots, scallions, celery, and pineapple for $12.95. I chose beef as the meat. It was fantastic.

Both entrées were served with as much rice as we wanted.

The second night, my colleague's entrée was Gang Massaman, a Thai curry with beef or chicken, coconut milk, potatoes, and roasted cashews for $13.95. He substituted tofu for the beef or chicken. He also asked that the dish be made very spicy hot. It was. He is very familiar with this dish and prepares it at home. He considered it among the best he'd ever had.

My entrée was Ghang Khua Sub Parod Thai, a mild Thai pineapple curry with red curry, coconut milk, pineapple, carrots, bell peppers, Thai basil, baby corn, onions, and cashews for $14.95. As you might expect from the other dishes, this one was terrific as well.

The owner, a woman of Thai origin, was very sweet and very solicitous of her customers. She emphasized that she does not use MSG in her cuisine.

When we were effusive in our praise of her food, she offered us both homemade Thai coconut milk ice cream for dessert. My colleague was too full to try it, but I did. It was very nice.

We had different servers each night. Both of them did an excellent job.

Simply Thai is located in a strip mall at 37 West 10600 south, Sandy UT. The lunch and dinner menus are both available on the web site above.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ristorante Pizzeria L'Abate, Sorrento - Back for Another Good Meal

One of the restaurants my wife and I enjoyed during our 2007 stay in Sorrento was Ristorante Pizzeria L'Abate ( at Piazza Sant'Antonino. I decided to return there with other family members last month. (The restaurant is associated with Maison Tofani, the wonderful hotel where we stayed in Sorrento.)

L'Abate has tables both indoors and outside. On a pleasant evening, like the night of our dinner, sitting outside is the best choice. Fortunately, we were able to get an outside table even though we did not have a reservation.

The other family members had tasty dishes such as Lemon Scaloppine (9); Calzone Napoli (10) with mozzarella, ricotta, and salami; and vegetable risotto - Risotto alle Verdure - (€10) .

I asked the waiter if he would recommend a special local dish. He suggested Pezzogna all'Acqua Pazza (Sea Bream in Crazy Water) with a side of fettuccine for (28). It turns out that this is a signature seafood dish of the Amalfi Coast, and that pezzogna is one of the most popular types of fish for this dish. Pezzogna is very similar to snapper. 

The dish is apparently simple to prepare - freshly caught fish is sautéed in sea water along with a special type of local cherry tomatoes (pomodorini al piennolo), with garlic, carrots, celery, Italian parsley, and olive oil (  The dish was absolutely fantastic.

I also asked the waiter to recommend a local red wine. He suggested a 2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato. It is produced with 100% Aglianico grapes, and is made in the Sannio area north of Naples. The wine was decent and cost (28).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Heinrich's German Grill - Always Love It

(Update: After a number of nice meals at Heinrich's, we observed inexcusable management treatment of another table of customers. So we stopped dining there. It generally receives very favorable reviews.)

Last night, our family had another delicious meal at Heinrich's German Grill, Sarasota. Although we don't know much about German food, we do know what we like. All seven of us enjoyed our meals last night. We normally dine there once or twice a year.

I had white borscht, one of the two soups of the day. It was terrific.

My entrée was goulash served over a giant crispy potato pancake and with a side of red cabbage for $24.99. It was wonderful.

One of Heinrich's menu options involves choosing two of three types of wurst (sausage) with two sides. The price varies depending on the sides. My wife chose weisswurst, which is made with veal and pork, and bauernwurst, made with beef and pork.  Her sides were potato pancakes and red cabbage. She enjoyed her meal very much.

The wine list is fairly short and contains mostly or all German wines. There were four reds, and we chose one of them - Kallstadter Spatburgunder - a pinot noir. It was very nice.

Heinrich's offers a variety of schnitzels. I have had several of them and have always been delighted.

They have a variety of German beers on draft. Three family members each chose a different beer. All were delicious.

Most of Heinrich's menu can be viewed at

Our server, who has waited on us before, was excellent as always.

Heinrich's is located at 8420 Lockwood Ridge Rd. Phone 941-355-5453.

Jpan (sic) Lakewood Ranch - Mediocre, Pseudo-Japanese Cuisine

Jpan (aka J-pan) Sushi Restaurant, Lakewood Ranch, would be near the bottom of my list of Sarasota-area Japanese restaurants. (Vizen and Kazu would be near the top. Another place where we have had good sushi is Peking-Tokyo, who sushi chef is Japanese.)

My wife had an appetizer of shrimp and vegetable tempura for $7. The batter was not as light as tempura batter should be, but it was tasty. She said it could have used a little salt.

She ordered two types of sushi - california roll and tempura shrimp  for $5 each. Neither had much flavor.

I started with an appetizer of shumai, a stuffed dumpling of Chinese origin for $6. This version was tasteless.

I was delighted when I saw Charsiu Ramen on the menu because I love Japanese ramen, and I don't often find it on menus of  Japanese restaurants in the U.S. However, this version was a failure. Charsiu ramen derives its name from having at least one large piece of pork in the ramen. This version had some tiny pieces of mushy pork fat. I actually had to search for them and try to identify them. The taste of the ramen broth was so-so and ingredients other than the noodles and broth were sparse. It cost $10.

 (If the owners of Jpan want to try real Japanese ramen, they should try the ramen at Kazu, or at Katana-ya in San Francisco ( or at Matsuchan ( in Canton, Michigan.)

One insensitively named dish on their menu was "JapWrap."

We lived in Japan for 4 years and have dined at Japanese restaurants throughout the U.S., so we have a reasonable basis for making judgements about Japanese cuisine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fantastic Views and Good Food at Da Giorgio on the Isle of Capri

When it was time for lunch in the town of Capri high up on the Isle of Capri last month, I chose Da Giorgio at Via Roma 34 (, mostly because of the view and because I felt the food would be decent or better. The views were spectacular, and the food was good, albeit a bit expensive. I expected the food to be a bit pricey because of the location, and the fact that we were in one of the most popular Italian tourist sites at the height of the tourist season.

We were seated at a table next to large open windows, with soft cool breezes blowing in. We had beautiful views out over the Bay of Naples in the direction of Mt. Vesuvius, down toward the harbor below the town, and at the hillsides to either side of the restaurant.

One View from our Table

The atmosphere inside was very nice, with beautifully set tables.

Three of us had the Ravioli alla Caprese (Capri-style ravioli) for €13 each. One had a cheese omelet for €10. In addition to my ravioli dish, I had Caprese salad for €11. (I couldn't visit Capri without having its eponymous salad.)

Ravioli alla Caprese

We had a large bottle of mineral water for €5, and I had a half bottle of Taurasi wine for €10. Taurasi ( is a type of red wine that is produced from Aglianico grapes in Avellino Province in the Region of Campania. Campania includes Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, and Capri.

We were each charged a cover charge of €3 and a service charge of 12%.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Great Gelato with Homemade Waffle Cones on the Isle of Capri

When we were on the isle of Capri in mid-July we had terrific gelato at R. Buonocore at Via Vittorio Emanuele 35. While we had lots of great gelato on our trip, this is the only one where I saw them making homemade waffle cones. I had my gelato in one of those cones, which I watched being made right before I placed my order. My wife and I also had wonderful gelato there in 2007. I highly recommend it.

R. Buonocore also serves meals.

See Trip Advisor, where it is rated number one out of 105 restaurants on Capri:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ristorante Sant'Antonino - A Nice Combination of Food and Atmosphere in Sorrento

When we were in Sorrento last month, I discovered Ristorante Sant'Antonino ( while looking up another restaurant on the Internet. I decided to try it instead of the other restaurant. I'm glad I did because of the nice combination of food and atmosphere. The prices were very reasonable for a popular restaurant in a major tourist venue at the height of the tourist season.

Ristorante Sant'Antonino has an extensive menu (in both Italian and English) with many local specialties. The menu can be downloaded from the URL above. The restaurant is located at Via Santa Maria delle Grazie 6, just a few feet from Piazza Sant'Antonino. (Sant'Antonino - Saint Antoninus, is the patron saint of Sorrento.)

The ambiance is very nice - it is a roof-garden restaurant with a trellis overhead. Among the plants in the trellis were lemon trees full of lemons. We were amused by a cat walking across the trellis.

There were two musicians playing live music that was a perfect accompaniment to our dinner.

While my daughter and I really enjoyed our meals, my grandchildren were not excited about their pizzas.

My granddaughter had a Margherita pizza for 6, Peasant Salad (Insalata Contadina - lettuce, radicchio, red peppers, and mozzarella) for 7, and a diet coke for 2.50.

My grandson had a Margherita pizza with sausage for 7.50, Treccia Sorrentina cheese (a local version of mozzarella) for 5, and a regular coke for 2.50.

My daughter had Lemon Veal Scaloppine (Scaloppine al Limone) for 10.50.

I had a caprese salad for €8, and scialatielli pasta with shrimp and cherry tomatoes (Scialatielli Gamberi e Pomodorini) for €10. Scialatielli is a pasta which originated in the Amalfi Coast area, and which I love. It is long like spaghetti, but flat on all sides.

We shared a large bottle of mineral water, and I had a half bottle of Fidelis del Taburno Aglianico (90% Aglianico and 10% Merlot), a nice local red wine, for €9 . Aglianico grapes ( are one of the main grapes used to produce red wines in the Campania and Basilicata regions in southern Italy.

For dessert, my daughter had Delizia al Limone, a traditional Sorrento dessert, for €4.50. It is light and airy sponge cake covered in chantilly lemon sauce. I had Torta Caprese, dark chocolate cake with almonds, for €4.50.

My grandchildren did not have dessert here. They were more interested in having gelato at a gelateria.

My grandaughter had a caffe latte for €3, my daughter had a cappuccino for €3, and I had an espresso for €2.

We were charged a cover charge of €1.50 each.

We were grateful to our waiter for asking the diners at the next table to stop smoking, when we complained that the smoke from their table was blowing into our faces and was very annoying.

The restaurant has several hundred reviews on Trip Advisor, most of them very favorable. Many of those reviews are written by Italians. When I use Trip Advisor to check out restaurants in other countries, I often sort the reviews so that those in the local language appear first. (Trip Advisor reviews can be sorted by language.) Reading reviews written by locals, or at least looking at the nr. of stars they have given, provides insights into how the locals view a restaurant in their own country.

Buyer Beware - Tours of the Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Vatican

There are at least two companies with similar names that offer tours of major attractions in Rome. One is called Special Quality Rome - SP.Q.R. Tour and the other is SPQRome Tours. During our visit to Rome several weeks ago, we had a very disappointing tour of the Roman Colosseum with the first - Special Quality Rome" - tours, which offers large-group tours of the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, and the Vatican. (I have no experience with SPQRome Tours (

(Both take their names from the abbreviation from the Latin "Senatus Populusque Romanus" which referred to the ancient government of Rome and is used by the modern government of the municipality of Rome.)

Normally, I do research in advance of our trips. In this case, I fell down on the job. After returning home and reading Wikipedia articles on the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum, I've decided I could learned more and saved money by just printing out a couple of Wikipedia articles and a few others, and taking them with me.

As we walked out of the subway station across the street from the Colosseum, we found a woman who was selling guided tours of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The tours, which were conducted by SP.Q.R. Tours cost €28 per person, with a tour of the Colosseum in the morning and a tour of the Palatine Hill in the afternoon. The cost included the entrance fee of €12 per person for both venues and the Roman Forum. She said that an added benefit is that we would be able to avoid the general admission lines.

We decided to take this tour. That turned out to be a mistake. The Colosseum portion of the tour was terrible. On the other hand, the afternoon tour of the Palatine Hill was decent. The tours we took in Florence and Pompeii were far superior.

There were a number of problems with this tour:

First, we were told that the tour would help us avoid the general admission line and that we would get into the Colosseum quickly. It turns out that we had to wait 25 minutes because it took a while for one of the SP.Q.R. employees to come to purchase the entrance tickets. We probably have gotten into the Colosseum just as quickly with the general admission tickets.

Secondly, our guide in the morning was terrible - a caricature out of a Chevy Chase vacation movie:
a. She was very amateurish. Her English accent was often incomprehensible. I have studied a number of languages and speak decent Italian. I am used to understanding English spoken in heavy accents. Nonetheless, I often had trouble understanding her. Another guest on the tour, who spoke English as a second language approached me and asked me if I could understand her. Her conversation was sprinkled with "allora" and "dunque" and other Italian interjections. She mispronounced words like "weapons" as "weeponse." She used the Italian version of the names of Roman emperors instead of the English versions.
b. Importantly, her explanations were brief and shallow. She also passed by areas, such as statues, which deserved explanation. From the time we entered the Colosseum until that tour was finished was only 40 minutes, only a few minutes of which involved explanation, much of which was unintelligible. She also spent an excessive amount of time in front of a diagram of the Colosseum.

Additionally, from the time the Colosseum tour ended until the Palatine Hill tour started was 90 minutes instead of the 30-60 minutes advertised in the SP.Q.R. pamphlet. Consequently, we had to kill time waiting on a day when we had a lot to see.

On the other hand, the afternoon tour of the Palatine Hill with a Romanian guide named Mircha was good. He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. His English was superb. However, in reading about the Palatine Hill afterwards, I have come to the conclusion that he had not really given us as good an overview of the Palatine Hill as he could have. For example, he could have done a better job of explaining the palatial structures on the hill and suggesting places on the hill we could have visited after he finished his tour.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Carmel Cafe, Sarasota - Loved It

Recently, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful meal at Carmel Cafe (, at 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd, Sarasota. We'll be back!

Cooper Creek bills itself as serving "modern Mediterranean cuisine." There were certainly lots of delicious Mediterranean influences in its dishes - from Basque to Arab spices and ingredients. For many dishes, they offer both small and large sizes. The small sizes were perfect for us.

They also have the customers select and place their orders via iPads. It's very easy to do. However, in talking to friends and family who have dined there, some have discovered that if the waiter does not pay attention to what diners have ordered, drinks and dishes can be overlooked, and not served in a timely fashion. We were fortunate because our waiter was very good.

My wife started with Seasonal Salad Flat Bread for $7.99. It contained shrimp, mango, goat cheese, and arugula on flat bread. It was delicious.

I started with Basque Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Roasted Almonds and Avocado Salad for $7.99. I loved this dish. It was mouthwatering.

My wife's second dish was Steak Frites with Carmel Fries for $9.79. The steak was grilled and sliced Meyer Natural Angus with Bearnaise aioli. The Carmel Fries had an unusual spice - zahtar, which I have only seen used on Arab pita bread. The fries were good, but some of them were too salty.

My second dish was grilled lamb and veal sliders with mint cucumber sauce for $7.99. I loved this dish as well.

For dessert, my wife chose the Dessert Trio for $5.79. It consisted of Amarena cherry custard, and two homemade truffles - 1 cappucino and 1 Marcona almond. They were delicious.

I had grilled pound cake with kaffir-lime scented strawberries and almond-infused whipped cream for $5.79. It was very tasty.

The wine I chose was a 2010 Joe  Gott Napa Zinfandel for $44. It was very nice.

Carmel Cafe is a chain of four restaurants. They were started by Outback co-founder Chris Sullivan. The other three restaurants are in the Tampa-Clearwater area.

A Delicious Roman Meal at Ristorante Antonio al Pantheon, Rome

After visiting the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon in Rome a few weeks ago, we had a wonderful Roman meal at Ristorante Trattoria Antonio al Pantheon ( at Via dei Pastini 12. I selected this restaurant, which is only about a block from the Pantheon, on the basis of its many favorable TripAdvisor reviews.

We enjoyed our tasty repast at a nice outdoor table.

Outside Tables at Antonio's

During the course of our meal, I had interesting discussions with the owner, Antonio Garbini, and with one of his employees, Nando. They were kind enough to spend time chatting with me despite the fact that they were very busy. Antonio's family has owned this restaurant since 1934.

Antonio & Nando

The restaurant offers many items that are specialties of Rome and of Lazio, the region where Rome is located. We had a delicious and typically Roman meal at a very reasonable price. I saw many items on the menu that I would love to have tried. I would return here in a heartbeat.

Antonio has a home in the Umbrian town of Norcia, which is renowned throughout Italy for its prosciutto and other pork products. I noticed a number of Norcia items on menu. When I mentioned that at the end of the meal, Antonio brought out a free plate of Norcia prosciutto for us to try. It was fantastic. (My wife and I visited Norcia in 2010 and had a wonderful meal at Ristorante Granaro del Monte, the oldest restaurant in Umbria. See my article about our visit to Norcia -

Before we ordered our meal, they brought my daughter and me each a free glass of white wine. The Lazio Region, is better known for its refreshing white wines than its reds.

As we drank the wine, I mentioned to Antonio and Nando that I liked red wines and always like to try local wines, but that Lazio was not known for its reds. They told me that there were some very nice reds produced in Lazio. They recommended the 2010 Sesto 21 Syrah. It was very nice and reasonably priced at €25. It is produced by Azienda Vinicola Casata Merge ( about 8 km southeast of Rome.

My grandson and I shared an order of Jewish-style Artichokes (Carciofi alla Giudia) for €11. This dish originated in the Jewish-ghetto of Rome, and is particularly popular during February-April, when the local Romanesco artichokes are harvested. In this dish, the hard outer leaves are removed. Then the remaining part of the artichoke is put in water with lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper, and fried. ( I loved the dish.

My grandson also had Spaghetti alla Carbonara for €8.

My granddaughter had Insalata Verde (green salad) for €5 and Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

My daughter had Tonnarelli alla Gricia for €9. Tonnarelli is a Roman pasta. The tonnarelli at Antonio’s  is house made. Alla gricia means in the style with little bits. The “bits” are small pieces of guanciale, a type of bacon. The other main ingredient is Roman pecorino cheese. This dish is basically like pasta all’Amatriciana without tomatoes.

I had house-made pappardelle pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms and pachino tomatoes (Pappardelle con Porcini Freschi e Pachino) for €12. Pachino tomatoes are a type of cherry tomatoes from the southeast coast of Sicily.

We were also charged the usual cover charge for bread. In this case, it was €1.50 per person.

The total cost of our delicious meal at this great location was a very reasonable €84.

Antonio’s is closed on Sundays.

Tante grazie per una cena squisita!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trattoria Da Vito e Dina, Rome - Delicious Food, Excellent Prices

Trattoria Da Vito e Dina, located a couple of blocks from Vatican City and from Piazza del Risorgimento in Rome, is a great place to enjoy a delicious meal at reasonable prices. It is a small, family-run restaurant operated by Vito and Dina. It is located at Via degli Scipioni, 50. It has a couple of tables outside, and perhaps 10 inside. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays. 

We were the only foreigners in the restaurant. Our entire meal was very tasty and everything was reasonably priced. Dino was a real character, heavy-set and with a big smile, who loved chatting up the customers.

My granddaughter had an appetizer of a supplo for 1. Suppli (plural) are rice croquettes that are filled with mozzarella and deep fried. She enjoyed it. (I love them.) They are similar to but generally smaller than a Sicilian dish called arancini. She also had ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach (Ravioli Ricotta e Spinaci) for 8, a diet coke (called Coca Light in Italy) for 2.50, and tiramisu for 4.

My grandson had prosciutto with mozzarella di buffala for 8, lasagna for the same price, regular Coca Cola for 2.50, and tiramisu for 4.

My daughter had ravioli with butter and sage (Ravioli Burro e Salvia) for
8, diet coke, and tiramisu.

I had Straccetti con Porcini - thin steak with porcini mushrooms for 11, a small bottle of San Benedetto mineral water for 1.50, a half bottle of Antinori Santa Cristina Tuscan red wine for about 9 or 10, a house dessert (Dolce della Casa) for 4, and an espresso.

(This restaurant had been recommended by our hotel, A Touch of Rome. It was an excellent recommendation.)

See Trip Advisor for further information, including photos of the restaurant: