Posts Tagged ‘dining’

The Traveling Richters on CNN.com

September 1st, 2010 at 9:17 am (AST) by Jake Richter

When we looked at the main page of CNN.com’s travel section this morning we were pleasantly surprised to find… Us! (Linda and myself, that is.)

CNN.com Travel Page with The Traveling Richters (September 1, 2010)

CNN.com Travel Page with The Traveling Richters (Sept. 1, 2010)

The photo on the CNN.com Travel home page links to an article about First Class dining experiences.

A reporter from CNN.com contacted us last week after finding our blog post about first class travel to Hong Kong, and interviewed me by phone for today’s CNN.com story.

The article by Ms. Pawlowski discusses how different an experience it is to dine in international first class cabins compared to lower cost sections of planes, and the effort that airlines make to ensure that their first class passengers have great dining options. Well worth a read as an incentive to use those frequent flier miles (or cash) collecting dust in your account.

In any case, it’s nice to see the final story on-line so soon, and we think it’s a great way to start September.

 

Dining During Travel By Plane

November 25th, 2009 at 9:34 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As it’s related to our travels, I wanted to note that I have published commentaries and reviews over on A Foodie Moment of how airport dining options have gotten a lot better in recent years, all while food on airplanes continues to decline in taste, appearance, quality, and quantity. The links to the articles are below:

 

How To Eat A Guinea Pig in Ecuador

November 13th, 2008 at 11:49 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We arrived in Quito as scheduled, mid-morning on Tuesday. We took it easy our first day – eating, napping, and acclimating to the high altitude here. Yesterday we spent the day with a private guide and driver exploring local crafts markets and offerings in Otavalo as well as using my camera’s GPS to get us to the exact equator – 0 degrees latitude. Krystyana should be writing all that up in the next day or so, so let me focus on today’s activities, which started with a visit to the Museo Nacional de Banco Central del Ecuador where we learned about how man first came to Ecuador many thousands of years and how culture evolved here until Ecuador’s independence from Spain in 1822. Very interesting museum and well worth the three or so hours we spent there.

But the most unusual thing I did today (with Linda and Krystyana trying a nibble) was to dine on Guinea pig.

Warning: If you’re squeamish about eating unusual foods and creatures, especially cute and cuddly ones, please stop reading here, and especially don’t look at any of the pictures below.

Guinea Pigs in Ecuadoran Cuisine
Guinea pigs, in the time before beef cattle were introduced to the country, were the main staple meat among Ecuadoran indigenous peoples. However, beef, pork, and other meats did not completely displace Guinea pigs from the Ecuadoran diet, and “cuy” (as Guinea pigs are known in Ecuador) are still a widely eaten delicacy. It is claimed that they are very low in cholesterol – I have no way to confirm or deny that, but based on all I’ve been reading of late, high cholesterol foods don’t actually appreciably affect the cholesterol that clogs one’s arteries (blame sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup for that).

In terms of preparation, from what I’ve read, Guinea pigs used to be grilled on spits over open fires, but nowadays are either cooked on a rotisserie or deep fried. Below, for example, is a photo of a rotisserie with several Guinea pigs being cooked, found on our travels out to Otavalo yesterday.

Guinea pigs on rotisserie spits alongside the road outside Quito

We always try to sample local cuisine, and one of our missions in Ecuador and Peru was to try Guinea pig – all but Bas because he just cannot get himself to eat anything he deems to be cute and lap or hand-sized. Bas’ criteria for cuteness encompasses rabbit, ducks (but not chickens), and, of course, Guinea pigs. And, honestly, Linda and Krystyana weren’t too wild about the idea either. Okay, so it was really just me that wanted to try and eat this traditional meat.

The Cover of Mama Clorinda's Menu

Our guide for Otavalo, Luisa, recommended a place in Quito called Mama Clorinda’s as the place to have traditional Ecuadoran food, so after our museum visit this morning we made our way there – about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. Mama Clorinda’s was a tiny restaurant with low ceilings (ouch) and about a dozen tables, with lots of locals dining there. As we reviewed the menu we were serenaded by two musicians playing Ecuadoran music. We liked the music, but didn’t appreciate the fact that the musicians were next to our table – it made it too loud for us to talk. Had they been outside the restaurant it would have been more pleasant.

Cuy - Guinea Pig - on the menu of Mama Clorinda's

In any event, we finally ordered our meals, with Bas positioning himself in such a way that he would not be able to see my meal when it arrived. He ordered fried chicken with baked beans, and Linda and Krystyana ordered deep fried pork chunks known as “fritados”. I ordered a whole Guinea pig, but unlike the menu description shown above, I asked for mine to be fried without breading. After all, other than the non-low-carbness of breaded Guinea pig, it’s highly unlikely that Guinea pig was breaded back in the days before cattle – and I wanted as authentic an experience as possible.

When my Guinea pig finally arrived, it was not whole as I had expected. Instead the kitchen had split it into six parts: the head in two parts with the lower jaw separated from the upper jaw and skull, and the body cut into four pieces as seen in the photos below.

The guinea pig is served in many pieces - the head in parts, the torso in four

Here are the guinea pig's teeth in the separated lower jaw

Barely discernable, this is the top of the guinea pig's head - ears at right

The teeth on the jaws were still clearly visible, and if I studied the skull enough I could see where the eyes were (or used to be) and also see the ears sticking up. Each of the four body parts featured a small, crispy paw.

The guinea pig's front paw - extra crispy

My commentary about the meal on my plate were not being well received by Bas, so I stopped my dialog and instead focused on trying the meat. I tried to use a knife and fork, but the Guinea pig parts were just too small for normal utensils so I had to resort to using my fingers. Peeling back the crunchy skin I found the color of the cooked meat was very similar to the dark meat of a chicken or a rabbit, and not surprisingly, very similar in taste. I found the meat to be quite salty, but that may have been the preparation more that the taste of the meat itself as all of the meats we were served were saltier than they should have been.

The flesh of the guinea pig is much like the dark meat of chicken

The fried Guinea pig skin was tasty and fatty, but not as crunchy as it first seemed – instead it was a bit chewy. The other thing I discovered was that Guinea pigs are quite bony, and not particularly meaty. The rump of the Guinea pig had noticeably more meat than the front half, and while I joked with Krystyana that the one benefit of Guinea pig over chicken was that the former had four drumsticks, there really wasn’t that much meat there. I suspect I burnt nearly as much energy picking bits of meat off the carcass as I consumed in the skin and meat that I managed to find to eat.

All in all it was an interesting experience, but probably not one I care to repeat as I prefer bigger pieces of meat which require less work to separate from the bone. And for those who were wondering, Krystyana and Linda did each try a small piece of Guinea pig, but only while Bas averted his gaze. Linda thought it tasted like dark meat from a chicken, while Krystyana was convinced it was more like rabbit.

While I did manage to strip the body of meat and edible skin, I was not able to get myself to search for any morsels of meat that might have been in the lower jaw or skull of the Guinea pig. I hope I did not miss out on anything fantastic, but instinct tells me my decision was a prudent one.

Even I wasn't brave enough to tackle the head of the guinea pig

In terms of Mama Clorinda’s itself, we found the service a bit spotty, and the other meats overcooked. We would seek other places for Ecuadoran cuisine if we had the desire to eat typical local food.

 

Barcelona Dining – Barkeno Cocina Mediterranea

April 21st, 2008 at 6:29 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After departing Brasserie Flo after being completely ignored (see review in post preceding this one), we headed to Barkeno Cocina Mediterranea, a restaurant we had previously walked past on the way to our hotel, and one the front desk at our hotel had recommended as well.

What a difference Barkeno was from Flo. The service was very good – the only mild negative was that I had to pour my own wine and water most of the time, but that truly is mild considering how great our waiter was in all other respects.

We had an excellent meal, starting with appetizers including mussels in cream and wine sauce, tuna tartar with avocado, and whole fried small fish and baby squid. We were also treated to home-made chips (potato, sweet potato, and eggplant) and nicely marinated olives. We also had an order of Catalan Bread – lightly toasted bread onto which olive oil and tomato has been rubbed. Catalan Bread is a staple in most of the restaurants we’ve been in here, and quite fresh and tasty when done right.

For our main courses we enjoyed monkfish medallions, grilled pork with mashed sweet potatoes, and duck margrate, all of which were also excellent.

We accompanied our meal with a bottle of 2006 Ermita D’Espiells from Juve y Camps, made from a blend of Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada grapes – a wonderful recommendation from our waiter, and reasonably priced as well.

Our “postres” (the local word for desserts) featured a trio of chocolate textures, Parmesan ice cream (sounds odd, but was quite tasty), a cheese cake, and strawberries in muscat. Again, all very nicely plated and very tasty. We were also given small (thimble-sized) cups of white chocolate filled with dark chocolate mousse and hazelnuts (filberts) as a small treat to end our meal. I also discovered that Grand Marnier comes in a yellow label (versus the usual red), indicating a lemon flavor instead of Grand Marnier’s usual orange base, although my personal preference still runs to Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire or Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire when opportunity arises.

Our meal for the four of us was about 175 Euros, plus I gave our waiter a 20 Euro tip for the service he provided. Expensive, but definitely the best meal we’ve had in Barcelona so far.

I give Barkeno an 8.5 out 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

 

Barcelona Dining – Brasserie Flo

April 21st, 2008 at 6:01 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After lunch yesterday we parted ways with Martin and his father Arend, followed it with Gelato at a local gelataria, and went for our afternoon Aquarium excursion after some shopping. We tried to drag things out so we could make it to dinner at 8:30pm instead of facing restaurants closed for dinner prior to that time, but despite our best efforts, we found ourselves tired and hungry, strolling back towards our hotel around 8pm.

Along the way we encountered, on Jonqueres near the Urquinaona intersection, a restaurant that was open, and looked nice and quiet – Brasserie Flo. The outer vestibule teased us with a display of delicious shellfish, and the interior was formal and refined. We were promptly seated at a table for four, given menus featuring a limited but tasty looking set of items – ranging from duck foie gras to lobster and sole.

Alas, looking at the menu was as close as we actually got to the food, since we could not get even a modicum of service during the 20+ minutes we sat at our table. No offer of water, refreshments, bread, or any attempt to communicate with us, never mind taking our order. The one point at which I managed to get one of the wait staff to look at me, she responding by saying that someone would be right with us. Ten minutes later someone had yet to materialize. As by now it was 8:30pm and other dining options were now available in Barcelona, we ended up leaving the restaurant in disgust. And interestingly, not a single member of the restaurant’s staff deigned to even ask us why were were leaving. Brasserie Flo gets a big fat raspberry and a 0.0 out of a possible 10.0 on The Richter Scale. Only go here if you are a masochist who thrives on being ignored and enjoys not eating or drinking anything in a restaurant. For the rest, keep in mind that life is too short and restaurant alternatives too many to need to experience treatment like this.

 

Barcelona Dining – El Choquito Restaurante

April 21st, 2008 at 5:59 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yesterday, after touring the Parc Guell and passing up a visit to the Miro museum (see previous posts), we ended up in Las Ramblas, a busy, touristy section of Barcelona about a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. We picked a Tapas-oriented place at random and ended up at El Choquito Restaurante, a busy restaurant with mostly tourists as customers, although we did see some locals at the Tapas bar on the way in. Service was brusque – just a slight bit above the sort of service one would get at Dick’s Last Resort back in the U.S. – a chain which prides itself on rude servers.

Fortunately, the food was a bit better than the service, but nothing great – mediocre and expensive would be a better description. We had a blend of tapas and entrees, none of which really stood out, although the patatas bravas were pretty good.

Bas particularly enjoyed his Chicken paella, although I was a bit put out by the lack of saffron flavor and the use of frozen vegetables. However, it’s been pointed out to me that each region in Spain has its own version of paella, with different flavors – but whether that was the reason for the flavor of the paella here or not, I don’t know.

The only thing that was distinctively good was the Cava-based Sangria – Cava is Spanish sparkling wine – and normally Sangria is made with red wine, but it was close to US$35 for one liter of Sangria with Cava.

There’s no question in my mind that El Choquito was a tourist trap. Cost for lunch was about 160 Euros (about US$250) for the six of us – pricey for what we got. I give El Choquito Restaurante a 5.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.