Category Archives: Travel

A Surprising Dinner at Africa’s Top Restaurant (The Tasting Room)

Certain restaurant meals stand out in your mind for ages. Although it has been almost 30 years since devouring Emily Luchetti‘s Gingerbread Cake with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon at Stars in San Francisco, l vividly recall that heady aroma and taste of the molasses and spices as if it were yesterday. That cake blew me away. I had no idea that gingerbread could be anything but a cookie, and that it could taste so heavenly. (Sadly Stars closed down in 1999, but if you are a gingerbread lover, bake this cake!)

I am certain that the memory of the meal I had at The Tasting Room (Franschhoek, South Africa) this past March will remain strong in my cerebral cortex, long after the names of my kids and husband have totally escaped me. Dutch born chef, Margo Janse, celebrates South Africa through food. Her philosophy is to make fine dining approachable and not intimidating. Her dishes are whimsical, playful, consistently surprising, visually stunning and very delicious.

Before we went on Safari in Botswana and South Africa, we spent a few days in Capetown and then made our way East, to the wine region of Franschhoek. We spent the afternoon biking to several wineries. I must admit, I approached the biking with some trepidation. I love going to spin class on a stationary bike, but biking where there are cars makes me very nervous. And biking and drinking… well let’s just say, that seemed like an accident waiting to happen. We were assured that the roads were not heavily travelled by cars. I suited up and vowed to just have 3 sips at each winery.

My husband has been trying to get me to go outdoor biking with him for years. He was so thrilled that he snapped a photo of me in my bike helmet, standing next to my bike, and texted it to our kids. My eldest son responded with scepticism. He said, “Just because she’s wearing a helmet, doesn’t mean she actually rode the bike” We followed up with proof later that afternoon.proof of biking in franschhoekIt was actually a very easy ride, as there were almost no hills or cars. The scenery was breathtaking. These shots were taken by my friend Jack.view in Franschhoekbiking in FranschhoekWe checked into our hotel for a quick shower and headed out to dinner at The Tasting Room.

Our amazing travel agent, Linda, made all the arrangements for us. All we knew about the restaurant was that it was ranked “Top Restaurant in Africa ” and “53rd Best Restaurant Worldwide“.  We were told that they served an 8 course African inspired surprise (there is no menu to choose from) tasting dinner, with wine pairings for each course. We arrived hungry and very excited.

I’ll do my best to guide you through it. Ready? Oh, wait a minute, You just might want to unbutton the top button of your pants to make room for what’s coming. (FYI, I wore a jumpsuit to dinner, with an elastic waistband – a wise choice if you decide to eat here!)

I only brought my phone to dinner, so some of my pictures were not so great. Luckily, I found some beautiful images on two great travel blogs – SFO777 and A Table for Two to add to my own photos.

The first dish that landed on our table was “Onion-Lime Chips with Black Pepper Snow. “Crunchy, salty, tangy and completely addictive. I am still utterly befuddled by the fact that the black pepper snow was white!lime-onion chip with black pepper snowI have often thought of restaurant bread as a harbinger for the rest of the meal. When I took my first bite of “Cornbread in a Can“, I was filled with great hope that the rest of the dinner would be just as delicious. The cornbread was baked in a beautiful Lucky Star Pilchard can. The waiter tipped the tin upside down the cornbread slid out. We slathered it with the whipped salted browned butter and there was silence at the table while we all chewed in wonderment.cornbread in a can 1cornbread in a can 2Then the waiter arrived with what looked to be a tray of miniature desserts. Surprise! Turned out to be “Prawn and Avocado Cupcakes, Rooibus Macarons and Barley Madelines”.faux dessertsOur faux desserts were followed by “Confit tomato and potato tumbleweed“. The potatoes had been shredded and then formed into a hollow round sphere and deep fried. Need I say more?confit tomato and potato tumbleweed 2The next course was simply called “Broccoli, Broccoli, Broccoli“. Three different preparations of broccoli that equally thrilled the carnivores and omnivores at our table.broccoli broccoli broccolijpgFoie gras molded to look like chocolate, topped with edible gold leaf”. Really!!foie 2jpgUp next: “Paradyskloof (a nearby town) quail, amasi, sweet corn, granola.”QuailOur very sweet waiter noticed that my friend Ed was not eating all his food. When Ed explained that he was getting over a stomach bug, the waiter smiled and said he had just the thing. He returned with a pot of Buchu tea. Buchu is a herb that grows in South Africa. It is said to have excellent detoxing abilities when steeped in hot water and served as a tea. herbal teaCheese course: “Dalewood huguenot matured cheddar, rusks, mebos custard, currants.”cheese course
Just when we thought we could not eat another bite, dessert arrived at the table. The waiters silently placed a bowl containing what looked like a giant white snowball in front of each diner. They instructed us not to start eating, just yet. They left the room and returned with glass beakers filled with what looked like caramel sauce. In a totally synchronized move, the waiters poured the sauce on each diner’s snowball. Here’s what happened next:

The snowball was actually a white chocolate dome coated in finely shredded coconut. The hot baobab caramel sauce melted the chocolate to reveal a scoop of coconut ice cream inside. Magical!

This was truly a very special evening. There was one more surprise in store. I had sent the chef a recipe for my husband’s favourite birthday cake. They lovingly baked it for him to help celebrate. It was almost as good as mine!birthday cakeIn my next post, I’ll share with you how to recreate that cornbread in a can!

Very Early Morning Breakfast Bars

with coffee 625 sqThe first time I had one of these breakfast bars was in Botswana. It was day 1 of our Safari adventure and we were out on our inaugural early morning game drive. The wakeup call came at 5:00 am and after I sipped my coffee and watched this breathtaking sunrise, we were ready to roll. (I must note that many of the spectacular pictures in this post come from my very talented friend Edward.)SunriseWe followed our Ranger, O.T. and his trusty sidekick, Tracker Bashee out to the jeep.O.T. and BasheeWhile most Safari goers are anxious to see the “Big 5″, our group was much more intent on observing  zebras and giraffes. There is something about the patterns on their bodies that I find mesmerizing.

The spot pattern on each giraffe is unique, much like a human’s fingerprints. Their unique patterns are how giraffes recognize each other. We learned that here are about 9 different subspecies of giraffes. Each subspecies have very distinct colouring and patterns. Here in Botswana we saw the South African Giraffe.  They are characterized by rounded or blotched spots, on a light tan background, running all the way down to the hooves. This sub species is also found in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Giraffe 1While most would consider the lion to be the “king of the jungle”, I respectfully disagree. Giraffes literally kick ass in the jungle and in the bush. An adult giraffe really has no predators because her long strong legs are used for kicking and the force of them can actually kill a lion. The only way an adult giraffe would make herself vulnerable to prey is if she lay down, because it would take too long for her to get back on her feet should a predator approach. And so giraffes sleep standing up. Luckily they only require less than 2 hours of sleep a day. The only other mammal I know of who can sleep standing up is my husband!

Amazingly, they remain standing even when giving birth! A newly born calf must endure falling, head first, almost 4 feet, to the ground. Sadly only 50% of baby giraffes make it to adulthood. While adult giraffes are too large for most predators, the young can fall prey to lions, leopards and hyenas.2 giraffes 1Although there was no Starbucks in the bush, O.T. came prepared and pulled out a French press and we had a morning coffee break under a shady Acacia tree.french press coffeeMy girlfriend Sandy always travels with empty ziploc bags, so I wasn’t too surprised when she whipped a bag of what looked like granola bars, out of her back pack. We have travelled together before and she never gets on a plane with less than several hardboiled eggs, a large handful of toasted almonds and a peanut butter sandwich. She likes to be prepared! She had taken the bars from the breakfast tray at the Lodge that morning. Although not a huge fan of granola bars, I was starving, so I took one.

These are not your mama’s granola bars. They were unlike any I have ever tried. Usually I find them too chewy and a little gummy in the center. These were outstanding! Crunchy around the edges but just a little bit chewy in the center, these bars were crammed full of oats, dried fruit, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and coconut. They were the perfect snack combo to munch on in the bush. They instantly became our favourite Safari treat.pretty little bowls with mise en placeAfter our coffee break we hit the trail again. Bashee, our tracker spotted a “dazzle” of zebras in the distance so we sped up to see them at a closer range. “Dazzle” is the collective noun for a group of zebra. No two zebra are exactly alike, stripe patterns are like zebra fingerprints. Each zebra has its own unique pattern of distinctive stripes. Their stripes act as ideal camouflage. The wavy lines of his pattern blend in perfectly with the wavy lines of the tall grass. You would think that black and white stripes would stick out like a sore thumb in green grass, but luckily lions, the zebra’s main main predator, are colour blind. Zebra foals are born with brown and white stripes which turn black and white within a few months.

O.T. explained that there are two basic types of zebras, white skinned ones with black stripes and black skinned ones with white stripes. He asked us if we could identify which were which. Can you tell the difference?Ed's B&W zebrasAs we all started peering closely at the zebras, he and Bashee started laughing at us. No such thing! That’s what passes for humour here in the bush.

When we got back to the Lodge, I headed straight to the kitchen to see Chef Elizabeth. She   joked that she is the secret ingredient in these bars, but I finally wrangled the recipe out of her.chefI am the magic ingredient
I will warn you that these granola bars are not remotely healthy, so if that’s your thing, check out these from Bobbi over at “Bob Vivant”, or these from “Minimalist Baker” or perhaps  these from “Oh She Glows”. Chef Elizabeth’s are more like a special cookie treat, but they were so very delicious. Sweet, salty and crunchy, the perfect combo!

I needed to see if I could recreate them at home.sifting flour
adding liquid ingredients
press into pan
in glass cloche 2With my morning latte and breakfast bar, I can close my eyes and pretend I am back in magical Africa

Click here to print recipe for Very Early Morning Breakfast Bars.

stacked up

The Big 5 Before 10!

I am very blessed to have just returned from an amazing trip to Africa with a group of 18 friends. (Several of the photos in this post were taken by my very talented friends) We spent a few days in Capetown and then visited the wine region of Franschhoek. Then it was time for Safari! We visited 2 different game reserves. The first was in Botswana, in the Okavango Delta region. The second was in the Sabi Sands region of South Africa. Safari life has a rhythm all its own, unlike any other type of holiday.

Many African animals are most active during the crepuscular hours (from the Latin meaning Twilight, it refers to dusk and dawn). What this means is that your day begins with a 5:00 am wakeup call! We quickly jumped into our clothes and downed a cup of coffee before setting off on our first game drive of the day.

Our Land Rover was captained by Ranger Ross and his able sidekick, Tracker Johnson. The tracker sits high up in the jeep and is constantly scanning the landscape looking for animals. He also scans the ground, looking for footprints and other clues in the sand. It blew my mind that he could accurately identify the species as well as determine exactly how long ago the animal was there by identifying the freshness of the animal droppings. The animal’s footprint also tells you which direction he was headed in.Ross and Johnson examining tracks Land Rover 1The goal of most neophyte Safari goers is to check the “Big 5″ (elephant, lion, rhino, cape buffalo and leopard) off their must-see list. The term “Big 5″ originally referred to the difficulty in hunting and bagging these large animals, mostly due to their ferocity when cornered and shot at. More recently it has become a marketing term used by safari tour operators.

The rhythm of the Land Rover, bouncing up and down on the uneven terrain is a bit hypnotic and I must admit, during the early morning hours, I nodded off a few times. But I was jolted awake on our second morning when we almost ran over a herd of elephants crossing the road! There were over 40 elephants, all lined up, crossing the road. They stopped in the middle of the road and started putting on a show for us. They were really quite playful and it almost seemed as if they were performing for us.After about 20 minutes the alpha female shook her ears and trumpeted quite loudly, and the whole herd gently ambled off. 

 

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups. When a calf is born it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. Each herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. They are guided by the oldest and largest female of the herd. The babies are mothered by all the females of the herd.

 

Some masterful tracking by Johnson revealed two female lions, up on a ledge. Ross explained that lions are very social animals and travel in a group known as a pride. These lionesses were part of a pride of 17 lions, known around here as the “Mhangene” tribe. 2 female lionsWe soon spotted one of the male members of this tribe. Male Lion 3And not too far away, we discovered the rest of the pride, lazing around.sleepy lions After we left the lions, we came upon a “crash” of white rhinos, just leaving the watering hole. Ross explained to us the sad plight of rhinos in South Africa. Rhinos are being poached for their horns. The demand for rhino horn stems from the age-old myth that they can be used to cure cancer. One horn goes for over $25,000 on the black market. Rhino 1We checked # 4 , The Cape Buffalo, off our list just before 9:00 am. Johnson spotted a large herd of them off in the distance and our Land Rover became the Safari Ferrari as we flew up to catch up with them. They kind of reminded me of my Marlo Thomas Barbie doll I had when I was a little girl!Ed Cape Buffalo 1The final member of the Big 5, the leopard, is one of the most elusive animals to spot. One of the other Rangers from our group radioed Ross to let him know where the leopard had just been spotted. (bad pun, I know!!). We quickly drove to the location just in time to see the leopard. She was just chilling in the lower branch of the Ebony tree, her happy place.  Pat's leoplard in tree 1 Pat's Leopard in tree 3 Pat's leopard in tree 2 She climbed down, proceeded to walk towards our jeep and then crawled under the vehicle and came out the other side. We all stopped breathing for a minute! Then she just ambled off, with a quick glance back at us, as if to say, “You guys coming, or what?” Ed Leopard 1Ross explained that this female (her name was “Hlaba’ Nkunzi) had recently given birth and she was probably on her way to check on her cubs. Once female leopards give birth, they must protect their babies by hiding them away to provide safe shelter from predators for the first several months of their young lives. This female had actually hidden her cubs underneath the Lodge’s General Manager’s house.

Later that day, mom was spotted wandering through our camp, on her way to visit her babies. Two of my friends got pictures of her outside their rooms. Leopard at mar's poolLynnie's leopardIt was only later in the day that we realized what an incredible morning drive we had just experienced. We thought that spotting all those animals in one short drive was the norm. Our Ranger explained that many Safari goers never get to see the Rhino or the Leopard so we were extremely fortunate.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Adventure when I share with you one of our favourite Safari snacks!

 

 

 

 

The best thing I ate today in Puerto Vallarta

This week, while on a family vacation in Mexico, we took a food walking tour in Puerto Vallarta. We had signed up for “A Three Hour Tour.” Luckily this tour was on land and not on the high seas! We met our guide, Ricardo, at the entrance to the restaurant Mole Rosa. He promised us an adventure and lots of little tastes of the local food of the region. A little humour and a few short history lessons would be thrown in for extra flavour. Here are my favourite bites of the day.

Our first stop on the tour was Taco Robles, a birria taco stand. Birria is Spanish for slow braised meat. Large pieces of meat, originally made with iguana, but now, made with goat or beef, are smeared with a spicy adobo rub and steam-baked overnight. At Taco Robles, you have a choice of either goat or beef. Lined up three deep, this is arguably the most popular taco stand in Puerto Vallarta. Their tacos are a well known hangover remedy!Tacos Robles 2Ricardo had us pegged as less than adventurous eaters and ordered the beef ones for us. I was mildly insulted, but kept it to myself! The beef tacos were packed full of meltingly tender beef, topped with onions and cilantro.  The beef was muy flavourful, redolent of of chiles, bay and cinnamon. Robles serves their taco “dorado” style, basically meaning fried. They use two corn tortillas for each taco. The inner one is soft and pliable, to hold in all the juices, and the outer one is crispy from being fried in the birria fat. taco robles platterRicardo gave us a crash course in choosing the best taco stands. Obviously, the biggest problem associated with taco stands is hygiene, since they do not have running water. Here are his top 3 tips:
1. Make sure that that the person who handles the money and dirty dishes is NOT the same person who handles the food.
2. Check to see if the paper or plastic plates are reused or are covered with a fresh plastic bag for each new customer.
3. Generally the stands with the biggest lineups are usually a safe bet!

I was anticipating our second stop, Cesar’s Coconut Stand, with great excitement. In business since 1984, Cesar lops the top of the coconut off with a razor sharp machete. A veritable Mexican Zorro! The clear liquid was then poured into cups for us to sample. Full of magnesium, potassium and electrolytes, the coconut water tasted so pure and fresh, a far cry from the stuff we buy in a can back home.cesar with machetteWhat he did next really surprised me. He scooped out the flesh of the coconut, cut it into strips and then stuffed the coconut into a plastic bag. He added a squirt of fresh lime juice, some brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and tiny dash of salt. Then he shook the bag to distribute the seasoning evenly all over the coconut. The Mexican version of Shake ‘n Bake! We all sampled it and most of us discretely deposited the remains in the garbage can when Cesar wasn’t looking. I guess it must be an acquired taste. I prefer my coconut baked into a macaroon.cutting out flesh Fseasoned coconut flesh FOur next stop was at Tacos el Cuñado. According to Ricardo, they are the top carne asada taco stand in town. “Carne asada” is literally translated as grilled meat. It refers to thin marinated beef, usually skirt steak, that has been grilled. Tacos El Cunado 2Ricardo explained to us that while cuñado means brother-in-law, the reference is usually an insult. In guy code it is interpreted as a brother-in-law that is mostly hated by the husband and all his brothers for being an idiot. The exchange might go something like this:

Brother 1: “Oh man, my wife is making me take el cuñado with us to the hockey game”
Brother 2:  “Dude, that sucks big time. That guy is such a dick, I can’t stand him.”

This place has been in business since 1968. It is currently run by the original owner’s son, Jorge, and his brothers. I do not believe there are any brother-in-laws working there with them!! In addition to the skirt steak tacos, they also do pork tacos. Both are served on soft corn tortillas. Lined up on the counter are an assortment of salsas or topping your taco. They are arranged in order of heat, from “salsa for wusses” all the way up to “a fiery habanero” that would put hair on your chest. I tried the Vallarta style guacamole which was blended with a mildly spicy tomatillo salsa.

To put out the fire in our throats and bellies, Ricardo took us to for a glass of “tuba water.” Created by a sweet little old man by the name of Conception, tuba water is made from the sap of the coconut palm, lightly fermented and mixed with palm sugar, walnuts and diced apples. He serves it chilled and it was smooth and very refreshing. The only tree I have ever had the sap from is a maple tree, but palm sap is quite yummy too! I bet it would be great on macadamia coconut pancakes
Tuba 1Tuba 2Then we treked off to the charming family owned restaurant Mole Rosa.mole rosa signSpecializing in various moles, Chef Gunther treated to a sampling of chicken enchiladas covered in three varieties. This is one of the most beautiful plates of food I have ever been presented with. three molesThe “mole rojo” sauce on the left is made from a Guajillo and Ancho chiles, garlic and it is finished with a tiny bit of mexican chocolate. The “mole verde” in the center was my favourite bite of the day! Made from green tomatillos, ground coriander seed, Serrano and jalapeno peppers, and roasted pumpkin seeds, this was light and really fresh tasting. This mole is not simmered for hours with tons of spices. It’s characteristic fresh taste is derived from the addition of herbs at last minute of preparation. The “mole rosa” on the right is made with Serrano and jalapeno peppers, pine nuts, white chocolate, aniseed and roasted beets which create the most gorgeous shade of pink. It was quite earthy tasting with a hint of sweetness.

At Gaby’s Restaurant we all trooped upstairs for a bowl of Tortilla soup. Garnished with fried tortilla strips, avocado and cotija cheese (a hard crumbly Mexican cow’s milk cheese), we all licked our bowls clean.tortilla soupWe finished the meal off with a shot of tequilla. Apparently I have been shooting tequilla incorrectly all my life! The lick of salt, shot of tequilla followed by the wedge of lime is for gringos! Ricardo taught us the proper Mexican protocol. You begin with a shot of lime juice to cleanse the palate. Then you follow that with a shot of tequilla. The chaser is a shot of Sangrita. Sangrita, (literally “little blood” in Spanish) is a mixture of tomato juice, orange juice, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce and salt and pepper. sangrita 2Sangrita was my daughter’s favourite taste of the day!

Our final stop on the tour was to Orgullo Azteca Candy Store, a veritable Mexican Willy Wonka Factory! The shop was started by two partners who wanted to teach future generations all about the joys of traditional Mexican candies. They started small, with a tiny cart, then moved into a store across the street and now have four stores in Puerto Vallarta. candy store 1candy store 2We got to sample many local treats but my favourite were the candied pecans. candied nutsVallarta Tours was the perfect way to get to know the people and taste the local flavours of Puerto Vallarta. If you are visiting the region and have a spare afternoon, Ricardo would love to show you his town.

 

The Best Thing I Ate All Day in Brooklyn.

In mid-September we took a trip to New York City with our good friends the Grizzlies. Grizzly is not their real name. This is just my pet nickname for them as they share many of the same personality traits as grizzly bears. As you may know, grizzly bears hibernate for the winter.  In preparation for hibernation, they must eat heavily for several weeks prior to the hibernation period, as they will be living off the stored fat for several months.  Apparently this was the weekend Mr. Grizzly intended to pack on his necessary pounds. (And he took us along as hostages!)  I chronicled the first part of our trip in my last post.  Following is Part 2 of our adventure.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm! With only half a day left in our New York Adventure, we had a momentous decision ahead of us. Mr Grizzly had originally booked our farewell lunch at Jean Georges. We ate lunch there a few years ago the last time we visited NYC with the Grizzlies. Their lunch special, 2 courses for $38, is renowned among foodies in the know.  While you may not consider a $38 lunch cheap, it is a fantastic bargain for a Michelin starred restaurant.

I can not remember exactly what I ate the last time we dined there, but I do recall that it was quite a hushed and serious place. What I do recall, with unfailing certainty, is the Bon Bon Trolley, that they wheeled over at the end of our lunch. All through lunch, I had been watching the waiter manning the trolley.  As he approached each table he opened a huge glass jar filled with handmade pale pink marshmallows, almost the exact shade as Essie’s Ballet Slipper nail polish, and lifted one out with tongs.  Then he proceeded to cut each one in half with very elegant silver scissors.  I inquired whether marshmallow cutting was a position you had to be promoted to.  He responded that it was an entry level job. I seriously considered applying!

This time, we made the decision to cancel our lunch at Jean Georges, and feast at Smorgasburg instead. Please know that this was not a decision we took lightly. Smorgasburg, located in the hot and happening town of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is an open air food market, featuring over 100 vendors. The New York Times has dubbed it, “The Woodstock of Eating.” We figured that Mr. Grizzly could be quite efficient at Smorgasburg, in packing on his necessary pounds for his upcoming winter of hibernation!

Smorgasburg, just a short 30 minute subway ride from mid-town Manhattan, is located in an empty waterfront lot on the East River, between North 6th and 7th Streets. It boasts a picturesque view of the Manhattan skyline. However, we were not here for the views. We were here to feast! We arrived shortly after 11:00 am, and most of the vendors were still setting up.

We were quite strategic in our eating plan. We decided to walk the grounds first to get the lay of the land, see what the offerings were, before we bought anything. You must come with an empty stomach, loose pants and, while some vendors take credit cards,  a pocket full of cash is a good idea. It is also ideal to come with a group of four or more. That way, you can order lots of different items, and just have a taste of each.

We came, we ate, we conquered! Here are some of the yummy bites we sampled!

1. S’more BakerysmoresWhile the “Salted Sailor” (vanilla bean marshmallow and a salted caramel ganache sandwiched between clover honey graham wafers) was calling my name, I got sidetracked by the “All in One Cookie.” Salted Oats, chocolate chunks and vanilla bean marshmallow all packaged together in a tidy cookie. It made an amazing first course! It had the ideal cookie texture; caramelized and crispy edges with a softer, chewy center. They packed a flavourful punch of salty and sweet!smore cookie2. Danny Macaroons Danny MacaroonsWith all they hype that macarons get, macaroons seem like the forgotten sister.  Danny Cohen has not forgotten about them. He gives them all the love and attention they deserve. I am coco-nuts about the Salted Caramel and the Raspberry Jalapeno Jam flavours!

3. Pain D’Avignonpain davignonAfter all that sugar from the cookies, we needed something savory. We sampled the Mini Picholine Olive Rolls. Salty from the olives, aromatic from a bit of fresh rosemary, these mini rolls sported a beautiful open crumb. They were chewy and the crust had just the right amount of crunch.picholine roll

4. Chedbredchedbred signWithout question, the honey sea salt chedbred was the best thing I ate all day in Brooklyn!honey sea salt chedbredA quote from their web site says it all! “A deceptively simple, bordering on majestic cornbread that thrives off of a subtle sweetness from honey.  Topped with brown butter crumble and sprinkled with sea salt, it strikes a perfect balance through contrast.” 

5. Milk Truckmilk truckWe stopped dead in our tracks when we came upon Milk Truck.  Grilled Cheese, Milk Shakes and a Mac and Cheese Bar. How could we resist? We opted for the classic Mac and Cheese: Three cheese bechamel sauce topped with housemade rosemary bread crumbs, with a mix-in of double smoked bacon. I was surprised that they used farfalle (bowties), as the pasta shape. I am a traditionalist and prefer my mac and cheese with elbow macaroni. mac and cheeseI have since heard lots of buzz about their grilled cheese sandwiches. Should have had one of those instead!

6. Lonestar Empire 

lonestarslicing brisketMr Grizzly started chatting to the lady in the blue bandanna over at Lonestar Empire about their “Slow Smoked Texas Style Brisket Sandwich.” She explained that they use Angus Beef Brisket and season it liberally with just salt and pepper. Then they smoke it low and slow- a good 15 hours over Texas mesquite wood. The low and slow method gives the fat in the meat time to render out, making the beef unbelievably moist and tender. She was unequivocal in her recomendation of ordering the brisket “moist” rather than “lean’. Since we were all about calorie loading, we opted for the moist. Hand carved to order, succulent brisket was piled onto  a soft potato roll and topped with a vinegar laced tangy tomato based BBQ sauce.  This sandwich was killer good!lonestar sign

fatty brisket on potato roll

7. Pit Beef NYC 

The brisket sandwich at Lonestar had us craving more meat, so we ordered the “Marz Attack” at Pit Beef. This sandwich was built with pit pulled pork, a fried egg, and topped with chipotle cheddar and BBQ sauce. Sadly, it sounded better than it tasted. The pork was a bit dry , especially when compared to the moist brisket over at Lonestar.sandwich with fried egg

8. Ramen Burger 

When we first arrived at Smorgasburg, we couldn’t help noticing a huge lineup at one tent: Ramen Burger. It was barely 11 am, they weren’t even cooking yet, and already the lineup was at least 50 people long. What was the deal here we wondered? Could these ramen burgers be the new “cronut”?

line up for ramen burgerWe decided not to join the line and sample some other things first. However, about an hour later, Mr. Grizzly’s curiosity got the best of him. He wandered over to the head of the line and started chatting with some of the folks. He got quite an education in the Ramen Burger.

Created by Keizo Shimamoto, this is no ordinary burger. The all beef patty is sandwiched between two discs of ramen noodles, which have been cooked crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Topped with green onions, a secret Shoyu sauce and arugula, the burger has a sweet and a salty taste. Although I didn’t actually taste the Ramen Burger, Mr Grizzly did charm his way into a few bites from some lovely women at the head of the line who had been waiting since 8:00 am! He reported to us that he didn’t understand what all the hype was about.

Mr grizzly's new friends

serious eats ramen-burgerShockingly there was no lineup at the Quinoa Falafel tent!quinoa falafel

9. BFC (Buttermilk Fried Chicken)fried chicken and wafflesMrs. Grizzly wandered off on her own and came back with buttermilk fried chicken and cheddar waffles. The coating was so  thick, we could not cut it with our plastic fork and knife. The only way to eat this delicious chicken is to pick it up and eat it with your hands! A shatteringly crispy coating gave way to tender moist flavourful chicken meat. The waffles were good, but really, it’s all about the chicken! Don’t forget to add a squeeze of their black maple sauce (maple syrup with a balsamic vinegar reduction).

10. Krumville Bakery

It was the bundt cake at the Krumville tent that got my attention. I had never seen a bundt pan in that shape before. Apparently it is called the Heritage Bundt pan. I must get one of these! It looks like a giant pinwheel. We started chatting with the folks at Krumville and we soon discovered that everything under their tent is Gluten Free! We ended up buying the zucchini goat cheese bacon tartlette. Yummy!!

Krumville signpinwheel bundt pan

 

GF tartWe thought we had hit our limit, but apparently we were wrong. There was still a tiny little corner of my stomach that had room for fries at Home Frites, and Mrs. Grizzly had room for S’more Pie!home frite

smore pieFeeling happy and quite full, we waddled our way out of the fair grounds. A perfect day in Brooklyn!