Tag Archives: food

Oi, Oi, Saveloy!

3 Dec

By Patric Baird

Everywhere in the world has a local sausage and, as a seasoned traveller and something of a connoisseur of meat stuffed into a skin, I have made it my business to sample lap cheong in China, kielbasa in Krakow and boudin in Baton Rouge. But until quite recently, the snorker sitting right at the top of my wish list was something a lot less exotic – the good old British saveloy. You can’t get a saveloy in my native Belfast, but I knew of their existence through TV shows. I had spent a lifetime wondering what joys Terry McCann was experiencing after dropping into a traditional London chipper for a saveloy supper after dropping Arthur Daley off at the Winchester. And, of course, the saveloy’s role as a saucy double entendre in British comedy always raised a smile. So, within hours of my move to London, it was straight round to the local take-away for a taster. It was sausage heaven. I fondly recall that ‘Oi Oi Saveloy’ moment as I bit into the bright red skin which yielded with a satisfying crack, revealing the delicious spiced meat within. Not in the same league as the finest cut of outdoor-reared pork, you understand – the texture is more hot paste than tenderloin, but that says more about the saveloy’s origins as a savoury Swiss treat made from pig’s brains than anything else. The only down side is that there’s something about a saveloy which turns me into a cackling Sid James every time I have a big red sausage in my hand.

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Fernet Branca & Coke in Buenos Aires, Argentina

24 Oct
By Patric Baird
 
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There is much for the discerning traveller to eat and drink Buenos Aires, and not all of it is good.
 
Let’s start off with the nicer and more palatable, ending with the not-so-good.  It’s all very subjective, of course – one man’s meat etc.
 
On a recent trip to Argentina, we spent much of our visit in the company of our friend Marcelo, a local, well versed in the city’s food culture and more than familiar with our desire to seek out that which exists beyond the numerous fast food joints.
 
Beef and Buenos Aires go hand in hoof, so our man in BA had arranged lunch at one of the city’s best known, and most highly regarded steakhouses, or parillas.
 
La Brigada, in the ‘atmospheric’ (slightly scary) San Telmo district was our destination.  Located on the other side of town from our hotel, a taxi would have been too expensive so we took a bus, happy in the knowledge that our friend was well versed in the city’s public transport system.
 
It turns out that even a BA native can find it difficult to get to grips with easily getting around the sprawling metropolis – suffice to say, we arrived at La Brigada long after the hour which our table was booked for.  So long after that lunchtime service had nearly finished and there were now plenty of tables available.
 
Various cuts of cattle were ordered and eaten, the delights of chimichurri steak sauce were discussed and another box was ticked by the intrepid worldinaglass team.  You may argue that a steak’s a steak, but unless you’ve eaten the best cut of the best meat in the best restaurant in the best city of the best country for beef in the world, your opinion is worthless.
 
Speaking of worthless opinions, here’s my two pesos worth on the flipside of the country’s meat and drink.  Having extolled the virtues of Chile’s national drink – the pisco sour – elsewhere on this blog, I feel that some balance is required when it comes to Argentina’s national drink, Fernet Branca.
 
Throughout our stay, Marcelo had been urging us to try this digestif at every opportunity with the assurance that it was, mixed with Coca Cola, a truly delicious concoction.  We came close, on many occasions, but inevitably succumbed to further pisco sours which, to be fair, were even nicer than their Chilean counterpart as the Argentinean recipe tends to omit raw egg white.
 
Subconsciously, I think I knew that I wouldn’t like it – any drink which involves herbs and spices automatically rings my ‘avoid at all costs’ alarm bells.  But then, in the words of the Brazilian (close enough) writer Paulo Coelho, “People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”
 
And to push the point even further, Coelho goes on to say “Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” A clunky metaphor maybe, but somehow appropriate in this case.
 
It’s impossible to avoid the inevitable – I said that.  It wasn’t until I had reached the business lounge at Buenos Aires airport on the day of our departure that I finally accepted that a nettle had to be grasped and a bull had to be taken firmly by the horns.
 
I poured myself a Fernet Branca, topped it up with Coke and took a sip.
One, never, ever to be repeated, sip.

Gin and sausages in south London

7 Jul

Little Bird bottleLittle Bird signLittle Bird cocktails
By Andrea McVeigh

Both gin and south London are having a bit of a moment right now.  The city’s skyline south of the river was transformed when The Shard was completed in 2012 and when it opened to the public earlier this year, tourists started traipsing over London Bridge to Southwark.

With gin, the rise in boutique and craft distillers has helped to make it the trendy tipple du jour, but its growing popularity also rests on the fact that the big brands have been busy sponsoring TV programmes, festivals and vintage club nights and increasing its visibility.

So when two trends collide, the result, in this case, is one of the best little drinking spots in London.  The Saturday market at The Ropewalk at Maltby Street (www.maltby.st) in Bermondsey has been luring foodies away from Borough Market thanks to treats such as artisan chocolates and pulled pork brioches, seafood sliders and Monty’s Deli’s Jewish soul food.

With Union Jacks fluttering in the summer breeze and bunting hanging overhead, it’s the hipster in-the-know alternative to Borough Market’s mainstream touristy vibe.

If Maltby Street’s Ropewalk had an official drink, it would be Little Bird Gin.  On Saturdays, 11am somehow doesn’t seem too early to be sitting at an outside table, sipping a gin cocktail from mix-and-match vintage glasses at Little Bird’s pop-up bar.

Sharp yet smooth, this London Dry Gin – among other things, a London Gin doesn’t contain artificial colouring – has been distilled in small batches in London using botanicals such as grapefruit and orange to give it a clean and more rounded taste.

The fun lasts until the gin runs out, and you can choose from cocktails such as the divine Early Bird Martini (Little Bird, Seville orange marmalade, orange liqueur) or the refreshing A Bird on the Field (gin, London Fields Hackney Hopster beer, honey & ginger).

As well as picking up a bottle to bring home with you, a few stalls down from Little Bird’s bar you can find the guys from Honourable Sausages and their gin & ginger snorkers, made from rare breed, free range pork and Little Bird.

Hot beer, Polish dumpling and plums in Krakow

7 Mar

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By Andrea McVeigh

If necessity is the mother of invention, then freezing cold winters in Poland necessarily gave birth to mulled beer.  Not wine (although there’s plenty of that too) but beer.

I’ve long been a fan of mulled or gluhwein, that staple of Christmas markets in northern European Medieval capitals.  But hot beer was a new one to me.  We discovered it in arty, cultural Kraków (also known as Cracow or Krakow) Poland’s second largest city after its capital, Warsaw, and located in the south of the country.

Hot beer, or grzane piwo as it’s called, is a staple of the Polish winter, something to not just delight tourists beating a path around the streets of the Old Town, but essential to the survival of its residents.  It’s not just warm beer, of the sort served in British pubs in the 1970s, but mulled beer – a brew that has been heated and infused with cloves and cinnamon plus other spices and herbs such as nutmeg and either fresh ginger or ginger syrup, sweetened with honey or sugar.  It’s considered good for you too – there are tracts dating back to the 17th century which enthuse about the healthy properties of a warm frothy tankard of the stuff.

While the barrel-shaped huts in the main square’s Christmas Market served mulled wine (the perfect accompaniment to a large pork knuckle or Polish dumpling, with the fresh air acting as a powerful aperitif) we found the beer in several restaurants including the Czech restaurant Ceska Chodba – yes, we went to Poland and, tempted by the rich roasted goose, ended up eating in a Czech restaurant.

Mulled beer turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to a festive winter goose, served with a mushroom and prune sauce along with nutty buckwheat groats (the Cerna Hora photo shows the brand of Czech beer that was served warm/mulled in the restaurant).

In Poland, prunes are big, as are plums – in popularity and ubiquity, if not necessarily size – and, for a nation that takes the time to mull its beer, it’s unsurprising that the Polish have thrown their considerable brewing expertise into creating a wide and varied selection of beers.

You can find beer with ginger (not, you will note, ginger beer, but actual beer with the addition of ginger), alongside the plum beer and honey beer which you can find in off-licences and liquor stores (you’ll recognise them from the giant Alkohole signs outside) as well as supermarkets.

The other hot alcoholic beverage we tried was mead (honey wine), which we found in a Medieval-themed restaurant – possibly making us the first people to get mead hangovers since 1485.

Pisco Sours and Ceviche on Easter Island

22 Aug

By Patric Baird

What do you do when you arrive on Easter Island, having flown for almost 24 hours from the UK?  Have a lie down? Head straight for the iconic statues which are featured all around the island? Or, as I did, go into town for a much anticipated lunchtime cocktail, namely Chile’s national alcoholic beverage, a pisco sour.

Actually there’s some dispute as to whether Chile or its neighbour Peru have ownership of this sub-tropical tipple;  they do it differently anyway, with the Peruvian version containing egg white, sugar syrup and angostura bitters, whereas the Chilean version is a simpler mix of the spirit pisco, sugar and lime (or lemon) juice.

To confuse things even further, both countries have their own version of the spirit itself, although maybe only an expert could distinguish the subtle nuances in taste between each of the South American country’s offering.  There’s no denying that Chile has the best bottle – one of the country’s biggest manufacturer is Capel and their Pisco Reservado comes in a black glass bottle, shaped like one of Easter Island’s statues.

So what is pisco and why the odd name?  It’s basically a brandy made from grapes, much like its Greek cousin, grappa, sweet tasting and ranging in colour between almost clear to a dark yellow hue, depending on the quality and strength of the liquor.  Some say the name comes from the Peruvian town of Pisco (probably the most likely explanation), but Chile disputes this (not surprisingly), claiming that the word pisco is of Quechua origin and means ‘bird’.

There’s another school of thought which suggests the word pisco means a clay pot, so make your own mind up on that one.  More importantly, how does it taste?  On its own, not much to write home about but, when turned into a pisco sour, it has a unique and delicious taste and, as it turned out, the perfect pairing for that other South American staple, ceviche.

The Japanese don’t have a monopoly on raw fish, although ceviche, which is found in most coastal regions of the continent, as well as in Central America and as far west as Polynesia, is usually ‘cooked’ by marinating the raw seafood in a mixture of citrus juice, chilli and seasonings.   Each region has its own particular style, with mainland Chile and Easter Island favouring fillets of halibut, or the native and delightfully-named Patagonian toothfish, marinated in lime or grapefruit juice, flavoured with garlic, red chilli peppers, mint and coriander.  Combined with a refreshing pisco sour, the zing of a well-made ceviche proved to be the perfect antidote to seemingly incurable jet lag and was by far the best thing about Easter Island – until I got my first glimpse of those amazing statues, that is.

Pisang Ambon and Patat Mayonnaise in Amsterdam

25 Nov

By Andrea McVeigh

“Trust me, it’s what the locals drink,” said my friend Sean, as he ordered us two Pisang Ambon with orange juice – a staple in Dutch bars in much the same way we’d drink vodka and orange in the UK and Ireland.

Amsterdam may be famous for its doobie-tooting tourists and space cake- selling coffee shops, but we’d staggered along to a gay bar near Dam Square, fuelled not on cannabis but on alcohol alone.

Don’t ask me exactly where the bar was or what it was called.  We may not have been on the wacky baccy but, as they say, if you can remember Amsterdam then you weren’t really there.

Sean worked in the airline industry and benefited from the perks of the job, in this case a fridge full of the mini champagne bottles usually served to business class passengers, which we drank on the tram from his apartment into the city centre.

It wasn’t quite a case of ‘I liked it so much I bought the company’, but I did buy a bottle of Pisang Ambon to bring home from the trip.  And I’ve been drinking it ever since, even creating my own cocktail around it – the Sans Souci.

This banana-flavour Dutch liqueur (pisang is Indonesian/Malay for banana while Ambon is the name of a former Dutch colony) is also bright green, so there’s no mistaking it, even when mixed with OJ.

As for what best offers sustenance after a boozy night out in Amsterdam’s gay bars, I’d discovered Dutch street food years ago as a child, on a family holiday to stay with an aunt who lived in Den Haag/The Hague.  My eyes were opened to the most exotic use of potatoes I’d ever come across – patat met (with) mayonnaise, served in a sturdy paper cone.  A CONE!

These tasty fat chips – patat frites – come topped with a dollop of creamy yellowy mayonnaise, best eaten with your fingers or the little coloured plastic pronged forks provided, on a late summer evening as the crepuscular chill that signifies night-time slowly advances.  Back in the late 1970s, my family, struggling with the Dutch language, dispensed with the ‘met’ and took a liking to our ‘patat mayonnaise’.

Most cultures, I later learnt, have their own way of doing chips.

The Americans have skinny, salty French Fries.  The Scottish, in particular those in Edinburgh – arguably only those in Edinburgh – favour the flavour of chips with salt and sauce (a mix of brown sauce and vinegar).  In Ireland and the rest of the UK and it’s chips with salt and vinegar.

In Holland, you can opt for ‘patat zonder (fries without) mayonnaise’ but really, what sort of patat-hating, anti-gourmand would skip the mayo?

For some unknown reason, in my family we were unable to get our Celtic tongues around zonder, and took to calling it ‘patat nee (no) mayonnaise’, on the grounds that nee even sounded a bit like no.  The Dutch, being kind, generous, civilised people, ignored our crude and sloppy translations and luckily recognised fellow-potato lovers, and served us anyway.

As for my own Pisang Ambom cocktail creation, it was named after a street my husband and I used to live in when we were still boyfriend and girlfriend: the exotically-named (for Northern Ireland) Sans Souci Park.

Translated, sans souci means ‘without care’, or carefree; so the cocktail is perfectly named considering it was thrown together without much care, based on what alcohol was close to hand at the time.  However, the results, even if I do say so myself – and I do – are delicious.  And after a few Sans Soucis we do feel decidedly carefree.

It came about, like all the best concoctions I think, by raiding the drinks cupboard and pouring in varying measures of whatever we had that looked vaguely suitable.  The result, in my humble opinion, was a triumph that we still drink, and serve up to friends at parties, to this day.

I’m not a stickler for recipes and so the rules are there to be broken.  Below you’ll find my favourite combination of ingredients, but feel free to substitute at will – I sometimes add lychee liqueur if we have any in the house.

Andrea’s signature cocktail: the SANS SOUCI

one shot of Pisang Ambon
one shot peach schnapps
one shot malibu
one shot vodka
one shot lychee liqueur (optional)
orange juice to flavour

Serve in any glass you want (I favour a long, tall straight glass with a straw and ice cubes).  Drink.  Enjoy.

Lychee Fanta and Roti Canai in Penang

21 Sep

By Patric Baird

The Malaysian island of Penang – famously a melting pot of religions and their various cuisines and, rather less famously, the place of my birth.

For the first time since departing as a six-month old baby, I found myself not only back on Penang, but outside the maternity hospital where I had been born exactly forty years ago, almost to the minute.

I thought it would be quite funny to make a pilgrimage to the actual spot where I took my very first breath of hot and humid air, but I suddenly felt strangely at home on the island after four decades of absence.

After spending a few nights in the capital city of Georgetown, staying at the colonial-style E&O hotel where I had also spent my last night in Penang as a mewling infant before my family boarded a boat back to Blighty, we relocated to Shangri-La’s fabulous Rasa Sayang beach resort at Batu Ferringhi (foreigner’s rock).

Days spent lazing by the hotel pool, or gazing over the Straits of Malacca were but ways of killing time before the sun finally set and Batu Ferrringhi’s main attraction, the Global Bay food court, opened for business (sadly since our Penang trip, the Global Bay was bulldozed to make way for a petrol station – a crime against culinary humanity!).

Even after dark, the heat and humidity were stifling and there were only so many cold bottles of Tiger that I could stomach.

I spotted my saviour from dehydration on a stall on our second visit to Global Bay – Lychee-flavoured Fanta.

Bear in mind that at the time of this discovery, I had only ever tasted orange and, much less often, lemon Fanta (too bitter for my tastes).

You either like lychees or love them.  Nothing else is acceptable in my book as they are clearly the fruit of the gods, with their delicate perfume and sweet taste.  Admittedly, they also look like diseased eyeballs.

Paired with another food court discovery, the roti canai (pronounced channi), the combination actually became the sole reason for a return trip to Penang several years later.

I had been advised by my big brother, well versed in Malaysian cuisine (having lived there until the ripe old age of six) to look out for roti canai as the experience, as he remembered it, was almost other-worldly.

Best, but inadequately, described as pancake-shaped bread fried in butter and offered as either a sweet or savoury option, I invariably chose both with curry sauce-dipped and fresh banana-filled rotis making up a two-course evening meal for the remainder of the trip.

Roti for dinner and roti for dessert, washed down by lychee Fanta – it may not be fine dining, but it was certainly fun dining.  And well worth waiting forty years for!

Coconut Wine and Hot-Dogs in Honolulu

18 Sep


by Andrea McVeigh

I love coconut.  I love wine.  So a combination of both?  In a bottle?  On New Year’s Eve?  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything that comes from combining wine and coconuts, it seems.

December 31 2010 in Honolulu and the coconut-shaped (natch) bottle of Royal Chief Coconut Wine was calling to me with its ‘wine from the water of young coconuts’ come-on and 12% alcohol volume come-hitherness.

We hadn’t even opened it and I was planning how to transport bottles back to Ireland for what I was sure would be the Best Drink Ever!  Or fly to the Philippines where it’s produced.  Or sell my soul to buy more of this sure-to-be delicious tipple.

The web site says it’s perfect as a gift.  For someone you don’t like maybe.

We picked up the bottle on the way back to our hotel from a pilgrimage to PukaDog, Waikiki, on the Anthony Bourdain trail (he visited it once in an episode of No Reservations) for Hawaiian-style hot-dogs.

Puka means hole in Hawaiian, and these Polish-style doggies (meat or veggie) are slipped into the hole in a specially-baked bun and filled with a choice of four secret-recipe sauces (mild, spicy, hot and hot-hot) or one of seven relishes or standard condiments.

We hate choices, so faced with pineapple relish, banana relish, guava mustard and more, the Hubby and I went for, in hot dog terms, the vanilla option – Sweet Maui Onion Relish and a mild Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce.

And anyway, I was being adventurous with my coconut wine, right?
Well, I would have been if I didn’t have a Hanna-Barbera ‘took a slug and spat it back out again pulling a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp’ moment back in the hotel room.

Some people must like it, but I’m thinking they’re the sort of people who could take to drinking methylated spirits through an old sports sock.  Harsh, tart and not at all the sweet coconutty treat I was expecting.

But hey, it was New Year’s Eve and after the champagne had been drunk on the beach and we ran into the sea to welcome in 2011, we staggered back to the hotel and, needs must, discovered that mixing it with fruit juice and vodka made it almost palatable when you’re already 90% blotto.

See, there’s an upside to everything.  Even coconut wine.

ABOUT US

1 Sep

where we’re from

We are Patric Baird and Andrea McVeigh and we love travel, we love food and we love drink – and we love it when all three of these things are combined!

We’re married to each other, based in both London and Belfast, with a wealth of  passport stamps under our ever-expanding belts.

We’ll be writing about the places, people, food and drink we discover on our adventures.  Come on and join us y’all – the drinks are on us!