Tag Archives: restaurants

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.

Dawa, ox testicles and crocodile in Kenya

29 Nov

By Andrea McVeigh

Guinness goes with Irish stew; coffee goes with croissants and red wine goes with steak.  But what should you drink when you’re chowing down on crocodile, ostrich and ox testicles?  Dawa, as it turns out, the national cocktail of Kenya.

Vegetarians, look away now…

We were in the world-famous Carnivore restaurant in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi (there’s one in Johannesburg too).  Open since 1980, it’s renowned for its speciality meats – whole joints of lamb, pork, beef, ribs, sausages, chicken and kidneys roasted on traditional Masai swords over huge charcoal pits.

It’s a moveable feast, with waiters coming to your table to slice off morsels of whatever takes your fancy – they only stop when you finally admit defeat and lower the Carnivore flag on your table.  But despite the fleshy feast that it’s famous for, Carnivore does a pretty great vegetarian menu too.

Some might balk at the idea of crocodile, ox balls and ostrich, but it’s these exotic meats that tickle many tastebuds and prove to be the big draw.  It’s not a habit that’s exclusive to Africa either.  In north America, Rocky Mountain Oysters are bull calf testicles, usually deep-fried and served with a dipping sauce. In Spain, Argentina and some parts of Mexico, they’re given the slang name of huevos de toro (bull’s eggs).  But no such euphemisms exist at Carnivore, where they’re on the menu as plain old ox balls.

So what do ox testicles taste like?  They have a texture like pâté and taste just a little bit salty; exactly as you would expect, had you ever given the matter any thought.

As for the famous ‘tastes like chicken’ sobriquet, that rests with crocodile.  What does crocodile taste like?  A sort of fishy, almost citrussy, chicken-like meat actually.

A cold Kenyan Tusker beer goes down well with pretty much anything, but the speciality at Carnivore is the Dawa cocktail (its name translates as medicine or ‘magic potion’ in Swahili).  Based on the Brazilian Caipirinha and subsequently introduced into Kenya and adapted, it’s ‘Hakuna Matata’ (the Swahili phrase for ‘there are no worries’) in a glass.

Recipes vary slightly, in terms of measures and quantities, but they’re all based around the same ingredients.

DAWA COCKTAIL RECIPE:
vodka (one or two shots depending on how strong you like your cocktails)
two lime quarters unpeeled
a teaspoon of sugar
honey
crushed ice

Pour the vodka, honey and sugar into a whisky glass and add the lime quarters and crushed ice.  Use a muddler or honey stick to crush all the ingredients together really well.  The key is to mush the ingredients together as much as possible and swirl the mixture until the honey has blended well too.

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!

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!