Δευτέρα, 29 Απριλίου, 2013
I have written in the past about “Antica Macelleria Cecchini” in Panzano, Tuscany, where my good friend Dario Cecchini transforms butchering into the poetry of every living.
I like meat markets, I like butcher shops.
It is not only the products but the atmosphere.
Today I want to share a totally different experience in a meat lover’s paradise in Illinois, USA: Ream’s Elburn Market.
Elburn is a small town, some 60 miles west of Chicago, in the middle of Illinois fields.
Ream’s Elburn Market is a family meat market that attracts meatlovers from the Chicago and suburbs area, also known as Chicagoland.
Lynn Meredith, of the Elburn Tribune, wrote in her April 2011 article:
“Ream’s Meat Market keeps on bringing home the bacon when it comes to making Elburn a destination for Chicagoland carnivores in search of the best in meats and sausages. Ream’s recently made the list of “Best Chicagoland Places to Eat,” by the LTH Forum, a Chicago-based culinary chat site whose 9,000 members make it their business to identify small, out-of-the-way eateries and resources for all things food.”
As you enter the store you are impressed by the awards on the walls, and some cans of lard from older days.
The meats, sausages, jerkies, smoked meats, fresh meats, and other products inside the store are more than a blog article can cover.
A lot more!
“I like to call it the shotgun approach,” Ream explains. “When you walk in the door, you are overwhelmed by so many meat selections that you don’t know where to go first.” (Source: Upbeat in Elburn, by Steve Krut)
By necessity, I will confine myself to some representative selections, starting with sausages.
I could not resist to start with the tailgater brats with bacon and blue cheese.
Tailgate parties are a staple of US food culture and fun.
In addition to the US style sausages, there are a lot of European origin, like the Hungarian style sausage.
No sausage tray would be complete without a white sausage from Bavaria.
True to their calling, the Ream family produce one of the best weisswursts outside Bavaria.
We prepared them with sauerkraut and they were delicious!
Italy has very strong presence in the US culinary scene. Here are some Mild Italian Sausages.
I conclude the sausage section with another American sausage: Jalapeno and cheese.
I wish I could have tasted them all on the spot, but I couldn’t!
Moving on to the smoked products, I would like to start with the salmon.
I bought some and was handsomly rewarded. It was juicy, moist and with a subtle smoky flavor.
Bacon is next.
Dry cured bacon and Hungarian style.
The bacon was so good, I cooked it for breakfast in a “Bacon and eggplant omelette”.
Jerkies are one of the reasons why Ream’s Elburn Market is so famous.
“Jerky is lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and then dried to prevent spoilage. Normally, this drying includes the addition of salt, to prevent bacteria from developing on the meat before sufficient moisture has been removed. The word “jerky” is derived from the Spanish word charqui which is from the Quechua word ch’arki. which means to burn (meat). All that is needed to produce basic “jerky” is a low-temperature drying method, and salt to inhibit bacterial growth.” (Source: Wikipedia).
In principle, jerky is similar to the Turkish and Middle-Eastern pastirma, although pastirma is not sliced in advance, but only before it is consumed.
California heat beef jerky.
And – of course – Elburner beef jerky.
“In the competitive meats arena, Ream hasn’t excelled…he’s exceeded. He has directed Elburn Market products to grand championship awards in 15 separate product classes at the American Cured Meat Championships (ACMC), something never done by any processor. His small shop has garnered an incredible 235 awards in cured meat competition!” ((Source: Upbeat in Elburn, by Steve Krut)
I now want to refer specifically to the cooked ham, which we bought and enjoyed on multiple occasions.
In the US the prime part of leg of pork, the ham, is sold also cooked. You do need to add anything to it, just warm it gently, slice and serve. In case of a high quality product, like the one we bought at Ream’s, you do want to taste the meat, rather than all the spices, sauses, and so on.
This top quality ham is moist, sweet, tender, it melts in your mouth and leaves a very subtle aftertaste.
It is time to have a look at the fresh meats on offer.
I start with my all time favourite, the T-bone steak. Look at the marbling of the meat!
More steaks are on offer. The rib eye comes next.
And a bone-in rib eye, thick and marbled to perfection. I perfect the bone-in because of the added flavor and the thickness of the cut.
I get hungry only by looking at the beautiful display.
There are also some prepared “composite” meat dishes, to cook and serve.
I start with a beautiful beef roulade, or pinwheel in American English.
“The word roulade originates from the French word “rouler” meaning “to roll” Typically, a roulade is a European dish consisting of a slice of meat rolled around a filling, such as cheese, vegetables, or other meats. A roulade, like a braised dish, is often browned then covered with wine or stock and cooked. Such a roulade is commonly secured with a toothpick, metal skewer or a piece of string. The roulade is then sliced into rounds and served.” (Source: Wikipedia).
The popeye pinwheel has – of course spinach.
The classic bacon wrapped pork filet is another temptation.
And another pinwheel, less colorful.
The emperor of meat cuts. the beef tenderloin concludes this representative sample of goods in Ream’s Elburn Market.
But may be not. As I was approaching the cash register, I saw the absolute delicacy, smoked porks ears. But they were not meant for human consumption. the sign clearly said: “For Dogs”. May be next time I will have my dog with me.
Σάββατο, 3 Νοεμβρίου, 2012
During my visit to Izmir, Smyrni, Smyrna, I visited the Topcu Restaurant which is located very near the Constitution Square of the City.
Once seated, I was greeted by a young waiter, who had on his tray a delicacy I had not tasted before. Almost by default, I accepted it and then tried it, knowing nothing about it.
I quote from Wikipedia:
“Çiğ köfte (Chee kufta) means ‘raw meatball’. It can also be written as one word, çiğköfte. It is a favorite Turkish snack and a specialty of southeastern Turkey.
Bulgur is kneaded with chopped onions and water until it gets soft. Then tomato and pepper paste, spices and very finely ground beef are added. This absolutely fatless raw mincemeat is treated with spices while kneading the mixture, which is said to “cook” the meat. Lastly, green onions, fresh mint and parsley are mixed in.
One spice that is associated with çiğ köfte, is isot, a very dark, almost blackish paprika, prepared in a special manner, and which is considered as indispensable for an authentically local preparation of çiğ köfte (and also of lahmacun). Although, isot is famous as the special dried pepper that is locally produced by farmers of Şanlıurfa, in fact, it is a general word used for pepper in Şanlıurfa.”
The plate of chee kufta came with fresh unseasoned lettuce leafs. I figured that the two should go together, and I was right. A totally refreshing combination, the lettuce fights off the spice and violent thrust of the chee kufta, that is of isor. Luckily I had on my table a nice glass of raki, and I must confess that I was in heaven. The trio of chee kufta, lettuce leafs and ice cold raki is a must!!!
For the main course I tried the lamb shish kebab. Absolutely delicious!!!! The meat was tender and juicy, and slightly marinated in herbs and vinegar. I immediately started wondering why we do not have a similar dish in Greece. I will certainly try it in the near future.
I quote from Clifford A Wright’s “On Shish Kebabs”:
“Who has never heard of shish kebab? In Turkish, shish kebab, literally means “gobbets of meat roasted on a spit or skewers.” Probably the most famous preparation for grilled lamb, there seems to be countless recipes. It is said that shish kebab was born over the open field fires of the soldiers of the Turkic tribes that first invaded Anatolia, who used their swords to grill meat, as they pushed west from their homelands in Central Asia. Given the obvious simplicity of spit-roasting meat over a fire, I suspect its genesis is earlier. There is iconographical evidence of Byzantine Greeks cooking shish kebabs. But surely the descriptions of skewering strips of meat for broiling in Homer’s Odyssey must count for an early shish kebab.”
The lamb was accompanied by a fresh green salad dressed in vinegar and olive oil. the freshness of the ingredients was unbelievable!!!! My attention was especially drawn to the ultra thin slices of raw beetroot, which I looove!!!! Crisp, subtle, a delight that cannot be replicated. A lesson on how the simplest ingredient can transform a simple dish as if by magic.
Overall, a wonderful experience, partucularly as it introduced Çiğ köfte (Chee kufta) in my gastronomic life.
Τετάρτη, 17 Οκτωβρίου, 2012
This post is about a tasty component of the Eastern Road. The Eastern Road is the gateway connecting the Greek civilization with the East.
I confess that I am eternally fascinated by the multivaried taste of sujuk.
A good sujuk is like a door opening to a new world, for you to discover.
(Sujuk is a dry, dark, spicy sausage produced in the Balkans, Turkey and other countries like Armenia. It can be eaten raw, but I prefer to eat it cooked.)
I was lucky to receive a wonderful sujuk the other day, and by association I instinctively decided to create a sujuk borek.
The warmth, the enveloping flavours, the melting texture, make borek one of the all time favourites in my kitchen.
(Borek or Bourek is a baked or fried filled pastry made of thin dough.)
The filling of the sujuk borek comprises in addition to the sujuk: sliced tomatoes, sliced hard yellow cheese (I used Greek gruyere), and mint leaves.
The phyllo for the borek is made with flour, water, salt and a touch of olive oil. It has to be crispy and dry.
I place the sujuk on the phyllo, then the tomato slices, the mint leaves, and on top of everything the cheese.
I prefer to give the borek the shape of a baguette, as it is easier to bake and serve. If you prefer you can fry it, but baking is far superior for this dish.
The borek needs 20 minutes in 250 C and immediate serving, steaming hot.
It can be one of the most satisfying eating experiences.
Crispy crunchy phyllo, the Spartan side of the dish, partnered by the succulent flesh of the sujuk, flavoured by the mint leave, lubricated by the melted cheese and bound by the acidity of the tomato.
Accompany it with a glass of ouzo. Bon appetit!
Σάββατο, 19 Μαΐου, 2012
After the storm, comes the calm and peace and the sun!
Having witnessed a brilliant 1 1/2 rainbow the evening before, today was the day for the return of the sun and a minimalistic meal al fresco.
The air was oozing with the aromas of the wet earth and the flowers and plants.
I always grill the beef cuts with only a sprinkle f olive oil, but I could not resist the temptation of placing them on a bed of fresh oregano, rosemary and bay leaves.
After the steaks have rested for a couple of hours, it is time to grill them.
Please note that I do not put anything on the meat, other than olive oil.
On the sides of the charcoals I place some branches of bay leaves. They moderate the heat and they give a wonderful aroma.
On the table a fresh spinach salad was waiting patiently.
The wine I selected was a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon made by my high school friend from Rhodes, Tassos Petas.
The contrast between the brown and the red is always inviting.
As the crust on the inside is formed, the inside remains juicy.
Provided the fire is strong enough, but not too strong.
I serve the meat medium rare.
And by the bones, a bit more rare.
Salt and pepper are added by the guests at their discretion.
I want to congratulate Tassos Petas for creating a wonderful wine. Six years after it was made and bottled, the wine had a full body, and a robust but not overwhelming bouquet. Well done Tasso!
Buon appetito e arrivederci!!!
Σάββατο, 5 Νοεμβρίου, 2011
Hotel Metropole is one of the hospitality jewels in Venice. This I knew before my last visit to Venice. What I did not know was that for two years now they serve some real food dishes (not only sandwiches and salds) in the bar of the hotel every day of the week from 1230 to 1430. Taking into account that the famous gourmet restaurant of the hotel (with two Michelin stars) does not serve lunch except on Saturday and Sunday, the bar is a practical solution for a visitor who wants to have lunch.
The Hotel commands a fantastic position on the promenade of the “Riva degli Schiavoni”, a few meters away from St. Mark’s square.
The Bar is located on the ground floor, on the left side as you enter and before you reach the reception. It has beautiful wooden panels which are used as displays for the owner’s collection of objects.
Being in Venice, it is proper to start with the surf side of the menu.
Gamberi (prawns) “in saor” (sweet and sour). A delightful appetizer. The prawns are seared for one or two seconds, literally, and then served on a bed of cabbage and pickled red onions, with raisins and raspberries (lamponi). On top the chef placed a few finocchio leaves. The flavor combinations are incredible! And if you do not have all the rest, go and get prawns and taste them with raspberries.
The red onions are pickled and caramelized, adding the mild sweet and sour background to the taste of the prawns.
Merluzzo is “cod” of the Adriatic Sea. It was served on a bed of mashed potatoes with mustard seeds, and asparagus.
The Merluzzo was seared on the side of the skin for a couple of minutes in very strong fire, that made the skin crispy and the flesh juicy, firm, and succulent. The fish was served with fresh oregano and dill. Wonderful execution!!!
We now move to the turf side of the menu: Italian Delicacies are the first chapter.
Prosciutto crudo di Sauris is the prince of this dish of mixed cured meats. Sauris is a locality near Udine, where this tender and tasty prosciutto crudo is produced. It tasted like it has more character than the prosciutto di Parma.
Soppressa di Valdobbiadene
Salsiccia del Veneto (deer and pork)
Speck di Alto Adige. Perfect balance of salty and sweet. When the pig has had the proper food, the fat is sweet and flavorful.
Salame del Piave
The silky and full of flavour “Veal Carpaccio (di Manzo)” completed the tasting experience.
After the qualitative parts of the food, it is time to come to the value for money summary. Not only is the food of top quality, not only is the service excellent, the value for money of the Bar’s Lunch Menu is unbeatable, the best not only in Venice, but in most of Italy!!! But please please please, keep this little secret to yourselves.
Σάββατο, 22 Οκτωβρίου, 2011
Among other things, I have recently moved out of the metropolitan area of Athens to the hills overlooking Marathon, some 40 kilometers away from the center of Athens. The arson fire that devastated the area in 2009 has left its marks on the landscape, a stark reminder that the worst enemy of Greece are the Greeks themselves!
After settling in, I invited the “closed” circle to come over and have lunch “al fresco”, in the open fresh air.
As the weather is still good, with temperatures reaching 21 degrees Centigrade, the cooking was done outside as well. Charcoals provided the much needed fire.
I start with the aubergines, or eggplants, which I can eat all the time, every time. I got them from a farmer who is down the road from where I am. I cut them in thick slices and put them in salted watr for one hour. The slices must be thick because they will be grilled and we do not want them to be burned and dried, but soft and juicy, albeit with a carbonated crust.
The pork chops came from the shoulder of the animal, in order to have the necessary marbling. I always prepare the meat by placing it in a mild solution of sea salt and herbs. After two hours the meat is juicier, its color lighter, and it tastes a lot better! If you have not done it before, try it now. With pork! It also works wonders with chicken.
Finally, the “Gardoumbes”, lamb’s intestines and sweetbreads on a stick, I got from a local butcher who promised me that they were fresh and local. He even showed me a bag with some intestines that he was taking home after work.
(Χορδήν έτρωγαν οι αρχαίοι Έλληνες, χορδούνιν οι Βυζαντινοί, γαρδούμπα οι Νεοέλληνες)
We now get to the very serious business of the grill. The aubergines need just a coat of olive oil in order not to stick to the grill base. Frequent turns ensure that the surface will be only marginally “burned”. There is a very sensitive balance between the brown and the black of the surface, so be careful!
The pork chops also require a coating of olive oil in order for them not to stick on the mesh. The surface must be golden brown and the inside juicy and tender.
I serve the chops on a bed of finely chopped garlic. The combination of the charcoal flavour with the garlic is simply unbeatable. I do the same with the eggplants, adding a bit of vinegar or lemon.
Finally, the “gardoumbes” take a lot of time to cook, and the fire must be relatively mild, otherwise the outside will be dry and the inside uncooked.
All in all, a lunch that honoured the Greek pastoral tradition with pork and lamb, the two animals that have supported the inhabitants of the south Balkan area for centuries.
Παρασκευή, 26 Αυγούστου, 2011
One hot evening in August 2011 I found myself in the garden of the restaurant “Il Colombaio” in the outskirts of the beautiful Tuscan village of Casole d’Elsa.
The restaurant came highly recommended by a friend who visits the village almost every year.
The restaurant is also listed in the Michelin Red Guide and has one star.
I started with a selection of salumi from a producer in the area.
It was divine.
I particularly liked the locally produced Prosciutto di Cinta Senese, which according to “Barilla” owes its sweet, slightly gamey flavor, oily fat and aroma to the heritage Italian breed of pig called “Cinta Senese” used to make the prosciutto.
Another first dish was based on polenta, with and without cuttlefish ink, and a vegetable mousse. Very light and tasty.
My main dish choice was a tartare from the famous “chainina” cattle breed.
The meat was served almost undressed. There was a touch of olive oil,oregano, some salt crystals, and a few peppercorns. The sauces were more decorative as they were extremely subtle.
It was the first time I had tartare almost undressed. And it was worth it. The meat was juicy and sweet, after the first couple of bites I made subconsciously the switch from main dish to desert. What an experience!
Other main dishes were pork roast and pigeon breast, caramelized in a wine sauce.
The wine was a Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2001, priced extremely reasonably. The same comment applies to the whole of the wine list, which is a steal. Some of the best Tuscan wines, offered at prices that amaze me. Let alone that you cannot find them in the wine shop.
Overall, “Il Colombaio” is a restaurant I enjoyed and want to visit again. Both for its food, but also because of its wine list.
Κυριακή, 17 Απριλίου, 2011
Bucharest is a big city with a rather dubious reputation for restaurants. In addition to the fast food chains that sell the well known stuff, most of the restaurants in the city serve medium quality food at high prices for the value. I do not need to mention that the top “French” or “Italian” restaurants are mostly mediocre, and primarily places of social encounters rather than top quality food. Osho is a restaurant where this rule is violated. You get best value for a reasonable price, and can socialize as much as you want. And this is a good way to start a relationshsip!
Osho is located in one of the best areas of Bucharest, on the Spring Boulevard (B-dul Primaverii). It occupies the ground floor of a modern building, and its interior is unassuming and reminds me of a New York deli shop. It is not an accident that the proprietor is an Istanbul-born Turk who has spent more than two decades in America.
When I first visited Osho, the proprietor asked me where I come from and I said Greece. He then said that he comes form Istanbul, which makes us “kardas”.
“kardeş = sibling in standard Turkish, though I think some dialects, especially outside of Turkey pronounce it kardaş. It’s also used as a familiar form of address, like “brother” in English.”
The restaurant prides itself in selling the best aged beef in town. I would just say: “the best beef in the country”. Aged beef is superior in flavor and tenderness to the ordinary beef as we know it. It requires strict temperature and moisture conditions, and is much more expensive than the ordinary beef. However, in my view it is worth every penny.
The first time I visited Osho I tasted the “Delmonico” cut. According to the Osho owner, the Delmonico he serves is a boneless rib eye.
The steak was excellent: tender and flavorfull, the way real meat should taste. My friends tasted veal chops and were fully satisfied. Unfortunately I could not take any photos this evening, so I cannot show you the served dishes.
The second visit was for lunch. My friends took a cheeseburger and a hamburger, while I has the lamb loin out of curiosity. The votes on the hamburger were very positive.
Could Osho be as good in lamb as they are in beef?
Thank you guys, see you next time!
Σάββατο, 12 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2009
Today I continue with a restaurant review from Provence, the picturesque town of Arles. I want to share with you my experience from the Restaurant Cilantro, a stone’s throw from the famous Roman Arena of the town.
Συνεχιζω σημερα το οδοιπορικο στην Προβηγγια, και την ομορφη πολη της Αρλ, με την επισκεψη μου στο Εστιατοριο Κολιανδρος που ειναι διπλα στην διασημη Ρωμαϊκη Αρενα της πολης.
The young talented chef Jerome Laurent comes from 6 generations of professionals in the hospitality trades. In 2004, he has decided to open Cilantro in his home town of Arles.
Ο νεος και ταλαντουχος σεφ Ζερομ Λωραν προερχεται απο 6 γενιες επαγγελματιων σε ξενοδοχεια και εστιατορια. Το 2004 αποφασισε να ανοιξει στην γενεθλια πολη του Αρλ το εστιατοριο του.
This looks like a house entrance, and it is. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of Jerome’s family home.
Η εισοδος στο εστιατοριο, που στεγαζεται στο πατρικο σπιτι του σεφ.
The decor is minimal but quite pleasant, and the staff polite and effective.
Olive paste and chorizo to wet the appetite.
Παστα ελιας με σαλαμι πικαντικο
Caramelized scallops served in a foamy bath of aromatic stuff.
Χτενια καραμελωμενα σερβιρισμενα σε ενα αρωματικο αφρο απο βοτανα και μυρωδικα.
Artichoke cream with black truffle.
Κρεμα αγγιναρας με μαυρη τρουφα.
And now we come to the revelation of the meal, the absolute creation of Nature and the Chef: ” Veal Sweetbreads with artichokes, black truffles and mashed potatoes”.
Το απολυτο αριστουργημα της βραδιας, μοσχαρισια γλυκαδια με αγγιναρες, πουρε πατατας και μαυρη τρουφα!
In my humble experience this dish is a masterpiece and in its divine simplicity it offers you clarity of textures and tastes that is unique!
Θεϊκη απλοτητα, απολυτη ευκρινεια γευσεων και υφης, το τελειο πιατο, μοναδικη εμπειρια.
I would go back to Arles, only to taste again this dish!
Και μονο για να γευτω αυτο το πιατο, θα ξαναπαω στην Αρλ.
Thank you Jerome.
P.S. Date of visit: March 2009. At the time of the visit, the restaurant was recommended by the Michelin Red Guide as “one star”.
Δευτέρα, 31 Αυγούστου, 2009
This is not a post about poetry, but it begins with poetry from Dante and Cavafy, as they are the favourite Italian and Greek poets of Dario Cecchini, who is the youngest in many Cecchini generations continuing the tradition and the culture of meat eating in Tuscay.
“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.”
In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood for the straight way was lost.
Dante, Inferno, Canto I
“I was not bound. I let myself go completely; went
To those indulgences, half actual,
And half were turned about in my own brain;
Went into the illuminated night;
And drank strong wines, as when
The champions of pleasure drink strong wine.”
Δεν εδεσμεύθηκα. Τελείως αφέθηκα κ’ επήγα.
Στες απολαύσεις, που μισό πραγματικές,
μισό γυρνάμενες μες στο μυαλό μου ήσαν,
επήγα μες στην φωτισμένη νύχτα.
Κ’ ήπια από δυνατά κρασιά, καθώς
που πίνουν οι ανδρείοι της ηδονής.
Costantine Cavafy, I went
This is how I started a post in my old website, in 2006. The subject of the post was Dario Cecchini’s Antica Macelleria in Panzano, a small village in the Chianti hills of Toscana.
A few days ago I was able and fortunate to visit Dario again, and this post is dedicated to him and his wife. Kim.
Dario is one of the most celebrated butchers in Tuscany, Italy and the world. He is a gentle, polite (in the true meaning of the word) and sofisticated man who obliges you with his nobility.
Dario is a man who knows his destiny and has nothing to do with all the celebrity crap that has spread in our world. as a dicease. Dario is happy with what he is, and is extremely proud of it . His wife, Kim, an American who has now become a real Tuscan, is also a splendid example of why life can be beautiful as long as there is happiness and love.
On a Saturday morning, Kim, the wife of a celebrity, wears her apron and starts serving the customers of the butcher shop. This is her life and she is proud of it.
The display of the shop is partial in the sense that it cannot hold all the goods that Dario can supply you with. But from this photo and the next you can get a pretty good idea of what is at store. On Saturday morning I spoke with a couple from Salzburg, Austria, who were doing their shopping on their way home. I was doing the same!
Dario was kind enou to cut a generous slice of the delicious rolled panceta and pack it for me to have a nice snack on the way back home.
What a man!
But the real hero of the visit was the Bisteca Fiorentina that Dario proudly holds and which is now resting in my fridge, waiting for the magic time to grill it. There is no other meat like this, believe me! I will prove it to you in my next post, but until then you have to wait.
Kim here is proudly displaying one of my watercolour pictures of Symi, that I brought to Dario and her as a sign of friendship and appreciation.
Lucky those of you who will enter this door!
Thank you Dario and Kim, see you soon!
P.S. This is not the end of the visit to Kim and Dario! The next installement is coming to you in the very near future!