Hot Dog Heaven   2 comments

hotdogcart

Hot dogs certainly are considered an all-American food, but they’re equally popular in Scandinavia. And they’re served more creatively.

While in Sweden we never had a chance to try a West Coast Special. This version features mashed potatoes, mustard and shrimp on a mound of mayo. Our timing was always off. We’ll do better on our next visit.

In Copenhagen, we made it a point to have hot dogs, known as polsers. We noticed most of the hot dog carts, found throughout the city, featured two options: the Ristet or the Fransk The former is known as a red frank. It’s topped with sweet pickles (think bread and butters), crispy fried onions and a choice of sauces; I went with remoulade. Ketchup, mustard and mayo are other possibilities.

The Fransk is a long dog that’s inserted into a hallowed out bun and extends a few inches over both ends. I never did figure out how condiments are added.

hotdog

The fried onions and the pickles provided texture to the Ristet; the remoulade, something I associate more with crab cakes than hot dogs, added a sense of sophistication. The meat itself was juicy and it was too good to worry about possible additives.

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At home, I usually only eat hot dogs at baseball games. It seems an appropriate thing to eat at such an all-American sporting event. It was fun in Copenhagen to hop off our bikes and stop for a hot dog. That, apparently, is a typically Danish thing to do.

Posted August 1, 2015 by bluepagespecial in Reviews

Tagged with , , , , ,

Picture Perfect Cuisine   3 comments

Erik menu

Our Swedish hosts are practically family; several years ago their son lived with us for a school year as part of an exchange program. He became my Swedish son. We stayed in touch; they’ve visited us twice since Pete was with us. Our trip was a chance to see the places we’d heard about; his parents wanted to treat us to a surprise, in addition to graciously opening their home in Gothenburg and showing us the sites.

The surprise was a two-day trip to Stockholm topped off with a special dinner at Erik’s Gondolen, known for its 33-meter high view of the harbor and fine cuisine. Neither aspect disappointed. As previously noted, dining companions always add much to the experience.

Erik hake

The Pancetta Wrapped Hake was too difficult to resist. The mild, flakey fish wrapped in bacon featured soft-as-butter scallops floating in a pea and parsley cream surrounded by a subtle artichoke foam. It was almost too artistic to eat. Almost.

Erik fish casserole

Gondolen’s Classic Fish and Shellfish Casserole was reminiscent of cioppino, a fish stew. Two orders of the Fried Rack of Lamb with Brisket Sausage completed our order. As much as enjoyed one another’s company, we spoke very little while eating. Our server recommended spot-on wines to pair with our dishes.

Erik lamb

We easily could have left after finishing our entrees, but cloudberries called. These amber-colored, raspberry look-alikes were tart and nicely complimented by house-made vanilla ice cream.

Erikcloudberries

The memories include the view, the food and the friendship.

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Erik’s Gondolen
Five Plates
Stadsgården 6 (Slussen)
Stockholm 104 65
Sweden

Kent Haruf’s Blessings   2 comments

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Kent Haruf’s Plainsong is among my favorite books. I haven’t read any of his other works for fear, I think, I’d be disappointed. After reading Benediction, one of the author’s last works before his death in late 2014, I realize I had no cause for worry.

Set in the (fictional) rural town of Holt, Colo., this is an agreeably slow-moving, intimate portrait of the bonds between families and community. The first paragraph sets the tone: Dad Lewis, a long-time resident of Holt and owner of the hardware store, receives the news that he’s dying of cancer. In his dying days, his grown daughter returns home to help; longtime friends and neighbors drop in to visit; and a few flashbacks surface to help tell the story of an imperfect man, beloved by his wife and daughter, estranged from his son, who tried to do his best.

The beauty of Haruf’s writing is that he provides just enough detail to hold the reader’s attention without overwhelming the imagination. That is, situations appear with gaps of information like potholes on a dirt road. Eventually, they get filled.

Interactions with those Dad has known for years intersect with a few new residents to Holt: the preacher and his family, including an angry teenage son and an even angrier wife. The young granddaughter of the woman across the street is another significant character. It would be heavy handed to feature a new-born, but Haruf’s circle of life is gripping, lyrical and not at all mawkish.

Benediction

Four Bookmarks
Knopf, 2013
258 pages

Shrimp in Name Only   Leave a comment

heavensign

Panoramic views of Gothenburg (on Sweden’s west coast) competed with high-wow factor platings at Heaven 23. The majority of the dishes coming out of the open kitchen featured the King Size Deluxe. This is a monster serving of shrimp piled tall on greens, hard boiled egg, slices of cucumbers all hiding what must have been a scoop of mayonnaise topped with dill. Oh yeah, this all sat on a thin piece of bread.
heavenshrimp

Four of the six at our table ordered this house specialty, which is a spin on the open-face shrimp sandwiches sold throughout the region. None of those versions come close to Heaven 23’s in size, presentation or flavor combination. According to our server, each serving contains 200 grams of the hand-peeled arctic shrimp; that’s almost half of pound! Ironically, the large portion was inspired by the U.S, where almost anything is available in a super size.

The menu describes the shrimp as prawns, but these are small, slightly sweet and remarkably tender. We had two renegades at our table: one ordered the risotto and the other the lamb. I tasted the former, which was chewy and rich with asparagus. The plate for the latter was in danger of being consumed because of the desire to eat every last bite.

heavenrisotto

Our experience was enhanced by the friends with whom we shared our meal. Good conversation tested our efforts to leave as little of the shrimp as possible. This was, indeed, quite a challenge, but a very tasty one.

Heaven 23
Four-and-a-half Plates
Gothia Tower
Massans Gata 24,
Gothenburg 412 51, Sweden

The Virus   Leave a comment

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Maggie Rider’s self-deprecating humor and sharp intelligence as narrator of The Virus by Janelle Diller elevate this sky-is-falling novel about the increasing threat of diminishing privacy.

Maggie works for a tech company that requires a lot of travel. Her husband, Eddy, is a freelance web designer. He’s actually more tech savvy than his wife, which evolves as a significant characteristic.

The novel begins with a smallpox outbreak in Colorado. Maggie and Eddy live in Colorado Springs; the story settings also include the Bay Area and Nebraska. At first, vaccinations are scarce. The rush to meet demand is fueled by government regulations requiring all who travel, work in the health industry and /or attend school to receive inoculations. Thanks to her job, Maggie is among the first to be vaccinated; something she willingly, almost gratefully, accepts. Suddenly, the immunizations are plentiful. Meanwhile, Eddy isn’t buying. His skeptical nature makes him leery of the outbreak in general and the vaccination itself.

Thus begins a race-against-time as more deadlines surface requiring all U.S. residents to be inoculated within a short time span.

Part thriller, part subtle love story (Maggie and Eddy are happily married) and a lot of intrigue make Diller’s story engaging. There’s an element of Big Brother along with the vulnerability that comes from being active on social media.

In general, the novel maintains a fast-paced tempo. Although not necessarily new, Diller raises important issues for consideration regarding the government and the ease with which we all share information about ourselves.

The Virus
Four Bookmarks
WorldTrek Publishing, 2015
359 pages

FUDS: What’s Not For Dinner   Leave a comment

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FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia by Alfredo & Antonio Mizretti is neither for the weak of stomach nor the humorless. Let’s start with the fact it’s actually written by Kelly Hudson, Dan Klein and Arthur Meyer. This trio has taken the mystique and the occasional arrogance often associated with haute cuisine out of the kitchen and onto the equivalent of a culinary comedy stage.

The authors are irreverent, silly and occasionally gross in the manner of pre-adolescents. They’re also fun and creative. Although the book is “Dedicated to Food,” it could easily be earmarked for those who love food and don’t mind heavy-handed metaphorical flavoring.

The Mizretti personas assumed by the true authors are twin brothers who grew up in Denver eating Mama Mizretti’s homemade specialties, which, according to Alfredo and Antonio “was awful.” Eventually, they open a restaurant, FUDS, in Brooklyn with only three items on the menu.

The content is ridiculous, but for anyone interested in food, and not so full of him or herself that a good laugh can’t be appreciated, it’s entertaining.

The book is comprised of several chapters related to the Mizrettis’ background, food basics a la FUDS, satirical descriptions of kitchen tools and several chapters of recipes – the kind made up at summer camp or on a college campus. Some are, frankly, gross. All are absurd.

A little FUDS go a long way. Its 160 pages, of which many are illustrations, is just about the right length. Of course, it also lends itself to return reads.

FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia from Tickling Shrimp to Not Dying in a Restaurant
Four Bookmarks (0 plates)
Bloomsbury, 2015
160 pages

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If you remember 1984 and Animal Farm from high school or college reading requirements, The Circle by Dave Eggers will sound familiar. It’s just that Eggers, who has nothing on George Orwell, offers a contemporary setting in a Googlesque-complex in Northern California. The concepts of Big Brother and following the pack are nearly the same.

Mae, short for Maybelline, has just been hired by the prestigious organization thanks to Annie, beloved by her work colleagues and Mae’s former college roommate. Landing a position not only gets Mae out of a dead-end job, it provides an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of social change.

The Circle, the company’s name, thrives on numbers in the form of clicks, responses to surveys, extracurricular activities and tracking followers that makes Twitter and Facebook look like make-believe social media.

Mae’s initial job is in customer service. Her employers, from lower management to the triumvirate who founded the Circle, manipulate through passive-aggression and let the numbers speak for themselves: the higher the percentage or score, the better – no matter at what cost.

The trouble is that Mae is not all that likeable. Annie is far more interesting, but it turns out that her role is not much than that of a door opener. A former boyfriend, Mercer, provides a dissenting voice, but he’s one-dimensional with little chance of being heard.

Privacy, transparency, friendship and trust are all addressed here. While these are important themes, the characters are not strong enough to bear their weight.

The Circle

Three Bookmarks

Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

491 pages

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