While I’ve heard it said before that Montreal, Quebec is a culinary haven, nothing could have adequately prepared me for my first visit to Canada’s second largest city (Toronto, Ontario is the first). We weren’t shy about the fact that our goal over the long weekend visit was to eat our way through the city. And I’m proud to say: mission accomplished!
As a global leader and an innovator in the food and beverage industry for more than a hundred years, David Michael has decided to take our innovation on the road! In May, our Great Escape to Innovate™ Tour Bus began its east coast swing to both share and gather unique and relevant ideas surrounding the latest flavor and product trends in the industry.
Oddly enough, before flying to Paris the last thing I ate in Prague was a crêpe from a food stand at the pop-up market in Old Town Square. In case you’re wondering, it was a chocolate and banana crêpe, about a foot in length and every bit as delicious as you’re imagining. So with the fitting send-off, I was ready to take on the food scene in Paris.
Fresh cheese selections at a Sunday street market on the Rue de Seine.
We noticed that a lot of the salad choices came topped with smoked meats – and this huge portion was deliciously satisfying.
An ice cream stand right in front of the long lines of the Eiffel Tower…genius! The pistachio flavor was a huge hit.
You can’t be in Paris and not indulge in dessert. This is a classic apple tart a la mode.
My favorite of the sweets I ate in Paris (besides the macarons) was this chocolate lava cake with French vanilla ice cream.
This is a typical French market, fresh produce outside with other grocery items inside. There are very few supermarkets in Paris like those we are accustomed to in the states as Parisians prefer to buy very fresh and typically stop by the market at least 3 times a week, if not every day.
This signature French dish – croque madame – was served on the perfect piece of crisp, thinly sliced bread. The croque madame is a variation of the original croque monsieur that adds a fried egg to the famous hearty snack. A croque monsieur consists of a grilled ham and cheese served open face atop a crisp slice of bread.
This tartine Italienne at Café Reale in the jardin des tuileries in Paris was a great choice for a refreshing lunch on a hot day of sightseeing. Artichokes and mushrooms on a thick slice of cheese-topped dough (sort of like a Sicilian pizza) served cold with a side of pesto greens.
I just love this shot – so exemplary of the Parisian café scene. Outdoor seating, people milling about and even a man playing an accordion!
The beautiful and mouthwatering macaron display at Maison Georges Larnicol in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood.
My first day back at the office, this is the fortune cookie I got. I couldn’t have scripted a more poetic message to welcome me back from a wonderful and memorable trip.
I was lucky enough this summer to get to spend some vacation time in Europe and as a foodie, I – of course – ate my way through the trip. No, really. There are as many pictures of my meals from the adventure as there are of the beautiful sites.
Prague, Czech Republic is one of the most breathtaking cities I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. Everywhere you turn your head you’re overwhelmed by an architectural feast for your eyes. It is absolutely and unequivocally magical. When we weren’t busy falling in love with Prague’s cathedrals, castles and historical charm, we were having an affair with its food. Czech this out:
For my mom’s first Czech meal she wanted an authentic, native dish: pork four ways with three different dumplings and red and white cabbage. She was very happy with her choice and there was plenty to share with the whole crew.
My first taste of Prague was this mouthwatering mushroom polenta. The mushrooms had sooo much flavor and were a perfect accompaniment to the mild polenta.
Smoked fish is a very popular menu item throughout Europe and Prague was certainly no exception. This salmon was smoked to perfection and served with whipped potatoes and grilled zucchini.
This food kiosk on a busy promenade is exemplary of the prominence of smoked meats on the Czech food scene.
Hands down, the best mushroom soup I have ever tasted. Really and truly. By the way – have I mentioned that I adore mushrooms? If you do too and if ever your travels take you through Prague, do yourself a favor and stop in at U Tynka Restaurant in Old Town Square for an unforgettable taste of this Czech mushroom soup.
While there was no shortage of native dishes, Prague also cooks up great meal options spanning all of Europe. As a tourist-heavy city, they do a great job of offering authentic cuisine choices from its many European neighbors, like this escargot appetizer.
This shrimp with saffron cream sauce and whipped potatoes was as delicious as it was beautiful.
Traditional kielbasa appetizer served with some fresh veggies, mustard and horseradish.
In case you need any more evidence that meat is a staple on every menu. On the left is pork knee and on the right ribs – two pounds of each! Both served on their own wooden cutting boards with a bowl of gherkin pickles, mustard and horseradish.
On weekends in Old Town Square you can enjoy strolling through the pop-up market with plenty of food stands, souvenirs and crafts. This merchant is keeping an eye on his ham as it cooks over the rotisserie.
A close-up of the finished product.
One of Czech Republic’s most well-known pastries, trdelnik, is made from rolled dough that’s wrapped around a stick, then grilled (like in this picture) and topped with sugar and a mix of sweet toppings like walnut, almond and vanilla, among others.
Night falling over Prague Castle and the Vltava River. This magical city won me over, and it took all of about ten minutes.
Check back next week for the second half of Europe is for (Food) Lovers: Paris edition.
I’ve talked on this blog, from time to time, of my fondness for fresh produce. I volunteer at my local farmers’ market. And I make use of what little sun I have on my deck for a potted garden of tomatoes, herbs, and new this year, peppers (their success is yet to be seen).
My interest in gardening is new – only within the past six or seven years – and has grown progressively. And my interest in vegetables, well let’s just say that still shocks my parents after all these years. I was that picky of an eater as a child.
For Father’s Day weekend, my dad, sister and I took a little road trip down to Washington D.C. to do some museum hopping. With the immense heat, we had committed to air conditioned activities only, until my sister decided that we couldn’t leave town without stopping by the White House. Since this wasn’t my first trip, I was less than excited (not much changes on the outside), until I spotted the White House Garden.
From the sidewalk, it appeared smaller than I would have expected (even though it is actually about 1,100 square feet). Last year, the garden produced over 1,000 pounds of food, feeding not only the Obamas, but dinner guests and local homeless shelters as well. This year, the size of the garden has been increased. And in the garden you will find everything from broccoli and rhubarb to tomatillos and Japanese eggplant.
Even though I had stood at the White House fence before, and gazed at the South Lawn (playing spot the Secret Service men), seeing the new garden was extremely exciting. After all, the White House hasn’t housed a garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II.
In fact, the whole thing got me motivated to consider a plot in my community garden next year – something I had written off this year as too time consuming. (They have a lot more sun then I’ve got in my yard!)
But I’m not the only one. According to the Christian Science Monitor, W. Atlee Burpee & Co (a seed company) saw a 30% jump in vegetable seed sales in 2009 over the previous year. That’s pretty impressive.
And I haven’t even gotten into the real purpose of the garden, which is to encourage more consumption of fresh foods. What started out as a personal mission for her family, has become Michelle Obama’s platform – demanding healthier options and fresh food for our country’s children. This mission is winning favor with parents, and food manufacturers have responded with plans to cut sodium, sugar and more.
I managed to get a picture of the garden, before the Secret Service began to shoo us away. Others in the crowd were certain this meant the presidential motorcade was coming through, or that President Obama was coming out onto the lawn. But, since it was late in the day, I’m certain that it that the high alert was to allow the First Lady, and her girls, a chance to water their garden undisturbed.
This weekend, I stepped off of the subway, and into another world…literally. I, along with a gaggle of women, visited Brighton Beach, Brooklyn on Saturday night for an unconventional bachelorette party at The National – a Russian supper club where English is scarce, and the vodka is French.
When we were seated at our table for 18, a traditional Russian spread was already waiting for us. A bevy of cold appetizers ranging from Russian potato salad, smoked sturgeon, lox, grilled vegetables, chicken liver pate, pickles, eggplant, assorted salads, and beef tongue. Even in this brave group of women, the beef tongue was met with cringes and “no thank you’s,” until our intrepid friend Jennie manned up, and chased it quickly down with pumpernickel and vodka – a scowl on her face.
Almost full already, the food kept coming, and miraculously found space on the table. More cold appetizers – pancakes with salmon roe, more fish, more salad. Then the hot appetizers – roasted potatoes, chicken-filled pirozhki (like a dumpling, pierogi or knish), grilled white fish, and stuffed roast beef.
And, oh wait, there’s more!!! A few hours into dinner, dancing, and live music, and there were more hot appetizers to be had! Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, the waiters served us a beautiful bread bowl filled with beef stew that was out of this world. All the while, straight vodka was the beverage of choice, and our requests for water were lost a bit in translation.
Happy birthdays were sung to those from one year to 50. Anniversary dances were made with grandkids running circles round. And then, the stage show began. White suits and mesh leotards accented by wigs, hats and feathers. Salsa prevailed in the Carnivale theme that didn’t seem out of place, even though every other bit of chatter was in Russian.
Dinner was served as we watched, a collection of chicken and pork kebabs, stuffed chicken breast…and french fries (a little random, but completely appreciated!). The evening finished with more dancing and singing, as well as cakes, pastries and coffee. For those six hours of solid eating, I felt as if I had been transported to Russia, and all I did was drive up the turnpike. It’s amazing how food can do that – in concert with language, song and vodka, of course!
**Thanks to all the ladies that donated their food pictures!!!
Today we welcome guest blogger Yuko Noda, a food chemist in our processed flavors department. Yuko recently returned from a trip to Peru, and had lots to share with us about the experience, and the flavors!!
Last year, both Epicurious and Bon Appétit predicted that Peruvian cuisine to be the hot ethnic cuisine of 2009. True to their predictions, we are seeing more Peruvian inspired dishes and drinks making their way into magazines and on restaurant menus. As I had coincidentally planned a vacation to Peru, I was excited to find out more about this delightful cuisine on my trip.
Some people say that Peru has the best and most diverse food in all of South America. Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors ranging from Incan and Spanish cuisine to Chinese, Japanese, African and other European immigrant influences. One example of this is the popular dish lomo saltado, a beef sirloin stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and aji chili pepper (Peruvian hot pepper). It is served with French fries, which are sometimes mixed with the stir fry, and white rice. Visually, it seemed kind of strange – but then again, how can you go wrong with deep fried potatoes?
Speaking of potatoes, Peruvians adore potatoes and grow a few thousand varieties of them, ranging in color, shape and size. Potatoes were in virtually every dish that I ate on my trip-as one of the main ingredients in dishes like causa (potato mashed with aji chili and layered or stuffed with a mixture of tuna, chopped red onions, avocado, boiled eggs, lime juice and mayo) and lomo saltad. They were also served as sides or garnishes in dishes like ceviche, alpaca steak and roasted cuy (roasted whole guinea pig which is a specialty in the area around the town of Cusco). If you’re wondering, both the cuy and alpaca were quite tasty. Alpaca meat was tender and the flavor was similar to a cross of goat and lamb. And cuy tasted kind of like rabbit. I cheated and got the shredded cuy confit, instead of the whole animal with its head and feet. (Seriously, would you want this thing staring at you from your plate??)
One of my favorite dishes was arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo is a popular dish in the Latin world but what makes Peruvian arroz con pollo special is the use of cilantro. Cilantro blended with water is added to the cooking liquid, giving the whole dish a green hue. People who don’t like cilantro may actually enjoy eating this dish since the cilantro flavor is very mild. The same flavor profile is seen in seco, a stew with cilantro sauce made with beef, lamb, chicken or duck.
From munching on Inca protein bars (containing quinoa, amarath and popped wheat and a hint of anise) while hiking on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, to enjoying aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a rich creamy aji chili sauce served over rice) in an upscale restaurant overlooking the pre-Inca ruin in Lima, my trip to Peru was definitely a culinary adventure!
Tempted to try some Peruvian flavor for yourself? Stay tuned to dmflavors.com! Yuko will recreate one of her favorite dishes for the August Recipe of the Month. Visitors to this year’s Innovation Roadshow will also have the opportunity to enjoy some Peruvian flavor at Yuko’s booth.
Last week I received an email from Lonely Planet, listing their top travel picks, and it got me thinking about my own travelin’ ways. Like many families, the hubby and I are cutting back this year, and traveling is, sadly, on the back burner.
What I’m really going to miss, though, is being able to sample new foods, or even foods that I’ve tried here at home, in their authentic environment. Call me crazy, but the best cup of tea I ever had was in London, the best gyro was in Athens, and the best salpicon in Mexico City.
For years, we’ve been saying that consumers are looking for more authentic ethnic flavors, and this year it couldn’t be truer. With more people making the best of the “staycation,” consumers are looking for ways to create exotic experiences in their own homes. Using food to recreate those experiences is not only cheaper than, say redecorating the living room in a Moroccan motif, but it is also attainable for everyone.
Personally, when I feel like reminiscing about Greece, I grab some Wegmans Greek Marinade and tzatziki from their Mediterranean Bar, grill up some chicken, pour the Ouzo, and make a cucumber salad. Those little supermarket helpers certainly make the experience more authentic to me. Having the ability to control the ingredients, adjust them from memory, but still purchase the products that make them unique – it’s a win-win.
For new product developers, especially those interested in ethnic flavor, it’s a good idea to keep up on the latest travel trends. They can really clue you in to future destinations, and possibly future flavor trends. How do you do that? Well, I can’t give away all of my secrets, but I do have one helpful clue. Check out Lonely Planet’s Top 20 Bestsellers for their top selling travel books by destination. And, keep in mind, Lonely Planet serves the global community, not just the North American traveling crowd.
Then, go home, make a Piña Colada, sit in the back yard, and try to imagine that it’s the Caribbean.
It’s wintertime, and the Philly area is seeing its fair share of sick time, hence the reason I had the opportunity to watch a lot of daytime TV this week.
Both spent their episodes visiting the UK, with stops in London, Edinburgh, The Cotswolds, and various other places in between. Among the haggis and blood pudding, there was a common message from both hosts – nose-to-tail eating.
The ever-grumpy Bourdain’s presentation was a bit more glass half empty. Visiting a meat market in London, he spoke with a butcher who dealt in offal, or the animal innards (kidneys, hearts, intestines and other lovely unmentionables). They spoke of the lack of appreciation of offal in a modern society where convenience and premium cuts are more valued. The butcher could not predict the future of his business.
However, Bourdain did focus in on one chef, Fergus Henderson, who specializes in offal, and shares it with his up-scale, top-dollar paying clientele. The funny thing about offal, is that in years past, it was the food of the poor – the cheapest pieces in the butcher case. Offal is high in protein and iron, and makes for a smart value.
The ever amusing Zimmern was a little less about saving offal, and more for promoting the fact that it has made a huge comeback on the British menu over the past 10 years or so, a sentiment resonated by the butchers he spoke with.
Offal has had a surge in the U.S. too. A recent Chicago Sun-Times article highlighted some Windy City chefs that are offering dishes like goat brain ravioli. The question is, though, beyond the foodie audience, can offal make a return to mainstream cooking? Certainly, it was a staple long, long ago.
Now, as a girl I hated when my mom made liver and onions. The idea repulsed me, and the smell drove me from the house. I still have yet to try it to this day, as I’m sure few other Gen-Xers have. But, I must admit I am now intrigued. Not only is offal an affordable choice, but chefs argue that these unpopular bits are the most delicious of any animal. And, as the Sun-Times article points out, “farmers can’t raise just a rack of lamb.” Eating all of the animal certainly makes for less waste.
So, now I’m curious what you have to say…have you sampled offal, do you eat it regularly, are you still thinking “no way!”? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!