borås – not ready for good coffee?

April 3, 2014

A month ago, the annual “restaurant week” was celebrated in Borås, and one day, the daily poll on the website of  Borås Tidning asked the question, “Is Borås a restaurant city?” These are ambitious concepts: “restaurant week” and “restaurant city.” Many readers seemed to think that Borås wasn’t really a restaurant city at all, and today’s entry on my blog gives an example of why this may be so.

I should begin by saying that some culinary change for the better has definitely happened in these parts. If you search the archives of my blog you’ll see that this development is, to put it mildly, massively overdue.

But let’s just make a quick tour: a few years ago, for instance, a fine Indian restaurant, Masala Kitchen, established itself on Yxhammarsgatan. It is part of a small chain (the three other branches are in Gothenburg), but their food has the stamp of an individual kitchen nevertheless and is quite enjoyable in its diversity; the service is friendly and personal and the restaurant is clean and pleasant.

Directly opposite Masala Kitchen, a small Italian trattoria with the optimistic name Viva La Focaccia has opened, and to judge by their number of lunch guests, they are doing rather well. Unsurprisingly for an Italian trattoria (but a small sensation for Borås), their pasta sauces have straightforward no-nonsense Italianate taste profiles, the pasta itself is hot and firm and the coffee agrees pretty well with what you would get in similar places in Italy.

The new cheese and salumi shop that has moved into the premises of what used to be an utterly useless sweets store is also exciting: Cassise at Österlånggatan 40. Cassise is impressively well-stocked with a large variety of international specialty cheeses and with a wide range of meat products. Who would ever have thought that the 66,000 inhabitants of this city would get access to good-quality Italian pancetta or lardo?

We were even happier — and this is what I wanted to write about — when da Matteo, a well-established high-end coffee importer, roaster and seller from Gothenburg, opened a nice, roomy new café/restaurant in Borås. On a good day, with one of the better (among their overall excellent) baristas at the controls, da Matteo’s coffee can be the best coffee you’re likely ever to drink (and I’m saying: anywhere).

So, all of a sudden, Borås has easy access to some of the best coffee in the world, in a place that also fulfills all possible requirements for a nice café-workspace: free wifi, a variety of tables, no excessive noise or obnoxiously loud music, and a central location (what I’m going for is outlined in this post, in case you’re wondering). The interior of da Matteo Borås is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but what needs to be clean is clean — the restrooms, for example (compare that with Gothenburg’s first-ever-Matteo in Viktoriapassagen, and you’ll appreciate the difference). And if we weren’t trying to cut down on the carbs, I might start raving about their bakery products. The service is nice and friendly.

This is how da Matteo in Borås looked a few weeks ago:

IMG_0477

 

Our new routine has been to go there on Friday afternoons and do our work there. It has been a fabulous way to beat January and February, which otherwise can only be survived in these parts by not getting out of bed.

Does Borås deserve such luxury? Obviously not. The terrible news is, da Matteo in Borås will close on 17 April 2014. Why?

I’m of two minds here. Read the rest of this entry »

a little bit of goose

January 8, 2014

On Christmas day, usually the Big Bird-day in our tradition, my kids, who were visiting, had to catch a train an hour before mealtime (which, in good German style, is around 1 P.M.), leaving me with neither the time nor rest to stand in the kitchen monitoring a goose roast or some other long-winded extravagancy.

I cooked goose breast fillets (skin on) instead – and white cabbage in wine.

Much nonsense about goose breast fillets can be found on the internet. The most objectionable feature of most of those recipes seems to be that they deny the fact that one is cooking goose at all. In order to, as it seems, camouflage the (quite delicious, if fresh) natural taste of the bird, many of these recipes not only seem to go south, but east, west and north as well. Read the rest of this entry »

goodbye little frier

January 8, 2014

Today, and with a heavy heart, I finally brought my old Le Creuset 24cm enameled cast-iron frying pan, which I had bought in the mid-1980s in Haarlem, Holland, to the recycling station. You’ll find it, still in its full glory, in the second and third picture of this post. What happened?

Well, one day in October, I was busy pre-preparation-hot-frying some eggplant slices. I have been doing this many times: heat up the pan, and while doing so, brush all eggplant surfaces with oil. When the brushing is done, you slide the eggplant slices into the pretty hot pan, and cook them until done, on both sides. Simple, right? Oil-economical, and time-saving. Read the rest of this entry »

lima beans my (mom’s) style

September 14, 2012

I’ve earlier promised a lima beans recipe, mainly because the succotash-style preparation I tasted a while ago didn’t really convince me. To me, lima beans bear little discussion about what to do with them. What you need is:

Lima beans, shelled. They don’t need to be super young, but must not have turned too light grey-green with leathery skins – why? Because even if you peel the skins off (I don’t), overly mature limas tend to be mealy and taxing for the digestion. Avoid food that’s unpleasant to eat, is the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

a tomato bath with minced lamb

September 13, 2012

One way to make lamb cigars can be found here. Yesterday, we went all wild with fresh ingredients and I made a more tomato-y variety which I’m recording here for the benefits of the eaters present (and anyone else).

The assets:

Medium-coarsely ground lamb with a healthy but not ridiculous amount of fat to serve four.

2-3 fresh, ripe, large tomatoes right off the vine, finely diced.

And…One large-ish diced onion, about 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh spearmint, a sprig of fresh rosemary, one bay leaf, a teaspoon ground cumin, half a teaspoon mild paprika powder, the tiniest trace of ground cinnamon, freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste, 2 medium cloves finely chopped garlic, good olive oil, dry white wine, a dash of fresh cream.

The sauce: chopped onions, slowly sauteed in (quite) a few tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet with the whole rosemary and the bay leaf. After some softening and yellowing (min. 10 minutes; the slower/longer the merrier), add all the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and bubble on, on medium heat, while you prepare the lamb.

The lamb: in a bowl, thoroughly mix ground lamb, mint, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and more pepper and salt. When the tomato sauce has bubbled for about ten minutes, 3-inch cigar-shaped meatballs are made and placed in the sauce one-by one. Read the rest of this entry »

bbq blues

April 29, 2012

We spent one of our finest days of the fall of 2010 in Roanoke, Va. A first obligatory stop is, of course, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, especially because of its impressive collection of vintage trains from the great days of American railroading. Part of the collection is stashed away safe and dry under a roof, and some of the steam monsters are even climbable uponable by ways of installed stairs and mini-porches.

Other items of interest are baking in the open sun, somewhat sadly left to rust away in wind and weather.

 

To climb about in an old GG1 electric locomotive from the Pennsylvania railroad may be exciting…

but it makes hungry too, and so we eventually leave the museum to find our way into downtown Roanoke in search of some real, true and authentick Southern food:

The Blues BBC Co, as we can read on their website, “was started in 2004 with $20,000, a truck and a dream. Two brothers, Patrick and Chris, decided to give the people of Frederick, MD “Real BBQ!” Most of the BBQ found in Maryland was less than average and mostly over-cooked. Dried-out beef and pork could be found at almost any BBQ Restaurant. Good BBQ needs to be smoked over wood. Great BBQ needs to be smoked over a wood blend for the perfect amount of time, at the perfect temperature-and lived! That’s what we strive to do.” Apart from their Restaurant in Roanoke, The Blues BBC Co can indeed be found in a truck in Frederick, Md., and they are planning to open in Carroll Creek, Md. and Jacksonville, Fl.

After reading the menu outside, we enter a dark, pub-style establishment and are greeted by bellowing music and a waitress with a hi-guys-what-can-I-do-for-you-today type of professional smile. A quick look around the yet empty place makes us decide to settle outside; a choice we do not regret, because the weather is brilliant and we are able to catch most of the afternoon sun.

Kelley, a prolific BBQ producer and connoisseur in his own right, suggests the dry-rubbed Pulled Pork; the rest is an eclectic mix of everybody’s choices, with hush puppies to start, and fries, collard greens (“Grandma style” with ham hocks and bacon) and creamed succotash (Lima beans and corn in cream sauce, actually) as sides. Read the rest of this entry »

for the small appetite

April 29, 2012

I’ve been collecting little bits of papers, restaurant bills, recipe reminders and other culinary snippets for more than a year now, but was never quite ready to make the plunge. Things are settling, though:

After a fulfilled Postdoc in Southampton, I’ve changed scenery again,

moving away from here:

back to here:

(to be fair, the pictures were taken at different times of the year. But note that the first picture is black-and-white, while the second one is in full color)

I’m now in the last phase of writing up my research, which slowly lifts the lid off other plans that have been hissing and steaming in the background: the time has come to remember all the things yummy I encountered in the past two years. Or not so yummy…

Out of chronology, merely because it’s highest on my pile, I will return to the old military city of Kristianstad (where for reasons unknown all the restaurants that I have reviewed earlier have now vanished).

So there I was again on a Saturday evening, trying to find a place to eat in a city that is in the midst of constructing new government quarters. Half the town center, or more precise, the entire rådhuskvarteret, except its facades (because the renaissance character of the city must be underlined, says the City’s chief architectural designer), has been torn down. In its stead there is now a pit of great squareness, deepness and blackness.

After a slight detour around the abyss (why does all this remind me of the Lord of the Rings?), our company located the promising bistro Aptit (Appetite) in the venerable Kronhuset on the main square of the city. On entering, one is greeted by a friendly and competent waitress and invited to white tables with a decent setup of glasses, well lighted, and without too much musical interference. To sit there and converse is in fact possible.

My company of three orders various kinds of fish, and I choose the breast of corn-fed chicken. The southern province of Skåne has some excellent chicken farms and I am curious.

What I get is a nicely looking arrangement of chicken, Madeira sauce, quartered, deep-fried potato and some veggies. I should however mention the size of the portion, which consists of about half a side of a medium-sized chicken breast, with its skin, a tablespoon and-a-half of brown sauce, the equivalent of one and a half medium-large potato and about half a cup of greenery (at the point of writing I see that they offer a grilled corncob instead. Logical, in April…). Some random comparisons: a regular fish and chips over the counter at Bitterne triangle in Southampton is about three times as much in volume and a fifth of the price of my chicken (and almost inedible, it must be said). In American terms (whether we like it or not), we’re talking here about an appetizer-sized portion at its smallest; in Germany, it would be an item from the children’s menu. A large organic chicken from the store for two thirds of the price of my portion contains easily eight times the meat I’m having on my plate, plus wings, bones for soup and scraps for Rillettes. Swedish gastronomy, in short, is most of all about economy.

My company being jolly about the nice atmosphere and happy with their fish, I decide to make a friendly face and to chew thoroughly. It is a helpful trick. Read the rest of this entry »

Split Banana The Review

October 15, 2010

In this particular case, I am exerting my right to use caps in my headline. With good reasons. What I dutifully announced here has finally been tested, thoroughly and with increasing bliss. The Split Banana Ice Cream Parlor in Staunton, Va.

It all started like this:

We see here a thoughtful founder with his crowbar, considering the administrations necessary to create what eventually was to become one of the most awesome ice cream and gelato venues I have ever seen.

How it turned out is more or less like the picture here above, with people moving eagerly around in front of the counter to get a better idea of the stunning selection of flavors, and others moving equally fast behind, to serve their customers in the best and most effective manner.

During two weeks of intense work, I have tested the majority of flavors and styles available at the Split Banana. What I found is a stunning example of how well the simple philosophy, to use high-quality, preferably locally produced, ingredients, can work out, if the preparation is then inspired by an unfailing dedication to perfection.

During my stay, I was, for example, the witness of a significant upgrade of the Pistachio flavor which was excellent to begin with. The upgraded version could best be described as gelatified freshly roasted pistachios-in-a-bowl, of an intensity I had never tasted before.

Many of the flavors are surprising, not always in their suddenness and intensity, but often in their subtlety. Whereas, for example, the coconut bounces around in your mouth shouting Fresh! Fresh! in a silly giggle (the best coconut ice cream – or was it gelato? – I ever had), the Virginia peach (in September just as fresh as the former) is astonishingly mild and mellow, and not half as belligerent as your average up-sugared fruit products tend to come across. Read the rest of this entry »

an english villa in the woods

October 14, 2010

The scenic route between Gothenburg and Stockholm via Jönköping can be a good alternative for the more direct, but hectic and boring E20. The trip goes on riksväg 40 past Borås, and not long after that, things begin to become interesting. You should reserve quite some additional time for recreational stops along the way.

You may consider Ulricehamn, a pretty little town, for the first one of these. Check out Günther’s German bakery, which has a sublime choice of sweet in-betweens (their new website is still under construction). Long before Günther made the news (and Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding cake), he was locally famous for his elegant confectioneries. His Café is in the center of town, a little off the main pedestrian zone.

In terms of lunch, Ulricehamn can be summarized as an assembly of pizzerias, uninspired Chinese restaurants and Swedish school-meals-gone-public; an experience which you will not regret to have missed.

One might instead aim for Jönköping, a larger and more businesslike city at the shores of lake Vättern. I once was talked into accompanying my boss of the time into one of the allegedly better lunch places there, and ended up with an over-salted, brown and wrinkled chicken leg beside a bunch of peas and fries and some low-alcohol beer. I could be prejudiced, but may I suggest a far better and more picturesque alternative, about twenty minutes or so before you reach lake Vättern?

You turn off the 40 at Bottnaryd, taking road 185 north toward Mullsjö. Just before reaching this village, you turn west and enter Ryfors bruk. The signs cannot be missed. The centerpiece of Ryfors, an assembly of historical smithies, mills, sawmills and whatnot, is the English villa, which is marketed as an “authentic English Cottage” built in 1886. It houses a recently renovated hotel/restaurant with an excellent kitchen and good, personal service.

We stumbled upon Engelska Villan on Robin’s birthday (a luxuriously rainy summer day), on our way to Habo kyrka, the interior of which can be seen here (if you look carefully, you even see part of my harpsichord in the right-hand far corner. But that is a coincidence.):

Because of the hostile weather the English Villa was almost deserted, but our dedication to make this a special occasion and to conquer the empty dining room was well rewarded. Based on a copious amount of nachos, a delicious bowl of gaspacho, penne with a wine, cream and beef sauce, and a perfectly cooked piece of salmon marinated in honey, all reasonably priced but very nicely prepared and served, I am happy to recommend this kitchen without any reservations.

(To reach Habo church, a gorgeous large decorated wooden church, we later drove on through Mullsjö and crossed the countryside heading east. The village of Habo itself is somewhat less memorable, were it not for the industrious Anders Ö and his well-stocked, and sometimes open, store of n-gauge trains.)

finally airline food

October 14, 2010

“The level of background noise affects both the intensity of flavour and the perceived crunchiness of foods, researchers have found”, says a headline I find in today’s BBC news-feed. This, the attached article claims “may go some way to explaining why airline food is notoriously bland – a phenomenon that drives airline catering companies to heavily season their foods.”

It is certainly a phenomenon that drives travelers nuts. As usual, the spice lies in the word “may”. So the fact that the Japanese-style meal I had on a flight between Amsterdam and Tokyo was really quite acceptable may have its cause in JAL over-seasoning their foods, but it may also be that they fly with silent planes. It may, on the other hand, be that the pasta-horror SAS tried to serve me once on an Copenhagen-Detroit trip, over-cooked on one side, cold on the other, and miles away from being heavily seasoned according to any style, was one of those deplorable exceptions from the rule because, “I’m sure airlines do their best,” Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.