Archive for October, 2010

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. (more…)

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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,” (more…)