Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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…)

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…)

word of an indian melody

May 28, 2010

Finally a new restaurant review; it’s been almost a year. One reason for the delay, of course, is the Generic English Pub. It always begins with that I want an ale, and then I end up eating fish and chips. I like fish and chips, but I won’t write reviews about it. But now I went into a real restaurant. Here is what I found.

After an evening rehearsal at St. Mike’s in central Southampton, a snack was in order and, more by chance than by design, my colleague and I stumbled upon and into Indian Melody, a new vegetarian/vegan restaurant on High Street (see another bunch of reviews here).

The menu is impressively long and slightly intimidatingly outlandish. After asking for a few more details, we found our way to two light dishes, a mixed spiced rice bowl with some freshly made condiments and a touch of fresh cilantro, and a crisp sort of large pancake with a deliciously juicy fresh cheese and vegetable filling. I’m bad at names, forgive me. (more…)

restaurants in summer sweden III, marstrand

August 29, 2009

The beautiful city of Marstrand is located at the Swedish west coast a few miles north of Göteborg. You reach it if you drive off the E6 highway at Kungälv, turning west and following the signs. Be prepared for over-wide and unsteadily-driven campers in the summer and inconsiderate moose in the winter. The picturesque old part of the little village is located on the Marstrandsön, an island that can be reached by a ferry.

We run into a colleague of mine on the ferry, who just bought a house here. Our subsequent restaurant hunt is based on his well-meant recommendations. This works very well indeed regarding the Café Berg’s located at the northern section of Hamngatan. Fortified with reasonable Cappuccinos and some nice sweet apple-filled bits of bakery, we conquer the island until, eventually hungry, we begin heading towards his second recommendation, Lasse-Maja’s krog just across from where the ferry arrives.

Lasse-Maja’s website is not quite complete at the moment, but it sports some impressive art-photography of the menu, which changes every day according to the products available on the market. We’re talking here mostly about fish, so this devotion to freshness is an excellent sign. We can also read the following: Lasse-Maja’s chef Richard Waje guarantees top quality in everything including the ingredients and the service. In other words: the guest has every right to have the highest expectations.

(more…)

restaurants in summer sweden II, borås

August 29, 2009

The city of Borås has a bad name in Sweden, for no real reasons. Yes, it rains a lot here, and the highway that goes right through the city does not allow for picturesque views. But the center of the town is calm and nice at daytime, not too large for a casual stroll and it offers good opportunities for hanging out and getting a decent meal.

Restaurants come and go at quite a quick pace in Borås, which often makes me sad: one would wish that all those enterprising chefs had a little more success convincing the Sjuhärad residents of the benefits of an international cuisine. A little color would truly make everyone happier.  A new large Indian restaurant opened only yesterday on Yxhammarsgatan; I want to wish them well.

The Greek taverna on Lilla Brogatan, on the other hand, has been there for quite a while now. It is a nice, relatively large space with a few random Hellenic decorations and painted crumbling plaster walls (more…)

restaurants in summer sweden I, bollebygd

August 29, 2009

Anyone traveling in Sweden knows that highway restaurants, relatively scarce as they anyway are, are called things like McDonalds, Shell or Korvkiosk (sausage hut). Names like “Route 66” or “Smakfullt” (the latter meaning both “full of flavor” and “tasteful”) do occur, too, but are the exception. Anyway, it is good to know about a few alternatives. This series of reviews will guide the innocent traveler towards some decent meals. I’ll tag these posts in Swedish – let’s see what happens.

It will, for example, be helpful to know that four minutes away from “Smakfullt”, which lies on the R 40 half an hour east of Göteborg, a bunch of enthusiastic people is trying to make a “Family restaurant” go round, with occasionally quite nice results. They need a real audience, however, and a critical one, too.

I am talking of La Familia Macsad which is situated in the in the southwest corner of the tallest building of the pulsating center of Bollebygd, aptly called Centrumhuset, (just beside the Trend-Makery, a boutique which has housed a stable collection of household Non-Necessaries for about a decade). Other highlights of Bollebygd’s center are a wine and beer store, a medical center and a parking lot with too narrow spaces.

La Familia has inherited the espresso machine of the previous owner who didn’t succeed in spite of his good coffee – that’s why we started going there. They have a fixed lunch menu which seems okay, and on some evenings they are open and offer dinner à la carte. (more…)