Hotel Cremorne, North Sydney, NSW, Australia

Cremorne BurgerThe Hotel Cremorne is located just across the street from the beautiful Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in North Sydney.

I ended up going in for some dinner before a double feature.  I wasn’t particularly looking for bar food, but at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, most of the restaurants in the area were either closed or between their lunch and dinner service, and I felt that bar food would make a slightly healthier dinner than movie theater snacks would.  Resigned and mildly disappointed, I walked into the Hotel Cremorne after seeing the advertisement on the street for the $10 steak so common in Australian hotels.

Entering the place, I found it spacious, clean and brightly lit.  Tables high, low, large and small were scattered around the room.  Several TV screens were showing sports to interested, but not rowdy patrons.  The open storefront let the late afternoon air circulate around.  I walked up to the bar to have a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised by the selection of steaks, fish, sandwiches, salads and pizza.  I went with the Angus Boss Burger, with the traditional Aussie cheese, beetroot, lettuce, and bacon as well as caramelized onions.  The only thing missing is a fried egg, which I was glad for the absence of given my attempt at getting fit.  The burger comes accompanied with a decent sized side salad – roughly two cups worth, and a pile of chips.  The beef is fresh and grilled to juicy perfection.  It didn’t need any additional condiments. As I dug in, I recall thinking “bloody good burger”.  Perhaps I’ve been in Australia for too long, or would that be just long enough?

If you find yourself in the area, perhaps to take in a show at the Hayden Orpheum, you could do far worse than a burger at the Hotel Cremorne before or after the show.

Hotel Cremorne
287 Military Road
Cremorne, NSW 2090
http://www.hotelcremorne.com.au/

Note to my American brethren: In Australia, the word “hotel” is often applied to what we might call the local bar/pub.  It can be a bit confusing if you’re looking for a hotel from an online map reference, but it’s pretty obvious which sort of establishment you’re looking at in person.

McDonald’s Down Under, Seriously

Maccas Serious Lamb BurgerSince seeing Super Size Me, I typically refuse to eat anything at McDonald’s with two exceptions.  The occasional nostalgic Egg McMuffin for a Saturday breakfast (Thanks, Grandma!) and menu items unique to non-U.S. McDonald’s menus such as the McPork in Japan and the McAloo Tikki in India.

I spent the better part of the month of August in Australia, and after a week or so of intriguing commercials, I decided to go to Maccas (Aussie slang for McDonald’s) and try The Serious Lamb Burger, made with “real Aussie lamb”, as the caricature of an Aussie businessman on the commercial and the rather official-looking seal on the sandwich carton both proudly proclaim.

This is a typically over-the-top Aussie burger.  The lamb patty is topped with a fried egg, a slice of beetroot, lettuce, tomato, onion and aioli.  The taste of the lamb is good, surprisingly so for a fast food chain.  The other ingredients made the whole thing a bit sloppy and not very big on structural integrity, but the flavor made up for that shortcoming.  If you’re looking for a fast food meal and you like lamb, you could do much worse than The Serious Lamb Burger.

From the inside of the carton…
Love Lamb
At McDonald’s® we’re celebrating Australian Lamb, everyday.  Our thick and juicy patties are made from 100% seriously succulent Australian lamb, combined with egg and breadcrumbs, then seasoned with rosemary, parsley, oregano, garlic and real onions to create a mouth-watering taste.  This is a serious burger, two hands are highly recommended.
i’m lovin it

Oliebollen Stands, Amsterdam, NL

Olibollen StandOlibollen (literally “oil balls”) are fried balls of dough similar to beignets or zeppole.  They are typically dusted with powdered sugar, and often include fillings or fruit mixed into the dough.

During the fall and winter months, Olibollen are available at street stands and carts throughout the Netherlands (including at Schipol airport).  As you might guess, the’re not good for you in the least, but they taste amazing and are wonderfully warm and comforting on a cold evening.

Below are an assortment of treats found at olibollen stands in Amsterdam’s Old Centre district.  Prices are from the 2011-2012 season.  Appelbeignets contain a slice of apple surrounded in dough, fried and then dusted with cinnamon sugar.  An appelbeignet is like a miniature fried apple pie.  Krentenbollen are olibollen in which which currants (not raisins, as the translation on the sign notes) have been added to the dough.  Rum Rozijnenbol are olibollen to which a rum raisin filling has been added after cooking.

Aperitivo a Milano

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

If you walk into a bar in Milan between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 pm, you will find large, seemingly overpriced drinks, but they’ll be accompanied by a free buffet. Depending on the bar, this buffet can be anything from potato chips and olives to top of the range charcuterie, pastas, risotto and more. This pre-dinner smorgasbord is a Milanese institution called Aperitivo.

Started in the late 1980s by bar owners looking to attract customers, aperitivo has become a fixture of life in Milan. Each evening, people from all walks of life can be found flocking to the bars for an aperitif and snack. While many guidebooks will warn that it’s gauche to eat more than a small snack at aperitivo, I observed quite a few Italians of all ages and apparent social backgrounds using the aperitivo buffets as a meal replacement. In the second half of my stay, I abandoned my inhibitions as well.

Drinks featuring Campari are popular favorites, which is no surprise given that Campari is produced just down the road from Milan. Some of the most popular cocktails are the spritz and the negroni. A spritz adds Campari to Prosecco while a negroni is gin, vermouth and Campari. Both drinks are typically garnished with a slice or wedge of orange, often blood orange.

Here at a few spots that might be good for a bit of aperitivo.

Loolapaloosa
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/RjEZ
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
Located just across the street from the Porta Garibaldi railway station, Loolapaloosa serves large drinks, and an ample, if not top of the range, buffet. Pasta dishes, risotto, finger sandwiches and salami are spread over the bar. At 10 pm, aperitivo ends and the place becomes a dance club. The crowd tends to be rather young. Loolapaloosa is also in Corso Como, where several interesting aperitivo venues can be found, including…

Executive Lounge
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/MQjf
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
From the street, the Executive lounge is a bit strange. In a seemingly industrial side street, you meet the door staff, then descend down a long winding ramp, which makes it clear that this venue was once a parking silo (and maybe still is during the day). When you reach the bottom you’ll find a huge space filled with couches and cushions and interspersed with a ridiculously large and varied buffet. The young crowd seems to be a mix of young professionals enjoying a happy hour and date night couples. At 8€ per drink, and such a plentiful and varied buffet, this was one of the better aperitivo values I found. Naming rights seem to change hands frequently. During my visit, the venue was called Fiat Open Lounge.

10 Corso Como
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/cg6x
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
The “Chicissimo” spot, according to Zagat, 10 Corso Como is a swanky boutique that also serves aperitivo. Popular amongst the hip and those who watch them, you’ll find small bites and expensive drinks here. The focus is on fashion, not food.

Metropolis Cafe
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/EopL
Transport: Repubblica – M3, S1, S2, S3, S6, S13
The Metropolis Cafe at the Piazza della Repubblica draws a more mature crowd. Within the dark, modern decor, sophisticated young professionals mingle with middle aged business people and even a few elderly couples. The 10€ drinks are quite big and the buffet is plentiful and features quality charcuterie and arancini among its offerings.

Navigli
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Raz6
Transport: Porta Genova: M2
Navigli is a neighborhood, not a particular venue. Surrounding Milan’s canals or “navigli”, the Navigli district is chock full of bars, restaurants, jazz clubs and dance clubs. Aperitivo prices range from 7-10€, so this can be a great place for an inexpensive dinner. Given the variety, it would be difficult to find a bar that’s not to your liking.

Prices above are those paid in April 2012.

Celebrate Milan, celebrate aperitivo, support Roaddoggin.com, buy a shirt or a glass.  More items avaiable at http://www.cafepress.com/roaddoggin/9013733

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Pizza Birra, Sydney, NSW, AU

Pizza Birra Tortelloni

Duck Tortelloni

Part of an Australian-Italian food empire, Pizza Birra in the Surry Hills suburb of Sydney is a casual, cafe-style eatery serving pizza, pasta, wine, and of course, beer.  According to the restaurant’s website, “fresh, local produce and seasonal cooking is paramount.”  This shows through in the fresh, clean flavors on the plate.

Clearly popular amongst Sydneysiders, Pizza Birra is crowded nearly any night of the week.  The bar area is quite small, so bookings are recommended unless you want a long wait outside for a table.

Once you do get seated and served, it’s immediately apparent why this place is so popular.  The portions are large and  the top notch ingredients are prepared simply – the hallmark of good Italian food.

The pizza here is quite good, as you might expect, with it being in the name of the place.  You can expect thin, crispy crust, and locally-produced, Italian-style ingredients.

Pasta dishes are also quite good here.  My favorite is the duck  and ricotta tortelloni (pictured above).  The pasta is perfectly al dente. The flavor is earthy with a bit of pepper. Overall, the dish is fresh, simple and clean.

If you’re in Sydney and looking for Italian food, you can’t go wrong with Pizza Birra.

Pizza Birra
1/500 Crown Street
Sydney, NSW 2010
(02) 9332 2510
http://pizzabirra.com.au/

JoeDough, New York, NY

JoeDough has closed, but Joe & Jill have started a new catering business in it’s place. See details here. If you’re craving Joe’s sandwiches, Tuesday nights are sandwich nights at Joe & Misses Doe.

Duck Egg SandwichJoeDough is an East Village sandwich shop offshoot of the JoeDoe restaurant a few blocks away.  Joe and Jill, the owner-operators of JoeDough, describe their cuisine as “Aggressive American,” combining Jewish, Italian, Asian and Irish influences.  I describe it as delicious and interesting.  While I have yet to have the pleasure of dining at the restaurant, if the sandwich shop is any indication of what to expect, I’m eager to book into JoeDoe.  If you’re a local looking for lunch or a tourist looking for some amazing NYC food, stop in at JoeDough.

At JoeDough, you can expect to find sandwiches that pay homage to classics you may remember from your youth, but update and tweak the ingredients to make them more interesting for a more sophisticated adult palate.  Here are a few of my personal favorites…

JoseDoe Cubano

Joe’s Cuban is toasted to a lovely flat, firm crispness.  American-made prosciutto adds a welcome smokiness.  Whole grain mustard adds extra depth of flavor.  I’m a huge fan of Cuban sandwiches, and this one is an instant favorite.

The Almighty Brisket

As cliché as it may sound, the brisket literally melts in your mouth.  Spicy mayo adds just enough kick to let you know it’s there but doesn’t overpower the other flavors.  This is easily the best beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Brunch Special (pictured)

Early one Saturday, I stopped in and had the finest egg sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  This special was two duck eggs, shoulder bacon and queso blanco with sambal (a chile sauce popular in southeast Asia) on a brioche bun.  This was a fresh and flavorful twist on the classic bacon, egg and cheese roll.  The unique and unusual flavors of these variant ingredients make for an experience that is new and interesting, yet familiar at the same time.

Celery Soda

Celery soda was an old favorite in Jewish delis from around the turn of the 2oth century.  At some point between then and now, it lost it’s mass appeal.  I don’t know why that happened, but I don’t think it would have if Jill was in charge of making it.  JoeDough’s celery soda is light and refreshing.  It’s a perfect drink to refresh and cleanse the palate when enjoying one of the delicious sandwiches on offer.

Don’t Believe The Hype

JoeDough has received a few bad reviews on Yelp.  Those that complain about the food either don’t get it, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps just had some bad luck and timing when someone made a mistake in the kitchen.  I remain skeptical though; the shop has been immaculate and the staff very attentive whenever I’ve been in.  I have been to JoeDough often and never failed to have an amazing sandwich.  The flavors are often unusual.  The Cuban, for example, is an interpretation on the general theme of a Cuban sandwich.  A traditionalist might take offense, but if you have an open mind, you’re in for some interesting flavors.

I’ve also seen complaints about the prices.  Yes, ten dollars is more than I’d typically expect to pay for a sandwich.  Of course, I also wouldn’t get the exotic ingredients in perfectly complimentary combinations executed with an expert hand.  If you want to pay five bucks for a sandwich, go to subway and choke down that bland roll prepared according to a pictograph from mass-produced ingredients by someone with limited employability.

Some reviews accuse the owners and staff of being rude, crude or unhelpful.  I simply cannot believe this.  I have never had the staff treat me with anything but courtesy and good cheer.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met Joe, but I have met Jill, and she’s as cheerful and service-oriented as can be, and from what I’ve seen, the staff follows her lead.  Keep up the good work!

You can find JoeDough at 135 First Avenue between St. Mark’s and 9th Street.  A catering menu is available if you want truly amazing sandwiches for the guests at your gathering.

 

Stroopwafels at Metropolitan Deli, Amsterdam

Metropolitan Deli

Metropolitan Deli in Warmoestraat

A stroopwafel is a made like a waffle, but is thin and sweet, almost like a cookie. It has two thin waffles surrounding a caramel filling. If you’re a visitor to the Netherlands, you’ll find packaged Stroopwafels everywhere. Like any processed food, they’ll quell a snacking urge but probably leave you unsatisfied. If you want to experience just how amazing this simple confection can be, you’ll need to find a fresh one.

If you’re wandering Amsterdam’s Old Centre on a layover, you’ll likely find yourself in Warmoesstraat. The stroopwafels here, compared to the packaged variety, are like night and day. Hot and fresh from the iron, they’re flexible, gaining a bit of crispiness as they cool. The rich caramel filling is expertly executed. On a cool, damp Northern European morning, a fresh stroopwafel and an espresso make a welcome warming breakfast.

Aside from the stroopwafels, Metropolitan carries a variety of dutch sweets and unusual ice cream flavors.  There isn’t much in the way of seating, but for a walking snack, that won’t matter much.

You can find Metropolitan Deli in number 135 Warmoestraat, between Sint Annenstraat and Zwartlakensteeg.

Metropolitan Deli
Warmoesstraat 135
1012JB Amsterdam
www.metropolitandeli.nl

Google Maps walking directions (opens in new window)

 

Vleminckx Sausmeesters, Amsterdam, NL

Vleminckx frites

Frites with Belgian Mayo and Pickels

Prior to my last trip through Amsterdam, I was tipped off to Vleminckx Sausmeesters, a shop whose product was described to me as the best fries in Amsterdam and perhaps the world.  With such extreme claims, I needed to investigate.

Finding Vleminckx can be difficult if you’re not familiar with Amsterdam.  As a public service, I’ve included a link to a Google map at the end of this article.  Walking here from Centraal Station takes fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how often you stop along the way.

Once the shop was in sight, it was clear that their frites are popular.  There was a six person deep line on a rainy Saturday.  The fries are indeed very good.  They are crisp on the outside with a creamy interior.  As good as they are, I’ve had fries before that were at least as good.  I think what makes these frites so popular is the sauces.  This stands to reason since the name of the shop is Dutch for “Flemish Sauce Masters.”

The sauces I ordered were Belgian mayo and Pickels.  The mayo was fresh and very tangy.  The pickels, also very fresh, included tiny onions and diced cucumbers pickled in a fashion similar to a British piccalilli, giving the vegetables a sharp, mustardy tang while retaining their crunch.

A Google search for “Vleminckx” will turn up several reviews praising these frites.  As such, you can expect to encounter a tourist crowd.  Even still, I recommend risking interactions with the khaki shorts and camera strap set to enjoy these excellent sauces atop a cone of very good Frites.  Bring some Euro; Vleminckx accepts cash only.

Voetboogstraat 33
1012 XK Amsterdam, Netherlands
Google Map

Char No. 4, Brooklyn, NY

The baconiest bacon ever.

While doing some business in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, I quite accidentally stumbled across this restaurant that specializes in some of my favorite things.  Char No. 4 sits behind an unassuming storefront on Smith Street.  Once inside, the wood and leather interior foreshadows the experience to come.  The restaurant’s website describes Char No. 4 as “a whiskey bar and restaurant inspired by a passion for bourbon.”  While I enjoyed my meal, I counted no fewer than 157 different varieties of whiskey, with a clear emphasis on bourbon and other American forms, on display behind the bar.  In addition to theses whiskies, the staff also infuse bourbons with various flavors, including habanero peppers.  When I spoke with the bartender, who was very enthusiastic about his craft, he mentioned the barrel-aged cocktails they have on offer including Manhattans and mint juleps.

As my visit was an early one on a weekend, the brunch menu was being served.  I selected a chipotle bloody Mary and biscuits benedict.  Oddly enough, I had managed to make it this far in life without ever having a bloody mary, so while I don’t have anything to compare it to, I can say that the flavors were clean and distinct.  The smoky spiciness of the chipotle effectively disguised any alcohol flavors, and the drink was pleasant and refreshing.  The fresh, crunchy, house-made pickle was a nice touch.  I think the folks at Char may have ruined me for all other bloody Marys.  The benedict was a moist, buttery biscuit topped with ham smoked in-house, perfectly poached eggs, and a flavorful bacon gravy.  Everything tasted wonderful, although I left half of the biscuit behind.  While it was very tasty, it was also very dense.  I was offered some of their house-made hot sauce, which I immediately accepted.  The sauce is full of fruity pepper flavors with a heat that lingers in the back of the throat but doesn’t overload the taste buds.

Since I gave up part of my biscuit, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try the house-cured thick-cut bacon.  Two roughly quarter-inch thick strips are served with a side of maple syrup.  Those who know me know I love bacon.  This was the most bacon-y tasting bacon I have ever had.  I cannot recommend it enough.  It is smoky, salty, sweet and sinfully fatty.

Finally, I sampled the cheese curds.  Having spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, I have come to appreciate the beauty of a good cheese curd, and these would stand up to the curds I’ve had in the badger state.  They’re not quite, but almost squeaky on the teeth.  At this point, I wished I could keep going and sample more of the gorgeous products the kitchen at Char No. 4 produces, but I could hear a little cardiologist in the back of my head clicking her tongue at me.  I’ll definitely have to come back another day.

Char No. 4 can be found at:

196 Smith Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201

…which is just a block away from the Bergen Street subway station (F and G trains).

http://charno4.com/

Zum Schneider – Bavaria on the Lower East Side

Photo courtesy of richardgreene.com

Zum Schneider has been a favorite of mine for quite a while.  It was only after I’d been to Bavaria that I realized just what a treasure this little corner of the Lower East Side really is.  If you’re looking for a little piece of Bavaria in New York City, you’ll find it here.

There are very few places in New York where you can get a Maß, which is a liter of good Bavarian beer and  pronounced “mass.”  It’s one of only a handful of places in the five boroughs of New York City where you’ll find proper weißwurst, served in the correct Bavarian style – heated in water and served with spicy & sweet mustard and a soft pretzel.  On busy nights, the dining room has the atmosphere of an Oktoberfest beer tent.  I’ve been to a few other German restaurants in NYC and none of them can hold a candle to Zum Schneider.  I’ve tried most of the menu, and I have yet to have a meal that is anything short of amazing.

One of my favorite dishes, and a frequent special, is the Schweinshaxe or “pork knuckle.”  The outside is crispy, and the meat inside is tender, juicy, and falls apart for your fork.  For a lover of pork, the Schweinshaxe is a must.  The sausage platter is another excellent choice.  Grilled sausages are served over sauerkraut with a side of mashed potatoes garnished with radish slices and grape tomatoes and two kinds of mustard – one is coarse & mild, the other fine & sharp.

The service is quick & friendly and the staff puts up with my terrible German pronunciation and generally makes an extra effort to make you feel welcome. With the communal table style, you can make new friends with every meal.

The apple strudel is excellent, but at least as of my last visit, they don’t serve coffee.  Maybe it’s just that I’m not German, but I’m not a fan of having my sweets with beer.  This is truly the only negative comment I can come up with about this wonderful restaurant.  If you like beer, German food, or are a fan of swine flesh, go to Zum Schneider.  You’ll be glad you did.

Zum Schneider is located at:

107 Ave C (corner of East 7th Street)
New York, NY 10009
http://www.zumschneider.com/