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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

Finns’ Huckleberries

July is National Blueberry Month in Finland!

Visiting Helsinki in July 2015, my MEGusta encountered a plethora of street vendors and beautiful, beautiful blueberries.Blueberries Helsinki July 2015

One fascinating thing about this city was that only fresh, seasonal produce was sold on the streets. Berry and pea stands popped up on every corner, not to mention dominating the market squares. Of course, the supermarkets carried just about everything, but the streets were dressed in a celebration of seasonal abundance.

Not tempted to indulge in market pastries and other such breakfast goodies due to the “free” (and good) buffet at the hotel, myMEGusta strolled there every morning anyhow to snag fresh berries, which she would wash and tote to the dining room to enhance whatever else she was eating.

Blueberries and Strawberries

Blueberries and Strawberries

Berries were labeled by origin, and Finland (Suomi) appeared to dominate the blueberry suppliers, although there was signage for Spain as well (although probably referring to strawberries).

Blueberries and huckleberries are scientifically distinct species, however the term is often used interchangeably, particularly when the menu writer wants to make a dessert sound sexier than a variation on breakfast fruit.

Native to North America, blueberries are now cultivated world over, including in Europe, where they are more popular than similar, but unrelated, natives. Why? Who knows, but it may have to do with the ease of cultivation of the American fruit.

Cultivated and Wild Blueberries

Cultivated and Wild Blueberries

The Finnish consumer could choose between the familiar, slightly larger, sweeter cultivated blueberry and the tarter little wild berries, something we only encounter if we live near a patch. The latter make the best pies, jams and such, more flavorful than the commercial berries with the extra acidity offset with sugar.

So Easy Blueberry Pecan Crunch

So Easy Blueberry Pecan Crunch

Check this link for an excellent recipe, Jean Anderson’s So Easy Blueberry Pecan Crunch from her latest book, “Crisps, Cobblers, Custards & Creams” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). You will enjoy reading the article, too!

http://www.newsobserver.com/living/food-drink/article84998952.html#emlnl=morning_newsletter

A taste of blueberries came recently at Wallse, an Austrian restaurant in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village: A blueberry compote hidden under clouds of meringue in their outstanding Salzburger Nockerl, whose name derives from the Italian “gnocchi”, for the dumpling-like beaten egg whites. (Long time readers of myMEGusta.com may recall the story of another meringue dessert, Floating Island : https://mymegusta.com/2014/02/19/least-favorite-food-most-favorite-dessert/ )

Salzburger Nockerl

Salzburger Nockerl

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Restaurants for Literally Great Food

One of myMEGusta’s favorite things is to find historically significant restaurants which have kept their character and not turned into tourist traps. It is especially fun when they not only played a role in real life, but when they have turned up in historical fiction, whether written, televised or in films.

restaurants casino royaleDuring a recent drive in seaside Estoril, Portugal, we went by the Casino at a distance. “So what”, said myMEGusta to herself, then the guide explained that this little seaside city played a big role in World War II, when Portugal was neutral, and this was a hotbed for spies and other action. Ian Fleming was among the players, and this Casino was the model for Casino Royale, the first of the James Bond novels. We will speculate that the food there was (and is) expensive and fancy, but not designed to distract the guests from the business at hand (losing their money).

After numerous visits over many years, Rules (allegedly the oldest restaurant in London, established in 1798, and close to Covent Garden, home of the Royal Opera) is still a myMEGusta favorite. It’s the place for traditional British food, perfectly prepared to old standards, set in surroundings that never change, and just as elegant as when Downton Abbey characters went there on several occasions in the 1920s.

Suckling Pig at Rules

Suckling Pig at Rules

On a recent visit, myMEGusta enjoyed a perfect portion of suckling pig, the skin crackling (and not at all chewy) atop fork tender meat, served with applesauce and a little salad on the side. She watched people at the next table tucking into what appeared to be steak and kidney pie, not exactly what it looks like in your average pub.

Speaking again of suckling pig, when reading “The Heart has Its Reasons” by Maria Duenas, myMEGusta found herself at Madrid’s Casa Botin, supposedly the world’s oldest restaurant (established in 1725) where the specialty is little piggy as well as roasted baby lamb. This venerable institution also appears in “The Sun Also Rises” and other literary works too numerous to mention.

Botin

Botin

During a visit in the 1990s, myMEGusta was able to wheedle a look into the room where Casa Botin’s roasts sit after coming out of the giant wood burning oven, awaiting delivery to the hungry patrons. Her 2013 piggy portion was just as good as remembered. The gazpacho, a perfect appetizer on a hot summer’s day, was excellent, too.

Gazpacho at Botin

Gazpacho at Botin

Suckling Pig at Botin

Suckling Pig at Botin

 

 

Happy National Doughnut Day, June 3!

Or, let’s call it National Doughnut Festivus, and celebrate all weekend long!

Happy Doughnut Day!

Happy Doughnut Day!

It’s like a Hallmark holiday, created by the Salvation Army giving out doughnuts to soldiers to World War I soldiers, but perpetuated by people who want to sell us something. But, who cares when it’s about doughnuts!

As a public service, myMEGusta is happy to share a link to the Huffington Post’s excellent summary of special doughnut deals all over the country: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gobankingrates/national-donut-day-deals_b_10223296.html

The concept of fried dough dates from time immemorial, and goes across myriad cultures (think of Native American fried dough in the Southwestern US, or of Chinese fried wontons).

According to Wikipedia, although they won’t vouch for accuracy, the first written appearance of what we consider the modern doughnut (“dow nut”) appeared in 1800, the “Hertfordshire nut.” This also stands for the Hertfordshire National Union of Teachers, so the whole story may be spurious, a practical joke that someone started on the internet.

Doughnuts!

Doughnuts!

Whatever their history truly is, doughnuts are delightful and their variety is endless.

Raised versus cake? Round or holes or twisted crullers? Are the crullers made of cakelike batter or of éclair pastry? Filled? Glazed or cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar or icing? Chocolate? Cronuts? Beignets in New Orleans? Round or holes or twisted crullers? Are the crullers made of cakelike batter or of éclair pastry? Cronuts? Mini-donuts at state fairs?

Beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans

Beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans

Where myMEGusta lives, in New England, there seem to be doughnut stores on every other corner, whether Dunkin’ Donuts or Donut Delight or whatever. (The alternate corners house pizza shops.)

A favorite taste memory is the steaming hot doughnuts fresh from the fryer at in seaside Maine, many years ago. Au natural, they didn’t need any sugar or other embellishments.

Doughnuts!!!

Doughnuts!!!

Being something of a doughnut purist, myMEGusta draws the line at sandwiches made by putting fried chicken or bacon inside a sliced sweet doughnut, although this sweet/salty confection might be just as delicious as chocolate covered bacon, which sounds dreadful but is actually wonderful.

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