Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen – Eugene, OR

We were in town for a big roller derby tournament and I had done some food research – I usually do. I found a place that had some highly ranked BBQ. Papa’s was always at the top of the lists I was finding.

There’s always a big line (yeah, it’s one of those places), so we ordered at the counter to eat it back at the venue. I ordered a two bone lunch snack with collard greens and mac and cheese for sides, and then also ordered a cornbread.

While we were waiting, we saw a menu with fun drinks on them, so we decided to get a couple for ourselves. The Kool-Aid Fizzie was exactly what we needed to pass the time waiting for our food. It’s vodka, muddled lemon, sprite and either red or purple Kool-Aid. These things were fantastic.

Also, since these folks know their way around Kool-Aid, the bartender had made some Kool-Aid pickles. Basically take out half the brine from a giant jar of pickles, then replace with Kool-Aid and let sit for a few days. These cheery Kool-Aid pickles were amazingly sweet, but still had a great crunch. I’ll be doing this at home, just you wait.

We took the food back to he venue and everyone dug in. I was lucky I remembered to take a photo since everyone wolfed down their food in silence. I am positive everyone was thrilled with everything they had. The ribs were really tender, without being completely fall-apart-style. The collard greens were fantastic (actually some of the best I can remember), and the mac and cheese was really good (rue based, not just Velveeta).

The cornbread was also fantastic, and they were sure to give me enough butter to make sure there was a massive coating on the cornbread before eating it. I’d recommend this place pretty highly if you’re in the Eugene area. Just be prepared to wait (but get some Kool-Aid Fizzies while you’re waiting. You’ll be glad you did.

No top 5 for this place, since I cranked through the review pretty quickly.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mi Casa Tapas Bar – Frankfurt, Germany

I always do my food research before going to a new city (or even a city I’ve already been to). I wanted something special for my last night in Germany and I stumbled across this small Tapas place that was well-reviewed and sort of an out-of-the-way gem. I knew this place was a haul, so I hopped in a cab from the hotel and drove for like a half hour – yeah, it was out-of-the-way.

I asked for a table for one, which is always funny. They always ask if I’m meeting someone and I assure them I’m solo. I got a nice table by the window. I looked at the wine list since I was in the mood to do some damage. I ordered a bottle of nice Tempranillo – Preferido Tino 2014. My server asked if I was meeting someone. I said no. She asked if I wanted the whole bottle. I said I did. She paused. Then she went back behind the bar to find me a bottle of wine. Another server brought out my wine and my original server stopped him before he got to my table with two wine glasses. I couldn’t make everything she said to him, but he was just as confused why one person would order a bottle of wine for themselves. Eventually it made its way to my table and was delicious.

I ordered some Brot und Aioli (bread and aioli) and a plate of Serrano-Schinken with Melone (Serrano ham with honeydew) for an appetizer. It came out pretty quickly while I decided what I was going to eat. The bread was the rustic kind that was super dense with a thick crust. Perfect for this aioli I was given.  But, the ham and melon was amazing. I love meats wrapped around melon (insert joke here), but this was exactly what I needed to celebrate a successful trip to Germany (along with a bottle of wine for myself). Very bright melon flavor with a dark rich ham slice always cheers me up.

I flipped through the menu, but I saw what I wanted written in pen on the mirror on the wall in front of me. The Tapas plate for one person – the Diverse Küche.  

It had Oliven (olives), Teigröllchen mit Schafskäse (filled pastry rolls with sheep’s cheese and herbs), Hähnchen grill spieß (grilled chicken on skewers), Calamari Ringe (battered squid rings), Datteln im Speckmantel (bacon-wrapped dates), Runzelkartoffeln (roasted salty potatoes), and Hackfleischbällchen (a meatball in a tomato broth).

Everything was fantastic, but of special note was the meatball and the pastry rolls with cheese.  Btu honestly, I’d order this exact same thing again next time. It was so good and filling. I ate everything.

And I drank everything.

I chatted up a family that was having dinner because I was drunkenly drooling over the paella that had been brought to their table. The mother asked me a question in German and recognized my butchering of the language as American, so she politely spoke with me for a few minutes. About how good the food was at this restaurant. I needed to head back, but I really wasn’t feeling a cab ride filled with motion-sickness-inducing weaving and starting/stopping activity. (Did I mention I had an entire bottle of wine?) So I walked. I knew roughly where I was going and my phone GPS was actually working quite well in Frankfurt, so I hoofed it.

Hoofed it much further than I anticipated, but I needed to walk off some food and wine. So it happened to be like 2.5 miles and an hour and a half stroll in the dark. Probably one of the best walk-abouts I've had in a long time. Worth it and well-needed.

A night or two ago, I walked by a REALLY fancy restaurant on the south bank of the river – the old town of Sachsenhausen. It stuck out to me because it was a REALLY upscale restaurant, but had a cartooney chicken logo on the sign. It’s called Coq Au Vin. I’m not usually a dessert person, but I was going to rock this entire night in all things culinary. I had already knocked out a brilliant dinner and now it was time to blow up the dessert course after walking 1.5 hours to get there.

All the tables in the place looked full, so I grabbed a seat at the bar. Based on the number of people at the bar (zero) and the look on the server’s face (confusion), people don’t sit at the bar at this restaurant. I saw a chair at the bar, so I’m sitting at the bar. When the server recovered he was actually quite polite and talkative. Maybe he’s been dying for someone to sit at the bar and chat with him since he started – I’ll just go with that. It was dessert, so I ordered a dessert wine – a sweet Gewurtraminer from Spitz & Fils. I love me some Gewurztraminer and this one hit the spot. I asked for the dessert menu and found what I was looking for. It was basically a ridiculous dessert sampler with everything imaginable on it. I’m sure it was for a table of 8, but I didn’t care. I ordered it. The server asked if anyone was joining me (I get that a lot, to be honest), and I assured him I was celebrating – so he filled me wine glass back up to the top – I like this guy.

It has a small crème brulee, mousse au chocolat, profiterole, sorbet, and Tagedessert (dessert of the day).  The mousse was actually chocolate and vanilla mouse, which was wonderful. There were three different sorbets (lemon kiwi, and raspberry). The profiterole was dipped in chocolate and covered in almonds – delicious. The crème brulee was wonderful, like they always are when YOU get to break your own shell. But the sleeper dessert was the dessert of the day – strawberries in a rhubarb sauce. Trying to determine the translation of rhubarb from Germany to English was a bit of an adventure, but we figured it out and this thing was magic. 

I absolutely killed this entire plate (and multiple glasses of wine). 

The server was extremely gracious and thanked me for coming in. I really feel like the weirdness caused by me sitting at the bar sort of broke down a barrier. We’re both in a better place now (that may have been the gallon of wine I drank that night). All in all, I feel I did justice to what I refer to as the celebratory dinner experience. Nailed it.

(Yes, I know I combined Spanish dinner with French desserts, but frankly, I eat what I want.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Germany – Day 6 – Frankfurt

I managed to get all of my timing correct this trip. It was indeed raining, as the weather forecast had indicated, so I was glad I did all my outside sightseeing yesterday, when it was sunny. It was raining, so my plan to hit a bunch of museums was a complete success.

Museum 1: Städel Art Museum
This museum is one of the more classic art museums in the region. It’s got 700 years of art including 3,000 paintings, 600 sculptures, 4,000 photographs, and more than 100,000 drawings and prints. It’s massive. It’s got all of the old “masters” (Dürer, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, and a bunch of others you’d recognize. I learned a few years ago how to blow through any museum in about two hours. Only stop at things there are crowds at (because it’s probably something important) and stop at things that catch your eye for personal reasons. This really helped in this museum as I walked quickly through each and every room not stopping at every piece. THAT’s how you do it. There are too many pieces to note in detail, but here are a few. 

There was a piece by Paul Meyeheim called Die eifersuchtige Lowin (The Jealous Lioness) that I wished I had gotten a photo of - it's a woman petting a male lion while a lioness is reaching through the bars of her cage to stop the woman - very moving and would brilliant on my wall.

There’s a Marc Chagall painting called “The Pinch of Snuff” from 1912. Chagall always amuses me because there’s always something weird happening in his paintings. Sometimes, people are having sex with donkeys in the background and other times, there’s a Jewish guy smoking a J.

I also saw this crazy robot painting by Bettina von Arnim called “Hosenträger – Braces” that was both creepy and beautiful at the same time. Loved it.

No time to lose, so I left, walked down the same street for about three blocks and went to the Museum of Applied Art. Wasn’t really sure what I was going to see here, but it came highly recommended.

Museum 2: Museum für Angewandte Kunst
First, I was very amused that this building had inflatable monkeys all over/around it. Like GIANT ones.

I didn’t realize it was part of the exhibit The Happy Show by Stefan Sagmeister. There was music playing in the entry of the museum that was also part of the exhibit. Sagmeister set out on a person and physical journey to determine what made him and other people happy. He did meditation, relaxation, cognitive behavioral therapy, mood elevators, and he combined all of these various things into an exhibit that makes people happy. I’m not joking here. The entire exhibit uses highly emotional information graphics, handwritten notes on the walls/floors/electrical sockets, headlines, prints, instructive and interactive videos, films, installations, and modern art that absolutely made people smile. People walking around had huge smiles on their faces, including myself. I can’t recommend this travelling show enough and if it comes back to the US, I’m going to travel to see it. It’s THAT impactful. I can’t even explain what is going on with most of it. Sometimes you walk in a dark room and put on headphones and watch slow motion videos with fun music and other times, you’re interacting with the technology like riding a bike to light happy neon signs or sitting in bean bag chairs. Sometimes, like in this photo, you’re watching sound waves create ripples in water. 

And sometimes, you walk by an elevator that he painted in such a way that when the doors close, the people are having sex. Hilarious.

It was magical and I am so glad I went to it.

After the Happy exhibit, I walked around the regular collection and looked at all the unusual pieces they have that are sort of about everyday life. There was a sink/stove piece that I’d love to have in my own home. Weird, but functional and definitely a conversation piece.

And there’s another entire section of the museum devoted to typography. I know a bunch of designers and font-nazis (no pun intended, since we’re in Germany) that would have seriously geeked out over this place.

Museum 3: Caricatura – Museum für Komische Kunst (Museum of cartoons and illustration)

This museum was quite unusual in that it was walls completely covered with one-panel cartoons with hilarious sayings. Most of them were translated into English, so most of it made sense to me, but it was a weird place. It wasn’t really a comic museum or graphic novel kind of art – just single-panel chuckle-worthy pieces that I’m sure were truly impactful when first invented and probably less impactful now. People who love the single-panel comics in the Atlantic magazine would probably really love this museum. I blew through it pretty quickly.

Right across the street was St. Bartholomew’s, which I climbed to the top of the previous day. I thought I’d go inside and have a look around. It’s stunning inside with the old timey architecture, since it was started in the 7th century. Awesome building.

Museum 4: Museum für Moderne Kunst (Modern Art Museum)
This museum has some pretty crazy things in it. Too many to discuss everything, but it’s got all kinds of fun art by people you’d recognize like Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others. Even the building design itself is really modern and curvy and weird.

My favorite installation was a room full of pendulums swinging and on pneumatic piston timers. Sometimes they’re totally in sync, and other times, they’re popping off at random and the result is hypnotic. I loved it. It’s by William Forsythe and called “Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 3”.

I needed a snack after seeing four museums, so I stopped at a street vendor and grabbed some frites and ate them in the rain.

Then I walked back to my hotel and passed the European Central Bank’s Eurotower – which is a pretty high security building with armed guards walking around it all the time. Cool building.

I knew this was my last day in Germany, so I made some plans for a special dinner for myself. I plotted out maps in my hotel room and tried to figure out how and where I was going. It all came together rather smoothly, but that’s another blog post, my friends.