Posts Tagged With: food

RO Raw: An Adventure in Raw Dining

Adorable Veggie friends brighten up the room

Adorable Veggie friends brighten up the room

The last time I ordered a salad in Slovakia, the roasted mushrooms and tomatoes I had expected arrived on a bed of cheese cubes rather than lettuce.

Even as a self-proclaimed dairy queen and carb-lover, spending a significant length of time on a Eastern European diet of heavy meat, potato and cheese dishes can really leave you craving something green. So, after hearing about RO Raw, a raw vegan restaurant in Krakow from a delightfully non-preachy enthusiast, I was intrigued. A  longing for fresh veggies combined with a curiosity of how anything but a glorified salad could be made with just raw, vegan-friendly food kept the place in the back of my mind until I finally made it to Poland over Easter break.

I must admit, I initially approached the idea with caution. I was really hungry and in the back of my mind wondered if I might need another meal later in the evening to sustain me. But as soon as we walked into the bright, whimsical restaurant in Wolnica Square and took our seats next to a stuffed carrot and broccoli stalk, I had a good feeling about the whole experiment. Once I saw the ingredient combinations on the very conveniently English-friendly menu, I knew we’d picked a winner.  After starting with shakes, one Green Insanity (apple, banana and spinach) and one Brazilian Delight (Brazilian nuts, pineapple nuts, cranberries, banana) we struggled to choose from a menu where everything sounded fresh and fantastic.

Our Green Insanity and Brazilian Delights Shakes match the decor.

Our Green Insanity and Brazilian Delights Shakes match the decor.

The first step was to eliminate the additional normal, but not raw, vegan section. If we were going to try it, we were going to go all of the way.  After that, it became more difficult, mostly because of the high number of unfamiliar items. Vegan sandwiches made on raw bread. How does that work? Raw soups? They can also be served at 41 °C, thank God. Pumpkin Tagliatelle or Carrot Spaghetti? The possibilities, which I thought would be so limited, were endless.

Luckily our waitress was one of the most patient, kind and genuine I have encountered in Eastern Europe, or quite possibly ever.  She answered our probably stupid questions about just about every item on the menu, the restaurant and the vegan scene in Krakow as a whole. Finally, she helped us decide on the Discover Raw which included samples of Raw Pumpkin Cream Soup, A Passion for Fresh Salad, Raw “Pierogis”, the Raw Sandwich, and Zucchini A La Lasagne to seal the deal. Continue reading

Categories: fitness, food, photography, tourism, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Welcome to Catlanta

As my brief hiatus from Eastern Europe draws to a close, I decided to make good on a long-time promise to pay a visit to my brother and friend in Atlanta.

I headed south thinking I knew two things about myself. One – I am not a cat person. Two – I was probably not going to love such a big, sprawling, southern city.  Atlanta proved me wrong on both counts.

Jon’s roommate’s spunky cat, Zenon, warmed me up to the idea of making feline friends with her spastic antics and cuddly disposition.  Then Piper, a cat who lives along Atlanta’s pedestrian path, the BeltLine, who has her own mailbox and more followers on twitter than I do, confirmed to me that cats are actually pretty cool.

As for the city itself, between tasting handmade truffles at a “Cacao Laboratoire” in Inman Park, belting out karaoke at a trucker bar outside the city limits, watching the sunset over the skyline and accidently seeing a dolphin musical at the aquarium, I would say I got a pretty well-rounded sampling of what Atlanta has to offer. And truthfully, I think it has a lot. I could ramble on and on about how enjoyable the experience was, and about how I started to picture myself going for morning jogs on the BeltLine and finding a refurbished cotton dock loft of my own, but I think these pictures are pretty neat, so I’ll let them do the talking.

Zenon: a lovable cat with an expressive face

Zenon: a lovable cat with an expressive face

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Zenon peeks down from the beams of the old cotton dock turned into a loft

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No loft is complete without sweet tunes and sweet moves

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You don’t have to ask me twice

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Truffle sampling session

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Homemade Halušky

Homemade Bryndzové Halušky – the best I’ve ever had.

As the weather grows cooler here in Eastern Europe, I expected my cravings for my  favorite comfort food, homemade macaroni and cheese, would be becoming unbearable and impossible to satisfy. But luckily, Slovakia has its own alternative to macaroni and cheese, with which I have a new love affair.

Halušky (ha-loosh-key) is Slovakia’s very own warm, rich, cheesy, carb-loaded dish, and it comes with a more historical, sophisticated sounding name too, if you ask me. It is made from a base of little potato dumplings, most easily compared to gnocchi, covered in creamy bryndza, or soft Slovakian sheep cheese. The dish is then topped with tiny pieces of bacon or smoked pork fat and voila, you have Bryndzové Halušky.

While the dish is available in all typical Slovak restaurants, and always done very well, this past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to observe traditional Saturday halušky preparations in a Slovak home.  Although I’m sure I will have much more difficulty and less astounding results when I try on my own, I will say the entire process appeared more simple than I suspected. This is definitely due to our chef’s practiced hands, but I think the recipe would be manageable for anyone with even minimal experience in the kitchen.

Below is a recipe I found to be closest to what I witnessed in the kitchen last Saturday.

Our host creates the dumplings using a special straining device.

Bryndzové Halušky

Ingredients

2-3 potatoes
1 egg
4-5 tbsp flour
3 tsp salt
3-4 slices of bacon
100 g sheep cheese

Preparation

– Peel the potatoes and shred them. Add egg, flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Prepare a dough which is not hard in texture. Add flour or water to achieve the right consistency.

– Boil water and add 2 teaspoons of salt.

– Cut the dough into small pieces and throw in boiling water – make sure the water is boiling.

– When the dumplings or halusky are ready they will float at the surface of the boiling water.
Pick up the halusky from the boiling water.

– Cut bacon into small pieces and fry.

– When the bacon is fried, top the dumplings with the fried bacon and cover with sheep cheese.

* Variations – Our host prepared a larger serving, which required more potatoes and then added enough flower to allow the spoon to stand up on its own in the batter.  She also used a special strainer-like device (pictured above) to create the dumplings and added some milk with the cheese.

Needless to say, the resulting meal was filling and phenomenal. And even after eating what will forever be on the Top Ten Most Satisfying Meals of My Life list, there was still a little room for some Babovka (Slovak pound cake).

We still managed to eat a couple of slices of delicious babovka.

Unfortunately, even restaurant halušky will probably never quite measure up to this meal again. Not that that will keep me from ordering it frequently.  But thanks to a generous gift of a halušky dumpling strainer of my very own, this does not have to be my last homemade experience.  Upon my return to the United States, or at least the next place I have a sufficient ktichen, I will be able to practice my own halušky-making skills. It may be a little more difficult than preparing a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, but even more satisfying too.

For more about our gastronomically fantastic weekend – check out Chris’ post Some Slovak Hospitality.

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Sandy’s Bakery Could Be a Roadside Surprise

Most days, if you wind your way down the very rural Humphrey Road in Great Valley, NY, you probably wouldn’t

Sandy’s could easily be missed if you don’t know what to look for

even notice Sandy’s Bakery.  The old milk house looks more like a shack along the side of a country road.  But drive by on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday morning and the largest concentration of parked cars for miles will grab your attention.

Between short hours (7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the select days) and a small space (seating for approximately 20), Sandy’s might be the only place in Western New York with a wait for a table at 10 a.m. on a weekday.  However, the delay is guaranteed to be worth the reward.

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