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The Hungry Nomad: 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012

September 30, 2012

Restaurant Freud (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A little confession: I've never really warmed much to the capital of my home country. It seems almost blasphemous to mention it around my Dutch friends, but here it is. Oof, and boy, does it feel good to get it out in the open. Amsterdam always just seemed too pretentious to me. I simply felt it lacked the energy of truly big cities in Europe and also lacked the charm of many smaller towns in our country. Go, go visit Delft, Maastricht, Utrecht, Groningen! 

If my week in one of the nicest neighborhoods of the city wouldn't change my feelings, I decided that was that. It simply would never work between me and this city. But, and I'm sure you see where this is going, one week is all it took to win me over. If I were feeling a bit petty, I'd use the 'but I just spent months on a different continent & I was feeling nostalgic' excuse, but that would not be fair to this lovely diverse town.



So still in Amsterdam, we headed out west. We took advantage of the lovely weather (always playing such a big role in such a little rainy country) and got seated outside at Restaurant Freud

Freud's goal is not only to serve tasty local, seasonal (and mainly organic) food, but mostly to motivate their employees and help them out of their isolation. Everybody, from those doing groceries and the cooks to the waiters, has a psychiatric background and at Freud they all do their best to give us eaters a great evening. 

"Restaurant Freud is different from ordinary"
A great initiative that has been around since 2007, but what about the food I hear you say? You have a choice between their three-course menu or pick and choose your dish from their regular menu. I picked the charcuterie, duck breast and we all shared their chocolate cake for dessert. The food was good, the accompanying wine very decent and the chocolate cake heavenly. So heavenly, we gobbled it down before I could even get my camera out. Oops!  




If you're around this part of town, looking for honest food and a slightly different evening out than usual, do visit Freud. And in case you're hungry earlier on the day, across the street Freud also runs a breakfast/lunch room. 

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September 29, 2012

Recipe: Chicken with Oyster Mushrooms and Saffron Curry

One of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver and possibly the world is Vij's. Ask any Vancouverite and they will recommend it as one of the top places to dine. Who can resist the amazing Indian food and spices in one of the most innovative Indian restaurants? Even Anthony Bourdain had to get friendly with Vikram Vij on his No Reservations trip to Vancouver. Knowing that I am a big fan, a close friend purchased Vij's cookbook: VIj's At Home: Relax, Honey. The book is a lovely presentation of what Vij's family make at home including really informative facts on meats, poultry and spices. 

I am never one to stick to a recipe so every recipe that I have made from the book has been twisted around to represent my version. Here is Vij's recipe with the Hungry Nomad's Twist. Note that the recipe is located on page 170 of the cookbook.

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 1/2 lbs red onions (I use regular white onions)
6-7 chopped garlic (18 to 21 medium cloves)
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon turmeric
1/2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoon paprika (optional)
3 1/2 lbs skinless chicken things, bones in
4 cups water
4 cups whipping cream
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced (I used oyster mushrooms unsliced)
1 Tablespoon dried green fenugreek leaves
1/4 teaspoon saffron (about 20 threads) in 1/4 cup hot water


My addition:
Okras

Served with: 
White basmati rice


Instructions: 
Heat oil in a medium pot on medium-high for 1 minute. Add onions and saute for several minutes until onions turn a golden color. Reduce the heat to medium, add garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until slightly colored. Stir in salt, turmeric, cayenne and paprika and saute for 1 more minute. Add chicken and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of water  and cream, increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. In a separate medium sized pan, heat oil for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add Okras. Remember to leave the head of the okra in tact. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and okra to the chicken. Just before serving, bring the curry to a light boil. Stir in fenugreek plus saffron and its soaking water. Serve with a side of rice.  


































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September 28, 2012

Alla Spina- Fairmount (Philadelphia, USA)


It is always a good thing to read reviews before planning to go to a restaurant. I didn't read the reviews of Alla Spina and assumed being a Vetri restaurant that the food would be remarkable. So last Saturday night a group of four of us headed to Alla Spina, mostly so I could check it off of my list of places to eat in Philadelphia. We did not have reservations but were told that room was available at the bar facing the open kitchen. Amazing. This is a foodie's dream: to actually watch step by step how the food you ordered is being prepared. 


We were quickly seated and greeted by our not so friendly server. Oh well, too hungry to care at this point we quickly reviewed the menu and made our orders. The menu offers a little bit of everything including a few comfort foods such as fried chicken which looked extremely tempting. 


My friend ordered the deviled egg served with porcini on top. It came in a small plate of three. The table liked it and though the porcini added an extra touch. Perhaps the best food on the menu that we tried were the $5 pretzel balls served with a cheese dip. In fact, that was the best and only good dish of the night. 



Next was the Kale salad. Kale salad is meant to be a healthy substitute but as I watched the line prep cook pour in the olive oil and take samples with his hand to his mouth and back to the large bowl it became less and less appealing.  The result was an olive oil salad with kale, provolone cheese and red peppercorns. The kale was drowned in too much oil which really took away from the rich and crispy flavor of the kale. 


Our entrees came out next. Two orders of the beef tenderloins, veal carpaccio and burger. 

I'll start with the burger. How can you go wrong with a burger right? However, this burger was bland. It was lacking in salt, was undercooked and just generally flavorless. The chips were the best part. Having no salt and pepper at the bar the Count added the salt and vinegar chips to his burger in order to make it edible. 




The beef tenderloin came out practically raw. In fact when taking our order the server never asked how we would like it done. I didn't tell him assuming there was a certain way these were cooked. Some parts of the meat were actually red raw (see photo below). One bite and we both had to send it back to be cooked properly. As the others ate we waited for our meat to come back. 

It came back cooked. The meat was tender and melted on first bite. However, what I found was that it was lacking a side dish to combine the meat with. The few arugula leaves were not nearly enough to balance the meat. I would have liked to see a side of potatoes or something else with this dish. At this point, I just went back to eating the pretzel balls and left the meat to the rest of our table. 


I don't eat veal. It is one of the few things that I refuse to eat after I watched a video on how the young calves are kept and slaughtered. So I can't really give an opinion on this dish but based on my friends review it was also drowned in olive oil and tasted quite different from your regular beef carpaccio. 


Dessert? Based on what we had for our appetizers and entrees we decided to skip dessert and head on out. It is a shame that such a great restaurant would serve such mediocre food? The restaurant is in a really great space next to Osteria and it has so much potential but based on reviews I've read it seems little has changed since it first opened.

Alla Spina on Urbanspoon

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September 27, 2012

DiNic's Roast Pork and Beef- Chinatown (Philadelphia, USA)

"You have to go to Terminal Reading Market" said every other Philadelphean when we asked for recommendations of must-do's in Philadelphia. So one hot summer day I headed to the Market to see what the fuss was all about. Before I begin I have to say that like all things involving food, I am quite spoiled when it comes to markets, having one of the most beautiful in my hometown of Vancouver: Granville Island

I expected to find a similar market with lots of fresh fruit, vegetable and meat stands. Although those stands are present I would say the market is mostly filled with food stands. Not so bad for a foodie like me. So I wandered around deciding what I should eat and write about. There were many choices but Tommy Dinic's Sandwich stand seemed to stand out. There was a simple menu and crowds were surrounding it like bees to a flower. I wasn't aware that it was also featured on Man v. Food on the food network until just now as I prepared to write this review. I guess that explains the line-up. 



So I waited in line deciding which of the two offered meats to have: pork or beef. I went with the beef brisket topped with provolone cheese and collard greens. The sandwich came in a large hoagie bun and generous amounts of hand carved beef brisket. 



I added banana pepper for that extra spicy and tangy flavor. The result: a great, juicy, flavorful sandwich. The meat was carved perfectly, ever so juicy filled with flavor. I don't know if I would vote it as the best sandwich in America but I would definitely rate it as one of the best sandwiches I have had. It has its own unique character and flavors. The toppings were not typical to sandwiches I am used to having, but it only added to the uniqueness. The combination of flavors, however, worked perfectly!



DiNic's Roast Pork and Beef on Urbanspoon

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September 26, 2012

La Trattoria Di Donna Sofia & IJsfabriek Monte Pelmo (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

I'm pretty sure the weather in the Netherlands was so delightfully good just for our visit back home, or at least that's what I'd like to tell myself after months of rainy season in the Congo... I felt so lucky to have caught just that last bit of summer, and very lucky to have been staying at our friends who live in one of the Negen Straatjes, or Nine Streets, an adorable neighborhood in the centre of Amsterdam, dotted with lovely coffee places, restaurants and little boutiques. 

moving house in the Negen Straatjes, Amsterdam-style
With this post we're moving on though, to an old neighborhood of Amsterdam: de Jordaan. Perhaps I was hit by a stroke of home sickness or by the sun, but I simply adored it here and immediately imagined myself living in one of these cute small houses... 







Can you already imagine yourself living here? And do you adore these windows as much as I do? But let's not get carried away. Let's talk about food. And then get carried away. 

Below the menu of La Trattoria Di Donna Sofia, located in the middle of this great neighborhood, and I can tell you all we ate tasted as good as it looks written down. The wine came from Sicily which we chose just for nostalgic reasons (and the waiter from Italy judging by his lively Italian accent). 








It's a small, cozy restaurant with a small menu. Moreover, Donna Sofia serves great authentic food. Eating together with my vegetarian hubby, we ordered a vegetarian antipasti and one with king prawns. The grilled and fried vegetables with ricotta and mozzarella cheese were perfectly prepared with all flavors deliciously coming to their full advantage. My favorite by far though was the antipasti with mozzarella, fresh basil, spinach, pesto and king prawns. All favorite and comfortable flavors, but still refreshing and new in this mix. So good! 




For my primi I chose mafaldine pasta out of the oven with egg plants, which was again a simple, honest dish and very well executed. We also had the spaghetti with tiny octopuses, which was perhaps a bit too simple to my taste (not photographed). After all this we were so stuffed we didn't get to try their secondi, although what I saw around me looked equally comforting and delicious as what we had just devoured. 




And who's that dining here as well??

Sadly, Donna Sofia was out of our dessert of choice and so we decided to get ice cream across the street. Our waiter even told us it was a better choice (!?). It definitely was in fact, people were even lining up to get their dairy fix (which I've hardly ever seen here in the Netherlands by the way, it seems lining up for good food is much more a Northern American thing). It turns out IJsfabriek Monte Pelmo is quite famous for its ice cream. Rightly so, I thoroughly enjoyed their rich chocolate & coffee flavors. All meal is well that ends well, I'd say!




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September 20, 2012

Recipe: Poulet Congolais from the Congo

local market

Finally I'm back home (& back online!) after months of living and working in Congo. So many stories to tell, so many experiences to share. For this blog the main question to answer is of course: what does a hungry nomad eat when this far away from home?

Well, she tries all that she can: from foufou (cassave paste resembling mashed potatoes, low on flavor, heavy on the stomach), pili pili peppers (hot!!) and fried fish from Lake Kivu, to loads of peanuts and cheese from Goma (small yellow cheese a bit like an aged Gouda... great for this cheese addict). But what I'd like to share with you today is a local recipe for a dish with ingredients you can source easily wherever you may be. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment!

Ingredients: 

1) A chicken
2) Tomatoes
3) Onions
4a.) Peanuts
4b.) ...  or peanut butter
Instructions:

1) peel and puree your tomatoes, add tomato paste and dice the onions

2) grind peanuts
3) in a big pot add (olive) oil and onions. When the onions are glazed, add tomatoes, paste, peanuts and chicken. Cook until chicken is tender. Add water if necessary.
4) Serve with spinach and rice. Yum!

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