Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mangalica Pork Loin Chop - Fried

The mangalica, also known as mangalitsa or mangalitza, is a breed of pig developed in the 1830s in Austro-Hungary (present day Romania) by crossing two Hungarian pig breeds (the Bakonyi and Szalontai), a Serbian hog breed and the European wild boar. Unlike other pig breeds, it has a thick fur and fares well in cold temperatures. 
Swallow-bellied mangalica pigs. Photo from Wikipedia.
There are three varieties, a blonde (yellow to yellowish red hair), a red (reddish brown hair) and a swallow bellied (black hair), and they are born striped like wild boars. The mangalica grows very quickly and produces very well-marbled meat. In fact, it has been deemed the "kobe beef of pork." It has become less popular in recent years as preference by consumers has been for less-fatty pork and most of the fat has been bred out of commercially grown pigs.  
A striped young mangalica pig. Photo from Wikipedia.
I got a 10 ounce loin chop from Exotic Meat Market. It did look fattier than the pork regularly available in a supermarket. 
10 oz. pork loin
I cooked it without any special preparation in a ribbed cast iron pan with some vegetable oil. I really dislike over-cooked pork, so against all pork conventions, I cooked it medium-rare. It tasted like traditional pork and was great. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Royce Wood-Fired Steak House - Pasadena

The Royce Wood-Fired Steak House is located in the Langham Hotel Pasadena and features prime beef cooked on a wood-fired grill using white oak and seasonal wood. I have never been to a steak house with the same kind of variety of steaks. For example, I was interested in a ribeye. They had a 14 oz. ribeye from Moyer Farms in Pennsylvania; a 14 oz. ribeye from Brandt Beef in Brawley, California; a 14 oz. bone-in ribeye from Cedar River Farm in Arizona; a 16 oz. bone-in ribeye from California; and a 12 oz. Greg Norman Signature Australian wagyu ribeye. They had other kinds of steaks: New York strip, filet mignon, a 90 day dry aged sirloin (that I thought about), other Australian wagyu cuts and a Japanese wagyu tenderloin. All U.S. cuts of beef were prime, the highest rating for U.S. beef. 

Although they are beef centric, they have other items such as Colorado rack of lamb (which Judy got), a Wisconsin veal chop, a filet with seared goie gras, Hawaiian swordfish, wild king salmon, butter poached Maine lobster, and John Dory (a type of fish). 

My firm had a dinner with our wives there after a day long retreat. They have a big wine selection which attracted my partner, who selected the restaurant, but I'm not a wine drinker so that aspect of it has no meaning for me. 

I got the 16 oz. bone-in prime ribeye and found that it was nicely seasoned. I asked for it to be rare to medium rare and felt like it was a tad-bit overdone and there were portions of it that were quite gristly and hard to cut and chew. I'd had a 40 day dry aged ribeye just the day before and it was better than this steak, from the standpoint of flavor, tenderness and done-ness. That said, it was still a nice tasting piece of meat. They offer sauces to go with it and I specifically asked for chimichurri. I did not find out until some time after I got my steak that they put the whole panoply of sauces on the table, including bordelaise, bearnaise, horseradish cream, as well as chimichurri. I was disappointed that my waiter had not targeted my asked for sauce on my plate. I did try several of the sauces and they were excellent. 
I also ordered a bone marrow gratin which was listed as "Additions to your steak" and I figured it would be placed on top of the steak. Gratin is a light-brown crust of breadcrumbs which came on a one-half beef bone marrow on a plate. It came quite late and I found out that it was placed at the other end of the table by our waiter and found its way to me by reason of elimination as people passed on it as not belonging to them. Again, not great waiter service. When you are paying high-end prices for high-end steaks, you expect that the service will be reasonable. The bone-marrow itself was good, but the seasoning on it was lacking. I've had much better. These places don't place seasoning on the table so you live or die by how it was seasoned by the chef. I ended up scooping the marrow out with a fork, as they provided no spoon, and spread it on the top of my steak in a way that I'd anticipated it would come. I quite like it on the steak as it soaked up some of the seasoning on the outside of the steak. 
I ordered steak tartare with tabasco vinaigrette and potato chips as an appetizer and it was excellent. I've had steak tartare about five or six times and this was by far the best I've had. It had somewhat of a liverwurst taste that I really liked, and had little drops of spicy mustard on the plate that went really well with it. The tabasco sauce also went really well with it. A raw quail egg was nestled in the center of it and it provided a nice creaminess to it. I would go back for this. Very, very good. The home-made potato chips were the size of a full length potato and were nicely seasoned. I shared them with four other people and all commented on how good they were. 
The little dollops of yellow are mustard and I believe the green streaks are chimichurri. 
A quail egg is in the middle and the reddish/brown sauce is tabasco-based. 
We shared a potato puree with horseradish and cheese that was fantastic, very creamy and cheesy, with just a hint of heat. Another dish I would go back for. 

We also shared some charred brussel sprouts. There again, our waiter did not put our order in front of us and much of it was eaten by other diners at our table who also had ordered brussel sprouts (I think they must have been an order short). The waiters did not do a good job of getting the dishes to the right spot on the table. The brussels were good, but not outstanding. 

Finally, I got a sorbet with three scoops. One was tangerine, one was mango or guava, and the other was creamy white with a flavor I could not distinguish. I was not particularly fond of two of them and left most of it uneaten.

I would love to go back. No restaurant hits a home-run with every dish and this one had two - the steak tartare and the mashed potatoes. And Judy's lamb was actually very good as well, both taste and quantity-wise. I would like to try the dry-aged sirloin and the Australian wagyu ribee. Our group for this meal was ten people. The service would be better with a smaller group. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Sapodilla, also known as manilkara zapota, originated in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, but is now grown in large quantities in the Philippines, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. It has many other names, such as mispel in the Virgin Islands; zapote in Honduras; nispero in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, Columbia and Venezuela, among others; dilly in the Bahamas; naseberry in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean; sapoti in Brazil and Haiti; lamoot in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos; chicosapote in Mexico, Hawaii and Florida; and even other names in other parts of the world. The only name for it I'd heard of was sapodilla, but I had no idea what the fruit was like.
It is named one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (Frances Case, page 79) and is said to taste like honey and caramel, or a cross between brown sugar and root beer. 

It is about the shape of an egg, with a stem, and has a fuzzy/scruffy brown skin and looks kind of like a potato. 
Two sapodillas.
They even get little blemishes on them like potatoes do.
The inside of the fruit is pale yellow to brown and has a grainy texture like a pear. Each fruit contains from one to six black seeds with a hook on one end that can catch in the throat if swallowed. 
I watched a video showing a woman cutting a sapodilla into sections, then removing the rind and the seeds and stringy center with a knife. That is how I prepared and ate my first one. The taste that jumped out at me was caramel, but root beer also rings true. 
These are the discarded seeds and rind from that preparation. 
I had a second sapodilla that I let ripen several more days before eating it. I saw another video where the person ate it out of the rind with a spoon. You'll note less green and yellow and more dark brown in the flesh. The caramel taste did not jump out at me in the riper fruit. The flavor was deeper and less distinct. I actually preferred the less ripe fruit, but I'm guessing the riper fruit would be good in ice cream or other preparations where it is blended. 
These sapodillas were provided to me by C.c. Claudia, the queen of exotic fruit and one of the most creative people I know. It is very delicious. We are traveling to the Caribbean in March and I'm hoping that I can try the nispero in Puerto Rico and mispel in the Virgin Islands and see how they are prepared and combined into products there. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

40 Day Dry Aged Ribeye - Grilled

The concept of dry aged beef fascinates me and I've been down that path before. Recently I saw Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market post something about dry aged steaks on Facebook and I messaged him asking if he had anything dry aged longer than 40 days? I've read that the real magic of dry aging happens around 45 days, when a cheddar cheese or blue cheese taste starts to appear. He said he did, so I went in to his store the other day to pick one up. Unfortunately Anshu was not there, but his assistant was and could find nothing aged longer than 40 days. So I picked up a 40 day dry aged ribeye. 
The dry aging eliminates moisture in the meat, shrinks it a little, tenderizes it and concentrates the flavor. The dry aged meat looks darker. 
This is prime beef, the top grade given to U.S. beef. 
I love seeing the darkness on the outer fat, a sign of the aging process.
I rubbed on vegetable oil and liberally sprinkled it with sea salt and pepper and put it on our outdoor grill in the center using indirect heat (only the outer burners were on). I cooked it about 8 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other. 
Covered in vegetable oil, salt and pepper.
It was beautiful looking on the outside. 
Off the grill - it was beautiful on the outside. 
On the inside, the dry aged meat has a different look. It is less bloody and more pink than red. The meat has a stronger, different taste. The meat cooked evenly throughout. 
Nice and rare to medium rare and beautiful tasting. 
Judy and Sam both raved about it. Sam's trying to eat vegetarian and had one bite. Judy, who'd told me she was full from lunch and didn't want any, kept coming back for more bites. I enjoyed it a lot. I prefer ribeyes over other cuts of beef anyway, but with the dry aging, that extra moisture from the fat is particularly nice. 

I'm still trying to find that elusive 45 day or longer aged ribeye. I'm going to have to go back to Anshu and see what he can do.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Asia Travel Map, Visas and Passport Stamps

This post was updated on June 11, 2017. Our travel in Asia was increased by eight countries in 2017 when we visited central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan), with stops in Hong Kong and Qatar. 
Asia: 15 countries so far.
Two of the Asian countries we've visited, Russia and Turkey, are also in Europe as well, and we've visited cities in both continents. In Asia, we visited Sochi in Russia and Trabzon, Sinop and Kusadasi in Turkey. 

Two years ago we visited Jordan and Israel. We did not get any passport stamps in Israel, or in the Palestinian occupied area of Bethlehem, but got a visa and two passport stamps in Jordan. 
Jordan visa
We flew into Amman airport.
And flew out of the same airport. 
About ten years ago our daughter and son-in-law were living in Japan. We visited them and got to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka and other cities while there. We then flew with them to Beijing, China, followed by a flight to Thailand where we visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai. 

That is the sum total of our Asia travels so far. Their are lots of places in Asia we want to visit. Hopefully we can add to the colors on the above map in the near future. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Europe Travel Map, Visas and Passport Stamps

We've been to most of the countries in Europe, but much of our travel was before this passport. Further, now that Europe has open borders (I hope that will continue, but it is not looking good these days), passport stamps are harder to come by. The only major countries in Europe I've not visited are Ireland, Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Moldavia. We did visit Kosovo, which is not marked on the map. We were in Italy the day it converted from the Lira to the Euro and it was fascinating to see them struggle with the currency change. They were used to handling very large numbers in Lira and struggled with the much smaller numbers of the Euro. 
One of our earlier, more adventurous trips, in 2010, was a cruise of the Black Sea, blogged on here. Most of the countries we visited on that trip were not part of the European Union. We flew into Istanbul, Turkey and started our cruise there.
Turkey visa
Turkey entry stamp.

Turkey exit stamp.
Our first cruise stop was Nessebar, Bulgaria. 
Our next stop was Constanta, Romania. I don't know which is the entry and which is the exit stamp. 
The upper right does show that we came in by boat. 
For whatever reason, we were not required to have our passports stamped in Ukraine where we visited three separate ports: Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta. We also did not have to have stamps in other spots of Turkey, including Trabzon, Sinop and Kusadasi (Ephesus). We did have to have a stamp in Sochi, Russia, but no visa, because we stayed with one of our ship's tours. 
Sochi, Russia
Finally, we ended up in Athens, Greece, where we arrived by boat at Pireas and flew out to go home. Greece was a member of the EU and was struggling financially when we arrived, but fortunately we missed any protests that were going on sporadically at the time. 
Pireas, Greece
The next year, in 2011, we took a Baltic cruise, with extensions to Moscow and Berlin. We blogged on that trip here. We flew into Munich, Germany, where we stopped for six hours, before flying on to Moscow, and had to have our passports stamped. 
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany.
In Moscow we met our cruise leader who spent the night in a secured part of Sheremetyevo Airport because he arrived a day earlier than his visa allowed. This was the same spot where Edward Snowden later spent time when he escaped to Russia from the U.S. Posts related to this trip are here
We avoided a visa to Russia on our first trip, but needed one for our extended visit this time. We visited both Moscow (by flight) and St. Petersburg (by ship). 
This was a stamp in Moscow.
And this is the stamp for St. Petersburg (note the ship). 
From Moscow, we flew to Berlin, spent some time, then were bussed up to northern Germany where we boarded our cruise ship. 
Berlin, Germany
We visited Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Talinn, Estonia; Aarhus, Denmark; and Oslo, Norway. Only Norway stamped our passports. 
Oslo, Norway
We did get an exit stamp in Copenhagen, Denmark when we flew home.
Copenhagen, Denmark 
The next year, 2012, we took a river cruise from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands. But before that, on that same trip, we visited Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria. The blogs of that trip are summarized here. Interestingly, we only got passport stamps on our arrival at the airport in Prague and when we flew home from Amsterdam. I'm assuming that it was because we were in the European Union that we were able to avoid any other stamps.
Czech Republic
Perhaps our most adventurous trip to date was in 2013, when we flew into Zagreb, Croatia and then drove through eight of the Balkan countries by car before flying back home out of Zagreb. Our collective posts for that trip are summarized here
A stamp in Zagreb, Croatia at the airport when we arrived. 
Our first full day we did a day trip into Slovenia and had to get stamps both entering and leaving. We also had to get some kind of special insurance, as I recall. 
Entering Slovenia
Leaving Slovenia.
The next day we drove to Bosnia & Herzegovina but did not get a stamp, although we spent about 20 minutes at the border while they checked on the status of our rental car. When we drove from there to Serbia we did get a stamp.
We got stamps entering into Macedonia, then when we visited Kosovo and came back into Macedonia, we got another stamp.
Entering Macedonia
Entering Macedonia again. 
We visited Kosovo for a day trip and got stamped. 
From Macedonia we went to Albania and Montenegro, before going back into Croatia. We got another stamp at the airport in Zagreb when we left. 
It will be interesting to watch over the next few years as the EU struggles and various countries become more nationalistic, like the U.S., to see if border controls are stepped up. I suspect they will.