Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eating with your eyes

So you may recall I'm a nut on watermelon -- that, corn, and tomatoes are what say summer to me.  You may also recall that I like my watermelons with seeds, none of this wimpy seedless stuff, and by the way I like big, big melons, none of this wimpy "personal size."  We've gotten some decent melons this year (mostly from the farmer's market), plus some mediocre ones (from the supermarket).  To my delight, they've all had seeds.

But last week, we were late to the market and our two favorite farmers were both out of melons.  One suggested we go across the way and see if this other guy still had one.  He did, but guess what -- it was yellow!

I don't think I'd ever eaten a yellow watermelon before, although I've seen them in seed catalogs.  Under cross-examination I would have to say that it tasted pretty much like a red melon, and was as sweet as you could expect, and had that wonderful cold, juicy texture.  So why do I think it's not entirely as good as a red one? I must eat with my eyes as well as my stomach.

And by the way, I got my wish for seeds -- in spades!  I think the yellow melon has half again as many seeds as a red one.  Or maybe they're just more apparent against the lighter background.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Faux fondue

On our recent vacation to France we saw a lot of restaurants specializing in fondue, that delicious bubbly cheese genre that peaked in the US 40 years ago and hasn't been seen much on this side of the Atlantic ever since.  But our guides said it's enjoying a trendy revival in Paris these days.

As we walked along one crowded sidewalk we threaded our way past this table full of fondue.  You'll notice there are no diners at the table -- that's because the food is plastic.

It does look pretty good, nevertheless.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A dessert we didn't try

Le Grand Vefour, one of the most famous of Parisian spots, was opened in 1784 and everybody who was anybody over the centuries, such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, had to eat there.  But not us.  The cheapest prix fixe menu is 98 euros (about $130).

I was intrigued by one of the 34 euro desserts -- creme brulee with artichokes and bean jam.  Maybe I'll try to make that at home.

Or maybe not.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The best fish ever

I'm a fish lover, and have had some magnificent piscine meals in various places around the globe.  But for comfort fish, there's only one choice: Michigan perch.  (I guess maybe Wisconsin perch are almost as good.)

So on our way to northern Michigan last month I was happy that we took the culinary detour to Kern's Sausage in Frankenmuth, because that meant we'd have to drive past Berger's Restaurant in Bay City, home of the ur-comfort fish.  Ur-, because not only does Berger's make great perch, it's the restaurant where my family has been going for decades.

It used to be a roadhouse -- a grim little cement-block building with a wall down the middle -- low-end bar on the left, slightly more fastidious dining room on the right.  Knotty pine walls (heck, this is Michigan) and mismatched tables and chairs.  And the best perch in the world.

My father and my grandmother always made a big point of ordering their perch with bones in it, loudly maintaining that the fish was much better that way.  The rest of us made a big point of ordering ours with no bones, having experience with the two million tiny bones per fish.  (The bone lovers occasionally had to grab one of the handy slices of rye bread to wash down a bone caught in the throat.)

A while back the roadhouse closed, having gotten just too decrepit for words, and maybe something having to do with widening the road.  But then it reopened in a fancy new building, looking like any Denny's or Perkins or other "family restaurant" you could name.  It lost the ambience, but thankfully the fish is just as good as ever.  They don't offer the option of perch with bones in it, but that's OK because both my father and grandmother are dead.  And not from getting bones stuck in their throats, either.

So the next time you're driving I-75 between Saginaw and Bay City, you MUST MUST MUST stop at Berger's for perch.  Get off at exit 160, head back south toward Saginaw for few hundred yards and it's there on the left.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The wurst thing about our vacation...

When I was a kid my father was co-owner of a weekly newspaper in a small town in Michigan, settled almost a century previously by Germans from northern Bavaria.  The town, called Frankenmuth ("courage of Franconia"), had clung to its German heritage -- I remember walking down the main drag with Dad and him greeting some people in English, some in German.  When Dad and some other ambitious young guys came home from World War 2 they were eager to wrest the reins of government away from the old men and pull the sleepy town into the twentieth century.

Dad had a brilliant idea -- what if the town capitalized on its German roots and imitated Bavarian architecture and ambience?  It already had a couple of old hotels that were well-known for their chicken dinners, and perhaps even more tourists could be lured to visit with some picturesque infrastructure.  He and his pals persuaded the local bank to go Bavarian for its new branch, and the rest is history.  Today Frankenmuth is the #1 tourist attraction in Michigan, with 3 million visitors each year.

We've only been back to Michigan three times in the last several years -- two visits to put my parents into the cemetery, and then a family reunion this summer.  But when we do, we always stop in Frankenmuth, if not for a chicken dinner then for a cooler full of goodies from Kern's Sausage, which makes the best wurst I've eaten on this side of the Atlantic.

Here's some of what we brought home.  The pale skinny ones with toothpicks stuck in the end are weisswurst; without toothpicks are bockwurst, both made with pork and veal.  I confess I can't really tell them apart, but that's OK because I love them both.  The fat red ones are knackwurst, beef and pork.

The next morning, my husband had a doctor's appointment and figured that he would be read the riot act for high cholesterol.  But no -- he had the lowest readings in years!  I always knew great sausage was delicious, but now I guess it's also therapeutic.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bad ideas in marketing

The fancy cheese counter at our supermarket has a basket of small pieces of different cheeses, so you can try something new at (sort of) low cost.

Good idea.

So I checked out the basket to see if I found something worth trying.

And found this.

Thanks a lot. For $21.99 a pound I'll wait till you tell me what I'm buying.