Not My Mother’s Pot Pie

by Council Nedd II

I wasn’t planning to write my first actual food post for another day or two. However, I had an experience that I thought well worth sharing. I was given a tip that a wonderful dish was prepared by Peter Shelby, the head Chef at the Knoll House. So, of course I had to try it.

chefs at the Knoll HouseI wasn’t sure exactly what he had prepared, so I was surprised to be greeted with pot pie. Pot pie, was a staple of sorts in my house while growing up. It was so much of a staple in fact that I believe the last time I ate one was in 1984. I even avoided pot pie when all of my friends and colleagues would rave about the pot pies at the Hotel Harrington, in Washington, DC.

I don’t ever remember a pot pie being as savory as the one that was placed in front of me yesterday. Pete prepared a chicken, ham and leek pot pie in a bechamel sauce that was baked into a simple yet perfectly prepared and flaky shell.

The other big surprise for me that I actually ate and enjoyed leeks. For some reason I have always avoided leeks. Had I known what I was eating at the time I would have picked out all those bits of leek. Fortunately the translation of “praz” came well after I had completed my meal.

The other evening I had another such experience, where I ate and enjoyed something I would have never normally eaten. I will be talking about this a little later when I write my piece on some of the pastries that I have enjoyed, but it involved a traditional Austrian cake topped with meringue.

Food Fit For A King… Literally

by Council Nedd II

Friday I had the opportunity to visit my favorite royals.  Yes, I do know more than one royal family, but these royals are my favorites.

Writing this, I’m not totally sure what I am permitted to say and what I am not permitted to say. Regardless, what occasioned this visit was a going away party.  There were about 20 people there plus the television crew. I wanted to be mindful of the unstated rules of no Facebooking and no Tweeting.  However, the food looked and tasted great.  Her Royal Highness told the people standing in the immediate area that I am a foodie and food blogger.

Her Highness then said those words I wanted to hear, “Your Grace, aren’t you going to take any pictures of the food?”.

“Am I allowed to?”

“Of course you are.”

“Well you don’t have to tell me twice.”

With Her Royal Highness’s permission, but still a bit self conscious I did take a few pictures.

The very first thing I tasted was some fresh strawberries with violet whipped cream. I was told how it was made, but I simply don’t remember right now. However, the whipped cream was somehow infused with an extract from fresh violets.

A delicious chicken cacciatore was the main course and was made by the consort of a wonderful countess, who is simply one of the coolest, most elegant and most intense people I know.

I have never been a big fan of sweet jams served on/with cheeses or cured meats.  It’s probably more accurate for me to say that putting the two together never occurs to me. However, that’s changed.

While at the party I had this great assemblage of a water cracker with salami, Celebrity brand goat’s milk cheese with Stonewall Kitchen fig & walnut butter. My food horizons have officially been expanded…

… And I am looking forward to the welcome home party.

The Culinary Council on Caru’ cu Bere

by Council Nedd II

In the heart of Old Town Bucharest, between two restaurants once considered quite trendy, and on the same cobblestone street as one of the oldest churches in the city sits a restaurant that has been in continuous service since the late 1870’s.

Caru’ cu Bere provides a glimpse into old Europe at its finest and is a true gem of the still evolving, post Ceaușescu modern Bucharest.

I was told there are two restaurants that I must visit, Caru’ cu Bere was one.  I was not disappointed. In fact, the food and atmosphere were so good the first time, I made a point of going again a second time, two days later.

When we arrived at the restaurant it was an absolutely beautiful day. It was about 75 degrees, sunny with no humidity.  This is where I almost made a big mistake.  I wanted to sit in the restaurants vast outside seating area which easily seats no less than 100.  Knowing me, my friend said that I really want to sit on the inside.  I looked at her like she was crazy, because there could not have been a more ideal day for al fresco dining.

After a persistent meager protest, my friend convinced me to eat inside. Soon as I walked through the oak, revolving door with leaded glass and cast a gaze on the great room, I realized what I was intended to experience.

I was awe struck as the music of a string quartet of four beautiful blondes in royal blue dresses dominated the room.

Except for a modern desert display case, I was in the Bucharest of Queen Marie of Romania. By the way, the best deserts were not anywhere near that case — they’ve never come anywhere near that case of beautiful pastries, but more on that later.

papanasiAs we didn’t bother with reservations, we were escorted to a table on the main floor on the right as you walk through the door.

I was admittedly overwhelmed, anxious and feeling self-conscious.  I was humbled by the sights, smells and sounds of this beautiful room.  While this was not the first Romanian meal I had after my arrival in Bucharest, I was not feeling particularly daring.  Fortunately one the national dishes came to the rescue.

Mici, a flavorful skinless sausage is one of the more popular national dishes.  I ordered mici (you have to tell them how many you want) and french fries.  The fries come sprinkled with a cow cheese they call simply, telemea de vaca (cow cheese).  Romanians put this creamy cheese on a wide variety of things.  I also order a Greek salad which was prepared differently than most that I’ve eaten, but it was still delicious, if you merely accept it for what it is. It was also strongly suggested that I try the local Ursus beer.  I am not much of a drinker and I am really not much of a beer drinker, but it was one of the coldest beers I’ve ever had and quite good.

While I was eating my salad I noticed the waiter brining something incredibly savory to one of the nearby tables.  My friend saw the expression on my face before the words actually escaped my lips. Pointing to what I saw the waiter carrying, I asked my friend “what is that?”.

This dessert which is called “papanasi”, in my humble opinion, was the star of the show. They call it a cottage cheese dumpling, which may be accurate, but it is so much more than that.  Picture an old fashioned cake donut, with a sweetened cottage cheese sauce and a bitter cherry sauce and then topped with a light dusting of very fine granulated sugar.  This dessert changed my life.  If I can find a place here in the United States that makes papanasi, visiting that restaurant may be my next road trip.

Lastly, but definitely noteworthy, a popular non alcoholic drink in Romania is freshly squeezed lemonade which is served with or without mint. At many places you can get it by the pitcher.  What makes the lemonade unique is that it is made with honey and not sugar.  Also, it’s not overly sweetened.

There are many reasons to visit, Bucharest… Caru’ cu Bere is towards the top of the list.

The Culinary Council

by Council Nedd II

Those that know me personally, as well as my followers on twitter, know that I am a foodie.  While I have tweeted about and posted numerous pictures about food on my Facebook account, I have never really written in great detail about my various food experiences.  That is, except for a brief period of time where I attempted to blog about food when I first moved to Harrisburg…

… I began writing about food when I lived in Harrisburg.  Then I abruptly stopped when I realized that there were only three restaurants in Harrisburg that I actually liked.  So I ran out of subject matter rather quickly.

This is the introduction to what I hope will be many more pieces about food that I love and hate, and about the places I travel and my various culinary experiences.  I hope you will enjoy, The Culinary Council.