Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Everything is bigger in America

There are a number of things to remember when travelling in the States
  • Remember to ask your server for "only a couple of cubes" of ice in your drink. This usually results in a half glass of ice rather than a glacier.
  • Remember everything is supersize, so your peppermint tea comes in a cup the size of a bucket.
San Francisco airport - this way to zen
Also remember to avoid flying into LAX - this one we did remember and so hub through San Francisco - oh the difference.  Quieter surrounds, civil TSA staff (yes it is possible to have civil TSA staff, and I even meet one with a sense of humour). Then, in Terminal 2, where I go for my connection to Chicago, what do I find?  A yoga room.  What could be more perfectly San Francisco?  It is stocked with a few mats and blocks and I am the only one in there for half an hour or so, until some bendy young thing arrives and it is time to go to the gate.
Because of a late Air New Zealand departure from Auckland I miss my connection and have had to reticket my flight to Chicago.  So despite finding calm in the yoga room, I am more than ready for my bed when I arrive in Chicago at midnight, having left home approximately 29 hours earlier.  Here, I am meeting old friends from New Zealand, she a Kiwi, he American, who have been living here for the last 20 years.  My how time flies.  They love dining and cocktails so I am assured of a good time in their company. They have taken the train down from Milwaukee, where we will return together after a few adventures in the windy city - no, not Wellington, Chicago.

Aside from the wind, Chicago is known for its terrific architecture and there is a very good organisation providing information and tours.  On past visits the hunter-gatherer and I have taken the excellent river cruise, which runs past some of the iconic Chicago icons, such as the rather Gothic Tribune building.  (In case you were wondering, the h-g has by now joined his homeboys in Seattle for their motor bike ride across to Colorado). On this occasion my friends and I take an Art Deco tour of downtown, and find some fabulous foyers dating back to the late 1920s, most of which, mercifully, have not been renovated. There are exquisitely wrought decorative panels on elevator doors, beautiful marble clad walls and very groovy deco lighting.
I am reliably informed by the Milwaukee gourmets that Girl and the Goat is one of the top eateries so we find ourselves in a cavernous eatery with wooden floors, high ceilings and tables snuggled together.  The cocktails are good and I find one called Before and After: combining my new favourite Campari and my old favourite Gin. What could be better?  The food is, as is often the case now, "for sharing" and I have no problem with that - you just get to taste more great things. It isn't difficult to find lots of dishes we want to try.  Of course we have goat, in the form of slow roasted shank. Other good choices were scallops with foie gras vinaigrette, sweet onions and brioche croutons; roasted beets with green beans, white anchovy, avocado creme fraiche and breadcrumbs.  Sorry for the lack of photos but it was dark in there and I only have an iPhone3!

For dessert we jump in a cab and head off into the 'burbs to a gelato place the gal gourmet has read about.  Perched in the corner of a semi-seedy looking street (it probably looks perfectly innocuous in daylight) we find Black Dog Gelato and peruse the offerings.  We find all the usual suspects in terms of flavours along with a few innovations - we share tastes, and although not what I chose, I rate the salted peanut gelato and goat cheese gelato the picks of the night.

Milwaukee is a beautiful city, most especially along the lake Michigan shore.  The lake, as you may or may not know is one of the five Great Lakes, second largest by volume and third largest by surface area (58,000 sq kms).  The shoreline is 2,640kms long. When you stand at the shore it is hard to believe it is bordered by land.

the stunning Milwaukee Art Museum from the south

The downtown area is close to the shore and there is a heap of grassy area, along with bike trails,walkways, picnic and BBQ areas, all extending for miles.  The new extension to the Milwaukee Art Museum is visually stunning.  It sits facing out to the lake. poised like a giant bird ready to take flight.  We see a very good exhibition of Parisian posters - you know the ones you see everywhere - the Toulouse-Lautrec poster of Aristide Bruant; Le Chat Noir etc. It was interesting to read about the history and context in which they were developed, and I will no longer glance lightly when I see them again.

My gal gourmet needs a fix of oysters and takes me to an Oyster bar in the downtown market.  I eschew the briny bivalves: she orders five varieties from different areas and eats them while I try not to gag.  Just can't seem to get oysters - it's a texture thing.

Unfortunately one of our dining out experiences is cancelled as I am unwell, but my last night sees us at a lakeside restaurant, high on a bluff looking at the moody lake and changing sky.  Unfortunately I am still a bit seedy and have to pass on the cocktails (yes, me, passing on cocktails)  but my Alaskan halibut is divine. Large firm flakes of juicy flesh over a fingerling potato and bacon salad, with baby spinach. I had to ask them to hold the cherries listed with the dish. True.

The man gourmet gets a T-bone only slightly smaller than the state of Illinois.  We actually leave the restaurant with two doggie bags, as the gal gourmet ordered a trio of terrines for an appetiser (that's starter to you and me) and it was unseemly in the generosity of the portions. She pronounced it delicious but too much and too rich to finish.

Most tables left with one or two doggie bags - it seems to be the norm here, but I very rarely ever see it in New Zealand. The three of us ponder the economics of such large portions - taking a cheffy point of view it sends food costs and waste up. It also means people don't order dessert so potentially you lose a sale.   Actually, many people do order dessert because as we know, more is better, and everything is bigger in America.

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