Truising (Or Craining)

Being aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is a lot like being on a cruise ship.  There’s an overarching emphasis on pampering the travelers.  Each train car has legions of people waiting on you hand and foot and pointing out that osprey nest that is coming up around the corner, or the big horn sheep trotting by.

Oh, yeah — there’s also a lot of focus on food and drink.  

Every car has its own white tablecloth dining room and kitchen.  You get seated with other travelers in your car — so far, we’ve broken bread with a couple from Florida and a couple from Germany — and you order your main course off the menu while they bring you other treats, like the fruit concoction pictured above that we got at breakfast.  It was a kind of delicious combination of orange juice and fruit sections, topped with a plump, juicy, tart gooseberry.  Not a bad way to start your breakfast!

In addition to the two sit-down meals, you’re also plied with snacks and as many drinks as you can inhale, the better to appreciate the scenery rolling by.  It’s a pretty civilized way to travel.  Call it truising — or maybe craining.

Mushroom Tart

What to eat when you’re traveling west, encounter delays, and roll into your hotel in the Pacific time zone when it’s close to midnight Eastern time?  You can eat a steak or anything substantial, of course . . . unless you want to toss and turn when you hit the hay immediately after dinner.  But, at the same time, you know you’ve got to eat something, or you’ll never get acclimated to the time change.

So, what to do?  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mushroom tart courtesy of the Fairmont Vancouver.  This delectable concoction is reasonably substantial, in that earthy, mushroomy way, but at the same time it’s not going to sit inert in your stomach like a cannonball, either.  Light and flavorful, crunchy and dark, with multiple mushroom varieties giving their all, this dish is perfect.  And those brownish specks next to the tart aren’t pepper, or coffee grounds — they crushed pumpernickel crumbs, and they’re an excellent complement to the ‘shrooms.

Wash it all down with a good cab, and you’ve got the ideal transitional east-to-west travel meal.

Overly Mapled

I’m on the road today, heading to meetings in the Great White North.  Even if I didn’t know I was in Canada, though, I’d still be able to make a pretty good educated guess about my location based on this shelf in the airport convenience store.

Notice a theme here?  It’s all things maple — but does anybody really want maple-flavored caramels?

The Cat Spruce Difference

Russell and Emily are visiting, and they brought some of the strawberries they just picked from their urban farm — now known at Cat Spruce Fields.  Those plump red berries in the metal bowl are the fruits of their labors.  You can see the difference in color between their natural, locally grown, hand-picked berries and the bowl of commercial strawberries we bought from the grocers, and the difference in taste is just as great, too.

What’s better in the summer than strawberries?

Learning To Like IPAs

Traditionally, I am not an IPA guy.  They tend to be bitter, and I am more of a sour, or wheat beer, or lager fan.  But because my mentees got me a bunch of IPAs for my birthday, and because I think it is criminal to let a beer — any beer! — go to waste, I’ve been gradually working my way through the IPA collection in the fridge. Tonight I’m drinking my last birthday beer, a Switch Blade IPA from Ohio-based Four Strings Brewing Company, and I can honestly say that it’s not half bad.  I’m not sure IPAs will ever be my brew of choice, but I feel like I’ve acquired an appreciation for them.

Deliberate Eating

Recently I’ve come under withering criticism about my eating habits.  It’s not that I’ve got elbows on the table, or that I’m chewing things with my mouth open, or that I’m violating other basic rules of dining etiquette that you learned from your Mom when you were about five years old.  Nor is it that my choice of cuisine is decidedly weighted toward the meat end of the spectrum, with a pronounced disdain for vegetable matter.

348sNo, this complaint is more about the eating process.  That is, when food is put down in front of you, how do you go about consuming it?

Consider the most recent instance where this issue arose.  Kish and I were having brunch at the German Village Coffee Shop, and I ordered two of the plate-sized whoppers that you get when you order pancakes at the GVCS.  I like my pancakes with butter and a liberal amount of syrup, like any other rational human being.  So, my eating process is straightforward.  First, while the pancakes are still piping hot, I slather on butter, making sure to spread the butter both on top of the stack and in the area between the two pancakes, in order to ensure an even array of moist butteriness.  Second, I carefully cut the pancakes into bite-sized pieces, so that the fluffy interior of the pancake is exposed, the better to soak up the forthcoming syrup cascade.  Then, and only then, do I apply the syrup — taking care to add enough syrup to flavor each bite, but not flood the plate — and begin eating.

This seems like the only proper way to consume good pancakes while achieving the squishy butter/syrup/pancake combo that any pancake lover strives for.  But by the time I have completed my preparations and begin eating, Kish has finished her food and is checking her watch, tapping her fingers on the countertop, and looking at me with a friendly, bemused, yet mildly impatient expression.

lsOr take Indian food.  At Indian Oven, which is the only place to get lamb korma in Columbus, Ohio, you are served a dish of well-prepared, steaming basmati rice and a separate dish of the lamb korma itself.  How, then, to proceed?  The only reasonable course is to dump the entire portion of rice onto your place, spoon the lamb korma on top of the rice, and then carefully mix the two, so as to ensure that every grain of rice is adequately coated with the spicy korma sauce.  Admittedly, this takes some time and attention to detail — but who wants to eat plain basmati rice, or end up with extra korma sauce in the dish that you have to eat with a spoon because you don’t have any remaining elements of the rice delivery system available to you?  And yet, the Jersey Girl finds this well-conceived, entirely rational approach to consuming lamb korma hilarious and, in all likelihood, evidence of some deep-seated psychological issue.

What can I say?  I guess I’m a deliberate eater.  Say, have I ever explained the right way to apply mustard to a hot dog?