Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Forum Vini 2012 – Around the World

The variety of wines, spirits, delicacies, and snacks at Forum Vini is truly amazing. Every year there is something new! Here’s what I found at Forum Vini 2012 to write home about.

First: we all know that certain foods go perfectly when paired with the right wine (or beer, or liquor). Well, at Winz Feines zum Wein they’ve simplified the selection process by explaining which snacks (“Knabberei” auf Deutsch) go best with which variety of wine. Great for those who, like me, haven’t yet memorized what mix of salty, sour, dry, sweet, etc goes with which wine.

Snacks for Wine

Next up is a second wine (besides the Grappa in the last post) that I just *had* to buy. Wayne Dutschke makes some tasty Australian wines, and was one of the few wine sellers who had traveled from outside Germany/Austria for Forum Vini (rather than just have a distributor do the selling).

I have to tell you: when I tasted Dutschke’s (average of) 22-year-old Tawny, I turned to my colleague and said “Holy &#%$, this is amazing. I’m going to have to buy some.” Really, it was so good it blew my mind, and that’s coming from a spirits expert who is currently brewing his own Christmas Brown Ale. Tawny is basically a fortified aged wine, which if made in a certain region of Portugal would be called port. That makes Dutschke’s wine even more amazing, because it means the best port I’ve ever had is from Australia!

Wayne Dutschke

The spirits at Zeiss are always delicious, I’ve occasionally bought them as Christmas gifts. The bottles are at least as much fun to look at as the liquor is to drink!

Zeiss Bottles

These delicious French Bordeaux wines from Chateau Perayne are for my Aunt who loves butterflies:

Butterflies

And finally, let me close with something that’s not even related to wine. It’s BEER! Those who know me personally know that I am a beer guy. And not because I drink a lot of it; because I try every single various beer, of every style, from every country that I can get my hands on. For some reason I just remember great beers and brands, where with wines I usually don’t.

This is why I was really psyched to see Braufactum, a German craft brewery, represented at Forum Vini. These are Germans who are not prejudiced against beers outside the Rheinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law). This no-longer-mandatory archaic convention is now just used as marketing to persuade the narrow-minded not to buy any beer that isn’t made in Germany because “all non-German beers are filled with toxic chemicals and unnatural things” (yeah right – what is toxic or unnatural about fruits, coffee, or chocolate?).

But Braufactum is one of the brands that is starting to slowly open Germany up to new flavors of beer! Here is their Märzen bier; in the past this variety was traditionally brewed in March and then stored until Oktoberfest (if I got the story right). They sell various craft beers from all around the world (USA and Belgium among others), and brew several tasty beers of their own including a STRONG India Pale Ale that is delicious and super hoppy.

Braufactum

Overall it was the best Forum Vini yet, and I look forward to Forum Vini 2013 already!

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago at 9:36 pm.

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Pulled Pork BBQ Recipe

Picture this: three people at your door Sunday morning in their pajamas, asking “is your living room on fire?”

That’s what happened when I made pulled pork BBQ on my balcony. Too many wood chips in the smoker bowl, and the smoke was ferocious for about an hour. Luckily it slowed, and I was able to finish the smoke without any further complaints.

The first thing in making BBQ is to find the right cut of meat – ideally a Boston Butt with enough fat to keep the meat moist during cooking. Boston Butt in German: I bought Halssteak (though Nackensteak should also do), a 2.5kg hunk of meat. Here it is after brining and a nice rub (details later),

Brined and seasoned Boston Butt (Halssteak / Nackensteak)

Next throw that baby on the smoker for about 6-12 hours (depending on the size of the meat). Target smoker temp is anywhere from 100C-110C / 210F-230F. Of course the hotter you cook the shorter the cooking time will be (thank you, physics).

Boston Butt on the Terracotta Smoker

My 2.5kg / 5.5 lb chunk took 9 1/2 hours to cook, but was only up to 80C / 175F inside. Better would have been 85C / between 180 and 190F. I turned it once, about 2/3 of the way through that time.

Almost-done Boston Butt

After the internal temp is to your target, pull it off! If it’s too low, it will be difficult to pull. Let it rest for about an hour so you don’t burn yourself during the pulling. Here’s the fully roasted meat:

The final BBQ product: Boston Butt

To pull pork, get two forks and just go at it, tearing off shreds and hunks. I left aside lots of fat bits and some super-hard outer portions that didn’t look very edible. If you have dogs, they will be going crazy right about now. Here’s the interior of the Boston Butt:

Pulling the pork BBQ

It took about 30-40 minutes to pull the whole thing, and my arms were definitely worked over. Probably I could have let the internal temp go a bit higher, to make pulling easier. And I guess I lack a bit of technique too. But the final product looks (and tastes) great:

Beautiful pulled pork

For the final step I slapped  my pork on a bun and doused it with some Hot Texas BBQ sauce from a high-rated recipe on a website (details below). MMM-MMMMHHH!

Pulled pork BBQ sandwich with Texas Style hot BBQ sauce

Definitely every bit as good as restaurant BBQ at big smokehouses in the States. And I’ve never seen BBQ anywhere in Germany before, so it’s a first for me to have a real pulled pork sandwich over here. Delicious!

Dave’s Top 10 Pulled Pork BBQ Tips (no, I’m not Famous Dave…)

1) Watch Alton Brown’s pulled pork bbq episode on YouTube.
2) Print out Alton’s recipe here with details on the brine and the rub.
3) Find a nice Texas Hot BBQ recipe like this one from Epicurious
4) Choose some nice chunks or chips of wood like apple, hickory, olive, etc. Some have a stronger flavor than others, you can read all about wood here.
5) If you are a hot-food wimp, skip the cayenne (and maybe even the chipotle). On the other hand, if (like me) you love the heat, add something more… I went with half a smoked habanero to bring the sauce up to my level.
6) Smoke your pork as described above, low n’ slow. Smoker target temp is 100C-110C / 210F-230F.
7) I’d recommend a meat internal temp of around 85C / between 180 and 190F. Too low and you will have trouble pulling it.
8\) Pull your pork – it’s easier if you have a few people to help.
9) Slap the pulled pork on a toasted bun, don’t be shy.
10) Douse with BBQ sauce to taste and enjoy!

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 7:04 pm.

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Terracotta Smoker

Having a bit of time on my hands, I decided to take up smoking. No, Mom, not cigarettes… food! I’m using a terracotta smoker, which (hopefully) will not make my picky German neighbors insane at the first whiff of charred mesquite.

I got the idea from Good Eats (Alton Brown), though now you can find dozens of pages explaining how to make a terracotta smoker, so I won’t go too much into detail. The basics: buy 2 flower pots, an electric burner, a heavy duty pie pan, and a round grill grate. Slap a thermometer on there and fill it with hardwood, and you’re smokin’! Here it is:

Terracotta smoker

Smoking MUST be done outside. Preferably far from anyone’s house windows! If you do try this on an apartment balcony like me (disclaimer: I’m not responsible, blah blah blah, not recommended), read these

6 Tips for Balcony Smokers / Grills

  • Tell your neighbors first so they don’t think someone’s places is on fire
  • Promise your neighbors some of the finished product as payment for putting up with your smoke
  • Don’t use too many wood chips, or any sawdust – they make massive amounts of smoke FAST
  • Try chunks of wood and longer cooking times to minimize smoke output
  • Keep your windows/door closed, otherwise your own apartment will smell like smoke
  • Use a meat thermometer to measure the smoke temperature, as it’s more accurate in the narrow range where you want to be smoking (up to about 230F / 110C)

Fueled-up Smoker

Below is my first attempt: smoked jalapeños and habaneros. Note the former are not chipotles, because I used green jalapeños; to make chipotles you need to find ripe red jal’s. Weighing in at 308 grams before smoking…

Peppers pre-smoking

Here are the peppers mid-smoke. I smoked ’em for about 12 hours on low heat (70-80C).

Peppers smoking

And the final product: note they only weigh in at 28 grams! >90% weight loss…

Peppers post-smoking

I’ve made salsa and Texas-style BBQ sauce with these babies and they are deliciously smoky. Just one pepper adds huge flavor to a bowl of fresh salsa!

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 11:26 pm.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I took a cooking course at the Sapa Boutique Hotel in Sapa, Vietnam – here was the result of one dish!

Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls

These tasty fried spring rolls were made with a chicken & vegetables filling, wrapped in rice paper, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, and then deep fried. One of the best spring rolls we had on the trip!

For those making your own deep-fried Vietnamese spring rolls, here’s a short how-to video showing you how to roll the filling in the rice paper:

YouTube Preview Image

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 2:50 pm.

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Royal Mouriya Kobe Beef

Looking for a Kobe Beef restaurant recommendation in Kobe, Japan? Here’s my story from Royal Mouriya / MOPR on Ikuta Road in Kobe.

We originally intended to go for the lunch course at Misono, the inventors of Teppanyaki style steak. Unfortunately they allow the last lunch order at 1:30, and we arrived at 1:45. On our way south along Ikuta Road we saw the sign for Royal Mouriya and headed in for their lunch course.

From my group of three hostel-goers (that’s right, hostellers eating Kobe Beef!), two of us ordered the 7,000 yen 150g Kobe Beef lunch special (not on the regular menu; I believe it was A4 BMS 6-7 Ribeye Kobe Beef). For Americans, that’s $85 for 5 1/2 oz of ultra-prime meat. The chef brought out the steak and happily allowed me to take all the pictures I wanted:

Royal Mouriya Kobe Beef Ribeye

Here’s a closeup of the marbling in the large center section of beef:

Kobe Beef Marbling

Our chef sliced up the meat, separating out the fat (which would be cooked separately and used to make the sauteed vegetables later).

Slicing and dicing Kobe Beef

The pieces of meat were mostly put to the side to be cooked one at a time; vegetables were added to the mix on the grill. The pieces of fat from the Kobe Beef were sliced very small. Note, this is not theatrical like teppanyaki in the US. There are no flaming onion volcanoes, no flying shrimp, no egg being juggled between the knives. Just precise Japanese cooking.

Kobe Beef and vegetables

As our chef was cooking, we enjoyed a really excellent salad:

Royal Mouriya salad

At this point it got interesting. The chef served us each a ~50g piece of the steak from the center section. However, my piece (which I ordered VERY RARE) was the one which had been on the grill the longest – I estimate 6-7 minutes. Now, this is way too long for rare. And my compatriot who had ordered medium: his steak had been on the grill for less time than mine. When I asked about this, I think the chef realized the error (which I later figured out). He had misunderstood my American VERY RARE as the Japanese (stereotypical) mispronunciation of VERY WELL: VERY RERR. At least, that’s my guess.

So, what did our master chef do to save the day? He removed the mis-cooked 50g of my center section, and brought us an entire second steak. Then he sliced and diced that one along with the remaining parts of the first steak. There’s no better way to recover from a misunderstanding than to give a (high paying) pair of guests 550g of the world’s most expensive steak for the price of 300g. Here’s my VERY RARE Kobe Beef on the plate:

Kobe Beef on the plate

Sides were asparagus, salt, pepper, crispy fried garlic, and several other things I couldn’t quite name. After serving all the chunks of world-class beef, our chef mixed the (mostly cooked down) crispy fat pieces with bean sprouts and other vegs:

Kobe Beef Fat and vegetables

Overall the meal was worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wouldn’t do it often, but if I visit Kobe again in several years I’ll definitely return. Lunch specials are a great way to sample this fantastic meat without breaking the bank. Though I am sure you won’t regret it if you go for dinner and spend a bit more for a fancier, multi-course meal at either Mouriya or Misono.

Thanks to our fantastic chef and the whole staff!

Royal Mouriya Staff

Sorry for the blurred waiter; I had focused already when he joined the shot (hehe). To find the restaurant, walk north from Sannomiya Station on Ikuta Road and look for the Royal MOPR sign on the right side of the street. There’s a bit of cyrillic on the signs, I guess it’s a bit of a Russian theme.

Royal Mouriya MOPR sign

Enjoy your Kobe Beef at Mouriya, or wherever you sample it!

Posted 5 years ago at 5:38 pm.

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Yakitori Surprise

For those who’ve seen other cultures’ meat on a stick, this is not satay! Yakitori is the Japanese version of meat on a stick. Meaning, a different sauce (hehe). And generally the meat (at least in restaurants I’ve been to) is very high quality.

Octopus Yakitori

My only quandary was: what to order? To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s the daily special menu:

Torizo Menu

The standard menu was no less confusing, and had limited pictures. Fortunately the server spoke a few words of English and knew how to draw. I think I ordered squid based on his drawing, but it looked like octopus to me (photo above). It was delicious with lemon and mayonnaise. For the next course I odered “Ahh… chicken?” and this seems to be a cubed chicken leg fit onto 3 skewers: fantastic!

Chicken Leg Yakitori

Of course nothing goes with beer and grilled snacks like edamame: boiled and salted soybeans. You squeeze them out of the husk (which isn’t eaten). Edamame are the standard appetizer at all US sushi restaurants, I definitely recommend to give ’em a go.

Edamame

Also of note, there was a strange fish tank with small plants swirling inside. My only guess is it was a fresh seaweed tank. There’s always something new in the world that I haven’t ever seen! That must by why I keep traveling…

Posted 5 years ago at 3:22 pm.

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Fugu at Zuboraya

If you’re looking for reviews/recommendations of a good restaurant in Osaka, Japan to try Fugu blowfish, read on! My recommendation is definitely for Zuboraya in Dotonbori…

Who hasn’t heard of Fugu, the poisonous blowfish? Japanese love to eat it, perhaps to prove they are masters of otherwise deadly sea creatures whose organs contain toxins that can paralyze our bodies. Yep, including the lungs… making it hard to live. In fact in my book Demon’s Bane, the characters used this poison as a weapon.

Fugu nigiri trio

Becoming a Fugu chef is not easy. One must practice for years before taking a test to be allowed to prepare this potentially fatal delicacy. On top of that, as I learned from reading some internet articles, Fugu doesn’t taste particularly great on its own; special recipes are needed to enhance its flavor. Guests won’t keep coming back just for the thrill if it tastes bad, and no one will pay the high prices Fugu commands for a bland strip of fish. So the chefs at Zuboraya have nice dishes with flavors that complement the Fugu, like spicy garnishes and lemony soy sauce with the nigiri.

Fugu sushi closeup

As I wasn’t expecting much flavor-wise, I went with a small nigiri set of three pieces for 800 yen ($10) rather than blow 3000+ yen on a big Fugu meal. I ordered some Unagi (sea eel) on the side, and cold sake (the best accompaniment).

Fugu and Unagi

The Fugu was lightly seared and was served with a lemony soy sauce, I guess designed to enhance the flavor (or give it some flavor). It was a bit chewy in texture, not soft like good tuna or salmon. Clearly a lot of work goes into making palatable Fugu dishes, because the fish doesn’t intrinsically taste good. But people do want to eat it for the thrill, and they’ll pay (really) good money for it, so… good work, Zuboraya chefs! Their location in Dotonbori, where I survived the ordeal treat:

Zuboraya Dotonbori Osaka

Overall, I’d recommend trying Fugu if you are at all curious. If you go to a known restaurant with licensed chefs (which is probably all of them in Japan), I wouldn’t have any concern about the safety. Your only choice then is whether you just want to say “Yep, I tried it,” or you want a big, luxurious meal. For a multi-course banquet of sashimi, soup, and the trimmings you’re looking at 3000+ yen compared to under a thousand for a few pieces of nigiri. I’m saving my yens for Unagi, Ikura, and Ama-Ebi washed down with Nigori-Sake!

In parting, here’s a pufferfish in the Osaka Aquarium: this lucky guy is not for eating :-)

Pufferfish at Osaka Aquarium

Happy Fugu…

Posted 5 years ago at 4:07 pm.

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Welcome to Japan!

Nothing says “Welcome to Japan” quite as well as the Osaka train signage in kanji. Okay, they do (briefly) switch to English for a few seconds. It’s similar with the announcements: 30 seconds straight of talking in Japanese, then one sentence of English. So far I am completely satisfied with that small percentage of English… after all, I am in Japan!

Osaka JR Train Signage

For lunch I visited this place, Ponpocotei near the Tsuruhashi station.

Ponpocotei Restaurant

First meal in Japan for this trip was Okonomiyaki! This is a thick, savory pancake about 6″ in diameter. I tried octopus & pork as my fillings. Those are fish flakes on top of the bbq sauce and mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

The chef cooks it at a grill behind the counter, then serves it on your own personal in-table grill to keep it warm while you eat. Delicious!

Ponpocotei Okonomiyaki Closeup

I may have mentioned at some point: I love my Nikon 35mm f/2 for food closeups. :-)

Posted 5 years ago at 11:06 am.

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Relaxing in Budapest

German holidays are great, as long as you can avoid the traffic. Leaving at 7am from Munich we missed most of it and made it to Budapest in the early afternoon. Our greeter was an enthusiastic howler in need of a toenail trim:

Budapest Doggie

Late lunch at the hotel restaurant. This fantastic dish of homemade smoked salmon and quail eggs was six euro. (The pumpkin soup was also up there with the best I’ve ever had, for 2.50).

Homemade Smoked Salmon and Quail Eggs

After wandering around the beautiful castle above the city at sunset…

Budapest Cathedral

…we had a coffee and enjoyed this great night view! I think this is officially the best view I ever had from a coffee shop. It was definitely worth the pricey cuppa. (Hungarian expensive = Munich standard price!).

Budapest Night View

I’m already looking forward to the next 2 days of sightseeing!

Budapest - Castle at Night

Happy Easter. Just to cover my bases, I’ll be pouring one out for JC… probably a real Czech Budweiser 😉

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 9:38 pm.

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Roasted Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce

So, I’m out of Blair’s Death Sauce, at least the “less strong” varieties like Salsa de la Muerte that are usable straight over food. I decided to try my hand at some hot sauce of my own. For those that know the habanero, it’s one of the hottest peppers in the world, 50-100 times hotter than a jalapeno. Here are the ingredients of my sauce:

Habanero Garlic Hot Sauce Ingredients

List of ingredients for Roasted Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce:

  • 20 habanero peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 3 rawitt chilis
  • 1 large shallot (not pictured in photo!)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1/2c white vinegar
  • 1/2c water
  • 1/3c lemon juice
  • 2tsp brown sugar
  • 1tsp roasted cumin
  • 1tsp salt

I halved and then roasted 3/4 of the habaneros (seeds and all) along with the jalapeno and the peeled garlic cloves. This was done in the oven, maybe around 350°F for 15-20min until lightly browned. Then everything went in the blender including the remaining (uncooked) habaneros. Roasting supposedly reduces the heat a bit (nooo!), and I also wanted to keep some fresh habanero flavor, so I left 1/4 of the habanero pods raw & unroasted.

Here’s the final result:

Finished Roasted Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce

The flavor is amazing! Perhaps because it’s so fresh, and hasn’t been processed as much as your average store-bought hot sauce. Due to the high acid content with vinegar and lemon juice, I suspect this will keep for a very long time (months or more). Although I am a bit concerned that it could grow mold eventually. I’m also looking for some pH test strips to check the acidity, as this will tell how safe an acidified food is. I suspect it’s in the mid to low 4’s, making it long-term shelf storage safe, but for now it’s in my fridge.

If you do give homemade hot sauce-making a try, let us know here! Until then I recommend Blair’s Death Sauces. Available in Germany at www.importladen.de. My favorite is Salsa de la Muerte, as most of the hotter ones have to be diluted – I like to drizzle my food with sauce.

Happy tasting, and don’t numb your tongue too much!

Posted 6 years, 3 months ago at 2:12 pm.

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