Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Old Wild West Burger Joint Review


The Old Wild West world got a little smaller last weekend. The glitter of a freshly barbecued burger with all the trimmings took a big hit.   I fear that Old Wild West is losing its legendary reputation of serving up great cowboy sized meals that are fresh off the grill. Lately, the deeper you dive into their menu, the more you will want to stay away.  It's no longer a unique experience.    This is sad to me as getting a good burger here in Pasta Land is difficult, and being American I kind of need a good burger once in awhile.  

There are few burger places in and around the Padova, Italy area, and the one we frequent, called Old Wild West, is located in the town of Monselice.  This week, when arriving,  we first noticed that they had finally taken down the tattered American flag that had sadly hung outside in the rain all winter long.  Workmen were freshening up the wooden patio area with fresh paint, and so it looked like the management was taking some pride in the business.   However, it was all downhill from then on.

One thing you have to get used to at Wild West is that after you order your food and drinks, it takes a long time for the drinks to arrive.  We have waited more than ten minutes for drinks.  I usually remember to  mention to the waiter that we would like our drinks before the food.  This time it came late and my beer was flat as a pancake.  It had little of the carbonation that one finds in a St. Benoit Red.  

I don't expect it to look exactly like this
I had ordered a California Burger.  This is what the menu shows it should look like.  This is the burger as shown on the Wild West Website, which  is the same picture that is on the menu.  You see lots of cheese, a large tomato, lettuce, mushrooms, and a good size beef patty.  It’s not difficult to make a good burger, especially when you have this photo to show you what it looks like.

Clearly not even close to expectations.  Is there cheese?  Bacon broken into pieces.   Pee wee sized tomato.  The bottom of the bun is much smaller.
I always cut my burgers in half when they are large, and I sliced down through my California Burger to find this.  It is hard to see any of the items pictured, and my tomato fell out.  It was the size of a half dollar coin.  You cannot even see it in the photo.  Clearly the manager is cutting corners on this, too.   I did not squash my burger, either.  That was how it came. 

What was the cook thinking of?  Or better yet, what is the management thinking to serve up a burger not even fit for a horse thief.   If this was served anyone in Texas, there would be a lot of trouble.  
I don’t want to forget to mention that my burger was cold, and my  small side of fries were only a little warm.  So far, a complete waste of my money, and you can see from the menu that these burgers are not cheap!   Lastly, I received half the fries normally placed on the plate!

This is not the first time we have received cold burgers.  This was the second in a row.  I can forgive them for charging for ketchup,  I can forgive them for slow service, but take a look at my burger and you can see why I am upset.    

I figure that I am going to give Old West one more chance, and if they don’t serve up a burger that sort of looks like the menu picture, if they don’t  serve up something hot off the grill, then we will stop going there.

Many of you read my blog to find out what life is like in Italy.  You want to know about the people, and the food.  One major difference I have found in Italy is that the Italians seem to be a little more easy going than Americans.  They accept things as they are without complaining.   When we were paying the bill for our burgers I wanted to mention to the manager what I was feeling about Old Wild West after such a deflated experience.  My Italian wife stopped me.  She reasoned with me that writing about our meal in my blog and also sending it to the corporate website would be better.  (I prefer a face to face chit chat, however, it had been a long day.)  

I am not recommending Old Wild West anymore.  13 dollars, (euro to dollar) for a deflated cold burger without any of the fixings that you can see is not worth it.  All that cowboy junk hanging on the walls, rodeo scenes on the big screen, and peanuts for appetizers won’t cut it for me.  It shouldn’t for you.    Better get your burgers at  American Graffiti at the movie complex and give them a try.  So far, they have come through 100%.  They don't charge extra for ketchup!

Ciao!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Escape From Pasta Land


Plated Artistically 
We escape Pasta Land of the Veneto to visit Croatia at least 5 times a year.   The scenery is beautiful and the coastline is colorful.   You can tell you are near Croatian man-food by the smell from the pigs roasting on a spit at almost every restaurant into and out of each town.  If you are not in the mood for pork there is always fresh fish, or something with local truffles.  However, in the  past two years we made a major discovery and have always planned to visit a restaurant called Barba Danilo at least twice on every weekend visit.  Our first time resulted after reading  several reviews of restaurants in the area around Rovinj.   Now after becoming a quasi regular customer I want to write my own recommendation and urge you to make an effort to visit them if you are on the coast of Croatia.  (Rovinj is just over 3 hours from Venezia)

The sauces w the tuna Wow!
The restaurant is highly popular, usually you have to make a reservation ahead of time.  Located out of Rovinj and next to a campground, one would think that the menu would feature burgers and pizza.  Lose that kind of thinking!  Here they are famous for their tapas appetizers.  You won’t find burgers, or pizza here.   You will find a sign along the walkway to the restaurant warning No Pizza!   Instead you will taste appetizers so good that last year a Slovenian food editor tried to steal their recipe for their smoked white fish mousse.  BTW this item is our top pick, one to die for, and please don’t leave until you taste it!  One of those presentations that you are not sure it will taste as advertized, but then….it is so good that you begin to take smaller and smaller forkfulls to make it last.  Heaven!   

Steak Tartare
The owners have a good thing going with their completely irresistible food. Everything is farm fresh to order, and presented with an artistic flair.   This year they are taking a risk by cutting back on their dinner items while  enlarging their appetizer items into a full blown menu.  The owner explained to us that they will keep experimenting with recipes and then add them as time goes on.   It took them months to perfect the mousse recipe for instance.
They further explain that “we are transforming our tavern into a new, simpler and a more relaxed place where the emphasis will be on wines, top food ingredients and relaxation.”    




Danilo helps with a cooking class




The restaurant was started by the father, named Danilo, and many of the items on the menu has his signature.  These are innovative and cannot be found in other restaurants in the area.   Concept is not as important as creating food that is so good it is comfort food.   The ingredients are drawn from the local area, for instance we had food prepared with tiny baby-wild asparagus, not sold in shops, but hand picked that morning from  the forest area.   Their seasonal cooking has earned them a strong local and critical acclaim.  No wonder it is hard to find a table at the last minute.   All this makes Danilo the most popular of all Restaurants (189) in Rovinj, according to Trip Advisor.







2012 Teran

As far as wine goes, attention goes both to great wines of the area.  Their wine menu has some very expensive wines and wines that I can afford.  (Retired educator)  The wines we considered came with  stories about the makers, when they bottled, how long in oak cask,  and the condition of the grapes that year.  While talking with our waiter, Sandi, who is Danilo’s son, we found that in December he had taken a trip to California where he spent time sampling wine in Napa Valley and then drove south from Carmel along highway 101 to taste wine of the Central Coast. 








Cheesecake in a Jar
I mentioned to Sandi that Anthony Bourdain had made a food tour of the Croatian coast and many people now have Croatia on their bucket list.  He laughed and told me that he had  seen that program more than once and, yes there has been a large increase in tourists from the United States.   That  program has also been seen throughout Europe on the major channels. 





Tiramisu



Lastly, let me suggest to you that on your first visit ask the waiter to use their judgement and bring you a varied selection of items.  This is how we fell in love with Danilo’s restaurant.  Now we have our own favorites, items we would never find in northern Italy where we live.  You will discover why it is our top pick of the area and the reason why we would drive three hours, stay for the weekend to enjoy innovative, irresistible food.  

Ciao!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

BACK IN THE DAY

Clone of "Dave" Meeting Bob
Maybe you missed it.  Maybe you are too young or living in a foreign land.    There was a time, a really good time, when if you had 60 cents you could meet this big plastic Big Boy at the front door of Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant. Ah, those were the days!  Their burgers were so good that some teens made this the prom night restaurant.  Imagine a bunch of teens in tuxedos and fancy dresses having a burger.  It DID happen.
Real Prices
 

Not to Pass Up!
When I was a teenager in high school, you could get a great double decker burger for 60 cents, fries for a dime (10 cent), and even a cup of coffee only cost 10 cents.  This burger was made on a grill, not from a factory box, warmed up in a microwave contraption.  (You know who I am talking about right?)
Those aren't real burgers at Mickey D's!

Thank you, Brits!
Caramel Inside Was Better
Let me divert for a second and explain how things have changed. This  will help you realize how prices have sky rocketed by inflation and the greed and world wide profit making.  We can now find burgers for ten dollars or more.  Just last week I saw one for 20 euros.  Items like Snicker Bars use to cost 5 cents while a Mars bar was 10 cents, and chewing gum, 5 cents.  I think I have seen Snicker Bars here in Italy for 1 euro, and they are a lot smaller than they used to be!  A real premium candy bar from Great Britain called  Cadbury had creamy caramel inside cost 10 cents.  

Due to the fact that I announced one evening during dinner that I would be going on strike and not washing dishes anymore until my parents raise my allowance above one dollar.  I had been studying American history and we were learning about worker rights and how the economy expanded through union action.  My father, a union man who knew how to negotiate the hard way and always quick to see good luck, told me, “Fine, you can now wash the dishes for free!”  This was not the outcome I had expected.  My plans for extra money in my wallet went out the window.   I actually thought about making a sign and marching up and down the sidewalk in protest. 

Later on in life, I got the chance to carry a sign on the streets of Seattle, and I even carried one in protest against Arnold Schwarzenegger , who was governor of California at the time.  Another story.

How I Remember It.
Was A Bad Governor Of California

I had to go into survival mode, by not eating lunch and pocketing my lunch money,. IMy mother gave me 2 dollars a week to buy my lunches at school.  2 dollars for the whole week could cover the dreaded school cafeteria offerings.   By starving myself I would have 2 dollars for the weekend girlfriend activity.  It was far easier back then, here is how I did it.  

The Truth Hurts!










Our Ford Was Corporate Grey
(We Were Ahead Of The Times)



In order to use the family car I had to buy gas.   1 dollar went into the gas tank of the family car.   Gasoline prices, in the 60’s were lower and 1 dollar would buy at least 3 gallons or more.   Sometimes there would be a gas war between stations, and one could find gas for 17 cents a gallon.   It was smart to look out the window when driving around to find the cheapest station.  We didn’t have texting back then so teens actually were aware of their surroundings.   They could even carry on a discussion with a real person.  
The local “drive in movie” had a price of 1 dollar a  car load, so if I double dated with a friend I would have 50 cents left over for popcorn (10 cents) and sodas, also 10 cents. 

Bring This Back
Don't Remember the Hypnotist

Weekend Entertainment
How We Saw Most Movies Back Then
Recent Movies Were Never on TV






Ask a teenager how much money they spend now on a weekend!  Those of you who have teenagers, don’t you wish two dollars was back in style?   My parents never actually knew how lucky they were.  I bet those Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers now cost a lot more, if you can find one of their restaurants.    I do miss their burgers.




To help you further understand the times back then here are a few reminders.
They Sold The Rights To Their
Music to Michael Jackson!
The Bee Gees Were Better

A Lot Of Boys Got This Stupid Haircut




During English Class
Announcement to Go Home
School Cancelled For Days




I believe that this headline announces the slow death of the American spirit.  We sadly sat in front of the television for three days and watched.  Another Story.....
Go have a burger this weekend.
Ciao!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Amazing Monument to Battle of Britain

We were in London over Christmas, and enjoyed seeing how London celebrates Christmas, in comparison to how the rest of Europe celebrates with lighting and markets.  There didn't seem to be the large Christmas market like we had seen in Manchester, and on Christmas day everything was closed down, and there was no public transportation.  Trains were not running for two days in a row, which caused a huge mess for people trying to get to the airports without spending a fortune.  It wasn't a  total loss, however, in the 4 days, we did take in a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, and  we got in a lot of walking, were we saw Parliament, Big Ben (enclosed by construction), and we found that Westminster Abbey was closed.    


What We Found Cast in Bronze

Walking along the Thames river we found a wonderful monument to the people who fought in the Battle of Britain.  The casting in bronze was amazing in itself to see, yet really told the story through a great work of art.   You can feel the courage people had to face danger, the artist, Paul Day, has created a masterpiece.  If you don’t know about the Battle of Britain, here is some background.

Hitler ordered a massive amount of destructive air raids from the 10th of July through the 31st of October, 1940,   German pilots only had to fly across the Channel as France had fallen.  The Royall Air Force  (RAF) Fighter Command, had far fewer planes but put up a stubborn defence.
Fighting with fewer fighter planes the British air force endured and overcame the Luftwaffe.   The result of which was that Hitler decided not to invade Great Britain.  

The monument to the battle was not just fought by the pilots, but also by the civilians on the ground who were involved fire fighting, caring for the bombing victims, artillery, and clean up of the damage.  The monument clearly shows all who were involved in great detail.  The faces sculpted with care show the angst and shock of war,  they show the courage people had to face danger.  The artist put a lot of thought into his creation.  This, to me, is one of the finest monuments I have seen dedicated to  past events while living in Europe these past 9 years.  

No Government Funds Used
The funds used to build the monument were made from public donations.  It is located on the north side of the Thames, opposite the Eye.  The Sculptor was Paul Day and it was cast by  the Morris Singer foundry.  One can also see the names of all the airmen who are credited as flying during the battle.

The monument was unveiled on  September 18, 2005 by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Detail is Amazing
The horror of war, the destruction of London is well crafted here.  If you are in  London, be sure and make a visit to see this.  My Facebook British friends, hats off to you!  
ciao tutti!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Market And Music

Greetings, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you!

Another short blog posting!
We visited Vienna a weekend ago, took in the Christmas market, and walked to find some interesting sites.  I wanted to show you something that many people miss, as they either do not follow classical music or know that in the Vienna cemetery the people of Vienna have placed the burial sites of all of their famous composers,  Beethoven to Brahms to the Strauss family and more, they are all there together in once place.  What I did notice and want to mention is that when you are in Vienna you will find that the tourist industry and the city really push Mozart's  name.  You can buy t shirts, mugs, pens, napkins, chocolates, etc., all with Mozart's  name on them.  Mozart's house is a big item to see.  Beethoven lived in several different places in Vienna, but you won't see much about this.  What I did see was a big difference in people's actions towards the two composers.  You will see this in the photos I am including here.

Mozart is buried here

Mozart has just a few flowers at his tombstone.  Beethoven has a blanket of many flowers left by many many people.  Perhaps Vienna is missing something?
Beethoven

I could joke that they are still making up for the poor showing of people at the funeral for Mozart and his procession to the cemetery.  When Beethoven died the people had realized their big mistake on showing respect and the city was shut down for the day.

The two composers were as different as night and day!  Both had a gift, that we don't see often.  Mozart came away from hearing the special music of the Vatican that was protected from being stolen, he wrote it from memory days after.  Beethoven stretched music far beyond what it was, and thank goodness he began to use the brass section and percussion to full advantage.  His 9th Symphony is wonderful to hear, and I got to hear it while being on stage as a performer on trombone.  I can tell you that when the choir stood up behind the orchestra and began singing, the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.  It was a real thrill.  If you have never heard the 9th Symphony, take a listen.  Stick with it all the way to the end because it gets better and better. Beethoven planned it that way.  Then be glad you heard it, because he never did.  He was completely deaf when he wrote it.
At the grand performance he  was standing by the conductor to guide the tempos of the various movements, and when it was finished he was afraid to face the audience because it might be regarded as a failure.  Beethoven was in ill health and knew it would be one of his last compositions.  The conductor turned him around and he saw the audience standing and applauding like a sports team just won the big game.   We all know that feeling, right?
Maybe this is the reason Beethoven gets all the flowers.
If you are in Vienna, plan a few hours to visit that huge cemetery.
Not to take away from the Christmas Market, here are two photos.
I wish you a safe holiday.  Ciao!
Food, Drinks and More

This Will Become A Watercolor Soon


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Starbucks Milano News


Sad news for Starbucks fans!  Another year will pass before the lines grow outside of the new Starbucks in Milano.  The latest information is that it will open in 2018.  If my calculations are correct, this will be a total of two years of renovating a building and furnishing it with the usual Starbucks furniture.  Devotees must be getting very uptight about the delay.  Collectors of those countrified coffee cups have dusted their shelf in anticipation.  Do you know that those cups grow in value and are traded on Ebay?  This whole trading thing began with baseball cards decades ago.  A minor exageration.

When we were in Spain we noticed that they used toilets which are the same in America.   Nothing like making things look “corporate style”.  How can it take so long to refurbish an old building?  I think it was previously the post office in Milano.  Whoever owns the franchise to that Starbucks must be beating his/her head on the wall in frustration.  Wheelbarrows of euros, gone.   Things take a lot longer in Italy.  I just purchased a new car in Padova, and it took longer than a week to drive it off the premises.  In America it would have been an hour and a half.   

I guess they bring the toilets over on a boat?  Maybe the boat has been blocked by the EU?   Maybe the Russians?  Someone has to take the blame.   

This has been a short blog.  News has been minimal.  Ciao!

If you would like to read more news on this grand opening, here are two links you can check out.  Just copy and paste.



https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/28/517783805/starbucks-to-open-in-italy-home-of-espresso-in-2018-italian-cafes-say-bring-it

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Are Venetians Eating This Week

Buon Giorno!
It has been awhile since the last posting.  I have been very busy painting watercolors almost every day, as I am planning an exhibition  in a few months.
This will be a short read for you.  There are two things on my mind.  I want to mention a dish served in Venezia, which is common to the people who live in the Veneto.  When I was a kid, my mother served this dish about once a month, and I hated it so much that I put a mountain of ketchup on it to survive the meal.  She didn’t really know how to cook it like the people here do.  That dish is liver and onions, commonly know here as fegato alla Veneziana.
featured with soft polenta

When we have guests from abroad, I always encourage them to try it.  I tell them if they don’t like it they can have what I have ordered, that way they won’t miss a chance to taste a regional dish.  
This weekend I ordered it in a restaurant in the hills called Colli Euganei, south of Padova.  One can find many good places for dining in these hills. There are many people from Germany that come here for the hot mineral pools, spa and hot mud treatments offered by a great number of hotels there.   Of course, they get hungry and venture away from the hotel food.  I think there are so many restaurants there that we could eat every night at a new one for many months and never run out of restaurants.  Almost all feature regional food, I can think of only one that features German cuisine and only  3 Asian.  
The taste of fegato alla veneziana is quite light, and they slice the meat thinly, which I think helps the flavor.  You won’t need ketchup.  The sauce is made from the juices of the meat, and it always seems to taste the same here no matter which restaurant makes it.  I suggest to you if you come to the Veneto to try it.  
My second item is a short discussion of the characteristics of Italians.  One of the more maddening things about them is when they have to line up.  You will find that they do not seem to know how to line up single file, in fact, I think they kind of resent lining up.  They seem to enjoy breaking what would be a rule in most countries, similar to when Italians come to a stop sign.  They won’t stop unless they have to miss a collision.  

Last weekend we were at the Venice Airport, and the announcement is made to line up for boarding.   We wanted to get a jump on things so we were already in a line behind about 25 others.  This was not a straight line, but you could tell it was a line formed for boarding.  People started coming and some were lining up behind us, but the majority of them began taking cuts, and standing at the side but closer to the attendant than us.  I stood there, always shocked at the blatant behavior, and I hope that they would turn and look behind them.  I am waiting to give them the stare, a visual that would tell them they are taking advantage of everyone who has tried to line up.  They NEVER look back.  They never look to the side.  But what really gets me is that they act like it is normal to just crowd in, and not line up.  BTW, this behavior can be seen in other occasions, bus stations, post office and even sometimes at my doctor’s office.    You begin to think that they have never considered standing in line.  
However on the way home, at the Barcelona airport, these same Italian folks made a  line, single file when the announcement was made.  Not one person took cuts, or tried to sneak in ahead of others.  It was very orderly.  I told my Italian wife, that I could not believe what we were seeing.  She was also a bit shocked to see such orderliness.   When you come to Italy for a visit, watch how the lines form and see if you experience the same thing.  Good luck, or buona fortuna, as they say here.

How they line up.....Have a smile on me.