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bushes

Aronia Berry bushes

berries

Unripe berries

berriescloseIn recent years I’ve heard a lot about aronia berries and how they are one of the new “superfoods”, mostly due to their high antioxidative activity and their high level of vitamins, minerals and folic acids. We even tried a few dried berries from Whole Foods, and I have to say I wasn’t that impressed with the taste.

So, it was really interesting a few weekends ago to actually see some aronia bushes and find out more about how they are grown.

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Our group at the farm

bush

A young aronia bush

We were in Wisconsin visiting a business colleague of my husband’s in Milwaukee, and after that we drove to their house in Door County, at Sister Bay at the end of the peninsula. They have a beautiful house on the water there, plus he owns a farm just behind the house. Part of the farm, called Hidden Acres, is devoted to a community garden and part to a commercial enterprise, where they grow all kinds of vegetables organically for local restaurants. Wonderful to wander around and pick fresh carrots or purple beans, for example.

Something new that he is trying is growing Aronia berries. The bushes are now about cheesecakethree years old and are producing quite nicely. The best production will come after about 5 years, apparently. The berries were not ripe yet: harvesting will be at about the beginning of September.

Our host’s wife made a cheesecake for dessert, and served it with a berry compote, made of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and aronia berries. In a mix like that, the aronia berries were quite pleasant. We tried eating a few fresh ones too, and found them very fibrous and chewy and not terribly tasty really. But, mixed in a smoothie they are very good.

eatberies

eating plain fresh aronia berries

We found out that Aronia is a woody perennial shrub in the rosaceae family that is native to the eastern United States. It grows in full sun and along woodland edges, so the setting of this farm is perfect.

Aronia has benefited from increased interest in phytonutrients, plant compounds that have beneficial effects on human health. Interest in “eating healthy” has led to worldwide growth in the popularity of aronia berries and products made from them. Aronia has been grown as a commercial berry crop in most Eastern European countries since the 1950s, starting in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. It is now becoming a more popular cash crop in the Mid-West of the USA too. Some sources say that Aronia berries top the list of more than 100 foods that have been scientifically tested for antioxidant capacity.

 

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ale

They make their own beer at Oliver Brewing Co on sight

Rale

Ale outside

Pratt Street Ale House

While in Baltimore we ended up coming here a couple of times for lunch and for dinner. Partly because its location was so convenient—opposite the Convention Center and close to our hotels—but also because after our first meal there we realized that the food is really good, fairly reasonably priced and has a wonderful convivial atmosphere and really friendly wait staff.

We sat outside the first two times at tables under trees that line the sidewalk. The next two times we opted to sit inside as the weather had changed to terribly hot and steamy. Both were fine in different ways: outside we could watch the world go by, and it did, in a steady stream of pedestrians and noisy traffic; inside we were cool and could listen to snippets of conversation at other tables as people discussed the merits of the local baseball team, the Orioles. On our final night in the city, there was a game on between the Orioles and the Chicago Cubs and many Cubs fans were in town. Many seemed to be in this pub as it’s on the way to the stadium, so we also heard lots of “go Cubbies” comments too. Remember that Baltimore is serious about its sports!

Rtuna

Inside—tuna salad

Rsalad

Outside—tuna salad

OsignBut, back to the Ale House.

They have quite a large menu with many options, lots like typical pub food. For lunches we tried a couple of their special salads: a crab cobb salad and a seared tuna salad with wasabi soba noodles and vegetables. So good, in fact, that we had the tuna again!

They are a brew pub and their speciality is Oliver’s Ales, so we had to try one of those at least once (because our grandson’s name is Oliver!), and their beer menu is impressive. One evening we chose “Staring at the Sun”, a Belgian-style wheat beer that was pretty good.

alemenu

An extensive menu

crabcobb

Crab Cobb salad

Rsteak

Ribeye

salmon

The salmon and shrimp dish was delicious…

For entrees, the rib-eye was good (Rod), but the really amazing dish was the salmon with shrimp, a mashed potato patty and wilted spinach. I would definitely go back just for that!

Address: 206 W. Pratt Street, opposite the Baltimore Convention Center and a few blocks from the Inner harbor.

tuna

…and so was the tuna salad!

 

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phillips

powerplant

The former Power Plant building

Phillips Seafood was recommended by a friend originally from Baltimore and by all the tourist books and brochures, so we decided we should go there our first evening in Baltimore, as we hadn’t scouted out any other good eating places.

This popular place is at the edge of Inner Harbor in part of the old Pratt Street Power Plant building (Barnes and Noble and Hard Rock Café are in there too). The former coal-fired power plant, built 1900-1909, was repurposed from the mid 1970s. Phillips Seafood moved here in June 2010.

Come very early, or a bit later (8pm) as it gets very crowded around 5:30-8pm and you’ll likely have a long wait, especially on weekends.

Rinside

Rod M inside

There is indoor and outdoor seating: we opted for indoors as the wait was slightly shorter. It was cooler inside too! The décor is attractive with pretty chandeliers and stained-glass insets in the ceiling. We had a beer while waiting and then got a bar area table pretty easily.

Here in Baltimore (and in Maryland generally) crab cakes are a speciality, so we had to try them. We shared a beet salad, with two different colored beets and feta cheese on arugula, which was delicious. Then Rod had the classic plate, which was a crab cake, a shrimp skewer, a piece of salmon, mashed potatoes and asparagus. I had crab-stuffed shrimp, which was 5 butterflied shrimp

shrimp

Crab-stuffed shrimp

stuffed with a crab mix, with mashed potatoes and asparagus. All very nice, with a very friendly server.

The atmosphere is pleasant, as it’s bustling with people and two guys on guitars were playing and singing, a bit like John Denver.

Phillips Seafood is a very prominent institution around here, and it would be hard to miss with its huge red sign. I’m glad we came and it was fun. The food was good, but pretty over-priced, I’d say. Definitely good for one visit, but I’m not sure we could afford to return.

601 E. Pratt Steet, Baltimore, www.Phillipsseafood.com

 

 

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MS

Satoshi and Max enjoy the meal

Maxcook

Max helps cook the meat and vegetables

Sapporo is well-known for special Ghengis Khan grilled lamb meals and the principle places are run by big beer halls. The two main ones are at Sapporo Beer Garden, which I wrote about before (https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/japan-a-hokkaido-special-dish/ ) and the other is at the Kirin Beer Hall. Both Sapporo and Kirin are very popular Japanese beers.

VR

Another marvelous meal!

On our final night in Sapporo this last trip, Satoshi booked us into the Premier Hotel. It’s in the Suskino area of town, where a lot of the nightlife is, so lots of neon lights, and really busy especially on a Saturday evening

For dinner that evening we went our for a Ghengis Khan meal again, somehow fitting, as we had Ghengis on our first evening in the city. The Kirin Beer Hall was within walking distance of the Premier Hotel, so very convenient.

Satoshi and Max took Rod and I and once again we had a lovely evening together and a

meat

The grill is set down in the center of the table

great meal. Here, the grills are set out differently: they are set down a bit in the center of the tables. But, otherwise the concept is very similar: first, put on bibs to protect clothes, then cook plenty of vegetables and pieces of thinly sliced meat on the grill, using large tongs. Wash it down with plenty of beer and/or wine.

We also had a smoked hokke fish as a snack first. Over the years, Rod and I have come to really like hokke and Satoshi wanted us to have it “one last time”. Delicious and much appreciated.

hokke

Hooke is great

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sign

front

glassesFishlips—an Intriguing Name for a Restaurant

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill, 610 Glen Cheek Drive, Port Canaveral, Florida

Their slogan: From hot burgers and cold beer, to fresh fish and fine wine – Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill in Port Canaveral has “Something for Everyone!”

There is a row of four or so restaurants near the port terminal at Port Canaveral, but our Florida family has been to Fishlips before and we were happy to be guided by them. We were not disappointed.

group

Our family group

baby

The baby loved the boats and birds

fishlipspole

An interesting logo

This lovely place is close to Cocoa Beach, so if you’re planning on spending some time at the beach, this is perfect for lunch or an early dinner before driving back to Orlando. You pay $15 per car to park in Jetty Park for the beach, but parking at Fishlips is free.

On Boxing Day (December 26) our large extended family group did just that: drove to Fishlips for lunch and then spent the afternoon at the beach. Coming from the Mid-West, where frigid and icy weather had been the norm, we were so happy to feel warm sunshine.

It’s a nautical-themed seafood grill and bar, with an extensive menu (see here http://fishlipswaterfront.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/FishlipsMenu_March2015.pdf ). They have a special Sunday brunch, and can also offer special facilities for parties, banquets etc.

surf

A surfing photo op!

boats

View from waterfront patio

cod

Cod encrusted in mashed potato

You can dine downstairs inside, or outside on the waterfront patio. They also offer an indoor sports bar, and sun deck with Tiki bar upstairs. We opted for the outside waterfront tables that face the port inlet and it was wonderful to see and hear the sea birds wheeling and calling, to see dolphins splashing in the water, and to watch boats of different sizes and shapes glide by: from a small motor boat with two people and a dog, to a ferry, to fishing boats, to a huge container ship. Cruise ships apparently also pass by here, but none came the day we were there.

oysters

Fresh oysters

triple

Triple skewers

We were a large group, with varying tastes, so many different items on the menu got chosen. Everyone in our group seemed to be pleased with their choice—from a dozen fresh oysters, to conch fritters, to coconut shrimp, to baked cod, to burgers, to a crabcake sandwich, to scallops risotto, to mention some of the dishes. My daughter has a baby and our server was very happy to bring small side dishes of vegetables for her. Considering the number of people in our party, we thought that our server did very well—she was accurate and always smiling and pleasant. Prices are pretty reasonable too, if you remember this is Florida and this is close to where huge cruise ships dock.

conch

Fried conch

I hope that we can return here on our next visit back to Orlando.

Open 11am-2am

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summerfield

Summer view to mountains

winterfield

Winter view

appraoch2

Entrance to the farm stall

manyroad

Many creatures on the approach road

MOOIBERGE FARM STALL

This is always a good place to have lunch in the Stellenbosch winelands area as it’s easy to get to, the prices are very reasonable and it’s a lot of fun.

Mooiberge means “pretty mountains” in Afrikaans and the view out here certainly is that, as it’s right below the Helderberg Mountains.

 

many

springbok

A Springbok (SA rugby team) and a Wallaby (Australian team)

stormer

A Stormer (Cape rugby team)

On the R44 road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, this landmark farm stall is hard to miss, as much of the property is “fenced” with a line of colorful art creatures/’sculptures’ (can we call them sculptures?) that the farm calls scarecrows and transportation creations. They are colorful, whimsical, and sometimes naughty scarecrows! Many of them are animals representing various sports teams, both South African and other countries. For many people, Mooiberge is “that farm with the crazy oversupply of scarecrows.” We wondered how it all began and in fact, the menu explains some of the history.

It started off in the 1950s as a farm stall selling strawberries, run by the Zetler family (Samuel and Josie Zetler and 5 sons), who later added sweet peppers too. As the roadside cart grew too small, they built a bricks and mortar stall that blossomed/mushroomed out into what we see today—a colorful, sprawling complex.

crafts

Some of the crafts in the modern farm stall

gooseberries

Cape gooseberries for sale

sauces

What about some Mama Africa’s hot sauce?

thirstys

Thirsty Scarecrow play area

Some might say it’s a kitschy produce market-cum-wine shop-cum-market for bottled goods (jams, sauces, olive oils for example), cakes, nuts, biltong, local crafts, wine barrels, fruits and vegetables. But, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun. We once bought a bottle of wine for R25—one of their advertised specials. They seem to have many of the specials for various airlines.

It’s a great place to take kids in the strawberry season (November-January or February), as the strawberry picking is very popular. There’s a wonderful play area called the Thirsty Scarecrow, which the kids in our group loved on the last visit.

 

eva

oslide

croda

Caroline M, Rod M, and Anthea K enjoy lunch

Over the years we’ve been here many times to eat lunch and it’s always been great. In the winter, there’s obviously no strawberry picking and the rows of plants are all covered in plastic. But, it’s still a great lunch place, as it has a fun atmosphere because of the setting and very good food—a tasty meal, with very generous servings, of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

The outside deck where you can sit looks out over the kids play area and across the pepper/strawberry fields to the mountains, the whole view enlivened by the bright, quirky, animals (mostly) sculptures—which in general you’d say don’t fit into this (wine) environment, and yet they’ve become a local fixture and a tourist feature and attraction.

evaentrance

Miss E at entrance to Farmers Kitchen

salad

One of their delicious salads

rburger

Rod M has the lamb burger

The restaurant is called the Farmer’s Kitchen, which re-opened in September 2011 after new owner Kelly Zetler revamped it, to “French colonial meets rustic countryside comfort”. Its hours are 8:30am-5pm, and they specialize in breakfast, snack meals and lunch, with many dishes featuring strawberries in season.

At different times over the years, members of our party have tried many items on the menu. Some of the favorites are a huge lamb burger with Greek-style cucumber-yoghurt sauce; an avocado and chicken wrap; a bacon, brie and walnut pizza, served with salad; a parma ham and fresh fig salad; and a fresh salad with pomegranate and goat cheese. They also have very good meat and cheese platters. The house wine is Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc and there is also beer, hard cider and all kinds of cold and hot drinks.

salad2

Another great salad

rugby

We look down at rugby player scarecrows from the restaurant

dinosaur

More creatures

Also in the Mooiberge complex is the Thirsty Scarecrow Bistro-Pub, open Mon-Sun 11am-11:30pm.

Mooiberge the Farm Stall is open Mon-Sun 8:30am-6pm.

This should definitely be on the list for anyone visiting the Cape Town and Stellenbosch winelands.

tractor

Mooiberge’s first tractor

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ballspickles

Almost too pretty to eat

tofu

Tofu

Kuwana Restaurant in Sapporo, Japan

Miniature edible works of art

Another Amazing Meal in Hokkaido—-Have we ever had a mediocre meal?!

This is a very special restaurant in Sapporo, in the busy downtown Susukino area (think chain stores, neon lights, night life). We went here one evening with Dr K, Satoshi, Max and 2 students from the lab. It’s in a busy nightlife area, down a small side street with many obvious adult entertainment places, so we’d never find it on our own. I doubt many tourists come here, unless they speak and read Japanese, as nothing is in English really.

babytempura

Baby tempura

pork

A pork dish

platepeg

Our plates arrive with a clothes peg

So, once again, we are so lucky to have very involved hosts who want us to experience the best their city has to offer. We came by subway, on the Green line from Sapporo JR Station. This is the second stop; the first is Odori.

Kuwana is a small place on two levels: downstairs is a bar-counter, and upstairs is zashiki seating, where we sit with our feet dangling in a cut-out area below the low table. It might be small, with only 28 seats, but it’s a very nice place, quite formal with all the dishes exquisitely presented.

clampeg

How to hold the hot clam shell with the clothes peg

clams

Plate of clams

It is known for baked clams in particular. They use the Hamaguri, or common orient clam, a saltwater clam found in Japan. When we sat down we wondered why each person had a clothes-peg on their side plate, but soon found out. We used the peg to hold the shell of the baked clams, as the shells are extremely hot, and then picked out the clam with chopsticks. The clams were delicious, but so many other small amazing dishes appeared after the clams that I’d be really hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

seagrape

Sea grape seaweed pops in the mouth

salad

Tuna tomato salad

tunabone

A tuna bone is a delicacy

All were tasty, all beautifully presented—the whole meal like a work of art. One was umibudo (sea grape), a special kind of seaweed that looks like tiny green grapes, which pop in your mouth when you bite them.

Again, we are really fortunate to be taken out to places like this, and to be treated so well. This is a wonderful way of learning about a very special part of Japanese culture: its cuisine. The Japanese are very proud of their cuisine, and we are very willing learners and experimenters.

groupof3

Max, Risa and Yuki

cheese

They even had a cheese plate

balls

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