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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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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.

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Our family group

baby

The baby loved the boats and birds

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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.

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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

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Entrance to the farm stall

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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.

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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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ballspickles

Almost too pretty to eat

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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

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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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Friend Isaac Cann, Dr Kobayashi, and Rod at a seafood restaurant

seasmallbowls

side dishes

seasashimi

Food looking like art

A very important part of Japanese culture is its food and cuisine. Japanese people are very proud of their cuisine and are really happy to share it and try to explain it: We are willing learners! Japanese cuisine is delicate and delicious, and always visually appealing and beautifully presented—often a work of art on a plate.

In Hokkaido we’ve had many opportunities to savor some of the best and most loved or famous dishes. For many Japanese people—particularly when they have visitors—the day is structured around the meals, especially lunch and dinner, and there will be serious discussions as to what kind of food and restaurant, and where. Often (mostly) they make a reservation, to make sure of getting a table because many of the good eating places are quite small.

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Ghengis Khan Grilled Lamb

okonocooking

Preparing okonomyaki

vhokkesign

One of our favorites is Hokke fish

On our recent visit we were in Hokkaido for a week, 5 nights in Sapporo the capital, and two nights on a road trip. We were treated twice to a Hokkaido speciality, called Ghengis Khan Grilled Lamb, for dinner and to wonderful seafood places twice for dinner by hosts Dr. Kobayashi, Satoshi and Max. There’s always lots of discussion about the menu, and what dishes to choose, all with the aim of having us try new and/or special things. If the host knows that we like something in particular, they will always try to order that too.

Traditional style zashiki seating on the floor can be done two ways: sit at a low table with legs crossed on the floor; or sit at a low table with a sunken floor for your legs. As westerners used to sitting up at a table, we tend to find the second way a little easier, so our hosts would try to find that for us. For any zashiki seating, all guests remove their shoes first.

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Tempura at a seafood restaurant

bbqbrolleyOne evening all lab members arranged a BBQ party at the lab, which was also an amazing feast of fish, vegetables and slices of meat. It was doubly memorable, as the evening started out with light rain and the students were valiantly cooking on the open grill with umbrellas! Luckily, the rain did stop.

Our other 2 nights in Hokkaido were on a road trip with Satoshi and Max, and each evening they cooked up a storm in our chalet in the hilly countryside, with the same careful attention to detail and the same careful choice of ingredients and dishes. We are truly honored and very lucky. More about the road trip later.

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Okonomyaki for lunch

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Soba noodles for lunch another day

bbqstudents

Students cooking at the BBQ party

Lunch is often soba, or ramen, or okonomyaki (Japanese-style pancake), also done with the same discussions and careful choice. Rod and I have declared to Max and Satoshi that our Hokkaido tradition must now always include soba noodles, and hokke (a fish, smoked Atka mackerel) and that’s made them very happy.

I will write about Ghengis Khan Grilled Lamb, soba, and okonomyaki separately, as well as the road trip, but here are some pictures from the one evening at a great seafood restaurant in the maze of underground “streets” in the JR complex, and some from the lab BBQ, which was a lot of fun.

bbqyas

seashrimp

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Our group at the seafood restaurant

Itadakimasu, or Bon Appetit!

Itadakimasu is often said with one’s hands put together under the chin and with a slight bow—-this is from the Buddhist origins of giving thanks, so some people liken it to a simple grace.

searolls

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2cellar

Entrance to the cellar

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Wine tasting

Tasting and Eating at Lourensford Wine Estate is a Gourmet Experience

You can’t go wrong here

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is a lovely wine estate in so many ways; it’s easy to get to, has gorgeous views of the mountains, lovely white Cape-Dutch buildings, excellent wines and wine tasting, a snack shop, a very nice restaurant, a coffee shop and a weekend market.

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Lunch out on the patio

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The River Garden wine at lunch

Last year we did the wine tasting at Lourensford and then had lunch at their Millhouse Kitchen Restaurant, when we could sit outside, as it was warm and sunny. This year, we didn’t do the wine tasting because we had young children with us, who were clamoring for lunch! The Millhouse Kitchen Restaurant was great again, but we sat inside, as it was June (their winter) and the wind was a bit chilly.

The estate offers Wine Tasting and Wine Sales daily (except Christmas Day and Easter Friday) 9am-5pm. Winery Tours are by appointment only. You can taste at a counter in the Tasting Room in the cellar building complex or sit on the thick green lawns outside in the shade, next to the small water fountains. We opted for outside, and the young man was very happy to carry out the wines to a picnic bench for our party of 4.

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Enjoying wine tasting

I have to say that this was one of our most enjoyable wine tastings last year. For R40 per person, you can taste any 5 wines (that fee is waived with a wine purchase). We compared 2 sauvignon blancs, and tasted a viognier and 2 reds (a shiraz and a cab/merlot blend). The young guy was knowledgeable about the wines and the harvests and explained in detail, and the setting was/is superb. The wines are also excellent. He brought the wines out in the order we marked on our tasting sheets, changed glasses for the reds, and gave us two glasses to compare the sauvignon blancs. All very nice.

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2lunchgroup

2RARunchThe Millhouse Kitchen is run by chef Bjorn Guido, whose aim is “to create a neighbourhood feel where his guests can relax and enjoy each other’s company in the beautiful setting of the Lourensford Wine Estate.” I’d say that he succeeds admirably, as the ambience and décor are great, and the servers are all so friendly and relaxed that you do feel at home. The menu is inspired by French and Italian rustic cooking, with an emphasis on fresh pasta, bread and wood-fired pizzas.

Last year for lunch, Rod had a biltong pizza, with biltong, brie and preserved figs, which he pronounced amazing. So this year, he and Kev were hoping for that again, but sadly it wasn’t on the menu!

2platterpizza

 

2bigburger2platterWe tested the antipasti plank, the burger (huge) and a number of pizzas (all delicious). I had spinach, olives and sun-dried tomatoes pizza, and Joanna one with roasted butternut, but that one is not always on the menu, as it’s seasonal.

The house wines are the Lourensford River Garden range, which are very good too. A bottle of sauvignon blanc in the restaurant was R125 (at the exchange rate at the time, that was about US$8.50!). The same bottle to buy in the Tasting Room was R65 (about US$4.50!)2pizza

The Millhouse Restaurant is closed Mondays. Tues-Sat, Breakfast 8:30-10:30am; lunch 12 noon-3 pm; dinner 6:30pm-10pm. Sundays open 8:30-5pm (orders close at 3pm) A “light bites” menu is available for those in between hours.

 

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