It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Purple Pig, Chicago, USA

I did a bit of homework on before we left for the US, as I'd never been to Chicago before, and I'd heard it was a real place for foodies.  One restaurant that kept getting consistent reviews was The Purple Pig, whose claim to fame is "Cheese, Swine & Wine" - sounds like our kind of place!

We lobbed into Chicago on a Thursday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and headed out down Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificent Mile) to have a bit of an explore.  We actually ended up walking past The Purple Pig as we were ambling along and it was absolutely jammed with people (at about 5.30pm).  They don't really take bookings - though you could put your name down and wait.  We thought it'd probably empty out after an hour or so, so we kept on walking and headed back around 7pm.  Mistake.  It didn't empty out, it just got busier!

We decided we'd put our name down and were told it'd be about 45-60 minutes.  The Purple Pig have the whole "put your name down and wait" thing sorted out like champions.  You can wait outside, in a big area with plants and seats and they have staff out there taking drinks orders!  We ordered some drinks and perched on some chairs that were vacated by a table that was called, and watched the world go by.  We only had to wait about 30 minutes and we were called to a table that was outside, but undercover and near some of those patio heaters - perfect.

The Pig offers tapas style dining, with a choice of Antipasti, Smears, Fried Items, Panini, Cured Meats, Cheese, Salad, A La Plancha & Desserts - and the prices aren't bonkers.  They also have a large and interesting wine list.

We had the following, and it was all outstanding:-

  • Pork fried almonds, rosemary and garlic
  • Charred cauliflower, toasted breadcrumbs, cornichons and parsley
  • Salt roasted beets, whipped goats cheese and pistachio vinaigrette
  • Chorizo stuffed olives
  • Melrose peppers with sea salt and garlic chips
  • Petit Basque cheese with membrillo
  • Milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes

There was also a great looking dessert menu, but we were absolutely stuffed and couldn't fit anything else in.  There are loads of staff, all going flat out all the time.  There are loads of customers, all eating flat out all the time.  It's a fantastic, buzzy kind of place.  Go and get Piggy!

The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- 312 464 1 744

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vinsetta Garage, Detroit, USA

We had a fabulous meal at Vinsetta Garage with our friends Rebecca and Rick when we were back in Detroit.  Vinsetta Garage used to be a car repair garage and workshop, which is very obvious when you walk in.  It's run by the same people who run the Union in Clarkston that I blogged about back in August, so you know the food is going to be great - and it was!

There's no shortage of staff and there's a lunch and a dinner menu.  Food and drinks came out smartly and we really enjoyed it.  This place has got a huge following after only opening up in mid-summer this year.  They don't take bookings and the line runs down the street at lunch and dinner, so we headed in at 3.30pm for a late lunch/early dinner and we got a table without any trouble.  The menu changes from lunch to dinner at 4pm.

I had the duck burger (Maple Leaf Farms duck patty, cherry compote, caramelised onions, gruyere and arugula) with a side of Mac & Cheese.  My choice was really yummy and the sizes aren't crazy - I managed to eat it all, which is unheard of for me in America.  That said, Rebecca ordered the Mac & Cheese as her main meal and it could have fed a hungry family of four.  Luckily they're happy to box up anything you can't manage so you can take it home.

Burgers and pizzas (called pies) seem to be their thing, and they do it well.  Give Vinsetta Garage a try!

Vinsetta Garage
27799 Woodward Avenue
Berkley  MI  48072
Phone:- 248 548 7711

I Hope You'll Dance

Monday, October 8, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

After a great trip to Detroit and my first visit to Chicago,
the flight counter has bumped up again.

Keep tuned in for some USA posts!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apple Yoghurt Cake Recipe

Another yummy recipe pulled from Pinterest.  I was a bit dubious as to whether it'd turn out or not - but it did, and according to my panel of taste testers (neighbours, friends at the barn and the posse at hubby's office), it's great!  As always, my comments in italics.  Let's cook!

Apple Yoghurt Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups (150 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) granulated sugar
  • 7/8 cup (200 grams) unsalted softened butter plus a little for greasing the pan (I never have unsalted butter, so all of my recipes are with salted butter.  Rebel!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) yoghurt (I used plain Greek full fat yoghurt.)
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used my mandolin to slice them.)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar for the topping (I used that vanilla sugar I bought in Paris that I told you about in another recipe.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350f/180c
  2. Butter 8 inch round pan (I discovered that I don't have any round pans, it's an outrage!  So I used a loaf pan.)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I don't have a paddle attachment), beat 1/2 cup of sugar and softened butter until it has lightened
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the yoghurt, beginning and ending with the flour mixture
  7. Stir in the sliced apples and the lemon zest
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan (It doesn't pour very well, it's more of a "scrape".)
  9. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup of sugar evenly over the top of the cake
  10. Bake for around 45 minutes in preheated oven, or until a skewer (I now own skewers, yay!) inserted comes out clean

Gifts & International Postage

I'm pretty sure that everyone loves giving and receiving presents.  I know that I get so much joy from trying to find the perfect present that someone will love, and I'm always thrilled when someone gives me a gift.

We've lived away from our family and friends now for about 7 years, so most of the presents that we give are posted or ordered online for delivery to the recipient.  There's lots of presents that you can organise online - flowers, magazine subscriptions, gift vouchers - even groceries.  But often you see the "perfect" present for someone in real life, not online - and then you've got to post it off.  Depending on the size and weight of the present, postage can often be crippling.  It can sometimes cost more than the lovely present you're sending.

Here in Germany, international postage is actually quite reasonable.  Early last year it seemed that they almost halved their international postage rates, much to my delight!  One of the big problems with posting presents to people who live within Germany (from anywhere outside of the EU) is their very low free-tariff customs rate - anything declared to cost over about $50 will attract attention from customs.  Then I get a note in my letterbox instructing me to go to the customs office in the next big town and start the negotiation process with a customs officer of how much I have to pay to get hold of the present that's been sent to me.  Yes, I have to pay to get a present.

It really depends on who's behind the counter at the Zoll (customs) as to how much you've got to pay, but you're pretty much always going to have to pay.  And they want to unwrap it all and have a look at it to make sure you're not telling them stories.  That kind of takes away from the lovely surprise aspect of the gift!

I know that international postage from a lot of other counties can be incredibly expensive, so I've been poking around to see what's a good option for Christmas this year - and I think and are a great idea.

I've been using since we moved to Germany and I think they're great.  They have cheap books, DVDs, computer games, CDs, downloads, clothing, toys etc.  And the best bit is that they deliver all over Europe and the UK for free.

The amazing sell cheap books and offer free world wide delivery to over 100 countries.  With you can order from anywhere in the world and have it delivered to anywhere in the world - I tried it by ordering a book from here in Germany (and paying on a German credit card) and having it delivered to Mum in Australia.  It worked without any problems at all.

Once you've registered with, they offer a free "Wish List" option where you can add the books you'd like, and make the wish list available to be seen by any of your friends and family so they can pick books off the list for you.  And who doesn't love books?

So, give it a try if you want to send some lovely books as presents and don't want to have to worry about getting to a post office, paying for postage, dealing with the grumpy Frauen behind the counter (maybe that's just me?), and filling out customs forms.