Friday, October 31, 2014

There's A Schweine in my Schnitzel: International Pig Week Continues! Clearwater, Florida

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

Happy Halloween!  Welcome to DAY FIVE - and the last installment of LilyOnTheLam's first ever INTERNATIONAL PIG WEEK.  I chose today's porcine-themed blog subject in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Vienna, Austria.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, from the Pierogi Grill & Deli in Clearwater, Florida, USA ... the Schweineschnitzel with Pierogi ...

Also known as pork Schnitzel with mushroom gravy with a side of caramelized onion topped pierogi.  

It is heaven with mushroom gravy.  Crispy, crusty, breaded pork cutlet in a savory, not too rich mushroom gravy with Pierogi Grill's awesome pierogi.  This is not a meal for one with a light appetite.  It is stick to your ribs all day and all night food.  I highly recommend you plow some fields before you have this dish!   

If you are a regular reader of LilyOnTheLam, you will know that I adore Pierogi Grill and Deli ... and not just because I am part Polish.  (Although maybe 72% because I am part Polish.)  I also love their Eastern European deli where you can find products you would not normally see on your American grocery shelves.  Such as:

Instant cappuccino mixes in hazelnut, rum, brandy and cherry flavors!  The next time I go to one of my fancy friends' houses and they ask me what I'd like to drink; I plan on turning my nose up and requesting "a brandy-flavored instant cappuccino, please."  

Then I plan on looking shocked, dismayed, disappointed and judgmental when they woefully admit that they don't have any.  

I will then hand them a map to Pierogi Grill & Deli and I will whisper "I can wait while you go buy some."  Then I will stare at them intently until they depart.  Friends are so much fun!

I read in a tour book that schnitzel came into being when "back in ye olden days," the rich would actually coat their meat with gold flakes.  (My sister and I ate our body weight in gold flake decorated pastries at the Leela Palace in New Delhi, India.  If you're ever looking for the most amazing hotel to stay at - check out the Leela Palace!)  

Eventually either people went poor or the poor wanted to imitate the rich and voila, we now coat our meat with bread crumbs instead of gold to make schnitzel.  

I have no idea if this is a true story or not, but I love the concept of it.  I have this vision of me sitting on top of a solid gold throne demanding that my pork cutlet be coated in gold!  
I've been known to have a little Marie Antoinette in me and not just because I am delusional and bound for a beheading.  

I can't think of a better way to end International Pig Week (and to celebrate my upcoming trip to Austria!) than with a quality schnitzel.  Is Pierogi Grill's schnitzel as good as ones I have had in Germany or Switzerland?  No.  But it's pretty decent for Florida.

If you're in Clearwater, Florida, check out the flavored instant cappuccinos and the schnitzel at Pierogi Grill!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Put Some Butterscotch on My Bacon: International Pig Week Continues - St. Pete Beach, Florida

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

It is DAY FOUR of International Pig Week at LilyOnTheLam!  I hope you have been enjoying this week of porcine posts.  If you are just joining us mid-Pig week, please make sure you check out the previous posts:

Day One: Divin Porcello in Budapest, Hungary
Day Two:  The Thirsty Pig in Portland, Maine
Day Three:  Pork Sausage and Mustard-flavored potato crisps from the UK

and now Day Four ... Bacon Butterscotch Beignets from Castile Restaurant at the boutique Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, Florida!

I loooooooove a good beignet (check out my Bitches and Beignets post from New Orleans, LA), so when I went to the swanky new boutique hotel in St. Pete Beach, FL - The Hotel Zamora and saw that Castile Restaurant had "Bacon Butterscotch Beignets with a Navel Orange Gastrique" on the menu, I said "SOLD!"  I went to brunch with my friend, the CEO of an organic home and body care line.  The decor is fabulous with a view of the lovely inter coastal.  A perfect place for brunch.

Despite my fun-loving palate, my day-to-day eats are pretty Joe Schmo.  The only time I hear the term "gastrique" is when I am watching Bravo TV's "Top Chef."  And even then I roll my eyes.  For the record, a gastrique is a reduction of vinegar and sugar.

I have to say I had very high hopes for these beignets.  They were decent but did not live up to my high expectations.  I am used to beignets that are bit more puffy and fluffy in the middle.  These were overcooked.  I suspect the cooking oil was too hot to allow the dough to properly puff up.  I would have appreciated more bacon flavor.  The butterscotch was tasty and the navel orange gastrique was delicious.  If I were to get these again I'd ask for the sauce on the side as some pieces were drowning in the sauce and overly sweet.  

All in all it's a great concept for a beignet, it just needs more work.  And more bacon.  (Check out my vegan bacon post here.)

I will say overall the atmosphere, customer service and cocktails at Castile Restaurant are top notch and are worth checking out.  So if you're in St. Pete Beach, don't miss out on this one!

P.S.  Yesterday was National Cat Day.  My youngest cat plopped himself down in front of me spread eagle and demanded a belly rubbing.  These cats -- give them a day and they think they are little Princes!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Put A Cork In It: International Pig Week Continues

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

Happy National Cat Day!  Had I known before today that it was National Cat Day, I may have actually named this International Cat Week ... but nope instead it is DAY THREE of my self-proclaimed International Pig Week here at LilyOnTheLam.  

If you have been keeping up with the Porcine-themed posts, you will know that Day One was a restaurant review of the Divin Porcello in Budapest, Hungary and Day Two was a restaurant review of The Thirsty Pig in Portland, Maine.  

For Day Three, we are going back to traditional LilyOnTheLam posting with a "New Product Wednesday" - product reviews on products that are new or new to me.  But in keeping with the International Pig Week theme, I am reviewing:  Corkers Pork Sausage and English Mustard flavoured (or in the US- flavored) potato crisps (or in the US- potato chips).  

In my subscription box trial-mania, I recently checked out Escape Monthly's "vacation in a box."  I find these boxes to be a super cool idea - you get a guide book and items from the country you are "virtually visiting."  This month's box is London.  I received a cute British toy car, an elegant tin of tea and several other Brit items including these CORKERS.

Although I must admit that so far I have already traveled to every place that Escape Monthly has sent me boxes on - Paris, Puerto Rico and now London.  Next month's box is Hawaii - a place I love and have been to many times.  So instead of "Escape Monthly," I have been calling them "Travel Memory Box."  Which is probably a better title than "Places Lily Has Already Been Box."

I must have an Irish soul resting in me because when I looked at this package of chips (a.k.a. crisps) from the Escape Monthly box, I thought "Isn't a corker like a weirdo?"  I looked it up in UrbanDictionary and sure enough, in Irish slang it is.  

Now before you say "You are what you eat, Lily you weirdo;' I have to say "Hey, don't call me a weirdo."  ;-)

I will admit that I am not one to shy away from non-American flavored snack foods.  My sister Squidge and I tried Frito Lay's India Magic Masala potato chips when we were in Delhi.  (Verdict: pretty tasty!)  

I also tried peanut-flavored Cheetos when I was in Moscow.  (Verdict:  Why does God hate me with these awful tasting Cheetos?)  

I even tried soft shell crab Pringles in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.  (Verdict:  "These taste like crab butt."  To which my male Brazilian co-worker said: "How do you know what a crab's butt tastes like?"  Ahem.  No comment.)   

But even with my "gastronomical tourism" through snack foods around the world, my stomach wasn't sure if it was up for pork sausage and mustard flavored (or flavoured) potato chips.  I had had a particularly naughty weekend of eating a lot of junk food and my stomach was screaming for some fruit and vegetables that had not been deep-fried.  Sorry stomach, not today.  

I'm not sure why I was so wary.  I am a big fan of things cooked in animal fat.  It even says so on my curriculum vitae.  "Lily - friend of things fried in animal fat since 1734."  

Duck fat fries?  Yes, please.  Hash browns cooked in bacon grease?  Bring it on, baby.  Yorkshire pudding?  Cheerio and yes, yes!

But perhaps my wariness stems from the sad experience that generally food that is made to taste like other types of food can usually end up tasting only like chemicals.  

If these were homemade potato chips cooked in sausage fat and drizzled with mustard, I think I'd be more onboard.  But these are packaged crisps (a.k.a. chips) with a dusting of some sort of seasoning.  And maybe that seasoning tastes like pork sausage and mustard or maybe it tastes like soft shell crab butt.  Were my taste buds and stomach really wanting to get onboard this train?

Since it is International Pig Week and it is New Product Wednesday, I decided that this was no time for my stomach to wuss out.  So I tried the CORKERS ...

And ...

They tasted like pork sausage and mustard.

Not like a chemical, artificial version of a semblance of pork sausage and mustard, but they really did taste like pork sausage and mustard.

The question now becomes ... do I want potato chips that taste like pork sausage and mustard?

Ehhh ... I prefer a good old regular potato chip.  

Who knew that International Pig Week would be the defining point of my potato chip eating lifetime?  I've learned something new about myself!  

The Corkers were not bad, they were just not my taste.  Maybe one day I will be sitting on the couch, watching The Walking Dead on AMC and I will suddenly want a pork sausage flavored potato chip.  But so far that has not happened.

HOWEVER ... if you are craving a potato chip that tastes like pork sausage and mustard, this is the chip for you!

I have since learned that Corkers also makes a sea salt and cider vinegar flavor.  Now I have had salt and malted vinegar, but cider vinegar chips?  I am intrigued!  

They also make a red Leicester (like a cheddar cheese) and caramelized onion flavor as well as a Sweet Thai Chili flavor chip.  Traveling around Australia, I learned I am quite fond of Sweet Thai Chili flavored snack products.  Oh Corkers, you may make a convert out of me yet!  

(Sadly their website only ships Corkers to UK addresses - which is a reason to make friends with people in the UK.  I am quite content knowing I have at least ten people who I could hit up for an international potato crisp delivery if I ever had the urge!)

Tell me what your favorite potato chip flavor is in the comments section below!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next International Pig Week blog post!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

International Pig Week Continues: The Thirsty Pig in Portland, Maine

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

If you read yesterday's blog post, you will know that I have decided that this week is INTERNATIONAL PIG WEEK on  I started off this pork-themed week of blog posts with the fantastic Divin Porcello - Friends of Ham- restaurant in Budapest, Hungary.  It is now time to take this Pig Week to the United States - Portland, Maine to be exact.

I love Portland, Maine.  It has this weird zen calming effect on me.  

Of course Portland, Oregon also has the same weird zen calming effect on me ... so perhaps just the word "Portland" calms me.

(Side note: which by the way, I have FINALLY started watching Portlandia from IFC.  After years of doing the "Yeah yeah, I know I should watch it - I'll get around to it eventually," I have finally watched a few episodes.  Which, by the way, is the same thing I said about Modern Family [love it] and have continued to say about Downton Abbey and The Strain [yeah yeah I'll get around to it.]  Each episode of Portlandia makes me miss Portland, Oregon.  The quote "Portland is where young people go to retire" cracks me up every time I hear it in the following Portlandia sketch.  Probably because it is somewhat scarily true!  The Dream of the 90's really is alive in Portland!  Sigh ... I miss the 90's.)

While walking down the streets of the historic downtown Portland, Maine area, I saw a sign for "The Thirsty Pig."  I looked it up online and saw that it was known for its quality, specialty sausages and great beer selection.  Win-win!  I knew it was time to check this Pig out!

At The Thirsty Pig, you order your meal at the front counter.  If you like chatting with cute, male hipster counter staff while watching retro cartoons, this is your place!  (Side note:  I always love any place with cute, male hipsters.)

The decor is warm, homey and eclectic.  Very pub-like.  Very friendly.  The patrons and the staff are great.

And who doesn't want their own "dial out a handful" of peanut machine?  I had never seen so many peanut machines in one place!

And in homage to my listening to Cary Elwes' book on the Princess Bride on audiobook, I feel compelled to add this clip when talking about peanuts.  Rest in Peace, Andre the Giant.

But back to the bar/restaurant review ... I saw that The Thirsty Pig menu had a pretzel with mustard and cheese.  I know I shouldn't load up on bread in a specialty sausage house, but I am powerless to resist a good pretzel.  

And this was a good pretzel.

The cheese and mustard were OK, but the pretzel was top notch.

Next on to the pig ... Thirsty Pig's kielbasa with their fantastic pickles on the side!  But to my great surprise, The Thirsty Pig has collard greens as a side dish.  I love me some fantastic collard greens, so I ordered it and hoped the Thirsty Pig could make collard greens as good as I was used to in the South.   

I don't know how Portland, Maine made such great collard greens, but they did it!

And reviewers raved about their pickles and they were NOT wrong ... crunchy, tangy - everything you want in a pickle.

And of course, a cold beer ... or in this case, a cider beer.

The Thirsty Pig indeed has tasty, gourmet, quality, specialty sausages.  I was surprised at how delicious the food was- usually pubs focus more on the beer than the food.  The atmosphere was friendly, jovial and warm.  If I lived in Portland, Maine, this is the type of place I could see myself hanging out once a week.  I only wished my stomach were bigger to allow me to sample more of The Thirsty Pig's fine sausages.  But it gives me a great reason to travel back to Portland, Maine.

P.S.  The Thirsty Pig has great merchandise too.  Look at this fantastic t-shirt I purchased that I just HAD to have!

The front of the T-shirt has The Thirsty Pig logo on it

How are you enjoying International Pig Week on  What are your favorite pork restaurants?  Let me know in the comments section below!

The Thirsty Pig on Urbanspoon