Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Foiled By The Hungarians and Why Michelle Pfeiffer is An Alien

Hello My Wonderful LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

I am back!  I have been in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia - working, eating EVERY pastry in sight and carrying on conversations in part German, part Italian, part French, part Hungarian, part Russian and for some reason really broken English!

Between working and eating, I hopped a train and spent a day in Bratislava.  Being in Central Florida, it takes me a good five hours to leave the state - so watching 2 episodes of Scandal and 1 episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta on my iPad and I go from Budapest to Bratislava?  Sounds pretty good to me!  

By the way, my fellow passengers were intrigued as I watched Nene Leakes preparing for her Cirque Du Soleil Zumanity emcee role in Las Vegas.  I was like "People, Apollo Nida is being sentenced to jail!  I have to watch!  And why are you watching over my shoulder?"  (I could throw in a piece about why did Apollo get 8 years and Joe Giudice of Real Housewives of New Jersey get like half of that ... but I don't want to start a war with any Bravo TV reality fans!)

Anyway, reality TV watching aside ...  I am happy to be back on U.S. soil - and my 900 cats are happy I am home as well.  The first night I slept 10 hours straight without stirring.  I woke up to find myself completely surrounded by cats.  If I had slowly stood up there would have been a perfect body outline of me done in cats.  OH MY GOD:  "CSI: Cats" has been born!  Forensic kittens solving crimes!  Mid-season TV replacement Spring 2015.  Watch for it!

I actually tried to post on my blog from Hungary but my computer kept picking up Google: Magyarorszag (a.k.a. Google Hungary - Hungarians are actually known as Magyars, which I prefer name-wise.  There's something very Genghis Khan about it.)  Anyway Google kept turning my Blogger links into Hungarian and with a belly full of Palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) and pastry, I just had no patience to be blogging in Hungarian!

So with an almost three week lag, I am BACK to blogging American-style.  No more foreign Googles, googling up my links!  

I have so much to write about - and let's be honest here, I still haven't written much about my LAST trip to Hungary.  Nor my trip to Minnesota before that.  I have been busy, people!  But I needed to "break the ice" and make sure I had some posts for November 2014.  Can't miss an entire month!

So I dedicate this first post back from Europe #2 to the blog Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies.  I do this because as I received 2 weeks worth of held mail, I had Entertainment Weekly's Reunion issue and this picture was inside ...

From Entertainment Weekly

A reunion photo for the cast of the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys - Beau and Jeff Bridges and of course Michelle Pfeiffer.  I dropped the magazine and said out loud to my 900 cats: "Good lord, how does Michelle Pfeiffer still look so good?  She has to be like 80 now.  What the hell?"  (OK she's 56 years old, but jeez she doesn't look it at all.  Is she killing young virgins and bathing in their blood?  Impressive!)

Which looking at the picture reminds me of the one and only time I have ever met Michelle Pfeiffer.  And by "meet" I mean sat 3 rows ahead of her at Baz Luhrmann's "La Boheme" on Broadway.  I was discreetly posting Facebook status updates before the show began when I kept noticing patrons popping up like Prairie Dogs with excited looks on their faces.  (Don't ask me why I capitalized prairie dog - it just seemed appropriate.)

Finally after the 800th Prairie Dog popped up, I turned around to see what everyone was staring at.  Three rows behind me (6th row) were Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw, Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patty and David E. Kelley and his wife ... Michelle Pfeiffer - who had slunked down in her seat and was hiding behind her program.  (My spell check says slunked is not a word - well it is now.)

Now I loves me some Michelle Pfeiffer, but I wanted to say "Honey, you're sitting next to Bruce Springsteen and Steven Spielberg - there's no need to hide behind your program!  Not all of the eyes are on you!"  (Which by the way, Bruce Springsteen was standing up without a care in the world.  He might as well have held a sign that said "Hey, I'm Bruce.")  

But I have to say in Entertainment Weekly's reunion photo for The Fabulous Baker Boys - definitely all eyes are on Michelle ... just like they were for the movie (in my opinion!)  So maybe hiding behind her Playbill program keeps wrinkles from forming on her face.  Whatever you're doing Michelle, just keep doing it!  (Young virgins, beware!)

With winter approaching, it has actually become quite chilly in Tampa.  I am nursing two blisters on my right foot that I received from wearing super cute tall boots for 12 miles as I tromped around Slovakia.  (Yes, I sacrifice my feet for fashion.  I'm female!)  

And it rained yesterday in Tampa, so instead of going for a long walk to burn off all the European pastry calories-- I headed to the Casino and won $144 on The Walking Dead slots.  (I gave part to the Salvation Army, part to Publix's Thanksgiving feeding people in need campaign and I kept some of the winnings for myself because hey, I'm not a saint!)  

As I inhaled cartons' worth of second hand smoke in the casino, I felt like the klassiest dame in the joint!  Oh gambling and people in stretched out polyester, so glamourous!

Before I went on my latest European odyssey - I ran into a friend of a friend who was with some other people.  I was talking about my European and Asian work trips and one of the people I did not know looked at me and said, without sarcasm or bitchiness: "You are amazing and have a fascinating life!"  

As I try not to pop my blisters and am surrounded by snoozing, content cats; I laugh and say - "Yes, I am amazing and have a fascinating life!"

Thank you for stopping by, my amazing readers!

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!