Video: Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time

“Sometimes when you cook swedishly, the meal is destroyed. This is natural.”

Did you grow up watching the Swedish Chef on “The Muppet Show?” I loved that guy. Do you find everything about “foodies” and the Food Network obnoxious and tedious? Yeah, me too. Allow me then, to turn you on to a little Internet sensation called “Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time (ROSMT).”

The mad, brilliant brainchild of a group of Swedish university students, ROSMT started out as a hungover, 2011 New Year’s Day lark. It was filmed in the apartment of “chef” Niclas Lundberg, with the aid of his friend and ROSMT co-founder Isak Anklew.

The resulting “Spaghetti Explosion” was inspired by the spoofy, Canadian YouTube cooking show hit “Epic Meal Time.” Lundberg has taken culinary instruction to a new level, spicing things up with signature moves like hurling ingredients into walls, ripping off hunks of raw meat with his teeth, and using his fists as everything from potato mashers to mixing spoons.

“Spaghetti Explosion” was such a success, Lundberg and friends quickly produced “Meatball Massacre,” and “Sidepork Pandemonium.” The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the guys (five, in all) behind ROSMT are pop-culture icons in Sweden and abroad. Me? I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s the Pepto-Bismol to pretentious food culture gastric reflux.

Below, I present to you the “Chop Chop Carnage Stew (Alternative Pyttipanna)” episode. Pyttipanna is a Swedish specialty consisting of potatoes, onion, and meat, with the likely additions of fried egg, chopped pickles and beetroot, and really, god knows what else. Enjoy.

Today’s lesson: “Chop Chop Carnage Stew (Alternative Pyttipanna)”


10 reasons to travel to Ljubljana

Ljubljana travel
When I found cheap airfare from Istanbul to Ljubljana, I didn’t find many other travelers who’d been there or even say for sure which country it’s in. The tiny of country of Slovenia is slightly smaller than New Jersey and its capital city isn’t known for much other than being difficult to spell and pronounce (say “lyoob-lyAH-nah”). After spending a few days there last month, I quickly fell madly in love with the city, and recommend to everyone to add to their travel list.

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Here are some reasons to love Ljubljana:

1. It’s Prague without the tourists – Ljubljana has been called the next Prague for at least the last 10 years, but the comparison is still apt. Architect Jože Plečnik is known for his work at Prague Castle, but he was born in Ljubljana and is responsible for much of the architecture in the old downtown and the Triple Bridge that practically defines the city. While Prague is a lovely place to visit, it’s overrun in summer with backpackers and tourists. In Ljubljana, the only English I heard was spoken with a Slovenian accent, and there were no lines at any of the city’s attractions.

2. Affordable Europe – While not as cheap as say, Bulgaria, Ljubljana is a lot easier on the wallet than other European capital cities and cheaper than most of its neighbors. I stayed in a perfect room above the cafe Macek in an ideal location for 65 euro a night. A huge three-course dinner for one with drinks at Lunch cafe was 20 euro, and a liter of local wine in the supermarket is around 3-4 euro. I paid 6 euro for entrance into 4 art museums for the Biennial, and the same for all of the castle, including the excellent Slovene history museum, and the funicular ride there and back.3. Everyone speaks English – Sharing borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia is multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Everyone I met in Ljubljana spoke at least a few foreign languages including English; one supermarket cashier I met spoke six languages! While a language barrier shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a foreign country, it’s great when communication is seamless and you can get recommendations from nearly every local you meet.

4. A delicious melting pot – Slovenia’s location also means a tasty diversity of food; think Italian pastas and pizzas, Austrian meats, and Croatian fish. One waiter I spoke to bemoaned the fact that he could never get a decent meal in ITALY like he can in Slovenia. While I’d never doubt the wonders of Italian food, I did have several meals in Ljubljana so good I wanted to eat them all over again as soon as I finished. Standout spots include Lunch Cafe (aka Marley & Me) and it’s next-door neighbor Julija.

5. Great wine – Slovenia has a thriving wine culture, but most of their best stuff stays in the country. A glass of house wine at most cafes is sure to be tasty, and cost only a euro or two. Ljubljana has many wine bars and tasting rooms that are approachable, affordable, and unpretentious. Dvorni Wine Bar has an extensive list, and on a Tuesday afternoon, there were several other mothers with babies, businesspeople, and tourists having lunch. I’m already scheming when to book a stay in a vineyard cottage, with local wine on tap.

6. Al-fresco isn’t just for summer – During my visit in early November, temperatures were in the 50s but outdoor cafes along the river were still lined with people. Like here in Istanbul, most cafes put out heating lamps and blankets to keep diners warm, and like the Turks, Slovenians also enjoy their smoking, which may account for the increase in outdoor seating (smoking was banned indoors a few years ago). The city’s large and leafy Tivoli Park is beautiful year-round, with several good museums to duck into if you need refuge from the elements.

7. Boutique shopping – The biggest surprise of Ljubljana for me was how many lovely shops I found. From international chains like Mandarina Duck (fabulous luggage) and Camper (Spanish hipster shoes) to local boutiques like La Chocolate for, uh, chocolate and charming design shop Sisi, there was hardly a single shop I didn’t want to go into, and that was just around the Stari Trg, more shops are to be found around the river and out of the city center.

8. Easy airport – This may not be first on your list when choosing a destination, but it makes travel a lot easier. Arriving at Ljubljana’s airport, you’ll find little more than a snack bar and an ATM outside, but it’s simple to grab a local bus into town or a shared shuttle for a few euro more. Departing from Slovenia, security took only a few minutes to get through, wi-fi is free, and there’s a good selection of local goodies at Duty Free if you forgot to buy gifts. LJU has flights from much of western Europe, including EasyJet from Paris and London.

9. Access to other parts of country – While Ljubljana has plenty to do for a few days, the country is compact enough to make a change of scenery easy and fast. Skiers can hop a bus from the airport to Kranj in the Slovenian Alps, and postcard-pretty Lake Bled is under 2 hours from the capital. In the summer, it’s possible to avoid traffic going to the seaside and take a train to a spa resort or beach. There are also frequent international connections; there are 7 trains a day to Croatia’s capital Zagreb, and Venice is just over 3 hours by bus.

10. Help planning your visit – When I first began planning my trip, I sent a message to the Ljubljana tourism board, and got a quick response with a list of family-friendly hotels and apartments. Next I downloaded the always-excellent In Your Pocket guide, which not only has a free guide and app, it also has a very active Facebook community with up-to-the-minute event info, restaurant recommendations, deals, and more. On Twitter, you can get many questions answered by TakeMe2Slovenia and VisitLjubljana.

Eating in the Horn of Africa: camel, goat and. . .spaghetti?

Horn of Africa, Somaliland
When my wife and I went to the Horn of Africa last year for our Ethiopia road trip, we were eagerly looking forward to a culinary journey. We weren’t disappointed. Ethiopian food is one of our favorites and of course they make it better there than anywhere else!

While it came as no surprise that the food and coffee were wonderful, the cuisine in the Horn of Africa turned out to be more varied and nuanced that we expected. The two countries I’ve been to in the region, Ethiopia and Somaliland, have been connected to the global trade routes for millennia. Their national cuisines have absorbed influences from India, the Arab world, and most recently Italy.

Ethiopians love meat, especially beef and chicken. One popular dish is kitfo–raw, freshly slaughtered beef served up with various fiery sauces. I have to admit I was worried about eating this but I came through OK. Chicken is considered a luxury meat and is more expensive than beef. One Ethiopian friend was surprised to hear that in the West chicken is generally cheaper than beef.

Ethiopian booze is pretty good too. Tej is a delicious honey wine and tella is a barley beer. They also make several brands of lager and one of stout.

I’ve also spent time in the Somali region of Ethiopia and Somaliland. Living in arid lowlands rather than green and mountainous highlands, the Somalis have a very different cuisine than the Ethiopians. A surprising staple of Somali cooking is pasta. Actually on second thought it isn’t so surprising. The former Somalia was an Italian colony for a few decades. Italian food is popular in Eritrea and Ethiopia as well and makes for a refreshing change from local cuisine. Some Somalis are still pastoral nomads, moving through the arid countryside with their herds of camels and goats much like their ancestors did centuries ago. Pasta is a perfect food for nomads–compact, lightweight, nutritious, and easy to prepare.

The only downside to eating pasta in the Somali region is that Somalis, like most Africans, eat with their hand. I made quite a fool of myself trying to eat spaghetti with my hand!

%Gallery-136247%Goat is a popular meat in the Somali region and is served in a variety of ways. I love a good goat and have eaten it in a dozen countries. It’s tricky to cook, though, and can easily be overdone and end up stringy and flavorless. Good goat, however, is one of the best meats around. For some expert opinion, check out Laurel Miller’s fun post on the cultural aspects of eating goat.

While goat is the main meat for Somalis, what they really like is camel. These ships of the desert are expensive, so camel meat is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings. Wealthy, urban professionals eat it fairly regularly, though. At the Hadhwanaag Restaurant and Hotel in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, expert chefs slow-cook goat and camel in clay ovens that look much like tandoori ovens. The meat comes out deliciously tender and fragrant. Lunch at the Hadhwanaag was easily one of my top five meals in Africa.

Oh, and don’t forget Somali tea! A mixture of black tea, spices, and camel’s milk, it’s almost identical to Indian chai. The perfect pick-me-up after a long day seeing Somaliland’s painted caves or looking for your next edible ride at the camel market.

The Horn of Africa has an unfair reputation for warfare and famine. This is because it only gets on the news when something bad happens there. It makes a great adventure travel destination, though, and the determined traveler will find fascinating sights, friendly people, and great food. With any luck I’ll be back there in 2012!

SkyMall Monday: Microwave cookware makes nuking easy

skymall monday gadling microwave cookware s'mores Many people are intimidated by cooking. They worry that it’s too difficult – or that they are too inept – to produce an edible meal. “The only thing I know how to make is cereal,” people will say. Well, as much as bowls of Cap’n Crunch helped me get through my freshman year of college, you cannot live on cereal alone. However, if you truly are that bad of a cook (or, if your overprotective mother doesn’t let you use the stove), there is a trick for making simple and delicious meals all by yourself: the microwave. Sure, your microwave is great for making popcorn or turning a roll of foil into a light show, but, it can also be the only appliance you need to feed yourself if you don’t even know how to boil water. So, this week, SkyMall Monday takes a look at some of the best – and most useful – microwave cookware that SkyMall has to offer.Microwave S’mores Maker

Pictured above, the Microwave S’mores Maker allows you to make those delicious treats even when you’re not out in the woods on a camping trip. Why waste your time looking for the perfect s’mores stick when you can heat up your marshmallows from the inside so that they are hotter than the most intense lava flow? Is it possible to insure the roof of your mouth like JLo did to her butt?

Microwave Pasta Boat

If you seriously can’t boil water, then the Microwave Pasta Boat is for you. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at the product description:

Cooking pasta can be a hassle. The amazing Pasta Boat makes it faster and easier to make perfect pasta every time right in your microwave oven. It’s soooo easy! Just put in the pasta, add water to the serving line, then pop it in the microwave. It’s that easy. Pasta boat keeps water at the perfect temperature – it actually does a better job than a pot on a stove!

So, wait, is it easy? I hope so, because cooking pasta on the stove is harder than training a dog to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Microwave Egg Scrambler

skymall monday microwave cookware egg scrambler Scrambled eggs are a fantastic breakfast. Making them, however, can be a real hassle. Who has time for all of that clean up? Thankfully, the Microwave Egg Scrambler puts the entire process in one dish. Don’t just take my word for it. Read the product description of this magical device:

Make it easy to make breakfast. This hand-dipped stoneware piece lets you scramble, cook and eat your morning eggs out of one dish-just whip up eggs (and cheese?) with the included wood-handle whisk, microwave for under three minutes, and you’re ready to go.

This thing is so mind-blowing that even the designers of the product aren’t sure of how much it can do! Can you add cheese to it? Who knows? You might also know the Microwave Egg Scrambler by its original name: a bowl.

There’s no more need for you to be on a first name basis with your Chinese food delivery man. Put down the phone and put on your lead bib because, from now on, you’re eating fresh, nuked meals. It’s about time you felt proud of yourself.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Undiscovered New York: Is the “Real” Little Italy in the Bronx?

Welcome back to this week’s installation of Undiscovered New York. New York has a longstanding love affair with all things Italian. From the Feast of San Gennaro to some of the world’s best pizza outside Italy, to our town’s infatuation with the Cosa Nostra, it’s hard to deny that Italian culture has strongly influenced New York culture. In fact, many visitors come to New York specifically to check out Little Italy, a well-known strip of Italian restaurants and shops around the intersection of Mulberry and Grand Street in downtown Manhattan.

For those who came to check out Little Italy, have a cannoli and grab some calamari at Umberto’s, it’s certainly a fun time. Seems like a good dose of Italian culture, right? What if I were to tell you there’s another, some would even say better, Little Italy in New York? Well that’s just what I’m trying to tell you paisano, and it’s in the Bronx.

Curious? Why not click that link below and find out the story behind Arthur Avenue, New York’s other Little Italy.
What is it exactly?
When discussing the Bronx’s very own Little Italy, we’re generally talking about the intersections of 187th Street and Arthur Avenue also known as Belmont by locals. The area surrounding this intersection is a virtual feast of Italian American and immigrant culture in New York, offering a huge array of authentic Italian food markets, butcher shops, bakeries, old school red sauce joints and plenty of Italian gift shops.

Enough with the chit-chat, what can I eat?
If you like Italian food, welcome to paradise. Ground zero is probably the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, a one-stop Italian bazaar full of all kinds of hand-made Italian foodstuffs like sausages, olives and freshly made pasta. Once you’ve worked up an appetite (probably immediately) stop by Mike’s Deli for one their amazing sandwiches stuffed with Italian meats like prosciutto. Don’t forget to hit some of the other area favorites, including Teitel Brothers for Italian specialties like olives and anchovy paste, Terranova Bakery for some hearty Italian-style loaves, Calandra’s Cheese for some mozzarella, and Madonia Bros. for some superb cannoli filled on the spot.

What else should I check out?
The best part about Arthur Avenue is that you can make a day out of your visit. Not only is Arthur Avenue home to Italian culture – lately it has become home to a large populations of residents from Mexico, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania. The Bronx Zoo and Bronx Botanic Gardens are also both within easy walking distance of Arthur Avenue. Both sites are as good a spot as any to take a leisurely stroll or nap and perhaps sleep off that sausage and peppers you had for lunch. And if it’s baseball season, you’re no more than a 10 minute subway ride from a Yankees game.

How do I get there?
Perhaps the closest subway stop to Arthur Avenue is the Fordham Road stop on the B and D lines. From there, you can jump on the Bx-12 or just walk your way a few minutes east. Another alternative is the Metro North Fordham Road Station, which stops nearby.

A very special “Thank You!” to Steph Goralnick, for all the awesome photos in this story.