Thursday, September 01, 2016

Magnum Force

As with Magnum Force, the movie, Magnum Ice Cream is another force to be reckoned with, and once tried, you will not be forced to take a second bite. They can be found in food shops, markets, and refrigerator cases all over Western Europe. If you can't find them at home, my travel tip is to try them during your vacation.

With all the ice cream shops and gelaterie in Europe, who could imagine settling for an ice cream novelty product? All across Western Europe you can find Magnum products and wouldn't consider it "settling" if you bought one. They're delicious and are now giving Dove bars a run for their money in the U.S. Perhaps that is why they seem smaller in size here, to compete also in size with the Dove bar, so the comparison will be inevitable between the two

The classic is the closest in comparison with the Dove bar, but the chocolate tastes richer and the vanilla ice cream itself compares well with Dove. The Almond also takes its cue from Dove's Milk chocolate and Almond bar. Which came first is a mystery to me.

The superiority of the Magnum seems obvious with the Double Chocolate or Double Caramel bars, with their duel layers of hardened chocolate encasing the soft chocolate, caramel  filling or the buttery, caramel filling.

The Magnum line is extensive in Europe, but imports to the U.S. have not kept pace.

A pale pink chocolate shell surrounds the raspberry and vanilla swirl ice cream on the Pink bar, while the Gold Bar is swirled with caramel.

The Gold is covered by a  thin, buttery looking,  white chocolate shell. Besides the rich tasting vanilla ice cream with a caramel swirl, the Gold bar also has a layer of dark chocolate on the inside of its shell. The taste of both bars is enhanced by the interior, dark chocolate layer.
The White is pretty much just that, white. Plain vanilla at its very best.

Pistacchio helps round out the line in terms of ice cream flavors, but, sorry to say, this is not their best product. It is hard to top an artisan made pistacchio gelato, and the nuts don't improve the concept of this particular bar.
For the last item in this post, you see before you the Magnum Sandwich, a not  quite clear on the concept, ice cream novelty. Sure, the Almond Magnums are good, but they do not belong piggy backed onto an ice cream sandwich like an odd appendage. San Francisco's native ice cream sandwich, the It's-It   made it better decades ago, by simply covering the entire sandwich with chocolate. This version makes the sandwich half look like a mechanism for holding an Almond Magnum that had lost its stick.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The New Testaccio Market

It's been at least 4 years since the residents of Testaccio in Rome have had their daily market moved to an indoor venue 6 blocks from its former location on Via Luca della Robbia. For many years the old outdoor market suffered during inclement weather for lack of customers and discomfort for the vendors. The new building changes all that and even offers underground parking. Although this market has long hosted residents from all over the city, it is now easier for non locals to shop there. I'm pleased to be part of that group.

The primary purpose of the mercato is to supply fresh poultry, fish, pork, beef, cold cuts and produce to the neighborhood. The poultry can be quite varied as seen in this photo.

Now that the stalls have a roof over them, vendors are upgrading methods of keeping their products in better condition. For example, the fish monger can keep flies off his seafood by covering it with parchment paper that will not blow away in the wind. 

Most of the meats are now in permanent, refrigerated cases that keep them at optimum temperatures. This provides not only for preserving  freshness, but eliminates any worry one might have about contamination from insects and bacteria. That's a big improvement.

When renting apartments in Italy, I have occasionally cooked more than breakfast. This rib roast caught my eye, but the fantasy of a full dinner diminished as I imagined trying to clean an oven. If I was convinced it was Chianina beef, the fantasy may live on, but I'm not certain that it's sold outside of Tuscany.

Rome, like most of Italy, is pork centric, so you see it in many forms while you stroll through the mercato.
In this photo, there appear to be a combination of pancetta, the Italian, non smoked bacon; ham, and guanciale. The round, fatty piece is guanciale, the cured pig jowl that is  traditionally used in a traditional  Carbonara recipe.

Fruits and vegetables abound in the market and are interspersed with many of the other items sold there. It would be easier to shop if all products of a like kind were in the same area.

As things stand, there is a loose affiliation between food groups along with prepared foods. But you are bound to find exceptions with general merchandise in the mix.

Prepared foods are putting in a strong showing too. Today I saw a white Veal Ragu that looked every bit as good as those I've seen in restaurants. It was so entrancing, I failed to take a photo. 

Prepared, although not precooked, the polpette (meatballs) in these photos are at the very least a convenience food in Italy. Those below are actually cooked and ready to heat and serve.

Plenty of vendors are prepared to part with  baked goods including pastries, biscotti, rolls, breads and the ever favorite, here in Rome, Pizza Bianca, the Roman answer to focaccia. Even better, are the pizze with various toppings.

I highly recommend that anyone who has never tried a squash blossom nor a porcini mushroom "bianca" style pizza (without tomato sauce) give it a try here. They're two of my favorites, even though I still like the zucchini, as well as the potato and rosemary versions.

The typical pizza bianca, as well as the other pizze, may appear to have a cracker like exterior, but there's a factor of chewiness inside that raises them to another level. Pizza Bianca with its drizzled olive oil surface is delicious on its own, but even better when paired with any of the cold cuts and cheese sold at the mercato.

Gourmet shops selling these types of panini abound in Testaccio. So buy your own ingredients at the market or let someone else make one for you, but don't miss trying some.

Mercado Testaccio is also home to many shops selling clothing, shoes and handbags. Some are vintage, others sell only accessories, jewelry or leather goods. All live happily under one roof. 

On my most recent trip, I discovered Bee Joux, a shop selling women's accessories, including Italian leather purses and French jewelry. Even though I try to buy locally made products, the jewelry was too tempting, so I succumbed and bought a set, deluding myself into thinking it was still okay, since I had been to France on the same trip.

The tables with clothing piled high on top, with a bargain basement appeal, attract many customers, no doubt hoping to find an under priced treasure, but I couldn't bring myself to memorialize them with a photo.

If American vintners are willing to sell wine in boxes, how can I criticize Italian wine served up in plastic bottles? Whether bringing their own bottles, or purchasing a plastic bottle at the wine shop, Italians can satisfy their love of wine locally by paying for it by the liter. Casks of wine from all over Italy can be found at wine shops in Rome.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Meatloaf Trilogy

Before you start getting warm and fuzzy over the idea of your grandmother's and mother's meatloaf recipes, or three generations or more worth of comfort food, lovingly presented to your family, let me stop you. We are not talking about the American staple made of ground beef. We are wandering into the realm of familiar words used in a foreign country to describe something very different from your normal frame of reference.

The item I ordered from the menu, at a small family run delicatessen, that incidentally was owned and operated by three generations of butchers in the Austrian city of Melk, were technically loaf shaped, and made of meat, but entirely different. To their credit, I think the younger members of the family knew the joke was on English speakers and were  most likely the translators of the German menu into English, since they seemed fluent when speaking it.

I can't say I was completely surprised when the "Meatloaf Trilogy" arrived at the table, because I had seen variations of these loaves all over Austria, and had been tempted to try one. More like Mortadella or its American counterpart, baloney,  these were meat products obviously made from pork and pork fat. 

The loaf I had noticed most often was spotted not with fat, but with cheese. What surprised me the most was that they had been cooked. These could easily have been thinly sliced in their cold state for a sandwich. This cold cut was very good served hot. The selection was a loaf made with either cheese or pickle and pimento, or just plain. Served simply with some mustard and potato salad, the meal was both filling and tasty.

As long as we're already here, let's discuss the Josef Sdraule Restaurant on the same premises as their butcher shop. The space was old world to the core and charming with walls lined in wood paneling, antique light fixtures, and a menu that didn't break the bank. In fact the most expensive item was Fried Chicken for 9.5 euro.

The warmth, as well as the   charm, of this family run restaurant, continued with the old stove that kept the room cozy on a seriously cold afternoon. Beer helped to lift 
the spirits.

Oh, about that chicken dinner; it was pretty filling for under 10 euro. And the Meatloaf Trilogy at 6.9 euro was a steal.

Hauptstra├če 2, 3390, Melk, Austria
+43 2752 52447
- See more at:
Hauptstra├če 2, 3390, Melk, Austria
+43 2752 52447
- See more at:
Address: Hauptstrabe 2
3390, Melk, Austria
Phone: +43 2752 52447

Josef Sdraule Website 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Finding Bad Food in Italy

Since the very day I started traveling there, I have said that you would have great difficulty in finding a bad meal in Italy. Italians are exceptionally proud of their culture and express that through their food, by keeping their recipes regional and passing them down from one generation to the next. You, as a traveler, only need to seek out restaurants that advertise regional specialties to find a good meal.

That was then, but this is now, after a visit to Bolzano. You can easily find a bad meal in Italy if you try ordering a pasta dish or a pizza in this town. Travelers expect to eat pasta in Italy, but in Bolzano, you are better off ordering Austrian specialties. Bolzano is too Austrian for the Italians and too Italian for the Austrians. You hear both languages in the streets, but there seems to be no blending of the cultures, unless you choose fusion type food, which I suspect, satisfies no one.

I was so upset after our 2nd meal, that I wondered out loud why Italy didn't just give it back to Austria. I later mentioned this to a young waiter we met from Trento, and his response was matter of fact. He said that Austria didn't want it, thinking it too Italianized. He went on to say that after World War II, when the borders changed, Italy transported many Southern Italians to Bolzano in an attempt to integrate more of their culture into the area.


If Southern Italians migrated there, what happened to their ability to make pasta? They invented tomato sauce and Pasta Puttanesca. How could they be abandoned?  The tomato based lasagne I ordered would have been better if it were the frozen product of Stoffer; ironic since the company name sounds Germanic. Our pizza was soggy; yes, we stooped to that for dinner, because we craved an Italian taste. This is something one does not expect to find in Italy, the country that invented the pizza.

Bolzano has a lively open air market in town and as we wandered through it, we saw all the ingredients one would need for making traditional Italian recipes; tomatoes, herbs, meats and classic Italian cheese. There seemed no good excuse for the lack of classic Italian dishes.

If the truth be known, we decided to add Bolzano and Trento to our itinerary, just to get away from schnitzels for awhile. As much as we liked Bolzano as a small city, we looked forward to finding good Italian food in Trento, and we did.


Bolzano is worth a trip for architecture, shopping, strolling and just about anything else except food. The one exception was the pastry, which looked spectacular, as you can see by the following photo. Those in front are made with chestnut puree and rich dark chocolate.

Having lost over 1200 digital photos during this trip, I regret to be unable to inform you of the restaurants to avoid, but I will caution you to follow your nose for the best options. If it smells good, it usually is. Just remember to not expect too much in the way of Italian fare. Here is a visual reminder:
        Special thanks to William J. Thomson for permitting the use of his photos taken in Bolzano.