Lampredotto Hunting in Firenze…

25-26 February 2019

Most people who travel to Firenze/Florence are looking to enjoy beef, especially the namesake bistecca alla fiorentina, but for me the focus has, is, and will always be offal. And in Firenze, the specialty is tripe, specifically lampredotto. For my first evening in town, I had a very offaly dinner at Il Magazzino, but I had almost mentioned that I grabbed a snack as lunch between visiting Santa Croce and the English Cemetery.

Yep, I went lampredotto hunting. My readers are asking, Mel and street food? The person that didn’t go eat street food whilst in Bangkok a few months ago? Well, the quick answer is — it was 35c in Bangkok, and it was 15c in Firenze. The latter was tolerable! So before my trip I had a list of lampredotto carts around town and depending on where I was, I would check it out. And between Santa Croce and the English Cemetery, the target was Tripperia Pollini.

This humble cart is located very near the historic Loggia del Pesce, and it was still relatively early. Perhaps sacrilegious for some lampredotto afficionados, I ordered it in vaschetta


Oh my this looks good. They asked about the sauces and I told them be liberal with the hot sauce, and this had a wonderful bite; that’s why I went in vaschetta. Lovely quality lampredotto too, but the spiciness really gives turns an excellent dish into a wonderful one. Oh, I’m happy! I used the bread they did give me and mopped up the sauce and broth — again, why I ordered it in vaschetta. This fuelled my for the rest of the day’s exploration that lasted until that nice dinner at Il Magazzino.

I didn’t manage to catch up on much sleep overnight as I had to wake up early and rush off to the Uffizi. One of the most amazing art galleries in the world, I smartly reserved tickets ahead of time, so the pick-up queue was quite limited if you get there early. I got my ticket and watched all the people struggle up the stairs and once again, like yesterday at the Bargello, I was ahead of the entire crowd. It’s amazing when you have so many masterpieces to yourself… Amazing works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Lippi, Botticelli, Reni, and so many more

I was amazed how I had so much time alone with some of the greatest masterpieces in history…it just shows if you know how to approach the museum, and do a little research, and not get bogged down and led astray by a crowd. I even got to double back to the Giotto section once the initial rush went past to hit the Botticelli section. But after a few hours, I exhausted the museum, and myself. I headed out, and I was hungry…

Like yesterday, I found the nearest place for lampredotto near my location, and today’s destination is Trippaio del Porcellino. Located next to the busy and popular Mercato del Porcellino, I arrived to see some folks already having their snack. I once again ordered it in vaschetta and soon it was handed to me…


Oh my, once again…this was a far larger portion (a little more expensive, but worth it). The way it was sliced was different, and this was actually a little too salty but even spicier than yesterday’s. If it was just a tad less salty this would have been total perfection; tho overall it was better than last night’s slightly under-seasoned version at Il Magazzino. But once again, excellent…

I was happily fuelled up and I headed towards the Ponte Vecchio across the Arno to continue my exploration of Firenze. But overall, all three lampredotto experiences were quite good in their own way. Lunch on day 1 at Pollini was excellent, love the combination of flavours. Dinner at Il Magazzino was lovely, though a tad under-seasoned. Lunch on day 2 here at Porcellino was fabulous, albeit too salty. But I’d be happy to eat any of the three again, any time!

All highly recommended! My only regret was running out of time and energy both days and not doing a second lunch stop… And please, don’t @ me for not eating it as a sandwich…you can see exactly why I ordered it in vaschetta

Tripperia Pollini
Piazza Sant’Ambrogio
Via dei Macci 126

Trippaio del Porcellino
Piazza del Mercato Nuovo
Via di Capaccio
Firenze, Italia


Request: Any Rec’s for Singapore and KL?

I noticed I have a lot of readers from Singapore and Malaysia — I have a small favour to ask. Any rec’s you have for Singapore and Kuala Lumpur? I may be making a short stop to both places in the near future. As you can see, my goal isn’t chasing stars and ranks at this point, it’s to experience things I cannot experience elsewhere. So if you got any tips, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Feasting in Excess in Hokkaido Part 2: The Morning Edition…

13-14 November 2017

One of the joys of visiting Hakodate is to enjoy the fresh seafood in the mornings. Much like Tsukiji in Tokyo, the Hakodate Morning Market (Hakodate-Asaichi) has become way too touristy. However, you can still find amazing seafood as the sun’s slowly crawling up. That’s indeed what I did, and more…

Though I ate too much the night before, especially the fabulous sushi at Minami, as well as the nitecap, I was game. I was up early, still affected by jetlag. So I went for a early morning walk around the Morning Market before the hoardes of Chinese tourists inundate the relatively small market zone.

I looped around the outdoor places, enjoying the hawkers trying to entice me for a fresh quick snack. They kept trying to sell me crab, but all I wanted this morning was scallops — and many weren’t ready for it for some odd reason. So I ended up dropping into one of the indoor places called Ebisuya Shokudo and ordered a breakfast bowl, Hokkaido-style…


Mmm…you can’t say I’m not getting my eggs for one thing. The ikura was just lovely and fresh, perfectly rich — not the salty crap you get elsewhere. The uni was fabulous as you can imagine, and kani (crab) was just sweet and delicious. But I was also dying for hotate (scallop) so I ordered one to close my breakfast off…


Oh this was so nice… Sweet beyond belief…oh I’m happy, but full!

This, plus all the carbs in the rice (one problem…) gave me energy to have a long stroll around the famous Goryokaku. What a wonderful way to spend the late morning, just looping this magnificent fortification, with very few people around to bother you, enjoying the lovely views and pondering how to historically attack this technically impressive design.

And despite the large breakfast, I decided to drop into the restaurant at the observation tower; I didn’t fight the Chinese tourists going straight from bus to observation deck back to bus… But Shunka is supposed to be a nice place to eat, so I decided to have a big lunch…

I relaxed with a beer and ordered a nice set of food and chilled out in the private room. Relaxed and was scrolling through my hundreds of photos from the morning when the food began arriving. First up, just as how I closed up breakfast, hotate


Not as good as breakfast at the Market but not bad… Then the town’s most famous item, ika (squid).


Grilled nicely, lovely taste. I also saved the butter sauce from the scallop to use for this. I can east this stuff all day. Something else I can eat all day are shishamo


I love these fish, but this was kinda meh… Then finally, salmon belly…

2-salmon belly

Again rather meh (turns out to be the 1st of 2 mediocre bellies, success not until #3) but a filling end. I was beyond stuffed… I thanked my server and headed out into the rain. I caught the tram back towards the hotel, overshooting it by a bit. I had walked past a shop I wanted to visit last night en route to dinner. So I ended up making a pricey yet nice but heavy purchase — a pair of beautifully carved wooden wild boars. Love the artistry of this country with animals…

I went back to the hotel and had a quick nap despite how hot the room was…I’m the only person in Hokkaido not wearing a coat. In any case, I had a mixed evening trying to find food as my dinner destination turned out a shambles, as written in the previous post. But I still went to bed extremely full…

The next morning I got up early once again, and went back to the Morning Market for more. This Hakodate trip was too short, as I am flying to Osaka midday. Again I couldn’t find any of the hawkers offering me anything I really wanted, so I went to another of the indoor places, this time the well-regarded Ikura-Tei.


The bowl here honestly was not as good as yesterday’s version, but was still nice. However, it didn’t really do it for me. I went for a long walk around the Market again and further out. And after an hour of walking I still had a little time before I had to go back to my hotel to grab my bag, so I dropped into another place that few tourists will ever find called Kuishimbo.

It’s a simple, family-operated place with a lot of seafood. I just went with another bowl as this will do for lunch…


This third bowl was the best of the lot — by far. Yesterday’s was fantastic, but this is just unreal. The ikura was awesome, the uni even better. The awabi (abalone) was a treat, as is the crab. And this was the cheapest of the bowls. I definitely know where to go next time I’m in Hakodate!

Sadly that marked the end of my excess in Hokkaido for this short stay. I headed to the airport extremely full after 2 days of excessive feasting…but it had to be done! Off to Osaka!

Ebisuya Shokudo [恵比寿屋食堂]
9-16 Wakamatsucho

Shunka [旬花]
43-9 Goryokakucho

Ikura-Tei [いくら亭]
9-15 Wakamatsucho

Kuishimbo [くいしんぼう]
8-24 Wakamatsucho
Hakodate, Japan

Review: Sofia

17 June 2017

After that nice trip to Montana (despite that joke of a steak), I headed back East, landing at Newark on a stormy late afternoon. A busy day later, I headed to Englewood, ostensibly for a concert celebrating the life of someone very dear to me, the late great John Wetton. It saddened me greatly that this hero of mine had died after a brave fight against cancer and the resulting sepsis; I knew that day standing at the Vatican that something had happened, and I was right…

But before the concert I needed to fuel up a bit, knowing I’ll get sloshed at some point, so I went for a hearty dinner at the nearby restaurant Sofia. A nice place, lots of other folks in town for the concert so it was a nice few hours there. Cocktails weren’t bad, though the service was a bit odd; some rather nice folks, a few dour ones, and one downright unpleasant…

veal chop - 01

But the food made up for it, evidenced by this veal chop. Far better than that joke of a steak in Helena a few days earlier. Cooked nicely, very tasty. A side of sprouts made this a necessarily filling dinner, having skipped lunch earlier…

But I had to run out quick because I had to meet a friend before the show, but by now the service had deteriorated a bit and took ages to get my bill. I paid and ran out the door towards the venue.

I enjoyed aspects of the concert, despite moments that were tough emotionally. Still remember first time I met him in Virginia in the mid 1990s, during both of our very heavy drinking days. He quit. I didn’t. Frankly I’m surprised that he’s the one gone and I’m still wandering this ball of dirt we call Earth…

I left the concert drained, and I actually went back to Sofia because I had left my card there after rushing out (because I was running late). So I stayed for a few more drinks, took a nice late-night snack of stuffed hot peppers to go (they were good), and went back to my hotel and held down a spot at the bar until way too late…

I can’t imagine why I would go back to Englewood, but if I have another gig to go at the Bergen PAC, this is definitely a good place to eat. Highly recommended. Tho that hangover…

36 Engle Street
Englewood, New Jersey

PS: I headed out for a 2.5-day trek after that, exploring the mountains of northern Pennsylvania and southern New York, dealing with bad roads in horrible downpours, climbing steep hills that were far more treacherous when hiking downhill, and tolerating more bad food that I won’t waste my time for reviews…but that closed off this long, 4-part trip that took me from Omaha/Des Moines to Seattle to Montana first…

Review: Parker’s Bistro

12 May 2017

One of the things I really wanted to accomplish since I began this travel barrage is to see my country as thoroughlly as I can, and one of those things mean visiting all 50 states. I flew into South Dakota, which is #48, for a short stay last week.

Immediately after landing I drove west, enjoying the beautiful views of this beautiful part of the country. I arrived at the state capital Pierre, which boasts one of the most beautiful Capitol complexes I’ve seen. Such a beautiful place, if it wasn’t so isolated I’d visit far more…

I stayed at an excellent B&B, Hitching Horse Inn, which had a very congenial host — a perfect way to end the long day enjoying a few drinks chatting. A good prime rib at the Mad Mary’s and a long walk around town I needed a good night sleep since I’ve had about 2 hours of sleep in the last 2 days…

But since my trip was so short I had to wake up early again, and was on the road by 6.30am. I headed south-east towards Yankton, the capital of the Dakota Territory. The views were different as I used more small roads, but were as interesting. I love the solitary long drive through new roads… I explored Yankton, Vermillion and then jut down to Iowa for a quick stop in Sioux City before cutting north into Minnesota, before arriving back at Sioux Falls just for dinner.

Dinner tonight was at Parker’s Bistro, which drew my attention as I was doing research for having the most interesting menu in town. I walked there from my hotel on a sunny warm day, and as I anticipated, everyone was sitting outside. I happily stayed inside, though it was still very warm.

I looked over the menu as I was served a nice cocktail. They have a good list here. Then I ordered and chilled out. The place seems to be very busy, as outside was packed. But as I was near the entry area, I was starting to hear of folks grumbling about not getting seats outside. Then the starter appeared…


Of course I couldn’t come to South Dakota and not eat chislic — the localised version of what started out as shashlik, brought over supposedly by immigrants from Crimea. These were pretty tasty, though the fries weren’t really needed. The chimichurri added a little interesting kick. Not bad, a good food start…

But that’s saying more than everything else. It looks like the bar got hit with a lot of orders from outside and are totally backed up, and my section has 1 overworked server. It is a sunny, warm, Friday night, so I was watching a shitshow getting worse as the night went along…

It took quite awhile to get that second cocktail, as well as my main course.


This was supposed to be cooked medium-rare, but was closer to well-done by the time it arrived at my table. Friday night shitshow strikes again… It tasted interesting as it was bourbon and vanilla brined, but again it being overcooked kinda ruined the dish. And the horrible black rice and pistachio salad was just disgusting…yech…what were they thinking?

At this point I finished the pork and called it a night. I could have stayed for dessert and/or drinks, but with things looking as chaotic as ever, I decided to head back to the hotel. I can imagine this place being good, but really, avoid these places for weekends — especially after the college school year is over and the place is lacking servers.

Parker’s Bistro
210 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

PS: I ended up going back out later and seeing a really cool little place, so decided to park myself at Prairie Berry East Bank, and enjoyed quite a few surprisingly nice local wines. Yes, local wines in South Dakota. Mostly grape, but at the end I had a pear wine — notoriously hard to make without it being way acidic. Excellent.

Review: Sein

2 May 2017

Liechtenstein has its charms, but I needed to get back to Switzerland as I have a lot to do on the final day of this trip before heading back across the ocean.

I made my way back to Zürich by bus and train around midday and enjoyed some spectacular views from the train of the snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes. I had a little free time so I dropped into Sein near the train station. Sein is one of Zürich’s Michelin-starred restaurants (1-star), but I happily sat at the bar and looked over the cut-down lunch menu.

I decided to just have some ravioli stuffed with veal and chilled with some wine. It soon appeared.


Very tasty, I enjoyed it. Rosemary butter and some hot pepper oil. Cooked perfectly and a very nice filling, though they could have let the oil be a bit spicier. Done well. Satisfied. A simple dish that already whipped everything I had in Liechtenstein.

I need to come back here for a proper meal one day… Now off to a long afternoon…

Schützengasse 5
Zürich, Schweiz

Review: Killen’s Barbeque

26 Feburary 2017

I was hungover and out of energy, but I managed to get a few things done this Sunday. Just missed the Galveston trip, but oh well… Long day, and I drifted into Pearland early afternoon for what I was told the best barbeque in Houston, Killen’s Barbeque.

Queue was short for a Texas weekend, only about 45 minutes. I got my food for 2-3 meals (yep, lunch and dinner, and likely brekkie in the morning before I head to LA) and headed to my hotel nearby. I opened up the goodies and it went all over the scale…


Firstly, the sausages…they brought the wrong ones (I asked for spicy), and it’s obvious because it was more links than I ordered. But they were AWFUL. They tasted 2 days old at best. What the hell? I was worried…


Then the brisket…again, terrible. What, this is supposed to be the best in the area? It was horribly dry and had no flavour aside from the over-spiced edge. The worst brisket I’ve had in ages!

Damn worried now! Did I waste my time? The pork ribs were actually quite good, so I relaxed a little.


And to be honest, the creamed corn side was really good.


But what made this epic was the fabulous beef rib.


Now this was the absolute BEST beef rib I’ve ever had, amazing how they made this. So all in all it balanced out to a point. I had enough for 2 meals, lunch and dinner. No brekkie, as the sausages and rest of the brisket I fed to the birds outside…

Well, thank you Houston, off for Lalaland…and a plate of pork rinds waiting for me

Killen’s Barbeque
3613 East Broadway
Pearland, Texas