Category Archives: Cheese

A Little Germany in Georgia

Enter the GIVEAWAY in honor of my 1000th post! The deadline has been extended until Dec. 15.
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Helen, Georgia is a quaint little Bavarian Alpine village in the Georgia mountains.  While it is most popular during October for Oktoberfest, it is worth a visit during Christmas time because of the Christmas lights and decorations.

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While December is a good time to visit, be sure to keep in mind that many of the shops and restaurants are closed on Wednesdays.  Helen is on its own time, and I wouldn’t rely on times listed on websites either.  Many of the stores we visited were closed when they were supposed to be open, so it’s best to call ahead if there’s a particular place you really want to go to make sure it will be open.   And most shops and restaurants close by six p.m.  There are few restaurants that are open past six, but you can find them.

There are stores with German, Dutch and Scandinavian imports like cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, steins and more, as well as stores selling crafts by local artisans.  There’s something for everyone here–mini golf (not open in winter season), a grist mill, antique shops, tubing, ziplining, and hiking where one can see gorgeous waterfalls.

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On this trip, we were interested in Christmas shopping and eating.  Some of the stores we enjoyed were Lindenhaus Imports owned by a friendly gentleman who happily shows you fun German and Scandinavian goods, Classics owned by a friendly woman who sells German collectibles and apparel and Windmill Dutch Imports with a good selection of Dutch food and ceramics.  Euro Food is a small shop with German foods.  There are a number of other shops, but many were not open on the Wednesday and Thursday that we were there (especially the Christmas shop which was a bit disappointing).

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Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen is a fun stop for chocolate-covered pretzels, fudge, chocolates, divinity, peppermint bark and more.

There is a plethora of German food in Helen, as expected, but not much variety for a vegetarian.  We ate at the few restaurants that had vegetarian options, so if you are a vegetarian, be prepared for that.  High on the list is Muller’s Fried Cheese.

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Breaded squares of cheddar, brie and mozzarella fried to melty perfection.  If you love cheese, you will love these.

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They also have German and Czech specialties like bratwurst with cabbage, sauerkraut and potato salad.

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Another must is Hofer’s German bakery, a cafe, bakery and deli in one.

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We had a delicious breakfast here of vegetarian hash.

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Our breakfast came with really nice assorted hard rolls.

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For dessert, really lovely cream puff and beehive cake.

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For the road, we got rye bread, jelly doughnuts and hamentaschen.  My favorite was their jelly doughnut–it was filled with ooey gooey jelly.

A restaurant that was open later in the evening was Cowboys & Angels.  We had a very good pimento cheese appetizer.

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I got the pork chop with apples and raisins and it was delicious.

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My friend got a vegetable plate with macaroni and cheese that was creamier than any I’ve had at a restaurant.  It says it’s made with real cream and I believe it.

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The food was cooked to perfection here, and the vegetables were flavorful as well.

Bigg Daddy’s is a divey sports bar that is open later and has an interesting offering of calamari tacos.  They were delicious.

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I had the spicy fish tacos which really brought the heat.

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We shared an appetizer of buffalo hummus, which looked like a mound of hummus surrounded by a moat of hot sauce.  This would have been better with a drizzle of hot sauce on top, as this was just too much sauce.

After my spicy dinner, I wanted some ice cream.  There are homemade ice cream shops in town, but they weren’t open.  The options included Mayfield (made not far from here in Tennessee) and Blue Bell.

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

Blue Bell strawberry cheesecake

At one shop, they had some gelato from Italy. The salted caramel was perfetto.

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A must-see attraction in Helen is Charlemagne’s Kingdom.  This is a miniature replica of the country of Germany with miniature trains and villages.  The attraction was created by a husband-and-wife team, the husband from Germany, and is still family-owned today.  It is truly awesome.  If you appreciate miniature artistry, you will love this.  The work is so detailed and there are so many wonderful nooks and crannies to see interesting things.

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Other things to see not too far outside of Helen are the nearby Indian mound and the folk pottery museum.  And of course, Babyland General Hospital, which any child of the ’80s should know.  This is where Cabbage Patch Kids are born/grown.  Yes, you check in as if you are checking in to a real hospital.  You can see the babies growing from the cabbages, with a green IV drip from a tree.  Cool yet freaky at the same time.

Helen is a fun town that’s great to visit for a day trip, a weekend or a week, depending on what you want to do.

 

Pizza Chiena

I made pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, for Easter this morning.  These are savory Italian Easter pies that I’ve written about before.  This pie is one of those recipes that everyone has a variation of.  Some people put provolone or other types of Italian meats in it too.  It varies a lot.  I put what I like in it.

I made a meatless version for the vegetarians. I used frozen pie crusts for this one. No reason, other than that’s what I had on hand. I had originally planned to make my own pie crust, but in the interests of time because I’ve had a lot going on, I used premade crust.

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For the meat version, I used a refrigerated pie crust.

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Pizza Chiena

5 eggs, beaten

1 lb. ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)

4 oz. shredded mozzarella

1/3 cup grated pecorino romano

1 cup diced salami

2 oz. diced prosciutto

salt and pepper

Mix everything together and put in prepared pie dish.  Add top crust.  Bake 350 for 1 hour.  Serve room temperature or cold.  (This pie should be kept refrigerated when not serving.)

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Italian Easter Rice Pie

This year for Easter, I made an Italian Easter rice pie.  I’ve written before about the Italian Easter pies, the pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, and the pastiera, or pizza grano.  This is a variation of the pizza grano.  The pizza grano is a Neapolitan wheat pie served at Easter.  My family traditionally made this pie at Easter time.  Part of my dad’s family is from the area near Benevento, Italy, and there they make a variation with rice instead of wheat.  So he grew up with both the wheat and rice pies at Easter.

I wanted to be ambitious this Easter/Lent and make a lot more, but I haven’t had the time.  I had wanted to make hot cross buns, but instead just got some yummy ones from a bakery.  I’m also going to make a pizza chiena.  My grandma has a variation of the pizza chiena that is vegetarian, using mashed potatoes.  I don’t think I will be making that one this year though, as I don’t have time.  Now, I do have a homemade crust recipe, but I can’t publish it or else I may get the malocchio from my aunt.

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Italian Easter Rice Pie

1 1/2 cups whole milk or 1 cup skim/1/2% milk and 1/2 cup light cream/half and half

1/2 cup rice

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 pound ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)

1 tablespoon orange blossom water  (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz. candied citron  (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)

1 deep dish frozen pie crust

1 regular frozen pie crust

Cook rice according to package directions (with water).  Add milk and cook on low until milk is absorbed.  Cool.  Beat eggs and beat in sugar.  Add ricotta, orange blossom water, vanilla and citron and stir.  Stir in rice.  Put into deep dish pie crust and top with top crust.  (I used a regular pie crust for the top and cut strips with a pastry cutter.)  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Cool and serve.

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Two for Tuesday: Galbani

With all the Galbani commercials on TV, I had to try the products.  I found mozzarella at a lot of grocery stores but wasn’t for the longest time able to find the ricotta.  Finally, I did.  I like the fresh, creamy ciliegine, cherry-sized balls of mozzarella.  They are really nice added to a salad.

I’m not as happy with the ricotta as it has a sweet flavor that I don’t like in ricotta, and it also has added gums.  It’s made in the USA–not Italy.

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Two for Tuesday: Irish Cheddar

Even though St. Patty’s Day was yesterday, I’m still celebrating all things Irish.  How about Irish cheddar?  So I’m doing a side-by-side of Kerrygold Dubliner vs. Murray’s Irish cheddar.  (No, I’m not being cute.  I couldn’t get this photo to straighten in WordPress.  Something must not be working.)

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Both cheeses are from Ireland.  Dubliner (l) is more complex and nutty.  Murray’s (r) was softer, not quite as strong a flavor.

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Neighborhood Watch: Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

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Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, is the only real Italian neighborhood left in NYC.  If you’re looking for an authentic Italian American experience, this is the place to be.  However, it’s not so easy to get to.  It’s a long, hilly walk from the subway.  Or if you take a cab, the cab driver will not know where it is.  I know cab drivers are supposed to know where to go in the boroughs, but they don’t, especially in the Bronx and Queens and sometimes, Brooklyn.  I suggest you have directions or your phone GPS on hand to assist the driver.

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The main strip is Arthur Avenue from East 184th Street to East 187th Street.  On East 187th Street, there’s Artuso’s Pastry, the home of the famous Pope cookies.  In case you are looking for them, the Pope cookies were made for Pope Benedict’s visit to New York and his recent resignation, but they do not have Pope cookies now.

Visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

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Walk west to Egidio Pastry and admire the case full of beautiful pastries.

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The history of the building is evident with its tin ceiling.

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Here, we tried a mini cannoli and a mini sfogliatelle. They were both very good, but the sfogliatelle was particularly well crafted with flaky layers.

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DeLillo Pastry has outdoor seating and a mighty fine cannoli with creamy ricotta filling.

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There are a lot of bakeries on this small strip, so if you are doing a tasting, be prepared to eat a lot or to take some home. I brought my rolling backpack so that I could easily bring things home with me.

In addition to bakeries, there are ravioli/pasta shops, seafood markets, meat markets, cheese shops, pizzerias, Italian restaurants and kitchen stores. At Marie’s, you can get dinnerware and housewares, as well as coffee, from Italy.
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OK, vegetarians in the crowd will not want to look at the next photo–the body of a sheep hanging in the window of a meat market.

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Teitel Brothers is an Italian grocery store owned by a Jewish family that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.

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Now this is something you don’t see anymore–a bread bakery.  Zito’s and Vesuvio’s in the city closed awhile ago.  Thank goodness Addeo’s is still here in the Bronx.

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Look at that bread.

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At Biancardi’s meat market, you can still get capuzelle, or sheep’s head.

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Madonia Bakery has beautiful bread and also fills cannoli to order.

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I got some yummy cookies for the road.

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In the middle of the block, there’s an indoor market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, with a butcher, fish and produce market as well as products from Italy and Arthur Avenue T-shirts and souvenirs.

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The butcher here had beef feet.  I’ve never seen these before and am not sure how Italians use them.

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If you’re into offal, this is the place to be.  Here’s cotenne, the pig skin I’ve written about, in the rear of this photo.

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Brains, anyone?

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OK, I definitely share the sentiment with these T-shirts.

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Check out Cerini Coffee, a fun store with housewares from Italy.

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At Morrone Pastry Shop & Café, I got a rainbow cookie cake slice and a tortoni.  Both were delicious.  (I also bought a rainbow cookie cake for my aunt’s birthday.  I froze it the day I bought it and thawed it a week later.  It was fresh, moist and delicious.)

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In case you thought I just had sweets, I did stop for a slice of pizza at Catania’s.

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What to Eat:  pastries and bread from Artuso’s, Egidio’s, DeLillo’s, Madonia’s, Addeo’s or Morrone’s; pizza from Catania’s.

Where to Shop:  Marie’s and Cerini’s for kitchen wares; the Arthur Avenue Retail Market for souvenirs, produce and Italian goods; Borgatti’s for ravioli; Randazzo’s for seafood.

What to See:  Columbus statue at East 183rd Street and Arthur Avenue, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East 187th Street.

Two for Tuesday: Brooklyn Pizza

I finally made it out to Brooklyn to try Totonno’s in Coney Island and L&B Spumoni Gardens’ pizza in Bensonhurst.  Pizza is a controversial topic, I realize.  My grandmother talked about wood-fired pizza from Naples.  My mother grew up on coal-fired pizza.  As my family worked in the pizza business and owned a pizzeria, I’m pretty critical of pizza.  Among aficionados, Totonno’s has a history and is known as some of the best pizza.

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On our visit, we didn’t have to wait on line.  There was one table available.  There are no frills here.  You sit; they bring you paper plates and plastic cups.  You have your choice of canned or bottled soda and water.  Service is rushed and not friendly.  Because of the demand and lack of space, you may have to share a table with other patrons, as we did.  We ordered the large plain cheese pie, which is a steep price at $19.50.

Totonno's pizza
The three elements of pizza are crust, sauce and cheese.  With a coal-fired oven, one would expect the blackened bottom and a certain flavor.  Sally’s Apizza in New Haven has the perfect coal-fired crust.  Totonno’s crust didn’t have that blackened bottom, and the dough was lackluster.  The tomato sauce was bland–just a tomato taste.  The cheese was also pretty flavorless.  I had really wanted to love this place because of its history, but I felt it was lacking in taste.  I really don’t think it’s worth a trip out to Coney Island just for this pizza.

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L&B Spumoni Gardens is a subway stop and short walk away from Totonno’s.  Here, the specialty of the house are Sicilian-style pies.  For those who don’t know, Sicilian style pies are square pies that are more doughy.  My mom says that when she was young, Sicilian pies came with tomato and onion, but that is not how they are served today.  The pie at L&B is good, but where’s the cheese?  I understand the sauce is on top of the cheese, but I don’t think there’s enough cheese.  It’s unfortunate because the sauce is very good, slightly sweet and with oregano.  With more cheese, this would be one hell of a Sicilian pie.

L&B Spumoni Gardens pizza