Mountain Lobster Time

With kringle and Spanish tortilla

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Mountain Lobster Time

I had the best lobster roll of my life a couple weeks ago. In Park City, Utah, at a place called Freshie’s. Strange but true. Now, admittedly, I haven’t had one on the east coast. But I suspect what this lobster roll benefits from is the mountaineer spirit of the owners, who operate a few locations in Utah and Wyoming. This extremely generous sandwich has a ton of herbs and spices mixed in with the claws and tails - not overpowering, but a bit more interesting, perhaps, than a standard lobster roll. It is bound with both butter and mayonnaise, and yet somehow, it’s not gloppy. It almost even feels light on the tastebuds. Five stars, two claws up. Multiple locations. -Katherine Spiers

Photo: Tony Savino / Alamy Stock Photo

The Journey of the Kringle

By Candice Wagener

We take our pastries and breads seriously in the Midwest, where there are strong European influences from carb-friendly countries like Germany, Norway, Sweden, Poland, and Denmark. After all, we experience nine months of winter: can you blame us? In Wisconsin, we’ve even designated a most comforting official state dessert: the highly prized Danish kringle. 

A heavily-iced, flaky pastry ring commonly filled with nuts or fruit and occasionally paired with cream cheese, the kringle has its American roots in Racine, just south of Milwaukee, which is purportedly the “most Danish city in America.” At one point, 10% of all Danish immigrants resided there, bringing their extremely laborious but equally satisfying kringle recipe with them. 

In 1850 in the old country, the Danish Bakers Association went on strike and patissiers from Austria were recruited as replacements. They shared their method of rolling butter between layers of yeast dough and allowing ample rest before baking, and the Danes followed suit. In addition to being butery, raditional kringle is almond-flavored and shaped like a pretzel (the Danish symbol for bakeries), and is pronounced krin-gleh.  

Once the kringle made it into the hearts (and bellies) of Racine residents, there was no turning back. The traditional pretzel shape morphed into an oval, as customers requested more fruit fillings and bakers found the shape more accommodating. While you can find kringles throughout Wisconsin, most originate in Racine, a city with a population of around 77,000 and at least five dedicated kringle bakeries. Today, you can find a wide range of flavors beyond the traditional: Key lime, cinnamon roll, and turtle (the chocolate kind) are a few. There’s even a special birthday kringle - the fillings vary by bakery, but it’s always topped with sprinkles.

My family has had a fascination with kringles for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the Chicago area and have fond memories of a special package marked “perishable” arriving from Wisconsin right before every Christmas. Now that I live in Wisconsin, I am the one bearing the kringle gifts to share at our family get-togethers. Cherry and apricot are favorites, but nobody turns away apple or blueberry, either. Every bite contains flaky, soft layers of pastry, sweet fruit filling and icing with just a hint of vanilla. It’s just the thing to add to your hygge - another Danish stroke of genius - lifestyle this winter. 🥨

The British Regency Era was pretty much as Jane Austen represented it - except everyone was banging everyone. Truly unhinged levels of banging. They also ate a lot! A discussion of 1800s decadence with author and romance novel bookstore owner Bea Koch.

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Photo: Adrian Scottow / Flickr

Sunny-Side Up: Tortilla de Patata de Galicia

By Cila Warncke

For most of my life I thought scrambling and hash browning was the ultimate honor a cook could give eggs and potatoes. Then I went to Betanzos, Galicia, in the wet, verdant north-west corner of Spain, for its annual tortilla de patata festival. 

Every tapas bar and cafe from Seville to Santander sells pale, dry wedges of tortilla, which in Spain is essentially an egg-and-potato frittata. As a celiac vegetarian, about 90% of Spanish cuisine is off-limits to me, so I eat a lot of tortilla when visiting.

And thought I knew it, until arriving in a grey town halfway between the world’s oldest operational Roman lighthouse and the birthplace of Francisco Franco. The festival cook-off focused on Travesía Progreso, a cobbled alley that drops vertiginously towards a dead end, walls close enough to touch with extended arms. Its restaurants, including Casa Miranda, Meson o’Pote, and Taberna Escondida, are tortilla-making legends. 

We wedged ourselves in at a tiny table, surrounded by locals quaffing Estrella Galica. Fifteen minutes later a golden disc appeared, untroubled by garnish, vegetables, sauce or even black pepper. The monasticism was unsettling; it’s eggs and potatoes. Where would the flavor come from? 

When we sliced through the crisp exterior, saffron liquid filled the plate. Locals call this jugosa (juicy); in the United States, it would come with a warning label. The first bite elicited a rush of umami bliss. Raised on pallid American eggs, it never occurred to me they could be as unctuous, complex, and toothsome as fine cheese.

Juiciness is the trademark of a Betanzos tortilla, but liquidity notwithstanding, the egg is actually cooked. This requires the finesse of long practice. Pepa Miranda, dueña of Casa Miranda and five-time festival gold medal winner, hones her technique by cooking up to 40 tortillas a day. 

The effort would be naught without perfect ingredients. “Good potatoes, good eggs, good oil and a good pinch of salt,” Miranda told Voz de Galicia after scooping up her fifth award.

Very fresh eggs are a must, with yolks “the color of yellow on the Spanish flag,” says Marcelino Barca Areosa, a cook who’s been making tortilla for decades. Potatoes are Kennebec, an American varietal that has taken deep root in Galicia’s cool climate; the oil, olive.

Betanzos’ tortilla de patata is a luxury born of necessity. Living in a poor region, depopulated by emigration and sluiced by Atlantic weather, Galicians made do or did without. But if more wasn’t an option, they’d do better. Tortilla is inexpensive and functional so they transformed it into a sunny, sensory delight – rainy days and dictators be damned.🥚

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