The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

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La Brigada -or- Foraging in the Meatwise city of good winds

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La Brigada is described in Time Out Argentina as being one of the best Parrillas in the city. Conveniently located in the hood that I am staying, San Telmo, I gave it  whirl the other night despite the fact that I´m not a big time steak fan.

The place is classy in the way that an upscale sports bar would be if such a thing existed in the States. There is an odd juxtaposition of white table cloths and futbol memorabilia going on. Pennants of various clubs from the Premiership, Spanish and local sides coat the walls like a second lacquering of wall paper. The obligatory signed Maradona jersey is stationed in the entryway. The wait staff wear dark black get-ups with brown fleur-de-lis paneling blossoming on the chest. A very beast mode 1970´s fashion styling.

I ordered a corn empanada and waldorf salad as starters.

The empanada was a refreshing departure from the normally meat heavy standard issue empanadas that are all over the city. It was like a tasty corn chowder inside of a crispy shell.

The waldorf salad, besides having an amazing name, is a personal favorite of mine. The version served at La Brigada was sort of minimalist take on the ´dorf but great in its own right. It came without any kind of ruffage with apple and celery chunks being the only vegetable / fruit components.

The apples and the celery in the salad were both very light, if that makes sense. The celery was almost white in color and wasn´t nearly as overwhelming in flavor as some of the bright green varieties you commonly see in the States. This led to both of the textures being quite similar and a subtle interplay of flavors. The dressing was a liquid-y mayo with big chunks of bleu cheese with some walnuts tossed in there to crunch things up.

The server recommended that I order a T-Bone. I thought that it was probably going to be to massive from the menu description, but I went with it. It was gnarly. I felt like I could actually visualize the part of the cow that the steak came off of because I had so much surface area to work with. I should´ve known what I was getting myself into when I noticed the menus were covered in cow hide, but shit… When in Rome.

I ordered it medium-rare, which was pretty rare for me. I generally don´t like eating beef chunks that are still kind of squishy raw. The steak was very tender but I think I´m a poor judge for this type of food because it is just too John Wayne for me.

I am glad that I gave this guy a go, but I think I´ll be sticking to slightly less red meat. I sat next to a trio of oil and gas guys that worked down in Buenos Aires and lived in the States and they told me that next time I should try the roast pork shoulder or some of the dicier sounding selections on the menu like the bull testes or the tripe containing monstrosities. I honestly don´t know if I´m cut out, meatwise, for this whole beef adventure.

I walked into a mixed bag at Estados Unidos 465 and walked out a few small steps closer to needing a colonoscopy, but I gave it the old College try and sometimes that´s all that matters.

7 Feedbags out of 10!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

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Swashbuckling like a sushi-loving space pirate -or- Kwakisurpineku?!?!

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I remember eating Chinese food in Paris once and afterwards feeling poisoned and like I was going to die from MSG overload.

It felt like being a kite knocked down by stiff wind. Traveling can be like that sometimes. Becoming entranced in simple activities like walking through a crowd and trying to discern all the alien faces and voices makes you feel like a newborn ghost and abruptly everything can tilt to where you are no longer sublimated into the landscape and instead you become aware of how fragile and tenuous everything is in a place where the language falls apart in your ears like driftwood shipwrecks and your internal compass spins like a polar explorer´s. Getting sick overseas is a real buzzkill.

It is with this once burnt mentality that I order out-of-place foods, like Asian food in Europe or, say, South America. You don´t want to just wander into any old Chifa and start slumming on some sloppy chow mein.

Serendipity is a Zen creature. Confluences always seem to occur when you are unconcious of their possibility. This is a story about how I found the best sushi in the world.

Through the touchscreen of my iPhone, gifted from on high by saintly, dearly departed Steve Jobs, I discovered BuenosAiresDelivery.com. It is a restaraunt delivery service that is amazingly intuitive to use and comes with English and Spanish language pages. You just plunk in your address and what kind of food you want and the oracle of wingfooted comestibles supplies a construct of the available universe and the website also saves your information for future orders.

Through the magical conduits of the Rube Goldberg machine that I visualize as being a snaking tableau of Mario Brothers chrome green portal tubes spanning the earth like Tesla electricity, I found Hoshi, address Guatemala 5841. The sushi I ordered, Roll Di Parma Rice, was described thusly by the menu:

Seaweed and shrimp tempura and avocado, covered with scallops, topped with Parmesan cheese and teriyaki sauce.

I feel like I could live in a blank white room in the Himalayas for a millenia, racking my brain and pacing and drinking pots of scalding mud brown caffeine under the influence of burning bushels of aromatic incence and not be able to come up with a more appetizing-sounding conglomeration of things to roll up in rice.

I have been missing the Seong´s sushi acutely here in BsAs. The crunch roll is in my experience a superior form of sushi. Also, the Mongolian beef there is simply narcotic. I have had sushi in a good many places and Seong´s has always seemed unrivaled to me, maybe because it was the first sushi that I really experienced and therefore it cultivated my specific taste in the dish.

This sushi reminded me a little of the crunch roll because of the tempura shrimp, and that was partly what attracted me to it in the first place. But the flavor profile is more memorable. I can´t believe this heresy I speak, but the parmesan cheese, while just a note in the symphony, added a contrast of savory salt flavor to complement the avocados. The scallops also perfectly counterbalanced the crunchy shrimp with a fleshy subtle seafood compliment. It was what the comic book villain Two Face would be like if he was sushi instead of a foil for Batman. The crispy shrimp is evil and seductive while the scallops are wholesome and heavenly imbued, but each ingredient isn´t a simple one dimensional note. Shimp is sort of saintly, too, and scallops are most defintely a little scandalous.

If this is even possible, the dessert I had might have been even better.

I am one of those people who loves lemon meringue pie and lemon jolly ranchers and lemon jelly-filled donuts. Lemon can do no wrong by me, so when I see an interesting lemon dessert I am on it like cops on Rodney King. This little guy is a lemon cheese cake, or so it was described on the menu, with a sesame crust and a red berry sauce with interspersed almonds. It was, to me, almost more of an ice cream cake that had an extra reserve of creaminess. The crust on the bottom was such a perfect counter heft to the lemon ice cream. It was kind of like one of those sesame bars you buy at Rainbow Foods that are sweet and savory, but the crust was transmorgrified into something softer and more pastry-like. The almonds and berry sauce were like two guys you take on a road trip so they can sit in the back seat and entertain you with intermittant banter and man the iPod soundtrack to the Ride. Not crucial to the navigation or propulsion of the craft, but indispensible at certain moments and thus part of the harmony. The Greek Chorus, if you will, of the lemon cheesecake experience.

Call the cops. This place is better than ten liquor store breakfasts and a punch in the kisser, hence my carefully devised rating.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

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Eater of worlds -or- Love in the time of no Taco Bell

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Being hopelessly lost is Buenos Aires is a pleasant experience. Every once and a while you find your bearings like tires finding purchase and slowly the turf becomes navigable.

There are a profusion of local restaurants that serve a limited range of cuisine that really isn´t that appealing to my food prefences, which trend towards endless breakfasts at Denny´s or hot and spicy ethnic dishes.

Empanadas and pizza conspiculously missing the garlic and roasted sides of beef are all well and good but Moons Over My Hammy they are not.

In the absence of the possibility of stumbling across a Taco Bell or pancake house, the thing I most was craving when I arrived here was something spicy. I´ve noticed that the Argentines don´t really go in for the spicy stuff. Even their fries are unsalted. It is disorienting to say the least.

Enter the Gibraltar in San Telmo.

It is an English pub that plays Premiership soccer and rugby on a muted flatscreen TV during the daytime. The ambiance is sort of shabby-chic Victorian and the music goes from Tom Waits and Merle Haggard in the daytime to electronic at night. There is a large main room with black leather couches in the front and bench seating under the gaze of stately portraits of stiff-lipped, long dead Brits. Above the bar is a library or study room that does not appear to have any stairs or ladders leading up to it. There are what appears to be leather bound books and perhaps even fine mahogany and ornate wooden cabinets. The bar is like some amazing hipster anthropomorphism that looks studious and temperate but is really a daytime drunk.

If you head to the back, you pass an open view of the kitchen and find yourself in a smaller room with a billard table that leads to an outside backyard area where smokers congregate on stone benches. I really love these styles of “indoor courtyards” that are walled-in and always seem to have plant life crawling up to a square of sky suspended above.

In the travel guide Time Out Argentina, the Gibraltar was mentioned as being a place for genuinely spicy currys and I was surprised having had a drink there the previous night when it was slammed with people. The Gibraltar is something of a living, evolving creature each day. It opens and noon and if you go there early it serves a proper English breakfast of sausages and baked beans. There are a few people lingering, usually expats reading books and slowly imbibing pints. In the early afternoon foot traffic picks up. At some magical moment each early evening, patrons pour in from work and parts unknown and pack the place to the gills and a doorman materializes outside to regulate the amount of people in the bar.

The picture above is a green curry. I have so far taken in the green and red currys, the pad thai with shrimp and chicken, the hotjunglecurrybeef with noodles and the beef and ale pie on a lark. All were amazing. The pad thai and the currys are rustic and fresh. Green beans are a big component and hold up well in the spicy broth of the curry. The Gibraltar likes to garnish everything with cilantro, so in a way it is like an infinitely superior version of Pel Menis. You know, if Pel Menis (Menis… is that pronounced like penis?) had more than one menu item and served booze and attracted a cosmopolitan crowd and had some atmosphere, it´d be the same place. If you are drunk and spiritually debased enough, you couldn´t tell the difference.

Apros pos of nothing, I´ve been writing this in a shitty internet cafe listening to the Cranberries and Sufjan Stevens on youtube.

The red curry had some real heft. I ate this plate, devastated it really, in a few savage minutes and shambled home to take a nap. It was that transcendent. The roasted peanuts and water cress are so crunchy good. I took to dunking chunks of the perfectly sticky rice into the broth and soaking in the spice like a human vacuum sealer. Before, meet after:

I think it is all the more impressive that I did all this damage with chopsticks.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful place. The people are so cool. I mean like Johnny Depp cool. They stay up late because it´s much easier on one´s constitution. But they aren´t really down with the exotic foods, which is so puzzling. I guess this is coming from the same mind that growing up assumed that all of Latin America ate some version of Mexican food. Not so. There is not, nor will there ever likely be, an unending proliferation of Taco Bell-themed restaurants resplendent in wild neon colors covering the Southern Hemisphere. And it is for the better. But, like all fantasies, it is hard not to seek out small bits of cognitive dissonance involving innermost secret desires.

The Gibraltar in San Telmo, address Peru 895, is one of these fragmentary dream scapes. I couldn´t recommend it more highly.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

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Rainbow Foods -or- Shall I compare thee to a summer’s salad?

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I go to Rainbow Foods almost every day.

Lots of times, I go there in the morning to get fruit and a Hi-Ball energy drink, which is like a Red Bull minus the Flintstones vitamins-flavoring and the sugar.

Rainbow Foods is an amazing little microcosm of Juneau.

To go there on lunch is to witness a jamboree of State workers and the staunch hippie quotient that is apparently required for Rainbow to be able to exist on this plane and not float out into oblivion.

There are always three hippies at Rainbow.

Not the same three hippies, mind you, but three, nonetheless. I imagine a hippie consulate assembling in a carved-out tree-trunk somewhere in the deep forests of the Tongass. They are like the AFL-CIO for hippies, and like any good union they make sure their posts are staffed, and Rainbow Foods is the epicenter for the Juneau breed of granolas.

And god bless them. Every one.

But for me, mornings are the best at Rainbow. The store doesn’t open until nine, which is amazing to me but makes sense in terms of the laissez-faire organization of the place. Hippies don’t do mornings, really, so if you show up around nine, the staffing from hippie central casting hasn’t arrived yet.

The store is almost disquietingly empty, but I have come to enjoy the few people that are around.

Read on if you want to know how many Feedbags, Mr. Feedbag gives Rainbow Foods -> !

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

April 30, 2011 at 4:25 am

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The Rookery –or– Stranger in a strange place

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Muffins!

This evening I watched an episode of the classic television program The Twilight Zone.

As I was “…traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind…”, according to the show’s intro,  I had an astonishing thought.

I know. Weird. No one in the history of the world has ever been stoned watching The Twilight Zone and had a perceived epiphany.

Grant me the poetic license, if you will, for my great and luminous vision didn’t concern the solution for six minute abs or a path to peace in the Middle East.

My vision was about muffins.

Or, rather, to be more accurate… cupcakes. Why these heavenly creations aren’t called by the more sweetly sonorous term muffincakes, I will never understand.

I digress…

I thought of cupcakes during The Twilight Zone because I consumed one from The Rookery café earlier today that lit up the addiction centers of my brain like a triple gold nugget jackpot on a slot machine. It was so delicious and exactly what I needed at that moment in time. I have been pining for something different and beguiling to experience in this town of lowered expectations.

It was red velvet cupcake armature enveloped in a sheath of cream cheese frosting covering the top of the cake like a wildly distended white yarmulke of sweet and savory cloth.

It was different than any muffin-type cake I have ever consumed, and that is what made it so harmonic. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into with a red velvet cupcake, but I was intrigued.

Sort of like “The Invaders”, the episode of The Twilight Zone that shimmered across my moist eyeballs earlier this eve. From the episode description on my TV guide:

“The Invaders”, (1961), There is no dialogue in this story of a rural woman (Agnes Moorehead) who battles to repel two creatures from another planet. (Sci-Fi).

When I started watching the episode, I was wary of the strange description. How can there be an episode of The Twilight Zone, a show where everything has to be explained in breathless mouthfuls of science fiction jargon, without anyone talking? How can there be a cupcake constructed out of red velvet, a material seemingly better suited for classy sportcoats or Elvis portraiture?

I pressed play and sat transfixed. Magic burst across my screen in the guise of a series of moving pictures from 50 years ago, filmed during the 365 day period that encompassed JFK’s moon speech and the film West Side Story and the ascent to #1 on the Billboard Top 100 rankings of the song “Runaway” by Del Shannon.

The lone character in the episode outside of some robot antagonists is a crazed, feral-looking woman. In act one, we see her glumly stirring a giant pot of some sort of sustenance. Great plumes of stage smoke emerge from the edges of the foreboding black cauldron.

In many ways, the episode of The Twilight Zone that I just watched could have been dedicated to film at any point in between the advent of moving pictures in the late 19th century and modern day. One could say that the idea is timeless, even, with the old-fashioned elements like the woman whose acting is straight out of a talkie from the dawn of cinema.

In many ways, the cupcake that I just ate could have been made at any point in between the advent of cupcakes in the late 19th century and modern day. One could say that the idea is timeless, even, with the old-fashioned elements like the cream cheese frosting.

God, I love cream cheese frosting.

In short, what I am trying to get across through the use of extended metaphor is that the cupcakes at The Rookery are cosmic.

The cupcakes are my current obsession, but I would also beseech you to try the croissants, which are buttery and always fresh and completely fulfilling. I love the filled varieties, including the ham and cheese and the turkey and swiss.

The Rookery is, for my money, the best bakery and coffee house in this woebegone city of dead-end food options. They stock many of my favorite coffees, including the excellent Stumptown line from PDX. Stumptown’s coffee houses in Portland use a French press to make all or almost all of the coffee sold in-store to their cult following of shameless hipsters and serious connoisseurs, and the Rook also offers French press service, which is truly a revelation in Juneau.

They are unearthly and from another dimension.

A dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity that can only be found at 111 Seward Street, Monday through Saturday from 7am until 8pm.

A dimension called…

The Rookery.

Or is it The Twilight Zone? I’m confused.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

March 12, 2011 at 2:50 am

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Pie in the Sky

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Address: 223 Seward Street

Phone number: 523-9135

Style of cuisine: Baked goods and coffee

General information and fun facts:

Located in the entry way to The Canvas art studio, Pie in the Sky is a downtown office worker staple. The baked goods are inventive and deliciously balanced. The Quiche is so good, I would tangle with a rabies-infected bum if he tried to steal it from me. The pictured Quiche below is asparagus and Parmesan and the spears of asparagus had just the right texture and balance to add some freshness and flavor to the eggs and cheese. The crust is scrumtulescent on all the pies and I especially like the key lime if you’re going in that direction.

The woman who runs the place is something of an enigma to me, but if anything she adds a character and sensibility to the place. I have never known a baker who wasn’t at least somewhat anal or OCD, and perhaps this may be what I’m picking up on. Being the imaginative fellow that Mr. Feedbag is,  I’m sure that I have the capacity to imagine things, but nonetheless the purveyor of these heavenly baked comestibles certainly does have a little dollop of Mona Lisa in her smile.

Finally, the best for last. The other picture below is of a lemon bar that I really have a special feeling of love and warmth in my heart for. I like lemons a lot. I like the flavor of them in my donuts, my vodka sodas, my Jolly Ranchers and my lolly pops. I like lemonade and when you add iced tea to lemonade and make an Arnold Palmer, I like that too. If I’m eating fish and chips, break out the lemons, grandmama, because I’m going to make it rain. Lemon drops. Onto and around my fish and motherf-ing chips. My favorite candy would have to be Lemon Heads and what this is all leading up to is a short description of why I like the lemon bar and therefore why I like Pie in the Sky: If you’re going to bake shit to sell me, I want you to bake it with the courage of your convictions. What that means to me is that if you’re making a lemon bar, make a lemon bar for someone who loves lemons and don’t be afraid to just throw the whole lemon on top and fire that bad Larry up. The rind of the lemon infuses the subtle buttery flavor of the bar with the deep and multifaceted flavor of the lemon fruit. Don’t be afraid to let it rock your world. Put on the big boy pants and stop by Pie in the Sky next time you’re in the ‘hood.


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Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

September 6, 2010 at 5:21 am

Tasty Treat frozen yogurt!

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Address: 611 West Willoughby (Foodland Shopping Center)

Phone number: Unknown

Style of cuisine: Frozen Yogurt amazingness!

General information and fun facts:

Click for full-sized photo!

Finding out about Tasty Treat’s existence in food-lonely Juneau was more incredible and unbelievable than when that German guy stumbled on the lost city of Troy. Gadzooks! Said I upon hearing about Tasty Treat.

Could there be a better name for a place? I want something tasty, sure. Who doesn’t. But what I really want is a tasty treat. I want something that makes me feel like I’m celebrating a special occasion. In other places with tall buildings and bustling streets with strange, inexplicable billows of smoke belching from grates in the sidewalk, they have places like Chuck-E-Cheese where one can go to have a slap-bang birthday party replete with animatronic, singing animal robots. They have places where one can buy specialty cup cakes or birthday cakes. Want a cake with a midget chasing an old man hobo with a knife? Done. Cup cakes depicting the various emotional states of Stephen Hawking? Can do.

Click for full-sized photo!

In the intoxicating and limitless land of fruitful bounty that is the U.S. and A., all things are manifest. Here in our little strip of landlocked, far flung Alaska we just have to make do. I mean, we have some stuff, and there’s always that giant series of tubes to consider when approximating how distant we really are.

I just wish I could see and touch and feel the clothes I want before I purchase them for lack of any local retailers. Because I am marooned in this strange little pocket of liberal-leanings, I can’t get a novelty birthday cake in the shape of a clown taking a dump in a swimming pool and I can’t have any Taco Bell even though I am haunted by the commercials and the memories of the love we once had. It seemed so perfect and it seemed as if it would last until the end of time, the marriage between Juneau and Taco Bell. Things fall apart and it’s impossible to assign blame. We’ve both moved on, although it is still pretty raw for us here in Juneau. It’s hard to forget things here in Juneau because we’re always weaving the same strand of narrative.

Click for full-sized photo!

Alas, we can finally get a proper cup of frozen yo. For fuck’s sake, thank you, good people of Tasty Treat. I am standing up and initiating the slow clap in your honor. According to the sweet owner lady, the concept is catching on big down in the land of metropolises and thrumming freeway arteries. You can pick your yo from a series of pumps in the professional and smart store front of Tasty Treat and then it’s off to the races and a cornucopia of toppings of fresh fruit and pulverized candy bar favorites. I went with blackberries and coconut flakes with some pate of Skor bar tossed in for good measure. Lemon and Chocolate yog. I can’t say enough good things. At $.45 an ounce, the specialty yog can start to add up quick, but it is soooo worth it.

Click for full-sized photo!

I just want to be the best I can be for you, Tasty Treat. I want to better myself and my town with random acts of kindness and beautification so it is worthy of the burnt orange and earth tone splendor of the Tasty yog. I want to drag tourists into the place and tell them to spread the word to all their midwestern brethern bopping around in the middle of that crazy iceberg of Americans: Juneau is a real place with real people and really, really good frozen yo, bro. Check it out! It’s right next to Collector’s Hideaway, where we can squeeze in a couple games of Magic: the Gathering and cop a copy of Carlos Boozer’s rookie card. Right down there by Foodland A&P, great purveyor of pancit and other Filipino deli delicacies. Come! Come one and all to the friendly forest of the Tongass, where amongst the trees and orca whales we have frozen yogurt and a limitless trough of toppings!

Click for full-sized photo!

Gorge yourself, America. Eat your heart out. You can even put your balls in it. Well, maybe not. But they do have the dank yog. Word is bond.

Rating:

10 Feedbags out of 10!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

July 23, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized