Friday, 21 June 2019

Café Jelinek: a Review





What is the first thing one thinks of at the mention of Vienna? Well, for me it is coffee-house culture: coffee and cakes, Kaffee und Kuchen. According to the Vienna Now * Forever website, in 2011 UNESCO added Viennese coffee-house culture to its list of intangible cultural heritage. And unwittingly I chose my favourite café without knowing it is considered one of the six best in the whole city.







It certainly is not pristine; indeed, it is rather faded. It is not even situated next to any of the famous sights and in fact one has to wander a little off the Mariahilfer Straße, Vienna’s main shopping thoroughfare, to discover its treasures. As can be seen in the photograph above, the flooring is tread-worn; the wallpaper is faded and tabacco-stained; the furniture, fixtures and fittings have all seen better days. So what keeps folk returning to this particular Kaffeehaus?

Well, it serves traditional, homemade cakes - not the wonderful confections found in cake-shops throughout the city, but rather the kind of baking that reminds one of one’s Grandmother’s or Mother’s cakes. The environment and food offerings create the famous gemütlich ambience for which Austria is so famous. (See this Wikipedia article for a fuller explanation of Gemütlichkeit.)

There is additionally ample outside seating for when the sun shines. It is easier to tuck a wheelchair under these tables than navigating the interior. As well as cakes, breakfast is served here all day, because (per VisitingVienna):

‘ “The early bird can go take a running jump” (the polite translation).’

During my latest visit to Vienna I visited the terrace three times. On two of those occasions I opted for the same light-bite from the menu (see image below): Sacherwürstel with Senf (mustard), Kren (horseradish in Austrian German, Meerrittich in German German) and a Semmel (bread-roll, Brötchen in German German).




As can be seen, these snacks were accompanied by beers, in this instance a light and citrusy lager named Wieselburger Bier. This perfectly accompanied the heat from the horseradish and the sweetness from the mustard.

Staff on every occasion I have visited Café Jelinek are calm and unfussed. They will not bother a customer unless beckoned. One will not be asked to leave or order more if one is peacefully reading one of the gratis newspapers or magazines. Neither will one be badgered to pay the bill until one is ready to do so. A totally relaxed environment.

For those in wheelchairs, alas the toilets are not accessible. Also, for those who are ambulant but unsteady on their feet, I suggest taking a friend to open the doors.

The clientele is very mixed: students; academics; shoppers; lovers; tourists and even the odd local celebrity.

And finally, what about the coffee served? In the top-most image one can see a Wiener Melange, a strong coffee with warmed milk and topped with Schlagobers (whipped cream, German German Schlagsahne). I always take this once on any visit to Vienna. However, as can be imagined, it is incredibly rich, nonetheless it goes well with cake. Mostly I drink Große Brauner, which is a double mocha with a drop of warmed milk. Delicious both, as no doubt are the rest of the coffee varieties listed in the menu.

Of course I thoroughly recommend the authentic Viennese coffee-house culture of Café Jelinek. If in Vienna, it is a must-see!

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My apologies for the white background, I have tried all sorts to try to get back to the normal colour but Blogger will have none of it - as ever it does its own thing!


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Absence




[Image description: writer sitting in a Viennese garden-restaurant]

Readers, I am so sorry for my long absence. This year has been very difficult for me health-wise. I was even too ill to take my usual extended winter-break in Andalusia.

I have just returned from a week-long sojourn in Vienna, my most favourite city on the planet. The day-time temperature exceeded thirty degrees Celsius (eighty-six Fahrenheit) every day and did not drop below twenty-six (seventy-nine Fahrenheit) during the sultry nights. Whilst the heat was not conducive to slumber, it was a boon to my arthritic bones. Mostly I only suffered pain in various parts of my spine. The rest of my regular pains simply dissipated. Whilst I was forced to use my wheelchair on some days, I was able to do extended walking on others - don’t tell my specialist as I am not supposed to exceed one hundred metres (one hundred and ten yards) per day!

Now I am back in Manchester, where it has rained every day for the past three weeks or so. The dampness immediately percolated into my bones. As I type I am on my maximum dosages of pain-killers. The pain is excruciating. My muscles are permanently spasming and my limbs will not cease shaking. I am typing so as to attempt to take my mind off matters.

Whilst in the Austrian capital, I visited several good eateries, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and also Belvedere, a thermal-spa and of course the high-light, the EUROPRIDE parade. All of these I hope to blog about, if I can hold onto my clear-headedness.


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sardus Cucina, Altrincham - a Review


It’s many a year since I had a date in a restaurant. Usually I dine with friends or a carer. I wanted somewhere nice to take my date-friend. Somewhere that would be intimate enough for conversation, but not claustrophobic. Sardus Cucina looked perfect. (There is a nice gallery of images on their website (q.v.).) Plus it was an opportunity to try genuine Sardinian cuisine. I had driven past the restaurant front in the day-time and the modern façade appealed. Whilst not situated right in the centre of Altrincham, it is only a five minute or so walk from the transport hub and only a couple of minutes from where we chose to park.

In the evening the subdued lighting and candles drew us in like moths to the flame. We were cordially welcomed by the young maître d’. And, as we passed the bar, the young bar-keep also greeted us. We were shown to a table for two at the end of a long banquette. My date took the place on it and I the suitable-for-me hard-backed chair on the opposite side. The subtle lighting, the low-level music and the candle at table all added to the relaxed - hopefully romantic - ambience.

The maître d’ offered to take our coats then brought over the main menu, the wine list and the specials list. He bubbled over with enthusiasm for the food, explaining a little of the distinctive culture and cuisine of Sardinia. Whilst I was snapping the photographs for this blog-post, he came over and chatted with us about his photographic hobby and how he takes the images for Sardus’ Instagram page (q.v.). An altogether pleasant, polite, enthusiastic and interesting young man.

From the maître d’s explanations and from reading the various menus, I found I was so heavily salivating I had begun to drool a wee bit. This is not a customary reäction to my being in a restaurant. Thankfully thick napkins were to hand! I was quite astounded at the breadth of the selection on offer. Even with my food allergy, I was not severely limited as in many eateries. The vast majority of dishes are made from scratch when ordered. This is a boon to anyone with a true food allergy or food intolerance.



We ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail whilst we ploughed through the offerings. Regrettably it is not included on the published mocktails menu but was itemised on the bill. It’s called a Crodino. The beverage has an orange base and was described as being similar to Apérol (which I personally do not like). The flavour was simultaneously sweet and bitter. It was so light on the palate and literally evaporated. These were served to us with complimentary flat-breads, a Spanish-style dip (not for me, but date loved it) and fresh, creamy, soft pecorino - absolutely delicious. (These items are all included in the photo above.) I did not even know that pecorino came in a variety other than the famous hard version (housemate’s fave cheese). The Flat-breads were delightfully thin - thinner than any Indian poppadum I have ever had. They seemed to melt on the tongue. Incredible buccal experiences and this prior to actually ordering!


For starters (image above) I ordered coratella, chicken livers cooked with red-onion, chestnuts and Sardinian “Sherry”. Housemate is not at all keen on liver, so I never purchase to cook at home. For me just having liver is a treat. However, this dish was perfectly prepared. The onions were beautifully soft and the meat-flesh required almost no chewing. As I write this I am salivating again. Perhaps that gives a sense of just how delicious I found this dish.



My companion ordered the frittura di mare (image above), which consisted of calamari & prawns and thin juliennes of carrot & courgette coated in a tempura batter. I sampled a courgette strip after picking it off date’s plate with my fingers - it was so light and no greasiness at all.  This dish was served with aioli, which I cannot have. He ate the lot; from his plate, not a scrap went back to the kitchen. So thumbs up for the frittura and the coratella.

As my date was driving our starters were accompanied by sparkling mineral-water. Normally I should not comment on water. This was branded Ferrarelle and was very light on the palate. It is a true mineral-water, but did not have the salty flavour that many have. Definitely worth looking out for in the shops.



My main dish was fregola frutti di mare. I had to try it: firstly because, well sea-food; secondly because I had never tried fregola. It is a pasta made from semolina dough and then toasted. It is supposedly similar to berkoukes from North Africa and to moghrabieh from the Middle-East. It was a tasty dish and an interesting experience. Definitely worth trying.



Date selected a specials item for his main. Alas it is only listed as TODAYS SPECIAL (sic), so I cannot let the reader know what it is called in Italian. It consisted of boar in a thick ragoût (‘ragu’). He mmm’d and ahhh’d whilst eating. Again the plate was scraped clean. I think we can safely determine that it too was scrumptious!

These days I can rarely eat three courses; but Italian ice-cream was on offer for dessert. Apologies to the Cornish (my second favourite), but Italian ice-cream is the best in the world. I could not pass on a walnut & maple confection served with aranzada & crushed biscotti. Divine! My companion also managed to squeeze in a chocolate soufflé, zicculate, made just for him. Heavenly!

The bill for food & drinks was under £80. This represented excellent value for money in respect to both quantity and quality. Service levels throughout the repast were excellent if at times a tad (justifiably in my opinion) enthusiastic. The staff are all young and delightful on the eye. I truly hope Sardus stays with us for years to come. I have already made arrangements to visit again next month with some of my neighbours who also have tried Sardus once and wish to return.


Saturday, 6 April 2019

Male-Parent


*TRIGGER WARNING*

This poem and blog-post reference parental child-abuse and abusive parents.


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Male-Parent



Inevitable murder
  death on the TV-screen
  episode of “Wallander”
Father’s downfall
Ineluctable patricide
          of a failed exemplar

Does it matter
  what has been?
Absent
  emotionally
  bodily
Violent
  physically
  torturously
Ale-stinking alcoholic
Rôle-model to no-one
What do I feel
          for my stereotypic
  parent?
His addled personality
  schizophrenic
  curmudgeonly
  toxic
Churning
  the unremitting Past


Yearning
  for a blissful Future
  for the perfect friend
  for a cinematic
  happier end
  that will endure
Sure it will last
But yet
  still none


Nobody to emulate
Much better
  in the moment
  to live here
  mutable Present
Practice one’s yoga
Meditate
  mindfully
Respirate
  quietly
Breath in
Hold it
Pause…
Out
Repeatedly
  ignoring totally
  external reality
Necessary movement
  towards holistic
ideality


Whilst growing
  surrounded by female-love
Nowadays
  just a need for what was absent
  storgē - parental-love
  philia - amity
  eros - male-love
  amour-propre -
  towards a better self-love
I suppose I want protection
  to be fathered
Hence my attraction
  to older daddies
  oh so erotic
  greying, grey
  white or silvery
  moustachioed or beardy
  hirsute and sturdy
  beefy
  beary
  burly
Wrapped in strong arms
Cuddling assurance
  I am loved
  I am wanted
  I am worthy
Don’t stop
Please foster me
And I will reciprocate
  commit
  to mutual affinity


Caged in a nervous stupor
Strong advice for
  disavowal
  of each parent
  without delay
  for renewed sanity
  from my psychiatrist
  from my family doctor
  from my psychologist
  for my self


And what of my Pater
  his ultimate demise?
No tears or false-piety
Disdain and pity
  I shall not disguise
No grave-side
  last-minute hypocrisy
He’s already excised


Now no longer
  a victim
  rather
  a Survivor
  confident
  happy
  free
  calm
Welcome
  the new
  Me


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Normally when I publish one of my poems: I do not give any kind of hint as to what I was aiming for; no explanations as to my reasons for using specific vocabulary; no structural analysis. In short no cues nor clues. This poem is one of two recently written. I am very slow, as mostly I create the poems in my head first. Obviously, for those familiar with this blog, the reader is aware I have memory issues. I frequently lose whole poems created this way. However, this has been my modus operandi for as long as I can recall.



This one was created slightly differently. I started with a conversation I had on line with a good friend. He gave his permission for me to use our chat as the basis for a poem. I explained my usual MO and that, if he wished, I should send him my drafts. In this instance there were three: my first was the structure; my second some minor tweaking; my third additional lines and some word changes, which added twenty percent or so to the word-count.



The basic structure is as follows:



Stanza 1 - violent intro; trigger for St.2

Stanza 2 - the past

Stanza 3 - the wished-for future

Stanza 4 - the present

Stanza 5 - the types of love, the love yearned for & why

Stanza 6 - external advice on dealing with the past in the present

Stanza 7 - attitude to future parental demise

Stanza 8 - result of following external advice & pondering parental death





My friend very kindly responded in writing. His thoughts and comments follow.





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I wanted to respond quickly on a couple of things in this poem to give you something to chew on. Please see these below in a list (since I love lists):



I love the format of having the multiple options below a starting word or phrase. This was especially successful when describing the older daddies.



Thanks - I call them “shopping lists”!



Loved the breaks and disjointed manner of the piece, especially in the "Wrapped in strong arms Cuddling Assurance I am loved..." section. 



At this point I sent the structure, as outlined above.



The paragraph (for lack of a better term) that starts "And what of my Pater..." was especially strong and I felt really hit the heart of our long conversation in just a couple of short lines. I especially liked "No grave-side last-minute hypocrisy" line because that's a very relate-able thing that people may go through or do.



In poetry the usual term is stanza, but verse is also acceptable. I use stanza as I consider verses would be of similar length & style, whereas I rarely conform to equal length nor necessarily stylistically.



Do you need the concluding line of "Welcome the new Me"? I didn't feel like it added much to the piece for me, personally. It felt like a repeat of a previous idea, despite being novel. I'm not sure if that's what you were going for or not. 



It’s the conclusion to the rest of the discussion - as outlined. Additionally I wanted to include the term “Survivor” and contrasting it with the more usual “victim”. Personally, this is because I no longer feel like the victim with no control, for I have asserted Myself over the Past. This is the result of taking & acting upon advice in St. 6 and echoes the “holism” referenced in St. 4. Additionally - ay! - the new-me parallels birth from parent, rebirth from me.



In the first paragraph, "of a failed exemplar" feels like a pretty kind/weak description based on what I know about you and the situation. Did you mean to start off softly and ramp it up through the poem?



Exemplars are more than examples, they are rôle-models. Parents are meant to be the exemplars that progeny wish to emulate. They are cutting-dies, if you like. This is a much stronger term. However, this latter term is no use here as it contains double meanings with reference to self-harm and death which I did not wish to use at this point. Parents are meant, after all, to be loving & caring as opposed to hateful & oppressive.



Though I really liked the pacing and feeling of the yoga paragraph, I wasn't sure that it felt like it totally belonged. Were you including it as an example of the type of self-care required of your up-bringing? Or as a contrast to your experiences with the violence described above it?



Mindfulness is a technique for being in the moment, i.e. not in the past. I am also gently lampooning this trendy technique. Nonetheless it is actually helpful in the armoury that deals with the effects of post-traumatic existence.



I really appreciate the effort you put into responding to my poem. None of my friends with degrees/interests in literature have ever gone to such lengths.


Hopefully, my break-down of the stanzas and the reason(s) for their inclusion goes some way to explaining what my intentions are. I am still not totally happy with St. 5, but consider it necessary so the reader can understand the gamut of loves that exist. The issue with English language is that we do not differentiate: every type is covered by just the one word. We borrow either from Greek or French. So I am accepting of having to include some clunkiness, due to this linguistic failing.

J., once again, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. I really appreciate it and you!


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I normally do not encourage debate about my poetry. I consider they are entities in their own right and deserve their own existence. On this occasion, I am willing to engage in discussion, criticism, comment, whatever, if the reader wishes to respond in some manner. Please feel at liberty to comment in the section below this blog-post.