Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week
Chef Aran's Memorable Vacation in Germany
On a recent trip to Germany with my son, we had the opportunity to see and taste our way from Frankfurt down to Munich. Along the way, we ate some wonderful meals... sausages, beef rouladen, cabbage, dumplings... some more sausages, spaetzle, wonderful breads and pastries... and yes, even more sausages!
Surprising Food Finds... more than just sausages
We learned that most businesses in Germany are closed on Sundays (even some of the major fast food chains close at 1:00pm)... but one restaurant was actually open Sunday night. They seemed to be the only one open in this major city, and the food they were offering was the same one I had been noticing as being very popular along our route.
I was surprised to see one food that was extremely popular, not only in the larger cities, but it was also making an appearance in many of the smaller towns.
What is everyone waiting in line for?
People were packed into this very busy café standing three deep at the counter waiting to order. So what was everyone waiting in line for?? Believe it or not, people were waiting to order Gyros (one of the most mispronounced words in the food world). The word Gyro is Greek and is pronounced (YEE-ros) and comes from the Greek, γύρος ("turn"). Growing up near Chicago, I was familiar with this food, but I was surprised to see it so popular in Germany.
Couldn't resist the smells
As we walked into the restaurant, there was a four foot spit of meat roasting behind the counter. The smell permeated into the street, and you could hardly resist not going in to sample a taste. We were very hungry, and there was no other place open in the whole city, so it was even more tempting.
The carver sharpened his long knife across a steel and expertly cut off paper thin slices of the meat as it turned ever-so-slowly on the spit. This meat gets loaded into a freshly grilled piece of flatbread and is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cucumber, cucumber sauce, and feta cheese.
I have had many Gyros before in my life, but this one was definitely the best. Walking around the whole city for 2 hours looking for a place that was open probably contributed to the satisfying taste of the hot sandwich.
Gyros are a combination of ground beef, ground lamb, breadcrumbs, water, oregano, and other spices fused together under great pressure. This mixture is frozen and sold to restaurants which cook the pressed ground meat on large vertical roasters. The top producers of Gyro meat in the United States are all located in the Chicago area, where the dish is said to have had its origin here in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The first person to make Gyros in the US is often debated, but an interesting article from the NY Times (source listed below) goes further into the debate and provides some history/origin of the dish here in the US. If you have a chance to read the article, you will see the writer chose Kronos as his main contact for the subject. Here at UNC, we use Kronos Gyro meat and pitas. Although we do not use the vertical spits, the meat is prepared from the same recipe used for the traditional gyro cones.
Join us for lunch at the UC Food Court!
Gyros are wonderful with a pita that is hot off the grill and topped with your choice of tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, onions, and cucumber sauce. Whether you love them or have never tried them before, we hope you will join for lunch on Tuesday, March 29th at the University Center Food Court and have a taste of this quick and enjoyable food that is becoming a sensation across the globe.
Look for other menu selections offered in the dining rooms this semester, and don’t forget to look at the weekly menus on our website often to find out what other fabulous menu items await you this week!
Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
Want to know what's being served in the dining rooms? Call the FoodLine (970.351.FOOD) for daily menus or look at our weekly menus online. Not signed up for the Faculty/Staff Payroll Deduction program yet? Learn more about the program here.