Thursday, February 28, 2013

That was the BEST place EVER!

I have a habit (good or bad is yet to be decided) of thinking that the last place we have traveled to is the best ever.  When we went to Spain, I fell in love with the food and the architecture, and dreamed of moving there.  In France, I thought the pace of life and the emphasis on food was wonderful, and contemplated future trips to different regions.  Japan captured my imagination with its culture and simple beauty.  Australia?  The people are wonderful and welcoming and I never wanted to leave.  Singapore has the best food and I could spend months going to all the various Hawker Centers and trying out all the offerings.   

As incredible as all those places are, my latest and best love is Portugal.   I cannot fully explain what it is that draws me there and makes me drool at the thought of returning.  It is beautiful and old, yes, but so are many other places in Europe.  Maybe it is the attitude of the people, and the ease with which you can get around, eat, drink, and relax.  We have spent a few days in Porto- which is wine heaven- and barely scratched the surface of what that city has to offer.  We have been to Lisbon twice (so far!) and are starting to get a feel for the different neighborhoods.  We visited Sintra, and were blown away by the beauty and sheer scope of the royal summer palaces there.  
And then there is Madeira.  We spent only a couple of days there on our first trip (it is an island – there can’t be that much to see there!) and realized we had woefully underestimated the draw of the place.  We originally went to explore the famed fortified wine of the same name, not knowing much about anything.  We left with plans to return and spend enough time to do justice to the place.  Just over a year later, we were back, this time for 10 days and over the Christmas and New Year holidays.  The city of Funchal goes all out to decorate the streets and public places and it is a wonderful thing to see all the lights come on every evening as the cruise ships that have stopped in for the day pull out of the harbor.  I could bore you for days, going on and on about it.  Sadly, we won’t be going back in the near future, as there are so many more new places to explore.  We’ll see what becomes my “favorite” next!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Breakfast Obsession

I think I have an obsession with breakfast.   Not your standard eggs-cereal-toast type, but the strange, the different, the unusual.  Every time I go to a place that is not in America, I immediately check out the breakfast offerings.  It was in Switzerland that I fell in love with muesli and sliced mortadella to start the day.  Spain introduced me to toast drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  Japan had tiny dried fish and rice with seaweed.  Hong Kong had dumplings.  Congee?  Hawker stalls in Singapore.   How could I come back home to a cold bowl of Cheerios?   
So I started “importing” some of these elements into my breakfast routine after each trip.  Singapore was the worst, as I had breakfast in a different Hawker Center every day, each in a different neighborhood and featuring a different cuisine.   
My Aussie husband gamely ate his way through my attempts to recreate all those marvelous dishes on the weekends.  I got pretty good at congee, and courtesy of a local market that carries cans of Singapore Curry Sauce I can make a passable paratha with peas and potatoes.  I have yet to try a full-on Japanese breakfast, as the range of ingredients is rather daunting, and the presentation too much for me that early in the day…  maybe I could serve breakfast for dinner?  In the meantime, I will just appreciate the breakfasts we had in Kyoto and Honolulu.

A full breakfast at our Ryokan in Kyoto...

And our breakfast in the Japanese restaurant in our hotel in Honolulu

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mardi Gras Mambo

In honor of Mardi Gras, I am getting nostalgic for Creole and Cajun food from one of my favorite destinations, New Orleans.   Gumbo, Jambalaya, and my favorite, Etouffe’ – preferably with crawfish like this one –

Now, I have actually never been in New Orleans during Mardi Gras as I can’t drink that much and that continuously to truly do justice to the celebration.  I have however been for Jazz Fest.   And the French Quarter Festival.  And various other random times of the year because when would you not want to be there?  ( except during hurricane season, as they have sadly suffered several in recent years)   
New Orleans is the perfect confluence of food and music; have a fabulous dinner at one of about a million places to eat, then wander through the French Quarter or head up to Frenchmen Street to hear some amazing bands.  It is unlike any other place in America, and one of the places where almost any joint you go in to and any dish you eat in that joint is going to be good.  For now I will just have to look back on past visits, as it is not on the schedule for this year.  Sigh.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Things I have learned:

-          You really do need to pierce an eggplant before you roast it in the oven
-          Turkeys take way longer then you think they will to cook
-          A souffle is not a difficult thing to make.  Unless you have issues separating the eggs…
-          Duck stock has a very interesting flavor
-          No matter how many I save from whole roasting chickens, I will never use the livers.  They will sit in my freezer until they become a grey blob covered in frost and I have no idea what they started out as
-          Yogurt makes a lovely sauce for hot food – until you add acid.  Then it becomes a watery, lumpy mess

And finally -     Deep-frying lasagna is not a good idea