Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Airports as Destinations

So I was talking to my Aussie husband about my travel "bucket list" the other day, and realized after he agreed to everything I said that we truly do belong together.  Who else would have to fly into the most "interesting" airports in the world - not to visit the country they are located in, but just to land at that airport?  We both (separately) flew into Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport, skimming the apartment buildings on approach. My husband has flown into Lukla in Nepal when the runway was dirt and describes it as harrowing. One of our favorite destinations is the Portuguese island of Madeira, with its runway built on piers over the ocean along the side of a mountain.
We are in the process of planning our next vacation and the conversation centered on which airports we have to visit. I think next on our list is Princess Julianna airport in St. Maarten so we can hang out on the beach and have jets land right above our heads, Gibraltar might be a close second.  Courchevel in France would be awesome, but we would need to go there in winter for the full effect of the snowy mountaintop landing. Toncontin in Honduras used to be dangerous, until they extended that runway so it is now off the list. We could go to Scotland and land on an official beach runway perhaps, or maybe fly to one of the many Greek or Caribbean islands that have tiny runways.  So many options!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pumpkin Spice is Everywhere

It is Fall in Seattle; the leaves are turning brilliant reds and yellows before being blown off their branches, the rains have returned, (after a brutally dry summer) and Pumpkin Spice flavoring is in everything. No - seriously! Everything.  There are the things you would expect, like Starbucks lattes, of course... Quaker oatmeal... pies and cookies and other dessert things. But now I am also seeing bread and tea and popcorn and corn chips that are Pumpkin-Spiced.  Corn chips??  I may have to try those...
Here is just a sampling of what is currently on store shelves.

And then I saw this.  There is no escape!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


My Aussie husband and I have a bucket list, but not your usual types of list that includes things like climbing the highest peaks on every continent or sailing all the oceans of the world.
No, our bucket list involves food items.

And I am proud to say that we were able to cross an item off the list when we dined on Percebes in A Coruna in northern Spain.  Percebes (a fancy name for barnacles) are harvested off the rocks in tidal areas and that is quite dangerous as it involves diving into swirling water around rocks.  We were not surprised that they were expensive.  We were surprised that they were so difficult to get open to eat!  Two different waiters tried to show us how to pry the little beak-like tops open and squeeze the body out.  We still wound-up struggling and making a bit of a mess, but it was all worth it - they were delicious!  Not much to look at, though -

Sunday, May 24, 2015

There... and back.

So I have just done something very un-American.  I have jetted off to Europe for a 5 week vacation. Unless you are a college student on summer break or an independently wealthy individual, no one in this country takes more than a couple of weeks for a vacation.  And as I am neither of those things, it must be because I am married to an Australian.
It all started very innocently, with a dinner table discussion with our TFS cooking group.  "Wouldn't it be fun if we all coordinated our vacations so that we could meet up someplace and hang out together?"  Many conversations later we had all agreed to meet in Portugal and spend 5 days eating and drinking, and of course cooking.  Porto was the obvious choice because we all love Port. 
Great!  We're going back to Portugal!  My Aussie husband pointed out that Porto was really only a short drive from the north coast of Spain, a region we had always wanted to explore.  We need to take another week and drive to San Sebastian, I said.  As long as we are going to be in Spain, we should spend a few more days and go to the Jabugo region and eat jamon Iberico, he said.  And then we both agreed that we would have to go to Madeira, as we were so close.  And we really need to be there at least a week...  and then we should spend a few days in Lisbon before we go home. 
And there you have it - 5 wonderful weeks full of excellent wine, delicious food, and great friends.

We started with a few days in Lisbon where we found out about this lovely food and wine festival they have every year - Peixe em Lisboa.  It is way more than fish!  They had booths set up with samples of food and beverage from every region of the country, and then in another huge room local chefs had created dishes featuring flavors from their restaurants.  Most of the plates involved seafood, and they were all quite inventive.  We ate our way through the samples in the first room and barely had room for our actual plate of food that was included in the entry fee of 15 Euros.  Did I also mention that they had beverage "samples"?  Cider, beer and lots and lots of wine.  And some brandy too, I think I remember...  we were quite tipsy by the time we left.  Probably the best 15 Euros we have ever spent!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

People on the Airplane

It seems that there are 2 types of people you will encounter on an airplane.  Those who never say a word to you, even though they sit next to you for hours, and those who don't know when to stop talking.   I am not sure why there never seems to be anything in between.  My ideal seat mate would say hello, answer my nosy questions about where they are from and where they are going, and then say nothing until farewell as we exit the plane.  I don't actually want to hear your whole life story.  I would like to be friendly for a few minutes, and then be left alone to sleep, read, or watch the movies I never get around to seeing at home.
Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

Most of the eastern part of the United States has had a long, nasty, cold, snowy winter.  I feel very sorry for them.  Here in beautiful Seattle we are enjoying sunshine, 60 degrees, and full-on Spring  weather.  I feel quite smug!  Tulips and daffodils have been blooming almost a month early.  Cherry trees are putting on their full display of delicate blossoms.  The Robins are back and singing at sunrise.  I love it!  My Aussie husband hates it, because the flies are also back.
Apparently flies are a HUGE nuisance in Australia where some will actually bite you.  My Aussie husband goes insane when one gets into our house here, and will not rest until he has tracked it down and made sure that it is an EX fly.  I have tried to point out that here they are quite harmless, but he will not listen to me.  It doesn't matter, he says.  It is a fly and must be dispatched! 

I think I will buy a mega-sized fly swatter for him as an early birthday present...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Australian Coffee invades the US

In the wide world of coffee, I would not expect Australia to be a major influence.  How then to explain Starbucks' recent addition of the Australian "Flat White" to its drink line up?  This is from their press release - "Starbucks today introduced a new core espresso offering with the launch of the Flat White handcrafted espresso beverage, available at participating Starbucks® stores in the US and Canada.  Since originating in Australia in the 1980s, the Flat White became a coffeehouse staple in the UK and is now a budding favorite among coffee aficionados in the United States and Canada."

I'm a little upset about this, as I will no longer feel like a smug world traveler when ordering a coffee in Australia, as I can now get a Flat White anywhere.  I won't even have to translate the coffee options!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fresh From the Farm

Well I didn't have to wait very long into the new year to have my first amazing meal.  This past weekend we journeyed by ferry out to Vashon Island to have a "farm to table" meal in several courses, presented by the chef owner of Pink Tractor Farms and his lovely wife, whom we met several years ago on our culinary trip to Italy.  Most of the ingredients came from the farm, including the goose liver for the first course, the guanciali  perched atop the heirloom corn grits, and the chicken and lamb for the sausage in the cassoulet.  It was all very, very tasty; my two favorite courses were the Tunisian Brik with smoked trout and the coffee liquor panna cotta.
They are planning on presenting these dinners quarterly - I cannot wait to see what will be on the menu for the next one!

Goose Liver Flan

Tunisian Brik
Pumpkin soup with apple dumpling

Corn Grits with Guanciale


Panna Cotta

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2014 Outstanding Meals

I noticed everyone was compiling end of the year lists for just about everything, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and compile my list of my most amazing meals of 2014.  I will try to limit the list to meals that I took pictures of, so you don't fall asleep through my detailed descriptions...

One of the best was in France, as I would expect, in Epernay.  This was during the "girls' trip" in May and we were just in the town for the day, mainly for Champagne tasting.   I had to find a place where 8 of us could dine and since it was the guest of honor's actual birthday, I thought it should be at least a little swanky.  La Cave a Champagne kept showing up with positive reviews so that became my first choice.  When we arrived in town it was a beautiful day and we almost chose another place, as the Cave (true to its name) was all indoors and a little on the dark side.  Don't let that sway you!  The food is outstanding.  We all ordered off the prix fixe lunch menu, and for a very reasonable 19 Euros all had 3 courses of amazing food.  Sweetbread and lamb's tongue, beautiful cassoulet, vegetable tians; it was all delicious.  This was my escargot and artichoke heart appetizer -

Another best was on our trip to Buenos Aires.  We were wandering around a neighborhood that was a little touristy when my Aussie husband spotted a sign that immediately grabbed his attention.  Because I sadly cannot read Spanish, I had no idea why he looked so happy until he explained that they served a tasting menu of local specialties.  Like llama.  And Rhea.  Sign us up!  The dishes were all beautifully presented and perfectly paired with local wines.  Here is the menu, and a photo of the first course of various varieties of Andean potatoes, fried and pureed.  And it just got better after that! Llama carpaccio.  Hare in a mole-like chocolate sauce.  Rhea that was served under glass, on a bed of smoked, charred onions.  Every dish was amazing at El Baqueano.  If we had discovered it earlier in our visit, we would have gone back for a second night.

The other 2 meals that made it on my list for 2014 were a lot closer to home.  Both outstanding, but very, very different.
Sushi Kappo Tamura offered an omakase tasting menu that piqued our interest so we corralled another couple and tried it out.  This was not your basic sushi parade! Chawan mushi with lobster was my favorite course, followed closely by the albacore toro.  They even had a dessert course - a Yuzu yogurt panna cotta.  It was all delicious.

The most memorable of all?
 Dining at the Chef's Table in the kitchen of the private Rainier Club in Seattle. One of our friends knows the chef well, and arranged to have dinner IN the kitchen prep area of the club.  Being always curious to see how things are done, I made sure we sat at the table so we were facing the action-packed kitchen.  We were able to watch all of the grill and saute' stations, as well as the final assembly of the plates before the wait staff whisked them away to the diners "out there".  We were fascinated at how quickly and smoothly everything was executed.  I now know that I could never work in a professional kitchen, as I could not keep track of everything fast enough to keep the flow going.  And now, a word about the food.  This was October, so the menu was full of wonderful fall favorites.  Chanterelle mushrooms; black truffles, perfectly seared duck.  Every dish was classically prepared, but usually with a twist to the ingredients or presentation.  My absolute favorite was the agnolotti covered in shaved truffles.  Covered!  Here is the chef shaving the truffles, and here is the finished dish.  Unbelievable.

I am ready to see what meals await in 2015!