Brazilian Brilliance: Exploring Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is South America’s largest country and is home to some of the world’s most diverse destinations. Tropical islands, amazon forests and sun-blessed beaches are a few of its natural tourist attractions but this country is also home to one of the world’s most popular destinations — Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s second largest city is also the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere, but a trip to Rio should include more than just its city delights.

 

Rio highlights

 

Relaxing in Rio

Relaxing in Rio

 

Understandably, a trip to Rio city wouldn’t be complete without a spot of gentle relaxation on, or a stroll along one of the world’s most famous beaches, the 4 kilometer long Copacabana. This is one of the world’s most picturesque destinations and you’ll find no better place to view Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain and the city landscape than from the summit of the 700 meter Corcovado Mountain, home of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Rio has also been called one of the world’s happiest destinations, which is exemplified every year during the wild and colorful carnival, a tradition that dates back to 1723. You can visit Rio if you book with Saga Travel.

 

Out of the city

 

Take a day away from the city to explore some of Rio’s treasures, including Itatiaia, Brazil’s oldest national park. The Serra dos Órgãos is another amazing national park, stretching 110 square kilometers and featuring a mountain range dating back around 60 million years; it’s here that you’ll find the ‘God’s Finger’ formation resembling a hand with index finger pointing upwards. If you’re visiting the Órgaos, don’t miss a trip to the imperial city of Petropolis, founded around 1722 and home to the Imperial Museum, some beautiful canals and many idyllic little parks. Sightseeing can also include Costa Verde in the west where you can enjoy hillside jungles, near deserted bays and sparkling lagoons.

 

God's Finger

God’s Finger

 

The restaurant scene

 

Once the sun goes down it’s time to head away from the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to indulge in the country’s cuisine. Rio does cater to every taste and you’ll easily find French, Italian, Spanish and Lebanese restaurants in the city. But make sure to try out some authentic Brazilian dishes such as the coconut-infused seafood stews or the tender jerked meat (carne seca). As you’d expect the seafood dishes are as fresh as they come and there’s plenty of shrimp and Amazonian fish choices available. Barbecue restaurants or churrascarias are ubiquitous throughout the city and you can enjoy freshly-cooked meats on sizzling spits, sliced directly onto the plate at your table.

 

This is just a flavor of the many highlights in and around one of Brazil’s most sublime cities. You might come for the beaches, but make sure to get out of the city and explore some of the world’s most unforgettable beauty spots.

 

Images by Rocco Lucia and Glauco Umbelino, used under Creative Commons license

In collaboration with Saga Travel.

 

Turkey’s Best Festivals

Turkey, as the melting pot of the East and West, brandishes plenty of religious and cultural festivals.  As a traveler and a keen observer, much can be learned of the country through these festivals. If you happen to be traveling in the country during any one of these, don’t miss out the chance to observe and participate in one.

 

While Turkey is a secular state with no official religion, 99.8% of Turkish people follow the Islam religion and uses the Muslim Hijra calendar in the observance of religious festivals.  Here are the most important events practiced in the country:

 

  • The Ramadan or Ramazan in Turkish is the most essential Islamic festival. The Ramadan is observed throughout the ninth month of the Muslim year, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Non-Muslims must be mindful of eating and drinking in front of Muslims observing the fast during the day as a sign of respect. After dark, practicing Muslims go to iftar tents to break their fast with family and friends. Travelers and non-Muslims are welcome to join the dinner.

 

  • The Ramadan month is followed by a three-day Sugar Holiday or Şeker Bayramı in Turkish. It marks the end of the 30-days fast. During this time, families meet for reunions and visit the elderly. Children also go around the neighborhood wishing everyone a happy bayram. Adults give them sweets in return. Restaurants are full with families celebrating and it’s always a good idea to call ahead for a reservation.

 

In case you miss the religious festivals, there’s a long list of arts and cultural festivals to choose from.  Some are held in the culture and entertainment hub of Istanbul, and other more quirky and intriguing festivals in smaller towns and villages around the country. Here’s our top arts and culture festivals around Turkey:

 

  • Witness a major Oil Wrestling event between June-July. Oil wrestling is Turkey’s national sport. This week-long event is held in Yağlı Güreş. Players from all-over the country flock here to compete. Watch men doused in olive oil try to pin each other down in attempt to expose the opponents navel to the sky. The rule is first wrestler whose “umbilicus is exposed to heaven” loses. Audiences are also treated to a fun week of music and dance performances.

 

  • Camel Wrestling Festival is also one of the festivals that takes its roots from the ancient times. The main event is held in Selçuk on the last two weekends of January. Camels are led to the grounds to fight and the first camel to fall on the ground or flee from the fight loses. In the recent years, animal welfare groups have protested citing the practice as a form of animal cruelty. Organisers have responded with modified rules and practices to prevent animal injury.

 

Camel-Wrestling

Camel-Wrestling

 

 

  • Art lovers can explore Turkish creative works. In the month of April, the much-celebrated Istanbul International Film Festival commences and Turkish films of good quality are shown in the movie theaters. Classical music fans can visit from June-July to witness extraordinary performances from orchestras and solo singers set in historical locations at the Istanbul International Classical Music Festival.

 

  • The whirling Dervishes performance at the Mevlâna Festival is held during December in Konya. The dance is one of the highest forms of ceremonies from Mevlâna, an Islamic philosopher who believed that union with God is possible through dance. Another festive event happens to welcome spring known as the Hıdırellez Gypsy festival. Street parties are held in Edirne with performances from the local Gypsy bands. The tradition is to make a wish while jumping over bonfires.

 

Whirling-Dervishes

Whirling-Dervishes

 

 

  • Last but not least, the Marmaris Maritime and Spring Festival is gaining enourmous traction from not only visitors from Turkey but international guests as well. Held in mid May, this festival is all about celebrating the coastal region with sand sculpture competitions, fishing competitions, to markets, beach parties and concerts. The International Yachting Exhibition is held at the same time and most tourists and travelers will join a Marmaris to Fethiye gulet cruise following the festival and to top their holiday!

 

Blue-cruise-Marmaris

Blue-cruise-Marmaris

 

 

 

To make your stay in Turkey more memorable it’s definitely worth checking out one of Turkey’s festivals; it’s a true insight into the people and culture of this amazing country.

 

In collaboration with Alaturka Yachting & Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why (and How) I Write: A Blog Hop Post

Recently I was invited to participate in a Blog Hop about one of my favorite subjects (Writing), by two of my favorite bloggers, Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel. They are both very kind people with a high interest in Ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and cultural preservation. They are both truly unique individuals with a perspective on “pouring every ounce of their passion, energy, love and dreams for their family into the site on a daily basis”. Just a few facts about each of them before I answer the four obligatory questions.

 

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

 

Mary Gabbett

 

1) Mary was born in Staten Island, New York and lived there until she was 14.

 

2) Because her family had a French graduate student who worked as her au pair, her first language was French and she remembers none of it now, even though she studied it in high school!

 

3) Her parents would take off work every Wednesday during the summer, for family vacation and they would visit museums, art galleries, theatre and amazing ethnic restaurants in New York City.

 

4) Her first big trip as an adult was a month-long vacation in India, where 5 friends and her stayed with one of the girls’ extended family. That’s when she discovered she was a die-hard travel-lover.

 

4) She has a degree in Pyschology, and worked for 10 years doing personality assessments for corporate clients. She gave Bret an informal assessment of himself on their 5th date.

 

5) Bret and her met at a Universalist Unitarian Church Christmas party she threw at her house in 2008. She was just coming off a painful separation, and had only been dating for 5 days when they met.

 

6)  She moved in with Bret 14 months later, after her mother was hospitalized (she’s OK now), a tree fell on her house (it’s OK now), and a wanted rapist was arrested in her front yard. Clearly, the Universe was trying to tell her something.

 

Bret Love

 

1) Bret was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and has never lived more than 30 miles away from the hospital in which he was born.

 

2) His first trip abroad was a 3-week tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir when he was 11. It included 15 cities in 21 days, and performances for the President of Italy and Pope John Paul II (in the Vatican).

 

3) He grew up in an urban neighborhood that was 98% black by the time he got to high school. When he was 15, they moved to 32 acres in the country, with a majority-white school. Talk about culture shock! His GPA that year dropped from 3.6 to 2.5 due to constant bullying.

 

4) Bret got his first tattoo– of a Native American shaman, from the cover of National Geographic– when he was 23. He originally got it primarily to cover self-inflicted scars from his late-teen depression. But the more tattoos he got, the more he liked them. He now has 6, all of Native American or Celtic art.

 

5)  He’s a big fan of hip-hop, and had his own hip-hop/noise-rock band, The White Aphros, in the ‘90s. In 2000, he was hired by Sprite to put together a compilation of Atlanta hip-hop for a web-based project. They bought two of his songs, which were released under his rap pseudonym, B. Love.

 

6)  All his life, he’s had a policy not to date someone he works with. So its ironic that Mary and him now live, work and play together 24/7/365… especially because they rarely argue. She has definitely changed forever his definition of the word “partnership.”

 

 Green Global Travel Mission Statement

 

In 2000, Bret traveled to South Africa’s Kruger National Park on safari. The immense power of the experiences he had there– seeing cheetah cubs frolicking on the open plain, watching wild dogs digging under a fence to get back into the park, having a massive bull elephant coming so close to his Jeep that he could feel the breath on his face– changed his life forever.

 

It wasn’t just the beauty of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat that moved him. It was the passion with which the park rangers and guides spoke of preserving this incredible gift for generations to come, and the way locals spoke of ecotourism as their hope for a better and brighter economic future. Ever since then he has dreamed of using his abilities as a freelance writer and photographer to help make the world a better place, not just for he and Mary, but for their children and their children’s children. Mary and him have launched Green Global Travel to do just that.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they are insatiably curious about new people, new places, new experiences and new ideas, and love sharing those things with other people in a way that will hopefully inform and inspire.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they are passionate about ecotourism, and believe in its potential to help save the world’s precious nature and wildlife by encouraging sustainable practices that both benefit and respect local indigenous cultures.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they truly believe that the words, photos and videos they capture along their journeys will both entertain you and help draw attention to the importance of environmental conservation.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because it is their dream to save the world, one story at a time.

 

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

 

1) What am I working on/writing?

 

I just finished a series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. It was very educational and I learned that there is a huge circuit of reenactments, involving a large population of Civil War buffs. These people make the rounds dressing in period costume, which are by no means inexpensive. I was literally astounded by the number of people following the various events and the amount of money they freely invest in items that replicate the period, or happen to be authentic pieces from the various battles. Its amazing to me that at almost 65 I had no idea of this segment existed in our society.

 

I am taking a trip to Japan for six weeks, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving and I am sure this will spark or generate a ton of photographs and blog posts. I will be in one of my favorite countries in the world and have a great deal of spare time, given I will be staying with my oldest son and he will come back to Austin for a week. He also must do that “Job” thing and work daily. This should allow me a freedom to explore and walk the streets trying to gather stories on the fabulous culture, the people and obviously the fantastic foods of Japan. I am drooling over this prospect and can’t wait for the trip to materialize.

 

One of my first stops will be at a chain of sushi and sashimi restaurants that carry the dishes via a conveyor belt. In 2012 when I last visited it was one of two restaurants that we ate at twice. I love the different items and luckily my son has a deep passion for these foods. So I see a blog post for sure on this experience. Then we can begin discussing the Ramen places, the Udon Noodle places (OMG I love Udon noodles), Soba noodles, Yakitori (skewered chicken cooked over a flaming grill) and anything to do with seafood. I might even do a Tempura meal this time and will have to probably do a great deal of these during the day, or when my son is absent. He gets rather embarrassed when I take photos of my food (if I can remember, as I forget half the time, until there is nothing left and it dawns on me I never took a photo and all my food is gone).

 

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

 

I am not sure I truly have a niche or a genre as many more experienced travel and food bloggers are constantly telling me, “I need to find a specific niche and generate my writing in that area”. I can’t tell you how many travel bloggers have stated this. I find this too difficult at almost 65 years old and absolutely love all aspects of travel and food. I love to cook and try to take cooking classes in every country I visit and maybe that is a difference, as I am not positive if others go out of their way to take cooking classes in every country. What better way to get to know a culture than through the foods they consume and the methods they use to prepare the dishes?

 

I also am a fan of architectural structures like cathedrals, temples, and shrines which SE Asia has a plethora of and one can turn any corner and stumble upon a new and different religious artifact or building and be drawn into the design and layout. In addition I am attracted to doors, windows and balconies. Specifically those with intricate layouts and impressions.

 

3) Why do I write what I do?

 

One area that is very special to me is volunteerism. This past year I helped an organization build a home in Tijuana Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, with my two youngest sons. It was a very emotional and gut wrenching process. I also walked away know that my sons had seemingly overnight turned into young men with purpose and were driven to help others. The biggest impact though, was when I asked the Mother of the two young children what she would like best about the new house we were building. She answered very quickly and very honestly. She loved that when it rained going forward, she would never have to worry about their dirt floors in the old home turning into mud again. I cried like a baby and had to walk away before I completely fell apart. It was one of the most humbling moments in my life!

 

I also write to help others learn about the countries that they will never ever have a chance to visit, or an experience that I think is unusual and will be appreciated by my subscribers and followers. What has come painfully apparent to me, is that an extensive portion of our society for one reason or another, has not, nor will they ever, venture outside of a 50 mile radius of where the grew up. I feel an obligation to share my experiences with these individuals and hopefully allow them to live vicariously through my travels and adventures.

 

I also have started spending time in Texas towns and writing a series on this experience. I am a huge history buff and love to write, photograph and experience anything to do with the Lone Star State. I have only done Palestine thus far and walked away with eight posts ,from the three days spent in this magnificent Pearl of East Texas. I also have written several posts on my hometown and the city I was actually born in, Austin. This coming spring I have been invited to perform the same function in the towns of Tyler for their Azalea fest weekend in March I believe and in Nacogdoches, both located in East Texas. It has been difficult to have the Convention and Tourism Boards in the mid-size to small towns around Texas understand the true value of social media as a Marketing concept or tool, but the walls are slowly receding and coming down in some cases.

 

Lately, after meeting online and getting to know Bret and Mary I have started looking into environmental processes and what can be done to help us save our planet for future generations, especially since I have three sons that will experience what we leave them. It all started with the movie “Blackfish” and I was so enthralled and captivated by the Killer Whale’s story, that I began to look more closely ate specific stories and posts involving this area, like the recent debacle over swimming with the dolphins at TBEX in Cancun. I had no idea how they were trained or given preparation for the swims. It breaks your heart to see the actual process. Not to mention what happens with Elephants in their training for humans to ride them, or the pain associated with a massive weight on their backs from the saddle.

 

I also have a vested interest in the war against GMO’s and the obvious damage they present to the human body. Thank God each time I venture outside of the US, I am reminded of what actual organic food tastes and looks like. Not to mention the fact that in the two weeks to a month in county, I always lose ten to fifteen pounds. There is no comparison and the taste is 180 degrees from the bland GMO structured “foods” we consume in my home country the USA. All supposedly in the name of furnishing cheap and healthy foods to the populations of the world without sufficient supply. I am sorry, but that is a load of horse manure and these people will eventually obtain the attributes that our society has taken on like Diabetes and obesity. I will argue all day long if your position is of the opposite side and will never, never settle with you!

 

My last tidbit in this area is in regards to healthcare and the continual plundering of our population, by big medicine and all the participants. Try getting sick in let’s say Ecuador and see what a real Doctor that is truly concerned with your health and not taking a CYA approach from fear of a lawsuit involving malpractice. Not only will you be shocked at the genuine care given, but the costs will place an arrow directly between your eyes, as it more than likely will only be about 5% to 10% of what you would have paid in the US. And my apologies, but you cannot come back on me and say the Doctors here are so much better qualified. They are of equal value and trained mostly in the US. They practice exactly what you would expect from an American Doctor and have the same abilities.

 

4) How does my writing process work? 

 

My writing usually revolves around placing selected photos in chronological order on my draft page and then I fill in the gaps so to say by reliving my experience visually with the aid of the photos. Every time I place a photo on the draft page it brings memories back, as they cascade across my brain and flood my gray matter with flashbacks of, or perceptions and involvement in guided tours, spa events, cooking classes and restaurants that make me drool from the recollection of the flavors associated with the countries and meals I have tried. I have been very fortuitous in my travels and been able to cultivate a wide array of trips and recollections of my travels.

 

Most of the time I schedule a time after morning coffee and surfing the Internet to devote strictly to my writing. That way there are no distractions and the words flow freely most of the time, given the photos ability to open up my thoughts. Just like others though there are times when mental issues or stress associated with life come between me and my writing. When this happens I get up and try to do other functions like eating (Ha!) or a minimum of house work. I have washing the whites down real good as I wear mostly white undershirts and white socks. Sorry Fashion patrol, but it is a fact! Usually it only takes a few minutes away to get my thoughts straightened out and then come back and finish.

 

The hard part and probably the area I dislike the most is editing and viewing my grammar, punctuation and run on sentences. I hate this necessary function sometimes! It too bad I can’t just blink my eyes and my draft be checked and repaired of all the errors.

 

And now I’d like to introduce you to my Blog Hop invitees!

 

Brianna Jellerson Simmons of the Casual Travelist.

 

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

 

Hi there, my name is Brianna and I’d like to welcome you to the Casual Travelist. I am a travel writer and blogger balancing my love of travel with a full time career. I prefer laid back luxury where the focus is on the experience and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. This blog is dedicated to having great travel experiences and making the most of your limited time to travel.

 

Welcome to the Casual Travelist! This blog focuses on experiential travel and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. I’m just a regular person with a full time career, friends and family that I love and a cat I adore; trying to balance my home life with my passion for travel. I aim to show that you can have great travel experiences whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks.

 

I’ve always loved exploring new places. I had a fairly nomadic childhood as a result of my father’s job living throughout the United States and stayed on the move after I joined the US Navy where I got my first taste of traveling abroad. After my stint in the Navy I got married, earned my doctoral degree and began a rewarding career as a physical therapist. I love my home life but the drive to explore remains. My travels have brought me to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and throughout the US including Alaska. I’m a big fan of traveling locally, you’ll often me exploring around my home state of Virginia as well as the Mid Atlantic.

 

Alison Abbott of the Green With Renvy blog.

 

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

 

Founder and writer Alison Abbott has been a multi discipline designer for all of her adult life. She is a serious design advocate, content creator and small business strategist, who is enthusiastic about keeping it local whether at home or abroad.

 

A passion for travel took hold early in her career, after production trips to the Far East for the fashion and design company she established in 1978. Twenty five successful years later, she segued into the world of renovating houses with an eco-friendly twist. A desire to combine that passion for travel with her growing knowledge in the world of sustainability led her to the launch of Green With Renvy. You’ll find the blog is an enjoyable riff on the concept of renovating your travel and lifestyle in sustainable shades of green. Reducing your carbon footprint can come in many forms, and even small steps can have a significant impact. Sharing these ideas and discoveries with her readers is what Green With Renvy is all about. When not searching for the best of artisans, growers and locales that make a destination unique, Alison shares her time between Boston and Nantucket.

 

Alison is a brand ambassador and Boston Local Expert with Afar Media. Recent work has been featured on Westin™ Finds from Afar, Stonyfield and Trip Advisor B2B. She has provided content creation and photography for both Chase Bank and Afar Media as they relaunch their web site​. Alison’s coverage of The Flower Markets of India was featured in Leaf Magazine. ​ ​ Visit Philly and Visit Aruba have partnered with the site, and she has reviewed hotels around the world.​ Her self guided walking tour of Nantucket – A Faraway Isle was published by Visual Travel Tours and is available for download.

 

As a writer, she explains, “Nothing could make me happier than hearing from a reader who has changed her travel plans for her son’s graduation to stay in an eco-friendly hotel that I recently recommended. Having a subscriber and her husband take a page out of my itinerary in Kerala, India because it sounded like the perfect start to ease them into the chaos that can be India is very rewarding. Something as simple as trying one of my Meatless Monday recipes with great results can make my day. I firmly believe that as individuals become better traveled and more mindful, culturally aware citizens of the globe, the world will be a better place”. With that thought in mind, Alison shares the experience of eco-friendly travel and lifestyle through Green With Renvy.

 

Let’s make a difference together.

 

Jim O’Donnell from Around The World in Eighty Years.

 

Jim O'Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

Jim O’Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

 

I was born to a middle class white family in a small town in Southern Colorado. We lived in a modest 1920’s stuccoed Spanish colonial style house made of cinder blocks and painted solid white. The roof was peaked and shingled gray. There was a chimney, but the fire-place didn’t work. A great black American Elm grew in our front yard. I lived there from birth to eighteen years old. My mother is still there.

 

In the backyard she grew roses, lilacs and rhubarb for pie. She made my younger brother mow the grass. My father had a plum tree for homemade jam and the lady across the wire fence held a massive wounded crow captive in an oversized cage.

 

On weekends we went to the mountains. In the Huajatollas we crashed up old mining roads in our International Harvester Scout. In the Greenhorns we ate fresh trout from Lake Isabel and picnicked on the grass next to Ophir Creek. In the San Juans we perused places like Rico, Dunton and Sawpit and climbed steep paths dappled in aspen.

 

At Monarch we skied, in the Arkansas we rafted, and in the mountain ghost town of Victor my dad bought a miniature, tumble-down miner’s cabin, from which we explored Long Hungry Gulch, Wilson Creek, Little Pisgah and Grouse Mountain. To the cabin we brought the things we found scattered over the nearby hills and mountains. It was Victor’s past: giant star shaped drill bits, amethyst colored bottles, blue and white Lenox porcelain chunks, milk-glass, pewter cups and rusted open-top cans.

 

I also brought to the cabin a curiosity for the mountain bluebirds, vireos and hummingbirds I saw, the elk that cut our path, the mountain lion we hoped to see, the bear tracks in the mud, the butterscotch ponderosas, the fescue, the Columbine and the way the wind blew rain from the West onto my face in August.

 

Yet, I failed to understand the pits the rain dug where the cows had eaten all the grass. The streams I wasn’t allowed to touch that flowed from the mine tailings. The hill sides that sloughed where all the trees had been cut.

 

The reason I couldn’t hear wolves howling at night, no matter how hard I tried. In the ruins of the ghost town there was a nutty old woman with spiked white hair and breasts that sagged to her knees. Her name was Mary and she collected fossils and miner’s lamps. She said the wolves had been massacred in the 20’s and 30’s and that they would never come back.

 

At some point along the way, I decided that I had to see the world.

 

 

Biting USA — America’s Best Food Destinations

***This is post was contributed by Dial a Flight.

 

From the fresh seafood of New England to the iconic BBQ of the Lone Star state, or the lavish hotel buffets of Las Vegas, to the sidewalk hot dogs of NYC, or even in the city that has it all and people booking flights to Orlando, the USA boasts an intimidatingly delicious global melting pot of cultures and cuisines. A reputation for large portions and fast service might be misleading; the assumption often being that emphasis is on quantity, not quality. Those who have sampled molecular gastronomy, sushi or haute cuisine in any of America’s cities will know this to be anything but the case. Read on for a sampling of some of the most iconic stateside fare.

 

Jambalaya on the Bayou

Louisiana Creole cuisine is as wild and spicy as its carnival, a blend of French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Native American and African influences. The best time to eat in New Orleans is in fall, when the ingredients tossed into the thick, rich gumbo and colorful jambalaya are at their best. For a superior sampling of some traditional tastes The Royal House Oyster Bar or Galatoire’s are both a good bet.

 

Key Lime on the Keys

The sunshine state yields dishes influenced by Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine, with the emphasis on sweet, tropical fruits, seafood, freshness, sizzle and spice. Stone crabs, conch, key lime pie and orange juice may all sound familiar, but intrepid foodies should also try something new. Deep-fried gator tail, anyone?

 

The Steak Sandwich

The Steak Sandwich is a 5-Star Treat!

 

Cliché and frivolity in the windy city

For a typical all-American meal, you can’t beat Chicago, where the triumvirate of USA cliché cuisine — pizza, burgers, and the steak sandwich — has been perfected. To dine out on cheesy slabs of perfection, make for one of the city’s downtown diners. For a fresh and frivolous degustation, on the other hand, Alinea will blow your mind, with its helium-filled floating apple balloons, or its fourteen texture dishes.

 

There’s nowhere like the States for culinary diversity. It would be a crying shame to stick to the fast food outlets you can find anywhere, so stray from the beaten path, seek out tradition and provenance for your plate, and your palate will thank you for it.

 

 

Image by adactio, used under Creative Commons license. 

 

A Taste of Thai Food on The Cheap, A Guest Post by Agness Walewinder

Believe me or not, but I don’t know anyone who traveled to Thailand and didn’t like Thai food. It simply does not happen. Everyone seems to love the local dishes here as they are refreshing, full of flavours, fresh and perfectly spiced. Thai cuisine is a perfect combination of old Eastern and Western flavours combined with a dash of tropical fruits. What I love the most about Thai food is a perfect balance of all ingredients. It’s never too spicy, never too mild or never too sweet…

 

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

 

Another great news is that Thai dishes are extremely affordable, even in Bangkok. Do you have one dollar or two? Great. That’s more than enough to have a delicious lunch or dinner. No, I’m not joking and here is what you should do to dine out in Thailand on the cheap:

 

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

 

#1 Street vendors are your best friends.

 

Yes, street food is not only healthy, light and delicious, but also affordable. Thai cities are filled with pad thai stands and small food vendors from where you can grab some grilled chicken, pork, any kind of veggies and of course famous salty bugs and scorpions. The prices start from $0.50 and you should never pay more than $2-$3 a meal. Otherwise, it’s a scam!

 

Various Grilled Meats

Various Grilled Meats

 

Grilled Corn

Grilled Corn

 

Fried and Salty Bugs

Fried and Salty Bugs 

 

#2 Go for fruits and veggies based meals.

 

Meat is a bit expensive in Thailand, so dishes based on pork, chicken or duck are much more pricey than the ones filled with exotic fruits, veggies and rice. Just to give you an example, you would pay around $1 for a sticky mango rice whereas chicken noodle soup costs over $2,50. Besides, fruits and veggies are extremely healthy and nutritious, so cutting down on meat will be also beneficial for your health.

 

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice 

 

#3 Say NO to busy Western restaurants.

 

 

You are in Thailand so take the advantage of it and stick to traditional Thai meals which are yummy, light and refreshing. I often saw foreigners digging into burgers and pizzas when in Bangkok like they couldn’t have some Thai noodles, papaya salad sprinkle with nuts, grilled veggies or chicken soup. Western food is so pricey, full of fat and sugar and it will make you feel bloated and tired. It’s good to have it from time to time in your home country, but not when you are on a short trip in Thailand surrounded by fresh seafood and delicious smell from local restaurants.

 

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

 

#4 Visit local markets.

 

Farmers’ markets are the best places for your daily grocery shopping on the cheap. You can buy here a lot of fresh and organic products – honey, jams, bread, milk, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices as well as ready meals. I simply loved Thai markets. They smell so good, they are loud and overcrowded with tourists and locals. People scream and bargain with each other. Sellers sell their products from their boats, everyone smiles and wave at you. Great experience, that’s for sure! Apart from food, you can also purchase some souvenirs here – postcards, handmade wooden baskets, hats, etc. Thai markets are also surrounded by small local restaurants from where you can order a take-away meal. By the way, did you know that you can spend a day at Damnoen Saduak floating Market in Bangkok for less than $25? Yes, you can and it’s so cool!

 

Fried Noodles with Veggies

Fried Noodles with Veggies 

 

#5 Share the food with others.

 

The portions of food in Thailand can be sometimes really massive. For a girl like me, a plate of pad thai is way too much so I often shared it with Cez- my travel companion. In this way, we could both feel full without paying much. If you are like me and you prefer having a bit of everything when eating, ask fellow travelers to join you for a lunch or dinner. You can order small plates of different food, a couple of Thai beers and a nice dessert that you can split into 4 pieces.

 

Agness and Cez of etramping

Agness and Cez of etramping

 

#6 Try out your bargaining skills.

 

Bargain hard or go home – that’s what I’ve learnt in Thailand. Thai locals love to haggle for food, clothes and souvenirs with foreigners, so try out your skills when ordering some food. In order to do it properly, learn some basic Thai words – numbers, polite questions and requests, food vocabulary so you can impress not only yourself, but also locals around to get some food discount!

 

After visiting Thailand over 3 times, nobody can convince me that Thai food is expensive. Just the opposite. Apply these 6 rules and you will feel the difference in your wallet and around your waistline!

 

Have you ever tried Thai food? What was it and how much did you pay?

 

 

 

Agness and Cez

Agness and Cez

 

We are two adventurous tramps, best friends – Agness and Cez, from Poland. We call ourselves tramps, because we live without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. While travelling the world, we find the time to write about it, share the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same. Come along with us at etramping.com!

Read more about Agness
Read more about Cez

 

***All photos supplied by and credited to etramping.com.***

 

Photo of The Day #71, Panaderia Deluxe at The Oro Verde Hotel Guayaquil

As I stumbled down to the coffee shop in the lobby of The Oro Verde Hotel, I told myself the trip to Ecuador was just beginning and I needed to just have coffee and something healthy, in a manner of speaking. I had no idea I would encounter such a plethora of sweet items that challenged my desire to remain healthy. After all I was on a 5-week trial run to see what the real cost of living in Cuenca was for a month. I knew my fiend Efrain of Mio Tours would be there soon and I had to make a decision.

 

Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day

Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day

 

I decided I would eat healthy when I got to Cuenca and settled into my condo. To heck with being healthy, when all this was staring me in the face. Not only was I pondering the quantity and assortment of sweets to ingest, I actually had serious debates with myself about the assorted sandwiches and salads displayed in this case below. Decisions should never be made when you are hungry! I knew this and also was very familiar with the process of having Mio Tours (You Tube Link) drive me to Cuenca. I knew full well that we would stop at a restaurant my friend Efrain favored in Puerto Inca. The lunches with juice and soup run around $3.50 per person and are very tasty.

 

Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items

Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items

 

Then of course another challenge is the magnificent bread they prepare all over Ecuador and since it is so inexpensive you want to buy every type of loaf available and see what is in line with your tastes and what isn’t. Down deep I knew I couldn’t buy more than one type of bread at a time and would have to wait until I got to Cuenca and shop at Maria’s Alemania Bakery. This bakery has the absolute best breads in the world, bar none!

 

Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan

Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan

 

Oh how I wanted to box up one of these whole cakes and take it with me to the Condo. I could then bury my face in all that sweet goodness and eat like a pig! No one would see me and no one would know. So why not you ask? Because rather simply put, I have to live with myself and couldn’t do this without totally stressing out! Oh well maybe next time. I absolutely love all the Panaderias in Ecuador and they make very delicious goods. Most are so inexpensive it is almost embarrassing. This shop was nothing really out of the normal and is fairly representative of the bakeries in Ecuador. One of life’s small pleasures and I can’t wait to get back to Ecuador and eat my fill of sweets! Waistline? What waistline? I can always walk it off in Cuenca! After all it is situated at around 8500 feet above seal level and that takes more than a little effort when you are my age.

 

Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies

Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 11, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket Review

My recent  excursion to Thailand and Malaysia was a trip of a lifetime and I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Tourism Authority of ThailandThai Airways  and Tourism Malaysia USA. The trip was full of 5-Star hotels, restaurants and some of the most fabulous tours I have ever been on, but staying at this hotel was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The Centara Grand Beach Resort was one of the top five hotels I have stayed at in my entire life, including my many trips to Asia, as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the seventies.

 

Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket

Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket

 

Flying in from Bangkok we saw a view of Phang Nga Bay and all the wonderful islands. We had a bus waiting and drove through old town Phuket for a quick shopping spree and drove up to this entrance. It made a statement and everything had been prepared for us and we immediately were prepared to be taken to our rooms. Before I go any farther I will tell you this post will have more photos, than any post I have published. I think I took around 200 total of just the hotel, spa, beach and grounds.

 

Centara Entrance

Centara Entrance

 

If you know me, you know I have a very weak bladder, so before the tram took us to our rooms, I used the facilities. My word it was like I was outdoors and we even had a waterfall, just in case we needed any coaxing. Not an issue with me!

 

Mens Restroom Waterfall

Mens Restroom Waterfall

 

I walked out and one of the ladies was coming out of their restroom and asked if I would like to see it. She assured me it was vacant. Well of course I said yes. Their view was similar except their sinks looked out over the waterfalls. I was so blown away that it is included in my video later on in the post.

 

Ladies Restroom Sinks

Ladies Restroom Sinks 

 

We had our luggage loaded on trams and were taken to our “rooms”, passing several buildings on the way. This section appeared to be similar to the area we were staying in, but not as secluded. You can see the rooms on the bottom floor had pools or Jacuzzi’s by the tile.

 

Rooms with Pools (Bottom Rooms)

Typical Centara Rooms

 

Every morning when we came down to eat breakfast at The Cove Restaurant, we roamed along this lovely courtyard and glimpsed the beach. The view was magnificent and literally took your breath away! It was a short hike from the room, so each of us really worked up an appetite, as we strolled daily.

 

Courtyard to Dining at The Cove

Courtyard to Dining at The Cove

 

This photo is of the Omelet station and of course I ate my share while we were there. This gentleman had the preparation down to an art and never made any mistakes. He had a lot of satisfied customers.

 

Omelet Station

Omelet Station at The Cove

 

They make a crepe like item that is sparsely spread on the large griddle in the middle and cooks very quickly. It can be topped off with jams or have products inserted while cooking. It was a daily ritual for me and tasted so good. I hope I am not getting the name wrong, but it reminded of me and was similar to a product we ate, named Roti Canai, later in our trip. If I am incorrect I apologize to my readers. If you know the true name please leave a comment below the post and share with my readers.

 

Fresh Roti (Bread) Station

Fresh Roti Canai or Crepes (Bread Stuffed with Sweets) Station at The Cove

 

Inside there were so many stations with fruits, breads, various traditional Thai breakfast soups served over or with rice and just about anything you can imagine that one would eat at breakfast whether normal or not to you.

 

Carious Local Broths and Rice

Various Local Broths and Rice at The Cove

 

My room was very spacious and had a coffee area with refrigerator stocked to the limit. The work area or desk was phenomenal and had enough electric outlets to charge every piece of equipment I had at one time. The view out the sliding glass doors was tremendous and inspiring. It may not look like it but this King size bed was huge and very comfy.

 

Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed

Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed

 

How many photos can one take of their room? I knew it would be hard, but I had to include the glorious shower with a high pressure rain head. It was spectacular and really had an aggressive spray. My tired and aching body loved it for sure, every day I jumped in.

 

In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head

In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head

 

What’s this? I walked out my sliding glass doors and found a unimaginable patio setup complete with a huge swimming pool and Jacuzzi. I was blown away that they would have this type of arrangement and I found out we all had a similar room. The privacy curtain could be raised at your discretion to keep nosy passers by from observing your activity. My only regret is I didn’t take a photo at night with the pool lit up. It was stunning.

 

In Room Swimming Pool

In Room Swimming Pool

 

The Centara’s spa was named Cenvaree. It is out of this world, with first class amenities and options that one could use the entire day. Again, my issue was how many photos do I share? I decided I would let you see what the waiting area looked like. We were served water prior to our wonderful massages and a warm tea afterwards. I truly love having my body beat up and my muscles dug into. It is so relaxing. I had a traditional Thai massage, in which they use their elbows and get deep into the tissue. It hurt substantially at first, but as it progressed I grew used to it and had all my stress and sore muscles relaxed afterwards.

 

 

Spa Waiting area

Spa Cenvaree Waiting area

 

This is what the pedicure room looked like, but I only had so much time and couldn’t take advantage of the therapy. I did later at another hotel. There is nothing like having your feet massaged to relieve your body’s stress. Okay go ahead call me a Metro-Sexual. I really don’t care. I love spas.

 

Pedicure Station

Spa Cenvaree Pedicure Station

 

The Centara is located right on the water and you just have to walk just across the entry road to reach their fantastic beach. On my first visit I was totally surprised at the size, the beauty and all the normal chairs, umbrellas and beach lounges. I had no idea it was so large. Of course I took around 30 to 40 photos and had a dickens of a time trying to decide which to keep. So I decided on these three with the first one showing just the beach and a great wave.

 

Centara Beach

Karon Beach

 

This one show you what the chair and umbrella arrangement looked like looking to the south and kind of back towards the hotel entrance. I could have stayed on this beach all day for our entire visit, but we had tours and restaurants and shopping to participate with.

 

Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

 

The last photo, yes I said last, was of the beach facing north and giving you a taste of the cove we were located in. In addition you can see the view that a few locals had from their wonderful villas up the side of the hill.

 

Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Chaise Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

 

All good things must come to an end, but I cannot rave enough about this hotel. A friend ask recently about what accommodations were available in Phuket, as she had a friend getting married and they wanted it to be on the beach. They had broken it down to Phuket and an island area in Thailand. I couldn’t type fast enough. I recommend the Centara Grand Beach Resort and told her that her friend would remember her wedding forever, just like I will remember my stay at this luxurious establishment forever.

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 10, Bangkok’s Best Shopping Center for Haggling #Asiatique

I am sure if you travel very much you are enamored as I am with visiting markets and haggling over prices. Its expected in a large majority of the world and when we were in Thailand recently they took us to Asiatique, a shopping center located at Charoen Krun Soi 72 in Bangkok and on the Chao Phraya river. It is located around an enhanced rebuilt pier originally constructed in the early 1900’s and has an entertainment park atmosphere, complete with a Ferris wheel.

 

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

 

Asiatique has many stalls and offers a myriad of shops with clothing, shoes, bags, luggage and a large amount of silk items. Additionally, it has  food court is like the old Night Market and one can find great inexpensive Thai food. If you are in the mood for a higher end menu with air conditioning there are a couple of upper end restaurants like the one we ate at. In addition to a fabulous meal, we had entertainment with dinner at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre, which I will write about in another post.

 

We were driven in vans to the shopping complex, but one can take the Skytrain an above ground rail system in Bangkok to Saphan Taksin and catch one of Asiatique’s free ferries across the river. The ferries run from 5:00 pm until 11:00pm every night. As we pulled into the parking lot it was lit up and very beautiful.

 

Parking Lot at Asiatique

Parking Lot at Asiatique

 

As we approached the entrance to the restaurant it seemed a little like Christmas at home with this green tree lit up and displayed in the center of the mall.

 

Entry to Asistique

Entry to Asistique

 

We watched the show at Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and gathered to begin shopping. It appeared that all were very exited, as we separated into groups and hit the booths. It must have taken all of about 10 seconds for the various groups to break away and start shopping. I was amazed at the speed of my tour group!

 

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

 

I caught Abha Wangpaichitr, a Marketing Coordinator for Thai Airways, posing at the large golden elephant outside the restaurant. Elephants are considered very lucky in Thailand and one can purchase various souvenirs from T-Shirts to wood carvings to porcelain statues of elephants and take a little luck home with you.

 

Ladyboy Posters

Ladyboy Posters

 

Entertainment at Asiatique has a varied approach and includes a long running Transvestite show,  the Calypso Cabaret. Having seen these “ladyboys” up close in Phuket I was astonished at how much some of them resemble beautiful women. A few of the women on our tour were taken back at how pretty some of them were. The show is a bit expensive at around 1000 baht. I did not see it, so I cannot review the show.

 

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

 

In addition the shopping center has spa options, which include these small fish that eat the dead skin from your feet. I tried it at a resort and spa in Malaysia and it tickles like crazy. It is kind of freaky at first, but you get used to it. Our fish at the spa, were in a large pool and not contained in a small aquarium like this. I feel this, besides maybe being a little unsanitary possibly, is not exactly good for the fish.

 

Silk Scarves

Silk Scarves

 

I intended to purchase a few silk items for Kim and looked at many a scarf and wrap and became more and more confused as the night wore on. I was taken back by the quantity and choices affordeded us. We could have shopped all night for just the silk scarves.

 

Various Silk Items

Various Silk Items

 

Not only were silk scarves an option, the selection of silk pillow covers were massive and thank goodness I only was looking at scarves. I might have had to come back the next night and resume my shopping. A couple of the ladies I ventured out with did purchase the pillow covers. There was booth after booth of just silk products.

 

A Young Band Performing

A Young Band Performing

 

As we came upon a crossroad in the shopping center and began a new lane, we came across this young and very talented small band. I was blown away by their talent and laughed at some of their laid back dress style!

 

Various Bags

Various Bags

 

If you were in the market for a bag for yourself or your wife you could look at buying a small assortment for a very cheap price. I think these groups ran like $3.00, $5.00 and $7.00 US dollars, after translating value from the baht amount. I was amazed.

 

Various Coin Purses

Various Coin Purses

 

I did wind up buying Kim a new coin purse that was the size of these clutches and I think, if memory serves me correctly it was a whopping $.85 US dollars. I just bought a black single with an elephant on it of course.

 

Asiatique Stand

Asiatique Stand Commemorating 1945

 

This little stand commemorated the original pier built in the early 1900’s and was associated with the train system and somehow a passport stamp, as shown at the bottom of the sign. My apologies for not studying enough on the meaning and significance of this stand. I did research the stand, but couldn’t locate anything. I wrote the shopping center so we will see if they respond. If they explain its significance I will post it on a later date.

 

Prada Lookalike Bags

Prada Lookalike Bags

 

The ladies in the group I shopped with told me the Prada bags were very good copies, but had small fatal flaws that could be detected, if viewed up close. I wouldn’t have known one from the other! One of the ladies was told first price was $80.oo US Dollars. I told her under my breath to come back with $40.00 US Dollars. The vendor just laughed and said “No way could he afford that price as the bags cost him more than that”. So we asked how much he could come down. He told us about $10.00 US Dollars to $70.00 US. I told her let’s walk away.

 

He came running after us and said okay for you a “special price” $60.00 US. I laughed and grabbed her arm and we started to walk away. He asked “What you pay”? I said , for the second time, $40.00 US. He grimaced and sold her the bag. I am guessing we were at his bottom limit. We were told ahead of time to pay about 50% of what they originally quoted and we found that to be true, throughout most of the market.

 

Colorful Candles

Colorful Votive Candles

 

These candles were fascinating and so colorful. I liked that the actual votive candle could be switched out for new scents, or if the wax had burned off. Really almost bought a couple for Kim, but I had to leave room for the silk items, bag and the huge assortments of Batek material for her to sew with, I would purchase in Kuala Lampur.

 

Carvings, etc.

Carvings, etc.

 

This was also very tempting and I wanted to purchase an item or two for my sons, but down deep I knew they would appreciate a T-Shirt more and the item from this selection would just sit and collect dust in their homes!

 

Wonderful Elephant

Wonderful Elephant with Brass Hands 

 

I turned a corner and looked down a booth to the other end. These elephants and brass hands were staring back at me. I think someone or something was trying to tell me I was very “lucky” to be on this trip. No worries I was already very aware of that!

 

 

Various Flip Flops

Various Flip Flops

 

Okay who doesn’t like flip flops or sandals. I couldn’t get a photo of the entire stall, but this booth was filled with every color and style of flip flop you could imagine. They were being offered at a reasonable price, but again I had limited space so I passed!

 

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

 

Okay this was just too funny to pass up. This dog was sound asleep with people walking all around it by his owners stall and he was wearing a pair of sunglasses. It cracked me up and brought a round of laughter to us all. This was definitely a first for me and the rest of the group!

 

Small Convenience Store

Small Convenience Store

 

After 30 years in this industry, as a retail exec what do I run into in the shopping center, but a slimmed down version of a convenience store and my gosh was it busy. The line to get in was regulated and very long. Maybe I should open up a second one and see if it would be profitable? Ha!

 

Another Young Group of Musicians

Another Young Group of Musicians

 

We were on our way out and ran into a second band of young teens playing what looked like harpsichords, drum box and a guitar. Great music and we stopped and listened, as we had a few minutes left before our meetup at the front to catch our van back to the hotel.

I love seeing local markets and haggling with the vendors and do this in every city I visit. This particular shopping center was opened in 2012 and took the place of a few night markets. It is clean and well operated and I recommend you visit #Asiatique, but make sure you have several hours to shop and roam, as it is a very large complex. I guarantee you will have a blast!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

>> http://www.pingmylink.com

Texas Olive Fest

About two weeks ago I entered an online contest from Edible Austin. The winner would receive two tickets to the second annual Texas Olive Fest. It was being held at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company located about half way between Bee Caves (SW Austin) and Dripping Springs off of Fitzhugh Road. As we drove up it looked like a large vineyard with Tuscan architecture. I had no idea the Hill Country Olive Company was this large. The parking lot must have held over 300 cars and I was blown away that so many people had come to the Festival. It was an overcast day and I thought people wouldn’t have traveled. Boy was I wrong!

 

Bluebonnets at the Gate

Bluebonnets at the Gate 

 

As we walked in the gate I noticed a field of Bluebonnets to our right and it was majestic to say the least. There is nothing finer in my humble opinion than a field of these beautiful flowers blooming in all their splendor. This is one of the finer aspects of living in Texas. From Mid March to late April they can be seen across the state thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. We obtained our wristbands from the media desk and proceeded to enter the Texas Olive Fest.

 

Cooking Classes Setting

Cooking Classes Setting 

 

It so happened that the first cooking class was starting in about two minutes so Kim and I grabbed a seat and waited for the class. I was lucky enough to capture the first three or so minutes of the class  and it should give you a flavor for the presentation (pun intended)! Faraday’s Kitchen Store was hosting the cooking classes and Tony Curtis-Wellings, a direct descendant of the scientist Michael Faraday hosted the classes.

 

 

This is the complete recipe and cooking instructions for the Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes with Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas Toast. Our sample was so darn good, I wanted to get back in line for seconds, but I am positive that would have embarrassed Kim to no end. So I settled for the lingering taste left from my sample.

 

Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes With Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas toast

Serves four to six guests

Ingredients:

2 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbls shallots, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
kosher salt & salad grind black pepper
4 ounces Hill Country goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf crusty peasant bread
2 clove garlic
salad oil (do not use olive oil)
1. Preheat oven broiler.
2. Mix the first eight ingredients together and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3. Spoon tomato mixture into ramekins and top evenly with goat cheese.
4. Place under broiler and heat until the tomato mixture becomes a little warm and the cheese starts to bubble and brown lightly.
5. Smash garlic cloves with the back of a spoon on a small saucer and top with a little salad oil.
6. Slice bread thickly and brush with garlic oil.
7. Grill or broil on one side until toasted and serve alongside tomato confit.

Cotton Gin Restaurant & Lodging, Fredericksburg, Texas
Executive Chef Ross Burtwell

 

Kim and I have gotten into local spice shops and oil and vinegar stores and usually shop about once every two weeks and add to our collection. Being at this Fest was like a home run in my eyes as the various oils and vinegar’s left me questioning which one to sample and purchase. The photo below is only one side and half of the options. What to do with so many options?

 

Texas Hill Country Olive Company

Texas Hill Country Olive Company

 

They conducted three educational seminars during the Texas Olive Fest. Jeff Transeau, the principal investor and manager of Charta Olive Farms, is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas and holds a degree in Biology.

Seminar 1 – Texas Olive Industry & More, Seminar 2 – Olive Oil 101, Seminar 3 – Processing Your Own Olives

 

Inside the Texas Hill Country Olive Company was additional booths like below, a restaurant with all kinds of great looking fare, very clean and up to date restrooms and the tasting counter with various olive oils and vinegar’s for sampling and for sale. I would recommend a visit any time of the year; not just at the Olive Fest event.

 

Texas Brew Salsa

Texas Brew Salsa

 

Austin Honey Company

Austin Honey Company

 

After the cooking class we decided to try our hand at walking the booths. We were given five tickets for wine samples and I don’t drink anymore. Hmmm! What a dilemma. I could still eat though. We looked down the booths and decided to do an organized linear approach and walk by every booth.

 

Texas Olive Fest Booths

Texas Olive Fest Booths

 

Right out of the box we hit a great looking food trailer that had Crab Cakes for sell. I was a little surprised to say the least. I have placed a few of the food booths below and am very dispappointed I did not take a photo of my favorite booth “Smoke’n Hops“. They are a BBQ and Brewpub that is located in Dripping Springs. They were handing out BBQ Pork sliders and oh my goodness were they ever good. I behaved and only ate one.

 

Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes

Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes

 

I had to pass on the crab cakes as most have bell peppers in them and I am allergic to bell peppers. Sigh!!!

 

Aurelia's Chorizo Paella

Aurelia’s Chorizo Paella

 

Aurelia’s Chorizo booth was by far the busiest food booth and a majority of the people eating at the tables in the center of the booths had this Paella. I wanted to taste it so bad, but the line was extensive and so long that I declined. It evidently was delicious as I asked several people eating it and they all answered affirmatively. They barely could nod their heads and wouldn’t stop eating long enough to answer. Must have been fantastic.

 

Crepe Crazy Menu

Crepe Crazy Menu

 

I passed on the crepes also, as again there was a significant line. Crepe Crazy can be followed on their facebook page to stay abreast of their events. Their cooking demonstration was enlightening, as I couldn’t believe how thin the crepes were spread as they cooked. It looked like paper and I was surprised the held together. It takes talent to cook crepes!

 

In addition to the food booths there were several booths with specialty vendors. This one caught my eye as they were using high heels and a cut out cowboy boot to hold the wine bottles. Very unique I would say.

 

L' Adventure Dolce

L’ Adventure Dolce 

 

Not only did this booth have a great name “Two Winey Women”, but it had various items that were oriented to wine and I laughed many times at the quotes on a few of their items.

 

Two Winey Women

Two Winey Women

 

So what do you do with old wine barrels you ask? Barrel Designs makes furniture in all sizes and shapes. Kim was attracted to the two booths they had and kept looking at theit wares. She thought it was a very different approach. The good news is I didn’t have to break out my credit card.

 

Barrel Designs

Barrel Designs

 

At the end of the booths was a sound stage with bands playing for about two hours each. I hope I got the name correct. Given the time this photo was taken the band on stage should have been “Gumbo ce Soir”. If I am incorrect then my apologies to go out to the “Jimmie Lee Band”.

 

 

Gumbo ce Soir Band

Gumbo ce Soir Band

 

Of course I saved the best for last. When we entered the gate we were given a bag with several things. A map of the booths, cooking class times and five tickets each for wine samples. Oh my that is a good amount of wine for Kim to taste. I don’t drink anymore. Don’t worry she only tasted about three.

 

 

Pillar Bluff Vineyards

Pillar Bluff Vineyards

 

Good to know that this vineyard is right up the road from us. They are located at 300 County Road 111, Lampasas, TX 76550 and their phone number is (512) 556-4078. Business Hours: Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM.

 

 

Stone House Vineyard

Stone House Vineyard

 

Stone House vineyard is located in at 24350 Haynie Flat Rd, Spicewood, TX 78669. Their phone number is (512) 264-3630. Their tasting room and winery is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 and by appointment.

 

Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery

Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery

 

Flat Creek Winery is located at 24912 Singleton Bend E, Marble Falls, TX 78654 and their phone number is (512) 267-6310. Tasting Room Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.

 

 

Fall Creek Vineyard

Fall Creek Vineyard

 

Fall Creek is one of our favorite vineyards and is the oldest Hill Country Vineyard, established in 1975. Kim and I have frequented this wonderful vineyard and have bought their wine for decades. You can’t go wrong with a Fall Creek wine. They are located at 1820 CR 222, Tow, TX 78672 on scenic Lake Buchanan. Their phone number is (325) 379-5361. The tasting room is open Mon-Fri 11-4 Sat 11-5 Sun 12-4.

 

Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red). Kim loved their wine!

Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red).

 

Please don’t look at the man dressed in red. Focus on the couple behind him to the left and the Fiesta Winery sign. We stopped by this booth and Kim talked with the couple. They are really great people and answered every question thrown at them with ease. They told Kim she had to taste their Texas Well Water wine and she did.

 

She absolutely loved it and of course we bought a couple of bottles. Fiesta Winery is located at 18727 FM 580, Lometa, TX 76853 five miles east of Bend Texas and their phone number is (325) 628-3433. Their tasting room near Bend is open Mon-Thur: 10:00 to 5:00, Fri-Sat: 10:00 to 6:00 and Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00.

 

Messina Hof Vineyard

Messina Hof Vineyard

 

Messina Hof is located at 4545 Old Reliance Rd, Bryan, TX 77808 and their phone number is (979) 778-9463. The Bryan operating hours are Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.

 

In addition they now have a new winery located in Fredericksburg and its operating hours are Monday – Wednesday: 11:00am – 6:00pm, Thursday – Friday: 11:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.

 

Wedding Oak Winery

Wedding Oak Winery

 

Wedding Oak Winery is located at 316 East Wallace Street, San Saba, 76877. Its phone number is (325) 372-4050. Operating hours are Mon – Thurs 11:00am to 6:00pm, Fri – Sat 10:00am to 7:00pm and Sun 11:00am to 6:00pm.

 

It was time to attend another Cooking class put on by Pastry Chef Lyndi Modica of The Art Institute of Austin and she is known as the “Chocolatier”! I was able to capture a portion of her cooking class and learned a few things about butter browning and how to prepare reductions. It was very interesting.

 

 

Her recipes are as follows:

 

Brown Butter and Basil Cake

Yield: ½ sheet tray
8 oz Butter, browned
½ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Brown Sugar
½ t. Vanilla
2.5 ea Eggs
1 C Al purpose Flour
2/3 C Almond Flour
1 t Baking Powder
½ t Salt
1 ½ T Sour Cream
½ C Micro Basil, cleaned
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare half sheet tray
3. Cream brown butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs in two additions making sure each are fully incorporated. Scrape sides and add dry ingredients, until just combined. Finish with sour cream and micro basil.
4. Bake in a convection oven with a low fan until light brown. Allow to cool and cut out desired serving size and shape.

 

Olive Oil Ice Cream

Yield: 5- 2 oz Portions
1 1/3 C Whole milk
6 ea Egg Yolks
½ C Sugar
Pinch Salt
1 C Heavy cream
½ C Terra Verde Estate Blend EVOO
1. Prepare an anglaise with the milk, yolks, sugar, and salt.
2. Strain over the heavy cream over an ice bath. Emulsify in olive oil and churn.

 

Balsamic Syrup

Yield: 4 servings
¼ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar
1. Bring to a boil and reduce to syrup consistency

 

Trust me, this was a grand ending to our experience at the Texas Olive Fest. We both loved this dessert and wanted more, but it wasn’t in the cards. I will have to test the recipe and see if I can manage not to butcher her process. I am very grateful for the tickets and look for the “Third Annual Texas Olive Fest” next year, by following their Facebook page .

 

***Thanks to Edible Austin for our tickets. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #66, #NomadicTexan, #Texas, #Travel, #Olives #Food, #Wine

I entered a contest sponsored by Edible Austin and won tickets to the Texas Olive Fest, located at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company grounds. The Olive company is between Bee Caves ( a suburb of Austin) and Dripping Springs, on Fitzhugh Road. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was aware that this Olive Oil company is one of the top five Olive Oil companies in the country! We arrived, obtained our tickets and walked right into a cooking class being conducted by Chef Ross Burtwell of the Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg.

 

Chef Ross Burwell's Cookbook

Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cookbook

 

I will devote an entire post later in the week with his recipes and the other things Kim and I tasted, sampled and drank. Oh did I forget to tell you, about 20 vineyards were there handing out samples, if you had tickets. Kim had a blast! As soon as the recipes go up I will publish the entire post. Trust me Chef Ross prepared a few tasty samples. This is his brand new cookbook and if you find yourself in the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg, give his restaurant a try!

Photo of The Day #54

As we headed out of Phuket Thailand, to take the Long Boat to James Bond Island or Khao Phing Kan in the Phang Nga Bay,  I knew I couldn’t make the entire trip without a potty break. I have a bad bladder and holding is not an option ordinarily, as my wife Kim will tell you. Her on the other hand, she can hold it for days.

 

It pisses me off. Pun intended! Luckily our guide had a stop planned for beverages and the sampling of some of the best Dim Sum I had ever tasted! I was so glad when they offered us a taste. I wanted to eat the whole pot!

 

Very Tasty Dim Sum

Very Tasty Dim Sum

 

I caught the name of the restaurant. It was Phing Nga Restaurant right before the Sarasin Bridge. I captured a few photos of the magnificent orchid presentation on the wall separating the dining rooms, along the path to the restrooms. I was very surprised at how clean and well stocked the restrooms were. Very nice! I was much more taken back though by this array of orchids.

 

Wall of Orchids

Wall of Orchids

 

Obviously I had to choose one as my favorite and it literally jumped out and caught my attention. What do you think did I get it right?

 

An Amazing Purple Orchid

An Amazing Purple Orchid

 

Article #8, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro”

As we drove down the country lane, through the Piney Woods of East Texas, I reflected on the weekend and all that had transpired. We had several experiences that surpassed my expectations and the culinary treats were superb. Little did I know that my taste buds would soon be exploding with delight again. We drove out of Palestine to a local bed and breakfast named Sabor a Pasion. It is located on Anderson County Road #406, about four miles outside of town. It is easily identified by this sign at the property’s edge.

 

Sabor a Pasion

Sabor a Pasion

 

As we entered the property and approached the main portion of the ‘Country House and Bistro” I pondered if we would have another meal, which exceeded my culinary assumptions of this small Texas town. I quickly glanced around the premises and immediately felt a warm and welcoming feeling. If my first glance was any indication, I would feel at home here.

 

Exterior of Event Room

Exterior of Event Room

 

The property is large enough to handle weddings, retreats and other personal or business obligations. It is 25 acres in total, including the vineyard. It is owned and run by Chef Simon Webster. As was the case, Simon had a wedding and catered the event on his grounds the night before we visited. As we drove in there were decorations pinned to the fence posts and I wasn’t entirely sure if they were permanent or not, until we chatted. I learned that he can handle up to 200 people for events.

 

Interior of Event Room

Interior of Event Room

 

Simon is a very easy going fellow and I immediately gravitated to his personality. He told us about himself and that he was born in England and at the age of four his father moved his family to New Zealand, where he became interested in cooking. He has trained with some of the best chefs in the world and at the New Zealand Culinary Institute. More of his background is available on this link for Chef Simon Webster. I asked him how he relaxes, as he is a very busy man. I learned he maintains and pilots an older airplane, which he takes up every chance he gets,  just to get away.

 

Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Wood Burning Pizza Oven with the Vineyard in the Background

 

In our conversation I inquired about this magnificent wood burning pizza oven and he stated it was built so as to replicate the Italian tradition. He stated it gives a little personality to his grounds. He often holds pizza events and continually uses it along with this outside seating arrangement, that made me think of Tuscany Italy right away.

 

Tuscany Table

Tuscany Table

 

Obviously no visit would be complete with out my selfie photo and Chef Simon was gracious enough to accommodate. He inquired if we were hungry for breakfast yet and I stated I was very ready, especially given his background, to sample his cooking and see if my expectations would be met.

 

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

 

We went inside and I contemplated what he would serve. Little did I know that the menu would include a crab offering. I am a confessed “crabaholic” and I am sure Chef Simon wasn’t aware of this, but the dish was more than tasty and I really wanted to ask him for more crab! Along with the delectable shellfish, was a potato cake with a very savory flavor and eggs that were cooked just perfectly. The fresh mozzarella cheese was excellent. Bacon was included and I gave it to an unnamed breakfast partner! A good sampling of fruit bordered the entrees and I was in heaven. I literally inhaled the crab and could not manage to finish my meal. I will tell you, I will be back for a lunch or dinner and expand my experience at the Sabor a Pasion.

 

Breakfast to Die For

Breakfast to Die For

 

After breakfast we strolled into his vineyard and he showed us his arbor. It is a central wedding photo site. I asked about the vineyard and he told me he produces 900 bottle each year and is happy with this quantity. He works the vines daily and ensures that his product is as high a caliber, as he can influence.

 

Vineyard Arbor

Vineyard Arbor

 

I was enamored with Chef Simon and he talked about Kim and I staying there on our next visit. It has a delightful and a very relaxed atmosphere and you can bet we will be back. We will spend the entire weekend with him on our next visit. I can’t imagine eating three meals a day, over an entire weekend with him. I might not leave! We talked about his harvest and how the locals and friends turn out to help pick the grapes. I volunteered, in exchange for his great cooking! I think I got the better half of that deal!

 

Chef Simon Webster

Chef Simon Webster

 

If you need to get away and have a relaxing weekend, with a very high quality of food and wine, I recommend you stay at the Sabor a Pasion. Enjoy Chef Simon’s excellent cooking and his warm and gracious attitude. In addition, you will discover he has a wonderful sense of humor. That is, if you can tear your mind away from thoughts of the fantastic food he serves. It is truly worth a long trip, just to experience his country house and bistro. Kim and I will be back!

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #7, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Red Fire Grille”

The original pretense of Kim and my visit to Palestine Texas for the weekend, was to share in the culinary attributes, of this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods. Of course my first thought was chicken fried steak or maybe a huge helping of fried catfish. I was, to be totally honest, a little suspicious that there would be anything of a positive nature offered on our visit. So Saturday night was the first experience, in a higher quality and more palatable cuisine at the Red Fire Grille.

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

 

We entered the Redlands Hotel and the restaurant is off to the side on the ground floor. Thank goodness I wore a nice dress shirt and slacks, as any type of casual apparel would have been totally out of place. It turns out this really is a nice place and I couldn’t wait to get started. After the long day I was famished. We were joined at dinner by a marvelous local personality, Martelle Moronko. Marty kept me in stitches all night long and I loved her outgoing personality and sense of humor.

 

Red Fire Grille

Red Fire Grille

 

The Red Fire Grille is owned and run by Dawn and Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. Chef Christian has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, a 386-page coffee table book.  I have included a link illustrating his experience and how he came to be categorized as such a prestigious chef. Dawn was a very gracious hostess and ensured our service was impeccable all night long.

 

Dawn and Chef Christian

Dawn and Chef Christian

 

It appeared that this was the real deal and I couldn’t wait to sample his cooking. I looked over the menu and was delighted to find several favorites that I knew I had to order. We ordered both pan fried Calamari and Flatbread for appetizers and I have admit that both were of a superior quality and taste. The Calamari was very flavorful and had a wonderful breading. The Flatbread was even better than anticipated and I ate more than my share of this appetizer! I particularly loved the thin crisp crust. I highly recommend either when you dine at the Red Fire Grille.

 

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

 

 

I love Bleu Cheese Dressing when it is made correctly and has an ample supply of actual cheese in it. If it is served with a wedge of lettuce, there is no finer salad option in my book. I am not a Caesar’s salad man. So obviously you know what I started with. There was a huge supply of genuine Bleu cheese in the dressing and its flavor was supreme.  My apologies to Chef Christian, but I do love my pepper. Kim had the Caesar’s salad.

 

 

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

 

I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb and I must confess it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaser courses, but they could not compare with this dish. I almost could cut the lamb with my fork. The rack was served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and spinach. The potatoes had an extravagant flavor, which really made my mouth water. I have had many a dish of lamb, over the course of my life and some have been significantly more succulent than others. This was by far, the best Rack of Lamb I have ever had! Imagine it is being served in Palestine Texas. I would have never guessed the quality this restaurant serves.

 

Colorado Rack of Lamb

Colorado Rack of Lamb

 

Kim chose and I knew when I looked at the menu, this would be her choice, the Mahi Mahi. We constantly debate which fish is more tasty and I assume it depends on one’s palate. She always loves Mahi Mahi and this was no exception. It was cooked to her liking, which is tough to do. I like my fish a little under cooked and flaky. Kim likes her a little more robust and solid. The portion was extremely sufficient and I believe for the first time I can remember, Kim could not finish her entree of Mahi Mahi. Marty also opted for the Mahi Mahi.

 

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

 

Breezy ordered the Butternut Lasagna and couldn’t finish it either. Portions are more than ample at the Red Fire Grille and one does not walk away hungry. This is what her dish looked like. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna

 

So anyone have room for dessert? I wavered for at least a second or two and decided on the Creme Brulee. I am sure anyone that knows me, will tell you that would be my option. Marty had the same. I have to say that it was my least favorite course. Maybe I was full, or the other courses jaded my taste buds, but it lacked something. Kim had a taste and really liked the subtle hint of Lavender, in the bite of Creme Brulee she had.

 

Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Creme Brulee

 

Kim had the Mini Coconut Creme dessert and had issues with the pineapple ring. She could not cut it. The other products in the concoction were very good and had wonderful blend of flavors. Kim especially loved the Margarita ice cream in her dessert.

 

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

 

Breezy had the Chocolate dessert and if memory serves me correctly finished it off. I was going to try it, but the opted instead for the Creme Brulee.

 

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

 

After dinner Chef Christian came out of the kitchen and we shook hands. It was nice to put a face with the food. It is very easy to see why he has been identified as such a reputable chef and I can understand his accolades and high honor. His food is worthy of a side or day trip and the restaurant had immaculate service. I highly recommend if you are within 100 miles of Palestine, that you venture to the Redlands Hotel and undertake an award winning dinner at the Red Fire Grille. You will not be sorry!

 

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #4, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “The Best Pie I Have Ever Had”

As we walked toward the Oxbow Pies & Antiques entrance I had flashbacks of the Jersey Lilly at Six Flags amusement park in Arlington Texas, when I was younger. I just knew Judge Roy Bean was going to be inside sitting at the bench. I was curious about the theme as I have never seen an operation combine a restaurant and pie shop for a retail outlet. I am a “Pie” man from way back and have loved pies over cakes for my entire 63+ years. I was almost drooling as I entered, awaiting my impending pie tastings. Yes I said “plural”, as I couldn’t leave this place without trying at least a couple of different pies.

 

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

 

 

I opened the door and was faced with a myriad of antiques and worn wooden tables for eating your meals and pies. David Wolfe and his Mother Becky the proprietors, stepped forward as we entered and introduced themselves.  As expected, they were both genuine down-home people, that make you feel comfortable immediately. I apologized, as we were very late for a scheduled lunch. As you approach the counter you see this display of pies, which immediately make your mouth start watering.

 

Fresh Pies Display Case

Fresh Pies Display Case

 

We sat down and they started us off with a half of a chicken salad sandwich. It had grapes in it just like my Mother used to make. It was delicious with just enough Mayo. Thank God they didn’t serve us a complete sandwich. A great appetizer!

 

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Chicken Salad Sandwich

 

Then came a good old Frito Pie. For those not raised in Texas, we fill a heaping bowl of Frito’s with chili. I inhaled this magnificent concoction and I could not believe the taste of the chili. It was just like the chili that covered my enchilada’s, when I would go out with my parents as a child and eat Mexican food. It set my taste buds in action and I was in heaven. I hadn’t savored that flavor in years, but it brought back childhood memories immediately. Of course the cheese and onions enhanced an already fabulous dish. The Wolfe’s have been in the restaurant business for decades and their products reflect the experience. I absolutely loved this course. It may not be the healthiest, but Kim and I both scraped our bowls clean and there was nothing left.

 

Frito Pie

Frito Pie

 

Becky asked if we had enough room for pie left and I just laughed. I really didn’t care if I was full or not. The primary reason I came to this place was to sample their infamous pies. So I ordered a slice of Chocolate Pecan Pie and a slice of Pineapple Meringue Pie, as I have never heard or seen this pie. I have eaten chocolate and coconut Meringue pie, but never Pineapple Meringue Pie. I dove into the Chocolate Pecan and offered Kim a taste. She prefers the regular Pecan Pie but decided against ordering pie (I know exactly why she did this, as she always “samples’ my food–Just ask anybody in our or her family). It was very tasty.

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

 

I saved the Pineapple Meringue for last and tried to guess what it would taste like. Would it be like an upside down cake or what? I was mad with curiosity. I shoveled the first bite in my mouth and almost fell off the chair I was sitting in. I paused for a moment and let the bite lay on my tongue. I just gloated to myself over the gorgeous flavor and sat back to enjoy the rest of the slice. It was an outstanding piece of pie and one I will never forget. Each bite rolled around my mouth and caused my senses to explode with glee. It is now, simply stated, my favorite kind of pie. Good-Bye Cherry Pie!

 

Pineapple Meringue Pie

Pineapple Meringue Pie

 

Before I move on I want you to look at the height of the Meringue on this pie. It was at least 3″ high, maybe more. I don’t believe I have ever seen one that high. I asked Becky how she does it and she said a lot of egg whites and a lot of whipping. David makes the crusts (which are unbelievably good) and Becky makes the fillings. They both are early risers and are in the shop before sun up. If you are ever near Palestine you have to stop and sample a slice. I suggest you take home a whole pie and of course, my recommendation is the Pineapple Meringue Pie.

 

 

A room Full of Antiques

A room Full of Antiques

 

 

The shop has tables with benches and tables with chairs scattered all throughout the store. When you walk in you do not realize how large the shop really is or how many quality antiques are housed in the shop. Many of the antiques are for sale. I was a little taken back as Kim and I could have probably spent 3 to 4 hours looking at their treasures. One of my favorites was this old Root Beer and Coca-Cola soda barrel.

 

Soda Barrel

Soda Barrel

 

The restaurant and pie shop has been written up in Texas Farm and Home magazine and has a four page layout. I fell in love with this place and next time I visit the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques shop I am buying a whole Pineapple Meringue Pie and not sharing with Kim!

 

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

 

Eventually Kim did have her Pecan Pie and inhaled it just like me. Surprisingly I did get a taste. Here is a handwritten menu advertising the pies available that day. Hope it motivates you to try my new favorite pie shop in all of the country (I am talking the entire USA-It’s that good)!

 

Today's Pies Menu

Today’s Pies Menu

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

Article #3, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “A Lesson in History”

When Kim and I first got married 35 years ago, we lived in Galveston Texas. Galveston was and may still be the home of the most historic sites in Texas. We participated in the old homes tour each year and became “Docents” for a house each year. We love historic sites and homes built around the turn of the last century.

 

We recently discovered that Palestine had a myriad of historical sites, over 1800 in total and were amazed at the places we saw on Saturday morning. The first being the old library built with aid from the Carnegie Foundation and was built in 1914. It was designated as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1970 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, by the Department of the Interior.

 

Carnegie Library

Palestine Carnegie Library

 

 

Next we stopped at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a successor to the original wooden St. Joseph Church built in 1874, on land donated by the Great Northern Railway. The St. Joseph church burned down in 1890 and this building of handmade brick was begun later that year. The design was done by Nicholas J. Clayton, a prominent Victorian Era architect of Galveston, who was also responsible for the Bishop’s Palace and the Old Red Building at UTMB, both infamous Galveston structures.

 

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

 

 

Next up was the Redlands Hotel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings and was originally headquarters for the International & Great Northern Railroad. It is located in Main Street District and has extended stay apartments available. Located on the bottom floor is the Red Fire Grille, featuring Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. I will devote an entire blog to this restaurant later in the series.

 

Redlands Hotel

Redlands Hotel

 

 

Nearby is the Texas Theater, home of  Palestine Community Theatre,  a live production company. It is an example of Spanish Colonial architecture and was originally a movie theater, but closed after several horrific fires and other issues. It reopened 25 years ago and has become the finest venue for live entertainment in East Texas.

 

Texas Theater

Texas Theater

 

 

The last “building” I am picturing is the Palestine Post Office and Federal Building constructed between 1911 and 1913. At the time it was built it housed the Selective Service, The National Weather Bureau’s Reading Station and other federal offices. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Anderson County has owned the building since 1990.

 

The Palestine Post Office and Federal Building

The Palestine Post Office and Federal Building

 

There are a myriad of other historical buildings, shops and stores, but I can’t possibly cover them all. The downtown is in the middle of a restoration process, that will continue to be bolstered by additional tourism and philanthropy.  I am confident that this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods will continue to prosper and become a destination for all Texans and visitors looking for a historical treasures.

 

Okay so you thought the post was over. Not on your life. We transitioned to the neighborhoods and started viewing some of the most spectacular old homes I have ever seen. This is one of my passions, as you will see. I couldn’t stop taking photos and kept asking Breezy Lake-Wolfe to stop and let me capture each house I liked. This of course threw us way off schedule and made us late for our lunch date, the subject of my next article. Shown below are a few of my favorites.

 

Love This House

Love This Huge Tree and the Fabulous Porch of This House

 

 

Very Well Done

Love the Size, Double Stacked Porches and All the Windows in This House

 

D

Love the Upstairs Balcony and the Wonderful Painting Contrasts of this House

 

 

A

Love Green Old Houses With Gingerbread Trim

 

 

C

Loved The Circular Driveway, Swings and The Magnificent Front Porch

 

 

K

Kim and I Could Retire in This House

 

 

A Colorful Victorian House

A Colorful Victorian House, With So Much Going On

 

 

L

Love This Street Sign and Iron Fencing

 

H

How Would You Like This Entryway

 

Paranormal alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

G

This Building is an Old Vacated Structure, Inhabited by Ghosts and It Looks Like One is Escaping In Its Wheelchair

 

 

The restoration of old homes and their downtown area in Palestine, reminds me of my time in Galveston. I know a great deal of you will be surprised, but I actually practiced carpentry at that time and helped rebuild many old homes in Galveston, along with a  few of the Historical buildings on the Strand.

 

I feel these two towns are related in their efforts to bring back the luster of their respective cities. I am excited at how enthusiastic Palestine is about revitalizing these gorgeous old structures downtown and the fantastic homes  on the perimeter. I love it when towns decide to take positive steps and own their future. Congratulations #palestinetx for initiating this rehabilitation of your city.

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #1, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101

My travel blogging has been fairly well of the International perspective, until I received a comment on my blog around September 11th, the day after I returned from a five week trip to Cuenca Ecuador. As everyone knows, I have a passion for this city that is unmatched. This comment was entitled “Taste What Lies Behind the Pine Curtain”.

 

At first I thought it was spam and came very close to deleting it. I receive myriads of spam from all over the world and have to make very quick decisions whether comments are real or spam generated. As I read the comment I deduced it was actually a real post and an invitation to try the “culinary attributes” of Palestine Texas, on their nickel.

 

I made inquiries about my blogging and if they knew that my reputation is associated with my posts. I made sure they understood I consequently do not write favorable material, if it is not deserved. My feedback was that I would attend, but there could be no handcuffs or demands on my writing. They wrote back that they would expect nothing less.

 

Dogwood Blossom on  Our Card

Dogwood Blossom on Our Card

 

I knew very little about Palestine and “Googled” it to see what it offered. I was intrigued as it was on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and growing up in Texas one learns where the beauty lies. As a child my parents, my brothers and I made the day trip to ride “The Dogwood Trail”. I can still remember the beauty of the white flowering trees.

 

I talked it over with Kim and we decided that we would try this new approach and look into a more local genre. I have written a few posts about Austin and a couple of its attractions, but this was a completely new category for me to cover. Obviously my passion for food made the offer distinctly attractive. We decided to take the city up on its offer.

 

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

 

 

As we drove into town the main highway was a typical small town with construction on the highway that was surrounded by run down buildings and generations of decayed equipment. Kim and I started to question whether we had made the correct decision. We turned at the loop and arrived at the Hampton Inn.

 

As I entered with our bags, Kim parked the car. Kimberly, the front desk clerk greeted me with a “Good afternoon Mr. Hinshaw”. I asked how she knew who I was and she stated Breezy-Lake Wolfe (the city’s marketing manager) told her to “Google” me, so she could recognize me when I arrived (of course I had my hat on). I was fairly surprised and broke out laughing.

 

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

 

Kim joined me after I checked in and we went to our room. It was a very clean, large suite with everything a blogger needs (Wi-Fi, direct Internet. Digital TV. a multitude of wall plugs to charge all my equipment and a coffee maker). Kim noticed we had an arrangement of flowers on the desk.

 

About 5 minutes after we arrived Kimberly called and and inquired if everything was acceptable in the room. I asked her if all the suites were like this and she replied “Yes, but they all don’t have fresh flowers like yours”. I couldn’t help but laugh again and started to feel like we were going to have a good weekend.

 

 

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

 

Our schedule was set up for us to meet Breezy in the lobby at 5:30 to attend the first event, a ride on the Texas State Railroad’s “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. We had a few minutes and I caught up on social media and Kim and got ready for the evening. We went downstairs at 5:25 PM and Breezy was already waiting to take us to the train ride. Instantly, I recognized this young lady was a whirlwind.

 

She conveyed every detail and fact available, in regard to each and every part of the weekend’s schedule between the hotel and the train. It was about a 20 minute ride. I knew she was nervous, but her East Texas charm won Kim and I over very quickly and we questioned whether we would be able to keep up with this bundle of energy over the next couple of days. We were delighted with our hostess and felt comfortable with Breezy immediately.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

 

We had such  great time that I have decided to capture our visit in several blogs and hopefully connect you with this hidden pearl, in the East Texas Piney Woods.  Next in my #PalestineTx series is the “All Aboard” post,  describing our train ride. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

Photo of The Day #41

Deluxe Hamburger

Deluxe Hamburger

 

The Cilantro Cafe Restaurante in Cuenca is a fabulous place to eat an economical meal. It has daily specials that follow the traditional meal platform, with a soup, entree and dessert for $4.00. It also has a wide array of vegan dishes.

 

 

I chose to eat their deluxe hamburger and as most in Ecuador, it came with a fried egg, a slice of ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato slices. Additionally it had bacon, but I don’t eat bacon. At first I was unsure if this combination would be edible, but I found myself going out of my way to eat this style of hamburger and I highly recommend you give it a try! Saludos!

Don Colon Rules

I have been to Cuenca several times and have always wanted to eat at Don Colon’s restaurant. For one reason or another I have never had the pleasure of dining at this establishment. So when I saw that Don Colon was relocating right off the Parque Calderon I was ecstatic. Construction went on all weekend and they opened Monday.

 

Don Colon Sign

Don Colon Restaurant

 

I couldn’t wait to try it out Don Colon’s the first day at their new location. I was not disappointed, as I had a bowl of great potato soup, pork chop with rice and hominy along with a dessert. In addition a fresh juice is served which was Mora on Monday. The meal was topped off with a fried dessert stuffed with apple filing. This came to a whopping $4.00 for this multi course meal. I was astonished and could not believe the quality of the food.

 

Monday's Lunch Special

Monday’s Lunch Special 

 

Being a suspicious type person I ventured back today Thursday to try the lunch again. I had my choice of liver and onions, a tipico Ecuadorian meal and a Chimichanga with chicken and cheese. I chose the latter, even though its probably not the most healthy. First course again was a delicious soup and the my entree with black beans and rice, salad and the Chimichanga.

 

Thursday's Lunch

Thursday’s Lunch 

 

Afterwards I was served a fantastic fried Sopapilla with banana inside. The juice of the day was Papaya. I was blown away again and could not believe how great it tasted and how full I was after a huge lunch.

 

Desert

Desert

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Colon Campos who owns the restaurant and is the namesake. He greeted every customer himself personally today. Given the low end pricing, the quality of the food and the fantastic customer service I don’t see any reason this restaurant won’t thrive in its new location. Oh by the way, he has Fish and Chips tomorrow and I will be back!

 

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Photo of The Day #24

A Great Hamburger at California Kitchen

A Great Hamburger at California Kitchen

 

I stopped by the other day to visit friends that run the California Kitchen here in Cuenca. Carol and George Evans are great people and opened this thriving restaurant to help the family out. This time I met daughter Susie and inquired how things were and if they had any serious offers. The family recently decided to place the restaurant up for sale and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

 

I was taken back at how busy the place was for an afternoon. It was jam-packed and it appears they are busier than the last time Kim and I were in Cuenca. I wish them luck and continued success. If you have a few extra dollars and want to invest, this restaurant is a pillar of the community and has an awesome trade. Plus it has delicious food!

Photo of The Day #23

Pizza So Good I Forgot to Take a Photo

Pizza So Good I Forgot to Take a Photo

 

 

If you find yourself in Cuenca Ecuador and are ravished for a pizza, I recommend trying La Fornace on President Borrero off Sucre. It is fantastic. Kim instructed me before I left to make sure I did not eat my pizza with my hands, as it is bad manners in Ecuador. One must use a fork and knife to be in acceptable status.

 

 

No worries. I used both utensils as required and even though it felt strange at least the taste was phenomenal. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I apologize as the aroma was so enticing, I did not take a full pie photo, but rather dove in and ate half of it before I realized I needed a photo. I think you get the idea!

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