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    Fab Food

    Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World

    Our Favs From the Past 18 Months

    Location: Around the World

    We have been traveling now for nearly 18 months.  We stayed in a lot of places.  We have seen a lot of sights.  We have eaten – well – hundreds of meals.  Some better than others.  Most acceptable.  A few downright spectacular.  So we thought it was time to share our Top Ten Dining Experiences Around the World on our year and a half Grand Adventure;

    Lisbon Portugal– our number one most favorite meal of our top ten dining experiences around the world took place in Lisbon, where we seriously

    Top ten dining experiences

    Lisbon Portugal

    gorged ourselves on the best seafood meal I have ever enjoyed.  Thankful to have our son’s friend Salvador there to order for us, we ate non-stop for several hours at Lisbon’s famous Cervejaria Ramiro restaurant.  It’s memorable for many reasons, the most important the way Salvador managed the waitstaff, ordered food and beer at breathtaking speed and told stories of his growing up in Lisbon.  I would love to relive that meal again and again.

    The remaining top ten dining experiences around the world are in no particular order –

    Sofia Bulgaria – Hidden in a neighborhood behind a tall fence is the historic Sofia restaurant of Manastirska Magernista where we were introduced to Bulgarian cuisine.  Here we tasted for the first

    Top ten dining experiences

    Sofia Bulgaria

    time the warm crusty bread dipped in olive oil and a Bulgarian dry spice mix.  The slow roasted pork knuckle as big as my head and falling off the bone.  The fresh and delicious Shopska salad of cucumber, tomato and feta.  Staple foods of a cuisine we knew nothing about but now is one of our favs.  We ended up at this restaurant twice we loved it so much.

    Nesebar Bulgaria – Bulgaria is the only country to land two spots in the top ten.  But our lunch in the beautiful seaside town of Nesebar deserves to be on the list.  At Plakamoto we again had pork

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Nesebar Bulgaria

    knuckle, a huge piece of meat we shared with fresh yogurt soup, cucumber salad and cold frothy beer on a sunny day overlooking the sea.  Perfect.

    Piran Slovenia – fresh from the sea anchovies smothered in local olive oil and garlic still makes my mouth water thinking of it.  We ate two platters full in a tiny restaurant onboard a boat in the

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran Slovenia

    harbor called Ladja Podlanica, with about 15 other local Slovenians.  After we licked the platter clean we then ate a gigantic bowl of linguine con vongole (linguine with clams) in a perfect wine and garlic sauce.  We loved it so much we ate there twice, both times with our friends Marbi and Raymond. Tiny Piran is not a place you would expect to find one of our top ten dining experiences around the world.

    Asilah Morocco – one of our most favorite Airbnb’s and one of our most favorite local cuisines were combined during our wonderful ten days in Asiliah, Morocco.  Here we met Latifah, our cook and housekeeper who opened our eyes to

    Top Ten dining Experiences

    Latifah unveiling the tajine in Asilah

    the wonders of Moroccan food.  She cooked for us everyday, she taught us how to cook, she took us to the market, she smiled and enjoyed watching us consume her scrumptious concoctions – all while not speaking a single word of English.  We loved her and wanted to take her home.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An Vietnam

    Hoi An Vietnam – two separate experiences put the colorful city of Hoi An in the top ten dining experiences around the world.  First  I took an amazing cooking class here, in a beautiful cooking school called Miss Vy’s.  One of the most advanced cooking schools I have experienced, I learned so much about Vietnams cuisine and Hoi An’s local specialities, which I learned to both cook and enjoyed eating.

    Top ten dining experiences

    Hoi An cooking class

    Furthering our Hoi An experience was our bicycle food tour with Grasshopper Tours.  We headed out at dusk and spent three hours going from place to place eating our way through Hoi An and enjoying everything from Bahn Mi to Chicken Feet, Vietnames Pancakes to “Jumping Chicken” (frog), noodles to ice cream.  Loved it.

    Barcelona Spain – we had been a bit disillusioned about the food in Spain, since the cuisine on the Camino de Santiago was less than inspiring – until we arrived at Bodega 1900 in Barcelona.  We

    Top Ten Dining experiences

    Barcelona Spain

    began perusing the menu after we were seated but then the waiter arrived and whisked our menus away and announced the chef recommends a tasting menu of his choice, “is okay?”.  “Well, umm, okay”, we agreed reluctantly.  Arne’s eyeballs turning to dollar signs not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  But not to worry – a gastronomic feast of a dozen small plates from olive oil blobs to sardines, from sashimi to squid and so much more.  A lovely experience at a reasonable price.

    Swakopmond Nambia – our favorite tour guide

    Top Ten Dining experiwnces

    Swakopmund Namibia

    Seven made sure we had a chance to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in style.  He surprised us by making a reservation for us at Swakopmond’s best seafood restaurant, The Tug, overlooking the beautiful bay.  Here we tried for the first time two different fish – Kingclip and Kabeljou.  Both were prepared perfectly and absolutely delicious and a now a new yet hard to find favorite. It was a lovely evening.

    Luang Prabang Laos – We stayed in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in Luang Prabang complete with a UNESCO World Heritage Lily Pond.  It was a lovely place and we dined at the Manda de Laos

    Top Ten Dining Experiences

    Luang Prabang Laos

    restaurant that sits over the lily pond.  The evening was warm and lovely and it had been a long time since we dressed up and had a nice dinner.  We enjoyed the local Laos cuisines including papaya salad, noodles, chicken and more, all served impeccably and presented with fresh flowers as garnish.  A top ten memorable evening and a top ten dining experience around the world.

    Top ten ding experiences around the world

    Peka in Dubrovnik Croatia

    Dubrovnik Croatia – Learning to make the local dish called Peka in a local families home outside of Dubrovnik was a wonderful experience for me – even though the dish is extremely complicated and not something I think I will ever make at home.  But I enjoyed it so much we made a reservation later to enjoy it again at Dubrovnik’s famous Konoba Dubrava restaurant high above the hills of the city.  Peka is a dish of pork, lamb or beef cooked with potatoes and vegetables in a giant metal pan (Peka) buried in the coals of a blazing hot fire.  It creates a sweltering kitchen with a mouth watering result.  A very memorable meal both times.

    Is it any wonder I haven’t lost any weight on the Grand Adventure?  LOL.  Life is fabulous!!  Fat and happy travels.

    Read more of our food blogs here

     

     

    Fab Asia Travel  --  Fab Food

    The Flavors of Bali

    Cooking Class in Munduk Bali

    Location: Munduk, Bali, Indonesia

    Lemongrass, garlic, turmeric.  The Flavors of Bali.  Ginger, cloves, coffee.  The Flavors of Bali. Cardamon, nutmeg, galangal.  The Flavors of Bali. Chili, Chocolate, Fruit.

    The flavors of Bali

    At the morning market

    Bali smells good.  Bali tastes good.  And Bali is a feast for the eyes as well.  A beautiful tropical island in Indonesia with happy and kind people, gorgeous mountains and seashore, lush green foliage and bright tropical flowers and fruits with flavors that explode in your mouth and bring a smile to your face.  The Flavors of Bali. Fresh and unforgettable.

    During our three days at the Puri Lumbung

    The flavors of bali

    Buying the banana leaf

    Cottages in the village of Munduk we enjoyed an hour and a half cooking class where we learned about combining all the amazing flavors of Bali into six distinctly Bali dishes.  We enjoyed a feast after we cooked and found a new appreciation for fresh and local ingredients.

    Our day started with an early morning walk to the tiny and very authentic local market in the village

    The flavors of bali

    Beautiful view from the outdoor kitchen

    of Munduk.  We purchased our fresh ingredients here including; cassava a green similar to spinach that would go in our soup; ferns a green similar to fiddleheads that we would use to make a side dish; lemongrass a Bali staple that we would use in multiple dishes; fresh white corn that we would use in corn fritters; banana leaves we would wrap the fish in; and galanga a root flavoring similar to ginger that we would use in multiple dishes.

    The flavors of bali

    Ingredients waiting the preparations

    When we arrived at the beautiful open air kitchen overlooking the rice fields and vast valley below we found four work stations each with a ulekan and cobek – a Balinese style mortar and pestle made from local basalt.  At each work station ingredients where waiting in each ulekan for us to begin the somewhat arduous process of crushing and combining the flavors of Bali for each individual dish.

    The flavors of bali

    John crushes the spices

    Timbungan Ayam is a clear chicken soup with cassava leaves and fried shallots.  We ground the flavors of chili, shallot, galangal, lemongrass, nutmeg, lime leaves and shrimp paste into a mash that was then combined with chopped fresh chicken and cassava and cooked on the open flame stove top.  It was a delicious broth and one of my favorite flavors of the day.

    The flavors of bali

    Me preparing the soup

    Bergedel Tagung is a fried corn fritter.  In the ulekan we ground the flavors of Bali of nutmeg, chili, garlic and shrimp paste.  We then took the fresh corn off the cobb, mixed it with the spices and an egg and cooked the fritters (about the size of a fifty cent piece) in corn oil.  Crunchy and delicious.

    The flavors of bali

    Carole wraps the fish in banana leaf

    Pepes Ikan Laut is a fish dish smothered in a Balinese paste then wrapped in banana leaf and grilled.  In the ulekan we had our toughest ingredients to grind including shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, aromatic ginger, candle nut (like macadamia) nutmeg, tomato, shrimp paste, chile and salt & pepper.  First mixed with coconut oil into a paste, this mixture was smeared all over chunks of fresh fish.  The banana leaves were laid out in two layers with one large bay leaf in the center.  The fish was

    The flavors of Bali

    Fish on the grill

    spooned evenly on four banana leaves which were wrapped and folded and secured with a bamboo toothpick before being laid in a hot pan on an open flame for grilling.  When it was time to eat we opened the banana leaf envelope to find the chunks had fused together into an aromatic and juicy fish surprise.

    Be Siap Sere Bawang is a chicken dish with a strong lemongrass flavor.  We began by grinding the spices of shrimp paste, chili, turmeric, salt & pepper into a paste.  The cooked chicken was

    The flavors of bali

    Everybody crushing spices

    shredded into pieces and mixed with the spices, sliced lemongrass and sliced shallots then quickly sauted to soften the lemongrass.  Probably my least favorite of all the dishes just because of the too strong flavor of lemongrass.

    Urap Campur is like a side vegetable dish.  It can be made with most any green vegetable such as cassava, cabbage or long bean.  For our cooking class we used local ferns.  The ferns were

    The flavors of bali

    Top Ferns and fish in banana leaf  Bottom lemongrass chicken & cornfritters

     

    blanched and water squeezed out before we arrived.  The ferns were mixed together with grated coconut, cooked local red beans, fried shallot, juice of the kaffir lime and salt and pepper.

    Bubur Campur was our dessert a mix of local fruits including jackfruit, banana, pandan, mangosteen and sweet potato.  We boiled the fruit in water with palm sugar syrup for sweetener, a bit of starch for thickening and coconut milk for flavor.  It was served in a bowl and we all agreed it would have been better served over vanilla ice cream.

    The flavors of bali

    Successful team

    We have really enjoyed our time in Bali and getting to know the Flavors of Bali.  As in so many cultures the Balinese enjoy what is local and seasonal in their simple but delicious everyday foods.  And we enjoyed experiencing it first hand.  The Flavors of Bali.  Fabulous.

    Check out our other posts about our time in the beautiful island of Bali.

    This post includes affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase these books.  Any money earned here goes back to the maintenance costs of this .  Thank you.

     

    Fab Africa Travel  --  Fab Food

    The Rainbow Nation

    Colorful South Africa and it’s Colorful Cuisine

    Location: South Africa

    They call it the Rainbow Nation.  A country with an extraordinary political and social background, with a kaleidoscope of ethnic Peoples, blended into one nation.  Shaken not stirred.

    But here it is – amazing South Africa.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, colonization and apartheid but surprisingly today

    Nelson Mandela

    together.  A mere 25 years after the end of apartheid (meaning apartness in Afrikaans) people of all backgrounds seem to get along here, quit happily.

    But despite equal rights it’s clear to see the economic difference still between white South Africans, “non- whites” and colored. These terms are from the apartheid era, when every person fit into one of these three categories and laws kept groups separate in all aspects of life.  Today you’ll still find people living separately in historically separate neighborhoods such as the

    Colorful Bo Kaap

    Muslim Bo Kaap and the Black Townships, but progress is slowly changing this.

    There are nine South African native tribes who lived as hunter gatherers and pastoral people for thousands of years before the Dutch East India Company arrived 1652. As the Dutch entrenched (and later the British) they used indigenous people as slaves and began bringing in slaves from Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malaysia, Indonesia and India as well as others.

    Today’s South Africa is made up of the ancestors of all of these races, a colorful mix of cultures truly

    Cooking on the Braai

    making it The Rainbow Nation.

    The gastronomic effects of such a blended nation cannot be overstated, and luckily for visitors the reward is superb.  Taking the foods of these groups and combining it with the wide variety of fresh produce, local seafood and game you get a melded and delicious South African cuisine.

    Pumpkin Pap curried cabbage

    I am no expert, but I sure like to eat, and during my time so far in South Africa I have joyfully discovered wonderful foods and flavors and also took a fun cooking class to delve even deeper.

    Let me share with you some of my favorite discoveries;

    Pap – for breakfast or anytime, pap is a staple food with a long history.  It is very much like fufou that we ate in Burkina Faso (made from plantain) and when made from maize (the most frequently used grain) it tastes much like grits or polenta. We have enjoyed pap several times and my favorite by far was the Pumpkin Pap we made together at our

    Smoked Snoek

    cooking class with Nadege Cuisine.  It was served with a curried cabbage and delicious smoked Snoek.

    Snoek – is a very popular (and very ugly) locally caught white fish that can grow very large.  It is of the mackerel family and is known as barracuda in other parts of the world.  One of the favorite ways to enjoy this fish is grilled on the Braai (see below) or smoked.  Smoked Snoek is available in grocery stores.  It tasted very much like smoked sturgeon to me.  The smokey and salty mixed with the sweet pumpkin pap was a real winner.

    Seasoning for the Braai

    Braai – the local word for BBQ is as much a social function as a food.  Most anything can be thrown on the Braai, but most meats and fish are slathered with a spicy rub mix of chili, salt and herbs.  Braais happen frequently where neighbors and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company around the Braai.  The host provides the salad and the guests bring their own meat and drink.  It’s very popular to cook Snoek on the Braai slathered in apricot jam.

    Bobotie – my favorite of all the foods I have tried so

    Bobotie

    far, this is the unofficial national dish of South Africa.  The dish likely has its roots in Indonesia and it is a savory mix of ground spiced meat with a custard topping and usually served or combined with rice.  We had this at a famous Bo Kaap restaurant called Biesmiellah and it was fantastic.  Always served with chutney.

    Chutney – Nearly every meal in South Africa is served with chutney, a sweet preserve usually of fruits but it also can include onions or savory produce.  Mango chutney is very popular and usually served with the Bobotie.

    Breyani

    Breyani – we also tried this dish at Biesmiellah and it was great.  The masala spice noted the heritage of this dish as Indian or Malaysian.  It can be made with different meats, we enjoyed it with chicken.  The dish is a fragrant mix of cumin, corrrinder, cinnamon, cardamom,lentils, rice and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and is served with a yogurt sauce on the side.

    Crayfish – I ordered this item at a nice restaurant we

    Crayfish

    went to in Cape Town called Aubergine and it was fantastic.  It’s nothing at all like what I think of as the small crayfish we sometimes eat at home.  It actually is a small lobster.  Lucky for me this appetizer dish was perfectly cooked and served with a luscious squid ink pasta.  Perfection.

    Ostrich – a very popular red meat all over the

    Nadege pan frys the ostrich

    southern parts of Africa you will find ostrich on menus and in grocery stores everywhere.  It is a very dark red meat, best prepared and served simply, and we enjoyed it flash pan-fried and medium rare at our cooking class with Nadege. Ostrich is farmed in South Africa and all parts of the animal are used including the skin for leather, the feathers for down, the beak and bones for jewelry and the egg shells for jewelry and decorative items.  It’s not as easy though to find a fresh ostrich egg.  Each egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs.  I still hope to buy and cook one soon.

    Mealie Bread – I love this delicious bread, similar to cornbread we make at home but lighter.  My favorite preparation I’ve had so far was at Aubergine where they added a hint of caraway.  Delicious.

    Cape Malay Curry – Sweeter than other curries I’ve had, Cape Malay curry once again uses the favorite apricot of South Africa as well as cinnamon and ginger and makes a delicious not to be missed meal.

    Game – much of the game meat is farmed and

    Malva Pudding

    available and shows up on restaurant menus including Warthog, Impala and Springbok, which is small deer-like animal we saw a lot of in Namibia.  We enjoyed the Springbok at Aubergine where it was perfectly cooked medium rare and served with a nice black mushroom sauce with a hint of walnut.

    Malva Pudding – using the word pudding in the British way for cake, Malva pudding is one of several popular dessert and sweet dishes uniquely South African.  This dark spongy cake made from butter, vanilla and apricot jam (there it is again) tastes much like a bread pudding and is usually

    Potatoe pudding with peach compote

    served with a warm custard or ice cream.

    Potato Pudding – similarly this lovely cake, also much like custard or bread pudding, is made from potatoes, coconut oil, cardamom, almond extract and condensed milk and is served with a stewed fruit sauce of dried peaches and cinnamon.  A perfect end to the meal we had at Nadege Cuisine.

    Through out the Cape Town region you will also find many offerings that reflect the British, French and Dutch population as well as other African nations.  We enjoyed a fabulous Ethiopian meal one afternoon for lunch at Madam Taitou’s and a

    Eggs Benedict

    beautiful Eggs Benedict the next day for breakfast at the historic and gorgeous British colonial hotel Mount Nelson.  However, you won’t find a restaurant calling itself a “South African” restaurant.  The cuisine is just really coming into its own as a stand alone fare, and rightfully so.  Hopefully soon, South African will be as common as Mexican or Italian.

    It certainly is just as delicious.

     

     

    Fab Africa Travel  --  Fab Food

    Eat Morocco

    Chapter Eleven – The Flavors of Morocco

    Cumin, paprika, garlic and saffron.  You can smell it in the air.  Onions, harissa, citrus and dates.  Wherever you are, Morocco’s flavors and smells will make your mouth water and your tummy growl.  This colorful country is a feast of flavors and colors and tastes unlike anywhere I have been.  You just can’t get enough.

    Lemon and olive Chicken Tajine

    We’ve been in Morocco for three weeks now, and we still have more than a week to go.  We have learned some of tips for the cuisine of this North African nation that has

    Grilled lamb chops

    been a crossroads for thousands of years.  From cultures near and far the Moroccan cuisine developed into the flavor-filled mix of vegetables, meat and spices we know today.  The Berber’s long history in this region, combined

    Spices

    with the Romans, the Vandals, the Phoenicians, and later the Jews, the  Spanish, the Brits and French, certainly makes for a unique combination of cultures and flavors.

    Farm to market produce

    Today Morocco stands independent under King Mohammed VI, and the delicious food is a proud tradition as seen in the medinas and restaurants, street food and homes through out the cities and rural regions of Morocco.  Seafood on the coast; beef, sheep, goat, chicken and even camel makes an appearance in the interior; and the ever-present olive can be found at breakfast,

    Grilled fish

    lunch and dinner.

    We had a very special experience during our ten days in Asilah on the Atlantic Coast.  Our airbnb in Asilah came with a full-time cook, a sweet and talented Moroccan woman named Latifah.  She fed us the

    Latifah making couscous

    most remarkable meals during our time there and we were spoiled beyond reason.  We learned a lot about the cuisine, watched her cook and asked her so many questions.  She took us to the market with her and helped us understand the foods she was

    Latifah serving pastilla

    making for us.  What a remarkable opportunity this presented and we were so grateful.  We wanted to stuff her in the suitcase and keep her forever!  So through Latifah we learned the cuisine.

    There are some surprises too – like the flavorful fava bean and garlic

    B’sara soup

    soup called B’sara served for breakfast.  Not a dish found on restaurant menus but if you ask it can be made for you.  We did just that, wanting to try it and the proprietor gladly made it for us even though it was lunch time and well past the normal morning hour it is usually eaten.  It tasted much like a split pea soup but spicier and very satisfying.

    Another surprise is the pastilla – a completely

    Women making the filo on round griddle

    unexpected sweet and savory “pie” resembling spanakopita but filled with nuts and dates, chicken or pigeon, sweet and savory spices and baked then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.  It can’t decide if it’s dinner or a dessert, but it is delicious and unusual all at once.  The dish is created with a super thin filo type pastry made by hand by artisans in the

    Latifah unveiling the tajine

    markets using a very surprising shaped cooking shaft that the thin dough is placed on for just a few seconds to let it cook.  Pastilla is usually reserved for special occasion meals, but can be found in most restaurants serving tourists.  We were very lucky to have a special one made for us by Latifah.

    More well-known are the bubbling tajine dishes cooked and served in their unique crockery.  Tajine can be made from many things including lamb,

    Lamb and dried fruit tajine

    beef, chicken and vegetables and the best part is usually the wonderful rich broth at the bottom of the pot.  My favorite ones were the chicken olive and lemon and the lamb, dried fruit and nut.  These two are also favorites among locals and its easy to see why. I had them multiple times and each time it was delicious.

    Couscous

    Another well-known dish is Couscous.  But the couscous we know back in America is very different from what we have enjoyed here in Morocco.  In fact, making couscous is a major undertaking and is reserved for Fridays, the holy day in Morocco.  We spent much of one day watching Latifah make us a remarkable (and gigantic) couscous feast that included chicken, carrots, zucchini, potato and turnips and of course the couscous itself.  A special steamer is used to steam the couscous over boiling water – a most unusual and time-consuming preparation.

    Harira soup

    Dried figs and dates

    When all is said and done this lovely and colorful pile of deliciousness is topped with a flavorful broth that has been simmering and reducing for hours.  It just really is a special meal and poor sweet Latifah had a real workout in the kitchen on this day.

    Grilled meats on a stick, similar to such things in other countries, can be found at restaurants and street vendors.  Known as Brochette’s,  popular varieties are lamb, chicken and beef, as well as ground lamb, but my favorite was a lime-marinated fish brochette I had in a restaurant.

    Brochettes

    While in Asilah by the sea we had a great opportunity to sample the local seafood.  Latifah made us the most amazing selection of grilled and fried fish including sardines and dorado served with a delicious green chili sauce and lemon. Simple and sublime.  We also had anchovies in lemon, octopus salad, rich and delicious fish soup and tiny deep-fried sardines.

    The country is teeming with the freshest and most colorful produce that makes its way into every meal. All of these goodies are locally grown and pesticide free, usually harvested with hours or days of your purchase.  Unlike the United States, rarely are things in the market being shipped in from other countries. My favorite was the persimmon, pomegranate and tangerines – hands down the best of those I have ever had.  A walk through the market is a kaleidoscope of tomatoes, radish, squash, plums, grapes, pears, oranges and lychee, as well as a never-ending variety of nuts and beans and grains.

    But there is one thing I have not yet elaborated on  – the key to all of the distinctive Moroccan foods we have savored over the past three weeks.  The spices.  Moroccan cuisine has developed through a magical mix of spices, in a region abundant with the finest.  In the markets  you find the colorful choices piled beautifully on display while Moroccan grandmothers sniff and purchase

    Fresh mezze salads

    the savory wonders.  Most common in dishes are salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric (often referred to curcumin), saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and white pepper.  A special spice blend known as Ras El Hanout is a blend of dozens of spices and is unique to individual shops and regions.  Ras El Hanout means “best of the shop” and will include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, turmeric and often other “secret” spices.

    I’m taking away from Morocco a real gift in this cuisine, an excitement to try new flavors and techniques I’ve learned here.  I wonder why there aren’t more Moroccan restaurants back home and encourage you to get out and find the flavors of Morocco wherever you can.  Because there are so many amazing things about this country – but if you can’t visit – at least eat Morocco.  You won’t be disappointed.

    Fab Europe Travel  --  Fab Food

    Barcelona Cooking Class – Eat Local

    Chapter Ten Final Days

    When in Barcelona – eat! And if you can – cook!  Because the Catalan cuisine is simple, seasonal, fresh and fabulous and a day cooking in a Spanish kitchen makes for a great memory.

    I researched many options for cooking classes in

    Frutes de boca

    Barcelona. There were a lot. But I chose the Barcelona Kitchen, the cooking school housed in the Mercado de la Boqueria, for its class choices and menu.

    Since I’ve been in Spain for two months and

    Seafood so fresh it’s still moving.

    traveled through multiple regions, I’ve tasted a variety of regional dishes as well as regional takes on national favorites. In Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is the largest city, food is celebrated every day and regional pride in the local Catalan cuisine is evident everywhere you go.

    Catalan cuisine is not about heavily spiced or sauced dishes.  Rather it is about the best, freshest and

    Fresh picked today

    most local ingredients. Right now in October that means frutas de boca (fruits of the forest) which includes a variety of mushrooms, snails, nuts and seeds. October is also bountiful in tomatoes, squash, fruit, greens, root vegetables, peppers, potatoes, onions, figs, and much more.  Combine these ingredients with seasonal fish, shellfish, meat, fowl, and the unforgettably delicious Iberian jamon (ham) and you have yourself the makings of a special feast.

    Stock simmering.

    Add a little Spanish wine and as the Catalonians say Bon Profit! Muy Bien!

    My class, led by Lena, began with a tour and shopping trip for our ingredients through the Mercado de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s famous and fabulous market. Here we learned about many of the products and producers from eggs to olive oil and saffron to cuttlefish.

    Making the Crema Catlana

    Back in the kitchen we set to work for three solid hours cooking and preparing five of Catalan’s favorite dishes; Tortilla – egg and potatoe omelette like pie (the national dish of Spain that sustained me daily on the Camino), Seafood Paella (the only

    Finished Paella

    way Catalans eat Paella is seafood), Pa amb Tomàquet – Catalan Tomato Bread, Gazpacho – cold tomato soup, and Crema Catalana – a delicious dessert similar to creme brûlée but better!

    I was surprised at the amount of time the tortilla takes to make but I loved it. I also really enjoyed making the Paella from scratch including the stock which simmered and reduced on the stove for more than an hour. It was rich and delicious.

    The beautiful Gazpacho

    The Gazpacho was incredible, easy and fast. Unlike our chunky style at home this cold tomato soup was creamy and smooth using the food processor and adding lots of olive oil to emulsify it. Perfecto!

    Our class enjoying the feast

    As usual, I loved learning from a local and cooking this incredible cuisine.  Spain has been many things to me over the past two months, including delicious!

    Our time in this sweet country is ending and we move on now to Chapter Eleven – Tunisia, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa. But Spain will always hold something very special for us and we will definitely be back.

    Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos.  Fabulous!

    Fab Europe Travel  --  Fab Food

    A loaf of bread A Jug of Wine & Thou

    Hikers Cannot Live on Bread Alone

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” —Omar Khayyam

    The sentiment in Khayyam’s words are not lost  on me. Particularly as I try to walk my Camino with an open mind for a simple life. Medieval pilgrims certainly would have been grateful for bread alone and may have subsisted solely on it – with a watery soup and wine thrown in from time to time.

    Tortilla Espanola

    But man I want a salad.

    As in most European countries bread is life.  In Spain the Panaderia on every corner is busy from the break of day.  This is true in the cities and in the small villages we walk through.  Some small towns we find the “Bread man” (my term) driving through the streets honking his horn.  Kinda like the ice cream man when I was a kid.

    Croissant with ham and cheese

    Boccadilla

    Along the Camino finding food is a bit of a challenge unless you are in a large city.  And finding food that includes nice fresh produce is even harder.  And dinner before 8pm? Forget about it.

    Likely for convenience and cost, the places that pop up for sustenance on the Camino sell baguette sandwiches called bocadilla, or the national dish of Spain, Tortilla Espinosa (an egg and potato torta/omelette), and coffee.  Sometimes apples and bananas.  This is what is considered both breakfast and lunch food.  It’s cheap and easy to carry.

    I’ve learned to pick up fresh fruit when I see it and stash it in our pack.  Clearly we are a long way from starving but a girl needs something to help her walk 14 miles each day.

    Eggplant Hummus

    A couple of days ago on a particularly uninhabited stretch of our walk I had  ham and cheese on a dry baguette for breakfast, tuna on hard focaccia for lunch and ham and cheese on baguette for dinner.

    That was the day I said no more bread.  No mas!

    And there was the one night we shared a can of tuna and a whole zuchinni while laying in bed.

    At the end of each day we can usually find what is

    One salad mixta from a very good Peregrino dinner

    called the Peregrino Dinner.  In every town we have found this except for one.  This meal is usually $10-12 Euro and includes two or three courses with choices.  The first course may be a choice of salad mixta, soup or pasta.  I always get the salad which 99% of the time is lettuce, tomato, canned tuna and maybe carrot and egg.

    But the second course is ALWAYS French fries with some meat.  You can choose chicken, pork, beef or

    This was an excellent salad in Burgos

    maybe veal or lamb.  No veg.

    Sigh.  I just want some nice zucchini or spinach or green beans or kale por favor!

    One evening we did encounter a Peregrino Dinner with a vegetarian option.  I happily ordered the vegetarian paella instead of meat and fries.  It was warm and yummy saffron rice with peas, beans, cauliflower and carrots.

    In our 16 days on the Camino our best meals have

    Catalan soup with pork and pasta

    come in the bigger towns.  No surprise.  I’m still dreaming about the Caesar Salad and Eggplant hummus we had in Pamplona or the beautiful Salad Mixta with fresh tuna, asparagus and beets I had with Catalon soup in Burgos.  And the best peregrino meal we enjoyed was a pork knuckle and the first course was fresh baby artichoke hearts with lemon in Puenta la Reina.  Happiness on a plate.

    Thumbs up for this Paella

    And so I’ve grown even more appreciative of fresh food with fresh ingredients and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  And when I can’t get it, well I am then grateful on those days for a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.

    Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; – Ecclesiastes 9:7

    191 miles done.  298 to go!

    Buen Camino!

     

    Fab Food

    Come and Cook

    Chapter Ten – Cooking in Portugal

    As I do in nearly every country, I signed up to take a cooking class here in Portugal. It’s no secret how much I love to cook especially using local, fresh ingredients – and how much I love to eat too!

    Here in Lagos it was a special day to be able to visit the New Forest Lodge with my son Erik. He also enjoys cooking and together we spent the day about 30 minutes drive outside of Lagos in the hills above the city.

    One of the things I find most interesting about these classes I take is meeting local people and often meeting them in their own homes. At the New Forest Lodge we spent the day with Frances a transplant from England and her son-in-law Milton a Portuguese. Their family began offering cooking classes about 8 years ago and also have three rooms available at the lodge. Additionally they offer horseback rides throughout the region.

    Well I am not a horse person, but I definitely like to cook, so a day in the kitchen and in front of the wood burning oven was enjoyable, despite the 85 degree Portuguese summer temperatures.

    We started with a trip to the small Mercado in Aljezur, about a 15 minute drive. The fish and produce here were beautiful. However the only item we purchased was fresh sardines. The rest of our produce would come from the New Forest Lodge gardens.

    Back in the kitchens Milton had the wood burning oven at optimal heat and we began by creating four different kinds of breads; breadsticks, pumpkin bread, chorizo wrapped crescents and olive and sundried tomato wheat bread.

    Midday we took a break and ate the breadsticks with a delicious and healthy dip made from sweet potato, chilies, lime and garlic.

    We spent the rest of the day preparing and cooking a delicious layered dish with the Portuguese favored bacalhau (salt Cod) that included onions, peppers, potatoes and cream and nutmeg then cooked in the wood burning oven.  We then prepped and cooked prawns, and a prawn stock, both of which went into the  Arroz de Camarao.

    We also made Paneer cheese (yes like you would have in an Indian restaurant) which was very simply made just from milk and lemon juice then hung in cheesecloth to drip all the moisture out.

    The beautiful sardines we got at the market were salted and left to sit for about an hour. The salt makes it so the skin can be easily removed after cooking. Then the sardines were grilled over an open flame – this ended up being Erik’s job with the help of Milton (Note Milton’s Seattle t-shirt he bought at a flea market).

    While Erik was at the grill fellow student Emma was making the rice and I was prepping a tomato salad with some of the loveliest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. We finished the tomato salad by crumbling the finished paneer over it and dousing with olive oil.

    We took a stroll around the garden where many beautiful and familiar items were flourishing like peppers, zucchini, pumpkins and tomatoes in addition to some items I wasn’t familiar with. The cute little cucamelon tastes like a cucumber and looks like a tiny watermelon. Cho Cho looks like a green gourd and tastes like a cucumber and Lovage looks like dill and tastes like celery.

    The fruits of our labor were enjoyed at the end of the day with a spectacular feast, lots of vino verde (a delicious local summer wine) and finishing with Tarte da Nata a light and fluffy famous Portuguese dessert made simply from cream, condensed milk and a cookie crust similar to graham crackers

    We enjoyed cooking with our new friends Maureen and Emma from South Africa and spending the day with Francine and Milton on the family unique little homestead.  I recommend the day of cooking course at New Forest Lodge if you are in Lagos. If you are a horse lover, that part of the business looked fun too.

    And by the way I learned two really cool facts during this excursion- Portugal used to be a major producer of wine corks.   We saw how cork trees grow and how cork is harvested.  With the advent of artificial corks and screw tops the world e cork market took a dive.  Today Portuguese cork production has diversified into shoes, handbags and trivets .  In addition I learned how pine nuts come from a specific low growing rounded pine tree, that is both cultivated and grows wild here in southern Portugal.  The pine cones are heated to open them and release the valuable little nut inside, so that you can have your lovely pesto!

    So my day was very educational. I’m ready to head to the local fish monger now, because I’m pretty sure the  preparation we used on the sardines could be done on many different fish. And I definitely need to make the bacalhau dish. I loved that.

    So once again it was a great day and worth every penny. It ticked all the boxes that are important to me: meet locals, meet other traveling foodies, learn local culture, eat and cook fresh and local ingredients.

    A fabulous day!