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Food & Drink

    Asia Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Two Countries, Two Cuisines, Too Delicious

    The Food of Taiwan and Malaysia

    Location: Taiwan and Malaysia

    Taking a cooking class and going on a food tour in every country I visit is a goal I have. And I accomplish it often, but not always. But when I can I always enjoy it and over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing two countries, two cuisines, too delicious – the food of Taiwan and Malaysia.

    Taiwan

    We spent six days in Taipei Taiwan. We weren’t really tuned in to the Taiwanese cuisine, half expecting it to be just like China. But unlike China, Taiwan has been strongly influenced from Japan (with historical influence also from Portugal and Holland) and it’s noticeable in the cuisine. The Chinese influence comes primarily from Eastern China (Fujian). And certainly the fact that Taiwan is an island, the cuisine has a much stronger focus on seafood than much of China.

    Scallion pancake on Food Tour in Taiwan
    Scallion Pancake is one of our favorite foods we discovered in Taipei Taiwan

    GoTuCook

    A search online led me to Chef Calvin at GoTuCook. Thorough out our world travels I’ve taken cooking classes large and small, in cooking schools and home kitchens, from world famous chefs and humble housewives. And usually my favorite experiences are the ones where I have one-on-one time with the instructor in their home. This was my experience with GoTuCook.

    Mushroom and chincken soup in Cooking class in Taipei
    The beginnings of a delicious shiitake mushroom and chicken soup

    We met early in the morning at the Beitou metro station from where we walked to experience the bustling thriving market and the local vendors selling to the local people. I always love this experience with a local who can explain unusual ingredients, answer my questions and enlighten me to this way of life long gone in America.

    At The morning market Beitou Taipei
    Me at the busy Beitou morning market

    Next we headed to Calvin’s apartment, set up perfectfully for cooking classes. I had chosen three dishes I wanted to make ahead of time from a variety of options listed on the GoTuCook website. I chose as a starter Jellyfish Salad and for a soup course a chicken and mushroom soup and for our main course two kinds of pork dumplings.

    Displaying all the dumplings made by hand in Taipei cooking class
    My pretty dumplings ready for the steamer

    I liked both the jellyfish salad (requires an overnight soak of the chewy jellyfish in the fridge before prep) and the fragrant soup with a broth we cooked with chicken feet as well as meaty parts from the blue chicken, but my favorite was the dumplings.

    Chef Calvin of GoTuCook
    My new friend Chef Calvin of GoTuCook

    Making Chinese style steamed dumplings takes some practice. I’ve done similar work in classes before (making empanada in Argentina, pirogi in Poland and dumplings in Vietnam) but it’s still a chore to get your fingers to make the beautiful designs if it’s not a task you do everyday. We made pork with cabbage and spices and pork with corn and different spices. And then we ate!

    Of course we had leftovers and I brought dumplings and jellyfish to my husband who was back at the hotel.

    I really enjoyed this class and plan to tackle dumplings on my own soon. I recommend GoToCook if you visit Taipei.

    Pork bun One sample from Taipei Eats Food Tour
    The pork “burger” was one of the best things we had on our Taipei food tour

    Taipei Eats

    We also took an amazing walking food tour with Taipei Eats where we expanded our Taiwanese cuisine knowledge with Taiwan Pork “burger”, stinky tofu, betel nut, scallion pancake and much more. Taipei Eats was one of the best food tours we have ever done. Our guide was amazing, there was so much food and we learned some interesting facts while meeting local people as well as other travelers from around the world. Such a wonderful experience!

    TStinky Tofu at Taipei Eats Food Tour
    This is probably the one and only time for me with the Stinky Tofu

    Malaysia

    What a country Malaysia is for a foodie. This remarkable country is a melting pot of many cultures, and it shows in everything, especially the food. Malay food is often spicy, and nasi (rice) features often. Eating with your hands is common. Pork is rarely featured in this cuisine because most Malay are Muslim.

    Prepping the chicken at Indian Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur
    Learning Indian cooking in Kuala Lumpur

    On the other hand, many Chinese immigrated here in the 1800’s when this land was a British colony and the Chinese food is abundant, and often includes pork. Noodles, chicken and dumplings are also widely enjoyed.

    And then there is the Indian food, representing the vast number of Indians living in Malaysia. The use of pungent spices and curries, more noodles as well as lots of vegetables make up this delicious cuisine.

    Indigenous Malaysian sweet treat
    Ancient Malay cultures enjoyed this rice flour treat

    No matter what ethnic background, the people in this country love fried foods and fried chicken, seafood, samosa and much more are popular both as street food and in restaurants.

    Off the Eaten Track

    The food tour we took in Kuala Lumpur was very unique and one of the best ever. At the end of the evening we had sampled twenty-four (yes you read that correctly) foods of this diverse and delicious country.

    Chinese Soup at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    A very local Chinese Soup with veg, chicken and tofu

    We signed up with Food Tour Malaysia for their Off the Eaten Track tour and were met by our guide Timothy at a subway stop in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur called Petaling Jaya where we began our gluttonous odyssey at an outdoor Malay neighborhood food court that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. Here we found just locals enjoying the foods they loved. We had Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf; ota ota, a smoked mackerel wrapped in palm leaf; a rich goat and potato soup; fried chicken and fried tempeh. I was full before we left this first stop.

    Amazing Night Market at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    My husband Arne recruited to work on the “carrot cake” stir fry – one of our favorite things we had on our Kuala Lumpur food tour

    Next we headed to probably the best night market I have ever been too, also in the suburb of Petaling Jaya. Here we learned about the popular “carrot cake” (not a cake in the sense we are used to, more of a pressed tofu), we had spring roll, noodles, dumplings and sweet Chinese daun pandan filled with peanuts.

    Trying new foods like mackeral in palm leaf at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Mackerel cooked inside a palm leaf

    Next we headed to a very local-only Chinese open air restaurant to sample more noodles cooked over an open fire and a delicious soup with chicken, okra, long beans and potato.

    Chinese sweet treat at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Daun Pandan a sweet Chinese treat

    Our final stop was an outdoor Indian restaurant, and we were the only non-Indians there. And darn it I was so full I couldn’t really enjoy the amazing feast of roti, lentil dal, curry, a giant fried pancake with a coconut curry dip, fried chicken and mango smoothie. Roll me home. What a night it was. If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, do this tour – but pace yourself!

    Indian Bananan Roti at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Banana Roti a sweet Indian treat

    The Versatile Housewives

    To round off our food frenzy in Kuala Lumpur we spent one morning with Ruth, a cooking instructor who brings the flavors of her native India to visitors in Kuala Lumpur through her business The Versatile Housewives. We learned to make one of India’s most famous dishes, biryani, with a group of local university students in Ruth’s kitchen. Biryani is a rich and flavorful traditional dish, often served at weddings and ceremonies. It can be beef or lamb or chicken. We made a chicken biryani. The flavors of this dish come together by slowly preparing the fresh ingredients of caramelized onions, vegetables and spices like cardamon, cloves and pepper as well as herbs like cilantro and mint. After slowly blending all these flavors with rice and chicken, the biryani is served in a giant bowl and enjoyed communally. Check out Ruth’s website for a great selection of delicious Indian recipes.

    Indian Cooking class Kuala Lumpur
    The beautiful Biryani we made with our instructor Ruth

    No matter where you travel, diving into the culture through food is the most interesting and tastiest way to engage with locals, learn history and culture and broaden your culinary chops. Be brave! Eat the world!

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    Food & Drink

    Oodles of Noodles

    Chapter Five

    (Note – this is a repost of a blog from my last visit to Asia in 2016.  I am currently traveling in China again, but unable to blog until next week.  So please enjoy this post again, and watch for a new Surprising China post coming soon.)

    Oodles of noodles inside of me

    Oodles of noodles on the menu I see

    Breakfast is noodles like warm yummy pho

    Cheap and delicious it’s so good for ya

    Bun is for lunch served hot in a bowl

    All of these noodles are good for the soul

    Oodles of noodles sold by vendors on the street

    Oodles of noodles eaten on a tiny red seat

    Dinner is Bahn Cahn or Bahn Bo Hue

    Not sure what I’m eating, it’s all noodles to me

    Warm yummy broth served with grilled pork too

    Or maybe it’s Chicken or fish in the stew

    Oodles of noodles each meal of the day

    Point at what looks good then take it away

    Oodles of noodles served in the Vietnamese style

    Trying each kind will take a while

    Oodles of noodles I’m so glad I’m here

    Eat me some noodles with an ice cold beer

    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Stop and Smell the Coffee

    Location: Around the World

    Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 96 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.

    So I thought today I would share with you my favorite coffee around the world. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France – I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy – Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia – My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar – the beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzabar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco – there are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece – Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar – this photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam – we spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala – when we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we head out for our fourth year of ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!

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    Food & Drink

    My Favorite Cooking Classes Around the World

    Fabulous Travel Adventures

    I don’t take a cooking class in EVERY country, but I’d like to.  I love to learn about local cultures through food and I look for that experience when I can find it.  In some countries finding a class is difficult or impossible.  Other times it just doesn’t fit my schedule.  But I always make an effort and when I do attend a class I am never disappointed.  Just today I signed up for a cooking class for my upcoming visit to Hong Kong.

    I can recommend all of the cooking classes below…many of these I have written blogs about and you can click directly to read those blog entries.  I encourage you to consider cooking classes, even if

    Cooking Class in Tuscany

    Cooking in Tuscany

    cooking isn’t a big part of your life.  Taking a class in a foreign country with local people, often in their homes and with their families, is one of the most rewarding ways to open up the cultural lines of communication all while enjoying a delicious and fun experience.  Fabulous!

    Tuscany/Italy – My first cooking class took place in Tuscany with a group of friends we were traveling with seven years ago.  We learned to make an amazing meal from the owner of the Villa where we were staying.  She was a former chef and chocolatier!  Our amazing meal included handmade pasta, vegetable terrine, beef loin and lots and lots of wine.

    Argentina – We took a very fun cooking class in Buenes Aires during our two day visit prior to getting on a cruise ship.  Unfortunately we were so jet-legged the experience is a little bit fuzzy in my memory.  The class was

    Cooking Class in South Korea

    Cooking in South Korea

    held in the home of the chef, and there were about 8 people in attendance. We made several different kinds of empanadas, made delicious chimichurri sauce and butter cookies and  learned about Matte – the unique and ubiquitous drink of Argentina.

    South Korea – in Seoul I spent two full days with a world famous South Korean Chef the Korean Food and Culture Academy and it remains one of my all time favorite experiences.  One of the days I was with just one other student.  The second day I was with four other students.  I learned to cook about a dozen dishes including Kimchee and I have used these recipes over and over

    Cooking Class in Croatia

    Cooking in Croatia

    ever since.  Who knew Korean food was so amazing?  I didn’t and that is one of the best parts of the experience.

    Croatia – I’m a sucker for slow roasted meats and it’s one of the staple foods in many of the East European countries.  My experience in Croatia was a mouth watering one, learning the ancient and incredibly delicious process of cooking Peka over an open fire.  The lamb dish is spectacularly delicious and a celebratory Croatian speciality.

    Guatemala – I loved my full-day private cooking class in Antiqua Guatemala. I had the chef all to myself and an English translator.  We made several dishes, enough to feed an army, and I ended up taking all the food home to enjoy another full meal with my husband.  Learning

    Cooking Class in Spain

    Cooking in Spain

    to make the tortillas was a favorite activity, that proved much more difficult that you might expect!

    Morocco – In Asilah Morocco we were blessed to have the most wonderful Airbnb that included a daily housekee and full-time cook.  What a special treat that was during our ten days in this tiny

    Cooking Class in Thailand

    Cooking in Thailand

    ocean front village.  Each day she cooked for us and we watched and learned from her.  We also went with her to the market and learned about the local specialities from tagine to couscous.

    Thailand – It’s a tough call for me to say which class was my favorite but I would definitely put my two days at the Thai Kitchen Cookery School in Chiang Mai very near the top.  It was a comedy of errors how I ended up there, but in hindsight I was so glad I did.  I loved the class, the staff and the wonderful foods I enjoyed over my two-days with them.

    South Africa – Several of the classes I have taken over the years have been in the personal homes of the chef, bringing me closer to the local

    Cooking Class in Belize

    Cooking in Belize

    culture in a familiar and family way. In Capetown South Africa my husband and enjoyed a wonderful evening in the home of our Chef who taught us about local cuisine from the African culture with the European influence.  We ate Emu for the first time and many other delicious dishes as well as exceptional South African wines with our Chef and her husband.

    Vietnam – One of my all time favorite cooking experiences was in Hoi An Vietnam, which coincidentally is also one of my all time favorite cities.  I took an all day class at the famous Mrs. Vys Cooking School.

    Cooking Class in South Africa

    Cooking in South Africa

    The class began with a bike ride around the city that included stops at several markets, a beautiful organic community garden and at the home of a bean sprout farmer .  I learned so much and enjoyed the bike ride as well.  Returning to the school we toured the multiple cooking stations within the school watching the professionals making food beautiful before heading upstairs to the kitchen to tackle our own recipes.  I ate so much that day, and learned so much, and highly recommend this place if you are ever in Hoi An.  I hope to return some day.

    Spain – I loved Barcelona, and especially loved the famous Mercado de la Boqueria for its color and festive atmosphere as well as delicious and fresh food.  It was here where my class began, touring, tasting and

    Cooking Class in Poland

    Cookin in Poland

    purchasing the ingredients before heading upstairs to cook.  Our three-hours class included such Catalan specialities as paella, gazpacho and Spanish Tortilla.  I have cooked these items many times since.

    Poland  – Krakow is one of my favorite European cities, under-appreciated by many visitors to Europe.

    Cooking Class in Vietnam

    Cooking in Vietnam

    We loved the food of Krakow and did a food walking and drinking tour as well as a pierogi cooking class.  My teacher was a young college student who was born and raised in Krakow.  We met at the market where she helped us speak Polish to the vendors to acquire the ingredients we needed for our dish.  We then proceeded to her tiny, communist era apartment where we maneuvered around her little kitchen learning to make the dough and the stuffing for several different pierogi.  It was one of my favorite classes ever.

    Belize  – Learning about the food and culture of the Garifuna people of Belize, with our two adult sons was a highlight of our family time together in Belize.  Cooking outdoors on an open fire with Chef Gloria doing everything from breaking and shredding the coconut to pounding the yams with a wooden mallet made the final delicious dinner all the more satisfying and fun.

    So those are some of my favorite cooking class experiences over the past several years.  To be sure I will be writing about more wonderful cooking experiences in the future. Because life is fabulous and delicious!

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    Central America  --  Food & Drink

    Guatemalan Cooking Class in Beautiful Antigua

    Food and Culture Around the World

    Location: Antigua Guatemala

    I just sat down and counted up how many cooking classes I have taken in my travels and I come up with a total of 17.  It’s one of my most favorite things to do when I am in a new country.  And the Guatemalan cooking class I took last week in beautiful Antigua was one of my all-time favorites.

    (Note – if you are interested in the recipes read all the way to the end.)

    Okay, so I usually say that after every cooking class.  But I just loved it.  There is nothing that brings a culture to life as well as food and cooking with local people.

    Tortilla maker at the market

    Antigua

    First of all let me tell you what a lovely surprise Guatemala has been, and particularly the gorgeous, historic city of Antigua.  Colorful and alive with cultural events and history, Antigua is a perfect place to experience the best of Guatemala from art, history, religion and museums, to food

    Fresh and local at the market

    and scenery.  It’s perfect little package and I really enjoyed our time there.

    Searching online before we arrived I found the highly rated La Tortilla Cooking School offering several options for classes.  I signed up to do a morning market tour, followed by the full cooking class with six courses.  On arriving I learned I was the only student on this day! Wow.  It was the holiday weekend marking the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and most people are busy with other events.  So luckily for me, I was the center of attention!  So much fun.

    To Market to Market

    Julio met me on arrival and was my guide to the market and my translator throughout the day.  Julio is from Costa Rica and is the manager at the cooking school.

    Julio took me around the beautiful city and showed me two historic locations for the local market before taking me to the bustling market center.  Since it was a Saturday morning, it was exceptionally busy.

    La Tortilla Cooking School

    Local people packed the market and I only saw a handful of tourists.

    The very authentic market runs seven days a week but Saturday is the busiest day.  Vendors wearing traditional Mayan clothing were selling everything from beans to squash, flowers to pots and pans, dog food to chicken.  Anything you might need can be had at this sprawling market.  I surely would have gotten lost except Julio knew the way.  We purchased a squash for our class and a candied yam to try.

    Time to Cook

    Back at La Tortilla we welcomed a couple from Belgium who have just arrived to serve as volunteers for

    With Chef Sonia

    the next two weeks.  I then met Chef Sonia who would be my teacher today.  Sonia speaks no English and I speak no Spanish and so Julio served as our interpreter throughout the class.  This actually helped me learn a bit more Spanish too!

    Over the next two hours we made six traditional dishes, combining traditional Mayan dishes, Spanish dishes and Guatemalan dishes.  Most of the recipes were simple and all used local, fresh ingredients. Here is what I learned to make;

    Atol Blanco a warm drink made from corn flour is one of the most Guatemalan of all Guatemalan dishes.  Guatemalans drink this more than coffee.  It can be served sweet with sugar and cinnamon or savory with salt, lime juice, chile and roasted ground pumpkin seeds.  I loved

    Atol Blanco

    the savory one!

    Beet Salad was made by boiling the beets with the skin on, then removing the skin and dicing with onion and lime juice, thyme and salt.

    Guatemalan Rice has its roots in Mayan culture but also was influenced by the Spanish who brought many staples to the region like spices and peppers.  Our version included onion and carrot.

    Pepian was the most complicated of the dishes we created. Considered the national dish of Guatemala, this delicious spicy meat stew (chicken or pork usually) uses roasted vegetables and spices to create a rich and flavorful base for the stew.  It was my favorite thing of the day.

    Rellinitos Julio had promised me a surprise ingredient in our dessert and sure enough I would never of thought to include BLACK BEANS

    Spices for Pepian

    with chocolate, and wrap mashed plantains around it.  But that is exactly what we did for our delicious Rellinitos, a favorite Guatemalan dessert.

    Tortillas of course a cooking class in Guatemala would include tortillas and I learned that this favorite

    Making tortillas

    items of only two ingredients (corn flour and water) is a lot harder to make than I thought.  Rolling a ball with your hands and flattening the tortilla to the  perfect size and consistency took a bit of practice.  So delicious fresh off the fire.

    Such a feast

    Time to Eat

    Being the only one in the class I was left to enjoy ALL THIS FOOD by myself as the volunteers and Chef Sonia cleaned up and got ready for the afternoon class.  I hardly made a dent on the quantity of food they set before me so they kindly packaged it up and sent it home for me to share with Arne.

    I would highly recommend La Tortilla Cooking School if you visit Antigua (and you should).  I know I can take what I learned and prepare these dishes again.

    Would you like the full recipes?  All you need to do is leave me a comment IN THIS BLOG BELOW (not on Facebook) with your email address and I will send you the PDF file I received from La Tortilla.

    I am happy to share so you too can savor the wonderful flavors of this magical, colorful country of Guatemala.

    Muy Bien!

     

     

     

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Tapas of Spain

    Eating My Way Through Spain

    Location: Sevilla Spain

    It’s no secret I love to eat.  Our grand adventure involves a lot of food.  Travel is a conduit to cuisines of the world.  And I couldn’t love that more.

    I’ve been asked often what my favorite cuisine is.  It’s a tough question.  I love the comfort noodles of Asia, the rich stews and meats of the Balkans, the fresh seafood of the Mediterranean.  I adore any

    Anchovies

    cuisine made with the freshest local produce.  And I am also endlessly fascinated with the culture and history behind regional cuisine; pierogi of Poland; khao soi of northern Thailand; peka of Croatia, shopska salad of Bulgaria, tagine of Morocco.  These foods are both storyteller and palate dancer.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Shrimp

    What could be more fabulous?

    Spanish Cuisine

    We’ve been in Spain now for more than a month.  Last year we spent more than two months in Spain.  I have learned to enjoy what is really a simple cuisine here in this country – locally sourced, simply prepared and not overly seasoned.  Although the many regions of Spain have their individual specialties, the focus of the overall cuisine of Spain is fresh and seasonal.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Fried sardines

    My only complaint about Spain is how late they eat their meals.  Breakfast is barely a meal – just coffee and a croissant, maybe a tortilla (here in Spain ‘tortilla’ is an egg and potato dish, aka Spanish omelet) around 10am.  Lunch isn’t until 2:00pm and dinner rarely gets started before 9pm.  For this American, that is well past my bedtime.

    One of the reasons Spain eats so late is because they are in a crazy backwards timezone.  Ever since Franco wanted Spain in the same timezone as Germany, Spaniards have lived with a VERY late sunrise and a VERY late sunset.  So, they have adjusted their eating habits to accommodate.  Unfortunately my internal clock is not so easily adjusted.

    So the answer for me, when in Spain, is to live on tapas – the luscious

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Stuffed olives

    little dishes served all day long.  I have become a fan of tapas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Tapa Life

    We have enjoyed my favorite tapas of Spain in Madrid, Santiago,Leon and Barcelona.  But Sevilla loves its tapas bars (there are no tapas restaurants only bars – tapas are always served with alcohol) and the abundance of options is both fun and a bit overwhelming.  In fact many will argue Sevilla is the birthplace of the tapa. We studied up a bit on where to go, what to eat and some history, then we set out on our own little “tapear”, the Spanish word for tapas hopping. Time to find my favorite tapas of Spain.

    As we set out on our excursion we were happy to know there really wasn’t anywhere better we could be eating tapas than in Sevilla, and specifically in the historic Triana neighborhood.  Myths and legends abound about tapas. One of the most

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Cold tomato soup

    popular is King Alfonso the 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food. (credit A Brief History of Tapas, Pita Jungle).

    My Favorite Spanish Tapas

    We did not have the opportunity to try every kind of tapa Sevilla is famous for, but we indulged in many and here is a list of some of our favorites both from our tour of Triana and our time throughout Spain (see photos and captions of

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Pork in whiskey with potata

    several throughout this blog); croqueta (very popular bite size fried cheesy nuggets often with jamon but we enjoyed it with duck as well as mint), montadito (tiny bite size jamon and pork sandwich), solomillo al whiskey (pork in whisky sauce), los pajaritos (tiny fried quail), patata (fresh potato chip), tortilla bites (egg and potato omelette), tortillita de camarones (fried shrimp pancake), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzo beans), salmorejo (cold tomato soup), stuffed olives, thin sliced jamon iberico de bellota (acorn fed Iberian ham), pancetta frita (fried pork belly), grilled shrimp, boiled shrimp, sardinas ala parilla  (grilled sardines), mussels, pulpo (octopus), razor clams, fried calamari, boquerones (anchovies) on toast, sausages and rabo de toros (bull’s tail).  And those are just the ones I can remember.

    Simple, Cheap & Delicious

    It’s a wonderful way to eat.  But the great thing is, even if you are only stopping for a glass of wine with a friend, the bar will always set something to nibble in front of you (because the King said so).  It will

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Grilled sardines and grilled shrimp

    probably be a plate of olives, perhaps nuts or sometimes bread with ham and cheese or tortilla.   It’s said that the original tapas were probably bread with jamon, which was used to cover your drink (the word tapa means ‘cover’).

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Croqueta

    Despite the origin of the word, it now describes a cuisine unto its own.  Though southern Spain and particularly Andalusia claim it, the popularity of tapas has spread, particularly to South and Central America, Mexico and the United States.

     

    The day of our tapear we ate and drank (both beer and wine) for several hours at six locations.  And our total spending for the afternoon? Less

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Tiny fried quail

    than $50.

    We leave Sevilla and head next to Malaga – about 205 km south, on the Mediterranean.  We expect to continue our tapas exploration and enjoy

    a bounty of fresh goodness from the sea. Fabuloso and delicioso!

    Malaga here we come!

     

    Read my blog about food in Barcelona.

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    When in Porto…Port Wine Tasting, Porto Portugal

    Top Thing to Do in Porto

    Location: Porto Portugal

    I love wine, but honestly don’t know much about Port.  I generally shy away from very sweet wines, and that is how I have always thought of Port.  The only time I ever had Port in my liquor cabinet at home was when a recipe called for it.  But when in Porto…

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Seal of approval

    I’m so glad we signed up for the four-hour port tasting tour with Porto Walkers in Porto Portugal.  Our tour guide Alex was sensational.  He really knew his stuff and I learned so very much.  We visited three different Port houses.  These houses are technically not in Porto, rather across the Douro river, in Gaia – they originally located there instead of in Porto because the taxes were lower!.  It was fun walking with our group of about twenty from the Porto side, across the Luis the I bridge (built in 1881) to the popular port tasting riverfront boardwalk in Gaia.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Grape plant in raised shale bed

    Only wine grown in the Douro region and produced here can be called Port.  Elsewhere it is known as fortified wine. The grapes are grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. (source Wikipedia)

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Two fisted

    Our first stop on our tour was the amazing and historic Ramos Pinto House.  Located in a stunning riverside big yellow building, it’s clear on arrival you are seeing something special. Founded by Adriano Ramos Pinto in 1880, Casa Ramos Pinto rapidly became noted, at the time, for its innovative and enterprising strategy, including the first to bottle wine and the first to really market and brand their wine using some risqué advertising for the era.

    At Ramos Pinto we enjoyed a full 50 minute tour of the original offices of Adriano Ramos Pinto, the cellar filled with hundreds of port-filled barrels, and a display that shows the incredibly unique shale wall system used to grow the grapes.  After our tour we enjoyed a tasting of two of their Port Wines. We tasted a 7 year white which was very sweet (too sweet for me) and syrupy with notes of honey.  We also tasted a 7 year Tawny that was deep, beautiful magenta, and also quite sweet.

    Oak barrel

    Our next stop was Quinta Santa Eufemia.  Here we got a quick lesson on Portuguese cork as well as barrels used for the wine aging process before tasting a deep red Ruby Port which we accompanied with chocolate.  It was a perfect pairing.  I really enjoyed this port.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Roof top view

    Our final stop was Porto Cruz.  By this time our group was getting to know each other and getting loud and friendly after three glasses of port.  Pretty fun.  We started with a Rose Port.  This is fairly new on the market, conceived for a younger audience to help introduce them to Port.  I liked this light, sweet wine.  We took our Rose up to the roof top bar and enjoyed the music and the view while we waited as they prepared the tasting room for us.

    We headed to the tasting room where we tasted three more Ports.  Our guide Alex did an awesome job helping us taste and consider the “notes” of each glass.  The white was full of fruit flavors like apple, pear and pineapple while the Tawny and Ruby had notes of caramel, maple, chocolate and spice. We learned about terms like vintage and late harvest.  We tasted a White, Tawny, and Ruby in addition to our Rose (strawberry notes).  I enjoyed all four of the Ports from Porto Cruz.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    The four kinds of Port

    When we signed up for this tour I thought four hours seemed a really long time, but it went by so quickly because it was both interesting and fun.  I highly recommend Porto Walkers and their Port Wine Tasting.  Only 25 Euros and worth every penny.  Ask for Alex – he was great.

     

     

     

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