All About the Food

Last week I was in Thailand on a business trip.  Before you get the idea that it’s fun to travel for work, let me tell you that, when you arrive, have to adjust to the time zone, are only there during working days without a weekend to go sight-seeing, it’s really just work.

I have incredibly nice colleagues in Thailand, and because I don’t drive there (NO WAY am I going to try driving in that chaos!), and there is no canteen at this facility, they take me (and any other foreign visitors) out to lunch every day.  What a treat!

We have everything from expensive (relatively) sushi, to the famous 1 euro lunch – both are delicious.  I tried to take photos at every meal, but sometimes just forgot.  Below are the food photos from last week.  Thai people like their food, and for very good reason. It’s the best cuisine I have ever tried.

My favorite lunch of the week was this fish and noodle soup.  It was not terribly hot spicy, but was full of amazing flavors that I can’t list here because I don’t know what they were. There were pieces of veg in the soup that I’d never eaten before.  Just delicious.

We went out together one night for dinner.  Along with all the good food, the last was the best.  Simple, fresh mango in slices, with sweet sticky rice on the side with coconut milk to pour over.  I have never in my life had mango that tasted this good.  So THIS is what a mango is supposed to taste like!  Ah!

And here are some other pics from the week.  I don’t know when I’ll be going back to Thailand.  Probably later this year.  DB has to come too next time.  I’ll save up my appetite!

California, Part I

Ah, to be enjoying the California sun again!  We spent 2 weeks in California and the weather was glorious.  These 2 California Sea Lions were hanging out in the Pacific, just off the Santa Cruz pier.  There was a large herd of them, lounging on the side of the pier on landings kept just for them.  They barked and yammered, jostling for the best positions.  More on Santa Cruz later in the story….

We stayed with my mom most of the time we were there, taking some side trips out and about.  We had only spent two nights at her house when we headed north to Chico, to spend 3 days with my niece and her husband.  He works at Sierra Nevada Brewery and we got a special family tour around the place.

in the hop room

We hung out at M&J’s house, went out to eat, and had our own version of “Bargain Hunt” at one of the many antique shops in Chico.

I really like Chico.  It’s a college town, big enough to be interesting and small enough to be cozy and charming.  It’s even easy to walk and bike around town, which is unusual in the U.S.  We left there already missing M&J.

Only a few days later, M drove down to meet us and we headed up to the Sierra Nevada, to Yosemite National Park, to have Sunday Brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  What a treat!  It’s a big spread with fresh oysters and other shell fish, several kinds of salmon,  prime rib, egg dishes, chicken dishes, pancakes, cheese blintzes, and then there’s the dessert table.

DB took our photo at our table.

The Ahwahnee itself is an amazingly beautiful building, build in the 1920’s of stone and wood.  When I win the lottery I’m going to stay there for a couple of weeks.

We played tourists, rode around in the free shuttle bus, taking photos here and there.

Yosemite Falls
Selfy at Curry Village parking lot, Half Dome in the distance

We did a little walking around the Visitor’s Center and went into the Indian Museum where I saw some amazing woven baskets.  I wish I had taken photos of them but it was a bit dark for that.

It was a quick trip to Yosemite Valley and then back home to Atwater.  Last year, in June, we did a full day of hiking, which I really loved and I’m sure we’ll do again next year.  It had been at least 25 years since the first and only other time I had a meal at the Ahwahnee and I’m really glad we made the trip this year.

Well, I think that’s it for this blog post.  I’m only half way through the California trip, and still have lots to tell you about Estonia, but it’s clear that this story telling is going to take several days and several blog posts. Come back for more photos and travel tales!

Healing

I had a very nice Saturday, day 10 after The Fall.  In the morning I made the above Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake.  I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect.  You can’t really tell from the photo, but there are big chunks of pear in there.  And no flour!  I highly recommend this recipe.  The only thing I did differently was to add the chocolate fondant on top.  Had to.

After making the cake, DB and I went to Amsterdam.  I had to see how tired the trip would make me and how confident I would be to do it on my own this coming week in order to get back to work.  AND it was the grand opening of Penelope Craft‘s new location at Kerkstraat 117, Amsterdam.  There would be cupcakes! And yarn! And knitters!  I had to make the effort to go.

We went by bus, then train, then tram, then a two block walk to the shop.  I didn’t even think about taking photos at the shop, which goes to show how tired and spaced out I was.  I sat and knit with friends and pet some yarn and picked up a couple of skeins of super giant fat yarn to make demo materials for the class I’m going to be teaching there.  It was lovely to be out and with my peeps.

When we got home I kind of collapsed on the couch, fell asleep for a while and was woken up to the delicious smells of DB’s spaghetti.  We then spent the evening watching episodes of Justified, season 4.

All in all, a great day.

Merry Christmas Dinner

Yesterday, Christmas day, we had 10 friends over for dinner.  It’s not often we have people over. I don’t know why.  I guess everyone seems so busy and most of our friends live in Amsterdam (and we in Haarlem).  Sorry excuses I know!  After having such a good time yesterday I think we really need to do this more often!

I started Monday with Christmas cookies.  They were simple flour/sugar/butter cookies, decorated with red marzipan, white cream cheese frosting and green colored butter frosting.

P & K brought the first course for dinner – bright red cold soup!  It was delicious.

For the main course we had cheese fondue, raclette, beef stew, and a couple of salads.  I think everyone liked the food.  It’s not your traditional Christmas dinner, but I thought it would be a fun change.

Here’s a sweet photo of Z. and M. decorating one of the cakes we had for dessert.

Here’s to friends and special dinners.  Let’s do it again soon!

BBQ

The weather was really warm today.  The high temp was 24C/75F.  Coming from California this doesn’t sound very hot.  But in NL this is a very impressive warm temp.  I’m happy it wasn’t hotter!

In the morning we went for a (short) run.  Mine was short anyway.  Then we got busy in the garden while it was still cool.  Plants were planted and other plants were dug up and thrown out.  We aren’t done yet so no “after” photos yet.

For dinner we decided to BBQ.  Throwing a couple of steaks on the barby is so quick to do and eating them outside makes it even more special.  Above are the steaks, baked sweet potatoes and a salad.  Simple but Yum.  I don’t see the point in making a big fuss of BBQ-ing with sauces and lots of meat.  Just keep it simple and tasty and that’s all you need.

Tomorrow both DB and I have job interviews.  Wish us luck!

Socks in Process Plus Food

I’ve been knitting like a fiend lately and this is all I can show you – a sock, and not even a finished sock!  Not even a PAIR of socks!

I’m spending most of my time knitting something that I’m going to submit for publication, so of course I can’t blog about it (yet).  And I’m also working on a present for my mom, so of course I can’t show you that either (yet).  The only thing I can show you is this sock that gets worked on while I’m on the train, or waiting for an appointment somewhere.  It’s my travel project.

The yarn is Madelinetosh sock in color Celedon.  It’s left over yarn from the sweater I made last summer.  I’ll have matching socks and sweater!  Sweet.  The pattern is my own.  I found a nice stitch pattern in a Japanese pattern book but it was too complicated for socks and too lacy.  I modified it slightly to be more sock-friendly and to fit nicely on a foot sized piece of knitting.  This is my submission for the April Sock Knitters Anonymous Ravelry group KAL.  It’s DYO (Design Your Own) month, which is my favorite.  I imagine at some point I’ll get around to writing up the pattern for others to use.  I’m taking notes along the way.

And that’s all the knitting I can write about at this point.  Sorry.  I have stacks of projects laying around me, top secret.

How about some cooking talk instead?  Good.

For Easter breakfast I made these delicious little cheese and potato nests.

The recipe is here.  Even looking at the photo makes my mouth water.  They were so yummy!

Here at home, and at my CELTA school, we talk a lot about Denglish – a combination of Dutch and English which is what you end up speaking when you live in both languages.  Well, on Easter I made some Denglish food.  I started to make french toast with some fat sourdough bread.  I never put sugar in the batter – just egg and milk – so they were not sweet at all.  Then DB said he wanted a toasty (Dutch for grilled cheese).  So, after one side of the french toast was done, I flipped them, and put thin layers of cheese on one piece and slices of ham on the other piece.  By the time the second side was cooked, the cheese was melted and the ham was warm.  I put them together, et voila! Denglish breakfast – a french toast toasty.  He ate the whole thing in seconds.  Yum.

By the way, see the white pan?  That was a present from my in-laws.  What a super pan it is!  If you see any of these for sale, buy it.  Its slick surface takes some getting used to, but it’s VERY non-stick and lovely to cook with.

Now, enough talking to you.  I have to get back to my knitting……..

Fijne Foodie Feest

I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season.  Me?  I’m cooking and eating a lot.  And not running so much.  You know what that means…. it means I’ll have to start running a lot to get rid of this extra holiday flab.  Same story all over the western world I think.  We eat and relax and eat again!

Above is a photo of my chocolate and vanilla tart, with chocolate leaves.  Doesn’t that look pretty?  It was pretty tasty too.  On Christmas Eve we met with a group of friends, 16 of us in total, and each household had to bring a course.  We, as usual, bring dessert.  I made the above tart and a carrot cake.  I’m especially proud of the chocolate leaves, although actually it’s dead easy to do.  Melt some high quality Swiss dark chocolate (70% or more).  Go outside and get some small leaves that are still in good shape.  We have a Wisteria out back which sheds leaves much later than other trees so there are still a lot of green leaves on the ground.  Gently brush chocolate on the BACK of the leaves and put them in the fridge for 10 minutes or more.  Then paint on a second coat and chill again.  Be careful not to get chocolate on the front of the leaf.  When it is hard and cold carefully peel the leaf off and voila! Chocolate leaves.

I have a load of food photos from the past week.  I took photos of food we ate in Cologne (we were there for 2 days), food at Christmas, and just food everywhere.  I forgot to take photos of the Swiss dinner we hosted two nights ago.  DB’s family came over and we had cheese fondue and raclette and we kept to the traditions of those foods.  Thank goodness no one insisted in putting broccoli in the cheese fondue.

Here are some food photos from the past week:

Now I’ve made myself hungry.  I’m off to the kitchen….

What Season?

When do you think this photo was taken?  Last summer?  Wrong.  Today.  Yes, mid-April and we are having Summer weather.  Those of us who have been around for a while know what that means – rain in July.  Every year that we’ve had fabulous and strangely warm weather in April, it rains like hell in July/August.  We’ll have to see what happens this year.  But you read it here first!

Today after work we headed to the beach at Zandvoort.  I came home on the train from Amsterdam as usual, but instead of biking home, DB met me on the train and we continued the 10 minutes more to Zandvoort.  We walked along the beach for a little while, then headed up to Bruxelles aan Zee for dinner.  I had a trout.  DB, lamb.  We finished while the sun was still on the horizon and it was still warm.

This heat wave is supposed to continue for another week.  Let’s make hay while the sun shines!

Zoom Zoom Saturday

It was a busy day yesterday!  First off, I picked up my newly ordered mobile phone, a Sony Ericsson x10 mini pro.  In red.  I bought it from Bol.com since they had the red one in stock and it was the cheapest I could find.  I bought it without a contract.  I’d already done the math and for a one year contract anywhere, you are just as well off buying the phone loose and getting a separate SIM-only contract.  Here’s a picture of my new baby.

Isn’t it cute?  It’s small.  It fits into the palm of my hand.  I’m loving the keyboard.  And it’s Android which makes it small and smart.

I picked it up at the post office at 10:00 and by 10:30 I had it charging and I’d already set up our wireless network and was downloading apps.  Of course since it is so small there’s no point putting video on it, or complicated games.  I have my iPad for that.  But for calling and messaging I’m really loving it so far.  In another week or so I’ll post a longer review.

Saturday was International Record Store Day, and here in the Netherlands that’s a big deal.  People here are big music lovers and there are more record stores per capita than anywhere I’ve ever been.  And you know DB, he is a music fanatic and so of course at 9:00 in the morning he was off to his first record store.  He scored some nice vinyl there, plus a lovely present for me:  Fleetwood Mac Rumors on vinyl.  Nice.

Then we were off to Amsterdam.  More record stores needed to be visited and I wanted to get my SIM card for my new baby so I could actually make phone calls.  I did that at the PhoneHouse, the one on Heiligeweg, just off the Kalverstraat.  They were so nice!  Good customer service is hard to come by here, especially in Amsterdam, but these people were just wonderful to everyone who came in.

After that chore was done, and DB was back from another record store (more vinyl scored), we were off to the Grand Opening of Penelope Craft.  Ms. Malia has set up shop on the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat, not far from Leidseplein.  It was hoping with people, including all the usual suspects (but not Andy nor Ginni – we missed you both!).

Shortly after I took these photos, even more people showed up so that we spilled out into the street.  Malia popped open the champagne and we toasted her success.  It’s great to have another yarn shop in Amsterdam.

By this time my stomach was telling me it was time to eat some dinner, so we headed out to the Spiegelgracht to find a restaurant.  We passed a shop I just couldn’t pass up.  Worse than a yarn shop.  You guessed it.  Chocolate.

We walked into van der Donk, chocolate makers.  Oh man.  Here’s a photo of what we bought:

As you can see, they are small.  Not much bigger than the chocolate covered almonds on the right that we also bought there.  We are rationing them.  Two per night.  That’s all we are allowed.  Savor each one.  They are truly incredible!  Cost?  15 euros for that box of 35 beauties on the left.

We finally did find a place to have dinner, but not where we wanted to go.  It was unbelievably busy in the city and we were lucky to get a table at a small Italian restaurant near Rembrandtplein.  We even had a table at the window and watched the tourist boats go by.

So, that was the busy zoom zoom Saturday.  The weather was really nice!  Here’s the thing.  Every year that we have a beautiful April, July is rainy and terrible.  We’re preparing ourselves already.  Get out there and get the sun while you can! Now THAT should be printed on a Dutch tile!