Category Archives: dining

A week in Brazil

 

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After planning a trip to explore the food and culture of Brazil it was time to apply for a visa, which is required for all U.S. citizens. If you plan a visit to Brazil it could take as long as 3 months once you send in your passport along with the required paperwork. So be prepared to not travel out of the country during the wait time. I did the required forms on line instead of using a local company and paying the $425 fee which I have been told helps speed up the wait time.

We flew from the U.S. to Rio, changed planes and went on to Iguazu Falls for a visit to the world renound tourist attraction of Brazil and the northern tip of Argentina. Our guide delivered us to Sheraton Iguazu resort. The only hotel located on the grounds of the Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side. From the deck of the hotel you can see the falls in the distance.  Connected by a huge trail system and a small train taking you to the head of the falls.

The next morning after an early morning breakfast we headed out on our own to explore the falls. Along the way we came upon some local wildlife of the region including the little raccoon looking  coatimundis, many butterflies.  It was close to 100 degrees so we  spent the morning walking on the many trails along the falls. After lunch we went on a raft trip along the river that takes you up to the bottom of the falls where we were all soaked as the amazing falls tumbles down to the river below. Be prepared to hike down the long set of stairs to reach the rafts and then the hike back up to your transport back to the hotel, worth the adventure.

That evening after a little rest we took a taxi into the town of Iguazu for a chance to watch the sunset at the place where all 3 countries, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. We stopped for a famous cocktail, the caipirinha, made with the local liquor, cachaca made from sugar cane.IMG_9177.JPG

Dinner at “La Rueda” where they pride themselves in serving famous local river fish was a great introduction to the local cuisine.

The next morning our guide came back to pick us up and drive us to the Brazil side of the falls for another view. Then we decided to take the short 15 minute helicopter trip over the falls, the cost is around $120 each but worth the time and adventure.

Ending our time in Iguazu we said goodbye as we headed back to the airport for a 2 hour flight to Rio for the next  part of our trip. We arrived in Rio our wonderful guide, Rodrigo, camera.rodrigo2@gmail.com, met us and took us to our hotel. The beautiful boutique hotel, Santa Tereza, is set high on the hills away from th busy beach areas. It is about a 20 minute cab ride back into the heart of town. After getting settled into our lovely rooms we had dinner in the restaurant in the lower garden of the hotel called Tereze. This is one of the best restaurants in the area and worth making the trip up if you are not staying at the hotel.

The next morning after a lovely breakfast at the hotel we were taken to the famous Corcovado’s Christ the Redeemer. It is considered one of the most famous sights, built in 1931 by the Catholic Church. They have a small train that takes you to the top and an easy trip back down after you experience the amazing views. Then we were off to explore the beaches of Ipanema and a unique drink made with Dried Acari berries and a sweetener using a syrup of Guarana. This drink give you a charge like drinking 2 Red Bull shots. They use it to give extra energy, really gets your heart pumping.

It  was time for a little local shopping and lunch. Our guide dropped us off at Via Seth for lunch were we had our first experience of trying the fresh heart of Palm for a starter followed by several great salads. Then across the street to a great shoe store and the purchase of hot new gold or silver shoes.

We returned to our hotel up in the Santa Teresa area, had a well deserved rest and got ready for dinner in the area. We walked down the street to a lovely local place Espirito Santa Teresa. The food was a true taste of Brazil, and very reasonable price.

The next morning we got an early start since we were going to tour the other famous landmark, Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is reached by a gondola ride up to the lookout and amazing views of the beaches below.  You can wander around the whole platform take time for something to drink or local shopping from high end jewels to flip flops.

Then we headed down to the port to see the huge murals painted by a famous artist “Konrad” this is a large graffiti project on old building along the new redone port area.   On the way to lunch our driver took us to a good music store, Bossa Nova & Company on Rua Duvivier, 37A, in case you want to take home memories on a disk.

Then we wanted to try a local dish called ACARAJE, our guide took us to “Academia da Cachaca”  no tourist here, Ave Armando Lombardi 800.  We started with fried bean balls, once again the heart of Palm grilled. When the ACARAJE arrived with the topping of small shrimp in a sauce, green onions and chopped parsley it was way better than we had ever read. Back to the hotel which took almost a 45 minute ride with the traffic.  We had dinner reservations at 8pm back in town at the amazing restaurant, “Lasai” lasai@lasai.com.br. This restaurant is listed as the best in Brazil and in the top 100 in the world. You choose from either a 7 course tasting menu or choose a menu of fish, meat or veggie only. The food was lovely course after course prepared and presented with care. The owners are a young couple trained in New York at the CIA and they have brought all their ideas to Brazil and now use the food, herbs and history of Brazil in their lovely restaurant. Don’t miss it!!!

The next day we were on our own to explore, we visited a couple of famous churches and the museum of local history at the port. Then went to see their big mall called Leblon, it is several floors of local and international shops. There was a food court on the top floor so we enjoyed Lebanese fare at “Farid” good service and a nice change of pace.  We headed back to the hotel for a little pool time and a chance to catch our breath before dinner.

Dinner was at the top of the hill from our hotel at a famous restaurant called “Aprazivel”, reservas@aprazivel.com.br. The view was wonderful looking out over the entire city. They can seat several hundred guests in many little rooms, each area offering great views. They made a good Caipirinha with several different types of Cachaca to choose from.

The next morning we flew 2 hours north to the city of Salvador. This city was the place that in the late 1800’s most of the slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil to work in the sugar cane fields. Today the largest part of the population is still African.

We check into our hotel, Villa Bahia, in the colonial area of Pelourinho a neighbor hood reserved and fixed up as part of the UNESCO  cultural heritage. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the area, including the famous San Francisco Church. Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and still holds a vast array of cultural and artistic expressions showing all of Bahia’s charm.  The square where the hotel is located is full of little shops selling local items. The small streets leading to the square offer nice music in the late afternoon and restaurants serving local fare.

You will see little stand preparing the famous ACARAJE with ladies dressed in the old style local dresses with huge petty coats. The ACARAJE is served in a napkin with the salty shrimp and hot sauce topping the balls of mashed black-eyed peas.  The hotel is older but quaint and in a safer location then other places.

Dinner was down on the water at a place called  “Amado”, amadobahia.com.br, serving continental cuisine. Everything is pretty close so not a big cab ride. We did get caught in a couple of big rain storms, it seems that when it is close to 90 during the day and the humidity is the same you will have afternoon cloud bursts.

The next day our guide took us to the famous Bonfirm church, where people tie small ribbons on the fence surrounding the church which offers an amazing feeling as the ribbons tremble in the wind. It was famous for offering good wishes depending on the color of the ribbons you choose.  Then we left for a tour of the area  local fresh market with huge stands selling the dried shrimp, piles of fresh local fruit and everything from bird cages to chilies of every size.

Our laSt night in Salvador we went to the famous restaurant of the city, Casa de Tereza” where we shared the Brazilian seafood MOQUECA.  This rich stew arrives at the table bubbling in a cast iron bowl overflowing with shrimp and fish or lobster if you so choose. The dish is topped with cilantro and bright red peppers. This tradition al meal is a must when visiting this area and very filling so easy for 3 of us to share.

The next morning flew back to Rio for the day before catching the late night flight back to the U.S.. As we headed back to the airport you realize that the favela’s occupy every hillside of the cities. You don’t go into them because of the crime but looking at them as you drive by gives you a deep feeling of the poverty of Brazil and the struggles of the poor.

We arrive in Rio around lunch time and went to a restaurant off  Ipanema beach called “ZaZa”,  a combination of local fare and international dishes. As you enter the corner door with all the crazy decor you will be welcomed by the hostess and you can either head upstairs to what resembles a Moroccan hideaway or dine downstairs where you see an interesting mix of locals and tourists.  After lunch we said thank you to our great guide Rodrigo and headed to the airport, once again realizing all the hills are covered in the favela’s where the poor were pushed out of the cities a hundred years ago.

If you want a great guide in Rio, Rodrigo is your man,   camara.rodrigo2@gmail.com

We were happy we had the experience of Brazil and feel exploring a new part of the world is always worth the time. Whether you return to a place is determined by the food, people and culture you experience during your first visit.

 

 

 

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Exploring Buenos Aires

Every year Carl heads to Argentina for a week of guy bonding and fishing. This year on a quick change of plans from visiting Brazil,  my friend, Yu Sian and I had to switch to a visit to Buenos Aires which crossed over two days with Carl.

We all arrive in BA in the early morning and proceeded to The Alvear Palace Hotel  on Alvear Street. The hotel is the old grand Dame of famous hotels. They had rooms ready for us so we got unpacked and ready to head out. When the other fishing guys arrived we walked 2 blocks to Fervor Restaurant. Fervor is a white table cloth restaurant like when working people use to lunch. They serve a couple of fish choices and meat of a every kind, shishka bobs with 3 different types of meat. We had a fried cheese to start with a side of roasted red peppers drizzled with just the right amount of olive oil.and of course a nice bottle of wine.

The men went back to the hotel and we headed out to tour the famous cemetery where Evita is buried. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for amazing ice cream at Volta across the park from the cemetery.  We needed a rest to get ready for the big steak dinner. The men wanted to have the big steaks that Argentina is famous for, so off we went to Don Julio, donjulio.com.ar, the steaks are big enough to share along with a wonderful plate of heirloom tomatoes. When you do not have a reservation for dinner until after 8:30pm it is hard to go to bed at 1 am.

We went to the Soho area the next morning to walk, explore, and shop, this area is a young energized group of streets still in transition. There were fun restaurants and stores of every kind. One thing you realize is the trend that fringe and platform shoes are in, covered with a poncho of some kind. After wandering the streets and a stop for coffee it was already time for lunch. We grabbed a cab and headed across town to The San Telmo area and “La Brigada” the meat centric restaurant famous for all the soccer memoribilia. The walls and even the ceiling are covered with photos and signed jerseys. The servers all love to cut your meat with a spoon to show how tender their meat is. We shared a beet salad, octopus starter, filet with a blood sausage side. We had no room for dessert but watch others around us share wonderful looking dishes.

We had to do a little shopping before going back to the hotel for a well deserved rest. First stop was for a pair of lizard shoes from Rossi and Caruso, they have several stores in the city and this one is behind our hotel so an easy stop. The next stop was “Arandu”, Ayacucho 1920 street. This store is 3 floors of beautiful leather goods, polo clothes and paraphernalia for the sport, old rugs and saddles.  Worth the visit.

If you want a light lunch there is a very good local empanadas restaurant behind the hotel called, El Sanjuanino. This is a funky place with $2.00 empanadas while you sit in old booths and drink a beer.

Dinner was a change of pace with reservations at a small French restaurant called “Roux”, Pena 2300,  Mrebaudino@rouxrest.com. The place seats about 36 guests upstairs with a small private room downstairs. The menu is simple, but every dish is cooked to perfection.  I had the roast goat, one of the other guests had the pork belly and someone had the duck breast. We had a excellent waitress,she spoke perfect English that helped us order the sides and of course a couple of desserts to share. Love the dulce de leche! This restaurant has 2 seating so you can come at  8:30 or 10:30pm but be sure to make reservations this is a great choice for lunch or dinner.

Each day we would just start walking and explore each unique area of Buenos Aires. You can take the yellow tour bus that allows you to get off anytime wander the area and then catch the next bus 15 minutes later, you can use the pass for 24 hours.  We toured the Latin American art, MALBA, then walked on to the Japanese Gardens, not worth the visit.

Dinner this evening is at “Tegui”, Costa Rica 5852, behind the plain graffiti painted door. I love the feeling of this space from the moment you enter the  door you are handed a glass of champagne and taken to your table. The kitchen is in the back of the space and the open concept allows you to watch the magic take place. The 10 courses offer all the food groups, starting with tomatoe, scallop, sweetbreads, veal cheeks, and several other courses before the fresh cherries and ending with chocolate 4 ways. We did not do the pairing of wine with each course, but ordered a couple of glasses of wine for the diverse meal.

We really became tourists when we took the yellow bus and got off at the El Boco area with the bright painted houses and buildings. There are several antique stores, dancers doing the Tango  with music blasting in the street.

 We jumped back on the next bus and rode to the  area where the Sunday Antique fair was in full swing, in San Pedro Telmo area, a must do on any Sunday.  We headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest, since we had reservations at Faena hotel for the fun Tango show and dinner, expensive, but well  done.

After a busy week-end we took it easy the next day with a simple tour of the Opera house, wish we could he seen music on the stage or a ballet. If you are there during the season be sure to get tickets anything you see will be memorible.

Dinner was at a Peruvian  fusion restaurant back in the Palermo area. Osaka, Soler 5608, was a nice space with a good bar and open sushi counter. The menu was huge and trying to make a choice was difficult so our waiter helped us order. It was not one of our better meals, but the ceviche tasting was interesting.

It was our last day so we wanted to visit a couple of places on our list. The first was a kitchen store called Enseres, El Salvador 5986, a small space with  interesting tools and aprons. You have to ring the bell by the front door to enter. Then we walked 2 blocks to  a great new spot called La Mar, El Salvador  5986. This restaurant is part of a chain with several franchise owners around the world. The menu is also a Peruvian fusion concept, but much less expensive than the other concept. We met the owner Milias Rosenberg, he is young and has great energy for this beautiful restaurant. Eating lunch outside could not have been better. We shared several dishes, but the best was dessert, a suggestion of Milias, CACHANGA!!  Fresh fruit on top of a crisp is so good but, be sure to plan on sharing.

There is a new hotel in the neighborhood worth checking out. Casasur, Costa Rica 6032, this boutique hotel has a nice restaurant in the lobby and looked to have fun restaurant in the adjoining lobby, called “6”. This area is up and coming and will be a fun place to stay.

Go to Buenos Aires, it is a city with great energy!

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Five days of skiing in the Aspen area

Since we spend most of our skiing days in Sun Valley for a change of pace we venture out to a new area with our ski group once a year. Our goal is to ski every other year in Europe and on the off year head to a U.S. Area. This year we decided to ski in the Aspen area, Snowmass and The highlands. We checked into The Little Nell Hotel, small boutique hotel sitting at the base of Aspen Mountain. 

  The rooms are lovely and many of them overlook the ski hill. We rented skies next door to the hotel and the guys that run the ski room at the hotel take care of your equipment each morning and afternoon after you finish skiing. The hotel has a great staff that will take care of your every need. There is a nice pool and jacuzzi along its a full service spa in the hotel. 

The village is full of high end shops and restaurants to suit everyone, we chose to have dinner at The Kitchen—970-300-4525. The feeling  of the open space is inviting, with the large open kitchen front and forward. The huge cooler as you enter holds massive pieces of prime beef, something they pride themselves in serving. Large stack of pink salt blocks are on the counter ready to be used to cook the beef or buffalo on and then to serve the customer. We shared several starters, including the deviled eggs with confit duck tongues garnish, the whole cauliflower is amazing.  Many of the dishes had a Moroccan flavor, including the tagine serve in the original vessel seen in Moroccan cuisine. Be sure to try the apple pie served in a small cast iron pan with the lattice crust.

The next morning the hotel car drove us to Snowmass, about 25 minute drive. This is a large spread out area with well groomed runs many different lifts and assorted terrain for all abilities. We made reservations at Gwyn’s, a restaurant on the mountain for lunch at 1:30. Gwynshighalpine@gmail.com. This restaurant has two sections and we chose the side with a seated dining and nice menu. The portions are large so it is great to share the salads and mains, desserts too.

That night we went to a Japanese restaurant called “Matsushia” a concept similar to a small Nobu type menu. We shared several things, but love the miso soup with clams to start and they did a good job on the tempura. Everything is an easy walk from the hotels, this was close to the famous Hotel Jerome.

The next day we went back to Snowmass and had lunch at another place on the mountain called “Sam’s” a true BBQ joint, once again the portions were huge, loved the sweet potato fries and baby back ribs with several BBQ sauces to try.

I had an excellent massage in the hotel after a little shopping in the village. It is always fun to buy new ski clothes in Aspen especially at a shop called Gorsuch. For dinner we went to an old standby called Pinon, it has been in Aspen for 26 years. They offer beautiful American fare, nice lamb chops, a couple of fish selections done to perfection. The noise level is low and the service and wine list are top.

The next day we went to The Highlands, about a 15 minute drive. This is a smaller mountain with steeper runs that flow easily down the mountain to the small village below.  For those that want a bigger challenge you can hike the Highland Bowl. You purchase a strap to attach your skies to your back and start your hour long hike up the steep snow steps to the edge of the bowl, put your skies back on and head down, best if the sun is shining and the winds are low. They had a great kids program in full swing with many smaller lifts and easy access for kids of all ages.  

We made reservations on the mountain at a crazy place called Cloud 9,that is made famous for the rough and wild parties that happen on the deck most afternoons when the sun is shining and the champagne is flowing. They have two settings one at noon and one at 2pm. They offer a set menu with 5 main course selections. I chose the fondue and it was terrible, taste like it was made from a powder mix and $50 at that.

We were invited to a friends place for a buffet dinner, we brought the wine, a nice break.

The last day we skied Aspen Mountain again, shared lunch at the bottom in the Ajax cafe, sitting in the sun and watching the people ski down to the gondola. Then it was time to fly back to Sun Valley and put our skies away for the season.

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Chicken legs confit

I saw a version of this in a magazine and since I love duck confit so much I thought I would try a similar idea with chicken legs. Allow several hours for the cooking time since these need to slow roast in the oven.

Serves 6

4 chicken legs with the thigh attached

4 large shallots unpeeled and quartered

About 10 cloves of garlic cut in half, do not peel

6 sprigs of thyme, 3 crushed juniper berries, one crushed bay leaf, 1/4 tsp. Allspice

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Preheat oven to 275 

Rub chicken with salt and pepper and place n a baking dish. Scatter thyme, shallots, garlic and rest of the herbs around chicken and pour olive oil over chicken. Bake 1 hour and turn over meat, continue baking for about another 1 1/2 hours. Bake until the chicken is cooked through. 

Remove chicken from oven, using  a large skillet take about 1/2 cup of infused oil from baking dish and heat in skillet. Place chicken in hot skillet, skin side down. Fry for about 6 minutes until skin is crisp, watch for splattering of hot oil. Place finished chicken leg on a platter skin side up. You may want to separate the leg from the thigh of serving. 

The infused oil is wonderful to fry other vegetables like potatoes, onions, kale, carrots etc. you can serve the chicken and vegetables on a large platter with a dipping sauce made of yogurt with herbs. 

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Cooking adventure in Morocco with Joanne Weir

When someone asks me to join them in Morocco to cook and explore I find that I can never say no. Last spring the amazing chef, cookbook author and tv personality, JOANNE WEIR,  www.joanneweir.com, suggested I join her group in Morocco for a week. That is how it all began. 

On Monday 10/21/15 I arrived at the beautiful compound in Marrakech called Jnane Tamsna, owned by Meryanne Louin-Martin and her husband Gary. Jnane Tamsna, http://www.jnanetamsna.com, is located about 15 minutes outside of the main city of Marrakech, our home of the next week. This amazing walled garden is the perfect place to return to each day after the hectic noises and sights of the medina. Monday night we gathered in the main building to meet the rest of the guests. This building is like a small hotel plus there are 2 houses on the grounds a total of 25 unique bedrooms, plus 5 large swimming pools.  

 Joanne energizes her group of 18 guests that would spend their mornings cooking in the beautiful outdoor classroom and then sit down to lunch in the garden to enjoy the dishes we created . Joanne  gave each of us a packet of recipes and beautiful new aprons and began to tell us all the exciting adventures we would experience in the next week.

Tuesday morning we cooked our first tagines, these were small personal tagines that we would enjoy for lunch.  

 Half of us did a lamb tagine with preserved lemons and the others made chicken with dried fruit. Each tagine was set on a brazier for an hour while we wandered into the garden where tables had been set up for our lunch. We each got our personal tagine placed in front of us along with lovely salad and of course a glass of local rose. After our lunch a few of us went to Maison de Zoe to order beautiful linens and  cotton bathrobes, 366 zone industrelle de Sidi Ghanem. Zoe also has a small boutique in  La Mamounia Hotel. 

Each morning chef Bahija and Chef Joanne Weir were ready with our list of recipes and all the ingredients we needed to prepare our dishes for our lunch. Everyone gathered with knives in hand cooking together with only a break for our morning tea to be served.  

 After another beautiful lunch we would venture out into the markets to explore and of course shop for our individual treasures.  We were met by our amazing guide ( ABOUL, mohmoudtours@yahoo.fr ) his card says expert on shopping, shipping and history of the country. If you want the best guide in Merrakech ABOUL is the one to contact, cell 00212 (0) 661 173 971, in advance. He helped us bargain for great prices, he took the group that wanted carpets to a warehouse with an amazing selection showing the patience few men have. 

For lunch in the medina look at “La Table du Palais” with a bountiful garden behind it walls. Love the Caftan store next door, “Maison Du Caftan, 65 Rue Sisi El Yamani.” Something for everyone and great prices and quick alterations if something did not quite fit. After crazy shopping, buying spices, saffron and argane oil we headed back to change for dinner. 

Joanne arranged for dinner atan all woman run restaurant called “Al Fassia” famous for its roasted lamb shoulder. You start with 12 small plates of different salads and dips  

 then when the roasted meat arrives you are sure you will never finish the whole plate, but it seems to disappear. Make reservations, 002120 524383839, M. Fatiha will take great care of you. 

The next day ABOUL took everyone to an amazing upscale shop “AYA’s  11 Bis, Derb Jdid Bab, next door to restaurant Tanjia.  

 This is the place to buy top quality Moroccan style clothing, jackets, dresses and accessories. After all the shopping we headed to “El Fenn” at sunset for drinks on the roof, http://www.el-Fenn.com, worth the stop.  We then walked to dinner at “La Patisserier”, I would like it better for lunch since the view over the Medina from the roof would be wonderful. 

Friday we did not cook instead we went to the wonderful spice gardens called “Nectarome”. Nectarome is about and hour out side of Merrakech toward the Atlas Mountains. Interesting place that has developed over the past 6 years and now is selling their products at retail is several locations, Jnane Tamsna had the shampoo in the showers. After our lunch in their garden several of us enjoyed a 20 minute foot soak in their unique sunken footbaths with special salts. I fell asleep on the way home I was so relaxed.  

 The other gardens that we visited when back in town was “Jardin Majorelle, the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent where his personal home is.

The next day we made a quick trip to “Galerie des Tanneuns” I bought a beautiful blue suede shirt and several wallets for gifts. Their prices are great and if they don’t have your size they are happy to make it for you. 

Before dinner we went to La Mamounia for a drink in the garden, be prepared the martini was 19 Euro, but it is beautiful and worth the experience. Dinner that night was at a small restaurant called Nomad, back in the Medina. I would suggest it for lunch, trying to wander through the maze of alley ways at night is difficult. I had a simple piece of fresh fish, a nice change from all the tagines we had been eating. 

We spent our last day saying good bye to Marrakech, some people doing one last trip to the Souke for those little gifts to take back home. Some of the group just sat by the pool for the last bit of sun. 

The last evening we were invited for a magical dinner in the gardens surrounded by the many olive and citrus trees. 

   Everyone dressed in white and Meryanne and Gary opened their lovely home for cocktails before Joanne lead us through the garden to a long table surrounded by hundreds of candles. Music was  being played from under the trees by local musicians,  

 it is hard to say good bye to Marrakech especially as we sat under the stars and listened to the sounds of the night. 

Thank you Joanne of creating memories in one week we will all have with us for a lifetime.

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The best salsa I have ever tasted!

My sister in law, Rosie, grew up in Southern California and most of the year they had plenty of vine ripe tomatoes. This year when I was over loaded with tomatoes I shared a bucket of my ripe fruit with Rosie. She spent the next several hours creating the salsa as she had learned to make it from her Grandma June. 

Rosie recounted how she would walk into her grandmothers kitchen, counters scattered with fresh vegetables. They would blanch and peel the tomatoes together and then Grandma June would carefully chop and cook the salsa. Rosie said the salsa was packed in jars and sold to the neighbors and friends. They were always waiting for the next batch to be done. 

Last week when she made the salsa for the family we all just sat and ate chips dipped in the bowls of salsa  and then talked about the eggs we wanted the next morning so we could enjoy more.

Rosie freezes the salsa in containers for later use. I am sure this could also be preserved in small jars. It will be gone in a flash if you just leave it in the refrigerator. I have cut her recipe In half since most of you will not have a need for 4 or 5 quarts of salsa. 

Grandma June’s Salsa

15 to 20 tomatoes depending on size, we used ripe Roma tomatoes and added a few slicing tomatoes that we very ripe.

2 large yellow onions diced

3 bunches of cilantro, washed and most of stems chopped off

5 or 6 jalapeños chopped and seeds removed, you can use more depending on how hot you like your salsa

2 full heads of garlic, skins removed and chopped

2 tablespoons of ground black pepper

2-3 tablespoons of salt

Rosie blanches and peels the tomatoes, I rough chopped the tomatoes and cooked them about 30 minutes and out them through a food mill to remove the skins. Either way works fine, so if you have a good food mill, I love my Rosle food mill, this is a faster option.

Once the skins are off the tomatoes you will cook them about an hour on a very low simmer.  Now add all the remaining vegetables to you pan and continue to simmer on Very low for 3 to 4 hours, or until all the water is cooked off. Once the salsa is thickened remove from the heat and allow to cool. Use a blender to remove any vegetable chunks remaining so you have a smooth salsa. 

This is when I love my Vita Mix it makes quick business of creating the perfect finished sauce. At this point you can adjust for salt and if you want it hotter add a little hot sauce but, I think you will find it perfect. 

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Mykonos, quick stop always worth the trip

We had been on a boat in Turkey for a week and felt like we needed to share a few days on land, Mykonos was the next stop. We had to take a detour through Athens to take the short flight to Mykonos. Remember that they will charge you for your luggage unless you have a  premier gold card on one of the Star Alliance airlines. We boarded the plane for the short flight to Mykonos, 35 minutes, and we greeted by the hotel bus and whisked off to our home for the next 3 nights.

We stayed at the “Mykonos Grand Hotel”, about 10 minutes from the downtown area. This hotel has just been added onto and each room has a little different configuration. We booked a small suite facing the sea. The best room was 320, it had two bathrooms and a large bar set up in the living room. We had room 325 down the hall, it was very spacious with a bath tub and shower on one of the decks. the service is first  

 class.

The first evening we had dinner in the hotels lovely dining room with open windows that overlook the pool and sea beyond. The food was excellent and the service was great. they were willing to split many of the dishes since we wanted to try many more things than we could ever finish. The next morning we decided to take the local bus into the village, trying to experience the local life. The downtown area does not allow cars so the bus drops you off at the top of the maze of winding alley ways all taking you towards the harbor. Walking along the narrow streets loaded with hundreds of tourists from the cruise ships is a challenge in its self. The narrow streets are lined with tourist brick brack, t- shirts and colorful linen shirts for men and women. We did find one very high end group of stores and realized that things at this time of year are discounted up to 50% and then you can bargain on top of that. The town closes down on 10/1 so their remaining selling time was drawing near.

Everyone found a few great buys, mine came from a shop called “Envy Monaco” next to Louis Vuitton’s store. Then we all met for lunch at Nikos Tavern  

 down by the harbor. We shared a huge greek salad, grape leaves rolled and stuffed with rice and herbs, octopus grilled and served with lemon. The rose wine in Greece is not expensive and their local beer was a big hit on such a warm day.

Back to the hotel via cab, 10 euro, and pool time. the pool at the hotel is beautiful and they have great late afternoon service of snacks and drinks. The spa offers many services worth treating yourself to.

That evening one couple had a room with a roof top terrace so they hosted all of us with drinks and platters of cheeses and meats to watch the sun go down. Then we returned to the village for dinner at the restaurant “Ling Ling”, owned by the restaurant Hakkasan. hakkasan.com/lingling. This space is two floors, one is like a garden setting, full of grown trees and evening light. Since we went at 8:30, very early for most people in Greece, we had the place to ourselves, including the staff.  Since there were 10 of us they suggested a set menu and we added the peking duck, since we did not want to miss out on one of their best dishes. Be sure to reserve in advance and this is worth the  trip.

The last day we wanted to go to a different beach. After our lovely hotel breakfast, an hour reading by the pool and a couple people making use of the spa we headed out. We had a driver pick us up and take us to Nikolas Tavern on the beach called Kalaua. We wondered over to visit the new restaurant called Scorpio, lovely new upscale place overlooking the water. A quick tour of the beach with chairs at the ready. We went back to Nikolas, had a lunch of local fish, displayed by the owner on ice. Enjoyed the fried local shrimp and beer before our driver arrived for the return trip.

The staff at the hotel, lead by Georgia,  does a great job of helping get transportation, make reservations and offer suggestions of things to experience during your stay. The last evening they suggested “Avra” , http://www.avra-mykonos.com. A hidden restaurant set in a courtyard full of large trees and flowers to create a cool setting in the middle of the town.

We had a wonderful waiter that helped us navigate the menu and order a perfect meal shared by all of us for our last night in Mykonos.

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