Seattle part 1

Well hello.

Earlier this year Chris and I had planned a vacation to Colorado for mid June. I soon found out that I’d have to be in Seattle the second week in June for my annual conference at work. It made no sense for me to fly home for two days only to get on another plane two days later so instead we decided that when my conference was done Chris would meet me in Seattle and we’d spend the weekend before flying to Colorado.

My conference was to end mid afternoon on Friday and Chris’s flight was scheduled to get in at 11pm so I was thrilled to find out that my colleague and dear friend Brian would be spending the weekend in Seattle too which meant I had someone to spend Friday with.

During the conference we actually stayed at a retreat center about 35 minutes outside of Seattle. Although the surroundings were beautiful, we were basically in the middle of nowhere.

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Thursday night a bus was organized to take us in to Seattle. We only had a little bit of time to walk around before we needed to be at a diner that had been organized for us. So, along with a group of my colleagues, we did what anyone would do if they only had 45 minutes to explore Seattle. We grabbed a drink and then some oysters.

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Finally on Friday the meetings came to an end and after a good, productive, but tiring conference; Brian and I were ready to get in to Seattle.
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Brian is a fellow ginger lover (the food, not the redheads, though maybe he likes those too), so after wondering around Pike Place Market a bit we were thrilled to stumble upon Rachel’s Ginger Beer, a store/bar that sells all kinds of ginger beer creations. I got a classic Moscow Mule and Brian got a frozen blood orange mule.

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We were exhausted so Brian decided to go back to his hotel for a nap before meeting up with me for dinner. At this point Chris had already let me know that his flight was going to be delayed by two hours. I felt so bad that Chris was stuck at the airport and was so eager to see him that I decided to drop by Fran’s Chocolates, a famous Seattle chocolate shop, to pick up a treat for my chocolate loving boyfriend. I grabbed a milk chocolate grey salt caramel and a dark chocolate whiskey.

After Brian’s nap we headed out to the Pike Place Brewery. We drank some delicious local beers and decided to split the salmon and the mac and cheese both of which were delicious. I’m not a big fan of salmon back easy, but it’s so delicious out here. I much prefer East Coast oysters though.
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After dinner Brian and I were exhausted so we just went back to our hotels, but I did manage (just barely) to be awake when Chris finally arrived at 1am! I was so happy to have him there and to start our vacation together.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Have you ever been to Seattle? What did you like most about the city?

Well traveled friends

I love it when friends go to Europe and bring me back treats.

If you’ve never had Maltesers you don’t know what you’re missing. They’re chocolate covered malt balls, but they’re nothing like their American cousin Whoppers. The chocolate is real with none of that sickly sweet artificial after taste and the texture inside is always crunchy; never hollow or fake tasting.

I’m thinking of making Maltesers Blondies. How does that sound?

Halloween and Thanks

Yup, I’m still trying to find food things to write about as excuses to post so that I can keep of with my 10 Days of Thanks. To be fair I had intended to post about Halloween, but that post is another thing Hurricane Sandy washed away.

I took a bus up to Salem, Ma (if there’s a better place to be on Halloween I don’t know it), to visit my good friends and spend Halloween in their brand new home with lots of friends and food and beer! The party was great, but unfortunately it was a whirlwind trip since I had to leave literally 24 from the time I’d left NYC (nope, nit even 24 hours from the time I got there, 24 hours from when I left!) to beat the storm.

This Halloween party, which I attended as a 1980’s female rapper a la Salt and Pepa, also marked the first time that I’ve remade one of my 26 Dish project recipes. When I’m completely done with the project (can you believe I’m up to S!) I plan to incorporate my favorites in to my recipe cannon, but haven’t had time to remake any of my favorites yet. With Halloween coming though, it seemed like a perfect time to make Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate, Brazilian Carrot Cake. The cake is a lovely shade of pale orange and the chocolate glaze appears almost black. Black + Orange = Halloween.

The cake was as delicious as the first time I made it. You can see the corner of it in this picture of the adorable table that Heather set.

How was your Halloween?

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Ten Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to travel!

It’s no wonder that I love to travel since I was raised by parents who get back from one trip only to immediately start planning the next. While travel certainly is a luxury, for me it’s a need rather than a want. Travelling is good for my soul.

My travels (and my time living aboard) have given me memories, adventures, photographs, knowledge and friends. Travelling has helped me to be open and adaptable and given me pieces of knowledge that you just can’t learn from a book and I would not give those experiences up for the world. Now where should I go on my next trip…

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou

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Great Friends and Yogurt Bombs

I still have so many posts to catch up on from the last couple of weeks, but today I’d like to talk about my experience this weekend while it’s fresh in my find.

I flew to St. Louis this weekend to meet up with my amazing friends Lisa and Mandy. I can’t tell you how much I love these ladies and I can’t tell you how good it was for my soul to get to spend time with them. As an added bonus I also got to make some new friends and share laughs with Becky from Love Every Day Life and her husband Ben and Nilsa from SoMi Speaks and her husband Sweets and their ridiculously adorable son Gavin. You know how sometimes a group of people meets and it just clicks. This was one of those times.

All in all it was a great weekend, however there was a truly crappy food related incident at the end.

I don’t really talk much about how incredibly awful it is to have potentially fatal food allergies. The reason I don’t talk about it is simple; I don’t want to think about it myself. Make no mistake though, it is awful, but I still need to live my life so most of the time I need shut those thoughts off and just push through.

Traveling with food allergies is not easy. I’m sure that if you think about it for about 30 seconds you can think of the many ways in which it would be difficult for food allergic people away from home and you’d likely be right about all of them. What you may not think about though the actual travel itself, the getting there and getting back on planes trains and automobiles.

Getting there is usually not so bad as I can just pack a cheese sandwich and some snacks from home in my carryon. My return trip is another story. Often I don’t have access to a supermarket or refrigerator before my return trip which means buying food at the transportation hub. Sometimes I can find cheese or yogurt in a refrigerated section. Usually though I’m not that lucky. Most often the only things I can find that are safe for me are processed packaged crap. You know, the kind of stuff that I never eat.

After a day of travel that involves nothing than chips and pretzels I always come home feeling sick so imagine my excitement that the breakfast buffet at our hotel had 4oz containers of yogurt that I could grab. It wasn’t my favorite kind of yogurt as I prefer to buy plain Greek yogurt and mix in my own fruit, but still those 4oz of Yoplait strawberry was a God send compared to what I knew would be available at the airport.

Lisa’s flight was leaving from a different terminal so after saying our goodbyes to her, Mandy and I made our way through the security line. We both put our luggage on the conveyer belt and walked through the metal detector. At the other side of the detector though, we heard the TSA agent who was screening our luggage call for a rescreen. Another agent came over and picked up my carryon and brought it over. “Is this yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied and instantly I knew, it must be because I hadn’t taken out my iPad!

The agent unzipped my bag and reached inside as I prepared my apology. The words were just about to form on my lips when he said in a stern voice, “This is not allowed!” as he held up his hand to reveal … yup you’ve probably guessed it by now… my yogurt!

I was literally stunned. All I could do was stammer, “But it’s not liquid!” because, uh, it isn’t! I was rewarded with a sharp look and was informed that my yogurt would be thrown out and my carryon rescreened. I. Was. Pissed. But as all travelers know that the TSA and their arbitrary rules have you by the balls. I am not the type to keep quiet when I know I’m right, but in this case there was no point. If you argue with a TSA agent all that will happen is they’ll go all SEAL Team 6 on you, take you in to a room meant for dangerous yogurt wielding criminals and then hold up everyone else on the security line in order to prove a totally useless point so instead I just sat there and watched him throw my  yogurt away.

Mandy’s flight left before mine so after saying goodbye to her I wandered the terminal looking for something to eat. As expected there was no yogurt, no cheese, nothing remotely resembling real food that was actually safe for me. My lunch consisted of a bag of cheezits and a bag of pretzels. I felt like crap. Awesome.

So here’s a big ol’ thank you from this allergic traveller to the TSA for keeping the world safe from potential yogurt bombs. I’m sure everyone reading this will feel a little more confident next time they fly.

A Little Bite of Finland

Remember that Finnish cheese I told you about, Juustoleipä? I snacked on it every day while I was there and I knew I’d miss it once I got back home. Of course, this is New York City, a place where you can find pretty much anything, and this is the age of Google.

I turns out there’s a company out of Wisconsin that makes Finnish style “Bread Cheese.” So last weekend I paid a visit to New York City’s Mecca of cheese, Murrays, to pick some up.

Tytti, my Finnish colleague, had mentioned the cheese to me before my trip, which was what prompted me to try it. It’s common in Finland to eat this cheese warmed with some kind of fruit preserve so Tytti had recently made my recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Sauce to pair with Juustoleipä. Of course now that I had the cheese in my own kitchen I had to try it!

The cheese itself was wonderful with that same great texture I’d come to love, but I’d say the flavor was slightly milder. This may be all in my head because nothing ever tastes as good as when you’re on vacation or it may be because in Finland Juustoleipä is often made with Reindeer milk and obviously it’s American counterpart is made with Cow’s milk. The Bread Cheese definitely sated my cravings thought and I’d definitely buy it again.

Once I heated it in a pan for a couple of minutes and paired it with the sauce though, it really elevated the whole thing. I loved home the tartness of the sauce cut through the creaminess of the cheese and the basil I’d torn on top added a certain freshness. Delish!

Apparently Bread Cheese is made by a few companies in the US, some of whom call it Juusto, and it’s not all that difficult to find. If you see some near you I’d highly recommend picking some up and giving it a taste.

Helsinki: Day 4

Well tomorrow morning I say goodbye to Helsinki. This is one cool city and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. Believe it or not I did do a lot more than just eat, but this is a food blog so that’s what I took time to talk about. Maybe when I get home and have time to concentrate I’ll post non-food pictures.

One of the nicest food related places I visited was Eat & Joy market which carries local organic foods in their 3 locations in Helsinki.

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The food I’ll miss most when I leave will most certainly be Juustoleipä, bread cheese, which I snacked on every day that I was here. It has a similar texture to Halloumi in that it squeaks on the teeth and, though I wasn’t able to try it warmed, it’s often served heated as like Halloumi it doesn’t melt. Unlike Halloumi it has a sort of creaminess to it reminiscent of fresh mozzarella and it’s not salty, but instead a bit sweet. Also because it’s baked it has these little charred bits that add a whole other layer of flavor.

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Finally today I took a ride on the Spårakoff, the pub tram. It’s literally a one car tram that’s been converted into a mobile bar so you ride in a loop around Helsinki taking in the city sights while drinking a nice cold beer. Definitely a great idea.

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Helsinki is an incredibly cool city and I’ll definitely miss it when I leave. Kiitos Helsinki!

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Helsinki: Day 3

A Finnish colleague at work, Tytti (Toot-tee) who is currently based out of Sweden, asked me if I’d like her to try and find some Finnish company for me one night in Helsinki. Of course I said yes as one of my favorite things to do while traveling is to meet locals. So tonight I met up with Tytti’s friend Juha (Yoo-ha) a fellow foodie who works in the restaurant industry. Juha made wonderful company and he took me to for a fantastic dinner at Kuurna restaurant which serves traditional Finnish food with a modern twist.

Both the food and company were great! Generally when I travel I can be very nervous about my food allergies, but Juha had called ahead to let them know and at the start of the meal the owner came out to talk to us and was clearly well equipped to handle my needs.

If you ever travel to Helsinki add Kuurna to your to do list.

Spinach “crepes” with black currant vinaigrette. Creamy on the inside, crispy in the outside with a slight tartness from the currants.

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Oven baked white fish with salsa verde. Wow! The fish had a sort of smokey flavor and was just so fresh. All the vegetables tasted like summer and sunshine.

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Dessert. O!M!G! Strawberry milkshake. I’m not generally a fan of milkshakes in the US because I think they’re usually way too think and cloyingly sweet. This, however, was my perfect dessert. You know that strawberries are my favorite food on the planet and this dessert was all about highlighting the flavor. The “milkshake” was smooth and creamy without being too thick. I could eat (ok drink) this dessert every day of my life!

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