Thursday, December 28, 2017

Roasted Carrot and Pumpkin Soup with dukkah
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter and 2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks (light-green and white parts only), thinly sliced
2 lb. carrots, cut in half crosswise
1 lb. pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes the same size as the carrots
salt and pepper to taste
5 - 6C chicken stock
1/3C crème fraiche
1/4C fresh thyme leaves
dukkah spice* (optional)

Heat the butter in a large pan, add the onion and leeks and sauté until soft.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Place the carrot and pumpkin pieces on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with melted butter, salt and pepper to taste and roast until tender and beginning to brown – about 25 minutes.  Remove pumpkin slices after 15 minutes if they are soft and continue roasting the carrots.  Stir into the onion mixture, add the 5 cups of the chicken stock and let simmer 10 minutes.  Puree in a food processor in batches until smooth.  Return to the pan and heat, adding more stock if necessary.  Swirl in the crème fraiche and sprinkle with thyme leaves.  Divide among bowls and sprinkle each with some of the dukkah.
MAKES:  6 servings

Dukkah spice
1/2C unsalted, shelled raw pistachios, toasted
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
¼ tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. kosher salt

Toast the remaining ingredients (except the salt) in a dry skillet until fragrant – 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the pistachios and salt and coarsely grind the mixture.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Apple Cake with vanilla cream
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1C sugar (2 Tbsp., remainder)
3/4C plus 2 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

sifted powdered sugar
1/2C cream beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter bottom of 8-inch spring form pan, line with parchment and butter again.

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice, two tablespoons of the sugar and let stand 15 minutes.  Mix flour, salt and spices together.  Beat eggs, vanilla and remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Gently fold in the dry ingredients.

Spread apples in the prepared pan in an even layer.  Pour the batter evenly over them.  Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the batter to sink in a little.  Bake for about one hour, until golden and crisp on the top.  Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes.  Remove ring and transfer to a serving platter.  Dust with sifted powdered sugar and serve with cream beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste.
MAKES:  8 servings

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Delicata Squash Salad
1 package wild arugula
4 Delicata squash, cut into ½-inch rings
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 slices castello blue cheese
1/4C dried cranberries
1/3C toasted pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. balsamic mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 Tbsp. olive oil

Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss squash rings with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and roast until tender, turning once, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Toss the arugula with vinaigrette to coat, add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Divide the arugula among 6 plates.  Divide the Delicate squash rings among the salads.  Top each with a slice of blue cheese.
MAKES:  6 servings 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Parsnip, Sweet Potato and Watercress Chowder
1/4C unsalted butter
4C ½-inch cubes peeled parsnips (about 4 large)
1-1/2C chopped onion (1 large)
3 – 4C chicken stock
1C chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 medium)
1-1/2C ½-inch cubes peeled sweet potato (about 1 large)
¼ tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4C cream
4C watercress sprigs (tops of 2 bunches) or arugula

Melt the butter in a large pot; add parsnips and onion and sauté until onion softens.  Add 3 cups stock and apple.  Cover and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 12 minutes.  Puree 2 cups parsnip mixture in blender until very smooth and return puree to the pot.  Add the sweet potato cubes, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until sweet potato cubes are tender, about 12 minutes.  Add cream and bring to a simmer.  Stir in watercress and continue to stir until it wilts.  Add more stock if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.
MAKES:  6 servings

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Candian Rockies – September/October 2017
Part Two – Banff to Seattle
Enjoyed staying in the Yoho National Park in the little town of Field consisting of about two streets.  Had breakfast at Truffle Pig where I had stayed, i.e. a very limited menu!  I had French toast and then was on my way to the Natural Bridge, an impressive natural rock formation that spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River and then to emerald lake, renowned for its vivid coloring. It took me about 2 hours to walk all the way around…Drove over to the Takakkaw Falls 833 feet high and also stopped at the famous spiral tunnels opened in 1909. 

Drove back to the Truffle Pig for lunch, i.e. grilled salmon salad with goat cheese and apple chutney and crème brulee and then on to Lake Louise, an emerald colored glacial lake in the Banff National Park.  Walked the lakeshore trail to the end of the lake which took about an hour and then visited the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  Followed the Bow Parkway 1A, a very scenic drive, to Johnston Canyon Resort where I stayed a couple nights in a little cabin about 25 minutes from downtown Banff.  Went into town for dinner in the Juniper Hotel at the Juniper Bistro and had tuna poke with cucumber, seaweed and crisp wild rice and a beautifully presented chocolate tart.  Excellent meal.

In the morning after breakfast in town at Wild Flour Bakery on Bear Street I walked to Bow Valley Falls nearby.  Afterwards I visited the Cave and Basin Historic site where you can go into an underground cavern.  It is also the site of natural thermal mineral springs around which Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park, was established. There is a small walking trail through the thermal pools which is quite interesting as well.  Stopped for a quick egg salad sandwich and cookie and then reserved an icefield tour near Jasper for the next day.

Drove back to Johnston Resort, parked the car near my cabin and hiked the lower and then upper falls which were very beautiful with lots of creeks, wild life, etc.  Back into town for dinner at Block Kitchen Bar, small little restaurant, cozy and quaint.   Sat at the bar and had crispy duck spring rolls, salad greens with quinoa, beets, etc. and chocolate pot of cream – quite delicious!

Early breakfast at Wild Flour Bakery and picked up a ginger cookie “for the road”.  Headed up Highway 93 to the icefields.  First stopped at Herman Lake and then Bow Lake where I walked around the lake for about 30 minutes enjoying the beauty of the mountains reflected in the lake.  Stopped at wilderness lake for a lookout and then at “crossing” where food was available.  Got some delicious spicy tomato soup which I had with some hot tea and my ginger cookie.  Really cold out!!!

Arrived at the icefields, parked my car easily and was in plenty of time for my 2:15 p.m. reservation.  Watched a video about the icefields and then started the glacier adventure where about 25 of us drove onto the Athabasca glacier where we had about 30 minutes – awesome.  Afterwards I took the self-guided skywalk tour which was very interesting.  The skywalk is a steel bridge arcing 11.5 feet out over the Sunwapta valley.  The audio tour explains the glaciers, wild life, etc. and it takes at least an hour to really enjoy it.

Drove into the Jasper National Park and stopped at Becker’s Chalets where I stayed in a wonderful private cabin for two nights.  This cabin was a lot bigger than the one in Johnston Resort, i.e. I had a kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, etc.  It was delightful.  Drove into town which took all of 10 minutes and had dinner at Raven, i.e. Raven nicoise with rare tuna, fingerling potatoes, etc. and chocolate pecan tart.  Really delicious and nice relaxing atmosphere.  The town seems like a ski resort town, small, quaint and with lots of little shops.

Bran muffin at Bear Paw bakery in the morning and then drove to Maligne Canyon where I took a fabulous 2 hour hike along the Athabasca River, i.e. many waterfalls, deep canyons, etc.  Stopped at the Fairmont Hotel (Jasper Lodge) for lunch overlooking the lake and had potato bacon soup and a small kale salad with goat cheese and hazelnuts.

Drove up to Pyramid Lake and walked across the bridge to pyramid island which was rather unique.  Wandered around the town a bit and stopped for tea and a cookie before returning to my chalet where I “chilled” for a bit.  It was nice and cozy.  Returned to Raven to dinner and had “Buddha bowl” with arugula, quinoa, black beans, chicken, butternut square and banana chips which was really good and another chocolate pecan tart.  Great little restaurant.

Breakfast at Bear Paws and I picked up an egg salad sandwich and rhubarb bar for later as I would be driving down the icefield to Invermere and there wasn’t much to choose from on the way up.  Stopped at the five lakes trail and spent about 2 hours hiking the five lakes, each of which was unique and so beautiful.  Stopped at Athabasca falls, Alberta’s longest and Sunwapta Falls – both gorgeous.

I had missed Peyto Lake on the way up so stopped there and walked up to the Summit for a view of the lake and then stopped again at Bow Lake where there were some tables overlooking the lake and had my sandwich and cookie.  There was also a place to get some hot water for tea which worked for me.

On to Kootenay National Park and stopped at the continental divide which denotes the dividing line between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and my final stop was at Marble Canyon with its turquoise waters of Tukumm Creek and a carved deep narrow gorge crossing the water on seven bridges.  Such beauty!

Drove on into Invermere where I stayed at the Mountain View B&B a ways out of town.  Had dinner at Birchwood on 13th street, i.e. arugula salad with apples, goat cheese, kohlrabi and hazelnuts and a chocolate terrine.  Very nice and unexpectly delicious for an out of the way town.

Breakfast in town and then walked the old coach trail where the old coaches and Model T’s used to drive.  Also took the Columbia River headwater walk through the changing leaves.  Stopped at Fort Steele Heritage town and thoroughly enjoying visiting the 60 restored heritage buildings, i.e. barber shop, bakery, old hotel, etc.  Charming.  Drove into Fernie where I walked 2nd street and found the Crumb Café where I had lunch.  Cute little town.  Checked into the Lizard Creek Resort about 10 minutes from town which was a really nice place to stay.  Dinner later at Nevados serving innovative Latin tapas, i.e. ceviche with plantain chips, pulled pork arepa and churro bites with caramel and chocolate sauces.

Delicious blueberry muffin at a little café in the morning and picked up a freshly made ginger cookie to take along.  Walked along the Elk River for about an hour and then headed to Nelson.  Stopped in Cresson for an egg salad sandwich and walked around a bit and then drove around the Kootenay Lake on the 3A.  Stopped at the Glass house built by the former funeral director David Brown in the 1950s.  He constructed its walls from more than 500,000 empty embalming fluid bottles.  There is a little tour of the inside which is quite elegant. 

Drove on to the Kootenay bay to catch the lake ferry.  Had planned to catch the 2 p.m. ferry but only a small one was running and it was full so I caught the 3:50 p.m. one instead.  Took about 30 minutes to cross the lake and it was free!!!  Arrived in Nelson about 5:30 p.m. and wandered Vernon and Baker Streets to see some of the historic buildings it is known for.  Spent about an hour in the Touchstones Museum of Art which dealt with the first nation’s heritage, the explorers, miners, steamship captains, etc.  Very interesting and I was happy it was open late.

Stayed at Beach Taghum bed and breakfast and had dinner in town at Sage Tapas and Wine Bar, i.e. arugula and beet carpaccio salad with apples and goat cheese and chocolate torte with dulce de leche.

Breakfast at Oso, a fabulous bakery in town.  Had a delicious cinnamon/pecan bun and then walked around the lake for an hour.
Drove to Oliver, north of Osoyoos for lunch at Miradoro in the Tinhorn Creek Winery.  Sat outside on the patio overlooking the lake and although a bit windy it was lovely.  Had tuna with potatoes and seaweed slivers and chocolate budino.  Such a delicious lunch. 

Drove on to Kelowna, first stopping at the Geert Maas sculpture garden highlighting the works of this internationally acclaimed artist.  His sculptures were amazing.  Wandered around the town a few minutes but didn’t really like it much.  Found my airbnb and it was fantastic, i.e. a private studio apartment.  Very comfortable.  Later in the evening I drove to Basil and Mint which was about 25 minutes away and it was very hard to find a parking place.  Food was nice.  I ordered the 3 course menu and had poached pear salad with arugula and toasted hazelnuts, roast duck with cranberry sauce and horseradish mashed potatoes and crème brulee for dessert.  Probably one of the best restaurants in town.

Drove to Peachland in the morning for breakfast at Bliss Bakery on the waterfront.  A fabulous bakery with delicious muffins and great coffee.  Walked for about an hour into the small town, visited the little art museum and then drove back to Oliver for lunch at the Sonora Room in the Burrowing Owl Winery.  Sat outside on the patio overlooking the vineyard and had a tuna nicoise open-faced on focaccia with tomato jam, tapenade and greens and chocolate crème brulee. 

Stopped at the NK’MIP desert cultural center to learn about the Osoyoos Indian band living culture and the desert creatures.  There is a nice trail outside through interesting plants with information, etc.

Final stop before heading back to the U.S. was the Desert Model Railroad with its 4000 sq feet of miniature villages, towns, etc. and 45 computer controlled trains weaving through these villages and towns.  It was really fun to see.  Arrived in Pateros about 6 p.m. and had a delicious tomato roasted pepper soup at the only place in town to eat, i.e. the Bakery.  Had picked up a chocolate cookie at Bliss Bakery in the morning so had that as well with a hot cup of tea.  Perfect.  Stayed at Howard’s, expensive but very nice.

Back for breakfast at the Bakery after a nice walk around the lake and little town, i.e. just baked and still warm cinnamon roll.  Amazing little place with such great food.  Drove to Snohomish, Washington, a very cute little town.  Walked main street and stopped at First & Union Bakery for a light lunch and then checked into the Countryman B&B which was very nice and close to town.  Changed into something a bit dressier and drove to Herb Farm for dinner.  My GPS sent me the wrong way so when I finally arrived about 4:30 p.m. I had missed the walking tour of the vineyards but luckily was on time for dinner.  I had a nice little table of my own and thoroughly enjoyed my nine course dinner which took about 4 hours…

The theme was An Indian Summer.  First course:  Tomato water w/braised celery and smoked Keta roe, relish of cubes, peppers and scallop chips and tempura papa cacho potato with dried tuna. Second course:  Wedges of pear, turnip & fennel w/hazelnuts and roasted pear sauce.  Third course:  Wood-roasted ling cod, golden marigold, Pellegrini bean-tarragon sauce.  Fourth course: Mille-feuille of winter squash & matsutake mushrooms w/fermented blackberry basil sauce.  Fifth course:  Grapevine-grilled 7-year old Angus tenderloin w/ leek pie and charred leek sauce.  Sixth course:  Thyme-infused fresh curds w/ Chioggia beets in a sugar crust.  Seventh course:  Candied melon peel w/ lemon grass.  Eighth course:  Apple baked for 36 hours, apple cider glaze, black sheep creamy cheese ice cream.  Ninth course:  Coffees and parfait of herb farm grapes with pumpkin biscotti.  There were wine pairing with each course and all was extraordinarily wonderful!  Found my b&b easily – about 20 minutes away…

Took a walk along the Constitution Trail and then had a delicious chocolate nutella pastry at First & Union.  Drove to the 268 foot Snoqualmes Falls and walked the 0.7 mile trail from the upper falls viewpoint to the lower falls viewpoint.  Returned my car and  checked into my airbnb on 16th Street.  Had a fun dinner at the Indian style restaurant Poppy with my niece, i.e. thalis with salmon and chicken and lots of little tasty dishes to go with.

Took a walk in the morning almost to Pike Market and had a delicious almond croissant and Seattle’s famous coffee at a little café.  Lunch at Pink Door in Post Alley, a very popular ecletic spot with great food.  Shared some spicy corn, pizza with arugula and prosciutto and a plum tart with whipped cream with my nieces before taking the lite train back to the airport and heading home. 

Canada is such a beautiful country and I saw some amazing things.  I look forward to seeing more, perhaps starting next time in New Foundland...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Canadian Rockies – September/October 2017
Seattle to Banff – Part One
A great time to visit Canada is in early September so I was almost a bit too late in arriving.  Flew into Seattle and took the lite rail into downtown and a bus to Ballard Inn where I spent the night.  It is a great little neighborhood but a bit far from downtown.  Took the bus back in and had lunch at Mamnoon on Melrose/Pike, a cute little Middle Eastern restaurant with great food, i.e. falafel with cabbage salad and hummus with pita bread. 

Walked up to the Fyre Museum which had a very interesting exhibition on people who are “different”…Walked around Pike Market, down to Olympic Park and into the Sculpture Gardens near the waterfront.  Later took the bus to Lloyd Martin for a delicious dinner, i.e. ravioli filled with epoisse cheese and foie gras and chocolate cremeux. 

Found a nice little pastry shop for breakfast and then walked to the Ballard Locks and was able to see a boat come through.  You can also see the salmon migration through windows below the locks.  Picked up my rental car about 2 p.m. and drove to Vancouver.  Stayed in an Airbnb near Chinatown and walked to Blue Water Café for dinner, i.e. delicious tuna carpaccio nicoise and warm chocolate cake sitting on the patio outside.

In the morning I spent a couple hours at the Bill Reid Gallery which focuses on his Haida origins.   It highlights his beautiful gold and silver jewelry, totems, etc.  Really a must see.  Walked over the Granville bridge to the Granville Market where I had a tuna sandwich and cookie and then took the bus to the Museum of Anthropology to see the totems and Haida houses.  I had been there before so just wanted to see Bill Reid’s “raven” and a few others things I loved.  Dinner at Wildebeest, i.e. tomato and plum salad with burrata cheese and arugula and chocolate cake with toasted pineapple and rum raisin ice cream.

Drove up to Tsawwassen in the morning to catch the 10 a.m. ferry to Victoria Island.  It was a beautiful day so I stood outside and enjoyed the scenery.  Arrived about 12:00 p.m. in Swarz Bay and stopped in Sidney nearby to wander around.  Found a nice little café called Beacon where I had an egg salad sandwich and ginger cookie and then drove to Victoria.  Checked into my airbnb and on my way to the Royal Columbian Museum stopped at Emily Carr’s house.  None of her artwork was there so didn’t spend too much time looking around.  The RC Museum is fantastic and filled with information on the First Peoples including enormous totems, their artwork, life style, etc.  Also an extensive exhibit of life in Canada in the 1900’s.  Really well done. 

Later I walked across the Johnson bridge and along the waterfront and back to Saveur where I had dinner, i.e. beet terrine with goat cheese and pistachios and flourless chocolate cake.

After a delicious muffin at Liberty I drove up to the Butchart Gardens and spent about three hours wandering through the sunken garden, rose garden, Italian garden, etc. until it started to rain.  There were so many flowers in blow so it was gorgeous.  Went into the lovely dining room and had lunch overlooking the gardens, i.e. farro salad with smoked trout and apple and crème brulee.

Drove back into Victoria to the Gallery of Art to see some of Emily Carr’s original landscapes and then walked up the hill to the Craigdarroch Castle with its 4 floors and 39 rooms.  It was constructed in the late 1800s as a family residence for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.  Its history and intrigue made the visit even more interesting.

Later in the evening I walked to the Empress Hotel where you can have tea in the afternoon and down Government Street to Chinatown where I had dinner at Olo Restauarant.  Great food!!!  I had cornbread with buckwheat butter, grilled octopus with roasted pepper hummus, chickpea panisse and cucumbers and chocolate cake with marshmallow cream for dessert.

In the morning I walked the inner harbor to fisherman’s wharf and saw the 33 floathouses moored along the river.  They reminded me of the house boats in Amsterdam except much smaller and with a lot more personality.  Walked to Beacon Park and to the “O” kilometer where the trans-canadian highway starts.

About 12 p.m. I drove back to Sidney for another delicious egg salad sandwich and ginger cookie and caught the 2 p.m. ferry back to Vancouver.  Lots of traffic from the port so didn’t arrive to my airbnb until about 5 p.m.  It was also near Chinatown so it was quite a walk into downtown.  Walked to Water Street and the clock tower and finally to Nightingale where I had dinner which was excellent.  Started with watermelon salad with watercress, mini cucumbers and macadamia nut feta, next came the grilled octopus with chickpeas and garlic aioli and finished with salted caramel pot of cream. 

Drove to Whistler in the morning and visited the Squamish-Lil’wat center which was fabulous.  It is set in a large concrete, fir and cedar structure and explains the tradition of these two people.  Walked to the village Square nearby and had lunch at Ingrid’s, found Araxi where I would have dinner and then walked the lost trail around the lake.  Just as I was finishing the walk it started to rain so drove to my airbnb where was really nice.  I had my own private studio.  Later in the evening I drove back to town and enjoyed a beet salad with burrata cheese and fondant chocolate flourless cake at Araxi sitting peacefully by the window.

In the morning had a delicious muffin in a cute little café at the bottom of the hill before heading to Revelstoke a long way away!!!  Stopped in Kamploops about halfway and wandered around the town, stopped in a café for egg salad sandwich and continued on the Salmon Run where I stopped at the famous Shuswap Pie Company for raspberry rhubarb pie and ice cream.  Cute little town as well.  Found my airbnb and then took a walk into town to stretch my legs.  Pretty cold out!!!

Decided to dine at Quartermaster, a new restaurant in town, and was not disappointed.  Had a steak salad with blue cheese, crispy shoestring potatoes and greens and lava cake – all perfectly done and great atmosphere. 

Walked up to La Baguette for breakfast in the morning and then spent about an hour at the Railway Museum which presents the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Columbia mountains with dining cars, old trains, videos, etc.  Fabulous!  Drove up to the Meadows in the Sky and walked up to the Summit where there were patches of snow on the ground.  Back down to La Baguette for salad with goat cheese and dried cherries and chipotle yam soup before driving through Revelstoke National Park where I walked the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk trail and then drove into Glacier National Park which was gorgeous.  Wanted to do another hike but the time was one hour ahead when I reached Golden so I kept going. 

Stayed the night in Field at the Truffle Pig in the center of the Yoho National Park which was a delightful inn.  Drove across the bridge to Cathedral Lodge for a very enjoyable dinner in peaceful surroundings.  I had tuna tartar with cucumbers and fingerling chips and a s’mores dessert which was wonderful, i.e. crisp graham crackers topped with chocolate and mountains of meringue caramelized on top served with caramel sauce.  Even had a glass of wine which I felt I deserved after a very busy day.  The next day I headed for Banff.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fregola with charred onions, snap peas and fresh corn
2C fregola (or orzo), cooked al dente, drained
3 ears corn
1C snap peas, blanched
2 red onions, thickly sliced, peel left on
1/3C toasted pine nuts
1C arugula
1/2C basil leaves
1/3C olive oil mixed with 1 tsp. spice rub

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
6 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.  Brush the corn, red onions and snap peas with olive oil mixture and grill until charred.  Cut the kernels from the cobs, remove peels and chop the onions and cut the snap peas in half lengthwise.

Mix the fregola and vegetable with vinaigrette to coat.  Add the pine nuts, basil and arugula, salt and pepper to taste.
MAKES:  6 servings

Monday, September 4, 2017

Eastern Europe - Budapest to Split – August, 2017
Had a busy day in Budapest and then met at 6 p.m. for the orientation meeting for our new G adventures group.  Dinner later at Menza.  Had a delicious goat cheese salad finishing with chocolate cake and sat outside to enjoy my last night in Budapest…

Early breakfast and train to Novi Sad, Serbia.  Checked in to our hotel and had our orientation walk around the little town filled with lots of little cafes and a lovely church.  Met later and had a “family” dinner, i.e. platters of meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.  Lots of food and all delicious. 

Walked up to the Petrovaradin fortress, located on the right bank of the Danube, in the morning for a tour.  It is known for its underground tunnels, clock towel and EXIT festival, an annual music festival held in the fortress since 2001.  Stopped by Multi Tart for a yummy fruit tart and then took the train to Serbia’s largest city, Belgrade.  Walked to the Bohemian area, unique for its cobblestone streets filled many restaurants.  We all returned there later for dinner at an outdoor café and I had salmon with spinach and potato ragout listening to a trio playing lively music.

After breakfast we had our walking tour up to the military fortress overlooking the Danube.  Visited the Ethnographic Museum filled with traditional costumes, houses, etc. and afterwards walked to the old synagogue.  Stopped for a lemon tart and coffee and took a very long walk to the Church of Saint Sava, one of the world’s largest orthodox churches.  The facade is in white marble and granite but the interior is still being worked on.  When finished it will house many mosaics.

Dinner at 1905 near the bridge, i.e. pappadella with mushrooms, duck with quinoa, broccoli puree and chocolate mousse for dessert.  Had a glass of wine and enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and delicious and beautifully prepared food.

Long ride in the morning to Sarajevo, Bosnia, stopping for lunch of chicken wrapped in bacon and tomato/cucumber/cabbage salad which we saw quite frequently!!  Orientation walk and dinner at a brewery nearby.  A nicely laid out city with a lot of history.

Great breakfast with lots of fruit.  Took a tour of the tunnel museum, a short section of the 1.6 m high hand-dug tunnel under the airport runway which acted as the city’s lifeline to the outside world during the 1992 – 95 siege.  We took a nice walk up to an overlook and then returned to the center to wander around.  Stopped at an outside café for a chicken/tomato/cucumber/feta salad and the visited the Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque, the largest historical mosque in Bosnia.  Also visited the museum across the street which was once a school and gave insight into how life was lived in Bosnia.  Walked to the Svrzo house with its cobblestone courtyards and great furnished rooms and then it started to rain so I stopped at a covered outside café for cake and coffee until it stopped.

On to the Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, eternal flambe and to the Latin bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June 1914 starting the war.  Dinner at the Inat Kuca overlooking the river, i.e. grilled vegetables and baklava.

Had some time after breakfast to visit the Despics House which shows how a wealthy Serbian family lived in past centuries.  Also houses a theatre where performances were held.  Wandered along the river and then stopped for cake and coffee before driving to Mostar where it was very hot.  Took our orientation walk later in the evening to the old part known for its old Turkish houses and old bridge.  Had some time to wander around and down to the river to watch someone jump off the bridge before meeting for dinner at Sadrvan.  Shared a delicious platter of grilled vegetables and some fish with a couple travelers and then we stopped for ice cream on the walk back.

Headed out early in the morning but still there was a big line at the border into Montenegro and Kotor, a coastal town located in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor, where we were headed.   Stopped for lunch along the way but didn’t arrive in town until about 5 p.m.  Had our orientation walk and then were on our own to wander the old fortified city before meeting at 8 p.m. for dinner at an outdoor café with great fish.

Walked up to the upper town walls and fortress, climbing 1350 stairs, with a couple travelers early in the morning before it got too hot!  Very interesting and a beautiful view of the city.  Breakfast and then spent about 3 hours kayaking and stopping to swim.  Water was lovely.  Back to town to visit the market and then stopped at Hotel Astoria for some delicious cheesecake and coffee inside where it was air-conditioned but looking out as well.  Visited the Cat Museum which was fun as there are cats everywhere in the city, some churches, etc.  Really unique city.  Later in the evening had dinner on the patio of Hotel Astoria listening to music while I enjoyed delicious mussels in white wine sauce and a Greek salad with a generous helping of feta cheese.  City looked even more beautiful at night…

Drove to Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic.  Our hotel was about 10 minutes from the old town so we had some time to walk down to the nearby beach and get some lunch before meeting at 4:30 p.m. when it was cooler to go into the old town.  A fascinating walled city filled with forts, museums, churches, cafes and a lot of tourists!!  Met later for dinner but the food was so bad the restaurant didn’t even charge us…

After breakfast a couple from our group and I took the ferry to Lohrum island where we visited the beaches, dead man sea where a lot of people were swimming  and walked up to the fort where some of Game of Thrones had been filmed.  Back in the old town I stopped for cheesecake and coffee and then walked up to the Modern Art Museum filled with very interesting artwork.  Had purchased a day pass which included Rector’s Palace and the Franciscan Monastery so after visiting those I took the bus back to our hotel to regroup.  Really hot.

Had a wonderful dinner later in the evening overlooking the Port and watching the sun go down at 360, i.e. celery soup, roasted carrots with pine nuts, shrimp with gnocchi, sea bass with potato spinach puree, pigeon with lavender sauce and peaches and lemon tart with lemon marmalade.  Also had a couple small glasses of wine and thoroughly enjoyed my evening!!

In the morning I walked around the wall which took a couple hours at a leisurely pace.  Visited the open air market and finally the ethnographic museum which was excellent.  There was a special toy exhibition of painted wooden toys that are no longer made but were very popular once upon a time.  Stopped at Tavupin for octopus salad with olive and capers and finished with Dubrovnik crème caramel – both really good.

Ferry to the Island of Hvar arriving at 9:00 p.m.  After checking into the hotel all the power went down so a few of us walked into the old town and stopped for drinks.  Shared pancakes filled with nutella and ice cream with one of the travelers and then about 11:00 p.m. I went back to the hotel.  Still no power and my head lamp had run out of batteries so just left the door a crack as there was light in the hall and took a shower in the dark!

Nice modern hotel with great breakfast out on the patio.  Took a walk along the water and then we spent the day on a ferry boat which stopped at different islands where we could swim.  It was glorious!!  The water was cool and salty and it felt wonderful.  Free evening so I had dinner at Giaxa in town, i.e. little appetizer was gazpacho soup in a shot glass, little vegetable tart and some olives.  Dinner was grilled octopus salad with warm radicchio and endive and a chocolate boule.  Warm raspberry sauce was poured on top of the chocolate “boule” and it started to melt into a soup.  Really good.

Early ferry to Split.  Very extensive tour of the ruins of the Diocletian Palace, built between the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD and considered to be one of the most imposing roman ruins.  The ancient fortress has become the old town, with numerous shops, cafes, museums, etc. located in the old buildings on narrow streets.  Had the rest of the day to enjoy wandering around.  Stopped for cheesecake and espresso to figure out my day…

Visited the Folk museum filled with costumes and jewelry from ages past, found the meeting place for our upcoming tour to the waterfalls, stopped by the Greenmarket and House Sandra where I would be staying in the next few days.  Last meal together as a group at an outdoor café.   Had a smoked duck salad with goat cheese and pears.  Said our good-byes…

Breakfast in the morning, checked out and picked up some fruit at the Greenmarket.  Strolled partway up Marjan Hill for a nice view of the city and then had lunch at Bistro 7 overlooking the water, i.e. grilled octopus salad with feta cheese and radicchio and chocolate cake.  Checked in to House Natalia where I stayed one night and relaxed a bit.  It is so hot it is hard to keep walking around.  Later in the evening had a delicious dinner at Zinfandel on the patio, i.e. octopus in amaranth seeds and chocolate cake.  There were some guitar players there as well which made the evening quite pleasant.

Early breakfast at Bobis, a great pastry shop which opens early.  Met Jen, a fellow traveler, at the tour office and we had a wonderful tour booked through Viator of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.  We were very fortunate with the weather as the day was cool and we had a lot of walking to do!  The tour included a boat ride to hidden lake as well as leisurely walking trails to upper and lower lakes. 

Returning to Split about 7:30 p.m. I wandered around a bit to stretch my legs and then had a lovely dinner outside on the patio of Corte Maltese, i.e. sea bass with lentils and cauliflower puree and a traditional cake “modernized” which was superb!

Pastry and coffee at Bobis outside overlooking the water and then took a long walk along the water to the Ivan Mestrovic gallery but it was closed so will return another day.  Strolled along the beach and then back to Bistro 7 for cheesecake.  Had a fantastic dinner at Matoni restaurant later in the evening, i.e. super salata composed of layers of beets, carrots, cabbage, mango, seeds, mung beans, etc.  It was sooo delicious!  Dessert was a traditional caramelized walnut cake with vanilla cream.  A find!

Another nice pastry and coffee at Bobis and then caught the ferry to Trogir, an old UNESCO walled city.  Enjoyed strolling around, stopped for cheesecake at Teuta, an outdoor café and returning with the ferry.  Last dinner in Splitz at Dvor at a table overlooking the water.  Charred octopus with chickpeas and chocolate terrine and a glass of wine to celebrate.

Had time in the morning to visit the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery containing many of his sculptures and a lovely outdoor sculpture park.  Also walked down to the Chapel nearby housing a set of outstanding wood panels carved by him as well.   Delicious fresh tuna salad at Bistro 7 before taking the bus to the airport and flying to Zagreb where I spent the night near the airport at Cool Rooms, a perfect place to stay!   Free shuttle from and delivery to the airport.

Took the bus into town and walked about 20 minutes into the center.  Didn’t have much time to look around but enjoyed what I saw.  Had a delicious dinner at Mundoaka Street Food, i.e. dumplings filled with pork and leeks in a balsamic dipping sauce with cabbage/carrot slaw and a chocolate dessert.  Went looking for the Museum of Broken Relationships and was fortunate to run into a couple who took me there as it was very hard to find!  Housed in a beautiful baroque palace, the museum includes personal objects left from former lovers, accompanied by brief descriptions.  A very interesting museum open until 10 p.m. and a must see!

In the morning I got to the airport in plenty of time to have breakfast but didn’t notice there were two flights to Vienna!!!  Ended up going to the wrong gate and missed my flight.  Luckily I called United Airlines who had booked my flights and they were able to rebook me later in the day, i.e. 4:15 p.m. to Munich with an overnight there.  Sooo, I regrouped.  Took a few things out of my large bag and checked it through to LAX and then took the airport bus into Zagreb and wandered around the main square, open air market, saw some of Ivan Mestrovic’s sculptures and had another delicious lunch at Mundoaka Street Food.  Didn’t miss my flight this time!!!

Arrived in Munich about 6:00 p.m. and decided to just take the train into the city and enjoy what I could before it got too late.  Wandered around the Marienplatz to see the Rathhaus, around the corner to visit the Hofbrauhaus, heard some music and then had dinner at Schuhbeck, i.e. octopus with beets and cauliflower mousse and the most delicious Kaisersmarrn I have ever had!!!  Train back to the airport and then a very expensive cab ride to Hotel Claro Garni.  I didn’t realize that Munich hotels near the airport are not really very near the airport and this one didn’t have free shuttle service.  Key had been left for me in a mailbox with a code and the hotel was very nice.

Took a lovely walk through the fields nearby in the morning and then had a delicious breakfast with lots of great German breads, cheeses, fresh fruit, etc. and marvelous coffee.  Hotel arranged a shuttle for me to the airport which was a lot cheaper than the taxi last night and I caught my plane just fine.

Always great to be home after an interesting trip and this was surely one of those!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Eastern Europe – Berlin to Budapest – July, 2017
Booked a G Adventure trip from Berlin to Split and started my voyage with a shuttle to LAX.  Great restaurants at the John Wayne Airport now so had a delicious salad at Tavern, a wonderful restaurant located in Brentwood.  Arrived  in Berlin about 3 p.m.  Took a bus into the city and walked to Schoenhauser
Studios near Alexander Platz, a wonderful place to stay!

Although it was raining, I decided to walk down Prenzlauer Allee to get my bearings, i.e. museum island, Brandenburg Gate, etc. Had dinner at Bricole nearby but the food was rather disappointing…i.e. cauliflower three ways, wild shrimp with buckwheat and roasted tomatoes and chocolate mousse…

Zeit fuer Brot is the “in” place for coffee and pastry as there is always a long line so in the morning I got a pain du chocolate and wonderful strong European coffee. Wandered first around the Nicholas quarter, the old part of town and then on to Museum Island to visit the Cathedral, walking up the 267 stairs to step outside for a breathtaking view of Berlin and then waited in line for about an hour at the Pergamon Museum which was fabulous!!  Inside were the Roman market gate, Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Museum of Islamic Art, especially the Aleppo house among other things.  Afterwards I wandered over to the Gendarmen Markt Square bookended by the domed cathedrals and the concert hall where someone was playing the violin while I had some apple strudel and coffee outside.  Next stop the Brandenburg Gate, hidden in East Berlin for 30 years.  Stopped by the Reichtag to see the dome but you have to stand in line to get a free ticket and have some ID.  So I got a ticket for the next day!

Walked along to the Holocaust Museum, a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.  It consists of a 4.7 acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.  There is a visitor center downstairs which contains memories of the holocaust…

Headed to the Potsdam area and randomly stopped for dinner at Lutter and Wegner for a delicious warm chanterelle mushroom salad with greens, goat cheese and toasted almonds.  Better choice than last night!!!

Another delicious pastry and coffee at Zeit fuer Brot in the morning and then took the U-bahn to Charlottenburg to visit the castle built in the 17th century as a summer residence for Queen Sophie Charlotte and Frederick III.  Some beautiful rooms, crown treasury, porcelain, etc.  Walked down to the Belvedere to see the exquisite porcelain collection, especially the tea and coffee services.  Also wandered in the beautiful gardens.

Spent some time in the Tiergarten and then took a tour of the amazing Reichstag large glass dome with a 360 degree view of Berlin.  Took the metro to Kreuzberg area which took a very long time and walked to Altes Zollhaus for dinner.  Had duck with cabbage and potato pancake and crème brulee torched at the table and even a glass of wine.  Delicious!

Walnut pastry at Zeit fuer Brot next morning and walked to Hackescher Markt, a beautiful courtyard filled with shops, galleries and markets.  Stopped by the Synogogue but it was closed so will go tomorrow.  Walked to Bermauerstrasse and spent a couple hours visiting the wall museum, area where the wall was, etc.  So very interesting.  Spent a couple hours in the Modern Art Museum which had some very clever exhibitions. 

Our G Adventure Group met in the evening and then I went back to Potsdam Plaza for another chanterelle salad instead of joining the group for dinner…There will be plenty of time for that as we will be spending a couple weeks together.  My room mate is from Canada and seems nice.

After breakfast I walked to the East Side Gallery to see the murals on the wall and then continued along the wall way to checkpoint Charlie and read some history about the wall.  Visited the Neue Synagogue air raided and destroyed and now being rebuilt and the cemetery as well.  Went to the Kadewe to see the food court but it was Sunday so it was closed…Heard a lovely Mozart Klarinette Concert in the Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedackneskirsche nearby and then walked the Kurdam, stopping for cheesecake and coffee along the way. 

Spent the afternoon at the Cinema Museum highlighting Marlena Dietrich and other German actors.  An outstanding museum!  Wonderful dinner at Katz Orange, i.e. roasted octopus with hummus, pork ribs with lentils and lemon brulee tart with apricots.

Early breakfast and train to Warsaw, Poland.  Grabbed a quick pastry and coffee at the train station and tram to the hotel.  Walking tour with guide of the old town which was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt quite nicely.  Visited the Church of the Holy Cross, Mermaid statue in the main square, etc.  Charming.  Had an assortment of pierogi for dinner which were delicious. 

Hearty German bread and great coffee for breakfast with lots of fresh fruit.  Bus to Lazienki Park, a beautiful park with manicured greens, once a hunting ground attached to the Ujazdow Castle.  Lovely walk around the lake, etc.  Tram to train station and cheesecake and coffee before taking the train to Krakow where we took part of a walking tour.  The city was never bombed so all the old buildings are genuine.  Stopped for dinner near the Jewish Ghetto and I had sautéed salmon with boiled potatoes perfectly cooked.  Finished the walking tour.

Visited Auswitz in the morning which was very depressing…  Day was hot and humid so walking around was really difficult…In the afternoon I visited St. Mary’s Basilica, Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the Franciscian Church.  All were beautiful.  Wonderful dinner at Guliwer, i.e. warm goat cheese salad and lemon meringue tart – hit the spot!!!

Walked to the castle in the morning, stopped for pastry and coffee nearby and then took the salt mine tour at Wieliczka.  A section of 22 chambers are open to the public with underground lakes, chapels, chandeliers, etc.  Interesting but not as great as the one in Salzburg!  Stopped for cake and coffee for lunch and then visited the outstanding Museum of Stained Glass.  Took the tram to Schindler’s Factory housing a great museum on the Nazi occupation and spent the rest of the afternoon there.  Another delicious goat cheese salad and tart for dinner at Guliwer.  On the way back to the hotel stopped in the main square to listen to a very talented guitarist play…

Train to Prague in the morning arriving about 4 p.m.  Took an orientation walk to old town and saw the astronomical clock in action.  Walked up to the castle for a nice view of the city and had dinner at the Medieval Restaurant nearby along with a show, i.e. sword fightings, fire blowers, etc.  Fun.

In the morning, I took a walk along the river to see the dancing house, a pillar of modern architecture by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry.  Met at 10 a.m. for the remainder of the orientation walk, i.e. Lennon wall, back up to the castle passing some churches, etc.  I stayed on at the castle complex and visited the royal palace, the basilica of st. george and the golden lane of streets representing shops for seamstresses, etc.  Saw the beautiful Mucha window in the St. Vitus Cathedral and then visited the Lob Kowiczky Palace, a 16th century palace housing a private museum of paintings, musical memorabilia, etc.  Stopped in a courtyard for cake and coffee.
Had a delicious salmon later for dinner at U Mateje Kortby near our hotel.

In the morning walked through old town to the Jewish Museum and took a 2 hour guided tour through seven of the synogogues, some working and some turned into museums.  The cemetery was also very interesting to see.  It was raining so stopped for traditional honey cake and coffee before proceeding through the powder tower where all the processions start to the Mucha museum, which was rather small but worth seeing all the same.  Walked along the river and had dinner at Nuance, sitting outside which was very pleasant.  Had duck sous vide with sweet potato puree, blue potatoes and kale – nicely prepared.

Took a nice walk to the castle in the morning before heading to Cesky Krumlou, a very cute little medieval town.  Took our orientation walk and then had a traditional chicken platter with millet cake, potato pancakes, cabbage, etc. for dinner which was not really that great…A bit too heavy for my taste.

Walked up to the castle in the morning and took the museum and tower tour.  There is also a very extensive tour of the whole castle and theatre which I wish I had done.  Stopped for apple strudel and coffee overlooking the river and then we got into rafts each holding 4 persons and spent 3 hours rafting down the Vitava river which was great fun.  Went to a vegetarian restaurant nearby for dinner outside overlooking the river, i.e. Indian vegetables, lentils and pita bread.  Nice.

Took an early morning walk to the castle and drove to Vienna where we had an orientation walk starting at St. Stephan’s Cathedral and wandering to the Habsburg, Albertina, etc. to give us some history and help us plan our time.  Afterwards I visited Mozart’s apartment in old town where he resided with his family from 1784 to 1787 and wrote “The Marriage of Figaro”.  Took the metro back and met a few of the group for schnitzel and cucumber/potato/cabbage salad in Prater Park.  It was great having some traditional fare.

In the morning although it was raining, I visited the Schonbrunn Palace, a 1,441 room Baroque palace where Franz Joseph was born and the lovely grounds, Nasch Market filled with fruits and vegetables and the Belvedere to see the extensive collection of Klimt’s works, especially the famous “Kiss”.  The gardens are also very beautiful.  Afterwards I had apple strudel at Demel’s, a famous Austrian café and then walked to the Succession building to see Klimt’s famous panal to Beethoven which was very impressive.  Took a tram ride around the Ring streets and then had a quick “dinner” at the café in the Dobo Hotel overlooking St. Stephans, i.e. hummus, grilled eggplant, borek and a brownie.  In the evening I went to a Mozart concert in the Golden Hall which was outstanding.  Didn’t have time to visit the Opera House or walk along the Danube…next time…

Train to Budapest in the morning, orientation walk and then spent the afternoon at the famous SzechenyThermal Baths, 18 indoor and outdoor pools situated under neo-Baroque domes.  A lot of people!!!

Very nice dinner of salmon, spinach and mushroom ragout, potato puree and music which we dined.  AT 10:00 p.m. took a lovely boat ride on the Danube.

Toured  the Parliament building, which lies on the banks of the Danube and is currently the largest building in Hungary, in the morning which was very interesting.  The building is quite impressive inside with ceilings of frescoes, etc.  Walked over the chain bridge to the “castle” which is now the Museum of Art and thoroughly enjoyed the paintings, etc.  Stopped by to see St. Matthais Church but there was a wedding going on so I couldn’t go inside.  Took a bus back to St. Stephan’s square for cheesecake and coffee and then took a very nice tour of the Opera House.

The next part of our trip will meet this evening so I am looking forward to what comes next!!!