40Gal Bucket List

A list of life's 'to-do's' before turning 50 … our journey of gettin' stuff done

Archive for the category “Eat food from every country in the world”

Bagpipes, Burns and Haggis

I love when a Bucket List item goes above and beyond my expectations. It’s happened a few times. Once when checking Indiana off my list and instead of just visiting Indiana, I walked into a Civil War reenactment! And just last week, when I just wanted a taste of Scotland at The Highlands, a NYC Scottish Restaurant, I instead got a full Scottish experience: bagpipes, poetry, whisky, kilts and Scots included.

I had never tasted Scottish food and in fact, I am not sure how to even describe Scottish food, but when I saw that OpenTable had an open table for a special event called a Burns Supper at The Highlands I booked a reservation. It was a prix fixe meal and event celebrating Robert Burns, a man I never knew I knew.

robert burnsSo Robert Burns? He is known as the national poet of Scotland and turned 258 on January 25. To a little ole American girl like me, he’s the guy who wrote “Auld Lang Syne.” Ah, yes, I know him! A Burns Supper celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns on his birthday and is a yearly event in Scotland and Ireland and has been since the end of the 18th century. The Burns Supper consists of readings of his poetry, bagpipe entertainment, a traditional Scottish meal, and toast to the Lassies.

poetry readingBefore our meal was served by our Scottish waiter/host in kilt we first were read a traditional Scottish Grace and then we were entertained by the most serious of musicians, a bagpiper. He marched up and down the tiny aisle expressionless and winded, which I suppose is the point. He was impressive.

bagpiper1

The menu was outlined for us, which was perfect since I had no clue what I would have ordered. In fact, even after reading the menu, I still had no clue what I was about to eat. Really, what is Haggis?

menu

Our food finally arrived …

Course 1: Smoked Salmon

Course 1: Smoked Salmon

The Smoked Salmon came first.  I could taste the freshness, but I just don’t like salmon.  Second was the Cullen Skink which is a soup, a  very hearty soup, perfect for the cold winter’s day.  Tasted like a creamy potato soup.  The main meal of Haggis with Neeps and Tatties finally arrived.  Neeps and Tatties are Turnips and Potatoes – easy enough and delicious!  Now on to the Haggis.  Why did we ask, I do not know, but once we understood what we were eating we proceeded with caution.  This how Wikipedia describes haggis:  “savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.”  Our waiter pretty much described it the same way; however, ours was made with lamb liver and they now cook it differently since FDA banned cooking haggis in the “casing of the animal’s stomach” in the 1990’s.  

Course 2: Cullen Skink

Course 2: Cullen Skink

Well now, I supposed that’s good news. So what did it taste like?  To be honest, I liked it.  It was a little greasy, and the lamb taste, which I do not like lamb, was hidden by all the spices they use.  It was good and if I didn’t know what it was before I ate it, I probably would have enjoyed it more.  It reminded my of my Mom’s eggplant dressing she makes for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving makes me happy, so I suppose Haggis makes me happy too.  So, it’s not as scary and disgusting as it sounds.  I recommend you try.  Finally dessert, my favorite course!  The Cranachan was a very light and refreshing dessert of raspberries and cream.  And the Salted Dark Chocolate Bark which is not picture, but you know what it looks like, right?  Oh delicious, but really, it’s chocolate.  Yum!

Course 3: Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Course 3: Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Course 4: Cranachan

Course 4: Cranachan

The dinner was exception and the experience was more than I could have ever imagined.  To learn about  Robert Burns and to participate in a Burns Supper is to experience Scotland. 

To conclude the evening and the Burns Supper (and this post) we were entertained with the familiar, “Auld Lang Syne.”

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:

On Old long syne my Jo,On Old long syne,That thou canst never once reflect,On Old long syne.

Arepas! Arepas!

resturant 

What an amazing weekend we had! So much fun knocking off a few items on our list including a most amazing Venezuelan lunch.

It’s wasn’t in our plans to have a Venezuelan lunch when we headed out to explore our neighboring borough: Queens. But we happily tried Arepas Café  (www.arepascafe.com) for lunch when we stumbled upon this tiny restaurant while walking on 36th Ave in Astoria.

empabeerWe were seated in the window and decided we would each have a Polar, a Venezuelan beer; mini Empanadaz as our antojitos (appetizer); and enjoy the obvious for lunch: arepas. But what type of apepas? Wait, what is an arepas?

Arepas is described as a “corn based dish (wheat free) perfect for standing for bread, highly nutritional meal, split in half and filled with cheese, deli meats, great variety of fillings, and dressed with toppings.

Basically it looks like a pita filled with whatever you want. There were so many versions to choose from! Do we want beef? Chicken? Shark? Um, sorry, no to Jaws, thank you. In the end we went with the arepas that had an asterisk next to it on the menu indicating a ‘chef suggestion’ and sounded yummy. I decided on the Mami: Venezuelan Roast Pork, avocado and white cheese, and my husband got the Arepa Pabellon: shredded beef, black bean, fried sweet plantains, sprinkled with white cheese.

t

The beer and appetizer came first. The beer was light and refreshing and the empanadas were ‘mini’ as described filled with beef, cheese and chicken, but was a little more doughy then we were used to, but very good.

v

Soon our arepas came and they were delicious. Packed with meat and filled with flavor, arepas is now on the list of a favorite food! Wow, really good and the perfect portion for a noon-time meal. You should most definitely try this Venezuelan delight. Yum!

Going Greek

When we found out that my husband’s cousin, S, was visiting NYC this weekend we jumped at the chance to see him and his wife, T and to dine at one of the many restaurants that this city has to offer.  I mentioned to T of our project of eating food from every country in the world and she happily suggested Greek food. 

sign

Molyvos came up in my Google search:  http://www.molyvos.com.   It got good reviews, it was near their hotel. (T is pregnant so we wanted to make the restaurant convenient), and it had a nice atmosphere for Saturday night dining. 

My husband and I arrived early and had a drink at the bar before our guest arrived.  I had a martini and my husband a beer.  I could already feel the vodka when S&T arrived.  We sat at a table towards the back, drank more vodka, beer and added wine to the mix and had a wonderful time chatting about the wonders of the city, of Spain (where my husband’s family is from) and about the baby who is due in a month. 

menu

cheeseSoon the waiter arrived with menus and we all ordered to our Greek delight.  T and I got the Pikilia Tyrion: Greek Cheese Tasting Plate.  Neither of our husbands like cheese, we think maybe it is hereditary, so they got the Octapodi Skharas: Grilled Octopus.  Both were delicious.oct

For dinner we ordered various meals from the menu.  I opted for the Brizola: Grilled Black Angus Steak with Feta Mashed Potatoes and Ionian Garlic Sauce.  It was good but the portion was huge!  My husband got the special, Monkfish.  He enjoyed it but thought the flavors of his cousin’s fish dish: the Lavraki or European Bass, was much tastier.  T chose the Molyvosos Moussake: Spiced Ground Lamb and Beef, Potato, Eggplant, Pepper, Yogurt Bechamel.  I believe she enjoyed her meal, but there was definitely much leftover.  The portions were huge.  I am not sure if large portions is a Greek thing or an American Greek thing?

For dessert we ordered the Baklava which is always tasty and the waiter also sent us a more traditional Greek dessert called Tsoureki Poutinga: Bread Pudding with golden raisins, chocolate, samos caramel and warm almond milk.  It was delicious.

I wish I would have taken more photos, but the wine and conversation interrupted the blogger in me which is probably for the best since any photos taken after the appetizers would have most likely been a bit blurry. 

It was a wonderful Greek meal.  The feta was fabulous, the Brizola was brilliant, but what made it so special was visiting Greece in New York City with the family. Opa!

Vittles in Vietnam

I have been to Ho Chi Minh Vietnam now 4 times.  All for work, which often is the best way to travel since most of the expenses are paid for by someone else.  And even though my time was always limited to do the fun ‘touristy’ things, just being in Vietnam and witnessing the daily local life is what travel is really all about.  Granted getting an hour massage for $20, being able to buy hand-made embroidered tablecloths for $50 (in the US it would be over $200), or get the latest Hollywood flicks on DVD for $2 (I never do since this is illegal ;-) is fun, but watching a family of 4 riding a Vespa scooter dance through traffic with ease and no hesitation I find most fascinating, and, of course, eating the local cuisine.

I’ve had Vietnamese food many times throughout my life and I will admit, it is not my favorite.  Pho is the most typical Vietnamese dish and is found all over Vietnam from street vendors to nice restaurants.  It is eaten morning, noon and night.  There is even a fast food chain called Pho24 where you can get your Pho on at 50 locations throughout the country and has even expanded internationally: www.pho24.com.vn.  It is THE dish to try in Vietnam.

menu

This trip, however, I decided to try other things on the menu, and when my co-worker and I went to a local dining establishment just minutes from our hotel, I decided to order out of the norm.   After carefully looking at the signature dishes of this not-so- fancy establishment,  I decided on their Banh Gio Signature dish which is described as “Vietnamese rice flour pudding with meat filling, served with VN cold cuts and soup of the day.”  Below is what showed up: meal

Well, I wanted something different than what I am used to and that is exactly what I got.  A platter of unique and unidentifiable foods.

cold cuts

What is this?  This is not my definition of ‘cold cuts’ and was not to my liking.  It really didn’t taste like anything but sponge – whatever sponge taste like.  I think maybe it was tofu, but I’m not sure and I was afraid to ask.  I had one bite only.  Done.

soupThe soup was ok, just really a broth and vegetables.  It would have been classified as Pho if there were noodles – that is the only difference from what I can tell.  It reminded me of something my mother would want me to eat when I am sick, well except for that random piece of meat thingy floating in the broth.  Again, one bite and done.

meatThe ‘flour rice pudding with meat filling’ reminded me of dumplings that you get in Chinese restaurants.  It was a little too ‘ricey’ and less ‘meaty’ for my taste.  The sauce did help, but still it wasn’t that great.  I was hoping for a “WOW” and instead I got “____”

tcoffee

I am not sure that this restaurant was a good representative of Vietnamese cuisine as I have had good food from Vietnam many times before.  This place was a disappointment, but I will give credit to their fancy and tasty coffee.  It was the best part of the meal.

Vietnam is officially off my ‘global to eat’ list.  Now my husband needs to do the same.  Fortunately I brought home some local goodies to test his tastes buds:  local coffee and candies.

coffee

It’s a German New Year

We decided to change things up a bit, and maybe even start a new tradition, by enjoying international cuisine, rather than a typical baked ham, on New Year’s Day (although, is baked ham typical? It’s what my Mom always has, but honestly I do not remember as an adult ever having a baked ham on NYD. Hangover food? Yes. But ham? Don’t know). This year my husband randomly picked Germany as the cuisine du jour – or more appropriately ‘Küche des Tages’.

The nearest, and one of the best, German restaurants in New York City is The Heidelberg on 86th and 2nd Ave. This is where we decided to meet friends, drink beer and tackle the taste of Schnitzel, Spaetzle, and Red Cabbage. It was not the first time I have ever eaten German Food, I had been to The Heidelberg years ago, but ate so much sausage, too much Bauernwurst, Weisswurst and Bratwurst that I had killed my desire to ever eat any food from Germany again. Well, this challenge of eating food from every country in the world encouraged me to re-try German food, sans the sausage, and I am happy I did.

Ask anyone a type of German food and most would say schnitzel, I probably would say the same thing, but honestly I never knew what schnitzel was — breaded and fried meat. If I had only known, I would have eaten schnitzel long long ago. I mean, really, you can’t go wrong frying meat. And It was is oh so good; however, the waitress informed us that schnitzel is actually more Austrian than German. Great. My husband had the wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet), and I had jäger schnitzel (veal cutlet, sautéed mushrooms, cream and wine). Both were excellent. Along with the schnitzel we had spaetzle which is pan fried noodles (which is German – thank goodness!). Again, fry anything and YUM! Finally another side dish was a pickled red cabbage, not as good as it wasn’t fried – I guess you can’t fry everything – but tasty.

So this year was different, no ham, no hangover food, or hangover for that matter, and the beer was flowing rather than ignored. It was a great New Years Day meal and a perfect way to start 2013.

Global Gastronomy

How often do we get a true taste of Cambodian cuisine or a mainstay meal from Macedonia?  Um, never.  Why?  Because we generally never seek them out.  And if we do happen to run into a restaurant from Gabon or Guinea we most likely won’t venture in because we have no idea what to order.  So we are going to change that!

This challenge is for us to eat food from the 157 countries listed below (for the record there are 242 countries in the world – although that is even debatable)  The countries on our list have a population of a million or more – it would be just too difficult to find cuisine from the Pitcaim Islands (pop 66) without actually going there. Some of the countries and their cuisines we have never tried (or even heard of), and some we have had oh so many times, so why not again? (frankly I can eat Mexican every night of the week.) This should be easy living in New York City since it is an international food mecca; however, if we happen to come across a nice little Burundian restaurant in say, Kansas, we will eat at that opportunity.

So from food trucks to take-out and from five-star restaurants to a family sit down meal, we’re ready to tackle foods from many great nations (and maybe some not so great nations or not so great foods – we’ll see)! 

Get your fork ready and let’s eat!

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Albania
  3. Algeria
  4. Angola
  5. Argentina
  6. Armenia
  7. Australia
  8. Austria
  9. Azerbaijan
  10. Bahrain
  11. Bangladesh
  12. Belarus
  13. Belgium
  14. Benin
  15. Bolivia
  16. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  17. Botswana
  18. Brazil
  19. Bulgaria
  20. Burkina Faso
  21. Burundi
  22. Cambodia
  23. Cameroon
  24. Canada
  25. Central African Republic
  26. Chad
  27. Chile
  28. Colombia
  29. Costa Rica
  30. Côte d’Ivoire
  31. Croatia
  32. Cuba
  33. Czech Republic
  34. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  35. Denmark
  36. Dominican Republic
  37. Ecuador
  38. Egypt
  39. El Salvador
  40. Eritrea
  41. Estonia
  42. Ethiopia
  43. Finland
  44. France
  45. Gabon
  46. Gambia
  47. Georgia
  48. Germany – DONE!
  49. Ghana
  50. Greece
  51. Guatemala
  52. Guinea
  53. Guinea-Bissau
  54. Haiti
  55. Honduras
  56. Hong Kong (China)
  57. Hungary
  58. India
  59. Indonesia
  60. Iran
  61. Iraq
  62. Ireland
  63. Israel
  64. Italy
  65. Jamaica
  66. Japan
  67. Jordan
  68. Kazakhstan
  69. Kenya
  70. Kuwait
  71. Kyrgyzstan
  72. Laos
  73. Latvia
  74. Lebanon
  75. Lesotho
  76. Liberia
  77. Libya
  78. Lithuania
  79. Macedonia
  80. Madagascar
  81. Malawi
  82. Malaysia
  83. Mali
  84. Mauritania
  85. Mauritius
  86. Mexico
  87. Moldova
  88. Mongolia
  89. Morocco
  90. Mozambique
  91. Myanmar
  92. Namibia
  93. Nepal
  94. Netherlands
  95. New Zealand
  96. Nicaragua
  97. Niger
  98. Nigeria
  99. North Korea
  100. Norway
  101. Oman
  102. Pakistan
  103. Palestinian territories
  104. Panama
  105. Papua New Guinea
  106. Paraguay
  107. People’s Republic of China
  108. Peru
  109. Philippines
  110. Poland
  111. Portugal
  112. Puerto Rico
  113. Qatar
  114. Republic of the Congo
  115. Romania
  116. Russia
  117. Rwanda
  118. Saudi Arabia
  119. Senegal
  120. Serbia
  121. Sierra Leone
  122. Singapore
  123. Slovakia
  124. Slovenia
  125. Somalia
  126. South Africa
  127. South Korea
  128. South Sudan
  129. Spain
  130. Sri Lanka
  131. Sudan
  132. Swaziland
  133. Sweden
  134. Switzerland
  135. Syria
  136. Taiwan
  137. Tajikistan
  138. Tanzania
  139. Thailand
  140. Timor-Leste
  141. Togo
  142. Trinidad and Tobago
  143. Tunisia
  144. Turkey
  145. Turkmenistan
  146. Uganda
  147. Ukraine
  148. United Arab Emirates
  149. United Kingdom
  150. United States
  151. Uruguay
  152. Uzbekistan
  153. Venezuela
  154. Vietnam
  155. Yemen
  156. Zambia
  157. Zimbabwe

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