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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tastiest Travels #4

Fourth installment of Tastiest Travels! I am really glad it has been able to get this far. If you're interested in submitting something to the series please send an email over to with the subject "Tastiest Travels" and I'll send you the details!

Today we have some great food entries from seriously all over the world! Enjoy the tastes!


Spicy Lemon Scampi
Where you can get it: Makati, Philippines @ Café Mary Grace

The first time I dined at Café Mary Grace was with my mom, after a little bit of shopping spree with her. I have always loved eating pasta; it is my comfort food, I cook it all the time when I’m alone and hungry at home, and eating pasta never gets old for me. So, when we ate at Café Mary Grace, I knew I had to try this. Smeared generously with lemon juice, topped with prawns and lightly sprinkled with some spice, I definitely enjoyed the Spicy Lemon Scampi! What I love even more about this was that its portioning was neither too large, nor too small, for a hungry stomach. It gives you that satisfied feeling yet leaving you wanting for more. 

Samurai Sushi
Where you can get it: Dubai, United Arab Emirates @ Sumo Restaurant

Just a couple of months back, I traveled to Dubai to renew my residence visa. I have always been a fan of Sumo Restaurant so, one day, I decided to try their New & Hot Samurai. It is shrimp tempura and crabstick roll that is topped lightly with salmon, avocado, cream cheese and mayo. It has the perfect fusion of crunchiness and softness, spiciness and sweetness. Even with a small appetite like mine, one order of Samurai was not enough. I ordered 3 and one order was about 6 pieces! Until now, every time I travel back to Dubai, I still order Samurai. It is just so good; it feels like falling in love with your longtime beau over and over again, but way better.

Chocolate Crepe
Where you can get it: Paris, France

It was late in the evening, my friends and I were exhausted from walking around the city, and good food was what we needed. We strolled around our hotel area, looking for the best food we can try. After a few minutes, we found a little crêperie restaurant nearby. Putting my few basic French phrases to good use, I ordered one crêpe with hot chocolate melting from the inside, coffee ice cream on the top and heavy vanilla whipped cream on the sides. Perfect balance of hotness and coldness, equal rhythm of sweetness and bitterness, I thought I was in heaven! Truly, France is the home of the best crêpes. 

Gemma of Gemoirs

Falafel Hommus Tahina & Salad with Pitta
Where you can get it: Bangkok, Thailand @ Ethos
Budget (500 baht/$13) 

Struggling to find a vegetarian option in Thailand, I was recommended to try vegan and vegetarian restaurant in the Khao San area of Bangkok. Multiple people whom I had spoke with praised their food and I was really excited to try it! One evening after working in Nakhon Pathom, a colleague and myself ventured into Bangkok so I could eventually experience this much talked about cuisine for myself. I don't know if everyone had gotten my hopes too high or my tastebuds had changed during my stay in Thailand but I wasn't blown away by the food. It wasn't bad food, the humous was actually really good - I can sometimes struggle to find the perfect humous and it was nice to have some non-spicy and vegetarian food at last. I was so excited to eat here, I probably overindulged by following my meal with a chocolate pancake and multiple fruit shakes and Kombucha tea, leaving Bangkok feeling absolutely stuffed! The atmosphere was relaxed and informal, there were low tables and cushions to sit cross-legged on the floor and soft lighting, creating a middle-eastern dining experience. My bill seems somewhat expensive for Thailand, but the restaurant is located in a touristic area of Bangkok and I saw no Thai people dining at the time I visited Ethos

Chicken Stew
Where you can get it: Bangkok, Thailand @ Cafè La Vela Steak and Coffee
Budget (64 baht ~$1.70)

I discovered this cute little cafe nestled beneath the U Delight 2 tower in the Bang Sue area of Bangkok. After arriving late in the evening to the area for work, I wanted to find somewhere close by to eat and I ended up at this place. I wasn't expecting both convenience and yummy cuisine but I was pleasantly surprised! Consequently I keep returning to this clean and calm little place every time I am working in the area and I try to order something new each time. However the menu is in Thai, so I have to just point at the limited amount of pictures on the menu but I haven't yet struggled to order from their delicious drinks and dessert list.

Honey Toast with Fruit and Ice Cream
Where you can get it: Sam Phran, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand @ Green Mountain Coffee
Budget (60 baht ~$1.50)

Directly opposite the Nakprasith school gates, myself and fellow teachers would flock to this place for refreshing iced beverages every lunch time. After enduring one too many questionable school dinners, I decided to order some honey toast after witnessing the alluring imagery of the sweet treats on offer. The portion sizes are huge and I would strongly advise you to learn from my mistake and share. At the time, you will be enjoying the warm, soft toast, drizzled in honey or chocolate syrup, contrasting with the refreshing, chilled and quickly melting ice cream, to notice the full and sickly feeling you are about to experience. In this case you can definitely have too much of a good thing! But this place is great and the "lovely coffee lady" is so sweet - sometimes she would give me free drinks and snacks from the vendor next door. The only thing I would change is the plastic cutlery, cutting through the toast can prove quite difficult and would often result in me getting sticky hands (and face) as I devoured this scrumptious sweet treat!

Garlic Pepper Chicken with Rice
Where you can get it: Sam Phran, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand @ Aroy
Budget (100 baht ~$2.75)

I figured it would be rude not to include a Thai meal, or even a Thai restaurant considering my entire post consists of food in and around Bangkok. It’s hard to know the name of a restaurant when it’s written in Thai and the majority of places I do eat Thai food in Thailand are from street food vendors. However this one restaurant, located by my apartment in Sam Phran (just opposite the Malee factory) in Nakhon Pathom province, became my favourite sit down restaurant in Thailand. It makes such a difference when the server can speak English and the menus are translated to English and this is one of the main reasons I loved this place. The food was also very tasty and although I set out to try everything on the menu, I tended to alternate between garlic and pepper chicken and cashew chicken, just because I knew I would enjoy my meal. I could never work out how my bill was calculated as it varied because they would charge everything separately (rice came separate and they would always bring me a bottle of water without me ordering one) but my bill generally came to around 100 – 120 baht. Although a couple of quid sounds ridiculously cheap for a meal, this became expensive to me after eating street food for 25 baht per meal, though the portion sizes here were somewhat bigger and I could sit at a table and access their wifi.

The entries this week were fantastic! I am starving after just having finished my own lunch. Thailand is now a top spot I want to get to for food, as Gemma's entries are all fantastic. And Xam's crepe picture has me questioning my dislike of crepes. Thanks again girls for your great submissions! Stay tuned next week 

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Walk Around Artlando 2015 in Orlando

While on Facebook the other day I noticed an event for something called "Artlando" down at Loch Haven Park here in Orlando. I am a sucker for an art festival, or really any outdoor festival, so I had to go. I sent a message to my friend, who I actually met while living in Japan. She's the reason I moved to Hokkaido, convincing me to take her spot in Atsuma when my company wanted to move me there. I guess you could call her my "senpai".

Anyway, she agreed to go and I was very excited as it has been maybe three and a half years since I last saw her! We had a great time and it was fun to walk around and look at a bunch of local artists. There seemed to be a lot going on and I think in the years to come it will grow to be a wonderful art festival.

I ended up buying myself two piece of art. The above and below images are of the two pieces. The top is a fairy house that Fairy Found had made! It was apparently their first time out at an art festival and their booth was packed of people! Their pieces were also really well priced, the largest being about $45. I'll add a few more pieces of her work further on. 

The second piece I bought is this sketch of a badger. I thought the colors were great and well, I am a Hufflepuff so my nerdy Harry Potter lover has to have this $5 print. It was made by Chelsea Smith!

My favorite art that was there was by NIX Abstract. The pieces were just so vibrant and the texture was great. Definitely going to look into buying one of his pieces when I have my own place.

Probably the most adorable art was by RobotsAreAwesome! The handmade and hand painted sculptures are just too adorable. That cake topper is fantastic and I think that the paint it yourself robot is super reasonably priced!

Another one of my favorites were these chickens by Tropical Zombies! I just love their colors and all of his work was vey "Florida" to me. Island inspired and witty. The artist himself was also really friendly and happy to talk to you.

There was quite a bit of jewelry on display, but the pieces by Jortra Boutique were easily my favorites. All made from organic pieces. The bracelets there have pieces of orange peel that were dyed! For $25 they are some of the more affordable handmade jewelry pieces you can find. They also have necklaces made of cantaloupe seeds and coffee beans!

Here's some other pieces by Fairy Found. They are all hand made using stones and various items. The seasonal pumpkin pieces were adorable and perfect for halloween and the larger pieces would be great for a patio stuck between potted plants! I have my little fairy house sitting on my nightstand.

There were also artists that you could see painting actual pieces, like this one by Peterson J Guerrier! Completely love his style and brushwork. Also in the corner you can see an "Artlando" board with stickers on it. You could vote for your favorite artists and at the end, they awarded a winner!

It was a great day out and I think that if I am around next year I will join up as well! They also had a huge grouping of food trucks and it was right by the Science Center so you could pop into some air conditioning to escape the hot heat of Florida in September!

Friday, September 25, 2015

My Stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale Plantation, Florida

Last weekend I went down towards Miami for my uncle's art gallery feature in Hollywood, Florida. My mom, Nana, and I drove down from Orlando to spend the weekend with family and celebrate my return to America, my aunt's return from the Bahamas, and my Nana's birthday as well as the art gallery opening.

My mom gets discounts with her work at Marriott hotels and picked the newly remodeled Residence Inn off of University Drive in Plantation as where the three of us would stay. It was located close to where my uncle lives, and is off of the main road that goes through Ft. Lauderdale. Yet it's nestled away in a grove of trees so you can't really hear any of the road noise.

My mom and Nana went to pick up my aunt and cousins from the airport, so I was left alone in the hotel for some time. I decided to take some pictures of it before we got it all messy and share the experience of the hotel with you guys! I was really impressed with my stay here and thought the room was completely gorgeous.

We were the first ones to stay in this room since it's remodel, and there was still a bit of construction going on. But the noise was minimal and only started up after everyone was awake, so it really wasn't a big deal at all. We did have an issue with two of the three TVs in the room not being properly connected, but once we called someone was up to the room within five minutes and the issue was fixed really quickly.

We booked a two bedroom suite for the three of us. The bedrooms were beautiful and the bed super comfy. The pillow were a bit flat but that is standard for most hotels. You're given so many pillows that it isn't really even a problem. Each bedroom comes with a large flatscreen TV and it's own connected bathroom.

One thing I really liked about the room was the almost obsessive amount of plus in the room. You can see a wonderfully located "ChargePort" next to the bed in this shot being illuminated by a handy reading light, though the LED in the light is so bright it nearly lights up the entire room (albeit dimly). These ChargePorts are all over the hotel and located in spots that make using your phone while it's charging super convenient! So if you're traveling for work and need to plug in a laptop and a phone and another phone and there's other people with you, you won't have to fight over outlets at all!

The bathroom was also big and beautiful. Plenty of space if you're staying for a while or have a lot of people sharing the room. The fixtures are also completely modern and sleek. American Standard was the brand they chose to go with. Their complimentary shampoo and conditioner is by Paul Mitchell, a brand that just reminds me of the 90s and childhood and I enjoyed seeing and using.

The bath itself was clean and nice. The showered was in good working order and the water got hot and stayed hot for a long time. The towels were fantastic. Really soft and lush and big. They have signs saying that you can hang up your towel and they will leave it so you can use it again, a nice attempt at making us all a bit greener, but I was a bit disappointed when the maid took my towel that I hung up on that rack above the toilet after I used it the first time.

The closet was big and came with nice hangers, some shelves, and the doors were full sized mirrors. There were actually loads of mirrors in that bathroom which lead me to looking at myself in angles I've never seen before, and never wish to see again. There's also an ironing board with iron in the living room closet and a hairdryer in the bathroom closet. They also have their spare bedding in that bag you see at the top, a great feature that makes moving it to the living room really easy.

The kitchen was nicely stocked as well. The faucet matched the bathroom which was a nice little touch and everything was put away and easy to find. I liked how the dishes were in semi-transparent cabinets because it made looking for stuff in an unfamiliar place a little easier. The next set of pictures shows everything included in the kitchen, so you can have a look at all the stuff!

I really enjoyed staying here, and I think the thing that really won my family over was when my Nana called down to the front desk to ask if her grandchildren could come to their free breakfast buffet to eat with her. Without even asking how many that would be, the staff member said "our pleasure" and allowed it. We ended up not having them come over in the end, but the fact that they were so willing was great! 

The breakfast was really good as well, with a make-your-own waffle station, choices of breads, and a daily hot breakfast selection. We had these spicy potatoes, french toast, scrambled eggs, and sausage one morning and sausage gravy with biscuits, sausage, and eggs the second morning. It was delicious, especially the sausage gravy which is my favorite breakfast.

If you'd like to stay at this hotel the next time you're in Ft. Lauderdale, I highly recommend it. You can make reservations on their website, just click here. Rooms appear to start at $90 a night and the room we stayed it goes for about $170.

By the way, I wasn't compensated in any way for writing this, I just really enjoyed my stay here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tastiest Travels #3

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for looking at some tasty foods other travel bloggers have had on their adventures! You can read the previous two entries here: number one and number two.

If you'd like to submit something to this series, please send an email to with the subject "Tastiest Travels" and I will get back to you with all of the details that I need! 

This week has a great variety of things, so there is sure to be something that catches your eye! Enjoy!

Laura Lynch

Leche de Tigre
Where you can get it: Lima, Peru

Leche de Tigre is the citrus juice that's leftover from curing the raw fish for ceviche. It's a delicious mix of lime juice, onion, spicy chilies and fish juice. You don't want that incredible juice to go to waste, so it's served as its own dish - mostly as an appetizer in a tall glass with a couple of prawns thrown in. I fell in love with Leche de Tigre when a Peruvian friend of mine took me to a hole in the wall Peruvian restaurant to try it. It is a flavor bomb that will alight your tastebuds in the best possible way, and it's super spicy, with just a hint of fish flavor. There's nothing else like it. If you like ceviche, you'll love Leche de Tigre. I couldn't get enough of it while I was in Peru and I've even tried to make it a couple of times at home.

Pulpo ala Gallega
Where you can get it: Madrid, Spain
Can be upscale or budget

I never really liked octopus much before I went to Spain. We had Pulpo ala Gallega at one of the restaurants featured in the Adventurous Appetites tour in Madrid and I instantly changed my mind about octopus. When cooked properly, as they tend to do in Spain, the octopus is delicious, tender and mouthwatering. Turns out it's not really all that difficult to make at home. You just need to follow a good recipe and serve it with the best, top quality olive oil.

Where you can get it: Canada @ Granville Island Brewery

I know most people have already heard of poutine, but it's truly one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world. Last time we were in Vancouver, we had what has now become the benchmark for all future poutine at Granville Island Brewery on Granville Island. I've had so many dishes of poutine - some are served with shredded cheese instead of curds, some have a watery, weak gravy, some have soggy fries - so when I had this plate of poutine I was incredibly happy to find that all of its components were perfect. Irresistible!

Soumya Nambiar

Zanzibar Mix
Where you can get it: Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania @ Kisutu school canteen

This is more associated with nostalgia. I grew up in Tanzania, Africa and growing up, there was this mess outside our school which used to serve Zanzibar mix. It is basically a soup with potatoes, chutney and Bhajias and is inspired by the cuisines of India and Tanzania (two countries very close to my heart). It has been years since I had this and you get this only in Tanzania. But the taste still lingers on. Hopefully one day soon, I will be able to have this again.

Where you can get it: Italy

This is a no brainer. I love Italian food and among all the pastas, lasagnas feature in the top of my list. You give me Lasagna anytime of the day and I would eat it up in a jiffy. I think this is one of the reasons that I fell in love with Italy.

Chocolate Cupcake
Where you can get it: Westmont, Chicago, IL USA

Last month I was in the US, traveling. I was staying in a quiet suburb, Westmont with my cousin. If I had to go to Chicago alone, I had to take a Metra train there. My cousin dropped me at the train station and then when we got there, we realized that the next train was an hour away. I asked my cousin to leave and then I decided to wander around the place. I found a cute pastry shop there and I had one of the best cupcakes I have had till date.

That does it for this week's Tastiest Travels! Big thanks to Laura and Soumya for the great submissions! Hope you all enjoyed reading about it. I need to get myself to Canada to eat that poutine ASAP, I know that much!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Seventh All-Media Biennial Art Exhibit in Hollywood, Florida

This year my uncle was chosen to take part in the Seventh All-Media Juried Biennial down in Hollywood, Florida. So my mother, Nana and I loaded up into the car and drove down for the weekend. My aunt was also moving back from the Bahamas so all my cousins on that side of the family were in one place for the first time in, I want to say, years, thanks to my being in Japan.

Timing was also on my side and it turned out to be my Nana's birthday weekend. I also ate so much Mexican and Cuban food I was in bed with a stomachache before midnight. Welcome to American cuisine after eating the delicate Japanese diet.

Anyway, the Biennial was held at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, which is nestled in a great section of town surrounded by bars and tiny restaurants. On the way home my aunt stuck her head out and attempted to sing along with a mariachi singer...

Here are some photos I took of the show. If you'd like to check them out yourself in person, it'll be going on until November 1st!

That's my uncle's piece. ;)

This one was my favorite.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vegetable Potato Hash Recipe

Now for something completely different! I really enjoy cooking. I didn't always enjoy cooking, but I learned to enjoy it. I, like every other human, get hungry. And when I get hungry I want to eat. I don't want to eat fake processed nonsense. I don't want to eat food from a freezer. I don't want to get take out and throw my money down the toilet on food I can make at home. I also don't want to hate myself after making something gross. Though, believe me, in the early days of learning to cook there were many nights of "goodness I really don't want to eat this but I made it and I'm hungry and I have done this to myself."

This week my mom was baking a chicken, it was actually a Perdue Oven Ready Chicken Roast and it was delicious. They aren't paying me to say this at all (but if they want to, heeeey! I love chicken!) it honestly was just much better than I expected it to be. Something about cooking chicken in a plastic bag just seemed wrong to me at first.

I was tasked with the job of making a side for the chicken, and I wanted potatoes. But not mashed potatoes. So I made a potato hash. I would make this rather frequently in Japan, it was cheap and easy and I would usually cook it with ground beef for an entire meal. Sometimes I would sprinkle some cumin and paprika on it for some taco-taste goodness. You can really add any thing to it, it's such a versatile great dish.

The cast of players is as follows:
We have about 1.5-2lbs of potatoes, two smallish carrots, two stalks of celery, half a sweet onion, half a green bell pepper, some garlic, herbs de provence, extra virgin olive oil, and some butter. Also better lighting than what is in my parents' kitchen if you're taking pictures. I need to fix this for the future.

First thing you want to do is shove all the ingredients up the cutting board you just took a picture of and begin cutting up that onion. I go for quarter to half inch pieces. I also don't cut onions like every chef tells you to because my personal method is easier to me. Oh well. I'm no Iron Chef.

Put the onion in about a table spoon of butter and three table spoons of olive oil that have been heating up on med-high heat.

Begin cutting up your vey nicely washed potatoes. I used gold potatoes but any potato will work really. I just like the skin of these guys the best.

Debate if you've chosen to go with too many potatoes, and after a push from your mother add the last two. The veggies and potatoes actually loose a lot of water mass in the cooking process so you'll end up with less than you think.

Add the potatoes to the pan with the onions and sprinkle on some salt and pepper before stirring it around. I just feel like the potatoes need the seasoning more than the onions.

Cut up your celery. You can see my garbage bowl in the background, a tip I got from the hours and hours of cooking shows I watched as a teenager growing up. I never cooked, I just liked watching them. But seriously garbage bowls make clean up so easily.

Add the celery. I don't mix them up right away because I don't want them to overcook and get mushy while I cut up the carrots.

So I cute up the carrots and add them, then I go ahead and mix them all up.

Then I cut up the bell pepper. You don't want to add too much because it's such a strong taste, just enough to get that bitterness to offset the sweetness of the carrots.

Next is the garlic. I love garlic and I add loads of it in everything I cook. This is why my food tastes good. Because of garlic. Others may not like a lot of garlic. Add as much garlic as you like, I don't care!

Ignore your mother when she complains about the amount of garlic you're about to put into the food.

Add the garlic to the nicely cooking veggies. If the oil has been mostly absorbed you can add more so that it doesn't burn and stick.

Add the herbs de provence because it's easier than adding in each spice individually. And it goes well with chicken. You can replace these spices with anything you want, really. Also add more salt and pepper here.

Once the potatoes start to get very brown you are done. Should take about 5 minutes on med-high heat. Stir it around so that it cooks evenly. I added some of the chicken grease because why not?

And there you have it! Some lovely hashed potatoes. 

Full Recipe

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 sweet onion 
1.5-2 pounds potatoes (gold works best)
2 small carrots
2 stalks celery
1/2 green bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste

1. heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat
2. chop onion into quarter or half inch pieces and add to the oil
3. chop potatoes into half inch pieces and add to onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, mix
4. slice celery, add to potatoes and onions but don't mix in
5. cut carrots into quarter inch pieces and add to potatoes, mix
6. cut up green bell pepper into tiny pieces, add to potatoes and mix in
7. finely dice garlic and add to potatoes
8. add herbs and sprinkle with salt and pepper
9. cook for five minutes over med-high heat, stirring frequently, until potatoes begin to brown