Dec 4, 2017

The Belgian Chocolate Connoisseur






Chocolate is synonymous with BELGIUM and for good reason because it tastes divine. One of the reasons why Belgium chocolate is the best in the world is because many of the chocolatiers are run by families who make it by hand using simple equipment and mixing the cocoa beans thinly for a smooth texture. A famous chocolatier name is Neuhaus. In 1857 Jean Neuhaus arrived in Brussels from Switzerland and opened a pharmacy at Galerie De la Reine. He covered his medicines with a layer of chocolate to make it easier to handle. Years later (1912) Jean's grandson created a chocolate with cream ganache in the center which he named "praline" and it became Belgium's first filled chocolate.


The Belgium's love chocolate and 172,000 tons of chocolates are produced per year in Belgium. With more than 2,000 chocolate shops scattered across the country it's hard for Belgium's to resist eating chocolate. What better time to eat chocolate than in the month of December. Chocolate is the perfect Christmas gift and if you happen to be in Belgium during the Christmas season you can visit:


Chocolate Cedric Van Horebeke, Breydelstraat 1,
9000 Gent

Chocolatier Dumon, Eiermarkt 6,
8000 Brudges

Neuhaus, 25=27 Galerie de la Reine,
1000 Brussels

Mary, 73 rue Royale 
1000 Brussels

Pierre Marcolini, Rue des Minimes 1,
1000 Brussels

Leonidas, Rue de L'Etuve 43-45,
1000 Brussels


MUSEUM OF COCOA AND CHOCOLATE:
Rue de la Tete d'Or
1000 Brussels

Open, Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 4:30
Ouvert du Mardi au dimanche de 10 h a 16 h 30

This is the museum for chocolate connoisseurs. Watch a chocolate demonstration, enjoy free taste of chocolate and learn cocoa and chocolate facts.

Reward yourself this Christmas season with BELGIAN CHOCOLATES!

                                                   
VROLIJK KERSTFEEST!




Nov 30, 2017

Western Ukraine's Lviv... "Little Paris"




My roots take me back to Ukraine where my parents are from but Detroit is where I was born. My birth language was Ukrainian and it's all I spoke until I was six years old. I was sent to Ukrainian language school in Detroit and took Ukrainian dance classes and learned how to cook Ukrainian food. It was only fitting that I visit Ukraine one day and the opportunity came back a few years ago when I was invited to teach English to students of all ages in Stryi, not far from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine. Spending over a month teaching three classes per day was extremely fulfilling. My students ranged in age from 4 years old to 70 and each of them left a thumbprint on my heart. These students studied diligently and together we mastered some difficult assignments.

UKRAINE:                            
                           
                                 The Carpathian Mountains are a magical place to visit.
                                       
Located in Eastern Europe, Ukraine is one of the largest countries on the European continent. It has often been referred to as "the breadbasket of Europe." There's much to explore in Ukraine but certain areas of the country presently aren't safe for traveling. Ukraine no longer requires a visa for entry so if you're arriving by train from nearby border countries like Poland, Slovakia, or Romania a good place to begin your journey is in the beautiful city of Lviv which resembles a smaller version of "Paris, France."

Yes there's Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary, Belarus in Romania and Krakow in Poland and these enchanting cities in Eastern Europe have millions of tourists visiting each year. However Lviv in western Ukraine has it's own uniqueness and those that have the opportunity to visit Lviv aren't disappointed. With a population of nearly 724,000 inhabitants the cultural and historical city of Lviv is a very walkable city. I have a special fondness for Lviv because my mother was born in Lviv and spent her early years of life living in Lviv. She still has a special place in her heart for Lviv.

Begin your tour of Lviv at the Market Square (Rynok). Located in the center of historic Lviv the area of the square extends by eight streets with two at each corner. You can climb over 400 steps to the tower at the Lviv City Hall. There's no shortage of museums in Lviv, there's a total of sixty museums to be exact. Not to be missed is the "Under the Black Eagle Pharmacy Museum." Inside this museum is the oldest operating pharmacy in Ukraine. In existence since 1735 the front room of the museum is the functional dispensary where the tour begins. atlasobscura.com/places/under-the-black-eagle-pharmacy-museum

Europe's beloved opera houses exist in all the grand cities of Europe and the Lviv Opera House with its magnificent architecture is almost as grand as those in Milan, Paris, and Vienna. Built in 1901 the Lviv Opera House is a cultural oasis of extraordinary talent performing in front of large audiences.  opera.lviv.ua

Buses are available to transport you through Lviv but walking the cobblestone streets is the best way to really feel the sense of the old architecture and to immerse yourself in the local culture. You'll discover small cafe's, churches, shops, street performers, and vendors and almost think you've stumbled across a "little Paris." After all the walking and sightseeing you can follow the fragrant scent of coffee beans to a quaint cafe and enjoy a cappuccino with a delectable pastry.

Before leaving Lviv, take a short walk to Lviv High Castle and see views of the city below from the highest point in the city. A two to three day visit to Lviv will leave you with fond memories and not too far from Lviv are the lovely Carpathian Mountains an excellent area to visit for hiking lush green mountains and breathing fresh country air.

                                     The Chopin Hotel is a comfortable place to stay.

Places to stay in Lviv:

Citadel Inn
, a former fortress is now a five star hotel.

Chopin Hotel offers elegance and is located near the Opera House.

On the Square Guesthouse is conveniently located on central square.


Popular Coffee Shops in Lviv:

Coffee Manufacture, sip on coffee and eat mouth watering desserts in a one of a kind atmosphere.

Svit Kava, enjoy lovely cakes with tasty coffee drinks.


Good Restaurants for Ukrainian Food:

Baczewski Restaurant
is one of the best in town serving well prepared cuisine.

Kryivka, say the password upon entering and enjoy authentic Ukrainian food with honey vodka.

Seven Piggies is a bit away from the city center but is known for tasty local cuisine.


SPOTLIGHT ON PIEROGIES (VARENYKY)

Ukrainians love their varenyky (pierogies) the way Japanese love their sushi and the Italians their pasta. I grew up on these delicious dumplings filled with mashed potatoes and cheese, or sauerkraut. Pierogis's have been in existence since the 13th century. It's a work of art to make the perfect dough and shape the pierogi's in a way that the filling stays inside. Pierogi's are boiled in hot water and than served with fried onions, mushrooms, and dill. Some people love topping pierogi's with sour cream. Pierogi's can also be fried once they're cooked in the boiling water. 




                              Delicious Varenyky are a mainstay dish in Eastern Europe!

Jul 17, 2017

Gelato in July (Italy)

July is the hottest month of the year in Italy. Gelato which tastes magnifico was invented in Italy and is enjoyed year round in Italy but especially in the summer months like July.

Gelato which mean frozen in Italian is made of cream, milk, and sugar and flavored with fruit and nut purees. Italian gelato is rich in taste because it has less air and more flavoring than gelato made in other countries. In Italy by law, gelato must have at least 3.5% butterfat.

Florence native Bernardo Buontalenti and Sicilian born Francesco Procopio are credited for their discovery of "gelato" and now it can be enjoyed all over Italy from Bologna to Sardinia.

Gelaterie is a gelato shop.

A gelato vendor is a gelatai.

There are many flavors of gelato.....bacio, fragola, limone, stracciatella, and zabaione are a few.

When in Italy.....eat lots of gelato.


Buon Appetito!

Jun 27, 2017

Norway, the Stunner Country!



Norway is a stunner. It's truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Though expensive it's worthy of a visit for the fjords, mountains, sea, and endless nature at every corner.

My first encounter with NORWAY was in the late 20th century. I was in my 20's and wanted a summer job in Europe. My dream came true when a farmer in Kristiansand invited me to spend three months taking  care of his farm retreat. What a farm it was. Lots of land full of cows, pigs, and sheep. There was a lake for fishing and swimming and furnished cabins scattered along the hilly terrain for visitors who rented the cabins for a relaxing vacation close to Kristiansand and the sea.

I worked seven days a week that summer doing everything from milking cows to painting fences. My dear friends that summer were a brother and sister from Poland who worked on the farm and a local Norwegian girl who managed the office and rented out the cabins. I worked hard on that farm and was able to indulge in lots of delicious food without gaining any weight because of all the physical work I did.

Norway has fresh seafood, yummy cheese, delicious chocolate and amazing ice cream. It was fun to ride my bicycle during my leisure time to the nearby market and indulge in tasty treats that Norwegians are blessed to have. Every once in awhile the farmer gave me a half day off to explore the lovely countryside of Kristiansand. I would bike and hike to my hearts content and swim in amazing swimming holes scattered throughout the region. Sometimes I would ride my bicycle 20 kilometers to Kristiansand .

Norway has many grand places to visit; Bergen, Boda, Flam, The Lofoten Islands, Oslo, Stavanger, and Tromso just to name a few. Norway is the land of fjords and the northern lights. Summer is an exceptional time to visit Norway for the lush scenery and long warm days. There's a lot to see in Norway and one visit is not enough to experience all the great wonders of this Nordic country.

The Norwegians are famous for their salmon. It's some of the best salmon in the world. Norwegian salmon is loaded with protein, omega 3's, and vitamins A, D, & B12. Spoil yourself with Norwegian salmon. Surrounded by water galore, it's no wonder Norway is famous for seafood like salmon.


                                          There's lots of fishing boats in NORWAY

TREASURES FROM NORWAY

  





NORWAY has some great treasures that can be purchased as a souvenir; chocolates, trolls, and Norwegian sweaters are a few things worth getting while visiting the stunning country of NORWAY.


WHAT ARE TROLLS?

Trolls are scary beasts that usually live in the woods. Trolls can be ugly and slow witted. They often dwell in caves, mountains, or isolated rocks. Trolls live together in small family units. Trolls dislike human beings. Trolls are very well known in NORWAY.

Next Post: A voyage through Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, and Tromso.


May 30, 2017

Soothing Moments with Japanese Green Tea & Sushi

I only made one short visit to Japan but in that short visit I was in awe of the culture and cuisine.The Japanese have one of the healthiest diets in the world. Not only is Japanese food healthy but it's very pleasing to the palate.

Taking one hour out of the day to sit down and enjoy sushi with green tea is very soothing. There are multiple ways to enjoy eating sushi but a favorite is to sit at a sushi bar and observe a professional sushi chef prepare sushi with perfection. Another option is to visit a Japanese restaurant with a conveyer belt and handpick plates of sushi and other Japanese specialities. You can enjoy sushi with a glass of sake or a pot of traditional Japanese tea.

Hanaya Yohei is credited for inventing hand formed sushi. He started selling sushi around 1828 in Tokyo. What would the world be without sushi? The Japanese love their sushi and so do many other ethnic cultures.

If you're craving something sweet you'll love Japanese desserts like anmitsu, dango, daifuku, dorayaki, and mochi. Relaxing with a plate of desserts with a pot of Japanese tea will soon melt away your stresses temporarily.

Japan has a fascinating culture and it's extraordinary cuisine is just one of its many wonders!

Japan means "Land of the Rising Sun"
Most streets in Japan have no name
Japan has the highest life expectancy
Japan has 5.52 million vending machines
Japan has over 6,800 islands
The Japanese eat more fish than another people in the world
Cherry Blossoms are Japan's national flower
The Japanese use about 25 billion chopsticks per year
In Japan there are more pets than children


                                         Dorayaki (red bean pancakes) are very popular in Japan



                                                      Japanese tea is loaded with antioxidants

May 17, 2017

Switzerland, Where Life is Good!


Swiss Chocolate
  
                                           
                                                                Swiss Cog Rail
It's only 41, 285 kilometers in size but every inch of Switzerland is filled with splendor. This small alpine country in central Europe is the land of Alps, banks, cows, chocolate, four languages and the magnificent Alps. Switzerland is one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world and although it's expensive a trip to Switzerland is worth the splurge. From first class hotels to family run pensions the Swiss are known for their hospitality and sophistication.

Some Interesting Facts about Switzerland:

The four national languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

Switzerland has a population of 8.3 million people.

Swiss banks are highly regarded. One reason being that they're not allowed to reveal their account holders.

Switzerland has about 1.59 million cows; 1 for every 5 people. Farmers put bells around their cows neck because it makes it easier to find them in Alpine meadows.

The Swiss eat more chocolate than any other nation in the world.

Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates.

On Sundays it is illegal for the Swiss to engage in activities like moving the grass, hanging out laundry, and washing their car. 

Albert Einstein developed the formula E=MC2 in Switzerland,

There are 208 mountains in Switzerland that are over 3,000m,

The Swiss have to pay taxes for owning a dog.

Swiss currency is the Swiss franc (not the Euro)

Instant coffee known as NESCAFE was launched by NESTLE Company on 1 April 1938.

The best watches are made by the Swiss. That's because Swiss watches are made with surgical steel and the movements are hand assembled with metal gears.. Swiss watches last a long time and are often handed down to the next family generation.


Spotlight on German speaking Switzerland:

My first visit to Switzerland was in the late 20th century. I took a train from northern Italy and ended up to Lucerne. A day of sightseeing in Lucerne was all I had time for because my heart was beckoning for solitude in the Alps. From Lucerne I took a train to Interlaken and spent the night at a hostel. Than it was off to Grindelwald where my eyes delighted in the storybook setting. I stayed for five nights and cried when I had to leave. 

LUCERNE  (LUZERN) SWITZERLAND


Whether you wish to visit the city on the lake for one day or several days, Lucerne is a good starting point for other German speaking regions of Switzerland.

From the Bahnof (train station) walk over to Manor department store for stylish shopping. Then visit the Swiss Museum of Transport. Soon you'll be hungry and there's great food choices at Coop or Migros supermarkets. Purchase a bag or two of groceries and walk over to Lake Lucerne and enjoy your meal on the lake as you watch the graceful swans swimming on the lake. No harm in giving the swans a bit of your food.

You can opt to take a boat cruise on Lake Lucerne and enjoy the beautiful scenery or take a walk on Europe's oldest covered wooden footbridge known as Chapel Bridge. After a day of sightseeing you can spend a night in Lucerne or take a train to nearby Interlaken.

Places to stay in Lucerne:

With AIRBNB airbnb.com you can feel connected with Swiss culture staying with a local.

Hotel Options:

Hotel des Alpes
Hotel Waldstatterhof
Hotel zum Rebstock
Rosli Guest House

Interlaken is a destination that can't be missed. By train from Lucerne you'll arrive at the highest valley railway station in Europe. Right next to the train station is a popular Interlaken Youth Hostel. The Swiss Inn and Apartments is in a prime location and close to the train station.

While in Interlaken hike the Jungfrau and also take time to visit the Ice Palace and Trummelbach Falls. The Swiss are famous for chocolate and they consume more chocolate than any other country in the world. Indulge in chocolate bars, pralines, and truffles at the Swiss Chocolate Chalet in Interlaken. The chocolate here is some of the best in Switzerland and it's made with Swiss milk.

For good eats locals and tourists enjoy Husi Bierhaus for a multitude of beers and delicious Swiss fare. Interlaken is a genuine mountain resort town that attracts international travels who are seeking outstanding hiking and spectacular scenery.

So much to do and see in Switzerland. This country of four languages is diverse in culture and scenery. It's a wonderful place to live and visit. SWITZERLAND, Where Life if Good!




                                                   




Apr 20, 2017

Masala Chai (The Spice of Life and an Indian tradition)

Tea is now becoming the more favored beverage around the world and with great reason; tea has antioxidants, it's gentle on the throat, it can be enjoyed in a relaxing environment with friends, and family, and the choices of tea flavors are endless. My favorite? MASALA CHAI

In India, masala chai is the national drink that is consumed by most Indians. The scents of cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are alluring and they're the key spices that make "MASALA CHAI" so tasty.

Yesterday my good Indian friend from Northern India invited me into the kitchen of her Indian cafe and made me some samosa's, saag panner, and a pot of Masala Chai.Although I've been making masala chai for months it wasa privilege to watch my Indian friend make a divine pot of tea that pleased my tastebuds so much that I consumed a few cups
of this magical tea.

If you want to spice up your life with with a tea that pleases the tastebuds, indulge in some MASALA CHAI and experience some true nirvana.


MASALA CHAI RECIPE:

2 tsp of fresh ginger root ginger, finely sliced
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 fresh bay leaf
15 cardamon pods
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp black tea leaves
1 cup of milk (you can use a milk alternative like almond milk or coconut milk)
4 teaspoons of honey or sugar (optional)

In a saucepan combine cold filtered water with the ginger, fennel seeds, black peppercorns,bay leaf, cardamon pods, cloves, and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil than cover and simmer for five minutes. Take the pan off the heat, add the tea and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

Strain the tea through a sieve into a large jug, add the milk and honey or sugar and drink immediately.





Apr 13, 2017

Coconut Juice and Spring Rolls in Thailand

Exotic Thailand is the land of Buddhist temples, royal palaces, enchanting islands, jungles, mountains, and sea. You can watch the monkeys swinging from trees, ride an elephant, come close to a tamed tiger and sip on coconut water on a turquoise beach all in the same day The food in Thailand is extraordinary. While spending a few weeks backpacking through Thailand I indulged in everything from street food to meals at a jungle homestay and I didn't gain weight instead I lost weight. Who can resist eating in Thailand with that kind of perk? Coconut Juice and Spring Rolls were one of my many go to treats. As I sip on coconut juice and indulge in vegetable spring rolls back in North America I long to return to this southeast Asian country that is truly one of the best destination spots on the globe.




COCONUT JUICE: Nature's Thirst Quencher

How to enjoy coconut juice: Mark the top of the coconut with a V and cut the V shape with a big vegetable cleaver. Place a tall straw into the coconut and drink the juice. After drinking the juice of the coconut, scoop out the coconut and use it to make coconut ice cream or other Thai dishes.




Mar 31, 2017

A Boulangerie in France


FRANCE, a country where eating is appreciated at every meal and food is always at its finest. When strolling down a winding cobblestone street in France chances are you'll find a boulangerie somewhere. The scent of just made brioche and croissants is enough to make one step inside a local boulangerie and indulge in baked treats. C'est Magnifique! A course in baking in France? Yes it's possible. Perhaps one day you can have a French "Boulangerie" of your own and please the palates of connoisseurs
               
CROISSANTS on SUNDAY (from a French chef) 



Ingredients:

1 cup milk, 2 teaspoons dry yeast, 3 cups flour (plus 3 tablespoons), 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 12 tablespoons of (unsalted butter) 


Glaze: one egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk


Friday Evening (Day 1)


Heat one cup of milk to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm milk. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk until there are no lumps left. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume. (This takes about 30 minutes)

Mix the sugar and salt into the remaining flour. Heat the remaining milk. Transfer the raised dough that set for 30 minutes and add milk. Use an electric mixer to mix in the milk along with sugar, salt, and remaining flour. Mix at high speed and than lower the speed until dough is sticky and soft.


Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap overnight.


Saturday Morning (Day 2)


Bring butter to room temperature and work with the heel of your hand to incorporate the remaining  3 tablespoons of flour. Shape into a square.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour and shape the cold dough into rectangle form and spread the butter square on the upper top of the rectangle form. Fold the dough like a letter in thirds.Turn the dough counterclockwise and roll out the dough again into a 6 x 15 inch rectangle. Transfer the dough into a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours.


Saturday Afternoon (Day 2)


Roll out the dough two more times, wrap and refrigerate overnight.


Sunday Morning (Day 3)


About 2 hours before baking time, remove the dough from refrigerator and sprinkle flour over your work surface. Roll the dough into a 16 inch circle. Cut the dough into quarters and than cut the quarters into 3 triangles.


Roll the base of each triangle toward the remaining corner. Transfer the croissants to a baking sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons of milk. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Brush the croissants with a glaze made of one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk.

Bake croissants 20 minutes. Croissants are ready when they're lightly browned.


It's Sunday and now you can relax and eat some of your croissants with a cafe au lait.



Bon Appetite!


French Cooking Classes:


http://coulissesduchef.com/site/en/


Mar 23, 2017

Bali, a winning tourist destination



BALI, Indonesia has been named the #1 tourist destination by TripAdvisor for 2017. When you're seeking inner peace, relaxation, and the ultimate yoga retreat BALI is the answer. 



Blooming Lotus Yogawww.blooming-lotus-yoga.com 
Kura Kura Yoga Retreat www.kurakurayogaretreat.com
Yoga Barn www.theyogabarn.com




Mar 17, 2017

Emerald Green Ireland (the land of cheese, pubs, and sheep)

I love IRELAND. I fell in love with the Emerald Green Island the moment I exited Shannon Airport. How fortunate I was to meet an Irish couple on the Air Lingus flight from New York City. They were heading to Killarney just like I was and they gave me a ride in their vehicle. We drove through the lush, verdant countryside and past picture perfect towns and villages each with a pub of course. I never saw so many sheep and I lost count of them halfway to Killarney. Once in Killarney the three of us enjoyed a meal with a pint of Guinness at a cozy pub. What a lovely start to my Ireland adventure.

IRELAND, is an island on the Atlantic Ocean with so much to offer. It's the land of cheese, shamrocks and leprechauns, saints and writers, lakes and meadows, pub crawlers and musicians,  farmers and fisherman, cities and countryside, narrow roads with sheep, cows and horses grazing grass, butter and soda bread, biscuits with a cups of tea, and much more. Ireland is a friendly place and while you're visiting you might just find a pot of gold and decide to stay.




IRISH PUBS
The #1 Tourist Attraction


PUB SPOTLIGHT:


Pub is a short name for public house
The pub is a relaxing place to consume alcohol and mingle with friends
A pub is where you can become friends with a complete stranger
Irish pubs have some incredibly talented bands
Musicians who play instruments and sing display their talents in a pub
Musical entertainment is the highlight of hanging out in a pub
Pubs come in different colors, shapes, and sizes
Some of the best writers have been inspired inside Irish pubs
A pub is a wonderful place to feel at home
The best stouts and whiskeys in the world are made in Ireland 
You'll find plenty of stouts and whiskeys in an Irish pub
There are about 8,000 pubs in Ireland

It just goes to show that life inside an Irish pub is filled with good times and great opportunities.When in Ireland make it a priority to spend some time at a pub. Perhaps you'll never want to leave Ireland.


There are so many things to see and do in Ireland and the best way to get around is to hire/rent a vehicle and explore Ireland inch by inch.Since Killarney was my the first place I spent time at during my very first visit to Ireland I hold a special place for Killarney in my heart. Killarney is filled with attractions and from Killarney you can tour the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry.


KILLARNEY is a must stop on your Ireland adventure. Killarney National Park is a treasure!

killarney.ie Visit Killarney, Ireland

The Belgian Chocolate Connoisseur

Belgium , a culinary masterpiece where food is at it's finest in Central Europe. Belgium where the land is fertile and the sea beck...