Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dubai Saffron Hunting

Dubai is a city known for having available anything you can imagine. If you feel like Snow Skiing in the middle of the dessert you can go to the Mall of the Emirates, ski all day and bet on a Camel race later that afternoon. You can find any cuisine imaginable within a ten minute drive or stay at a 7 star hotel. I set out on a mission this morning to see Dubai from a different perspective, one past all the glitz, glamour and sixteen year olds driving Ferraris. What I found were truly friendly, working class people from all over the earth ready to befriend a stranger. I jumped in a cab in search of a spice souk (market) to find some Saffron for a friend back home who shares my passion for food. As my driver navigated the busy streets I drove with the windows down listening to religious chants over giant loud speakers located throughout the city. As I listened to the chanting I was reminded without a doubt that I was in the Middle East. We got to a Souk near the Harbor were small Freighters were loading and unloading everything from Spices to Refrigerators. As I walked through the endless shops full of sacks loaded with every spice imaginable, the culinary part of my brain went into sensory overload. What I would do with this. What could I do with that? Smelling and tasting several saffron’s I finally settled on one from Iran and after a quick haggling session I was on my way. As we made our way back to the hotel for a fantastic Middle Eastern lunch buffet, I watched two old men playing cards and smoking their hookah pipes. I watched kids in the street playing soccer and am reminded how very small this world is and how we can only benefit from tolerance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Great Wall of China

I have never been so humbled in my life as I was yesterday. Arguably rivaling the imense efforts it took to construct the Temples and Pyramids of Egypt is The Great Wall of China. Spanning over 3000 miles of Mainland China it is the only man made object recognizable from space. The tenacious efforts of the Chinese people is obvious and astounding.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tanzania Safari

Tanzania Safari

A few months back I was privileged with a brief stop in Tanzania. Around every corner we were greeted with warm hospitable smiles and helpful attitudes. Shortly after our arrival a colleague and I started our inquiry for a safari. We were put in touch with Sabastian Mallya owner and operator of SOK Travel Adventure Specialists. He put together a fantastic, last minute trip to visit Ngorongoro Crater. A relaxing evening was spent drinking Tusker Lagers and enjoying a family style meal at the hotel. Our guide came to my room the next morning and we were off for an hour and a half drive to the Park. On the way up the crater we came across some young Masai warriors on the road. Our guide Rama suggested they may invite us to visit their village if we stopped. He was right and soon we were off the beaten path and in the midst of a large Masai family. We spent an hour with this amazing family visiting their huts and asking questions about their life. To my surprise most of the young warriors spoke very good english. I left a few western gifts for the kids and we were off to the floor of the crater. The next three hours were spent in sheer awe, like the Lion King came to life. Rama hinted it was time to go and suggested lunch at a coffee plantation near by. Wanting very much to stay on the plains with animals I never thought I would see up close, my appetite got the best of me and I surrendered. After a really nice lunch of various grilled meats and salads we set out for our hotel in Arusha. Tanzania is a must do on the travel list. The people are fantastic and the scenery is indescribable. I would really like to thank Sebastian for providing us with first class service and a can do attitude. Check out his website at
www.sokadventures.com or +255(0)784694624

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuscan Fall, Bistecca Florentina

One of the many things I love about Italy is simplicity. Food to be specific for this discussion. I admire the way Italians construct amazing, fresh and simple flavors using what the season gifts them with. With the Fall season here to stay for a while I am reminded of an October trip to Florence two years ago. Walking lazily past the train station one afternoon I passed a small doorway with a familiar scent wafting from it. I turned around and peeked in the door to discover a century old indoor wood burning grill. Next to it a glass butcher case full of every cut imaginable "nirvana". Failing to notice any thing else, I was awakend from this trance by a subtle but firm "Prego". Not being terribly hungry, my arm was twisted just hard enough to stay for a late lunch of Pasta Fajoli and Beef Carpaccio. Vowing to come back for dinner I was off to my hotel for a nap and a haunting dream about Bistecca Florentina from that wood fired grill. Returning to La Lampara that night has changed the way I grill meat forever. I learned a nice cut of meat, good salt and pepper and some olive oil are very powerful tools. Last night my wife came home with a beautiful Top Round and some nice Brussel Sprouts. I am not sure what exactly triggered my memory, but Florence was on my mind. The grill was lit quickly and we had a simple yet beautiful dinner of salt and pepper rubbed Bistecca, Brussel Spouts sauteed in olive oil and garlic along with White beans in Olive Oil and Rosemary. Salute

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bringing Bali home with Sate

One of my favorite places to visit has been Bali. The people are so welcoming and they always wear a smile. The Balinese people embrace life in a celebratory manor and seem to truly enjoy sharing their culture through food. Travel To BaliSate or Satay is a favorite of mine to make for guests and to eat abroad. On a recent trip to Bali I had some sort of Sate every day and was lucky enough to get the recipe for the spice base and for a fantastic peanut dipping sauce. This recipe was given to me in metric measure and scaled for restaurant use. I converted it and scaled it down for home use.

Balinese Sate
Balinese Spice base for Chicken Sate
1oz bird's eye chilies finely sliced (small Thai red chilies are ok)
3oz ginger peeled and sliced
4.5oz turmeric peeled and sliced (ground is ok)
2oz palm sugar chopped (brown or raw sugar is ok)
2 stalks lemon grass bruised
1/4 cup coconut oil (peanut oil is ok) 2cups water
2 tsp salt
1. Combine all ingredients except lemon grass water and salt in a stone mortar or food processor and grind coarsely.
2. Place ground ingredients in a saucepan, add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for about 45 min or until all water has evaporated and paste takes on a golden color. Cool before using.
3. This paste is to be rubbed on chicken as a marinade and threaded on bamboo skewers. Grill over hot coals or a hot grill.

Balinese Peanut Sauce for Sate
2 bird's eye chilies (small Thai red chilies are ok)
3 cloves garlic peeled and slice
1oz ginger peeled and sliced
10oz Peanuts with skin
2oz Palm sugar (Brown or Raw sugar is ok)
2tbs sweet soy sauce (plain soy is ok, but up sugar abit)
2 kaffir lime leafs torn ( if you cant find, leave out)
2 cups water
1tbsp lime juice
salt pinch
1. Put chilies in a stone mortar and grind to a very fine paste. Add garlic. ginger and peanuts and grind again to a very fine paste. ( a food processor can be used but not recommended)
2. Add sugar, soy and lime leaves and gradually add water. Slowly work this base into a creamy dressing by adjusting with water. Season to taste with salt and lime juice.
3. Serve Sate skewered chicken with Peanut sauce and steamed white rice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Culinary passion is inside me. I don't know where it came from, but it will not go away. Food and it's entirety is on my mind morning to night. I have had the guilty pleasure of traveling the globe over the past 15 years as an occupation. During these travels I have collected recipes, different ingredients and met some amazing people. Talking with a kitchen staff abroad and learning from them what small secrets they will share with me has been incredible. It has been a lot of fun tasting food abroad and trying to recreate at home. Over the years I have collected some great travel information and made some amazing contacts. Through these pages I will share with you my culinary travels, recipes and adventures in hopes it will enhance your life as it has mine.