We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

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Brazil Nuts

The other day I was offered some cashews and I wasn’t very hungry so turned them down. But then I was told they were from Argentina and this guy’s mom picks and them toasts them herself. Then she sends them up him (her son). I could see there was something unique about them from far away because of the dark and sometimes tiny black accents on them. Had one…wow. Most amazing cashew I’ve ever had. These things were also enormous!

Made me think about Brazil nuts and my trip to Brazil a few years ago. Overall, I love nuts. But, I usually avoid buying mixed nuts because of those darn huge Brazil nuts that take up so much space in the container. They are a bit tasteless and almost chewy.

Well, when I was in Brazil, we visited a local market in Manaus on the last day. Think of something like Pike Place in Seattle on beyond illegal steroids. Among other local stuff, they had Brazil nuts and I told the guide how they weren’t my favorite. So, he grabs one, whips out his machete and shells the thing. He says ‘try it.’ Staring at it, it was just bright and a bit moist. Take a bite, it’s almost like candy. So good, nothing like we get here. It totally changed my perspective on Brazil nuts. I came back to the US hoping all these nuts had followed me on the plane, but of course when I opened a package of them or purchased them in bulk, they apparently had not boarded the plane…

Another reason I love traveling, enjoying the true local fare.

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Southwest Has It Right

In the air, the drink cart comes down the aisle. I had one of the drink coupons that my awesome fitness class students give me because they don’t use them before they expire.  What more could I ask for from people who I get to workout?!?!

I was handed the napkin, then the drink (wine, duh). The tagline was far too perfect: Now for something really refreshing. Southwest Airlines, keep it coming. Now I just need to be sure I get more of those drink tickets. Cheers!

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Brazil Flashback

I have been thinking back to my trip to Brazil several years ago while watching the Olympics.  Most of it came while watching a soccer game the other day, which was played in Manaus.  I took a week-long trip in the Amazon on the Rio Negro.  We were on a 16-person vessel with a trip through REI.  This river begins in Manaus and heads north.  The sight of it is amazing because when it and the Amazon intersect the difference is so distinct — black and brown. This is because of the speed of the water, not because of the direction of the currents.

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Aside from some of the great sights, the fun food pieces were:

Piranha fishing.  Oh, we got to go for them.  You literally have a stick and tap the water and they eventually bite the lure.  And the best thing — you eat them, they don’t eat you.  Check out the teeth!  They really do have them.

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On the boat we could have beer and wine.  What was the beer that we enjoyed at lot, as we were so close to the equator?  Yes you’re reading the can right…Antarctica.  Just a light one, great for the hot days.  It’s a pils.  And unfortunately in the whole grand scheme of the beer world, Budweiser owns this beer.

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Towards the end of the trip we had true local drinks.  We were taught how to make Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.  The key ingredients — cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage.  The first night our guide showed us how to make the great drink then on the final night we got to make them ourselves.

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Bordeaux Walking Tour

While exploring France had to determine the best way to explore what was at my fingertips.  Was referred by a friend to a great way to explore the city of Bordeaux and of course enjoy their great drink — Bordeaux Walking Tours.  I enjoyed an afternoon exploration of the city.

Got to see the city on foot and learn about historic sites along the water and throughout the town.

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Then we visited the Wine & Trade Museum.

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DSC_0850At the end of this visit, we got to taste several French wines.  We received the full rundown on history, varietal, region, etc.

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IMG_3158IMG_3159(Chateau LaJarre was definitely my favorite)

IMG_3160IMG_3161After this great tasting we headed off to our next stop after learning much about wine at the museum.  During our tour we learned about the Bordeaux region and how the Gironde River determines a lot of the ‘taste’ of the grapes — earthy vs fruity.  Those on the Right Bank of the river tend to be fruitier, those on the Left Bank tend to be earthier.

bordeaux-bordeaux-map(photo credit: totalwine.com)

Turns out our next stop was a blind tasting to apply what we learned about the banks.

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I got 2 out of 3 right, and mostly only loved one of them, the Chateau Bardin, from the Right Side.  This was such a fun way to learn more about wine and I did learn that old world wine really isn’t that bad.  I can expand my horizons beyond new world.

Plane Food

When traveling (internationally) and therefore actually getting fed on the plane I always kind of wonder what the food will be.  Being lactose intolerant I always run the risk of not being able to eat what is served.  Some airlines don’t offer the lactose-intolerant option.  They have gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.  The first two have the cheese thrown in there.  So, I opted for vegan recently to see what might come out because I know there would be no cheese coming into play.  I will say, not too bad.

One meal had some Indian flair to it.  I love that it came with fresh veggies and fruit!

IMG_3258For another meal I got a veggie sandwich (it was artichokes, avocado and tomato) on focaccia bread and I also got hummus.  It was in heaven.

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So if you’re looking for something new, request a different type of meal when booking your (international) flight.

Dax Farmer’s Market

I have been off the blogging scene recently because of an oh-so-rough trip to Ireland and France.  I am now starting to recap said vacation…

One of the best parts of the trip was why I went — for a friend’s wedding in SW France, in a small town named Dax.  It’s about a 90 minute drive from Bordeaux.

franceMy friend’s fiance had told me about the must-do the morning of the wedding, the local farmer’s market.  It ended up being about 2 blocks from the hotel.  WOW.  The place was making Pike Place look weak on some levels.  Some 3+ hours later we returned to the hotel with lunch to enjoy outside.  I grabbed Paella, as this town is close to Spain so they get some of their influence.  Others grabbed cheese and sausage, bread, veggies, some had nice flatbread-like pizza.  And, of course, wine!

Almost too good to be true.

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Sushi’s a Wrap

The final night in NOLA some of us decided to head to a sushi place – Sake Café Uptown.

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Huge menu. After reading and reading, I noticed some grilled squid. I love it when I can find that, because I don’t enjoy the (fried) calamari. So I opted for it. Ok, that could be a meal. It came out on a fajita-like platter and it was amazing. It might have been the simplest thing but I could eat that stuff all the time. I need to figure out where I can get that stuff in DC.

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Then at the table next to us, I ask this woman what she ordered because I was just trying to get one other thing (this was before the squid came out). She told us about this edamame that’s not on the menu – garlic edamame. They do the ‘normal’ edamame then do something with some form or garlic – I don’t know if it’s roasted or something else but this stuff just makes you melt. This is another one that I need to find out who in the DC area has. Way too good.

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So glad we checked this place out and it’s another place to check out if you’re in New Orleans.

Oh My Oyster

I kept hearing about grilled oysters in New Orleans. I might have grilled oysters once a year at Christmas when half my family eats raw oysters and then my brother is kind enough to threw a few on the BBQ for the rest of us who aren’t quite that intrigued by those raw guys. I normally put some lemon juice and Tabasco on my grilled one and it’s great. So, being in NOLA, with all this hype, I had to give them a try. I received several restaurant recommendations and ended up at a super local place – Felix’s in the French Quarter.

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The guy behind the bar/counter, Magic, was awesome because I asked how they grilled them and I also asked if there was butter (mentioned I was lactose intolerant). In the funniest way, he said ‘these are the biggest waste of your time, you are not going to get the taste you need, it will be like water!’ They put parmesan cheese, sometimes butter and all sorts of other stuff on them. It was HILARIOUS what he was telling me. They pretty much refused to serve me any oyster (unless I was to go raw) because of my lactose issue. Props to them. They had fun, debating for several minutes, what I could eat at their super local place. They came up with some phenomenal grilled shrimp and their ‘amazing’ sweet potato fries.

While I was waiting for this to come out, I was intrigued watching the guys shuck the oysters. I even got an (oyster) pearl. Is this my good luck charm from NOLA? (Yes, this pic almost looks like a macadamia nut).

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Then my dinner came out. WOW! I still vividly remember it. The shrimp were so juicy and I don’t really like fries that much and these things were to die for. I would totally recommend this diner-like place, beyond local, over the big names. Go Felix’s. Thanks for a great dinner!

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Cafe du Monde

Coffee, caffeine…ahh. I had heard about Café du Monde and I couldn’t remember if I’d had the stuff or not so I had to swing by and try it. It’s from NOLA and made with endive. This was done to originally save money by making it less expensive to produce, based on the ingredients. Was worth trying. It has a unique taste. Not my personal favorite but absolutely worth it for the local experience.

 

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