Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lively Luna Fresada Cocktail at El Conquistador Resort

I recently flew into San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico. “Our country is shaped like a pig,” said my guide as she handed me a map. 



“I see a turtle, not a pig,” I responded. 

“No, no.  Definitely a piggy,” the guide insisted.  Pig or no pig, the airport bestowed a vibrant tropical feel, and that made me happy.

I hopped aboard a shuttle bus for a 45-minute ride to the El Conquistador Resort, a member of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts, in Fajardo.  My purpose was to review the resort and its convention area for meeting planners.

Looking up at the El Conquistador Resort from the water


The sprawling hotel contains five villages and the grounds include an 18-hole golf course and water park. I’d have no problem adding steps to my fitness tracker walking around the property.  Most of the guest rooms overlook an endless stretch of shimmering turquoise water below a 300- foot cliff. The view is one of those "Pinch me, am I really here?" moments. 

An old-school funicular transports guests down to the Marina Village, the hub of a 35-slip private marina offering deep-sea fishing charters, sailboats, catamarans, and yachts. Here, I boarded the El Conquistador’s boat for private Palomino Island, a spot that I consider the best feature of the resort.  Palomino indulges guests with a full array of beach and watersport activities. Once ashore, I soon slipped into my bathing suit and did what a Caribbean vacation calls for: I lazed in a lounge chair under an umbrella sipping a frosty rum punch. The picture-perfect little island offered the ideal location for scenes in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, Johnny Depp stayed in the El Conquistador's luxury hideaway, Las Casitas Village, during the filming. 


Private Palomino Island


Food, beverage, and dining have become essential elements of travel. Like any discerning foodie, I feel tasting local fare is a must. Thankfully, the talented chefs at the El Conquistador create enticing meals by mixing the island’s heritage with current food trends. Culinary treats I devoured ran from island-grown coffee to piña coladas or DonQ rum punch in a coconut, and tostones (twice-fried garlicky green plantains).

I also tasted a ruby red Luna Fresada cocktail inspired by the colorful surroundings. Heidi Orndoff, a bartender at Chops Steakhouse, the resort’s signature restaurant, created the drink. Her tropical mixture contained Pitorro, a distilled spirit from Puerto Rico, referred to as “moonshine rum.” Pitorro is traditionally cured and aged by adding fruits like coconut, pineapple, tamarind and strawberries.  Heidi uses strawberry flavored rum.

Luna Fresada Cocktail


I adored the drink’s delicious and refreshing flavor so much, that I asked for the recipe. I now share the island memory with you:

Luna Fresada Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:
6 mint leaves chopped
2 strawberries chopped
4oz of lemonade
2.5oz of Pitorro Frutas Rum (strawberry flavor)

Directions: In the bottom of a glass, muddle chopped strawberries and mint leaves together. Stir in the lemonade and rum. Fill the glass with ice. Garnish with mint sprigs or strawberry slices as desired.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The French Fry Museum in Belgium


I visited the Belgium Friet or French Fry Museum in Bruges and wrote the story for Real Food Traveler.  Please click on the link below.



http://www.realfoodtraveler.com/2016/08/the-belgium-friet-french-fry-museum/

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding the World's Largest Baklava






While on a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia I ran into a group of women trying to set the Guinness World Record for the largest baklava.




You can read my story about this delightful experience on RealFoodTraveler.com:


http://www.realfoodtraveler.com/2016/06/discovering-slovenia-and-the-worlds-largest-baklava/

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Slovenia's Lake Bled and their famous Cream Cake


I loved scenic Lake Bled in Slovenia and wrote a story about their famous cream cake for RealFoodTraveler.com.

The tiny island on Lake Bled in Slovenia.
Photo @Debi Lander



Please use this link to read my story on Real Food Traveler: http://www.realfoodtraveler.com/2016/05/13-million-cream-cakes-cant-be-wrong/


Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Pumpkin in Turkey

Guest post from Judy Shulman


No, I am not going to talk about stuffing a turkey with pumpkin. I’m writing about a restaurant in Göreme, Turkey called Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery. Dinner in this cave-strewn landscape in Cappadocia became a delightful treat.

Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery
Hot Air Balloon ide are very popular in Cappadochia.


From the minute you walk into Pumpkin, you are warmly greeted and seated. Small niches filled with classic Cappadocian handicrafts such as miniature cave houses and pierced dimly illuminated gourds create a glowing ambience. An evil eye “tree” hangs above the blazing fireplace, much appreciated during our late March visit to the area.


Oguz Kaya or simply Ozie owns Pumpkin.  He previously worked as a chef with the Continental Hotels in Istanbul and Berlin. His wife hails from Göreme. Lately, Ozie says he kisses his wife ten times a day to thank her for his release from the fast-paced frenzy of hotel restaurants. In Göreme, he can take his time to create simple, fresh fare in a relaxed setting. We watched him in action, cooking and schmoozing, tending the fireplace, and moving heavy tables in and out of the small restaurant.

Oguz Kaya

A fixed-priced menu is featured, costing less than $25 per person, and includes five colorful and flavorful courses.  Local fresh bread comes first, brought to the table along with a dish of olive oil decoratively sprinkled with Turkish spices.  A comforting vegetable soup (nothing like the standard American vegetable soup) followed.  


Classic Turkish meze included tightly rolled and stuffed vine leaves, a slab of salty feta, bright red tomatoes and sweet green cucumbers along with Ozie’s version of koftas or vegetarian meatballs. Chef Ozie uses a mixture of bulgur, tomato paste and vegetables. He told us he attributes his good health and youthful looks to vegetarianism.
Meze is beautifully arranged.

Although the meze was primarily non-meat, the menu offered a choice of grilled chicken or the classic Anatolyan beef and vegetable stew. We chose different main courses in order to share the flavors. Both entrees were both visually appealing and mouth-wateringly tender.
Chicken Plate

Beef Stew


Dinner is capped off with a small plate of fruit, stiff but creamy Turkish ice cream and a tiny square of the yummiest baklava, plus tea or coffee.
The Dessert Plate


The restaurant seats about twenty, in addition to a small outdoor area for overflow during high season.  Reservations are necessary as we watched three different groups turned away. You can’t just “pop in” for dinner.  The pace is slow, and we appreciated the encouragement to relish the taste and enjoy the atmosphere.


Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery
Igeridere Mah.
7/A Göreme/Nevsehir
pumpkingoreme@gmail.com

********
To follow more adventures in Europe please visit www.bylandersea.com.








Monday, March 21, 2016

Fried Sage Leaves in Italy

Like Bubba Gump and his endless variety of shrimp, Southern cooks like to fry just about everything.  I’ve sampled more than my share of fried pickles, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried oysters, fried catfish, fried turkey, fried peanuts, fried apples, fried cheese, corn dogs, fried hand-pies, fried onion rings, fried Oreo cookies, fried sweet potatoes and, of course, fried chicken.


Kentucky Fried Chicken


On my travels, I don't turn down regional favorites and other ethnic dishes such as cactus fries, Blooming onions, fried banana chips, fried veal cutlet or Weiner Schnitzel, calamari, chimichanga, croquettes, egg rolls, falafel, pommes soufflés, tortillas and even fried ice cream.

But, I’d never tasted fried sage leaves before a recent trip to Italy.  The sage leaves were on the menu at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort
, so I ordered them.  One bite and I knew I’d found a new love.  They were so scrumptious; each leaf was delicately coated in a thin batter and sprinkled with sea salt.  I would compare the preparation and taste to tempura.

Fried Sage Leaves at Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort

I searched for recipes online, but they called for deep-frying in oil. Since I don’t own a deep fryer, I keep looking.  Finally, I found this recipe on the blog: Eat Outside the Bag. It’s owned by Susy Morris, a thirty something girl who loves all things gardening, cooking and organic. She fries fresh sage leaves in butter and then uses the leftover sage butter on pasta or in soups.

Better yet, travel to Italy to taste some.


FRIED SAGE LEAVES

From: Eat Outside the Bag

1 large nob of unsalted butter* (preferably organic pastured butter) butter)
Gather a handful of fresh sage leaves; any size works; the small ones are less intense than the big ones.

A sprinkling of freshly ground sea salt

Melt butter in cast iron skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted, throw in the sage leaves, cook, stirring occasionally until they stop sizzling. Remove from pan and cool on a plate.

You’ll be left with sage brown butter in your skillet, which is quite a treat itself. It’s wonderful drizzled on top of soup or pasta and is at it’s best when enjoyed over pumpkin or butternut squash ravioli.

*About a quarter to a third cup or so, depends on the size of your skillet, I use an 8 inch skillet and you want between 1/8 to 1/4 inch of butter in your skillet.

*************

Fried chicken photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KFC_Fried_chicken.jpg#/media/File:KFC_Fried_chicken.jpg

Calamari: By alantankenghoe - Flickr: Seafood, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17583208

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Crustless Quiche Interrupted

Ever since I returned from Flagler Beach, I’ve meant to bake a crustless spinach quiche.  I loved the dish so much that I asked Carol Fisher, owner of the Beach House Beanery and Café, to give me the recipe. But, as things go, the holidays and my move interfered.  It was when I began reviewing my Instagram account that I came across the quiche photo. The food photo garnered many likes, so I figured blog readers might enjoy it.

My Instagram photo of Carol's Quiche


Plus, Carol promised, "It’s easy. Just throw everything together and pour into a pie pan."

Even better, as I’m temporarily living on a farm, I have access to farm fresh eggs.  I would make the recipe using the beauties direct from the hen house. They come looking like they were dyed for Easter and the yokes have a warm golden glow.
Fresh from the hen house eggs.

The dark golden yokes.

On a recent morning, I combined all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, poured them into the pan and placed it in a 325-degree oven to bake.

Pre-baked Quiche. I added a little extra cheese on the top. 


About half way through, just as the eggs were beginning to puff up, I received notice that one of the mares on the farm was about to foal!! A foaling was an event I’d been waiting for, and could hardly believe it was happening. Horses are rarely born during the day, almost always at night.

I pulled that quiche out of the oven, and lickety split ran into the field with my camera.  How fortuitous for me; I would not have had my camera in the kitchen had I not been taking pics for this blog post.
The moment of birth

I stared and witnessed the miracle of life unfolding in front of my eyes.  No words can describe the wonder I saw and felt. I was awestruck and overwhelmed (and totally in love with this baby.)  How such a large animal(estimated weight about 100 pounds) lived within that mare’s belly just minutes ago is beyond understanding. I was extremely lucky and grateful to see this birth.

The mare sees her baby. 

The mare meets her colt.


I could not pull myself away from the field, so stayed and photographed the mother and colt for a long time.  The colt’s adorable antics when trying to stand on his wobbly legs made me laugh, and I wanted to run over and help the little fella.






As the minutes passed, the newborn grew stronger and more sure of himself.  I continued to marvel at this unexpected but glorious morning event.


Trying to stand.

These legs are not cooperating!


To better contain the pair, the mother and foal were walked into the barn, and I only then remembered the quiche.  I returned to the kitchen and decided to put it back in the oven. Why not?  However, the results were less than stellar, the quiche was rather runny in the middle, but the edges were firm and tasted great.

Mare and her newborn colt.

Proudly standing together.


I highly recommend this easy breakfast, brunch, or luncheon dish, but don’t let make it on a day when you might be interrupted by witnessing your first foaling.

The Interrupted Quiche



Crustless Spinach Quiche Recipe

from Carol Fisher and The Beach House Beanery in Flagler Beach, Florida


8 eggs
1 ½ cups cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups fresh spinach
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large bow. Pour the mixture into a greased glass pie pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.