Moroccan Preserved Lemons

From my modern American perspective, the essence of Moroccan food comes from two factors. The first is a mixture of several cultures. There is Arab influence, Mediterranean influence, French, African, and that of numerous traders who passed through.IMG_0328

 

The 2nd factor arose from the need to preserve ingredients in an arid climate with no refrigeration. When it comes to preserving meat, you simply kept it alive until you were ready to eat it.

Fish, Fruits and vegetables however, require more creativity. Thus, there is drying, salting, pickling, brining and this simple recipe for preserving lemons.

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Here is your list of ingredient, course salt, lemons, and a jar in which to put them.

“Make this recipe now so it will be ready in a few weeks when we make a Moroccan tagine that calls for preserved lemons”

 

Preserved lemons are an essential ingredient in Moroccan tagines.  The tagine is both the dish pictured at the top of this post, and the stew cooked in the dish.  This simple and easy recipe will be ready to use in a couple of weeks.

The acid from the lemon juice and high saline from the salt hampers bacteria, hence the preserved quality.  It is a fermentation however, so don’t be surprised if you find some pressure released when you open the jar.

 

You’ll need double the lemons you plan to preserve for additional lemon juice.

Cut the lemons in quarters, but not all the way through so each quarter is still attached.  Rub the inside of the lemon quarters with course salt, and then stuff them into a jar.

Cover the lemons with lemon juice from the additional lemons and seal the lid.  If you don’t have enough juice to cover them, you can invert the jar each day for a couple weeks.  My experience with this method, however, is that–due to the pressure from fermentation–all containers eventually leak when inverted.  So if you invert, put the jar in a bowl to catch the leakage.  It’s best to simply cover them with juice.

 

 

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Put them in a dry place at room temperature for a couple weeks. If possible have a happy wooden chef watch over them!

You can taste them at any time, but after a couple weeks you will notice a distinct change in flavor.  They will mellow considerable from the tart salty mixture you start with, and they will have a new flavor component that I find hard to describe, beyond saying it is faintly exotic.  They will now last indefinitely.

Make this recipe now so it will be ready in a few weeks when we make a Moroccan tagine that calls for preserved lemons.

Try them out in other recipes too!  Take a quarter lemon, pulp and all and cut it into thin slices and add to any dish near the end of cooking for a distinctive lemony flavor.

TT

One Day in Casablanca

The plan was to go to Portugal.  My friend lives in Ethiopia and we were looking for a halfway point between Addis Ababa and Washington, DC.  Portugal it was, and there will be blog posts about that trip.

When I looked at flights, however, the best fare was on Royal Air Maroc and we would have to change planes in Casablanca!

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Royal Air Maroc offers great fares from Washington, DC to Europe with a stop in Casablanca.  You can stay a few days with no impact on your fare.

There was no way I was going to change planes in Morocco without seeing the place!

When you tell people you’re going to Casablanca you get one of two responses.  The first is, “Holy shit!  Is that really a place??  That’s amazing!!!”  The other response is from people who have been to Morocco.  They look at you with ennui and say, “There’s nothing to see there.”

True enough, much of the online literature supports that statement, but I have learned when to ignore these comments and this was one of those times.  Are there better places in Morocco to visit?  Sure.  Marrakesh, Fez, Tangier, the Saharan Desert Bedouin experience, all arguably bigger and better.  These locations, however, take a half-day or more to get there from Casablanca  and another half-day or more to get back, and we could only add 2 days to our trip (remember, the ultimate destination is Portugal!)

“…the first time in my life, I saw the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean!”

So we settled on a day in Casablanca and a day in the capital city, Rabat, one hour north of Casa.

It did not disappoint, and we had a fabulous time!  If you are flying on Royal Air Maroc, you can add a day or more to your itinerary without changing your fare.  A day in Casablanca is a great way to adjust to the time difference, practice your French (or Arabic), eat fantastic food, and explore the ancient open-air markets known as the Medinas.

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Don’t believe people who tell you there’s nothing to see in Casablanca…it may not be Marrakesh but it’s an amazing place to spend a day or more!

Rick’s Café – The reason people find the name exciting is because of the movie.  Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s film Casablanca lit up the screen over 75 years ago (1942).  They made the name of this city immortal.  The setting for the film is an American-style nightclub and gambling casino named Rick’s Café Americain.

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In 2004, a former American diplomat, Kathy Kriger purchased an old mansion in the ancient medina and created the “gin joint” to live up to the film  http://www.rickscafe.ma.  I did not visit Rick’s.  Honestly, I found the idea a little too touristy; but, I did walk to it hoping to find a souvenir for a friend.  Alas, it was also closed for the holiday.  I will say, it gets good reviews. 

Hassan II Mosque – The Hassan II Mosque is the 2nd largest mosque in Africa.  When the hotel employee told us this factoid we thought, OK, great!  When we got up to our room looking out over the city, we were like, that’s a big freaking mosque!!! Built on a promontory jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, it dwarfs everything else in the city.  The walls are hand-carved marble, and the retractable roof allows worshippers to pray in open air.

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It can accommodate 25,000 people inside, and another 80,000 people on the grounds outside!

We walked to the mosque, but this being Eide al-Fitr—and we not being muslims–did not try to enter.

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The Hassan II Mosque is built on a promontory, jutting out over the Atlantic Ocean

Medina Ancienne – The Medina is an open air market place.  Here in the states, that often means a temporary farmers’ market of 10-20 stalls.  In Morocco it is a small ancient city, a warren of alleys and shops.  This part of the city could take up 3 days exploring.  One can find everything here, food, clothing, dry goods, fresh cooked items.  Normally, it is bustling and has the feel of an Indiana Jones movie.  That was certainly what we found in Rabat.  On this day, however, everyone was otherwise occupied.  More on that in a minute.

My French, although rusty, is good enough to have a conversation.  You can get by with English, but it doing so instantly makes you an outsider.  Speaking French made us insiders.  There are so many people roaming the medina and it is not a touristy experience. In fact, we got some puzzled looks.  People were very warm and welcoming, but also looked like they wanted to ask if we were lost.  In fact, we were not, we were right where we wanted to be!

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The ancient medina is a warren of crowded alleys and shops, but on a day that was both holiday and a World Cup game, things were pretty quiet!

When we visited the Medina in Rabat it was bustling and alive.  In Casablanca, however, two big factors left the Medina largely shuttered and empty.  One, it was a holiday, Eide al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan.  But even more visible to us, Morroco was playing Iran in the World Cup!

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The Sofitel lobby had several large screens set up and this young fan already had her Russia 2018 soccer jersey!

Everywhere we walked shops were closed and people were crowded into cafes and bars.  They weren’t there to eat or drink mind you–it was still Ramadan for 6 more hours–but to watch the World Cup!

We would be walking down a street and hear a roar from a café.  We’d think, oh boy, Morocco must have scored, but no, when we’d look in, the score was still 0-0.  It’s a game Americans don’t seem to appreciate as much as the rest of the world does.  I think a score of 0-0 after 80 minutes of play is one of the reasons.

Everywhere we went people were packing cafes and peeking in from outside.

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On the last day of Ramadan, Eide al-Fitr, Moroccans packed the cafes for one thing only, a the World Cup soccer game Morocco vs. Iran.

We got back to our hotel in time to catch the last 30 minutes.  In the posh international atmosphere of the Sofitel Casablanca, we also were able to enjoy a couple cold beers after walking around all day in the hot sun.  I have to say, I really admire that muslims go an entire month without eating or even drinking water between sunrise and sunset.

The lobby was packed with World Cup fans and equipped with projectors and big screens.  It’s very exciting to enjoy an event like that when national pride is on the line.

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Moroccan Food and Wine – Casablanca - 14We were leaving early the next morning for Portugal, so rather than venture out on the town, we opted for a traditional Moroccan feast in the hotel.  We enjoyed a really nice Moroccan rosé.  Morocco has areas with the perfect climate–and French vines–for very good wines.

Dinner included a classic tagine of chicken, preserved lemons, green olives and a lot of garlic. I am in love with Moroccan cuisine. It is middle-eastern, Mediterranean, French and African all rolled into one.

I am also a sucker for any dish where the pot you cook it in, and the food you make in that pot have the same name.  The tagine tops the list for me.

One thing I knew for sure, a tagine was going home with me!  Stay tuned for that in future blog posts!

The end of the day also gave us an unforgettable sunset looking out over the Hassan II mosque, the ancient medina, and the Atlantic Ocean.  It gave me one (ok, 30) of the finest pictures I’ve ever taken.  For the first time in my life, I saw the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean!

I will cover Rabat in a future post, and to be fair, there was a lot more going on in Rabat.  But for a quick tour, on a holiday, during a World Cup game, Casablanca did not disappoint!  I will absolutely be back to Morocco to see more of this exciting country!

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TT

The Food of Ethiopia

The food of Ethiopia is unlike any western cuisine.  Served on a communal platter and eaten with pieces of bread instead of fork and spoon, it has an exotic flavor and uses exotic ingredients.  Ethiopians eat things we don’t normally eat in the US like sheep and goat.  At the same time, things we consider common everyday foods in the US, like chicken, are special treats for the Ethiopians.

The chicken gets cooked into a stew called Doro Wot.  It is rich and copper brown and something worthy of a big occasion like a birthday or  special guest.

We had to be careful about things like not eating uncooked food.  No fresh salad, no fresh fruit and water only if bottled.  This put a small cloud of doubt over each meal, wondering if we missed something.  Every rumble in the tummy tends to make you think, “uh oh, is this the day I spend in the bathroom?”

I am pleased to report, however, that neither of us experienced any illness or digestive distress the entire trip.  This is particularly fortunate because  we ate “local food” pretty much everyday, and were pretty adventurous.

We loved the food and the experience of dining Ethiopian style; but, I will admit to having days when I really just wanted a plain bowl of pasta and a fresh salad.

The Bread

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Each of these rolls of injera bread is a 2-ft diameter circle. This basket would feed a whole village!

The essence of Ethiopian food is all about the Injera.  Injera (sometimes spelled enjera) is a spongy pancake-like bread that is eaten with everything.  It is plate, silverware, and meal, made with a grain called teff, a nutritious high fiber, high protein staple.  The Ethiopians start with a dough that rises from natural yeasts, similar to sourdough.  From this they make a batter the consistency of pancake batter.  and pour it on a hot round griddle.  They start on the outside of the circle moving toward the center and flip it once.

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The injera batter is poured onto a hot griddle from the outside in. It is flipped once and pulled off to a warm basket.

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The full “loaf” is about 2 feet in diameter and they either roll them and put the rolls in a basket or they fold them like dinner napkins.  To eat a full one of these, along with the food you pick up with the bread is a full day’s calorie intake!

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A basket of injera that will feed the night’s feast…and an army…and an air force…

 

Part of the secret is the highly porous nature of the bread.  Those little holes in the bread pick up sauce and food as you use it to eat.  Then, it seems to expand significantly in your stomach.  As a result, it’s very easy to overeat because the food is so delicious and every bite includes a piece of bread, and then it all expands to triple the size inside your stomach.

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Those “nooks and crannies” soak up sauce and food and help the injera to expand to three times its size when it gets to your stomach.

I decided when I returned that I would go on the all-enjera diet because one meal of this bread and we literally would not be hungry again all day!

Every meal is served with Injera, and preparation for a party involves making a giant basket of them.

Flavoring

The food is exotic–delicious, but very different.  There is a spice mix called berbere that is common to almost all of the food.  It has some familiar ingredients like chili peppers, garlic, and ginger;  but, it has a lot of elements that I have never heard of, things that are not familiar to the western pantry and give the food its exotic flavor.

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This spice shop in the marketplace sold berbere, mitmita, and many individual spices to be used by home cooks to make their own mixtures. When I bought my berbere here it came by the kilo!

While not mild, heat is not the dominant flavor.  For real heat you add a spice mix called mitmita.  This dry powder is serious heat and really delicious!  It is often served on the side for dipping pieces of meat.

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I now have both berbere and green coffee beans (see posting on the Ethiopian coffee ceremony) on my shelf in Virginia.

The Fantastic Cooks and Their Hard Work

I was able to buy a kilo of spice mix at the market, but most people make their own and it is a LOT of work!  Painstakingly picking by hand, through lentils, grains, and chili peppers, women, for the most part spend their days drying and grinding spices and sifting through grains.

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Chili’s drying on the sidewalk in Gondar.

 

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A woman picks through barley to clean it and prepare it for drying. The barley will be used in numerous dishes.

In fact, one of the more pleasant sights everywhere we went was tarps out on the sidewalk with chili’s, grains, and spices drying in the sun.  It didn’t matter where we were, the city, the country, a high-rise apartment building, someone’s spice mixture would be out getting sun-dried.

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This woman set wheat out on the precipice of a mountain to dry to a golden straw color in the sun.

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Whether outside a goat pen or outside a high-rise apartment building, everyone is drying grain and spices!

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The people who make this food are almost always hired cooks.  When I remarked that in the US having a cook is considered a luxury, my friend Messi said, it’s just a cultural thing in Ethiopia.  If you’re poor she said, you find someone poorer to be your cook.

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Apparently “supermarket” does not really translate.

One reason for this is that food is more difficult to get.  There are no Safeway’s or large supermarkets where you can get everything you need.  Getting the groceries often involves live animals.  It’s hard work to put together a daily meal in this country.

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The lovely cooks at Four Sisters restaurant in Gondar

That said, it still is unusual for a middle class American to see a family like mine with a cook!  Everytime we went to someone’s house for dinner I made a point to speak with the cook and ask her how she made the dish and take selfie’s, and compliment her cooking.  My hosts often looked at me like I had gone downstairs at Downton Abbey!  I couldn’t stop myself.  These beautiful women never stopped smiling and fed me everywhere I went!

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Our friends’ cook in Addis, teaching me to make Kategna.

 

Particular Dishes

One of my favorite flavorings was a chili sauce called awazi.  This was essentially berbere mixed with oil or clarified butter.  Awaze was the key ingredient in a dish called kategnawhich was one of our favorite things we ate there.  A fresh injera is made and spread with awaze, and then another enjera is put on top of it and browned.

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If you go to an Ethiopian restaurant and they have Kategna on the menu…order it!

There were countless little pastes and sauces that would be frequently served on the side as a sort of condiment.  Sometimes green, sometimes red, it always packed a lively heat, and tons of flavor!

I have already mentioned Doro Wot, but another of my favorite dishes was Shiro Tegabeno.  Shiro is a lentil powder that is cooked to the consistency of hummus.  It is flavored with vegetables and berbere and when served tagabeno style it is sautéed and browned with veggies in a skillet.  It had a fresh lively taste and was very filling!

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The shiro tegabino

One day in the city of Gondar, we stopped for coffee at a little restaurant in Gondar in the middle of the afternoon.  The woman who owned it was so pleased that Americans were in her restaurant she said she was going to make food for us.  As I mentioned, we had been pretty careful about what and where we ate as the risk of getting sick was always present.

When this woman said she was making us food, my wife and I exchanged a concerned look.  We were with some newly made friends and one of them leaned over to me and said, “This woman is very poor and works very hard and she’s making a dish for free because she is so proud to have you sample it.  You have to eat it, it would be extremely rude not to!”

That was all he needed to say, and when the sheep tibs came out with a green chili  paste on the side, we devoured it.  It was delicious and there were no unpleasant results.  It was, in fact, one of those experiences that was very poignant and frankly would have been worth an evening with the Immodium!

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The storied tibs, offered up as a proud gesture of kindness from a restaurant owner. That green chili paste on the side was amazingly good, as were the tibs and her injera.

Restaurants

When we arrived, our friends took us on day 1 to Kategna.  I noticed that Anthony Bourdain, on his show Parts Unknown, also went straight to this restaurant.  Right in the heart of bustling Addis Ababa, this was a superb introduction to the cuisine, the culture, and the crowd!

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We ate at some interesting restaurants, Ben Abeba in Lalibela was absolutely one of them.  Perched on the edge of a mountain overlooking an awe-inspiring view, this funky piece of modern architecture is run by a Scottish woman and her Ethiopian business partner and was gorgeous!  We ate there twice and one stand-out dish was the  Ethiopian style shepherd’s pie!

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The fabulous view from Lalibela’s Ben Abeba

 

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The architectural masterpiece of Ben Abeba, Lalibela Ethiopia

 

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This little snack before our meal came out at Ben Abeba was an unusual sample of traditional risen bread with a spicy sauce.

We also ate at Finfine Adarash a low-key local restaurant in Addis that we just happened upon.  Set in open air, and very friendly, this was yet one more reason to feel comfortable in this amazing country.

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Addis Ababa’s Finfine Adarash

The Goat

The goat is a longer story that I will save for another post (and link back to here) but here is the short version.  On one of our final days there was to be a bit of a going away feast and we went to purchase a live goat.  We haggled, purchased and then transported that goat and a nearby butcher (in the back of the SUV)  to the house where the goat was promptly butchered, cut up in tiny pieces and cooked outdoors on a giant iron plate.

While many of you reading this now are feeling queasy, I can tell you that this was one of our best and most memorable meals and in a later posting I will relate my perspective on witnessing the slaughter of an animal.

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Stay tuned for the full story on the goat…

There’s no question I have a fonder taste for Ethiopian food now that I have spent a little time there.  But if you have the chance to visit an Ethiopian restaurant here in the states, GO DO IT!  You might not like it, and you might feel uncomfortable, but it is an exotic event that will linger in your memory as well as your tastebuds.  It’s a wonderfully social event and unique to eastern Africa.

When they bring the communal platter to your table and set it on the wicker table with its large woven lid called a mesob, trust me when I tell you, delicious adventure can be found under that lid!

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The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

One of my favorite parts of my trip to Ethiopia was the coffee ceremony.  The coffee ceremony is ubiquitous, found within restaurants, airport waiting areas, and on the street.

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This woman is setting up her coffee ceremony station on the floor of a restaurant in Gondar called Four Sisters. You will note the brazier with charcoal, the incense, the small cups, and the roasting coffee beans on the coals.. You will also see that the bar behind her is called “Tony’s Bar”!

To be sure, drinking the coffee is part of it; but, less than half of the experience.  The setup is easily recognizable, there is a seating area with some stools, and often some straw or grass (at times even plastic grass) put down like a rug.  A small table–a coffee table if you will–is set up with little cups.

To the side is a small charcoal brazier, just big enough to accommodate one pot.  The attendant–nearly always a young woman in the traditional dress of the region–roasts green coffee beans, burns incense, grinds and brews the coffee and sells you a cup for anywhere between 25 and 40 cents.

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This was the coffee ceremony seating area in the Gondar airport.

Back home I am pretty careful not to drink coffee after lunch or I lay awake in bed that night from the caffeine.  Here, we were on vacation, my body clock was completely screwed up and the coffee is so damn good I just said screw it and drank coffee throughout the day.  What I couldn’t counter with beer just kept me up thinking about what an amazing vacation it was.

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First she selects some green coffee beans. Prior to being roasted they smell peppery and fresh but nothing like coffee.

The beans are roasted in a little skillet with holes in it to let smoke come through.  I was so enchanted with this process I bought one of these little skillets and some coffee beans to do this at home!

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I bought coffee beans, the traditional coffee pot and the skillet to roast the beans. Since being home I have had pretty good success with roasting my own beans!

 

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Roasting the beans is a really beautiful–if a bit smokey–process. They go from green to brown to black and then the oils emerge from the beans. The aroma is so rich and the beans glisten!

The thing about the ceremony is that you’re not just there for a cup of coffee.  There are plenty of cafe’s where you can do that.  You can walk into any number of places and just order a coffee or a cappuccino, etc.  The ceremony, however, is about the experience.  It forces you to stop and relax and take it all in with your senses.

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Incense–Frankincense to be exact–is always part of it. I’m not exactly sure why because the coffee itself smells really good but there is always incense.

Sometimes we would smell the coffee ceremony before we saw it.  The incense, for me reminiscent of funerals, often stretches around the corner.  Whether you like incense or not, this just became an integral part of the experience.

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After the beans are roasted with their glistening oils oozing out of them, the young woman pours them into a wooden bowl and walks through the crowd with it, stopping at each person so that everyone gets to take in the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans.  And it is a fragrant field trip to heaven!

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The beans are then ground by hand in a mortar and pestle, and boiled in a traditional clay coffee pot called a jebena.  The charcoal used to roast the beans now boils the water.  When it boils up through the spout, it’s ready.  She pours you a small 4oz cup piping hot.  Many take sugar with it, and Alice got used to that style.

I, on the other hand, took it black.  This is strong, darkly roasted, robust coffee and I wanted it in its purest form.  I delighted in every cup and never got sick of it.  I also found that just a small cup of amazingly strong coffee was enough to satisfy me.

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At one stop we were given fresh springs of coffee beans to flavor the coffee

 

We stopped everywhere (sometimes to the frustration of our guides) for coffee.  Perhaps the most memorable one was on a hike up a mountain.  We hiked up before sunrise to visit an ancient monastery and were now on the way down.  A family had a traditional house made from mud with a thatched roof.  The husband was selling some souvenirs on the side of the trail and I stopped to look.  He invited us to stay for coffee and we sat down on goat skins outside his home while his wife roasted the beans.
IMG_6444This poor family made us feel so comfortable, feeding us a little snack of traditional bread and chatting with us through our guide who was now our translator.  We sat and rested, told them where we were from, and eventually enjoyed coffee flavored with fresh springs of coffee beans.

We were high in the mountains, around 10,000 feet and it was quiet and beautiful and I asked our guide to try and explain that when I returned to my daily life in Washington, DC, I would remember this moment very fondly.  He seemed to get it, but he’s also never seen someone pull up at a Starbuck’s drive-thru window for a “vente decaf Americano”.

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Recognizing the fears of the 1st world, the woman making our coffee showed us she was using bottled water!

 

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Souvenirs and coffee were enough to bring my new friend and me together. Our 15-20 minutes at his home was one of the most memorable experience of the whole two weeks.

Finally it was my turn.  At a friend’s house for dinner, their cook was fixing the coffee but stopped to help with the meal preparation.  I quickly took her seat and began fanning the charcoal.  This turned out to make everyone laugh because the man of the house would never conduct a coffee ceremony!  Not the first cultural taboo I’ve ever breached, and boy are they in for a surprise when they come to Virginia!

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We did bring home some amazing pre-roasted Ethiopian coffee, but after the ceremony, it’s just not the same!

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So if you ever go to an Ethiopian restaurant and you see the setup, be sure and take a few minutes and soak it in.  And I’ll warn the attendants who leave their station empty when I’m around…I just might take over for you!

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Ethiopia – Introduction

I’ve been back for two weeks from my epic adventure to Ethiopia and have been thinking of how best to present it on my blog.  There was so much!  We saw so much, met so many people, experienced so many foods, it’s a little overwhelming to know where to begin.

IMG_0089Each night on this two week adventure I would go to bed thinking, nothing could possibly outdo today; and then the next day would outdo it.  I was told by people that the trip would be life-changing and I have to admit I was skeptical.  “Life-changing” is a term that gets thrown around a lot and I had no idea what I was about to experience and thus how my life would be changed.

When I returned, however, I had a starkly different perspective on life.  This was the most different, exotic place and culture I have ever seen.  There were lessons to be learned here and shame on me if it wasn’t life-changing!

The most striking thing about this trip was the people.  Ethiopians are the friendliest, warmest and most IMG_0022welcoming people I have ever met.  They often lead a hard, poor life and yet they are generally happy and smiling.  It didn’t take long to realize that what we call “middle class” in the states would be wealthy in Ethiopia.  I watched people who have to walk a mile each day to get water–water for cooking, drinking, and washing.  I saw a lot of these folks and always they had a broad smile on their face and would have given you some of the water if you needed it.

Contrast that with the familiar sight of a rich business man in Washington, DC walking with his head down, scanning his smartphone and displaying all of his problems on his face.

IMG_0083 I even asked a few people about this.  I said, “This seems like a hard life and yet everyone seems so happy.  Why is that?”  More than one person told me their philosophy of worrying only about today and leaving the rest to providence.

I have a ton of pictures and there’s a story behind every one of them.  I met scores of people and visited many amazing sites in the northern part of the country.

 

 

In the following weeks, I will publish several posts about the things I saw.

Topics will include:

  • the cities we visited,
  • the coffee
  • the food we ate,
  • the people we met,
  • travel information like lodging, and
  • a lot of the spectacular scenery from this profoundly beautiful country.

I have to thank my wife Alice for being willing to spend two weeks of vacation outside her comfort zone and IMG_0112enjoying it thoroughly.  I have to also thank my wonderful friend Jim Warner and his lovely wife Meserat (Messi).  They convinced us to visit them, gave us a place to stay, showed us the capital city of Addis Ababa, planned our trips outside of Addis, and shared their warm and loving friends with us.

Making this journey was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity.

Stay tuned for some great stories!

π

Hawaii – Day 6 – Hawaiian Local Food, The Punchbowl Crater and Roy’s Hawaiian Cuisine

In 2013 tonemanblog lost a library of photographs leaving many broken links on older posts.  The following post is a restored version from a trip in 2011 trip to Hawaii.


Today began on the beach–our own private beach in a lagoon that for whatever reason was almost empty!  The water is blue and the perfect temperature.  The sun is bright.  The beginning of each day includes a ritual of SPF 50 on the body and SPF 100 on the face (and in my case the dome).  Forget the iPad, it’s so bright you would have to be in the shade to read a book on it.

It is not, however, particularly hot.  In fact, the temperature never varies more than 15° all year long!

We spent time at the beach and then sought out some local food.  I have been reading about Hawaiian food and it’s casual and not particularly healthy, but a sort of island soul food.  We found it at a place called Hawaiian BBQ.

The Hawaiian Sampler, clockwise from top left: Kahlua pork, haupa rice, Hawaiian beef stew, and a lau lau.

The Hawaiian Sampler, clockwise from top left: Kahlua pork, haupa rice, Hawaiian beef stew, and a lau lau.

The food was fantastic, but enough to feed 6 people.  I knew I was in trouble when they handed me the styrofoam container and it weighed about 3 lbs!

It contained Kahlua Pork, the Hawaiian version of pulled pork.  That is amazing bbq!  Next to it was haupa rice which is a combination of brown and white rice.  Haupa she told me means “mixed”.  There was beef stew which seemed out of place but the veggies were local and the beef was braised like short ribs.  There was also an item called a laulau.  This was braised pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  It was sort of like a tamale, and sort of like a Polish galumpki.  It was packed with concentrated flavor and possibly my favorite item on the platter.

The Lomi lomi is a distinctive Hawaiian preparation for salmon.

The Lomi lomi is a distinctive Hawaiian preparation for salmon.

Beside the platter was a small cup of Lomi Lomi.  This is a salmon dish and apparently way back when, sailors brought salmon to Hawaii to trade and they created this unique preparation.  This is something I want to recreate when I get home!  It was ceviche meets salsa and used very fresh Alaskan salmon.

The best view of Honolulu, the Punchbowl Crater

The best view of Honolulu, the Punchbowl Crater

From there we drove to the National Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl Crater.  If you have been following the blog through this trip you know we did a day of reflection on Memorial Day.  It’s not that we needed more time to honor the fallen, but this is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Oahu!

Once again it is a volcano that collapsed in on itself forming a giant bowl at the top of the mountain.  This bowl was used to create a 116 acre national cemetery.

The very first stone was an unknown soldier who died on Pearl Harbor Day.

Plot A-1 at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, an unkown soldier who died on Pearl Harbor Day.

Plot A-1 at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, an unkown soldier who died on Pearl Harbor Day.

The cemetery is a peaceful beautiful place and anyone would enjoy it.  There are spectacular old hardwood trees and the rim of the crater offers 360° views of the island.

Spectacular hardwood trees of Hawaii

Spectacular hardwood trees of Hawaii

The flowers are everywhere.  More impressive in a roadway median than many well-landscaped lawns back home.  This grove below had Birds of Paradise and there were so many!

Birds of Paradise; one more glorious view from the Punchbowl Crater.

Birds of Paradise; one more glorious view from the Punchbowl Crater.

After this visit we went back to the resort to get ready for dinner at Roy’s Ko Olina.  This is Hawaiian fusion cuisine at its best.  Roy’s combines Asian cuisine with European and American cuisine all using regional ingredients and the result is the finest meal we have had here yet!

The Mongolian Spare Rib, Ahi Sashimi, and a Chicken Spring Roll

The Mongolian Spare Rib, Ahi Sashimi, and a Chicken Spring Roll

My wife had a sampler appetizer plate which included Ahi tuna sashimi that has basically ruined both of us from mainland sushi forever!  It also came with a spring roll and a Mongolian spare rib, both of which were very good.

The Ahi Poke with roasted garlic and chilis in a rice paper bowl.

The Ahi Poke with roasted garlic and chilis in a rice paper bowl.

My appetizer was one of those about which I would have gloated if I were in a bigger party.  It was Ahi tuna poke mixed with roasted garlic and chilis in a rice paper bowl.  The first bite left me breathless.  After a week of eating really well this was the best thing I had eaten all week!

The roasted short ribs with poi (an acquired taste).

The roasted short ribs with poi (an acquired taste).

For the entrée my wife had the roasted short ribs.  These were reminiscent of Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, only better.  The poi was served on the side because as the server said, “it’s an acquired taste”.  As it would turn out, we did not acquire this taste and the poi went largely untouched.

The Seared scallops with crispy pork belly served with local kobocha squash puree, natural juices, and scallion oil.

The Seared scallops with crispy pork belly served with local kobocha squash puree, natural juices, and scallion oil.

When my entrée came I thought I would have to find a room to be alone with it.  It was huge seared scallops and a pork belly confit on a puree of local kombocha squash with natural juices and scallion oil.  Again, one bite made me close my eyes and try not to moan out loud!

It will be difficult for any restaurant to top this meal as it was a beautiful setting and fantastic food and service.  Roy’s private labels several very good wines and Greg, our excellent server was great at recommending wine pairings for each course.

We have one more full day left in Oahu before heading to Maui and it’s hard to believe we could top a day like today.

Stay tuned!

π

Hawaii – Day 5 – Diamond Head & the Honolulu Farmers’ Market

In 2013, tonemanblog lost a library of photographs leaving many broken links on older posts.  The following post is a restored version from a trip in 2011 trip to Hawaii.


Today we rose early to do some hiking.  We were headed for Diamond Head, perhaps the most iconic symbol of Oahu and the defining eastern endpoint of famed Waikiki.

The trail is not particularly challenging other than it is uphill.  It is just under a mile of gentle hiking, however it is crowded including many who are unfit to walk a mile uphill!  More on that below.

Numerous switchbacks make the trail look like an ant colony!

Numerous switchbacks make the trail look like an ant colony!

If you look at the picture above you can see rows of hikers all the way up from bottom to top.  Numerous switchbacks make the trail as viewed from the bottom look like an ant colony!

Near the top the trail enters a dark narrow tunnel that runs about 500 feet.  It was filled with people walking in both directions and bends at the upper end so you cannot see when it ends.  My wife, who is mildly claustrophobic, was not fond of this portion but soon we were out of that and ascending 100 steps to an interior spiral staircase that rises through the peak of the trail.

All of this was well worth it because the view at the top is glorious!

A view of the crater at the top of the mountain.

A view of the crater at the top of the mountain.

All week long I have heard people refer to Diamond Head as a crater.  I think of a crater as a hole, like when a meteor strikes the earth and makes a crater.  This was a mountain; what was I missing?

The picture above shows what you can’t see from sea level.  Centuries ago the volcano collapsed in on itself making a crater at the top.  A crater is a hole!

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Down below were spectacular views of blue water, a lighthouse, the city, and suddenly…a helicopter!

Honolulu Fire & Rescue arrive to aid a distressed hiker.

Honolulu Fire & Rescue arrive to aid a distressed hiker.

Somewhere on the trail a hiker was in distress.  It didn’t surprise me because there were people of all ages including parents carrying babies, really old people, and a lot of people huffing and puffing!

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The view of the Windward Coast of Oahu was pristine and beautiful.  The view of Waikiki, on the other hand, shows a more commercial side of Hawaii.

Waikiki as seen from the top of Diamond Head Crater.

Waikiki as seen from the top of Diamond Head Crater.

Here I would like to point out a bit of irony.   The story goes that Joni Mitchell was staying in Hawaii when she wrote the song Big Yellow Taxi.  In the song she sings of a “pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot”.  She goes on to decry the commercialism of Waikiki saying they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.

Well that pink hotel is in the center of the picture above.  It is the Royal Hawaiian and I’m pretty sure that since Joni wrote that song the parking lot has been removed!

The Royal Hawiian

The Royal Hawaiian

After hiking down the mountain we spent some time on the beach and ate lunch at a Waikiki institution, Dukes Barefoot Bar.  This, to me, was one of those moments when you try to lock it in because everything at that moment is the essence of where you are.  We had cold Longboard Lagers and local fish that was so fresh I thought I would weep.

The Pupu Sampler at Duke's, Clockwise from twelve o'clock, Ahi sashimi, sesame poke, and smoked marlin.

The Pupu Sampler at Duke’s, Clockwise from twelve o’clock, Ahi sashimi, sesame poke, and smoked marlin.

Most notable was the Ahi sashimi.  Raw strips of tuna that melted on the tongue like a pat of butter.  There was poke, a raw tuna that is tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil and green onions, and paper-thin slices of smoked marlin.

We spent a couple hours on the beach swimming and watching surfers–the real deal!

From there we left to hit the Honolulu Farmers’ Market.  It was remarkably like the farmers’ market at home except the products were exotic and tropical.  There were coffee growers, cacao growers, and all sorts of tropical fruit.

Just like the farmers' market at home...only different!

Just like the farmers’ market at home…only different!

There were pineapples, bananas, mangos, and papayas, all grown here on the island.

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One cool thing I tried was abalone.  This is a shell fish somewhere between a clam and a snail.  They only have one shell, like the bottom half of a clam.  The open side sucks onto rocks.  Alive they look like large snails.  Cooked they look like clams and taste delicious!

The abalone has only one shell and alive looks like a large snail...

The abalone has only one shell and alive looks like a large snail…

We bought a number of goodies from the market and headed back to the resort to make some dinner.  Covered in sand and exhausted from sun, a dip in the pool was at the top of the list!

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Hawaii – Day 4 – Ko Olina

In 2013, tonemanblog lost a library of photographs leaving many broken links on older posts.  The following post is a restored version from a trip in 2011 trip to Hawaii.


The Ko Olina Wedding Chapel

The Ko Olina Wedding Chapel

Destination weddings are big business in Hawaii. Destination weddings are big business in Hawaii.

Destination weddings are big business in Hawaii.

We got to the resort and they had a saltwater pool of beautiful fish like you would see in an aquarium.  All different colors and as we watched a gorgeous sting ray glided past.

Sting ray in the pool!

Sting ray in the pool!

The resort is luxurious!  We sat at this opulent seaside pool and ordered lunch, a healthy one at that!

No sting rays in this pool!

No sting rays in this pool!

A completely local meal, Hawaiian hebi with papaya salsa and a purple Hawaiian sweet potato.Watching the luau hula from our restaurant table!

A completely local meal, Hawaiian hebi with papaya salsa and a purple Hawaiian sweet potato.Watching the luau hula from our restaurant table!

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π

VE Day 70th Anniversary – Warbirds’ DC Flyover

Friday May 8th was the 70th anniversary of VE Day.  To commemorate the event, a massive flyover of 56 World War II era planes was staged at a small airport in Manassas, VA and flew to Washington, DC, along the Potomac River, pivoting at the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial, and flying over the Washington Monument, and National Mall.

For a great aggregation of the media coverage click here.

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It was rare that they flew low enough to capture both planes and monuments but it happened a few times.

It sounded fun and I thought I would pop down to the Marine Memorial (Iwo Jima) and see it.  Not an original idea!  I knew I was in trouble when I saw throngs of people pouring from the offices in Rosslyn to the site!

IMG_0242But I tend to have great luck and sure enough there was a sweet parking spot waiting for my car!  I headed over to the Netherlands Carillon which is next to the Marine Memorial and there were a hundred or more photographers!

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The Netherlands Carillon in the back left sits up on a hill, between the Marine Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

All around me were huge long lenses and tripods, they had vests with extra accessories and multiple cameras.

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As it turned out, many were professionals!  The guy next to me was from Reuters, and the Washington Post was next to him!  There were also plenty of serious amateurs and bloggers.

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The planes came in various formations based on different theaters and time periods during the war.

The planes would come in along the river and be at 1,000 feet which is twice the height of the Washington Monument.  For the pros it was almost a total bust because the planes were too hight to capture the monuments behind them.  There was also a sunny haze that made for difficult photo settings.

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It was a hot sunny day with a humid haze throughout but that did not stop picnics, office gatherings, and many loyal fans of the warbirds.

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Our first glimpse would be to our left between the trees before they were in front of the monuments on the National Mall.

There were brief gaps between groups and then someone in the crowd would yell, “Here we go!”  We would grab a few shots through the trees to the left, then the plane buffs would identify the crafts and many times the actual given name of that plane, “There’s Big Jane!” and shutters would start snapping.

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If they weren’t talking shop about lenses and settings, they were talking about World War II planes.  People were intimately familiar with the crafts and could identify them by the tail markings, etc.

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This, the Lockheed P38 with its distinctive twin booms was a crowd favorite.


They came in several formations based on the history of the aircraft.  Some in threes, some in fours.
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In the end, there were some decent shots of planes with the monuments.  Too bad these professional photographers can’t just turn their phone to the upright position!


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I felt a little silly standing among all these photographers with my iPhone 5, but they were all really nice and gave tips here and there on getting the best possible shot.  There was one woman named Sabrina who described herself as an “overzealous amateur”.  She had a massive lens that she had bought just for air shows and told me that photographing planes made “her brain sparkle”.  She was very nice and gave me her card with a variety of websites.  Here flickr site is beautiful!  .  Her blog has some fabulous photography, including some great shots from a group that did aerial photography of the flyover. See her site at www.sybspics.com.


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I felt a little silly standing among all these photographers with my iPhone 5, but they were all really nice and gave tips here and there on getting the best possible shot.  There was one woman named Sabrina who described herself as an “overzealous amateur”.  She had a massive lens that she had bought just for air shows and told me that photographing planes made “her brain sparkle”.  She was very nice and gave me her card with a variety of websites.  Here flickr site is beautiful!  .  Her blog has some fabulous photography, including some great shots from a group that did aerial photography of the flyover. See her site at www.sybspics.com.

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My friend Jim is a gifted photographer and during the entire flyover we were texting.  He was positioned at the Jefferson Memorial.  To check out Jim’s website Boomer-23.  Jim managed to capture a great shot of a plane that had an engine malfunction and had to break out of formation and land (safely) at National Airport.

All said, it was a fun experience.  The planes were exciting to see (and on display at the Air & Space Museum Dulles Facility the next day) and the experience of being among real photographers was very cool!

π

tonemanblog Under Construction!

TK_LOGO

The tonemanblog is undergoing some changes.  It will have a different look and will take a little while to reach its final form.

In the meantime you can still enjoy the fun series like:

Ten 3-Mile Walks in Washington, DC,

The History in My Grandmother’s Recipe Boxes

Follow the Toneman on his travels

Enjoy recipes and great food experiences

Hiking

Bicycling

And lots more to come!  Thanks for your patience on the site, and soon you will see sponsors, be good to them please!

Stay tuned,

Tony

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