In 2009 I ventured to Peru with 16 college students, 1 faculty member, and 2 tour guides for a 14 day study abroad program with the University of South Carolina. As the program assistant, I handled the finances, student concerns, escorted the group on all excursions and classes, and I counted to 16 a lot. Not a bad job, huh? It really was a fantastic group and an incredible program. The geography professor that taught the class had been a Peace Corps volunteer back in the 70s so he was up for all kinds of adventures.
Me and part of our group at Machu Picchu in May 2009
So last night when I was browsing Open Table for a restaurant and came upon the Cafe Secret Cocina Peruana, my hubby and I decided we should give it a try. Although the service was a tad slow, the food was authentic and savory. We agreed to go 100% Peruvian beginning with our beverages – a pisco sour and a diet Inca Kola. To start we had papitas and yuquitas, which were fried potatoes and yucas served with hard-boiled eggs and olives in a really yummy sauce. For dinner Hubby got ceviche with shrimp and sea bass, while I had pascado sudado, a spicy dish (my mouth was on fire) with snapper, onions, and tomatoes served with quinoa. The meal brought back fond memories of a great trip and it was great to share it with Hubby.
These are traditional Peruvian ingredients that Cafe Secret uses in their dishes.
Me eating pescado sudado
Shrimp and Sea Bass Ceviche
Diet Inca Kola – it kind of tastes like bubble gum.
As you may have already guessed, the student lunch this week was of the Japanese persuasion. It also required very little cooking as I pretty much bought everything (100% fine by me!). We had spicy shrimp tempura rolls, california rolls, edamame, rice, and red bean angel rolls from the Asian market. While most of the food (especially the sushi) was devoured, everyone was a little hesitant about the red bean angel rolls. They were made from a red bean paste spread over a light angel food cake roll and had a very mild sweet flavor. My dad always says that no cake is worth eating if it doesn’t go “thud” when it hits the plate. These definitely didn’t thud, but they seemed fairly authentic from what I remember eating when I was in Japan. Fortunately I didn’t think they were so bad so I brought two packages home with me…dessert for tonight!
On a side note, I have to give Ralph’s (our local grocery store) huge props. The two women who work their sushi counter were awesome! They took my order and made my sushi on the spot. Plus, they were delicious!
Our Japanese spread
This picture is not quite accurate. I actually ate my sushi with my fingers. Embarrassing, I know, but chopsticks and I just don’t get along.
These are the bean paste angel rolls from the bakery at the Asian market.
In need of a Japanese inspired dessert for tomorrow’s lunch, I decided to scope out the Asian market scene in San Diego. Upon my Google search, I found 99 Ranch Market which I had heard good things about before. So after work I headed to Clairemont-Mesa, a part of San Diego known for its authentic Asian cuisine. This being my first time in an Asian market, I didn’t know quite what to expect but here is what I discovered:
1. The primary language spoken is Mandarin. Fortunately everyone switched over to English as soon as I walked up to the counter.
2. This particular Asian market extended far beyond a grocery store. They also had a restaurant, dessert stand, gift shop, and Asian book store.
3. I couldn’t find that they sold any pre-made sushi. I just found everything to make my own. That is not going to happen. I left my sushi making skills back in Argentina.
Although I couldn’t read what half of the products were, I loved walking up and down the aisles looking at the different packaging. I definitely plan to go back.
Welcome to 99 Ranch Market!
The Fish Counter
Canned Shrimp…I think
On Saturday I left sunny San Diego for a long weekend with great friends in Chicago. Although I’m a lot further than 30 miles from home, the trip has still been packed with fun and noteworthy cultural finds. Should you find yourself in Chicago check out some of the following:
Drake Hotel With the gorgeous weather, we found ourselves at the beach right next to the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago. This weekend it seemed to be the gathering spot for Brits celebrating the Diamond Jubilee. The Drake is famous for its high tea in its Palm Court. Served daily, the high tea is definitely a cultural experience worth the small splurge. Even the Queen approves – she was entertained in the Drake back in 1958.
The Paris Club
One of the newer chic places in Chicago happens to be of the French persuasion. For dinner on Saturday we headed to the Paris Club to experience a “French awakening” by Chef Joho. It was a little loud but the food was worth having a yell across the table. Goat cheese pâtè, scallops in butter, and gruyere fondue made up my – dinner. Check out the more thorough review of our dinner this Thursday at Chewable Chicago.
And finally today I sit in this lovely European style cafe in Southport Corridor. With only locations in Vienna and Chicago, this cafe has managed to maintain European charm in the middle of an American neighborhood. In fact as I sit here, conversations in French surround me. Love it! The coffee is superb and so are the cookies.
P.S. Blogging from an iPad is a pain.
I am kind of obsessed with cheese. In fact, when hubby is out-of-town, my meal of choice is crackers and some good sharp white cheddar. But in all honesty, I don’t discriminate. I love it all. And the stronger the better. So when I saw brie on sale for $6 a wheel while perusing Costco this week, I couldn’t resist. Brie grilled cheese sandwiches, a mixed green salad, and few Madeleine’s and LU Pims made up our lovely little French lunch. Delicious food with wonderful people = great Friday lunch.
Our lovely little spread
This is my plate. Melted brie goodness! Yum.
If you ever visit San Diego on a Sunday, Balboa Park is a must. Each Sunday afternoon from 12pm to 4pm, the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages showcase national traditions from around the world. This Sunday hubby and I headed to the International Cottages for the annual Ethnic Food Fair. Each house was open for viewing and had a variety of traditional foods for sale. There was also great (FREE!) entertainment representing various countries. Here are some pictures from our ethnic outing:
Dragons danced through the streets courtesy of the House of China.
The House of Argentina served grilled sausages – delicious!
Each house decorates both the inside and the outside to represent their home country.
In the US, this weekend marks the beginning of summer. The pools open, school gets out, and its time to throw a FIESTA! For a student event we had a few weeks ago, I thought we could have a little Mexican flare. (Warning: the food for this event was not authentic but rather inspired by Mexico. I’m still working on my cooking abilities so you’ll have to forgive.) For decorations, a good old fashion sombrero served as our chip container and then some homemade tissue flowers gave a little more color to the table. Our menu included fresh watermelon (for $.29 a pound, I couldn’t refuse), individual Mexican layer dip, and Elise’s Piñata Coconut Cookies.
Note on the piñata cookies: So everyone has been raving about these Piñata Cookies from Project Denneler on Pinterest, blogs, etc. They have real treats inside!
I 100% agree that these cookies look amazing but I ran into several problems when attempting to make them: 1) they take a TON of dough, 2) they take a TON of time, and 3) I am just not this skilled at baking yet.
Here is my much easier version of piñata cookies:
ELISE’S PINATA COCONUT COOKIES
- 1 package Pillsbury sugar cookie refrigerator dough (or your own sugar cookie recipe)
- 1 can vanilla icing
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- Food coloring
- Roll out Pillsbury dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out donkey shapes (our in my case, cut out giraffe shapes and mold into donkeys)
- Bake according to directions
- Divide coconut into four bowl and stir in 3-4 drops of different food coloring into each bowl – I did red, blue, yellow, and orange
- Once cookies are cool, spread vanilla icing and then sprinkle coconut in lines to give the striped look
They aren’t quite as cute as above but they do the trick…and tasty too!
Not only did we have an annular eclipse in San Diego today (stunning!), but it was also the annual Sicilian Festival in Little Italy. Of course we couldn’t pass it up. We scoped out the Gesso Italiano (Italian Chalk), took pictures of the human music box, devoured delicious meatballs, and eyed the cannoli with desire. If you are interested in delving into Italian culture from home, visit the National Italian American Foundation and check out these great sites:
My job is pretty quiet in the summer. With most of the students at home for their break, I have to bribe people to come visit – otherwise I stare at a computer for 8 hours straight. With college students, the best bribe of course is food, so I decided I would make lunch today for a few students who are working on campus this summer. To be honest, feeding them was totally selfish – I love having visitors, I have to eat too, and it gave me something fun to write about.
With Italy on the brain after reading all those postcards, I thought some “authentic” Italian cuisine might be fun. Our menu consisted of a caprese salad (I added mixed greens to make it more substantial), procuitto and melon, bread, roasted almonds, and watermelon granita. These probably aren’t the dishes that most people think of when it comes to Italian food, but they are some of my favorites. Plus, they don’t require a stove (which I don’t have in the office).
Of everything, I would definitely recommend trying the watermelon granita. It was easy, light, and almost as good as the ones I had in Italy.