2010-02-15

My Funny Valentine

There will be times when a business trip takes place during holidays or other days of personal significance, so it was no surprise when I was required to attend a trade show on Valentine’s Day. Although San Diego in February is much more enjoyable (read WARMER!) than New York in February, I wasn’t looking forward to spending what is supposed to be a romantic evening with a business colleague.  
After a long day standing on our feet, we walked to the Gaslamp District for a nice dinner. And we walked, and we walked, and we walked. We didn’t have reservations, and every restaurant was filled to capacity with Valentine patrons. With burning feet and empty stomachs, we finally found a restaurant with room for us. Alas, it only served food cooked with or in garlic. Since we were hungry, and more importantly, sleeping alone, we decided to chance it. The food was excellent! I tried the bread with roasted garlic spread, garlic chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, and garlic green beans. I did draw the line at garlic ice cream, though. Whenever I see Dave, we laugh about our Valentine’s Day Dinner at the garlic restaurant. 

Bonus: Unfortunately, or fortunately for your date, the restaurant is not longer in business, but if you feel compelled to offend the next time you visit California, check out The Stinking Rose in San Francisco and Beverly Hills  at http://www.thestinkingrose.com/index.htm. The site also provides recipes. Bon Appétit!

2009-11-15

Pass the Paprika Please 
One of the things I truly enjoy when I travel is learning how people in other cultures live. I like to observe the simple things – the kinds of houses and neighborhoods where people live, how they go about the ordinary tasks of life, and what constitutes a typical home cooked meal. When dining, I try to order the local food specialty at family style restaurants. That’s always a challenge if chicken isn’t a specialty, because that’s the only menu item I can read in several languages. Therefore, I always ask my hosts plenty of questions about local foods. When in Hungary, my distributor told me a specialty of her family was stuffed paprika. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could stuff anything into the little red spice we use as garnish, so I passed on that item on the menu.  
Imagine my chagrin when I walked into a local grocery store, and right up front in the produce aisle was a display of the biggest red, green, and orange paprikas I had ever seen. Yes, you guessed it – paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper! I missed eating one of my favorite foods – stuffed peppers – for want of an English translation. On second thought, maybe I’m better off. My taste buds still savor the memory of my mother’s stuffed peppers. 
Bonus: You can share your favorite stuffed paprika recipe by clicking below.

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2009-10-13

The Peach in Wuxi 
One of my rules of travel is not to eat anything raw, and I go to great lengths not to break this one. However, I always need to balance my rules with respect for my hosts. Between sales calls in Wuxi, China, I was faced with this dilemma. But first, I need to set the stage. Imagine a third story walk-up with dimly lit narrow halls covered with peeling paint. Then imagine an office with papers piled on small desks, stained wooden floors, and a water cooler covered with green slime.  My host served me a cup of tepid tea, which I pretended to sip. Then, he offered me a large peach, which I respectfully declined. He wasn’t insulted, only confused. He painstakingly explained, in broken English, that this was a peach and it was very good to eat. With pride, he told me that his town was famous for the fruit. I had no choice but to eat it. I knew I couldn’t wash it in the contaminated water, so my colleague asked for a knife. I slowly peeled away the skin, and bit into the sweet flesh. Of course, the peach juice traveled from my hand to my elbow, but even my sticky discomfort didn’t diminish my pleasure as I savored every bite. It was so good, I practically sucked the pit dry! When I arrived home, I did a little research and found that the Chinese were the first to cultivate peaches, and travelers along the Silk Road, which passes through Wuxi, were probably responsible for bringing them to Persia. I have to admit – that was the sweetest, and messiest, peach I have ever eaten. Sorry about that Georgia, no disrespect intended! 
Bonus: If you would like to know more about travel along the Silk Road, check out Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu (Vintage) by Laurence Bergreen.