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Archive for October, 2010

The second International Food Dinner get together took place this past Saturday. We had so much fun last time that a second event was inevitable. I offered my house as the meeting place. Also, my contribution to the dinner was a Romanian bean dip called Fasole Bătute and a Japanese cake called Castella. “But you are not Japanese!”, you say. That is correct.

Beth and I

The boys: Joel, Seymen, and Thuan

About a month ago, my friends Bruce and Yokko traveled to Japan to visit Yokko’s family. Once they returned, they invited Joel and me over for dinner. During the dinner, they served us this Castella cake, which was very delicious. While we were savoring it, she told me that her mom used to make it throughout her childhood. I was so excited!! I begged her to make it for the International Food Dinner, and she agreed. A few days later, she told me that they could not make it to the dinner, but she sent me her mom’s recipe.

Bill and Andrea

Mark and Sarah

The recipe was simple, except for one thing. It included the creation of a newspaper pan. “A newspaper pan??” How can you possibly bake in a newspaper pan? Isn’t it going to burn?”, I thought. Yokko reassured me that it would be safe. Apparently her mom baked the cake in a newspaper pan every time she made it. I told her that if my house burned down, I was going to move into their house. :)

My newspaper pan

Well, my house did not burn down and the cake baked fine in the newspaper pan. The cake tasted very similar to the one that Bruce and Yokko served us. I did make one mistake though. The recipe required bread flour but I did not have any so I used regular flour instead, which yielded a very dense cake. The original cake was a lot fluffier. Nevertheless, it was still delicious.

Aside from the Castella Cake and Fasole Bătute, the dinner also included the following dishes:

Beef Salad (Thailand)

Dolmas with yogurt (Turkey)

Fried Rice with Shrimp (Vietnam)

Portuguese Chicken (Portugal)

Kasha and Bowties (Lithuania)

Great food, great company… what more can you ask for?? I look forward to the next dinner!

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Last week I was lucky enough to spend 5 days (yes… 5 days!!) on the beach. My friend Kristin and I were talking about vacations, when she mentioned that she was thinking about visiting her parents who live in Jacksonville, Florida. She suggested that I should join her. How can you say no to such an offer?!?

We of course went straight to the beach as soon as we arrived in Jacksonville. I had forgotten how much I like the beach and the ocean. I have not been near the ocean in a very long time. I did go to the Black Sea a little over 3 years ago, so that kind of counts. :) I really love the sound of the waves. If it were not for my fair skin, I would have spent the entire 5 days simply laying on the beach.

Don’t get me wrong… we did spend a fair amount of time on the beach. We went to the beach every morning, and spent about 2 hours laying on the beach, chatting, playing Frisbee, reading, playing in the water, searching for shells, doing cartwheels, and just laying in the water near the shore.

Cartwheels on the beach!

My shell collection.

As some of you might already know, I have a fear of water and I don’t know how to swim. So my water experience is limited. Simply laying in the water is heaven for me. I did go in the water up to my stomach once. That was a little unnerving though. I don’t like the feel of the current grabbing my legs. I felt safer near the shore.

While planning our trip, Kristin mentioned a few places that we should visit. We spent one afternoon in St Augustine. My favorite part of the visit was our late lunch at The Present Moment Café. It’s an organic raw food place.

The food was just amazing!! Who would have thought that raw food can taste so good! I ordered the Land and Sea Salad Plate, which was their own rendition of a Tuna salad. The unTuna was made from sunflower and almond pate and it was topped with a lemon caper sauce. The dish also included a seaweed salad as well a mixed green salad with a citrus dressing. I loved it! The unTuna and sauce were just delicious! I did have lunch envy, however. Kristin ordered the Sunlight Burger, which was made from walnut, sunflower, almond, carrot, and zucchini. It was served open faced and topped with a tomato slice, cashew “Provolone” cheese, and caramelized onions. It was just heaven!! Kristin’s mom ordered the pizza special. I cannot remember all the ingredients, but it was topped with olives, peppers, spinach, and maybe artichokes. The pizza was equally delicious.

Sunlight Burger

Pizza special

Oh, but there is more… I do have to mention the desserts. Kristin’s mom and I ordered the Chocolate Marble Torte with Drunken Banana. The torte was made from raw cacao with a bit of chili and spice and it was served with sliced bananas that were drizzled with rum. Kristin mentioned the dessert prior to our visit and it lived up to her praise. It was just delicious!!

Chocolate Marble Torte with Drunken Banana

But I once again had lunch envy! Kristin ordered the Brownie Sundae, which included a few pieces of cacao brownies, cashew vanilla ice cream (yes… ice cream made from cashews!), and it was topped with dark cherries and candied pecans. It was out of this world!! If you are ever in Jacksonville, you should definitely take a drive to St Augustine and go to the café. You will not be disappointed!

Kristin and her mom.

St Augustine was fun! The main “downtown” area is filled with narrow cobblestone streets, which also include lots of small shops and restaurants. We stopped in a few shops. My favorite was a skateboarding/surf shop. I managed to find a mini jean skirt there, which was perfect for the warm Florida weather. :) It was a fun shop! We also managed to find the best chocolatier in Florida. The shop is called Claude’s Chocolate. Aside from their chocolates, they had the best chocolate covered orange slices! YUM! Joel was happy that I brought some back for him to enjoy.

Building in downtown Fernandina Beach.

We spent another afternoon in Fernandina Beach. Kristin grew up in Fernandina Beach, so I was excited to visit. The drive from Jacksonville was pretty. Kristin’s parents took the most scenic route. We drove over a few bridges and on the scenic roads near Fort Clinch State Park. Kristin showed me around the area, including the street where she used to live, the schools that she went to, the place where she took tennis lessons, as well as the 1st few places where she worked.

Kristin's 2nd job. Her favorite task was making the waffle cones. :)

It was fun to experience her childhood. I told her that I would love to show her where I spent my childhood, but that would be an expensive trip down memory lane. :) Maybe someday! Kristin also took me to a true surf shop, which I loved! It was called Driftwood Surf Shop.

Palm trees in downtown St Augustine.

Our last day in Florida included one last trip to the beach as well as a quest for fish tacos. I have this thing for fish tacos. :) We scoped out a place that received great reviews in a local paper. We drove to the noted address to find out that the place was no longer in business. I guess we did not think to call to make sure that they were still there. “So what did you do?” you ask. We went to this great place where we enjoyed some freshly caught grouper. YUM! Throughout the entire trip, I kept asking Kristin about going to what I called “a shack”. You know… a place where the locals gather to eat fresh fish. Well, Kristin’s dad had the best place in mind. The place was called Chowder Ted’s. They apparently are well known for their chowder, hence the name. This place is also a must if you are ever in Jacksonville.

Kristin and her dad.

I truly enjoyed my trip! I felt so lucky to be able to spend 5 days on the beach with such wonderful company. It was also really nice to meet Kristin’s parents. They were so nice to me, which I am very grateful for.

I look forward to our next trip!

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