Monday, January 30, 2012

Esquin 2011 Summer Sampler Case

This past summer, yea I know this post is super late, for Emi's Dad's birthday we surprised him with a case of wine. Not just any case of wine, but the Esquin Summer Sampler Case. As you can see it came with a great variety of wines from around the world to enjoy with the warmer weather.

Emi's Dad is not a wine snob by any means, but enjoys wine with meals, so we knew he would enjoy the gift. The best part of about the case is you get to try a lot of wines specially selected by the professionals at Esquin. Also the wine is very affordable, 12 bottles for $80. Next time you need a unique and fun gift, make sure to head down to pick up one of their seasonal cases.

Emi and I love Esquin. She can't wait to have a glass of wine later this summer after the baby is born. It sounds like I might have to invest in the Esquin 2012 Summer Sampler case.

- Kyle

Friday, January 27, 2012

Venice Part 2 - The end of our cruise

The sun was rising over Venice as we sailed into port, ready to depart the ship. The best way to see the beautiful city of Venice is as you sail in or out on a cruise ship. The city is truly unlike anything in this World.

Our group all parted ways with different journeys home from the ship. Kyle and I were scheduled for a layover in Paris, but before our flight departed from the Venice airport, we made one last stop in Venice for food! We searched what seemed like the whole city for a good breakfast spot since it was only 8AM. And by breakfast, I mean gelato.

We found a spot, and it was probably nothing special by Venetian standards. But to us, the gelato was heavenly. It came as a set with coffee. This must be a tourist trap, knowing that only an American tourist in a gelato frenzy would need gelato for breakfast, in addition to some coffee.

We also ordered a breakfast panini, which was fabulous with the Italian prosciutto and cheese.

My parents spent one more day in Venice before flying home. They wondered around the Venice fish and open market, finding some fun and unusual finds.

And had one last meal of their favorite Italian dishes.

My dad's favorite is Spaghetti Vongole, or clam spaghetti with a white wine sauce.
Happy Eating,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Split, Croatia - The end is near

Our cruise was nearly coming to a close as we sailed into Split, Croatia. It was probably the best way to nudge us out of our dream vacation state, as the weather in Split was the hottest and most humid of the whole trip. We came into port early in the morning, and already it was nearly 90 degrees and nearly the same percent humidity.

We have heard rave reviews of Croatia. We know it is some people's favorite country. Whether it was the heat, the dread of going back to work, or the city itself, we sadly did not fall in love with Croatia. However, looking back at our photos and reminiscing, there were some really nice highlights that still made the day memorable.

We spent some time walking around the city and shopping at the local outdoor market. I loved the vats of dried dates and figs, all emitting a sweet aroma in the humid air. While our farmer's markets in the States are amazing, there is really nothing like the markets of Europe, especially the Mediterranean. You can't beat the natural abundance of the local produce and eats of this incredible region.

It was so hot that Kyle and I stopped five times (not exaggerating here!) in about six hours for some type of drink or food. We were really just looking for an excuse to cool down.

We first stopped into a little Croatian cafe for some breakfast. This was a breakfast for one person! It came with local Croatian cured meats, cheese, olives and tomatoes, an omelet, fresh baked bread, coffee and orange juice.

I notice that I wore a bathing suit that day under my clothes. It is kind of funny thinking back on this idea, because we quickly found out this was not the city to swim in. Although the water appeared crystal clear and blue, we couldn't help but notice the pungent stench of raw sewage that made us think they dump all our dumps from the ship into the port! Instead of going for a dip in the ocean, I opted to go back to the ship for some pool-time.

While we ate in the cafe, we saw dozens of tourists taking photos at this spot. So we decided to be followers.

After walking about 10 feet, we stopped yet again for some Croatian wine. It wasn't my favorite wine of the trip, but still satisfied us with a good cooling and relaxing effect.

Kyle and I had some Croatian cash to burn, so we went to a local grocery store to spend it. We got a bunch of these packets of amazing spread for toast--it was similar to Nutella, but a little better because it had a wonderfully rich white chocolate hazelnut swirl. We packed it to bring home to our family. However, when I opened my luggage, I found the packets had exploded! So we now only have a photo memory of this delicious treat.

In addition to the Nutella spin-off, we got a couple Croatian beers and sat on the dock, watching sweaty tourists walk by.

Happy Eating,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mykonos - A day at Paradise Beach

Mykonos, beautiful Mykonos. Another memorable Greek Island that Emi and I decided while enjoying a beer on the beach, we had to return to. We found out that Mykonos was the party island. Every night the beaches turn into massive outdoor disco parties. During the day those same beaches are the perfect place to relax and work on your tan.

As soon as we got off the boat I wanted to take in the scenery and grab a coffee to get us ready for the day. A word of warning for those who have never been to Mykonos. The streets are confusing and it's impossible to hail a cab. Primarily because there aren't many, but everyone takes the public bus. Either sign up for a cruise ship organized bus (you'll pay more, but won't have to worry about getting to the beach) or take the public bus which is cheap and will take you to beaches the cruise ships won't take you.
Reflecting on life.
Paradise Beach. A little windy, but because the sand was a little coarse it didn't blow up into your face or more importantly your food. They had a little food court connected to the beach where we bought our lunch.
Chicken gyro plate with pita. tzasiki, tomatoes, cumcumbers, and french fries.
Make sure to grab a Mythos when you hang out on the beach in Greece.
One of Emi's favorite snacks of the trip. Olive Oil Lay's chips. They tasted like olive oil, really good.
A beautiful day, followed by a beautiful sunset off of the ship. Mykonos was amazing and somewhere we hope to return to soon.
- Kyle

Friday, January 20, 2012

Santo Winery - Beautiful Santorini, Greece

The primary reason we wanted to make this trip was to visit Greece and more specifically the beautiful island of Santorini. We have heard stories and seen amazing photos from friends and family who have made the trip. Every time I see photos of Santorini I can't believe how beautiful the island truly is. What was even more amazing was that seeing it and experiencing Santorini in person was even better!
We took a bus tour through Santorini and the best stop of the tour, although too short, was a visit to Santo Winery. The tour was literally ten minutes, with a mad dash to consume wine and mezes in the remaining 20 minutes before the bus took us to our next location. I would have been completely OK with the tour cutting a stop or two so we could have spent more time here.
The winery we popped in and out of, before running to tasting area, which was located on a cliff overlooking the sea below. They served us with olives, fresh tomatoes, cheese, and bread to go with our wine.
The island of Santorini was very windy, so we learned the grapes cannot grow as you might expect in the US. Instead they have figured out how to grow the plants in coils with the grapes growing within the leaves in the center protected from the wind.
Santo Winery had three wines for us to enjoy and with unlimited tastings, we definitely went back for seconds, thirds, maybe more, but who was counting. It was hot and I needed something to quench my thirst. The Nykteri white wine was our favorite, but they also had a red and a sweet port like wine. The red was a little weak and the port was obviously too sweet to consume in large quantities so after trying both we stuck with the white.
Emi with her Santo Winery red.
The view from the wine tasting terrace.
Good wine, with a better view. I think if we had by chance purchased a bottle of their wine in a random grocery store we would have had a completely different impression of the wine. However with the perfect weather and eye opening, scenic views Santorini had to offer this was the perfect wine for the perfect day!
- Kyle

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Tale of the 20 Barbouni

Kyle and I took a long break from blogging...partly because it was too depressing to look at photos of the beautiful Mediterranean when outside our window was the typical Northwest rain and clouds of winter. Partly because we got some exciting news in September...we are expecting our first child this coming June! The combination of exciting news, the holidays, and my lack of appetite (which has FINALLY started to come back, thank goodness--it's hard to blog about food when you aren't hungry!); all of these factors made for an easy excuse to get away from blogging.

So we pick up from where we last left you...onto our favorite stop of the whole trip, Santorini, Greece.

Santorini is everything you imagine and more based off of the classic picturesque photos you might see in Greek restaurants. When we sailed into port, the sun was beginning to rise on this magical island, a good omen for the day ahead.

The whole group booked an excursion together that took us through the old town of Oia, off to a local winery, then dropped us off at Fira on the opposite end of the island. For anyone interested in doing our cruise in the future, I don't think this expensive excursion is worth it. You can easily get onto the island via a gondola, walking up a steep path or a donkey (!). Save your money for some barbouni...story to follow.

The excursion started at 7AM and went until 11AM...just in time for lunch! I'm so glad Kyle took a photo of the restaurant our group found, because finding it again would be a true treasure hunt.
We wanted local Greek seafood and a good view-- this was the perfect find. My mother in law asked that we all wear white to match the white buildings, hence the matching outfits.

We ordered a couple bottles of wine from the winery we visited earlier, including a bottle of retsina, a must-drink while in Greece.
Retsina is a wine special to Greece. Supposedly before impermeable glass bottles, oxygen would get into the wine and it would spoil within a year. To combat spoilage, the Greeks would seal the bottles with pine resin. The resin added a unique piney flavor to the wine. Even with today's glass bottles, the practice has continued in this region. Sort of like a gin wine with the pine taste.
Whetting our appetites. We let my dad do the ordering since he spent several months in Greece back in his 20s. He ordered all the classics, like mousaka, mezes, Greek salad, grilled octopus, and a local fish he loves...barbouni, a red mullet type of fish. We asked for enough barbouni so about 5 of us could sample it, about 5 fish total. Unfortunately, it looks like although this is a touristy town, English is definitely their second language.

We started with some amazing mezes that we slathered onto fresh Greek bread.
My favorite was the smooth, creamy, delicious fava bean puree. We tried to recreate it in Seattle, but the fava beans here make a chunkier puree that is not nearly as creamy as this creation.

Next, it was a classic Greek salad. The feta in Greece is absolutely the best, making it impossible to go back to those crappy plastic tubs of pre-crumbled rubber feta back in the States.

The best moussaka I've ever had. It came bubbling hot in this dish, looking like our own little pot of scrumptious gold. Hey, didn't we order barbouni?

The grilled octopus was not quite as good as the grilled octopus we enjoyed in Montenegro, but still very delicious. We ordered two of the moussaka, dips, salads, and octopus for our table. We wanted to have enough for everyone so ordered two. After finishing our shares of the octopus, we were wondering if they forgot about our barbouni. We decided they must be fishing for it.
And just when we were starting to feel nice and full and were about to tell the waiters to hold the barbouni order, they arrived. It took three waiters to carry out five plates that each contained four barbouni...yes, do the math, that's 20 little fishies ready for us to devour.

The fish were crispy on the outside and moist and flakey on the inside. They had a perfect salty crust. If this had come earlier in the meal, I would have wiped out a whole plate on my own. But at this point, it was a chore to make it through one, let alone the THREE each person was tasked with eating!

Kyle filmed this to capture the moment.

We did our best to get through the lot, but a couple extras had to be packed up for some stray cats we saw along the way home. This tale of Twenty Barbouni is now becoming a legend in our household.
The next day, we docked in Mykonos, and poor Kyle and Joyce were still immersed in the barbouni experience if you know what I mean. It was the gift that just kept on giving.
Happy Eating,