#145: Vanuatu

“And the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”

When I think of Vanuatu, I immediately conjure images that this– THIS must be where Max ran away to when he went to live Where the Wild Things Are. That book was and still probably is one of my most favorite children’s books. But to be fair, I have a different spin on it as an adult. Let me lay it on you: as a child I loved the illustrations and as an adult I love the plot. This kiddo has everything and yet he feels so put upon. He runs away to an island where there are all manner of monsters and beasts and they make him king and truly adore him and yet, he realizes he wants to be back with those he loved most because they loved him best. It’s like adulthood, guys. Every. Damn. Day. We wish for what’s on the other side of “this project at work” or “this relationship hurdle” or “this financial hiccup” all the while missing those milestones for what they are: LIFE. It’s the journey. And when we finally get to the destination, we realize we missed all the fun stuff. The fun stuff sometimes looks like struggle.

Mehhh, it’s a food blog… so call that some “food for thought”.

THE DINNER: Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific… and if I’m being totally honest, it’s hard to not break out in to show tunes when I say that. Real hard. The food on an island is typically going to consist of two staples: veg and seafood. This doesn’t deviate from that game plan. The country does have so much in common with Filipino food it’s ridiculous, but makes sense geographically.

We decided to make Ginataang Tahong which is a South Pacific recipe for mussels steeped in coconut milk. Since mussels are cheap in coastal areas, this dish is a weeknight staple for the islands in the area.

Ginataang Tahong Recipe: http://panlasangpinoy.com/2013/03/01/ginataang-tahong-recipe/

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
Super easy, guys. There are a handful of readily available ingredients and it took no more than 20 min from start to finish. The one “tricky” thing is inspecting the mussels for cracks or being open prior to cooking, but that’s not even that hard. It’s quick and dirty, but not messy 😉

Best dish of all time scale: FIVEEEE STARS out of five for Meal!!
We all sort of wanted to give this one six stars. In the words of Rob Lowe in one of my favorite 80’s movies: It was outta hand. The coconut milk and the onions were just the best part. I loved the spinach. It literally didn’t want for any substitutes or additions. We always gauge a 5 star by whether we would want to add anything or change or modify anything to make it better and we just couldn’t find a damn thing. We literally didn’t add salt or sriracha. We ate it all. We gobbled and slurped and it was perfect. We can’t wait to make it again… and I might have dreamed about it’s creamy goodness.

Up next for Around the World in 195 Sundays?? We will be headed for #146 by way of Timor-Leste! Yes, that’s a country. No, I’m not 100% sure of where it is yet; but that is part of the fun of this project. I learn something new every week. 

Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!
– L & K

#144: Albania

“I’m melting, I’m melting– oh what a world, what a world…”

This week has been a scorcher in the Mile High City. We have been camping out in the 90’s and it’s been getting all of us a little on edge. In addition to the short fuses you’ll see around town, it’s also been getting us thinking about what good things from the 90’s decade we loved. The NKOTB and BSB phenom has been hitting a resurgence. Both boy bands have released new hits and are touring. Though to be fair, BSB is singing country now with FGL. Who saw that one coming? I found that a great way to beat the heat is a cold drink on a warm patio with lovely people who are more family than friends. I will try to recall those lovely people when I turn into the Wicked Witch of the West Coast with these temps. Try. I said “TRY”.

THE DINNER: I’m not going to lie to you– it’s hard to spend a day over a hot stove or oven when it’s hot out. We picked another Balkan nation to munch on this week: Albania. There’s a whole lot of familiar territory here as far as flavors: Mediterranean and simple. There’s not a whole lot of spices happening like curries. There’s not a lot of fluffy. The meal we chose is called burek. It’s a cheese pie that’s made in filo dough and can sometimes contain meat like lamb, though traditionally is seen as a vegetarian meal with leeks or spinach rounding out the cheese. We chose a feta/Leek version for our journey. Leeks are so often under appreciated– and it always reminds me of that pun from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: “There’s a leek in the boat!?” hahaha. Sorry, not sorry guys– had to go there. You’re welcome for the smile on a Monday.

Albanian Burek Recipe: http://globaltableadventure.com/recipe/recipe-byrek-ose-lakror-leek-pie/

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Ease of prep and cooking: THREE and a HALF STARS out of five this meal!
So the dough is store bought… and you might be wondering, “Kris, what gives? 3.5 for difficulty, come on!” But listen, guys, you weren’t there. In the trenches. In the heat of it. It was sort of ugly. Not at the time– but definitely once we were out of it. It was labor intensive and messy. And for all the work, it did not fare well on the taste meter. (See below…)

Best dish of all time scale: TWO STARS out of five for Meal!!
In the moment, we all hemmed-and-hawed about what score to give. I think we felt guilty that we wanted to give it a poor score… but a day removed from eating it– I’ve come to the conclusion, it was just terrible. It was edible. It was just not good. It wanted to be quiche. It wanted to be pot pie. It was neither of those things. It also lacked a lot of flavor. Thyme excluded, there was not much in the way of spices and while the leeks contributed in all their glory; not even they pulled this back from the brink. I’m sad to report this one was just sad. Glad it’s over.

Up next for Around the World in 195 Sundays?? We will be headed for #145 by way of Vanuatu!

Stay cool, Denver!
– L & K

#143: Kosovo

This was such a whirl wind week!!

Bolder Boulder fun with three wonderful ladies and then in traditional fashion BBQ and drinks and game time to follow all colored by some country music on play in the background. For being a “short week” it definitely was LONG! From the holiday, it was work work work and then more work as I headed to The Windy City for a quick conference. Back in the 303, there was family breakfast dates, snuggles with puppies, dinner with the iridescent Bethany and then beers at one of my favorite places with a guy who is quickly becoming my favorite guys. It was full to the brim. It was lovely and perfect in all the chaos. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap to recover. Pass the puppies.

THE DINNER: I feel really dumb when I mention Kosovo, because my brain automatically wants to go to “Sarajevo” which is the capital of Bosnia. Now to be fair, the two countries are both in the Balkans and furthermore, the two countries are similar in geography and social customs. But for some strange reason, my brain has a tough time separating these two. All that aside, we were happy to hit up Kosovo for some grub this weekend. 

I was out of town once again for work (shocking, I know)– so we made a quick and easy. It came down to making what is called “Serbian Caviar”… it’s technically called Ajvar (which does translate to “caviar”) and is basically a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers and can be both mild and spicy. You roast the peppers and eggplant with some other stuff and throw it in a food processor. It’s sort of the Balkan version of a tapenade. Evidently this is so loved that the country of Kosovo actually produces 640 TONS of it annually. Woof.

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE and a HALF STARS out of five this meal!
This one was tricky to assign a difficulty level to… the ingredient list is a piece of cake. The execution was where it got sticky. So, the peppers and the eggplant had to roast for 3+ hours. That’s not ideal, but it’s also not labor intensive so to speak. So, honestly, it’s a toss up. It’s sort of one star and change.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
Well, it’s not like it’s a “Meal” per se; but it was like tapas. All that technicality aside, it was so yummy! I could have eaten this straight up without bread– and then come to find out that it’s actually eaten by itself often. It would have tasted delicious on a shoe, but we chose bread. The smokiness of the peppers/eggplant was worth the wait. It wouldn’t have had the depth of flavor without that attention to detail. I am happy to report I took home the leftovers and they will make a great spread on wraps, chicken and whatever else I can find to pile it on.

We will be traveling to the food world of Albania for #144! Call it a Balkan-kick we are on or call it a fixation with the food from over this way. Either case, we are not about to pull away from this race without one more lap around the track.

Happy Wedding, Mike and Jordan! ❤
– L & K

#142: Lebanon

Buona Sera!!

I have been watching sooo much of Master of None this week. The new gentleman caller and I are absolutely addicted to this season– and sort of shipping this Francesca/Dev romance. There’s a wonderful scene where they are dancing in Dev’s kitchen (which for those men reading, that is the single most romantic move you can have in your arsenal. You can thank me later for that one) and Francesca starts translating this song to Dev that’s in Italian. Where are you going with this Kris? Well, till that moment, I found the idea of translating to be so annoying and cumbersome… I now have fallen in love with the moving of words from one language to another. A new appreciation was born. It’s a beautiful thing. In this vein, I’ve starting taking Italian lessons. Allora, Allora.

THE DINNER: Now, while I love translating language now– I’m still not a fan of translating units of measure. This week’s recipe did call for a little of that nonsense. I just think the US should get away from standard measure, but que sera sera (look how good I’m getting at Italian!? haha).

I have a lab collaboration with a team at the Technion in Israel and have had a stream of conference calls. It’s gotten me in the mood for some food from the region. Thus, we picked Lebanon for this week. We were happy to find it really is a gateway between the palates of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The recipe we picked was a Challah bread with feta, olives and sun dried tomatoes. It’s like stuffed bread?! What’s not to love about that. And we have had the most lovely love affair with this type of bread ever since we made Passover for #46 (Israel). It’s fluffy and buttery and while it takes forever this is a simple case of “good things come to those who wait”… even if they wait impatiently.

Lebanese Challah Recipe: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/452189618825355611/

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Ease of prep and cooking: FIVE STARS out of five this meal!
Woof, guys. This one was a marathon not a sprint. Now this wasn’t entirely a shocker, as this is not our first hollar at Challah, if you know what I mean 😉 but it was not a picnic in Civic Center Park either. It’s not that the ingredients were tricky, it was just incredibly time intensive and a massive amount of baby sitting. All that aside, the ingredient list was considerably different from our traditional Israeli Challah many moons ago. So don’t get caught on auto pilot. We also would like to note, our first rise did not double in size, though it did expand. Additional notes from the kitchen, the amount of eggs is staggering– you’ve been warned. This one is an all day commitment.

Best dish of all time scale: THREE (and change) STARS out of five for Meal!!
GAHHH. It’s always a bummer when you spend the whole day working for it to just miss the mark. That’s what happened here. It’s a build up and let down situation. It was so much more dense than it’s traditional neighbor… not like Challah at all. It was also sweet… which if you know me, is so not a problem, but since it was stuffed with savory cheese and olives it was so bizarre. It was just not correct somehow. Though ironically and in all fairness– we all kept eating it! So it must not have been disgusting. All in all, I just couldn’t give it more than a “three and change” star mark.

SIDE NOTE WORTH MENTIONING: Those were the best damn sun dried tomatoes that I’ve ever encountered. I may not be eating those directly from the jar…

Where are we off to next? Well, that would be Kosovo for #143! ALSO— we have new aprons and t-shirts for those of you interested, DM me 🙂

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Ciao, Bella!
– L & K

#141: St.Vincent and The Grenadines

Doesn’t that sound like an 80’s band? Like Katrina and the Waves. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts??

That was exactly my thoughts on the matter too. If you’re anything like us, we love some good tag team duos. The last few weekends have been organized chaos, with graduations, moving, trips, bridal showers and the impending promise of endless summer. We took a few minutes out of the fray to sit down and share a meal with each other, because at the end of the day– those are the best days. The ones where you’re in your mom’s kitchen having a glass of wine. Your hair is a mess (and your life is a little too) but you couldn’t be happier.

THE DINNER: This one was sort of a breakfast… now I say “sort of” because it is still unclear as of yet what exactly we ended up cooking for St. Vincent. Basically these are what is commonly referred to as “Johnny Cakes” and they are typically served for breakfast. In the St. Vincent area they are called “Fry Bakes”. Now, if you’re state side like I am, it’s not drenched in syrup and therefore I have a hard time getting my mind around them. No, they’re not pancakes. They’re like sweet fried bread. All those words together are wonderful, so we are not surprised if these were just that.

Fry Bakes Recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/mamas-fry-bakes-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines-194158

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
So this was odd in a whole lot of ways. It’s not as simple as pancake batter– it’s bread dough. But with that taken in to account, it was not hard to make and with the simplistic ingredient list, it was a dream and half to pull together. Frying is cake… Johnny Cakes. See what I did there? 😉

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
I just wanted these to be sweeter… or more buttery. I’m not sure if powdered sugar would have solved this problem or a glaze or hell, just plain ol’ maple syrup; but I will tell you that I’m not altogether upset about the lack of sweetness. They were fluffy and crispy all at once. They were warm and satisfying. It wasn’t a bad trip to the islands, man. It might not have been a 5 star trip, but any trip to the sand and sun is welcomed when you have snow at the end of May in Colorado. Am I right?

We will be diving in to the culinary world of Lebanon for #142!

Bon Appetite, mon amour!
– L & K

#140: Brunei

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Sorry about the radio silence this last week—we were hanging on Stinson Beach in Fog City taking a much needed vacation. So I was a little remiss in posting this one. The City by the Bay was sooo good to us. We did it all: spent some time in prison (Alcatraz and angel island), walked our shoes off on Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embarcadero, proceeded to eat all the chocolate at Ghirardelli Square, had sushi and oysters after walking on Golden Gate Bridge and then we were off to Marin Woods and Napa. We hit three amazing wineries when we got to Napa (Andretti, Hess Collection and Domaine Carneros). I have to give a little shout out to our awesome sommeliers– here’s looking at you Sue and Douglas! They made our tastings so enjoyable. Additionally, since we are Hitchcock fans, we stopped off in Bodega Bay for a little breakfast with The Birds. All in all, we were happy little clams and it was hard to come back to the Mile High City.

THE DINNER: While we may have left our hearts in San Francisco, we picked Brunei for our 140th country meal! Just to update you all on this project, we have 55 countries left– which means we are a little over a year’s work of Sunday’s away from finishing our project multiyear cooking adventure.

On the topic of Brunei and Napa, alcohol is banned in the country. Which is still astonishing in this day and age. They do drink a lot of coffee, and since that’s the nectar of the gods, I’m positive they’re doing just fine. Most of their food is halal due to their high Islamic population and staple foods are fish, chicken and rice. Pork is avoided for religious reasons and beef is super expensive, so it’s less common but occasionally seen for special occasions. They eat a whole lot of wild game (read: venison and fowl). You can expect that the flavor profile will be much like it’s geographic partners (India, China and Thailand/Indonesia) with flavors of curry, shallot, ginger, etc. We picked Bruneian Buttermilk Chicken for the dish. Evidently, this is the Bruneian equivalent to meatloaf or pot roast. It’s their go-to family meal. Easy, quick and delicious. They literally have buttermilk chicken sandwiches and pizzas and it’s everywhere in Brunei.

Bruneian Buttermilk Chicken Recipe: http://www.yummygraphy.com/2014/10/bruneian-buttermilk-chicken.html/#tc-comment-title

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
We had to find curry leaves. That was a little tricky, but it afforded us a trip to our favorite place– P.O.M (Pacific Ocean Market). Once there, we easily located the needed leaves (and so much more we didn’t need but desperately wanted). From there, it’s basically fried chicken and added to a curry cream sauce.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
Nice and complex. The curry leaves really added an extra element to this one. It was somehow both sweet from the condensed milk, spicy from the peppers, and citrusy from the curry leaves. The cornmeal made for a very crisp fry on the chicken, allowing for it to hold up with the cream curry. Often times the breading will get greasy or bogged down with a curry or sauce– lucky for us this was not the case. The sauce itself? Super velvety in texture. What would have made it a five star meal…? Well, it just needed something. More heat or more sweet? Maybe one way or the other on the spectrum would have made it hit a home run.

Speaking of Home Runs, I’m off to the Rockies Game and then we will be traveling to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for #141!! I know we just got back from the coast, but I’m ready for a trip to the Caribbean 😉

Happy Eating!
– L & K

#139: Monaco

Guys… GRACE KELLY!!

This IS MONACO we are talking about after all!! Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have always loved Grace Kelly. I actually did a report on her (and one on Princess Diana) when I was in grade school, and on top of that, I have seen every movie she was in. I have to tell you, it comes down to a tie between Rear Window and The Swan for me. While I adore High Society I prefer The Philadelphia Story, so that probably puts Rear Window ahead of them all. It’s got Jimmy Stewart, Hitchcock and this stunning sassy Blonde… what’s not to like?! We watched Vertigo this weekend, and of all of Hitchcock’s icy Blonde leads, not a single one can compete with The Princess of Monaco. She was timeless and classic; gracious and kind. Everyone who knew her during her short life would have said she was the best human.

THE DINNER: The country of Monaco is a funny contradiction of terms in many ways. While they are a autonomous state, they don’t really like to assimilate with that type of culture, but rather prefer to be grouped in with the French Rivera and France— though truth be told their food profile is so much more Italian and often times Mediterranean/Sicilian. They don’t really have a national dish. This does not mean, however, that they don’t celebrate food… They absolutely do!

We picked Spaghetti Alle Vongole which translates to Spaghetti with clams. This is a traditional Italian inspired meal, and with it’s vast coastline, Monaco loves fresh seafood dishes.

Spaghetti Alle Vongole Recipe: http://devousamoi-dominique.blogspot.fr/2013/12/spaghetti-alle-vongole.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
We took a liberty and used linguini instead of spaghetti noodles here. This recipe had to be translated from it’s Italian and then converted from it’s metric measurements, but it was a short shopping list and really, we only needed the clams as the rest are pretty much pantry staples. All in all, having to translate/convert and air the clams were the tough parts. The actual cooking was quick and painless.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
This was an easy meal to enjoy when we get down to brass tacks. The simplistic nature of the ingredient list was something that played into that. It was light and satisfying. The clams were plump and sweet and meaty, but not too heavy to compete with the white wine and garlic based sauce. No creams or yolks here, folks. This was basic and clean. Solid dish for a Sunday Funday afternoon after soccer.

We will be taking a bye for the Easter weekend, and I’m at Duke for a conference this weekend, so that put us out a few weeks. When we return, we will be hitting Brunei for #140!!

Cheers, darling!
– L & K