Tag Archives: travel

Joie Revisited

I have been absent on this blog for a very, very long time.  I’ve been busy, to say the least, but need to get back to regular posting.  I find it only fitting that I do so after a trip to the location of where I first spotted the painting that now serves as the “Joie de Vivre” header on this blog.

I spent the past 24 hours in Washington D.C. and stayed in the Georgetown section of the city.  After checking in at my hotel, I set out on what turned into a very long jaunt and walked from Georgetown to the White House to the Mall to the Smithsonian and back.  While walking down M Street (the main thoroughfare in Georgetown) on my way back to the hotel, I stumbled upon the Joie de Vivre painting.  I was really happy to find it again, because honestly, I couldn’t have told you the exact location of where I originally took the photo.  I knew it was in Georgetown, but that was it.

Now I know that the painting is at the corner of M and 30th street on the side of a Parisian style café and bakery called La Madelein.

Sometimes re-discovering something is even better than finding it the first time.  There are times when you learn a piece of information, or you find a great photo opportunity, but all the details don’t necessarily stay with you because you’re not ready for them.  Perhaps it’s because you’re too encased with other details to worry about.  Perhaps it’s because the details are too big to comprehend.  But then, you reach a point where the thing you discovered re-presents itself to you, and it clicks.  You notice the artist’s signature.  You notice the jagged crack cutting through the yellow at the top of the painting.  Ultimately, you just pay more attention.  Such was the case with me re-finding this painting on Sunday.

So, going back to the blog.  I hope that I don’t have another extended break like the one I’ve had the past three weeks.  Who knows what life will bring, but hopefully I can keep some semblance of recipes/travel/photos/life experiences coming to those of you who read.  To start you off, here are some photos from my walk. 

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Fried Egg and Tomato

If you read my last post and guessed “Chinese New Year” as the answer to my question, you were correct! 

Today is the first day in the annual Chinese New Year celebration which lasts 15 days.  This time is actually known as Spring Festival in China and is an important holiday celebrated through various traditions that are supposed to bring luck and prosperity in the new year.  I would love to spend the Chinese New Year in China at some point in the future, but for now, I have to celebrate at home in my little apartment in my own little ways.  Luckily, I love a lot of Chinese food.  And I mean real Chinese food.  I studied abroad in China in 2007 and have never looked at American Chinese food the same way since.  P.F. Chang has got nothin’ on some hole in the wall restaurants in Chengdu and Beijing.

Food symbolizes many things in Chinese culture and is particularly important during the Spring Festival.  Certain dishes are prepared  because the ingredients represent various values they wish to encounter in the coming year.  Want a long life?  Eat longevity noodles.  Want to get rich?  Eat egg rolls.  Want to bring your whole family together?  Cook a whole chicken. 

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to cook most traditional dishes, or much Chinese food at all.  But, one thing that I can make is fried eggs with tomatoes.  This was one of my favorite things to eat while in China, and I’m certain you’ll like it, too.  Sugar is what makes this dish unique to many Americans, but it’s a fantastic addition.  Make this along with some rice or noodles and you will incite growth and a long life for the new year!


Chinese Fried Egg and Tomato
Serves 2

  4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided (can also use olive or canola oil)
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 large tomato, sliced into wedges
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tsp. sugar

1.  In a small bowl, beat eggs together until they are a smooth consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and set bowl to the side.
2.  In a medium frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
3.  Raise heat to medium-high.  Add egg to the pan and stir constantly to quickly cook.  Let the egg form large chunks, and when almost done, pour onto a heat-safe plate and cover with alumnium foil.  It will look like scrambled eggs.
4.  Return pan to the stove (do not wash out!) and heat 1 Tbsp. of oil over medium. 
5.  Add tomato wedges and sprinkle with sugar.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  The juice should start to separate from from the pulp.
6.  Return eggs to the pan and cook with tomatoes for 1 more minute.

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Lessons in Logan

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Delayed in Boston at Logan airport on my way back to Durham.  Just had a great discussion about generations in the work force and hospitality industry while enjoying a Victory Red brew from Boston Beer Works.  I feel a bit traitorous because it was brewed in honor of the Red Sox, but when in Rome.  The consensus between a construction salesman from Providence and myself was that corporate culture, positivity, and support are the most important things in a job.  I’d say my meetings from this week proved the same points.  Need to go catch my flight!  Hopefully I’ll catch some sleep and be good to go tomorrow for work.

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Adventures in Travel

Secretly, I had hoped to spend last night in NYC wining and dining with friends from high school.  Secretly, I really wanted to watch James Blunt perform in the middle of the Jet Blue terminal at JFK.  Secretly, I wanted to arrive in Virginia this morning, rather than late last night.  But, none of that happened.  Let me explain…

I’m in Fairfax, Virginia for a couple days taking part in some meetings about conference centers.  Yes, I go to conferences about conferences…go ahead and laugh.  For some reason, the prices for all direct flights from Raleigh to Dulles were astronomical for this time of year, so I booked a ticket on Jet Blue and had a connection in JFK.  In all, the trip went well, just a bit longer than expected.  A typical January East Coast snow storm led to a 90 minute delay on my flight out of Raleigh.  I made my connection to Dulles, but it was a close one!

I landed at JFK at 6:10pm, pulled up to the gate at 6:18pm, and deboarded quickly at 6:22pm thanks to the goodness of the passengers without connections who let me off the plane first.  I then full out ran to try and make my 6:30pm flight to Dulles.  As I booked it through the airport, I passed by James Blunt who was performing in the middle of Jet Blue’s terminal!  Only in New York, I suppose.  James, you’re beautiful

As I ran, I couldn’t help but experience deja vu.  The only other time I’ve been in JFK airport was on the way to Rome with my family in the summer of 2006, and since that day, I have dreaded returning.  There was miscommunication as to which terminal our flight was taking off from, and I remember we successfully sweet talked the guard at the security line to let us cut in front of a hundred people so that we could make our flight.  While waiting in line, it was decided that I would run ahead to the gate and convince the attendants to hold the plane for my parents and sister.  We thought this was necessary as all the departure screens showed our flight as boarding while we were still in security. 

The fun thing about security nowadays is that you have to take your shoes off.  Not wanting to waste time, I told my parents to grab my shoes and carry-on for me, and I would just run.  So yes, I ran shoeless and looked like an absolute fool.  We all made it to the plane, boarded breathless, shoeless and sweaty, and then sat for 40 minutes before it even left the gate.  So all that rush was for nothing.

Maybe the next time I’m at JFK I’ll be able to leisurely walk through it and be able to enjoy any impromptu concerts going on.  But for now, I’m at the Mason Inn and Conference Center on George Mason University’s campus.  It’s a beautiful property that just opened this past July, so it still has that great “new” feeling about it!  I’m off to my meetings!

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Gone to Italia in My Mind

One thing I love about food is that it can transport you to far away locations and distant memories in just seconds either through sight, taste, or aroma.  Not many other things in life can do that so quickly and effectively in my experience.

I’ve been craving comfort food lately (thanks to frigid temperatures that haven’t gone away since Monday’s ice storm), and pasta is my go-to food when I feel this way.  Whenever I make pasta, my mind always drifts back to one of my favorite vacations of all time:  Italy in the summer of 2006.  My sister graduated from college and wanted to tour around Northern Italy as a way to celebrate.  It was an unforgettable family trip filled with delicious food and wine, and I still dream of owning a villa in Siena one day. 

 

Ever since that vacation, I claim that I would make a fabulous Italian.  I love Italian food.  I love Italian wine.  I love preparing food to be shared.  I am completely comfortable spending 2 hours in a restaurant eating with friends and family.  I would much rather walk everywhere than drive.  And Italians (at least in the Northern part) take off the month of August to travel to the beach for vacation.  Italians know how to live, friends. 

Can I get away with calling myself Italian?  Hardly.  Blonde hair and pale skin with freckles didn’t really scream “local” when roaming the streets of Tuscany.  Nonetheless, I think I’ve got the soul for the culture. 

 As a tribute to Italia, I thought of this dinner earlier in the week and made it for a couple friends.  It was a huge hit!   Not only is it warm and comforting,  but it also has the colors of the country’s flag.  Buon appetito!


White Bean and Kale Penne
Serves 4 to 6

12 to 15 leaves of kale

10 oz. whole wheat penne (a little more than 1/2 of a 16oz. box)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. capers

1 Tbsp. caper juice

1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes (no-salt added variety), drained

1 15oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinse

1/2 of  15oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

 

1. Rinse kale and remove tough stems from leaves.  Pile 3 to 4 leaves on top of each other at a time, roll them together into a log, and slice into 1/2″ strips (this is called chiffonade).  Place shreds into a bowl and save for later.

2. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

3. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a large pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and caper juice.  Cook for another minute stirring constantly.

4. Add drained tomatoes, beans, and wine to mixture.  Allow wine to boil, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.  Add a little water if you wish (about 1/2 a cup).

6.  When pasta is done cooking, toss the kale into the hot water. It will cook quickly, and as soon as the color turns a vibrant, bright green, it’s done.

7.  Drain pasta and kale, and return to the pot.  Add sauce, and stir to coat.   

8.  Grate cheese on top of pasta before serving, and enjoy!

**Note — the capers and parmesan add plenty of salt to the dish, so you probably will not have to add any more to the sauce.  Taste first before you do!

 

Now I just need to find some gelato!

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