Geirangerfjorden and Geiranger

When you see photos of the Norwegian fjords most likely they are of the Storfjorden or Geirangerfjorden.  Actually Geirangerfjorden is a branch of Storfjorden.  It was amazing.   We took over 500 photos but don’t panic.   I won’t be including all of them. Our entry into Storfjorden began very early in the morning.   It was a good thing that sunrise was about 3:30 am so we had light to see by. DSC01545 We had spent the extra money for the larger veranda for just so we could spend hours and hours watching the scenery go by.   We even had breakfast this morning on our veranda just so we wouldn’t miss anything. DSC01573

It was a lovely morning but I am only going to give you a tease right now.  I will do all the things that takes words and leave you with the peaceful fjords.

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At the end of Geirangerfjorden is the town of Geiranger which was our stop.   This town is very interesting because there is only less than 500 permanent residence.  Come spring, the number blossoms with tour guides and other support staff because this is a holiday mecca.

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First off there is over 300,000 cruisers who come by water and then you have all the campers and adventure seekers.

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A major difference  about Geiranger was how we got off the ship.  Instead of docking the boat or using launches, we used the Seawalk.    Think Jetway for cruise ships.  I have to say I loved it.

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Since it was Noon, the first order was lunch.   We found this wonderful little restaurant very near where the Seawalk named Brasserie Posten.  Since there is only seven restaurants in town, we were lucky that one was very good.  Brasserie Posten has three separate seating areas.  There is one outside in front, inside and outside in back.    I wasn’t interested in the front area since your main view was the line waiting for the public bathrooms.   The outside was delightful but all the shady areas were full.

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That left us the empty inside.

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We couldn’t decide on just what to order so we ordered a variety of items.   The first was the fish soup.   This was the best fish soup we had on the whole trip.  The broth wasn’t too heavy and you could taste the herbs in it.

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This soup was so yummy.  If I ever go back, I am just getting bowl after bowl of the soup.    I am going to eat until I am soup logged.   After the soup our next courses arrived.  They were a salmon salad and a plate of differently prepared salmon and sausages.

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We enjoyed everything except the dark sausage.  We asked after we were done eating and the best we were able to understand the dark sausage included reindeer stomach along with other meats.

With full stomachs it was time to explore the town. That is about three streets.   One great thing about this town was its signs.

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You can’t get more descriptive than that.   They also believe in labeling things what they are.  No sugar-coating here.

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The town had a couple of hotels with the required attached souvenir shops.  It was a heat wave and going into the shops full of people (three cruise ships full) was like going into a sauna.   We spent our time looking at nature and marveling at rushing water.

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Time to say good-bye.   We and our neighbors all got ready for the fantastic trip back out the fjords.

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Now settle back and enjoy the view.

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See the skull in the rocks?

See the skull in the rocks?

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Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Raise your hands.   How many of you have ever heard of the Torshavn let alone Faroe Islands.   I sure hadn’t until this cruise.

Faroe Islands is a group of 18 major islands about halfway between Iceland and Norway though the don’t belong to either.   They are connected to Denmark.  Denmark is responsible for justice, defense and foreign affairs while the Faroese have autonomy over most internal affairs.   The EU treaties also expectantly exclude them from the EU.   In fact, the treaties stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties.  I would love to hear just why the EU doesn’t want them though they took Denmark.

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The islands are 540 sq miles of rugged, rocky land providing for around 50,000 people.   The population is descendants of the Vikings and as hardy as you would expect them to be.   The weather is actually very good with mild winters and cool summers.  One problem for tourists is that it is usually foggy.

The economy had been based on fishing.  But the catches fell causing a large economic slow down for the islands.  But that is changing.  Tourists are beginning to have an impact and the islands are finding new food exports   Here is an article that discusses it.

Traditional Faroese food isn’t overly appetizing.   Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjot.  Skerpikjot is well aged, wind-dried mutton, which is quite chewy.   If you are still up to trying something local, there is also Tvost og spik. This dish consists of  whale meat, blubber and potatoes.

With these few facts, I approached Torshavn with an open mind.   What I found was a charming town, wonderful people and I wish to know them better.

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Iceland

I was very excited about visiting Iceland.  It is a geological wonderland.  The funny thing is that we arrived during a heat wave.  It was 70 degrees during the day and the people who live there having problems.   Their houses are built to keep the heat in and not to let it out. DSC01239 We chose to use GeoIceland as our tour company because of the owner’s education in geology.   We took the same tour as almost all tourists in Iceland take, the  Golden Circle.   The Golden Circle tour includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir hot spring & Haukadalur geothermal area and Hveragerd earthquake town.  If I had to do it over I think I would have done a tour that concentrated on some of the other areas. DSC01260 Our first stop was in Hveragerd.  It is an active geothermal area.  They suffered a 6.2 earth quake in 2008.  If I hadn’t lived in California most of my life, I would have been more interested in their story but the big earthquakes in the bay area and southern California told a better story on how disruptive an earthquake can be. DSC01236 One thing that was interesting was the greenhouses, which are heated by hot water from volcanic hot springs.  Hot water in Iceland doesn’t come from a hot water heater like we are used to but through pipes just as we get water. That means that each house has two sets of pipes.  One for regular water and one for hot water that is also used for heating the house. During the ride around Iceland, we saw lots of horses.   They were stocky, small horses.  While some are used as horses, a lot are raised as meat to export.  I guess that it really isn’t any different from raising cows for their meat. DSC01246   We stopped at one small waterfall (I forgot it’s name) that had a fish ladder going up it. DSCN1159   Our next stop was Gullfoss waterfall.   Glacial water feeds the waterfall.  The water is brownish, since it carries lots of sediments that the glacial ice has picked up.  It is called the “Golden Falls” since on a sunny day the water plunging down the three-step staircase and then tumbling in two steps down into a deep crevice is suppose to truly looks golden.  We didn’t get to see it be golden so it looked more like a regular waterfall. DSC01269 DSCN1189After the falls, tt was time to head for the geyser.   We had to laugh at the Geysir hot spring area.  Yellowstone is one of our favorite National Parks.  In our head we were thinking this area would be similar to what we see in Yellowstone. Not even close.   There is one small geyser, a couple of mud pots and a boiling steam.  That is the extent of it. DSC01282 DSC01283The good news is that this is also our lunch stop.   There was several options of places to eat.  We chose the Geysir Glima on advice of our guide.   It was kind of a cafeteria type set up with a variety of standard fare like pizza.   But they also had some traditional Iceland foods. DSC01286 My husband selected Fish Stew which is really Fish Hash since it is fish, onion and potatoes all mushed together.   It had good flavor but was monotonous to eat since every bite tasted identical.   It came with Geyser bread which is supposedly cooked 24 hours in the geyser.  It was a very dense bread that I think may have had rye in it.  I think it would be considered a steam bread.  I wish I could have seen them make it. DSC01288I had the traditional Christmas Pork dish with potatoes, vegetables and gravy.   My husband was jealously of my meal and I was a bad wife and only gave him one bite.   I think it was pork belly that had been cooked for hours and hours but I am not really sure.  All I can really tell you is if you get an opportunity, order it. DSC01284             They also had a wonderful souvenir shop but we didn’t get anything.  The things I wanted were very expensive or made from arctic fox.   Living in a desert we don’t have much of a need to wear fur. DSC01299   The last stop of Thingvellir National Park was our favorite.   It is a beautiful area that forms part of the volcanic fissure zone running right through Iceland.  This zone is part of the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extend the length of the Atlantic Ocean from north to south.  The movement of these plates has shaped the valley for the past 10,000 years.  The tectonic plates are still  moving apart by an average of 1/8 of an inch per year. DSCN1198 Thingvellir also has  the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’s deepest point it is 374 feet.  Most of the water comes from springs and fissures on the bed of the lake or shore instead of  rivers and streams flowing into it. DSC01309       This area is an important historical site to Iceland because it is where the Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws – seen as a covenant between free men – and settled disputes. DSC01303   It was a long day.   We waved at Reykjavik as we drove through it.  We had talked about visiting the capital but we were worn out and decided we could do it the next day. DSCN1292 Unfortunately, the fog rolled in the next day so we decided to stay on board.  It was really fun watching the fog roll in and overtaking everything.  I haven’t experienced that since I lived in San Francisco.

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Fog rolling in

Iceland is a wonderful country and really deserves more than a day and a half to visit it.   There are so many other areas to explore including visiting a glacier.   Of course, as we are leaving the fog vanishes. DSC01317

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Copenhagen

I really liked Copenhagen.   It was such an amalgamation of modern and old.   The ultra modern building coexisted with 300 year old building making an interesting visual landscape.

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Opera House

We spent hours walking around the city just looking at the details on the building.  We did go to two very different museums.  The first being the Carlsberg Brewery museum and the other was a Danish Design museum.

DSCN0788The Carlsberg Brewery was a fun museum to spend an afternoon.   They had a combination of the history of the family plus that of beer.   The family history included important contributions in yeast and a father and son competing against each other.  And then there was the beer tasting that was included in your ticket.   In one of the brewery gardens, they had this amazing climbing maze.  It included climbing in and out of a car in a tree.   It made me wish I was about 13 years old.

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The Danish Design museum was interesting through about the first third of it.   After that, it was hard to see the differences in each chair.   They did have a really nice cafe.

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Of course we did tourist type of things also like visiting the Little Mermaid statue.

This isn’t a completely original Little Mermaid because she keeps gets decapitated.   She isn’t even the only Little Mermaid statue.   There 13 copies around the world with several in Copenhagen.  The first is the one in the harbor and the second is the copy at Carlsberg Brewery.

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The city is geared for cyclists and it wasn’t unusually to see whole families on bikes with the little kids in buckets in the in front of the bikes.  I called them minivans since the buckets carried a couple of kids.

DSC00576Businesses used bikes for their delivery vehicles.   You did see some funny deliveries when it was a big object.

DSC00777There is so many things I would love to show you but I will just try to entice you to go to Copenhagen and experience them for yourself.

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Eating in Copenhagen

Copenhagen had such a wide variety of places and cuisines.  Unfortunately, they were also very expensive.  We would lucky that our stay at the Best Western Hotel City included a free breakfast.  This wasn’t your ordinary hotel free breakfast of waffles and cereal.  This buffet had a wide range of choices.  You walked in and grab a pot of either hot water or coffee.  It was a nice touch instead of having to keep getting up and getting refills.  Food choices started with Muslis and oatmeal.  Of course they had a wide variety of add ins for them.  Next to the cereal was the juices, drinks and hard-boiled eggs.  You are now getting closer to the main attractions,   Their hot dishes varied but always had some type of eggs, bacon, potatoes and sausage.   The cold area included meats, fresh fruit and cheeses.  The last area was the bread area.  There were breads to toast,  bagels, a french style loaf to cut and of course pastries.   Should we talk about the Danishes?  It always made me chuckle to have a Danish in Denmark.  Of course they don’t call them Danish.  They call them pastries.  What ever you call them, they were wonderful.After tanking up and a hearty breakfast, we would head out for a day of sightseeing.   We would typically  stop at a little cafe or bar in the afternoon to get something to drink but wouldn’t need food until evening.

I have already told you about the our dinner at Tivoli Gardens but we still had two more dinners. Our splurge meal was at Fuego.  It wasn’t our first choice but most restaurants were already booked for dinner.   We got tired of getting turned down in the restaurant areas and headed back to our hotel.  Then like a beacon of hope, we spotted this restaurant a street away from our hotel.  Menu looked good and they could take us.  SCORE!  We got to eat.

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Fuego is an Argentine meat & wine restaurant.   It had the feel of a neighborhood restaurant.   My husband loved the wine they waitress suggested.  Too bad we didn’t take a photo of the bottle because neither of us can remember the name of the wine now.   All we can remember is the bottle had a large eye with a wine tear drop. Lesson learn for us.  I had some type of ginger martini.

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We were boring and both had the same starter and main dish.  We only broke rank at dessert.  For our starter, we chose Empanadas Criollas which is two empanadas filled with beef, peppers and spring onions.  I thought it was one of the better empanadas I have had.

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For our main course we selected the Argentina´s National Plate which was beef entrêcote, tenderloin,
homemade chorizo and sweetbreads.  It was served with chimichurri sauce and grilled vegetables.   My husband liked the sweetbreads best and said they were the best he ever had.  I preferred the entrecore and chorizo.  This chorizo isn’t like the greasy Mexican chorizo that we are so use to having.  It was more like the Spanish chorizo.

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I ate the chorizo before taking the photo.

Desserts are definitely a strong point with Fuego.  My husband chose the crème brûlée with dulce de leche, amaretto, passion fruit, apricot and crumble.  I decided on the Piña colada.  It was pineapple custard, coconut foam,
rum granite, and marinated pineapple salad.  I loved it.  It was a perfect ending to my meal.

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What was left of my dessert

Service was excellent.  Our waitress was very good explaining their various dishes and attentive in our needs.  It was a really nice evening.

Prior to our cruise, I participated on the Cruise Critic roll call.  A small group of us agreed to meet for dinner the night before our embarkation.  One person had relatives in Copenhagen who helped him find a place for our group. The place was called Grill Royal Kongens Nytorv.  There is actually two of these restaurants with the other one in Tivoli.  They serve what they term ‘fabulous fast food.’  It definitely wasn’t fast food in the sense we use the term in the U.S.

It is a sit down cafe that you get to pick either a cheeseburger, a marinated steak or a bowl of mussels.  Each meal is serves a green salad and fries family style.  There is no other questions asked besides do you want something to drink, which main course do you want and do you want dessert.  The main meal without drink or desserts runs around $38 which is very cheap for Copenhagen.  The salad was fresh with some kind of vinegar based dressing.  I liked it but others in the group didn’t like that it was a vinegar based dressing.  Everyone in the group ordered either the steak or the mussels.  Every person who ordered the mussels loved,  The bowl was so big it was hard for them to finish.  The steak people where split on their opinion.  It was served family style and was some form of a long marinated London broil or something similar.  It was served with a gravy.  I found the meat very tasty though not the most tender.  I think the issue hat people had with it was the term steak.  We were all expecting what we call steak and it was something different.  They also didn’t like how tough it was.   Everyone agreed the fries were first rate.  I got the extra satisfaction of making gravy fries.  No one at the table had ever heard of gravy fries before so that made for an interesting conversation.

I think the concept was brilliant.   By having such a limited menu, they were able to produce a good meal for a ridiculously low cost.   To give you an idea of the costs, before this dinner, we were averaging around $125 per person.  A hot chocolate ran me around $7 as did a coke.  It wasn’t just food but everything that was expensive.

 

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2014 Girls Las Vegas Weekend

IMG_0414This year’s Girls Weekend was a little more subdued.    My playmate had only returned from vacation 2 days before our weekend and I had only been home 3 days.   We both we suffering from jet lag so we were not at our perkiest.  Even though we were low energy, we had a great time. Let’s get down to what we did.

Giada

Our big dinner out was at Giada.  We had been watching the press on her first restaurant for several months and had hoped that it would be finished by our trip.   When they announced they were beginning to accept reservations, we jumped on it.   I am glad we did because they have really become a hot item.

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We had a short wait for our table but the wait went fast since there was a photo booth for us to play in.   Our table was the third row from the windows.  At first I was disappointed but as the night wore on, I was glad we were not seated by the windows.   You see, the windows open and you have all the street noise to contend with.  At times it was loud at our table but it was worse at the tables by the windows.  I felt bad for the couples next to the windows.  So much for a romantic evening when you have to shout across the table.

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The decor was light but had an elegance to it.  The booths are orientated to provide a view of the strip and the Bellagio fountains.

Service started out slow with first getting the drink menu and then the regular menu but it improved as we got into the food.      The drink menu was on an Ipad.  We really didn’t look at the wine section since we had both decided on having a cocktail.  The manager can around twice to check on us during our dinner.

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I ordered the Destroyer which is a version of a Moscow Mule. My playmate had the Hannibal.  We were also given an aperitif. While I don’t know exactly what it was, it was light and tasted very good.

We were offered two menus.  The first was a tasting menu that comes with recipes and a signed photo of Giada.   The second was the ala carte menu.  We chose selecting the ala carte menu since we wanted to taste as many dishes as we could.   We chose two antipasti, one salad, two pastas, one vegetable  and one dessert.   I wish we had more room in our stomachs so we could have tasted more.

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We were severed a board with three types of bread along with a board full of items to use on the bread.  The bread types were a fresh-out-of-the-over focaccia, lavash and bread sticks.   The focaccia was the hands down favorite and then the lavash.  Neither of us liked the bread sticks.   The items to put on the bread was lemon butter, fried capers, dried pepper, pink salt and verde sauce.   Our favorite bit was focaccia with lemon butter and capers.

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The two antipasti we selected where Orzo Meatballs with parmesan pomodoro and Mascarpone & Tarragon Shrimp Scampi with crispy polenta.  I can recommend both of them.  The meatballs were very tender as was the scampi.  The only improvement I would make is more sauce on the scampi.  The salad we ordered was the Arugula with candied lemon, crispy pancetta & parmigiano-reggiano.  I loved this salad.  It was my most favorite dish of the evening.

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The two pastas we selected were lemon spaghetti with shrimp, lemon & basil and the lobster ravioli with asparagus tips & tarragon.   The ravioli was great with the only improvement was more sauce.   The spaghetti was another story.  The pasta was excellent but the two huge scrimp were tough.   I don’t know if it was an element of being so large or over cooked.  I much preferred the shrimp in the scampi dish.  The do have regular main courses also but we did not try any of them.  We tried the sweet corn & spicy sausage dish.  I loved the concept and when I could get spoonful with a lot of corn it was very tasty.  But the sausage was very spicy and overwhelmed the corn.  I am going to try to make it with sweet Italian sausage and see how it tastes.

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I think the dessert menu was the weakest part of the meal.  We decided to try the cookie plate.  The cookie types were triple chocolate chip, PB&J cookie, mini palmiers, and lemon cookies.

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If you remember, last year we were able to get photos with two chefs.   Our luck held and we got photos with Giada.  She is just the nicest person you can imagine.  On top of that, she is really the cutest person.  I swear she must wear a 00.  I definitely felt like an elephant next to her.

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 Flour & Barley

We went down and checked out the Linq project.  There were lots of new restaurants just waiting for us to try.  We chose Flour & Barley for dinner.   Flour & Barley is a casual eatery serving brick oven pizzas along with paninis, pasta dishes and Italian-inspired appetizers.  Being Vegas, it also has an extensive beer selection and tasty cocktails.  There is an indoor and an outdoor eating patio.  We chose the indoor venue for the air conditioning and it was quieter.  There is very loud music all through the linq area.  We appeared to be the only ones eating inside. Most people were eating outside.

IMG_0411We started with a Chunky Watermelon cocktail and some type of hard cider.  The cocktail had fresh watermelon in it and went down too fast.  The only problem was that it was only about a half a glass full.  For that price, I really thought it should have been a full size drink.  The cider came in a huge bottle and was kind of sparkly.  Very refreshing.  I wish I had gotten the name of it.

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Of course we had pizza.  I had the Calabrese had meatball, sausage, prosciutto, mozzarella, chili and salsa verde.   My playmate had a white pizza called Biance which had fontina cheese, pancetta, broccolini and artichoke.   I think they did a better job on the white pizza.  My meat was few and far between.  The salsa verde had to be spread instead of a concentrated flavor.  Pizza is really a personal opinion and I like my crust a little thinner.  Not that it was a thick crust.  It is just I prefer Neapolitan  style of pizza.  The service was good and attentive.

Nosh Food Tour

Each trip we like to try something new and this year we thought we would try a food tour.   It wasn’t exactly like I thought it would be.  It turned out to be a Caesars infomercial with food.  It disturbed me in the beginning but then I got to thinking that Caesars probably wouldn’t let them in without the infomercial .  It was also probably why it was one of the cheaper food tours in Vegas.  The tour has a maximum of 16 people so it was a nice group to tour with.  The group meets in the heat outside of Caesars.

The tour begins with the guide telling you about the other Caesars properties on the strip. Since I have been in all of them, I didn’t find it too relevant for me. The one thing I did find interesting was when talking about the new Cornwell, the emphasis was on the night club, Drais instead of even mentioning Giada’s. None of us were really in the right demographics for Drais so I was at a lose as to why push the nightclub to us.   I would think on a food tour it would be more appropriate to discuss Giada.  Into the hotel and out of the heat. Joel, our tour guide, was good at pointing out various things along the way.

IMG_0449First Stop was at Beijing #9. The manager took over the presentation at this point. It really felt like he was glad we came by. First he handed out water which we all accepted with gratitude after being in the sun. Next come a very tasty dumpling.  Now it was time for the main event, the noodles. The manager explained the noodles and how they made the noodles by hand.  This discussion was followed up with a demonstration of noodle making by the chief noodle maker. Of course we got to taste them. We each got a little pot of noodles with chicken in mushroom sauce. I don’t like mushrooms so it wasn’t my favorite but had enough flavor that made me interested in having dinner there.

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The second stop was Payard Patisserie. This part of our tour sounded different than some of the other reviews I read. I also think it is a hard place for a tour because of the size.  It started with a piece of chocolate, which is always a good way to start. Joel discussed Payard a little and we moved into the restaurant. The restaurant was closed so there wasn’t much to see. Back out for a sample of macaroons and another chocolate. LOVED the macaroons. We had about 20 minutes here of free time to browse, buy  or what ever.

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The third stop was my favorite. Yes, the food was yummy but the manager and a waiter actually was doing a stand up routine while telling us about how the steaks came into being. They could have taken their routine on the road. We were served some wonderful tater tots fried in duck fat and 3 strips of New York steak along with their home-made steak sauce. Delish! The tater tots were wonderful pillows of goodness while the steak was full of that good steak flavor.

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Fourth stop was Gordon Ramsay Pub. I have to confess and tell you that I wasn’t looking forward to this stop. I had eaten here before and had the worse service I have ever had in Vegas along with mediocre food. They have a new manager which is a good thing. Because of the noise in the pub, it was hard to hear the manager. We sat in the bar area and a tasting of sine beer and two appetizers. The deviled egg was pretty tasty but the chicken appetizer was a bad choice. It looked bad and several of the people would not even taste it. Those who did were not enthusiastic about it.   They did not change my mind about them.

IMG_0474The fifth and last stop was pizza in the food court. The food court is undergoing a renovation. so there wasn’t must to see. A couple of places were open but a lot were boarded up. There was no discuss about the other places in the food court. The food court manager and the pizza manager came and talked to us. They emphasized that they would not be leasing out the spaces in the food court but all would be Caesars run.  A bottle of water was on the table when we arrived and we each were given a half piece of cheese and half piece of pepperoni pizza. The pizza was New York style. It wasn’t bad pizza but wasn’t good either.  It would be great for sopping up alcohol.  I found the cheese pizza lacked flavor.

One of the things they emphasized was that Caesars doesn’t lease out any of their space to the famous chefs who names are on them.  Caesars really runs the restaurants with input from the contracted chiefs.  I don’t know why they think it would be a good thing.   I would prefer that the chief have more skin in the game than just their name.

 Crashing a Convention

One of our spur of the moment activities was going to the American Library Association convention.  Did you know that some of the conventions don’t require you to be member of the association to view the conference floor?   For $35 we were given a 3 day pass for the exhibits.   The great thing was the exhibits included book signing be authors and other free books.   My playmate accumulated two full bags of books but I limited myself to just one.   I picked up an advance reading copy of Red Madness – How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow and I have to tell you just how interesting I am finding it.   It is a young adult book and the format is geared for short attention spans but the information in it is fascinating.   The subject is pellagra which is a horrible way to die.

IMG_0440There was also cooking demonstrations relating to cookbooks.  I was excited because we got to see two of the 6 sisters.   Have you ever heard of them?  If you haven’t, you should check out their blog.  They have great easy to make recipes.  I have been reading them for a couple of years now and they made me wished I had grown up with a bunch of sister.  An older brother is good but lets face it.  He wasn’t very good about hair styles, clothes and makeup.    I don’t know if the two sisters that did the demo where chosen because of their personality or if they drew the short straw, but they we very entertaining.  We were given a line number to get a free, personalized copy of their current cookbook but it our time slot was 4 hours away and was in conflict with our food tour so no cookbook for us.   I have to be honest and say their current cookbook wasn’t on my list so the only disappointment was not getting to meet them.    I will say I am VERY excited about the new book that is coming out this October.  I think the name was 12 days of Christmas.  They do different holiday things in 12s.  Like 12 brunch ideas, 12 cook recipes and 12 family traditions.   Look for it this fall.  It is going on my Christmas list.

The library furniture really caught my eye.  There are so many amazing things if only my library had money.  I loved the little reading cocoons that help block noise out to provide a quiet place to read in the middle of chaos.   They were showing lots of 3D printers at the show.  I am still trying to understand why a library needs them.  All I can think of is it would be an extension of offering computers for use.  Have you see all the things that are being done with 3D printers?

All in all, we had another great Girls weekend in Vegas.  Of course there was also spa and shopping activities.  I did notice a couple of small cut backs at Qua Spa.  They no longer had the tea girls there to make you tea.  Now there is a vacuum  canister with one type of tea.    Haven’t started thinking about next year yet but the big question is “can we continue our chef siting streak?”

Tivoli Garden

One of the things I love about traveling is seeing the places that I had only read about.   Tivoli Garden was one of those places.    I had read about different pleasure gardens of the past and developed my own picture of them.   They are usually described as a park with promenades, gardens, outdoor pavilions, places for food and drink.  They also supplied performances and amusements.  At night, they would turn magical with their decorative illuminations. In 1843, Copenhagen got their own pleasure garden – Tivoli.   Others found Tivoli magical also.  It was the inspiration for Walt Disney in his building of Disneyland.

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Of course I realized that it had changed from the days of the grand pleasure garden but so much of it remained that it was easy to picture Victorian couples strolling through it.  Yes I know that the term Victorian is related to English history but I could not find a similar term to paint my mental picture with.

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It was smaller than I thought and more of it was about grown up amusements such as eating, drinking and music. They did have rides.  There were both rides for the younger children and rides for the older children or those adults young at heart.   As much as we love rides, we didn’t go on any.   We just enjoyed ourselves strolling through the gardens and listening to the concerts.   You could see places where Walt integrated the ideas into his plans.

One of the big differences from Disney is that outside people provide a lot of the concessions.  Even the hotel was owned by someone else.   By the way, the Hotel Nimb in Tivoli has an excellent reputation but the cheapest room was $700 per night.  If only I had won Lotto before we went.

Nimb Hotel

Nimb Hotel

The choices for food was amazing.  You could find a wide variety all through the park  They even had one stand that only sold different types of Licorice.  We really had a hard time deciding where and what to eat.  The brewery was enticing but we finally decided on Goften.  It is the oldest restaurant in Tivoli started 1874.

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It was here that I fell in love with Aalbortg Kroneakavit.   It had a very unusual taste that include coriander and a hint of citrus.  Too bad I can’t find it here in the US.  It is hard to even find any type of Akavit here let along a specific one.

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My Akavit and Lloyd’s beer

We started with the gravlax.  I love glavlax and I had been looking forward to being able to get to get my fill on the trip.   I was exciting that there it was, our first night in Copenhagen.

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For our main courses, I picked veal in a port sauce while Lloyd picked the fish of the day.

DSC00606The fish of the day was some local fish neither of us had ever heard of before.  The closest we got to understanding the name is that it began with a P.    Lloyd thought the flavor was good but the fish was too mushy.  Me?  I enjoyed every bit of my veal but you could have probably served me anything with the port sauce and I would have liked it.   We skipped dessert thinking we would pick up something else in the park but jet lag overtook us and thoughts of dessert were replaced with thoughts of bed.

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I used the public restroom there and LOVED it.   I mean where else would you find a chicken themed (tastefully) bathroom?   They even had chicken noised coming through speakers.

Chicken bathroom

Chicken bathroom

Was Tivoli the most exciting place I ever visited? No.  Was it charming?  Yes.   My only regret was that we didn’t stay till it got dark(10:00 pm) to see the lights.

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Visiting the Land of the Midnight Sun

My husband and I have been working on our bucket list and just spent almost 3 weeks looking for the midnight sun.  We had so many adventures to tell you about in the next few weeks.

 

We started off in with 3 days in Copenhagen.  What a wonderful walking city but very expensive. Everywhere we went was expensive.   In fact, I think the cheapest meal we had was in the  Heathrow Airport at the Perfectionists’ Cafe.  It was very good by the way.   We were kind of expecting the costs since we had heard that a Big Mac, fries and a coke ran around $40 but the reality really hits home when you start handing over your credit card.

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We then board a cruise ship that visited:

    • Oslo, Norway
    • Kristiansand, Norway
    • Stavanger, Norway
    • Torshavn, Faroe Islands
    • Iceland
    • Shetland Island, Scotland
    • Geiranger, Norway
    • Bergen, Norway

We finally docked in Harwich, England.   As you can see, many of the places we went were small but beautiful.   I really enjoyed learning about the different places before we left.

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Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Our bodies have had a hard time trying to convert back to sleepingwhen it is dark.  On our vacation, we had so much energy.   We could go until late at night and not think anything about it.  We get back to where there s a real night and now our bodies think they should be asleep at 8:00 pm.   I can’t wait until my body actually lets me sleep in past 5:00 am.

 

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Cooking a rib roast

It has always been a tradition in our family that a rib roast was cooked for holidays and celebrations.  Just the smell of a rib roast cooking brings back great memories of family dinners growing up.   We would always fight to see who got to get tastes off the ends while it was cooking.  This was known as quality control.  Of course my father always got first cut but then it was left to my brother and I to battle out who got the next one.

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There are as many methods of cooking a rib roast as there is types of sauces for it.    My method is pretty simple and is really hard to make a bad roast.  There are two important elements though.  You must get good meat and you must use a thermometer.

I use to buy very expensive Prime Rib Roasts from a butcher.   There were very tender and just had that good meaty flavor.   Then I found out that I could get the same results by talking with the butcher at Vons/Safeway and using their top of the line Ranchers Reserve.   This cut my costs in about half and if I bought it when it was on sale, I was dancing all the way to the register.   Make sure you talk to the senior butcher.  Some of the young ones have tried to pass lesser meat off.  The roast must have nice marbling.  The marbling is the key. Without it, it is going to be wrong.   I like my roast with the bones in but that is really just a personal preference.    The bones make a really great meal the next day.  Is there anything more satisfying than gnawing on a bone?

Now that you have your roast, it is time to cook it.  I was always taught to let the roast warm up an hour or two before cooking.  But I also have read that letting it come up to room temperature is an old wise tale and doesn’t do anything to promote more uniform cooking.   Since it is hard for me to break my childhood conditioning, I will continue to warm my cold meat up.  It is up to you which side of the argument you use.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Yes, I did say 500 degrees(F).   You aren’t going to keep it there long so don’t worry about getting old shoe leather meat.

To prepare the roast, I place my roast in a roasting pan, without a rack, fat side up.  That means the bones are facing the bottom of the pan.   Make a mixture of minced garlic, Italian herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper into a paste. How much will depend on how big of roast you have.  The proportions will also depend on your tastes.   Since I am worried about vampires, I go heavy on the garlic.  You are not fond of garlic, go light on it.

pasteTake this paste and rub it all over your roast.  Find the little nooks and crannies to tuck it into to.   If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, insert it now half way into the thickest part.  Be sure you don’t have it touching a bone.

 

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Roast ready for the oven

Put the roast in the 500 degree (F).   Roast for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 325 degrees (F).   Continue to cook until your roast is about 4 -5 degrees before you desired doneness.  Pull it out before the roast gets to its doneness temperature because it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven.   If you wait until the thermometer registers your desired doneness, you will have an over cooked roast.

Transfer the roast to a warm platter and cover with foil.  Let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes before carving.  That gives you time to make your gravy.

Want to talk gravy?   Gravy isn’t hard to make but I found it is easier and more consistent when I cheat.  I use Lawry’s brown gravy mix but I add the dripping from the roasting pan and substitute part of the water for red wine.  It is as good or better than what I made from scratch and a lot more consistent.

I hope you will give a rib roast a try next time you are celebrating.

 

 

 

Squishing with alcohol inks

I am still intrigued with alcohol inks and still pretty bad at using them in Dreamscaping.    My collection of colors keep growing. DSC00525My obsession is only getting worse now that I have found sites that sell colors by bottle instead of the 3 packs. Lately I have been working on learning the squishing method.   This method is really easy and really messy.   I found it while puttering around in YouTube.  To start, you must have a silicon work mat since you are going to be putting your ink right on into it.  Choose a couple of colors you like and begin putting drops in your mat. DSC00537Now we start getting into the tricky part.   Cut a piece of non-porous paper the size you want.  I was using glossy paper but since I was throwing out most of my play time results, I switched to cheap photo paper.   The main difference is that the photo paper dries really, really fast.  That is a problem for some technique.  Take your paper shiny side down and start quickly put it in ink puddles and lift.  You need to keep repeating this until you get your paper covered.   I always had to make more puddles since I would run out of ink.  I don’t know if this is a problem because I am using photo paper instead of glossy paper.

Puddle method

Puddle method

You can also add blending solution to your puddle and your colors will come out less pronounced.

Puddle with blending solution

Puddle with blending solution

Clean-up is easy.  Just use either your blending solution or alcohol to clean your mat. I have many lessons learned while learning this process.

  1. Stick with just 3 – 4 colors and a metallic additive.   If you use too many colors, they lose their impact. DSC00545
  2. Do the edges first.  I began by doing the center first and then the edges but it caused too much overlaying of color in the center.
  3. You can go back and overlay colors in areas that don’t have the right distribution but be careful that you don’t do it to much.   How much is too much?  Depends on the colors you are using.  Dark colors can get really dark when you overlay them too much.
  4. I like the look of spraying the paper with alcohol after I have all my color on.  It moves the color but doesn’t blend it as much as the blending solution.  I was using 70% alcohol instead of the 90% recommended. That could have made a difference in how much the color moved.
  5. Adding a metallic additive makes it very interesting but youhaveto be very careful not to use too much.

    Too much gold

    Too much gold

  6. Don’t use an anti-static bag before embossing.  I don’t know why but it takes the metallic out and dulls the other colors.
Before

Before

After anti-static bag

After anti-static bag

I did do something with all the playing around.  I made a birthday card.   I really needed a blue or green card blank but the craft paper color did okay.  What is next  on my play list?  Alcohol spats!

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