Jalapeño Pepper Relish

November 20th, 2017

One of my favorite restaurants/bars in Saint Petersburg, FL is O’Maddy’s, on the water in Gulf Port.  Just about every time I eat there I get the fish spread appetizer which they serve with a great jalapeño pepper relish.  I decided to try my hand at making my own.  It took a number of trials and modifications but I think I have it down now, see below.   O’Maddy’s relish is not canned or cooked but served fresh.  My recipe is for a preserved relish so the peppers are “cooked” in the preserving process and therefore have a slightly different appearance, but the jalapeño flavor shines through.  It has a kick but is not overpowering.   Of course, the “heat” depends on the batch of peppers you have which can vary greatly.  The relish makes a great topping for dogs, burgers, sandwiches and salads as well as fish.

Ingredients:

  • 30 Jalapeño peppers
  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Teaspoon ground peppercorns
  • 2 Teaspoons ground cumin seed
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Start by washing and cutting the stems off the peppers, then slice and remove the seeds.   Put the peppers through a food processer to obtain fine pieces.  Put back in the processer in batches that half fill the processer and puree.

Pour the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices into a large pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste the brine before it gets too hot and adjust the ingredients to your taste.  Add the pureed Jalapeños and return to a boil.  Turn off the heat and allow relish to steep for at least an hour.

Place the canning jars and lids in simmering/boiling water for 5-10 minutes for sterilization then let them cool until ready to fill.  Fill the jars with the jalapeño relish to within 1/4 inch of the top.  I like to leave just a bit of the “broth” on the top.   Put on the lids and screw the tops on just hand tight.  Place the jars in water and bring the water to a simmering boil for ten minutes.  Remove the jars from the boiling water and set on a towel to cool, then tighten the lids.  Make sure you hear a “ping” from each jar assuring a good seal.

Makes about dozen 4oz jars.

RO 11/16

Alaska Cruise June 3-11, 2017

July 17th, 2017

In the words of Johnny Horton:

“North to Alaska, go North the rush is on.”

Mountains of Glacier Bay

Mountains of Glacier Bay

Mountains of the Misty Fjords

Mountains of the Misty Fjords

A trip to Alaska has been on my bucket list for many years.  I finally got to do it and the trip exceeded expectations.  Once again, I have my daughter-in-law Megan to thank for finding great excursions that enhanced the experience.  The seven-day cruise went from Seattle to Juneau to Glacier Bay to Sitka and Ketchikan returning back to Seattle along the Southeast Alaskan Panhandle.  I was surprised by many things and I will try to capture the highlights here.  It is hard to appreciate the vastness of Alaska without seeing it live.  The scale of everything is huge and you just can’t grasp it unless you view the towering mountains in the distance.

Street Entrance to Pike's Market

Street Entrance to Pike’s Market

Fish Mongers at Pike's Market

Fish Mongers at Pike’s Market

Flowers at Pike's market

Flowers at Pike’s market

A stop in Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Pike’s Market.  It’s perhaps best known for the fishmongers who make a game out of their job, throwing fish when a customer makes a purchase, chasing people with ugly fish and generally clowning around.  The flowers and produce are striking and the street performers are great.  There are lots of high quality hand crafts, foods and souvenirs available.  It’s a happy, festive crowd of all ages.

Street Performers at Pike's Market

Street Performers at Pike’s Market

Pike's Fish Market

Pike’s Fish Market

Veggies at Pike's Market

Veggies at Pike’s Market

Holland America Eurodam

Holland America Eurodam

The ship sailed in late afternoon.  We took the Holland America line on the MS Eurodam.  It holds about 2100 guests and is about 1000 feet long, not huge by today’s standards. We sailed for almost 48 hours to reach Juneau, the state capital, it was about 900 miles.  The distances between towns are hard to imagine unless you experience it.  The three towns we visited can only be reached by boat or plane. For an East Coaster, I can’t imagine living there, but the people who live there love it.  It’s common to get around in small float planes which have short take offs and landings.

Arrival at Juneau Wharf

Arrival at Juneau Wharf

de Havaland Beavers at in Juneau

de Havaland Beavers at in Juneau

Alaska State Capital Building in Juneau

Alaska State Capital Building in Juneau

I Imagined Alaska as a very cold lifeless area, but the lower half of the panhandle gets a lot of rain and it’s quite temperate along the water.  When we were there in early June the flowers were blooming and we only needed to wear a fleece.  We had scheduled a helicopter ride up on top of the glacier near Juneau, but it was so foggy that all the flights that day had to be cancelled.  So, we just enjoyed the town and the locals.

Totem Pole in Juneau

Totem Pole in Juneau

Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau

From Juneau, we sailed to Glacier Bay National Park which was much more interesting than I ever expected.  It’s only about 60 miles in a straight line to the mouth of the bay, but it took 9 hours to zig zag between the islands.

The bay is about 50 miles long and has a history of being covered then uncovered by glaciers.  In the late 1600’s the area was actually land but in about 75 years a huge glacier gouged out the bay.  Up until 1750 it was covered by this single glacier extending out beyond what is now the mouth of the bay.  Then in less than 100 years the glacier retreated 50 miles to where it is today, leaving Glacier Bay and about 20 separate smaller glaciers around it.  I always thought that glaciers moved very slowly, but I believe the park ranger said the Margerie Glacier currently moves about 6 feet per day.  The oral tradition of the Native Americans who lived there when it was land says the glacier moved so quickly that they had to just abandon their villages as it advanced to the sea.

Sailing Into Glacier Bay

Sailing Into Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay Margerie Tidewater Glacier

Glacier Bay Margerie Tidewater Glacier

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Close up

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Close up

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Closer up

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Closer up

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Even Closer up

Glacier Bay Margerie Glacier, Even Closer up

The boat went up the bay close to the Margerie Glacier, much closer than I expected the ship to be able to approach.  This is a tidewater type glacier which means the ice goes right to the water.  It was very impressive and its size is hard to grasp.  We thought we were about 200 yards from the front of the glacier and that it was about 100 feet high.  In reality we were about a quarter mile away and it was 250 feet above the water and extended more than 100 feet below the water.

Glacial ice is royal blue in color due to the ice being subjected to great pressure and the high-density ice reflects and scatters blue light.  When the glacier cracks, it sounds like a plane flying over or a clap of thunder.  Every so often huge pieces of ice would “calve” off the front of the glacier sending water high in the air.   From there we sailed to another tidewater type glacier called the Johns Hopkins Glacier, then started making our way south out of Glacier Bay.

Mountains of Glacier Bay

Mountains of Glacier Bay

John Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay

John Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay

The next stop was Sitka, a small town of only about 1000 people.  We never went into town.  Instead we spent about 7 hours on the water with a great guide, Captain Davey Lubin.  I would describe him as a naturalist guide.  He picked us up right at the wharf.  You can tell Davey loves his job, loves the area and really knows where to go to see some wonderful things.  Every once in a while, he would look at something and comment something like “boy is that ever beautiful”.  He not only knew the name of every plant we saw, he knew their Latin scientific names.

The Esther G

The Esther G

Bald Eagle in Sitka Bay

Bald Eagle in Sitka Bay

Bald Eagle in Sitka Bay, Here's Looking at You Kid!

Bald Eagle in Sitka Bay, Here’s Looking at You Kid!

Whale Tail in Sitka Bay

Whale Tail in Sitka Bay

Whale Spout in Sitka Bay

Whale Spout in Sitka Bay

Sea Otters in Sitka Bay, "The Boy's Club"

Sea Otters in Sitka Bay, “The Boy’s Club”

His boat is the Esther G and while it is not unusual for Alaska, it is unusual to someone from the lower 48.  It was of very utilitarian construction and made from ca. ¼ Inch aluminum plate welded together; very tough for a very tough environment.  He extended the length of his boat last Fall by having it cut in half and had a four-foot extension welded in the middle.  We cruised around Sitka sound and saw whales, sea otters, bald eagles, puffins, etc.

Captain Davey Lubin Ashore

Captain Davey Lubin Ashore

Banana Slug on Kruzof Island

Banana Slug on Kruzof Island

Bald Eagle Remains on Kruzof Island

Bald Eagle Remains on Kruzof Island

Trail in Kruzof Island Rain Forest

Trail in Kruzof Island Rain Forest

Kruzof Island Trees in Rain Forest

Kruzof Island Trees in Rain Forest

After cruising around for several hours Captain Lubin took the boat into a protected area, gave us each tall rubber boots, and craned the inflatable off the top of the boat so we could paddle ashore onto Kruzof Island.  It appeared he had done this many times before.  Davey took his rifle just in case and gave Megan a can of bear spray.  Piles of logs had washed up all along the shore line and it was a difficult climb over them to get into the forest.  But once inside we were in a temperate rain forest, first time experience for me and unexpected.  Everything was covered with thick moss and even the trail had a six-inch cushion of mass to walk on.  We talked loudly as we walked the trails to make sure the bears knew we were there.  It worked, we didn’t see any bears, but there was bear scat and signs of bear everywhere.

Lava Tubes in Sitka Bay

Lava Tubes in Sitka Bay

Kelp in Sitka Bay

Kelp in Sitka Bay

Sea Star in Sitka Bay

Sea Star in Sitka Bay

Lunch on the Esther G

Lunch on the Esther G

Sitka Bay Island

Sitka Bay Island

We had lunch in another protected small bay with several hundred sea birds and raptors.  And what a lunch for being out on the water: charcuterie, salad, poached halibut, wild rice with asparagus…  Then it was back to the ship and reality.  A unique experience for sure.

Taquan Air Beaver Float Plane in Ketchikan

Taquan Air Beaver Float Plane in Ketchikan

Old Logging Roads in the Misty Fjords

Old Logging Roads in the Misty Fjords

Waterfall in the Misty Fjords

Waterfall in the Misty Fjords

Island in the Misty Fjords

Island in the Misty Fjords

Our final stop in Alaska was Ketchikan, a slightly larger town of over 8,000 inhabitants.  We took a great bush plane tour on a de Havilland Canada, Beaver float plane through the Misty Fjords on Taquan Air.  We were very lucky to be there on a day that wasn’t misty.  The sights of the mountains, waterfalls and lakes were spectacular.  Flying in a bush plane made for a spectacular experience flying over the mountains and low through the valleys.  We landed on one of the many lakes and got out of the plane to stand on the floats and grasp the spectacle.  The town of Ketchikan was very nice with interesting shops and things to do, but nothing to compare to the flight.

Mountains of the Misty Fjords

Mountains of the Misty Fjords

Fog Over the Misty Fjords

Fog Over the Misty Fjords

Looking Out Over the Plane Float in the Misty Fjords

Looking Out Over the Plane Float in the Misty Fjords

A Lake in the Misty Fjords

A Lake in the Misty Fjords

We had a quick stop the next day in Victoria, BC before our return to Seattle.  We found Victoria to be a very impressive, friendly, picturesque city.  The weather is temperate and they get very little snow.   Along the waterfront there are many interesting “float houses” which are houses built on a sort of barge, built to be in one place semi-permanently, not like a house boat.  It must be a very interesting environment to live in.  You could never do it in the lower states because of the storms.

There are a number of choices of cruise lines but their itineraries are similar.  You can also spend two weeks and go all the way to/from Anchorage.  I’m very glad I was able to check Alaska off my bucket list and experience the enormity and the very different way of life.  I guess you can feel the enthusiasm from my ramblings here…

The Dopy Moose in Ketchikan, Alaska

The Dopy Moose in Ketchikan, Alaska

 

RO 6/30/17

Sunset Lake: Fish Survey, Summer 2016

December 12th, 2016

This past summer Matt Perez ran a project to catalog and analyze the fish population of Sunset Lake in Bridgewater, NJ.  Matt is with Boy Scout Troop 154, Pluckemin, NJ, Dave Robbins Scoutmaster.  This was Matt’s Eagle Project.  There are many steps on the trail to Eagle Scout and the Eagle Project is the last step.  Matt did not do it himself but planed it out in detail, got approval to proceed, assembled the project team and led it.  The Scouts that helped him earn service hours that help in their rank advancement.  Further they learn from Matt how to pull together an Eagle Project.  An Eagle Project has to benefit the greater community and the benefit has to continue after it is completed.

Matt organized 11 collection events which involved 24 volunteers and 185 hours.  Matt spent more than an additional 100 hours researching, analyzing and writing up the data and drawing his conclusions.  Seven species of fish were found: bluegill sunfish, pumpkin seed sunfish, large-mouth bass, yellow perch, American eel, channel catfish and a non-native green sunfish.

Following is a series of slides covering Matt’s findings, observations and conclusions.  They include photographs of the various species of fish.  I hope you will enjoy this study. The members of the Sunset Lake Association thank Matt for his work.

fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_01 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_02 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_03 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_04 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_05 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_06 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_07 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_08 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_09 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_10 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_11 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_12 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_13 fish-of-sunset-lake-research-project_page_15

RHO 12/16

Cuba, Habana: People to People trip, Oct. 2016

October 31st, 2016

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I’ve wanted to visit Cuba for a long time.  I love the music and the food, and the old repaired/modified cars fascinate me.  I find Cuban people to be smart and industrious.  In short, I wanted to learn more about Cuba’s culture and the country which has been unavailable to people of the US since 1960.  Having lived through the Cuban/US missile crisis, Bay-of-Pigs, etc. I’ve always been intrigued by this island only 90-miles from the US.   With the trade and travel restrictions being relaxed I knew I had to go soon before it changed forever.

Our daughter-in-law, Megan, is entirely responsible for making this happen. She did an amazing job that made the trip exceed all of our expectations.  Megan has been taking Spanish lessons for several years and through her Cuban and travel agency contacts she learned how to navigate the system to get us People-to-People visas. She also secured the lodging and events necessary to uphold the particulars of our visa.  While you can hire translators, Megan was our designated interpreter.  She did a fabulous job of translating and engaging many Cubans to give us an authentic, amazing experience.  It was a stress free experience considering I don’t know any Spanish.  We got to see and do everything we wanted to within the confines of a 1-week visit.

I have to admit that as the date approached I was somewhat apprehensive about the trip.  This was surprising to me as I’m a seasoned traveler having visited many countries.  People told me that they heard about unsavory experiences . . . robberies, panhandlers, prostitutes, bad water, shortages, trouble getting around and trouble communicating.  As it turned out while there are shortages, our entire experience was positive.  People knew we were from the US, but they were friendly and helpful. We were comfortable wherever we went, but we didn’t go anywhere that a smart traveler would avoid.  We mingled with the people of Cuba, visited their landmarks, etc.  For me it was taking a step back to my youth. It was like the 1950’s in Pittsburgh. . .soot spewing from the steel mills, kids enjoying a pick-up ballgame in alleyways, people gathering on their front steps and street corners to converse with their neighbors.  Perhaps because of the nostalgia the trip was beyond my expectations, one of the most interesting experiences of my life.  And incidentally the restrictions on bringing tobacco and rum back to the USA were lifted two days before we left.

We never felt threatened, including by the police and military, who stood around in pairs here and there but were low key.   Images, statues and references to the three main revolutionaries: Fidel Castro, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guavero, and Camilo Cienfuegos were everywhere but we didn’t see any demonstrations or speeches.  When we asked our driver when the revolution ended he simply replied “It’s still going on”.

building-crumbling-1_img_0283_1024The population of Cuba is about 11 million, and 25% of them live in Habana.  The city is like a faded rose.  You can imagine how beautiful the colonial architecture (in Havana Vieja/Old Town) was back in the early 1900’s.  But many of the facades are broken and falling down.  If you look through a broken window you might see the beautiful building is completely collapsed inside.  I would say that half the buildings are beyond restoration…what a shame!  While once majestic, beautiful architecture like you would find in major cities, the buildings are now dirty and in disrepair. Many structures have been converted for multiple family use.  Clearly they have no means to restore them. See the photos below. None-the-less, we loved walking and driving around and taking it all in.

The Miramar area is where many of the Embassies are. Again, the buildings in this area, while mansion-like, are dirty and in need of repair.  We visited Marina Hemingway, and our driver pointed out the difference between Cuban boats (small and old) and American/Foreigner boats (er, yachts!). We were only able to find a food market to visit at the Marina.  Food markets from our perspective are scarce. The market we visited, while sizable had very little food to sell. Entire rows were populated with the same item, over and over again.

hotel-national-_img_1042_1024The first three days we stayed in a bnb in Centro Havana, on the sixth floor overlooking Malecón (infamous sidewalk in Havana) and directly on the Ocean.  It was operated by two retired sisters.  They were delightful, providing us an amazing breakfast and being most accommodating in every way.  Their home again reminded me of my home in the 1950’s, not fancy but very neat and clean.  The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where we stayed the last three nights, is iconic.  It’s considered a monument of Habana;  it’s classy, well kept. . . just what you would imagine a top 1950’s hotel to be.  There were a few upgrades since it was built around 1930, but all in keeping with the original building.  Imagine many coats of paint on the woodwork, old style but good quality bathroom fixtures, old but well-kept furnishings, period elevators with brass mailboxes, etc.  It was built to resemble The Breakers in Palm Beach Florida.  There is a beautiful outdoor garden to the rear overlooking the water.  We were told the best hotels in Habana are: Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Hotel Saratoga, Iberostar Parque Central Hotel and Iberostar Miramar.

I didn’t know what to expect concerning the economy.  I’d never been in a communist country before.  Cuba operates on a dual currency basis.  The Cuban Peso (CUP) is for internal use only and is also called Moneda Nacional ($MN).  It cannot be exchanged.  The other currency is a Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC, which is exchangeable.  One CUC is around 26 CUP (MN).  Fun fact, CUPs have portraits and CUCs show buildings which is how you can easily differentiate the currencies.

We were advised to take Euros for exchange because Pounds and Dollars are not wanted…..boy was that good advice……and take enough for your whole trip.  We exchanged for a LOT of CUCs before we left and took a LOT of Euros as well.

The surprise to me was that it is a completely cash-based economy.  Imagine no credit or debit cards, no ATM’s, no checking accounts, no US based cell phone availability.  There were lines more than a block long to get into Western Union or a bank, or the telephone company.  Everybody was hustling.  We were told a cigar roller’s wages were about 22 $MN a month, a teacher 26 $MN and a doctor gets about 36 $MN per month, which is equivalent to $1 to $1.5 USD per month! Of course, the citizens of Cuba enjoy free healthcare, food and housing provided by the government.  People go to special government locations to pick-up their monthly allotment of food.  They supplement this with purchases from farmer’s markets, etc.    In addition to their salary, many Cubans hustle to earn extra money.  People sell water, etc. from the front steps of their homes to tourists, etc.

While most Cubans now have cell phones, the internet remains hard to come by.  In 2008, Raul first permitted Cuban locals to have access to cell phones.  It was only in 2015 that he opened the first public wi-fi spots in 35 locations.  To be granted access, you must buy an internet card that allows for just one hour of connection time.  Most hotels sell access cards where they have hot spots. But you would be walking the streets and come to an intersection with a hundred (younger) people standing and sitting around in the street with their phones…. all on the internet.  They knew where the hot spots were.

thumb_img_1055_1024OMG THE CARS!!!  If you know me, you know I’m an old car fan and I’ve restored several of them.  I was in awe of the way Cubans have kept the old 50’s US cars on the road with little or no access to US parts.  Just look at the photos below. I had seen photos of the Habana cars but before we went I thought there were only a few.  To an old car lover it’s mind boggling.  I would estimate that in the Habana area 30% to 35% of the cars are old US cars mainly from the 50’s.

A lot of them are taxis that the drivers use for their livelihood.  Many are held together with miscellaneous parts and bondo.  But while they wouldn’t be of the same quality as collector cars in the US, some look pretty good from 25 at least feet away.  I would guess that 50% still have the original engine but the others do not.  For example, we drove around all week in a 1956 Chevy Special completely rolled and pleated inside, but with a 5 cylinder 2006 Mercedes diesel engine and a 4 shifter on the column.  How did he do that?  And our driver’s other car was a 1953 Chevy Belair with a Mercedes diesel engine.

OMG THE MUSIC!!!  I’ve always liked Cuban music.  It ranges from salsa to Afro-Cuban jazz.  It seemed like half of the people either sang, played an instrument or both.  See the photos below.  I would spend half the day wandering the streets in Old Town going from bar to bar having a cerveza in each (wine is somewhat limited as it all has to be imported) and listening to the band until they went on intermission.  It reminded me of Nashville.

music-omg-2_img_0737_1024I was surprised to discover a type of guitar I had never seen before.  The Tres is a guitar-like three course chordophone of Cuban origin.  Its sound is a defining characteristic of the Cuban sound.  It has six strings: two strings each tuned (in “C” major) to “E”, “C” and “G” with the two “G” strings tuned an octave apart.  More recently some musicians are tuning the Tres a step higher (in “D” major) to “F”, “D” and “A”.

grocery-national-store_img_0265_1024The food was also special; we ate at some excellent restaurants that a tourist would never find.  While Fidel was in power restaurant signage was prohibited.  Most Cubans never ate out, as their monthly stipends covered their food need.  Today there are some signs, but it’s still not usual.  Instead, we relied on our driver and the sisters to give us good recommendations that weren’t in the US tour books.  We were never disappointed.

cigars-_img_0565_1024CIGARS!!!  While I’m not a smoker, I might now know more about cigars than most cigar smokers.  We toured both a tobacco farm and a cigar factory.  See the photos below.  The rolling factory had 550 workers wrapping for 9 hours a day.  That is a lot of cigars!  They plant the (tiny, tiny seeds) tobacco early in the year when it is drier and it takes about four months for the plants to mature.  Thus there were no plants drying in the barn when we were there.

They strip the middle vein out of each leaf before rolling.  This vein contains 90% of the nicotine and would make the cigar way too strong.  The position of the leaf on the stalk makes the taste stronger or weaker therefore they can make different types of cigars by using different blends of leaves.  It takes about five leaves to make a ½” blunt.  After rolling and putting on an inner wrapper, they press the cigar in a mold for several hours, then put on the outer wrapper, “fermented”, so it is smoother and flexible.  All by hand.  I couldn’t believe how smooth and exact in size they all were since they are all hand made.  When ready to smoke the end is cut off then dipped in honey before lighting.  Some of the commercial cigars are flavored with rum, cinnamon, etc.

donky-cart-img_0912_1024As I mentioned we were on a “People to People” Visa so we could get to know Cubans and they know us.  We took along a lot of candy, NFL caps, baseball cards, pennants, little league shirts with team logos, etc. and handed it all out, mainly to the children playing in the streets and parks.  We got to know three Cubans quite well: the two sisters who ran the bnb and our driver.  Perhaps the most important thing I returned from Cuba with is that several Cubans who we grew to know well told us to “kiss the ground” when we got back to the USA…. I did.

La Yuma, The American,

Ralph

10/16

 

Places to See:

  • Havana Vieja –  Old Town, great for walking around and listening to bands
  • Viñales- The “Grand Canyon” of Cuba
  • A tobacco farm in Viñales- Where most cigar tobacco plant leaves come from.
  • La Fortaleza- Canon firing ceremony every night at 9p
  • Revolution Square- Where Fidel addressed the people of Cuba
  • The “Forest of Habana”
  • Beach Tropicoco
  • Fusterlandia- a neighborhood modeled after Antonio Gaudi of Barcelona.

 

Things to do:

  • Buena Vista Social Club- a Cuban show that has been playing for 70 years!
  • Tropicana- Famous Cuban Cabaret
  • Revolution Museum (not terribly impressive)
  • Museum of Fine Arts (Cuban)
  • La Finca Vigía – Hemingway’s home in Cuba
  • Partagas cigar Factory

 

Where to eat:

  • El Gijones – located on Paseo del Prado.
  • Los Dos Hermanos – Named after Fidel and Hemingway.  Only open for lunch.  We had Cuban sandwiches.
  • La Fontana –  We ate the most amazing seafood carpaccio here!  Great food!
  • Paladar Vistamar- A wonderful restaurant in Miramar, in the second story of a Cuban house, directly on the Ocean.  Great food and views!
  • Many tapas restaurants/bars in Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas and on the pedestrian street Obispo, all in Old Town.

 

My favorite thing to do by far:

Havana Vieja –  Old Town, walk around, listen to bands, and check out the old cars.

 

See my previous post for even more photos.

Habana, Cuba

October 27th, 2016

Below are photos selected from the many I took during my visit to Habana, Cuba October 17-23, 2016. I plan on posting my observations and experiences from the trip, but I wanted to get some photos up quickly.

Yes, the photos are very heavy on old cars and music, which is what one would expect for memories of Habana. And yes, these also just happen to be two of my top interests. I’ve included some photos on cigars, the revolution, and the Gaudi-like mosaics in the Fusterlandia area. At the end are miscellaneous shots from all around the area.

I hope that you will enjoy browsing through them as much as I enjoyed taking them. And I’m sure Habana will not look like this for long.

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Cars

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Music

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Fusterlandia

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Cigars

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Architecture / Sights

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RHO 10/16

Low Country Boil

August 25th, 2016

A “seafood boil” is the generic term for a wide range of social events centered around cooking and consuming shellfish.  Shrimp, crab and crawfish boils are Louisiana Cajun traditions and today are popular not only in Louisiana but all along the Southern USA Coasts. The “crawfish boil” is most closely associated with Louisiana.

Low Country Boil

 

Frogmore Stew and its History

Frogmore Stew is considered a classic South Carolina Low Country dish. This dish is now more popularly known as Low-Country Boil or Beaufort Stew. The dish gets its original name from a place (town?) that had only a post office on one side of the road and a two-story white country store on the other.

Frogmore Stew is a one-pot wonder created about 1965 by a National Guardsman, Richard Gay, when he needed to cook a meal for about 100 soldiers in Beaufort, SC.  Richard Gay had learned the recipe from his family.  The dish was first called Frogmore Stew by the guardsmen who teased Richard about the town where he was from. The postal service eliminated the postal address, Frogmore, and this popular dish then became Low Country Boil.

This dish is a combination of shellfish, sausage, vegetables, and potatoes.  It’s easy to fix for a crowd.  Having a removable drain basket makes cooking easier and serving on newspaper makes for easy clean up. The rule of thumb is the bigger the crowd, the bigger the pot.  The ingredients below are sized for a turkey fryer and serves 10-12 people.

Low Country Boil 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 12oz Cans of beer
  • 2 Heads of garlic, chopped
  • 3 Lemons, quartered
  • 1 Large bag, to taste, of shrimp and crab boil
  • ¼ cup (2 fl oz) Hot pepper sauce or to taste
  • 4 Fresh bay leaves
  • 2 Tbs Sea salt
  • 2 Large Vidalia onions, quartered
  • 2 lbs Spicy smoked link sausage cut in 2” lengths
  • 3 lbs Small new potatoes, halved if large
  • 6 Ears of corn, husked and cut into 3” lengths
  • 2 ½ lbs Littleneck clams
  • 4 lbs Large white shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails intact
  • 2 lbs Crawfish, cleaned, purged in salt and rinsed
  • ¼ cup Old Bay Seasoning or to taste
  • Corn bread or crusty bread
  • ½ lb Melted butter for corn/bread
  • Cocktail sauce

Low Country Boil 3

Fill a large pot (turkey fryer) half full with water and bring to a boil.  Stir in the beer, garlic, lemons, crab boil, hot pepper sauce, bay leaves, salt, and onions.

Add the sausage and potatoes, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, takes about 10-15 minutes.

Return to a boil and add the corn, cover and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the clams, discarding any that are not closed and cook 5-7 minutes until the clams have opened.

Add the shrimp and crawfish and cook 3-4 minutes until the shrimp have turned light pink.

Total cooking time is less than 30 minutes. Using the sieve drain off the liquid and spill the boil on a table covered with newspaper or restaurant paper. Discard any clams that have not opened.  Sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning and serve with bread, cornbread and cocktail sauce.

 

RO 8/22/16

Mount Massive Climb Nov 3, 1988

August 1st, 2016

MtMassiveClimb_1

The headline in the November 4, 1988 edition of the Rocky Mountain News read “Was it big medicine or just another snow job?” That year it was the beginning of November and there hadn’t been any significant snow fall yet. So understandably the ski resorts were getting concerned. One resort, Copper Mountain, had employed a medicine man to pray for good (concert) weather in the past so they called on him this time for snow. Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a Muskogee Indian medicine man from Rio Rancho NM, arrived at the ski resort on the morning of November 3. He chanted, drummed, prayed and smoked his pipe and lo and behold within minutes the snow started falling!!!!! He commented “Perhaps the spirit of an Ute hunter did come by and hit the width of my mouth with a feather.”

 

Now you might ask:  Why did this matter to me?  Well that morning two of my friends, Richard and Pete (first names only to protect the innocent) and I started hiking Mount Massive (Sawatch Range) which at 14,429 feet is the second highest summit of the Rocky Mountains.  We decided to go because there was no snow and started off with a beautiful blue sky morning.  But when we were well above the tree line the snow started and it just got heavier and heavier until we had to stay within 2-3 feet of each other just to maintain visual contact.

 

MtMassiveClimb_2

Finally, within 500-1000 feet of the summit (according to Pete’s altimeter) I made an executive decision “Let’s get the $%*! off this mountain!” to turn back.  Thank goodness.  At that point there was no chance of seeing the trail, all we could do was just head downhill and then parallel the tree line until we found a trail.  I remember trudging along for the last stretch, by then at dusk, for over an hour.  None of us said a word and all you could hear were the crunching of our steps in the snow.  It was tense and scary.  But fortunately we did find the right trail head and our car just as it was getting too dark to see anything.  We could have easily gotten lost and been found in the Spring.  Back then there were no GPS devices or cell phones of course.  It was perhaps the closest I’ve ever come to dying and is a reminder to me just how quickly one can go from really good to really bad.

KartoffelKlösse – An Obenauf Family Recipe for Glazed Potato Dumplings

July 18th, 2016

Potato dumplings are a common dish in many traditional cuisines and go by a number of names.  In Germany and Austria they are often called kartoffelknödel, klösse or just knödel and can be filled with a “dressing” in the middle; in Hungary gomboc; Luxembourg kniddelen; in Italy canederi; in Canada/Acadia poutines rapees.  In Sweden, kroppkakor, and Norway, Komie (klub), they are often filled with a salty meat.

In my family we called them “kartoffelklöess” and it could be a complete meal with the meat included.  Interestingly, my ancestry is mainly Bavarian and Scandinavian hence I guess that is why the meats are included in my family recipe.  It can bring something a little different to your starch side dish.

Ingredients:

  • 8 Medium potatoes
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Slices of lightly toasted white bread cut in cubes
  • Several slices of Summer bologna, bacon or smoked sausage cut in small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour
  • If desired, chopped carrots and peas, cooked until soft

Instructions:

  • Boil the potatoes in their skins until soft, then cool them completely skin and grate the potatoes
  • Add all other ingredients except the flour and mix thoroughly
  • Sprinkle in enough flour so the mixture stays together when forming balls
  • Form the balls in your hands, about three inches in diameter
  • Heat a pot of water, do not form the balls until the water is simmering
  • Just before lowering the balls into the simmering water roll them in flour
  • Lower the balls into the water slowly with a large slotted spoon
  • Cook in simmering water for 9-10 minutes; they will sink then float
  • Do not lift the lid until the cooking time is up or the balls will fall apart
  • Serve with gravy, red cabbage and sauerbraten or schnitzel and stewed tomatoes if desired

RHO 6-26-16

Why Asparagus Causes Pungent Urine Odors

July 5th, 2016

Asparagus

OK I’ll admit it, I really like asparagus.  Have you ever eaten asparagus and noticed that it gives your urine a pungent odor?  Or perhaps you’ve heard about the phenomenon but wondered why it doesn’t seem to affect you.

Observations of how what we eat can affect urine can be traced back through history, from the ancient Greeks.  Asparagus’s potential to affect urine was described in 1735. This seems to coincide with when the British first started using fertilizers containing sulfur on crops, although this could be coincidental.  And as only the Brits could put it one British men’s club is rumored to have put up a sign: “During the asparagus season, members are requested not to relieve themselves in the hat stand.”

The asparagus odiferous urine link seems to all come down to one chemical, asparagusic acid.  Asparagusic acid, as it is cleverly named, seems to only be found in asparagus.

12D4CA

1,2-Dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid

S2(CH2)2CHCO2H

When our bodies digest the vegetable, this chemical is broken down into a group of related sulfur-containing compounds including methanethiol, dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone. As with many other substances that include sulfur such as rotten eggs, onions, garlic, and skunk spray these sulfur-containing molecules convey a powerful, typically unpleasant scent.  These molecules are volatile, meaning that they can easily vaporize into a gaseous state at room temperature and can be detected by the human nose at very low concentrations.

Asparagusic acid, on the other hand, isn’t volatile, so asparagus itself doesn’t have the same rotten smell (asparagus probably would not be a popular vegetable if it did). But once your body converts asparagusic acid into these volatile, sulfur-bearing compounds, the distinctive aroma can be generated, and quite quickly…..in some cases, it’s been detected in the urine of people who ate asparagus just 15-30 minutes earlier.

There have been different theories put forward over the years explaining why only some people notice a smell after eating asparagus.  Perhaps some people’s digestive systems don’t break down asparagusic acid into these pungent chemicals…….or perhaps not everyone can detect these smells at low levels.  Depending on which study you read, between 25% and 50% of people report having pungent urine after eating asparagus.

So the issue might not be whether or not your urine is smelly, it might be whether you’re able to smell it.

Anyway I’ve long wondered about this so I thought I would share it with you.  You are welcome.

Did you know that squid and calamari are different?

June 7th, 2016

This is an addendum to my posting: “Make sure your calamari has tentacles on it

SquidVCalamari

A while back I was in a restaurant and wanted to order a calamari appetizer.  I half-jokingly asked the waitress if it was really squid.  She surprised me with “No, it is calamari.”  I did a little searching and discovered something interesting.  So what is the difference between squid and calamari?  …..about $5 a pound.

Many people, including me until recently, think squid and calamari are the same. Actually squid and calamari are two different species.  They are cephalopods of the order teuthida and there are well over 300 different species.  Squid is cheaper and tougher while calamari is more tender and expensive.  Squid is usually Nototodarus gouldi, Gould’s squid, or Teuthoidea. Calamari come from the genus Sepioteuthis. You can tell squid from calamari by the fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the hood.  Squids have fins, but these run only for a short distance on the sides of the body. The fins of calamari extend almost all the way down the hood.  When you see both, you can make out the difference easily.  See the photographs above.

Some people even think that calamari is just the Italian word for squid, or that squid refers to the creature and calamari refers to the cooked item. Perhaps the difference in the name used might be because calamari sounds more palatable than squid.  In some restaurants the term calamari refers to Mediterranean dishes made from squid. In some parts of the world, baby squid used for cooking are known by the name calamari.

……and I’m sure that is much more than you wanted to know.