What to Expect at the Mongolian Dinner Table

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is a huge country with vast open grasslands, mountains and deserts. Harsh cold winters and gusty winds make it difficult to grow much here. Therefore, the nomadic Mongol diet relies mostly on animal products, such as meat, cheese, yogurt and milk.

So what to expect to eat as you travel through Mongolia?

The capital city of Ulaanbaatar (UB) is comparable to any metropolis in Central Asia. Here you will find all sorts of restaurants, cafes, bars and grocery stores. There are traditional Mongolian places, as well as tourist-friendly international restaurants serving American, Russian, Irish, Japanese, and Italian food. Korean cuisine is perhaps the most popular as many Korean tourists visit Mongolia (it is an easy 3 hour direct flight from Seoul). I even found a few Indian/ Hazara restaurants in UB.

Indian food in Mongolia

A visit to the State Department Grocery Store in UB gives a good perspective on the produce that is imported from abroad. There is generally a small section of fresh organic Mongolian produce, which is more expensive than it’s Chinese counterpart. The variety of fruits and vegetables is plentiful, though not as appealing as I am use to. Think overripe bananas, pale red apples, softening grapes. Isles of sausages and cheese from Russia can easily be found. There are plenty of packages food though – cookies, chocolates, nuts, chips – practically everything you can think of. The cooked food section boasts kimchi, fried snacks and noodles, favoring the spicy tastebuds of the locals.

Outside of UB, there are supermarkets selling all of needed essentials. In some of the smaller towns that I visited, the amount of produce diminished significantly. Here street vendors could be found selling freshly harvested green onions, peaches and watermelon.

While staying at luxury tourist ger camps, we were served three meals daily. Breakfast typically consisted of an assortment of bakery items (bread, cakes, pancakes, waffles), cheese, yogurt, cereal, tea, canned fruits and eggs made to order. I don’t think Mongols are very good bakers as most of the cakes were very dry and flavorless. Some of the places only had instant coffee.

breakfast at ger camps

Lunches were generally picnic style as we were out sightseeing at remote areas. The hotel would pack a lunch box – wraps, salads, sandwiches, noodles, etc. that we carried with us.

picnic lunch in Gobi desert

Sometimes we went to traditional Mongolian restaurants, which I really enjoyed. At the 13th Century National Park, we sat on the floor, watched live performances, while eating delicious Khuushuur stuffed with ground beef (and a vegetarian version for me). This is also the most popular thing to eat (like a hot dog) at the Naadam festival.

Modern Nomads in UB is always packed with visitors who want to try traditional Mongolian dishes in the city. Buckets of grilled meats (Khorkhog) along with chilled beer is the perfect campground treat. Strangely they had chewing gum listed as a snack on the menu!

It is important to note that the Mongolian diet consists mainly of meat (beef, horse, goat, sheep, yak, marmot and camel) as it helps retain fat and heat during the long winters. Though vegetarians wouldn’t have survived here in the past, today there are many meat-free options for those traveling through the country.

mongolian bbq

When we were out visiting nomadic camps, we were offered hot milk tea known as Süütei Tsai (made from horse, camel or cow milk), along with local fried cookies, Boortsog and dried cheese, Aaruul. It is customary to accept the offerings from your hosts, even if you are not hungry.

mongolian snacks at Naadam

At dinner, we enjoyed international dishes, such as fresh salad with tomatoes, olives and cheese at Dream Terelj Lodge; pizza at Peace Pub Restaurant; grilled chicken or fish with roasted potatoes or french fries at Dream Gobi Ger Lodge.

All the restaurants served alcohol, beer and wine; vodka being the most popular drink. There are many Mongolian brewed vodkas (many of them named Chinggis) and they are actually very good.

I discovered that there are no Mongolian dessert except for sweet dried fermented cheese, but with the international influence, bakeries have popped up in the city. One that I frequented was Caffe Bene that served gelato, cakes, coffee and juices, and Grand Khaan Irish Pub for drinks and desserts.

Read Mongolian Cuisine Is a Carnivore’s Dream Come True on MilesAway blog.

We’re Bringing the Puerto Rican Food Party to Atlanta

The coast, the mountains, and the home: that is the landscape of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine painted by Atlanta-based renowned Chef, Hector Santiago. Known for his stint on Top Chef, Santiago has made a name for himself through his restaurants Pura Vida, and his most recent foray in the Atlanta food scene, El Super Pan.

INSPIRED BY THE WORLD – El Super Pan boasts traditional dishes from all around the Spanish Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic), some of which have very non-traditional fusion elements from other international cuisines, particularly flavors from East Asia. One would never see pork belly buns, fish sauce, or anchovies in Puerto Rican cuisine, but Santiago is a firm believer in the expansion of what we know about food. He is inspired to create by the fresh ingredients grown in whatever environment he happens to be cooking in.

El Super Pan's pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine
El Super Pan’s pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine

Santiago, along with other Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chefs, Julio Delgado and Andre Gomez, will be planning a menu for Go Eat Give Destination Puerto Rico that provides a true glimpse into the everyday food in Puerto Rico; a real slice of life. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing “run-of-the-mill” about everyday Puerto Rican food. It is full of layers of spices, textures, and strong flavors, because food and eating is such a big part of Puerto Rican culture. Santiago said that when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, cooking at a young age was extremely common, and all of his friends used to come to his house to cook together, laugh, play, and eat. 

Two staples of Puerto Rican cuisine that you will see as a base for just about every Puerto Rican dish are Sofrito and Adobo. Sofrito is a rich mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper that serves as a starting out place for much of Puerto Rican cuisine. Adobo is a complementary mixture of spices that one would be extremely remiss to leave out of their Puerto Rican dish: cumin, corriander, oregano, black pepper, garlic, etc. These spices and vegetable bases make cuisine so flavorful and bold, it’s easy to take for granted. Santiago recalled the first time that he tried oatmeal in the mainland United States, and he thought, “what is this?” “Puerto Ricans hate bland food,” he laughed “at home oatmeal has vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, sugar, a little salt. It’s one of those big differences.”

YEAR-ROUND FOOD FESTIVALS – Santiago explained that there is an immense festival culture in Puerto Rico. There is always something going on and with that, comes the food. He joked, “If you’re not drinking Cerveza in Puerto Rico, you’re probably eating!” There is truly a festival for every occasion on Puerto Rico and for the harvest of every possible staple food you could think of. There are coffee festivals, banana festivals, taro festivals, corn festivals, tomato festivals, orange festivals and more than five different festivals dedicated to crab. Puerto Rico is also a growing home to very large, internationally recognized culinary festivals, like Saborea (savor) where over 70 chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas come together to celebrate the best the country has to offer.  I’m not sure there are many other places in the world where food is SO central and so celebrated–that’s how you know it’s going to be good. 

Bacalaitos--fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack
Bacalaitos–fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack

THE COAST – To start, the chefs will present a taste of the coast. Attendees will taste bacalitos, which are fritters of salted cod. Santiago says bacalaitos are a very traditional Puerto Rican dish, despite the fishes’ natural cold water habitat. They are a food tradition left over from Spanish influence, so they import the cod to keep the tradition alive. There will be a variety of empanadas and alcapurrias. Alcapurrias, unlike empanadas, are made with a batter of mashed root vegetables like plantains and taro, and are often stuffed with fish or crab. This is the food people think of and crave in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico: little, deliciously crunchy, fried seafood snacks that are easy to grab and go.

An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine
An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine

THE MOUNTAINS – For the main courses, Santiago, Gomez, and Delgado will prepare a taste of the mountains, a frequent weekend escape destination for many Puerto Rican families. One of the dishes include Mofongo. Although you will find similar cuisine throughout the Spanish Caribbean, mofongo is thought of as originally Puerto Rican. It features green plantains mashed, fried, and served with crispy pork chops spiced with, of course, adobo and garlic. Pork is a common and celebrated form of protein in Puerto Rico. So, we will also get to taste Lechon Asao, pork slow roasted until the skin is thin and crispy, which will be served with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas).

Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding
Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding

THE CASA – For the final course, we’ll get to taste Puerto Rican desserts commonly served at home such as flan, arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon, coconut and raisins, and a Puerto Rican favorite: papaya con queso. As I was speaking with him, I could tell Santiago clearly favored the latter as he nodded and said, “It’s amazing.”

All of these thoughtfully planned out and expertly prepared dishes, combined with the live music and dancing always present at Puerto Rican food festivals, we are all going to feel as if we are actually there. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazingly rich culture than through a fiesta of food, one of the things it holds most dear. So let’s eat!

GET YOUR TICKETS TO DESTINATION PUERTO RICO TODAY!
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Read more about Hector Santiago and El Super Pan

Read more abut Julio Delgado and JP Atlanta

Read more about Andres Gomez and Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Dine Out for Go Eat Give

Bring your family & friends for an evening of good food and feeling good. Yeah! Burger is going to donate 10% percent of all sales from 6-10PM to your favorite charity, Go Eat Give.

Yeah! Burger – West Midtown prides itself in serving real food with ingredients sourced from local farmers who pride themselves in raising animals that are humanely treated. Make your own burgers, salads and hot dogs. Get a crafty cocktail or High Road Craft Ice Cream ice cream. They also offer gluten-free and vegan options.

Go Eat Give is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness through food, travel and community service.

Top 10 Must Eat Food and Drink in Chile

I have to say, I had very little knowledge of Chilean food before going there. Though Chilean wines have found their fame in international markets, authentic Chilean restaurants are hard to come by. During my two-week trip around Chile with Yampu Tours, I ate at many great hotels, restaurants, and cafes.

One thing I concluded was that chefs in Chile are hugely influenced by European cuisine. Not only do they use French cooking techniques, many focus entire menus on French, Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

The second most popular cuisine in Chile is German, specially in the southern part. In the cities of Fruitillar and Puerto Varas, you can find traditional German bakeries selling all kinds of kuchen, and restaurants specializing in German style sandwiches. There is also the popular Kunstmann brewery in the town of Valdivia, where German settlers arrived first in early 1800’s.

So what exactly is Chilean cuisine?

There are few traditional dishes that the Chilean people still enjoy for casual meals and at home. As a tourist, I felt I had to seek out for these places. Most tour companies feel that they are too rustic to take international visitors to. But what good is visiting another country if you haven’t tried the local food?

  1. Empanadas – Chilean empanadas are 6-8 inch long rectangular doughy pastries, stuffed with mainly beef, onions, raisins, and boiled eggs. These are baked in traditional brick ovens and known as Empanada de Orno. Fried empanadas are also common, and stuffed with cheese or meat. When cooked well, the crust is flaky and crisp, while not too greasy. Try it with ají verde (green chili pepper sauce).

Where to eat empanadas: Marmoni restaurant in Pucon, Quillay outside Santiago.

Chilean empanadas2. Pisco Sour – The Chilean version of pisco sour generally doesn’t contains eggs, due to salmonella contamination. There is some excellent quality pisco that is produced in the northern region of Chile. You can order your pisco sour in different flavors such as mango, pineapple, cucumber-ginger, etc.

Where to drink pisco: Vira Vira Hotel in Pucon. The bartender, Luis Mariano Cerda Monsalve is a well known mixologist who has published his recipe book on cocktails, as well as written about extensively.

3. Sopaipillas – There are two versions of this deep fried bread that is often served as an appetizer. The first one is made with white flour, animal fat and water, and another in which pureed pumpkin is mixed to the dough. In each version, the dough is formed as disks and then deep fried. It can be eaten sweet, with icing sugar or a sweet caramel sauce, or as a salty snack, topped with a chili sauce or mustard.

Where to eat Sopaipillas – Marmoni restaurant in Pucon and Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
 Sopaipillas at Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
4. Cazuela – If there was a national dish of Chile, this would be it! The rustic stew is simmered for hours with chicken or beef broth, corn, rice, potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, green beans. It is served piping hot in a clay pot, and is the best comfort food on a cool evening.
Where to eat Cazuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago is a good place to try authentic Chilean food. It is always packed with locals and they don’t accept reservations.
Casuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago
5. Humitas – Similar to Mexican tamale, Humitas in Chile are prepared with fresh corn, onion, basil, and butter, wrapped in corn husks, and baked or boiled. They can be made savory, sweet, or sweet and sour, served with added sugar, chile pepper, salt, tomato, olive and paprika.
6. Pastel Del Choclo – Chilean version of the Shepherd’s pie, this corn pudding is layered with beef, chicken, whole olives, onions and hard boiled eggs. The dish is delicious but also heavy in calories.
Where to eat Casuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago.
Pastel Del Choclo
7. Quinoa – Harvesting quinoa in northern Chile dates back 7,000 years. These protein packed seeds are integral to survival of the Mapuche people. It is still used to make drinks, sides and desserts.
Where to eat quinoa: Awasi Atacama hotel serves a delicious vegetarian quinoa dish with tomato sauce and baby vegetables for lunch.
Quinoa dish at Awasi Atacama
8. Seafood – Chile’s long coastline is abundant with species of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and algae. Local seafood that I tried during the Fall season included abalone, hake, corvina, salmon, reineta, congrio, giant mussels and razor clams. The fish is simply prepared on the grill, with very little seasoning.
Where to eat seafood: Ibis Restaurant in Puerto Varas with a great view overlooking Lake Llanquihue, and Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
Locos at Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery
9. Asado – BBQ parties are a favorite pastime of Chileans over the weekends. Friends and families gather in backyards, drinking wine, grilling meats, talking and enjoying the beautiful weather. While beef and pork are common, the Chilean speciality is cordero al palo (whole roast lamb) grilled for 5 hours and accompanied with pebre, a local condiment made from pureed herbs, garlic, and hot peppers; in many ways similar to chimichurri. The dish is typical of southern Chile and is served hot accompanied by salads.
10. Dulce de Leche desserts – My sweet tooth went on a field trip once I discovered the different desserts made with caramel across the town of Pucon. Brazo de Reina is a Swiss cake roll layered with homemade dulce de leche. Torta de Mil Hojas is a Napolean style flaky pastry with a big chunk of dulce de leche. Alfajores are chocolate discs filled with caramel, similar to moon pies. Of course, the Kuchen (German cakes) are amazing too!
Where to eat Dulce desserts: Pasteleria Mamacelia is a hole in the wall bakery next to a gas station, where the locals go to eat empanadas and pastries. Other sit down sweet shops are Suiza Pasteleria and Cassis in Pucon. Winkler Family Kuchenladen in Frutillar is a must stop for German cakes.
Torta Mieloja
This is no way the complete guide to Chilean cuisine. They are just some of the dishes I ate and highly recommend you do it!
Do you have a Chilean recipe you really like? If so, share with our readers below…

Persian Cooking Class

Savor the flavors of Persia with an intimate cooking class taught by acclaimed restauranter/ chef, Jalal Khadivi. Jalal was born in Iran and ran Fanoos Persian restaurant in Atlanta for many years. He is passionate about his culture and his food. Co-hosted by award-winning food and travel writer, Sucheta Rawal. 

Menu includes Kashke Bademjon (eggplant dip), Gormet Sabzi (vegetable stew), Fessenjan (cornish hen with pomegrante & walnuts), Zereshik Pulao (barberries & saffron), tea and dessert.

Class is held in the comfort of a home, in an everyday kitchen with a handful of students. This is a no-pressure informal setting design especially for friends. You will get step by step instructions to take home. Class is hands-on and number of students limited. Advance registration is required. 

Address & directions will be send to registered students only. General Admission $50; Premium Members (half off) $25.

10 Dishes You Must Eat in Finland

When you think of Finnish food, what comes to mind? Actually, I never saw a Finnish restaurant outside Finland, or came up close with a Finnish chef or famous Finnish recipe. I did know they had reindeer and fish, so perhaps I would find something reasonable to eat in Finland?

Well, there are actually quite some delicious dishes in Finnish cuisine. Having an abundance of lakes and forests, the country has access to fresh seafood, game, berries and root vegetable. The Fins like to eat simply prepared, healthy and wholesome foods. Here are the top 10 dishes you must try when you visit Finland…

  1. Karelian pasty – Karjalanpiirakka is a traditional Finnish dish made from a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with boiled egg (egg butter or munavoi), is spread over the hot pastries before eating.finland rice pastry
  2. Rye bread – Sounds simple, but this may be the best bread you would have tasted! They also add flax seeds and spelt so the bread is hearty and healthy. Spread with homemade jams, butter, and cheese. I looked forward to breakfast each day. fish soup and rye bread
  3. Hernekeitto – Fins love to eat soups and stews for lunch. This one is a split pea soup, which is traditionally eaten on Thursdays with pork or pancakes.
  4. Salmon – Fresh and smoked salmon (gravlax) is probably one of the best in Scandinavia. The fresh cold waters of the fjords allow for the salmon to stay pink in color (vs the Alaskan red) and is fattier. There’s hardly a meal in Finland where you can escape salmon.finland smoked salmon
  5. Herring – Baltic herring is another popular ingredient found in Finning cuisine. Smoked herring and pickled herring are commonly served as appetizers, sometimes accompanied by small potatoes called uusiperuna which literally means new potato. I also tried fried herring at the historic Sea Horse restaurant in Helsinki.
  6. Crayfish – I am a big fan of shellfish and some of the best crayfish I have ever eaten has been in Helsinki. Tender and juicy chunks are tossed with mayo and spread on toast, with a sprinkle of fresh dill and lemon juice. Best place to eat it is at the Old Market Hall near the Helsinki harbor.
  7. Reindeer – In a country where reindeers are allowed to roam free and not raised for meat, this is the most sustainable protein. You can find reindeer sausages, kebabs, hamburgers, stews, jerky, steaks and every imaginable meat dish. No matter which form you eat your reindeer in, it is good to know that the meat contains only 4% fat and is rich in omega-3, omega-6, B-12, zinc and iron.reindeer stew
  8. Cloudberries – Found in the northern forests of Finland, cloudberries are little orange tart berries packed with vitamin. At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, I had all kinds of cocktails, jams and desserts with cloudberries. The Lappish squeaky cheese baked with cloudberries is the most popular dessert. Cloudberries are a source of youth, as they contain a lot of anti-oxidants that protect against cancer and heart disease, and reduce the process of aging.cloudberries
  9. Salty licorice – Salmiakki is made with ammonium chloride, making the candy very salty. It comes in different flavors and textures, from soft and chewy, to hard and brittle. It is an acquired taste but the Finns love it.
  10. Salmiakki kossu – Is a premixed alcoholic drink with vodka, and peppery licorice. It is dark charcoal color and has a strong flavor. Finlandia is another popular brand of Finish distilled vodka made of barley.

Do you have a favorite Finish dish? Share it below…

Ten Best Things I Ate in Israel

During my recent Food and Wine Tour to Israel, I got a crash course in the cuisine that has spanned a few thousand years. I spent most of my days wandering around local markets, meeting chefs, taking cooking classes, drinking at bars and wineries, and dining at all kinds of restaurants (some had no name, while other’s were run by award-winning chefs).

There is no exaggeration in saying that I tasted over 200 dishes over the course of 7 days, yet I was only scratching the surface. Israeli cuisine cannot be defined in a sentence. Like it’s people, the food of Israel has roots everywhere in the world. Influences of Italy, France, Spain, Russia, Poland, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq, Bulgaria and many more, can be found everywhere.

If you are planning to visit Israel, make room for a larger appetite because there’s a lot of good food to try. Here were my top 10 dishes from eating in Israel.

hot hummus israel

1. Hummus at Shlomon & Dorrone, Carmel Market. Ms. Moran of Delicious Israel took me on a walking/ tasting tour of the market. She told me that hummus is an integral part of the Israeli diet. Of course everyone has their own recipe and there is an ongoing competition of who makes the best hummus. Israel recently won over Lebanon for making the largest hummus bowl, at a whopping 11 tons!

The proper way to eat hummus though is as a meal, not as a side or a dip. It is always warm, with the chunkier part on the outside and creamier mashed garbanzo beans placed on the inner part of the dish. It can be topped with shakshuka, chick peas, cumin and parsley. You may see a brownish looking boiled egg in the middle, which has been cooked in black tea water. On the side, I am served raw onions (cut like scoops), long peppers, lemons and warm pita bread.

israel-food-falafal

2. Falafal – Like hummus, there are debates on who makes the best falafel. It is a simple recipe using ground chickpeas, parsley, and tahini, but the art is in balancing the texture vs flavor. A good falafel should be soft and flaky on the inside, and crisp on the outside. It shouldn’t be dull and allow for one ingredient to overpower another’s flavors.

israel-food-shawrma

3. Shawrma at Al-Shaweesh, Jerusalem. Oh the aroma of meat roasting on an open fire, as you walk past no-name cafes in the colorful Arab markets can be quite overwhelming. The best shawarma I had was at family-run cafeteria in the Old City of Jerusalem, called Al-Shaweesh. The meat was soft and peppery taste, and it was served with a variety of colorful side salads.

israel-food-maknuba

4. Maqluba at Eucalyptus restaurant, Jerusalem. A traditional Palestine and Jordanian dish, maqluba is one of those comfort foods, that when cooked right, goes straight from your mouth to your soul. The one I had at Eucalyptus had tender pieces of chicken, lots of root vegetables and turmeric rice. I helped the chef invert the pan in a maqluba turning over ceremony and enjoyed the delicious scrapes from the bottom!

Mahaneyehuda

5. Shakshuka at Mahaneyehuda Restaurant, Jerusalem. Similar to the Mexican breakfast dish huevos rancheros, shakshuka is a ragout of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoeschili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. The version at Mahaneyehuda, a happening restaurant in the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, also had flavorful ground beef mixed in. I just couldn’t stop eating!

sabich

6. Sabich at Sabich Tchernichivoski, Tel Aviv. Sabich is an Israeli sandwich, consisting of pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hummustahiniIsraeli salad, boiled potatoes (in some versions), parsley, amba, and hard boiled eggs. It is a popular street food of Israel and it’s origins stem from the Iraqi Jews who ate it on Shabbat mornings. I tried it at few different places and found Sabich Tchernichivoski to be the most fresh and flavorful. I could eat this everyday!

israel-food-sambusa7. Sambusak at Wahad Falafel, Iraqi Market in Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. These fried savory turnovers were stuffed with spicy chickpeas and potato curry, and served with amba. They reminded me of their Caribbean cousin, Doubles. The kiosk was very small, with only 2-3 tables. It served only sambusak and falafel in take-away paper bags.

israel-food6

8. Majadara at Pnina’s house, Maghar village. I took a private cooking class at the home of Pnin, a Druze woman, through GalilEat. Lentils and rice is pretty common combination all over the world, but this lentils and bulgur wheat recipe was so simple yet delicious. Brown lentils were lightly seasoned with baharat seasoning and made for a great vegetarian entree or side.

 

boureka9. Bourekas at Syrian Bakery, Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. There was a little shop in the corner that looked like a tin shed that was about to fall. No name plate, address, menu or showcase. You had to step inside the bakery and point out to what you wanted (unless you spoke Hebrew). This family run operation has been around for 100-years but only the locals know about it. They undoubtedly make the best boureka, a phyllo pastry made with margarin and flour, and stuffed with either sour cheese or mashed potatoes. You can tell what’s inside by the shape of it.

Uri Buri Akko

10. Seafood at Uri Buri Restaurant in Akko – Located on the Mediterranean, 12 miles from the Lebanese border, Uri Buri Fish Restaurant is a fisherman/ chef restaurant that serves the catch of the day like you have never tasted before. As part of the chef’s tasting meal, I tried tuna, salmon, shrimp, octopus, calamari, roe, anchovies, scallops, and much more. Every single dish was cooked very gently with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and lemon juice, keeping intact the integral flavorful of the seafood. This is by far the best seafood I ate in Israel!

A Slice of the History of Pizza Pie

Luca Varuni is a master at his craft. As head chef and owner of Varuni Napoli he swears by the freshest ingredients and uses traditional Italian techniques to create the best Neapolitan pies. Growing up in Naples, Italy, he was surrounded by Italian chefs and studied under renowned chef Enzo Coccia, head chef of the only Michelin rated pizzeria in the world. After years of experience, he has settled in Atlanta with the goal of showing everyone what real Italian food is supposed to taste like. Inside Varuni Napoli you will notice large family-styled tables as well as conventional seating for smaller parties with the aim of creating an atmosphere best fit for you desired experience. Don’t be afraid to go alone, sitting at the bar gives you a firsthand experience and a direct view of the chefs at work. Since Varuni Napoli is based on the idea of tradition, we must travel back in time to see where these traditions originated to appreciate how pizza has ended up on our dining table.

Luca-2-904x576

 

Pizza has a complex history. Some suggest this dish started in Greece, others say Egypt, but the pizza we are familiar with today, got its start between the late 1700s and early 1800s in Naples, a city filled with the poor and working class.

The majority of the population required a quick and inexpensive meal during the day, before returning to work. Street vendors sold these flatbreads made with different toppings to satisfy the needs of workers. They were not looking for a rich or high quality meal, just a little something to tide them over during the long work hours.

varuni-napoli-9a

A man named Raffaele Esposito, considered by some to be the father of modern pizza, was known all over Naples to serve the most delicious pizzas. After Italy was unified, King Umberto and Queen Margherita visited Italy when Esposito was called on to make different pizzas for this royal couple. During the meal, Queen Margherita expressed her delight with the flatbread covered with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes (to represent the three colors of the Italian flag) so much that they named the pizza after Queen Margherita. After approval from the queen, the popularity of pizza grew and expanded beyond the borders of Italy.

Similar to Queen Margherita, Luca Varuni is also passionate about margherita pizza. He says here in this interview, “You can tell the quality and authenticity of a pizza place by the quality and authenticity of the margherita.” He proudly explains that the cheese, sauce and olive oil for his pizzas are all from the region of Naples.

During the late 19th century, many Europeans moved to the United States of America searching for factory jobs where the Neapolitans started family-run pizzerias. Americans couldn’t get enough of this Italian novelty as it spread quickly all over the country. Once pizza made it’s way to US, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first documented pizzeria in New York City in 1905, which still operates today. Pizza is a simple dish that started as a snack for peasants, and is now devoured by young and old people all over the world. There are hundreds of pizzerias all over the United Sates, but the Gayot Guide recently named Varuni Napoli as one of the top pizzerias in Atlanta for 2015.

6 Must Try Food and Drinks in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country brimming with sights, shopping, and fabulous food. As a country known for its diverse use of spices, its cuisine is one of the most colorful and vibrant of any in the world. Here is a quick overview of some of the most traditional and popular foods of Indonesia, and some of what you can taste at Go Eat Give Destination Indonesia on March 26th in Atlanta…

 1. Gado Gado

Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian dish suitable for every foodie, including vegetarians. The dish, translated to “mix-mix,” is a blend of various vegetables, tofu, and tempeh in a peanut sauce. It is sometimes served with crispy crackers as a snack, or on its own as a side or entree with rice.

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2. Saté

An Indonesian dish the is well known in the West and is similar to a shish kabob. Sate consists of different kinds of meat roasted over coals on bamboo skewers, and is often times paired with a peanut sauce. The meat may include chicken, beef, pork, tofu, and more. Saté originated in Java and was a creation of the Indonesian street vendors, but has spread around Indonesia and to neighboring countries.

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3. Kerak Telor

This dish is a crispy Indonesian “frittata” made with sticky rice, shrimp, coconut, shallots, and spices. Duck or eggs are commonly added to the meal based on the customer’s preference. Kerak Telor is one of the most popular street foods in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and derives from the Betawi culture. The dish also is said to resemble the western omelet though its spice and crispness set it apart.

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4. Rendang

Rendang originated in Pandang, a city in Sumatra, and is one of the most flavorful and iconic dishes of Indonesia. It is referred to as “West Sumatran caramelized beef curry” by culinary experts and was named the #1 most delicious food in the world by CNN International readers. The dish is made with beef, which is marinated, in a special curry for hours. Rendang can also be served dry as a soft jerky, but this is reserved only for special occasions.

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5. Cendol

Cendol is a traditional Indonesian dessert drink that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or tasted before. The base is made up of coconut milk, palm sugar, and shaved ice, and is mixed with various kinds of jelly noodles. The noodles are made out of red beans, rice, or even grass jelly. Iced cendol with durian fruit and chocolate milk is also popular in Indonesia.

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6. Bintang Bir Pilsner

If you ever find yourself in Indonesia during a night out, you’re bound to run into someone drinking Bintang Beer. It was introduced to the country by the Heineken brand during the 1930s under the original name Java Bier, and later took on its’ current name in 2006. Bintang means “star” in Indonesian, and the Bintang bottle features a red star that is reminiscent of the classic Heineken bottle. Additionally, the taste of Bintang is said to be very similar to Heineken with its’ malt and hop flavor.

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A “Culturally Fresh” Lebanon

 

Go Eat Give had the pleasure of welcoming a new group of attendees to Destination Lebanon at Nicola’s Restaurant last week!  The Greening Youth Foundation, a non-profit that works with underserved and underrepresented children to create overall healthy communities, attended the event bringing 15 students from Grady High School in Atlanta. And, this will not be the only time that Go Eat Give will host the Greening Youth Foundation. We are excited to announce that Go Eat Give has decided to partner with the Greening Youth Foundation to create a new program entitled “Culturally Fresh”. The aim of the program is to help raise awareness of international cultural and environment issues among the youth in the southern United States.

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The night started off with appetizers – hummus and baba ganoush, and a Q&A session with Lebanese born Nicola, who was an educator himself before he opened his restaurant about 31 years ago.  The students were full of enthusiasm and asked him lots of questions about his life growing up in Lebanon and immigrating to the United States. In addition, they had to complete a treasure hunt assignment on Lebanon. The assignment included questions about the typical Lebanese diet, interesting facts, and history of Lebanon.

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The second course included stuffed grape leaves, fried artichoke hearts, traditional fattoush salad, tabbouleh, and kibbee, which were all delicious. Later, the main dishes served were kafta with Lebanese rice, chicken a la beef, and chicken with artichoke hearts.  Dinner was especially exciting since most of the students from Grady High had never tried Lebanese food before!

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The bunch also had a unique opportunity to hear from Mr. Hrair Balian, Director of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center and adjunct professor at Emory Law.  He is also Lebanese born, specializes in Middle East conflicts, and speaks English, French, and Armenian.  Hrair discussed the culture of Lebanon, including how it evolved through time due to the influence of other countries and how this evolution has created the rich diversity of Lebanon’s population.

After the speaker and discussion, we were able to taste baklava for dessert (my personal favorite!).  Baklava is a rich and sweet pasty made of thin layers of filo dough and filled with nuts and honey.

Lastly, the students got a lesson in Dabke dancing from Nicola.  Typically there is a dabke leader, and the group joins hands together and stomps to the beat.  We had a blast, and theentire crowd at the restaurant got together for a line dance around the room.

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We are very excited about the future of Culturally Fresh and truly enjoyed the students joining in on the food, friends, and fun.