Declaring my love for Gelato

Revealing my secret today-I have always had a thing for Gelato! To me, it is better than ice cream. It tastes softer, creamier and richer in flavor. Moreover, some of my favorite flavors – pistachio, hazelnut, mango, fig – are more readily available in Gelato, than ice cream.

This quest for Gelato has taken me on a long journey. In 2008, I travelled to Italy, where a large portion of my meal budget was spent on Gelato. On my first evening in Rome, as I was walking past a café, I ordered myself a large scoop of mixed berry gelato. I had to ask the cashier twice when he billed me for 10 Euros (approx $20 at the time).  Well, I was hooked right from the first bite. For the next seven days, I substituted breakfast, lunch and many dinners, with chocolate, hazelnut, lemon, strawberry, pistachio, coffee, stracciatella and many more flavors of Gelato.

After I returned home, I searched for all Gelato vendors in Atlanta. I tried the fresh stock at Whole Foods, Alon’s Bakery and Paulo’s. I even ventured into the frozen isles of upscale grocery stores. Not many options available and whatever I did try, it didn’t come close to what I had in Italy. Needless to say, I have been looking for the perfect Gelato in every city I visit.

Europe by plane is not Europe at allSpring of 2010, my boss and I were in Tucson, Arizona attending a Human Capital conference. We ate dinner one evening in a local shopping center and decided to have dessert at a Gelato parlor next door.  It was packed on a Sunday night and rated highly in the area. During our conversation and my declaration for the love of Gelato, my boss mentioned a place in Hilton Head in South Carolina, called Pino Gelato that he frequently visited. It was next door to his vacation property and he claimed it was one of the best he had tried. I had to find that out for myself!

Next thing I knew, I was talking to the owners of Pino Gelato in Hilton Head, tasting their product, touring their facility and learning about how to purchase a license from them to open a store of my own in Atlanta. The owners, John and Ramona were very passionate about their Gelato and managed their operations hands-on. Even the other license owners I talked to were very happy with their business.

I decided to put the business idea on hold for the time being, but not my love. Once I returned from Hilton Head, I bought an ice-cream machine, a food thermometer, a coffee grinder, several air tight plastic containers and the Ciao Bella recipe book.

Which takes me to my next post on Tips on making homemade Gelato

Contiki Get on the Bus Contest

If you are on Facebook, you must vote for the “Go Eat Give” bus. My girlfriends and I have entered to win a trip to Asia (Thailand, Laos and Cambodia) worth $25,000 sponsored by Contiki. If we win, we will connect people, places and palates! Our mission is to explore cultures by connecting with the locals, learning, sharing, eating, partying and volunteering.

The bus with the most number of votes will win. All you have to do is click “Like” on our page and ask your friends on Facebook to do the same. Thanks in advance!

Discovery Adventures Newsletter

Where to eat at the airport?

A dear friend of mine from high school, who is now settled in Australia, sent me a note the other day saying “I am a picky eater and don’t know what to eat at the airport when I am travelling. Should I try a new cuisine while I have a layover in a foreign country?” I promised her that I will respond in detail, so here it is.

Airport is not the place to experiment with food or try a new cuisine that you are unfamiliar with. Generally, airport gourmet consists of fast food or sport bar like restaurants. Very rarely, would you find a palatable freshly cooked meal at an airport (with some exceptions). My recommendation is to stick to what you are familiar with. If there are certain brand names that you have tried and liked before, eat there.

Since an airport caters to people from different cultures, ages and preferences, the choices tend to be more international than local. You will tend to find pretty much the same categories of foods – American, Chinese, Italian, Coffee Shops, Bars, etc. at each airport without fail. There may be one or two restaurants that would offer regional fare based on the location. For example Mexican is quite common in Southwestern United States, steaks in the Midwest. Again, if you have eaten a stake before, go ahead and have one. But if you are a newbie, please don’t make the airport a place for your virgin foodie experience.

Frequent travelers often complain about not being able to eat healthy while on the road. Your choice of what you are consuming is perhaps the most important decision factor in picking an airport restaurant. I have found that if you do pay attention and look around, you can always find healthy options such as soups, salads and sandwiches at the very least. The hardest part is to control your mind that may be wandering off to the tempting smell of French fries and doughnuts.

Some common sense should also be used when picking from the menu. You don’t want to eat seafood in a fast food restaurant. A lot of people are conscious of where their meat comes from and I bet your airport restaurant will not be able to provide you this information. Best option is to stay vegetarian as much as you can, but go easy on the cheese and white flour. Eating too many carbohydrates can leave you feeling bloated in the sky.

I like to pack my own snacks before I leave home. Granola bars and dried fruits (almonds, raisins, etc.) are my favorites. That ways, I always have something on me in case of delays and I am not famished and reaching out to the first available food joint that I spot. These days, there are outlets for frozen yogurt and nuts everywhere, so you can forego the free peanuts, pretzels and cookies.

Save on Airport Parking

Travelling abroad with credit cards

I have friends who believe in not using credit cards at all in order to control their spending. I also have friends on the other side of the spectrum that have Multiple Credit Cards. However, it’s the people that don’t believe in credit cards that concern me. I say to them, you must carry a credit card when traveling abroad. You never know when you get into a situation when you need extra cash (such as when all airlines stopped operating due to the volcanic ash from Iceland last year) or when you get stranded in a foreign country against your wishes. If you don’t yet have a credit card, you definitely need to get one. If you need help choosing a credit card, check out this article.

Here are some tips I have listed that will help you in better managing your credit cards while on your next trip overseas:

Research the country you will be traveling to and find out what are the acceptable cards there. Some countries, such as India do not accept Discover cards at most outlets. You can easily find this out by visiting a local hotel web site and looking at their reservation page.

Make sure you carry the same card that you use to make your travel reservations with. Sometimes, the airline or hotel would ask you for it.

You dont need to carry all your cards with you. Carry only 2-3 credit cards, plus your debit card with you. I find my bank offers me the best conversion rate on foreign currencies and no ATM fees anywhere in the world. Therefore, I just withdraw cash as and when I need it. However you may want to beware of credit card charges, especially when abroad.

Most credit cards offer a transaction fee when using the card outside US. Call your credit card company and ask them their rates before deciding on which one to carry with you.

If you are planning to go outside the country for a longer period of time (1 month+) call your credit card company and ask them to issue you another local card so that you are not paying a transaction fee every time. If they say no, call their local office in the country you are in once you get there.

Call your credit card company and let them know where and when you will be travelling. If you fail to do so, you may find that your card has been put on fraud alert and you no longer have access to it.

Make sure you make a photocopy of each card or write the card number and customer service number. This will be handy in case your card is lost or stolen. You will be able to call the bank and cancel your card immediately.

To avoid scams when travelling abroad, I recommend using credit cards only at reputable facilities. Use cash at restaurants, smaller shops, tours, etc. If the establishment does not have a web site, it will be hard to dispute any false charges later on. Do not give your card to individuals under any circumstances.

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Cooks across borders

I was talking to a friend last night who is a jazz singer. She works long hours and wants to have a light snack that is quick to prepare, when she come home late in the night. She said her favorite treat was homemade popcorn sprinkled with chaat masala. That got me thinking I should write about this!

Have you ever tried blending flavors from two different countries to create one stunning dish? The art has come to be known as “Fusion” and has gained significant popularity over the recent years.  I believe there has always been some degree of fusion taking place but it’s been geographically limited to neighboring countries. For example, the Mediterranean countries borrow cuisines from each other.  In the Far East, Singapore adopts spices from India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Restaurants and chefs have gone a step further by combining distinct cuisines into one meal. Vermillion in Chicago, Mesa Grill in New York City and Lukshon in Los Angeles are a few top rated ones. Even on the show, Top Chef, the contestants were asked to create something by picking flags randomly. The Mexican-Chinese pairing was quite challenging!

If you want to experiment with international flavors at home, you need not be a Master Chef.  Even if you know a few basics, proceed confidently.

Trick #1: You family already enjoys pasta. Why not grab a sauce from another country and add it to your favorite pasta. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Thai+Italian=Make a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers.

Indian+Italian=Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza.

Mexican+Italian=Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta.

More tricks coming each week.

Have any tips of your own? Please share in the Comments section.


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Welcome to Go Eat Give!

Hello!

Consider me a self proclaimed foodie. I have a genuine passion for people, places and food. I believe that food is one thing brings us together. When we humans meet, we eat.  By travelling around the world, exploring different cuisines and writing about my experiences, I want to enrich myself and my readers. Even if you don’t get to travel or try different things often, I hope I am able to open up the world to you in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Growing up in a small town of India, I had the opportunity of meeting people from all over the world. My grandmother was a Servas host (a travel exchange program) and we would entertain tourists to stay with us for days. Back then, I travelled through their stories and pictures. I was making a mental list of all the places I would visit someday when I grown up.

Meanwhile, I lived some of my passion through my childhood years. When we stayed at any 5 star hotels, I would request the F&B manager for a personal tour of their kitchens and often found my 10-year-old-self sitting at the bar enjoying maraschino cherries out of a martini glass. My high school librarian was also baffled by my attraction toward cookbooks rather than Nancy Drew’s and Hardy Boys (which the rest of my class was reading). Since I didn’t particularly enjoy the old fashioned gas-and-match stove in our extremely warm kitchen in India, I would translate recipes from English to Hindi and dictate them to our help at home. (Pretty much every household has a maid in India). I taught her how to make cheese blintzes, chocolate mousse and bird’s nest noodle bowls, amongst other totally foreign concepts in India at the time. Boy was she a marketable chef already!

Fast forward to 1997, I moved to the United States and found myself going to college and working in an Italian restaurant part time. I wasn’t exposed to any cuisines other than Indian, Chinese, Fast Food and Continental (loosely used term in high end Indian coffee shops in 80’s) until this point, so I decided I would try a new dish from the menu each day. It was work related research as I needed to describe the food to my patrons in my own words. Needless to say, I gained 30 pounds in 3 months. It felt like heaven!

Dating took the culinary scene to a whole new level. It gave me the perfect excuse to try new restaurants and experiment with different cuisines.  I would suggest a Thai, Korean, French or Malaysian restaurant and most guys would oblige. Thankfully, my boyfriend at the time (husband now) also shared the passion for eating out every night.

In the beginning, I started cooking out of necessity (as I had to feed myself and my hubby). But with cookbooks, cooking hows and the Internet, I began to experiment on my own. I would recreate recipes I tried in fancy restaurants and would keep improving upon existing ones. I particularly enjoyed blending flavors and creating a variety of palates on my dinner menu, such as an artist would. Soon I was critiquing restaurants for local magazines, teaching international cooking classes and throwing themed dinner parties!

Now I want to share this knowledge with the world. Therefore, I have put together this web site which would allow me to share my travel stories, favorite things, personal recipes and other adventures. I imagine it to be educational, inspirational and fun.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Bon appetite!  Bon voyage!

Sucheta