Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for December 2009

I don’t know how many people in Japan celebrate Christmas, but check out this Frosty the Snowman bento box lunch and Gingerbread Man bento posted on Refrigerator Soup’s site….both excellent ideas and cute as can be!  Refrigerator Soup features a number of other Japanese-inspired creations.

As with many Asian cultures, the Japanese celebrate countless holidays, festivals, and other observances throughout the year.  Foods of special significance and symbolism are served at each meal, and the food choices are just as varied as the styles and types of Japanese meals.   Japanese cuisine prides itself on a large variety of foods served in small quantities that look exquisite.

You can experience the culinary wonders of Japan first-hand on a culinary tour customized especially for your family or group.  See our Japan Sample Itinerary, and contact us for more information.

Domo Arigato & Happy Holidays!

Following our string of Italian-themed tweets this morning, I thought this would be a good day to write about Christmas food traditions in Italy, one of our culinary tour destinations.  On Thanksgiving, my family and friends enjoyed a Marsala-infused gravy with our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.  Our friends are still talking about it!  That was our “Italian-inspired” twist for that meal.

My fellow tweep and travel writer Barry Frangipane has great ideas on Christmas in Italy and Italian food and wine.  One of his tweets from this morning reads:

How do they celebrate Christmas in Venice? I found out: http://bit.ly/NOELvc

Also, I really like this video clip from Food Network’s “The Best Of” celebrating Christmas Eve at Aldo’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy.

Another fellow tweep and foodie, @foodiephotos, who runs the Web site Refrigerator Soup has some great photos and recipes on her site.  Check out this beautiful panettone, a traditional Italian holiday cake.  Refrigerator Soup posts photos of food submitted by food bloggers.  A great “foodie” and culinary resource!

Here’s to a joyous (and tasty!) holiday season.  Contact Celebrations International Travel to start planning your custom culinary tour today!

Almost all Chinese people I know (myself included) love to celebrate the holidays (make that any holiday) with an abundance of good food.  Considering my own background, I think the Chinese have some of the most discerning palates and tastes in the world.  By “discerning,” I don’t mean that all food has to be 5-star restaurant-looking, but it has to be good.  Good by the Chinese cook’s own discerning standards, that is!

While some foods are symbolic during various festivals and occasions, many dishes can be served and enjoyed throughout the year.  Here are a few traditional dishes:

Ming Tsai’s Red-Roast Duck with Baby Bok Choy

Braised Chinese Mushrooms

Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

Try your hand at making these and other Chinese specialties on a culinary tour to China!  The sample itinerary is posted on our Web site to give you an idea of the types of things you can see and do on one of our culinary tours.  However, we encourage you to take that inspiration (and your love of Chinese cooking) and run with it!  We will customize your culinary tour to suit your interests, preferences, dates, and budget.  Don’t just eat your way through China, this is your chance to truly experience the cuisine and culture!

Celebrations International Travel…Celebrating Life Through Travel SM

Rasamalaysia.com is offering a chance to win a copy of this unique new cookbook.   Here’s the link to enter by leaving a comment:  http://tinyurl.com/yjhfog6

Subtitled “Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens”, the cookbook offers a collection of recipes from various cuisines across Asia.

I must confess that I wasn’t always a fan of Asian foods while growing up.  I’m an American-born southern girl of Chinese heritage; many times I preferred to stick to good old macaroni and cheese!  But now that my husband and I have combined two distinct Asian cultures in our household, we are both ardent connoisseurs of all Asian cuisines.  (We’ll still join you any day for some scrumptious BBQ, NY Strip, or hearty American breakfast any day!)

I think this cookbook is a great way to not only celebrate our Asian origins, but to acknowledge and embrace our way of life in our American homeland as well.

Celebrations International Travel currently has sample itineraries for culinary tours in China, India, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.  We customize all itineraries to suit your family or group’s preferences, budget, and travel timeframe.

Interested in visiting another country in Asia or elsewhere in the world?  Let us know and we will create the tour just for you!  Contact us to start planning your culinary tour today!

I saw this tweet from CondeNastTraveler (@CNTraveler) this morning:

Nostalgic for her trip to Switzerland, Word of Mouth gal Eimear Lynch picked up this travel-size raclette set: http://bit.ly/741Xn7

It interested me because I never thought about raclette sets being used during travel and didn’t know they were available.

For those who may be unfamiliar with raclette, it is a meal consisting of cheeses, meats, vegetables, and/or anything else you wish, all cooked in small portions in the raclette grill at the table.  The cheeses are generally seen as the “star” of the meal, and it’s great to share with friends or large groups.  Each person just makes whatever suits them, and the variety is endless!

I’ve had a raclette meal twice, both enjoyed in the Alsace region of France, near the Swiss border.  I think this little gadget is a neat idea, although it’s not exactly meant for a “meal on on the go”.

Our France Culinary Tour may be of interest to you.  The link takes you to a sample itinerary that we created to inspire your adventuresome spirit, but all tours are customized to include only the places you want to see, and the activities and sightseeing you want to do.  The travel dates are up to you, and we will work with your budget for the trip.  Please contact us with any questions.

Bon Appetit!

Adrienne Mitra of Celebrations International Travel now participates as a panelist for Where I’ve Been’s Travel Tuesday Roundtable.  This week’s topic is family travel:

http://blog.whereivebeen.com/2009/12/travel-tuesday-roundtable-kids-on.html

Enjoy, and let us know your thoughts on this topic!

I received this email from a 10-year-old first-time cruiser who sailed on the Norwegian Star to the Mexican Riviera.  I think it’s interesting to see travel through the eyes of a child.

Dear Ms. Adrienne,

Thank you for setting up the cruise for us.  I had a lot of fun with my family and Ms. Nancy and Mr. Matt.  I did not sign up for any of the Kid’s activities because I didn’t want to hang out with the hooligans.  I enjoyed most of the cruise.  The only thing I didn’t like was the movement of the boat.  The food was great, but a little too nice.  (I like finger food!)  I really liked everything else.

When we got to Cabo San Lucas, we had signed up to go snorkeling and kayaking, but because of the weather the previous day, we couldn’t go.  It was extremely hot and humid in Cabo San Lucas.  I’m from Arizona, and Cabo San Lucas was worse.

In Mazatlan we took a taxi with some other people from the ship.  The taxi driver took us around town and we only stopped to take pictures.  On our way to the “new” Mazatlan, we stopped.  There was a person on the top of a giant rock and when just the right tide comes in, (the ocean’s tide), the diver would jump off the rock and into the ocean.  That is how is gets paid money.

Puerto Vallarta was my favorite!  There, my mom, dad, and I all went to a big water park.  Next to the water park was some smallish pools.  We got in one with 3 dolphins.  There are 2 groups.  One starts working with 2 dolphins, the other group works with 1 dolphin.  Then we switch.  We were the 1st group.  First we learned some hand signals.  Then the real fun begins!  Every person gets a turn to do both the foot push, and the dorsal-fin ride.  The Foot Push is when 2 dolfins come up behind you and each puts their nose on the flat part of your foot, then they push you out of the water about waist high. (My whole body went out of the water!)  The Dorsal-Fin ride is when you grab 1 fin from a dolphin for each hand.  Then they start to swim really fast and you just enjoy the ride!  The 2nd group is where we got a big fishy kiss!  We also got to “hold” a dolphin.  At the end we had a dance with the dolphin.

Back to the cruise…

My mom and I really didn’t go anywhere but to eat and on deck to read our favorite book.  My dad never felt a thing, so he was the one getting up early in the morning and taking pictures.  Once there was a chocolate night where everything was made of chocolate.  They had cakes and sculptures!  I didn’t go because I was already asleep.  Our cabin was awesome!  Almost every night we got a towel animal.  Once it was a puppy, an elephant, and one night there was a monkey hanging from the ceiling with chocolate bars as eyes!
That was sooooo much fun!
Thank you,
Nori

Visit the Celebrations Web site to learn more about Norwegian Cruise Lines or contact us today!

To celebrate the season, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Christmas and other similar holiday food traditions around the world.  In doing so, we’ll pay homage to each of the countries for which we currently offer our exclusive custom culinary tours. For more information, contact Celebrations International Travel, Inc.

The first in this series of blog entries is Australia:

Christmas takes place on December 25th, the summertime in Australia. People often spend part of Christmas day with their families at the beach. Christmas dinner is just as likely to be salads, cold meat and seafood as the traditional meal is roast turkey and plum pudding. Children believe that Santa Claus leaves presents for them under the Christmas tree on Christmas eve. One popular Australian song states that six white boomers, or large kangaroos, pull Santa’s sleigh.

Traditional Christmas Pudding

1/2 lb. plain flour
1/2 lb. breadcrumbs
1 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb. currants
1/2 lb. raisins
1 lb. sultanas
1/2 lb. citron peel
9 eggs
pinch salt
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 lb. almonds
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, well beaten, also brandy. Stir in all fruit and chopped blanched almonds. Add breadcrumbs, flour, soda, and spices. Bake in greased pudding basin, leaving sufficient room for rising. (The pudding can also be poured onto a piece of calico and tied securely with string.) Steam for 6 hours. This pudding can be made ahead of time, say two or three months if wished. This recipe makes two very large puddings; It is best divided into 3 portions. A half quantity takes 3 1/2 hours to cook. For heating pudding when required, boil slowly for 2-3 hours.

Christmas Cake

1/2 lb. butter
1/4 lb. white sugar
1/4 lb. brown sugar
4 eggs
4 tablespoons brandy
1/2 lb. raisins
1/2 lb. sultanas
1/2 lb. currants
lemon peel and almonds to taste
10 oz. plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon plum jelly

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs. Sift in half of flour and half of fruit, mix, then add rest of ingredients. Bake in an 8″ tin 3 1/2 to 4 hours at 300 degrees.

Pavlova

The Pavlova is a dessert invented in Australia and named are the great ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a wonderful summer holiday dessert – and therefore makes a regular appearnace on many Australian Christmas menus.:

3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
3/4 cup of castor sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
300 ml / ½ pints of cream
kiwifruit or strawberries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 150°C, 300°F or gas mark 2 (the temperature is reduced for baking). Beat the egg whites to a foam, add the salt and beat until soft peaks form which fold over when the beater is removed. Slowly beat in the castor sugar, beating well after each addition. Keep beating until the mixture is stiff and the peaks stand up when the beater is removed. Mix together the white sugar and corn flour. Lightly fold into the meringue with the lemon juice.

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Spread the meringue into a circle and pipe a decoration around the edge or swirl with a spoon if desired. Bake in a cool oven (80°C or 180°F) for 2 to 2½ hours. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to cool.

Top with whipped cream and decorate with sliced kiwifruit, sliced strawberries, passion fruit, or just about any tropical fruit, just before serving.

Anzac Biscuits (Cookies)

A biscuit or cookie originally sent in food parcels to Australian and New Zealand troops during the First World War when eggs were scarce, the Anzac (named after the term for Australian and New Zealand soldiers) has become a national favorite.

100 grams / 4 oz of butter
1 dessertspoon of golden syrup
1/2 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup of rolled oats
3/4 cup of coconut
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of water

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4. In a large saucepan melt the butter and golden syrup, then remove from the heat and cool. Add the white sugar, flour, rolled oats and coconut and mix thoroughly. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of water and add to the mixture. Line a baking tray with cooking paper. Roll small rounds of the mixture and place on the baking tray, remembering to allow room for the biscuits to spread. Flatten with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

I just saw this tweet from @goplanit:

What do u think of a #cruise ship infused w/a signature smell? http://goplanit.com/l/zpm #travel

Personally, I prefer that the air around me not smell like anything, but if a nice smell in the air helps to please passengers and works well for the cruise line, more power to them!  Even the Magic Kingdom and Disneyworld and Disneyland are infused with the sweet smell of cotton candy through a number of vents located throughout the parks.

As for the term “signature smell,” I can’t say that I like it all that much, since I don’t know what it smells like, and the word “fragrance” or “scent” would have been a better choice, in my opinion.   My own experiences have biased me in this regard, but I think of the word “smell” as being more inline with “odor,” as opposed to a pleasing smell.

Why, you ask?  I’m still scarred from the experience of my college roommate using half a bottle of Jovan Musk to mask the odor of her sneakers and six-week-old pile of laundry.  And no, I promise that one day won’t color all my entries about travel and destinations in Pennsylvania!

Bottom line, I am not a huge fan of smells of any type, but for those to whom they appeal, enjoy!

This tweet just caught my attention:

@FoodieDownUnder “Tomato&oregano make it Italian,wine&tarragon make it French.Sour cream makes it Russian.Soy sauce makes it Chinese;garlic makes it good.”

These words got me thinking:   So true it is that certain foods and culinary traditions are automatically associated with certain countries and cultures.  On the other hand, is it fair to say that sometimes these associations can be somewhat stereotypical, or simply the result of pop culture’s influence?

Example:  Many people commonly associate soy sauce with Chinese food because it’s what we get with Chinese take-out.  But how many of us would automatically think of Japanese food when it comes to soy sauce?  I think we sushi lovers would be in a fine mess without it!

For the record, yes, I agree, garlic makes it good!  Almost dinnertime at my house!


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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