Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘gourmet travel

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

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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!

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.

Tonight’s State Dinner in Washington, D.C. is being held in honor of the Prime Minister of India.  While I’m not usually the one into blogging about “all things Indian,” I came across a link on the President’s Web site with the guest list.  These are the names that jumped out at me at first glance:

Deepak Chopra

Katie Couric

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

The Honorable (Governor) Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Mrs. Supriya Jindal, First Lady of Louisiana

Gayle King

General Colin Powell

Mrs. Marian Robinson

Brian Williams

I also found it quite interesting to see the number of American dignitaries and statesmen on the list who are of Indian origin.  Goes to show what a melting pot America truly is.

Tonight’s menu, by Guest Chef Marcus Samuelsson, combines American and Indian cuisines.  Here’s the menu, course by course:

Potato and Eggplant Salad
White House argula with onion seed vinaigrette
Wine: 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Oprendi, Napa Valley, California

Red lentil soup with fresh cheese
Wine: 2008 Riesling Brooks “Ara” Willamette Valley, Oregon

Roasted Potato Dumplings with tomato chutney
Chick peas and okra
or
Green curry prawns
Carmelized salsify with smoked collard greens and coconut aged basmati
Wine: 2007 Granache, Beckman Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California

Pumpkin Pie tart
Pear tatin
Whipped cream and caramel sauce
Wine: Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia

Petits Fours and Coffee
Cashew Brittle
Pecan Pralines
Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelees
Chocolate dipped fruit

Personally, I think the pumpkin pie is a befitting nod to the Thanksgiving holiday this week, and pecan pralines are a wonderful way to highlight not only an American classic, but also Gov. Bobby Jindal’s home state.

For your personal taste and experience of authentic cuisine by 5-star chefs around the world, see Celebrations International Travel’s Culinary Tours.  Here’s our India sample itinerary, just to tempt your palate and inspire your travels.  All tours are customized to suit your needs and preferences. 

Contact us to start planning your culinary tour today!

 

 

 

 

 

I am amazed at the response that my post from yesterday entitled McDonald’s in the Louvre!  I had no idea that it would generate such a buzz.  Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog, left comments, and referred others to view it.  And a big thank you to WordPress for listing Celebrations International Travel’s blog on their homepage.

In the spirit of fairness, I must tell you that I enjoy a McDonald’s hamburger, Chicken McNuggets, and french fries just as much as the next guy, just not all the time, and certainly not on vacation at the Louvre.  The reason why I included the words “all the time” is because many Europeans (especially the French) have long held tight to the notion that all Americans eat McDonald’s (or whatever fast-food) and chug down soda incessantly.  I am speaking, of course, of the most stereotypical of viewpoints.  I must confess:  I love my Coke, but I did go six weeks without it once in France because it was so expensive at the time.

But just because Coke’s my favorite and I eat McDonald’s sometimes doesn’t make me a stereotypical American, whatever anybody’s idea of that is.  Nor does it mean that I agree with or understand the decision to let McDonald’s take up residence inside the Louvre!  No, I don’t think the golden arches, or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter, are a good fit for the ancient grounds of the Louvre.  Frankly, I think the whole connotation is disrespectful to the institution of the Louvre.  I can only hope that the controversy over this topic is directed at a clash of cultural ideals and not intended as purely anti-American sentiment.

After all this talk of “no fast food,” I thought I’d show you my idea of what classic French cuisine entails.  As culinary travel specialists, we endeavor to share with our travelers the best that each destination has to offer, whether it be five-star cuisine or home cooking.  What’s important to us is quality and good taste.  All tours are customized for your family or group, so the sample itineraries are provided to inspire you!

We invite you to browse our sample itineraries for all culinary travel destinations currently featured and let us know your thoughts.

A post on Twitter yesterday read: “101 Frightening Ice Cream Flavors From Around the World,” with this link: http://goplanit.com/l/1gu

Intrigued, I scrolled through the entire article. I found it quite interesting that although the title reads “….From Around the World,” all of the ice cream tubs have Japanese labels. So unfortunately, though I’m sure there are strange ice cream flavors from all over the world, this assortment doesn’t show it.

However, this article got me thinking about how foodies and travelers view other countries, their foods, and culinary traditions. As an American-born Chinese, and having lived in various parts of the U.S. and in Europe, and being married to an Indian man, I recognize the fact that my own perceptions of the world’s culinary scene is more than likely atypical.

I’m well aware that many strange-looking, unfamiliar delicacies in the world originate in Asia: 1000-year-old eggs, squid ink, and shark fin, just to name a few.  But I must say that reading this article made me realize that more often than not, Asia is the first place in the world many people would associate all that is unappealing, weird, maybe even downright yucky in regard to food.  Why that is, I’m not sure.   Unfortunately, I think this pop culture reputation sometimes causes Asia to be regarded as too different, exotic, and possibly less desirable to less adventuresome foodies and travelers.

I do know that my experiences in France as a teenager quickly turned some of my long-held notions about food and culture upside down. Up until then, I had never seen duck eaten any other way than roasted Chinese-style.

When a waiter presented me with my first Canard a l’Orange, I knew it was a traditional French preparation of duck, although I had never tasted it. My host, momentarily forgetting about my Chinese heritage, leaned over to explain, “C’est du canard.” (It’s duck.) For lack of a better response, I said “Oui, je sais.” (Yes, I know.) His eyebrows shot up, then realizing that I had, of course had duck before, he quickly says “J’ai rien dit.” (I have nothing to say.)

On a different occasion, I had lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, near the Centre Georges Pompidou Museum in Paris. Same experience, except this time it was pig’s feet. I didn’t even know people other than Asians even ate pig’s feet, let alone that there were different ways to prepare it. Too squeamish to try it, I watched in amazement as my host mother polished off the entire dish of baked pig’s feet.

What about foods largely uncommon in the U.S. that don’t have any “mainstream” connections to Asia? My host families served horse meat, rabbit, lamb, and mutton in stews and other dishes. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what I was eating until I was told; I just knew it was something different that sometimes tasted funny, although many times flavorful sauces helped to mask other less pleasant flavors.

I think it’s worth mentioning that although uncommon foods come from all around the world, it’s up to foodie travelers to discover each country’s authentic flavors.

Amongst some of the most common “unique” foods of the world, these come to mind: Roasted Guinea Pig (Ecuador & Peru), Haggis (Scotland), Dried Cuttlefish (Asia), Stinky Tofu (Taiwan), and Paneer (India).

Note that while I have listed these as foods that I view as “unique,” others who are more familiar with and who enjoy them would disagree with me.  In my mind, that’s the beauty of culinary diversity:  the fact that every traveler and every foodie can find culinary creations to enjoy no matter where your travels take you!



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I just came across an interesting article on chefs and street foods:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=8611845

We always stress to our clients how important it is to be careful when eating from street vendors in what are often less-than-optimal environments for food preparation.

However, this article serves as a reminder that the influence of so-called “street foods” and other “on-the-go” meals is undeniable:   What today is $1.00 snack from a cart on a street corner halfway around the world may very well be a different version of something you order for dinner at a 5-star hotel next week, thanks to the many talented and creative chefs around the world.  Similarly, some of these same chefs are doing their best to “dress up” street foods.

From street foods to gourmet cuisine, all are great means of Celebrating Life Through Travel (even if you only travel around the corner to your favorite snack cart)!

For some tasty travel ideas, visit our Culinary Travel Homepage.


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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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