Monthly Archives: March 2011

Best Places–Bizarre Food

Returning to my ‘Best Places’ series, today I present to you my pick for the destination with the most ‘Bizarre Food’.  Again, when I started this series, I had no idea how difficult it would be to pick only one location for many of these categories, nor did I anticipate how difficult it would be to pick EVEN ONE location for some.  The Bizarre Food pick falls into the latter category.

Why?  Well, I’m thinking there are two possibilities.  One, I don’t really go anywhere that is known for food that would be considered ‘Bizarre’–my travel map is noticeably focused on North American and Europe, so no scorpions on a stick for me.  And two–I have a slightly different opinion on what qualifies as ‘bizarre’ food.  There are many things I would eat that lots of people would consider ‘bizarre’, that I would just consider ‘really, really good’.  Take, for example, the following…

Alligator Jambalaya from Beck’s Cajun Cafe at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia…yummy…

How about this–a cabbage covered fry bread served with quinoa and yucca fries, from Mitsam inside the Native American Museum in D.C….

While we’re talking about D.C., I have to mention my first runner up for ‘Bizarre Foods’–this meal…

…at Cafe Atlantico, possibly my favorite restaurant in the world.  I believe this was either snapper or sea bass–I don’t remember–but I do recall that it was topped with a chili lime foam (the white stuff) and accompanied by several gelatinous blobs made up of olive oil and some sort of chemical that formed said olive oil into blobs (I’m sure there’s a better way to explain this, but I don’t know what it is–just trust me, it was great!)

If ‘bizarre’ equals ‘gross’ (which I don’t think is true), then this dish wins hands down…

…ordered due to a language misunderstanding in a Paris cafe.  The pink and black parts are roe (fish eggs), the green is avocado, and the whole thing is topped with shrimp in some sort of cilantro lime dressing.  It was NOT good!

As for ethnic food, I’m all about it.  We had a great meal at Sarang Mas, an Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam…

And there was no way I was leaving London without visiting at least one Brick Lane Indian joint…

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of this place, though I know it was just north of actual Brick Lane.  Alas, Googling ‘Indian Restaurant London’ doesn’t help in ANY way!

Finally, as for bizarre presentation, well, I’ve had my share of those types of meals as well–and I tend to love them.  Observe dessert at Sensi, located in the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas…

That sure is a lot of work for three scoops of sorbet!

However, the irony here is that the actual location I’m selecting for my ‘Best Place for Bizarre Food’ award is a place that I do not have one single photo of.  Why?  I went there before the advent of social networking, and thus I had not yet developed the practice of photographing everything and anything–including all of my meals.  That place is Sitka, Alaska.

So what made my meal there bizarre?  Well, first, it was the best meal I’ve ever had–and it was in the restaurant of some tiny little hotel.  If memory serves me correctly, it was a Howard Johnson’s.

Yes, that’s right–after all of those food pics, my favorite and most bizarre meal was had in a tiny little town in a dingy little eatery that I only happened upon because it was raining and we were cold.  Oh wait–I do have a picture of me in Sitka in the cold rain…

Ah yes…five years ago.  How sad is it that I can think ‘look how much thinner I was’ even though I’m wearing a poncho?  Ha!  But I digress…

The dish we ordered wasn’t even on the menu–we saw someone else eating it, pointed to it, and said ‘we’ll have THAT’.

The meal–fresh off the docks Alaskan King Crab Legs.  Why were they bizarre?  Because I’ve never had anything like them before or since.  First, they were amazingly firm and tasty.  They didn’t even need butter.  Second–the legs themselves were hairy.  Did you know that crabs had bristly hair on their legs?  Well, they do.  I imagine they must be scrubbed off before being frozen and carted off to places like Red Lobster–but trust me, nothing about these crab legs resembled anything I’d ever had at a Red Lobster!


Get Back

Answer honestly–how many of you would love to hear about a return trip to some of my least favorite destinations?  I’m willing to bet many of you would be at least a little curious. 

Well, you are all doubly in luck–first, I shall be returning to one of my least favorite US cities, New York City.  And I shall be taking my poor husband–who loves New York, as he lived there for six years–with me.  He’s understandably nervous.

I’m going for a weekend trip at the end of April.  I was clicking around on Priceline, and lo and behold they accepted a bid on a hotel I was not expecting to go through.  So for $115/night, we shall be staying at a 3.5 star hotel directly across from Rockefeller Center–and six short blocks from the convention that is the purpose of the trip. 

But more on that later.  I did say you were ‘doubly’ in luck, and here’s why–I’m thinking there’s darn near a 100% chance that I’ll be going back to…drumroll please…Paris.  That is, at least within the next 18 months.  It may or may not be with my husband–I’d rather it be WITH him, but he’s understandably a bit apprehensive about that idea.  So be honest–how many of you would be thrilled to read about my return trip?  The goal would be to ‘do it right this time’–which will include NOT going during the summer (and thus requiring me to travel without the husband, much to his relief) –with the purpose of being able to write about a major trip do-over.  I’m doing a Disney World do-over with my mother in a few weeks, and I’ll be writing about that as well.  But I just have so many great, bitchy posts about Paris–I need a comparison trip. 

I’m totally doing it.  Especially if I find a fare sale next spring like the one I stumbled upon yesterday–$414 RT from ABE to London Heathrow.  I’m not going to lie–I contemplated booking it, despite my lack of time or money right now. 

Am I insane?  Of course I am.  But at least I’m aware of it–right?

More Proof of Hopeless Nerd Status

I’m excited today because I woke up to a surprise in my inbox–an ‘invitation’ from Amazon to participate in the Amazon Vine program!  It’s not that amazing or exciting to most people, but for hopeless-nerd me, it’s pretty darn cool.

So what is the Amazon Vine program?  It is an invitation-only program that offers reviewers the ability to review books (and other products) for free, and often before they are released to the general public.  You get to select your areas of interest, and then a list is sent two to three times per month with books (and other products) to review.

Of course I selected ‘travel’ as one of my main interest areas.  So you, dear reader, will be linked to any and all travel-related product reviews I may get to write–and anything worth featuring here will be featured here as well.

In other nerd-news, tonight’s full moon is apparently a special kind of moon–a Super Moon–meaning that it is as close to the earth as it can be.  So for those of you out there making travel wishes, tonight might be a good night to wish upon the moon–stars are way too far away.

The Foot is Down

Surprise surprise, my husband came to a solid decision about our summer vacation plans…and here’s the surprise…I’m going to go along with it.

I will pause whilst you all gasp audibly.

The decision–he wants to go to Quebec City and Montreal.  So that’s what we’re doing.  The jury is out on what we’re going to do on the way there and on the way back–as it will be a road trip–but I’ve definitely deleted Cape Cod and the islands from the list of possibilities.  That’s too far and too expensive.  Which likely means that Boston is out, too.  But I’m thinking I may be able to squeeze Niagara Falls in there.  On my list of ‘places I want to visit’, it is right below whichever number I stopped at.

Let the planning commence!


Las Vegas vs. Universal Orlando–The Question

Can you guess which one this is?

Lately I’ve been a bit concerned about the Universal Orlando part of my/our upcoming trip.  More on the details of this trip later–though I’ve written at great length about the whole ‘convincing my husband to book the less expensive Universal resort’ issue.  But I have a new concern.  Is the entire premise of the trip stupid?

For this to be determined, I suppose I should state the premise of the trip.  Basically, the husband wants to go somewhere fun and relaxing.  We love Vegas, and I know for a fact he’s viewing Universal Orlando as ‘Vegas with roller coasters and Harry Potter’.  He’s imagining a few hours in the park each morning, followed by drinking at the pool and fabulous dinners out at City Walk.

I’m imagining mornings standing in line, frustrated, afternoons by the pool being splashed by children, and evenings eating crappy wings at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Clearly, we have two very different mental pictures.  I only hope his is the correct one.

Has anyone out there been to both locations?  Can anyone compare them for me?  Because Google couldn’t.  Though I guess, at the very worst, I’ll end up with a rather long post-trip blog post with an identical title!    I just added ‘–the Question’ to the title of this entry, so I can write a ‘–the Answer’ post upon returning home.

Sky High

I’m glad we went to Europe last summer.  That’s right, I wrote it.  I’m glad.  Even given the often-awful experience we had.  Why?  Because we can never afford to go there again.

As today is Tuesday, I dutifully checked Kayak for flights, right at 3:00–supposedly the cheapest time to purchase a flight (at least according to the Wall Street Journal.)  A July/August flight from JFK to anywhere in Europe–I checked Munich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and London–is cha-ching-ing in at $1200 per person or more.  Shortly after searching, internet Big Brother found me and emailed me a fare alert–PHL to LON for ‘only’ $1495!

Holy  crap.

Well, we sure are going to have one fun road trip this year!  I’m kind of excited, actually.  I’m sure Quebec is lovely in July.

How Has Travel Changed You?

I truly believe that travel has helped me to become a better person.  In my case, I feel I’ve become slightly more humble by realizing how wrong I can often be–case and point, The Great Europe Trip.  That sure was a bad idea, eh?  I sure was arrogant, thinking I’d planned everything so well, right?  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong, and for some reason I’m ok with admitting that (perhaps because it is so glaringly obvious?)

I’ve also been wrong about things I didn’t think I’d like.  I shunned Disney World for all of my life, only to find that I freaking love it there.  Las Vegas?  So unsophisticated–the adult version of Disney World.  And I love it there, too.

Finally, I’ve met so many people both in real life and online who share my love of travel, and most of these people are genuinely helpful, friendly, and full of enthusiasm.  You could stay my faith in humanity has been restored through my love of travel.  If you said that, you might sound a little pretentious, but you’d be 100% correct.

So–how has travel changed you?