Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hey! I'm Over Here!

Hey, all!

I'm just checking in over here to make sure that you have updated your feeds, etc. Try Anything Once is over at tryanythingonceblog.com.

Also please make sure to visit me on Twitter and Facebook, so you can keep up with the latest developments of the blog.

Thanks, and see you on the other side! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Buenos Aires Pizza Showdown - El Cuartito vs. Guerrín

Pizza in South America? In Argentina? Yes, yes, y'all. I have to say that I was a little skeptical before our trip, but I kept reading all of these raves about Argentina's pizza. As I mentioned before, Italian immigrants came to Argentina in droves and brought much of their cuisine with them. Forget about the beef! Argentina has great pizza and gelato, too (that's for another post).

When doing research about pizza spots in Buenos Aires, two names kept coming up, Guerrín and El Cuartito. I somehow felt like I had to take one for the team to make sure you guys could see what each place had to offer. I'm always trying to help YOU out. ;)

Let's start with El Cuartito.

I liked the vibe of El Cuartito. It was a Friday afternoon, and the tables were filled with Porteños (the nickname for Buenos Aires residents) in large groups with large, square pizza pies, and a few had beers. It seemed like quite a few groups of co-workers. I saw almost no tourists (always a good sign), but what really stood out to me were the old Argentinian movie posters and tango paraphernalia.

El Cuartito's Dining Area

Old movie posters....I didn't realize the extent of the Argentinian movie industry.

The most common and truly local type of Argentinian pizza is called the fuggazeta. It's all dough, cheese and onions. For those of you into "white pies" (no tomato sauce), then this is definitely for you. We decided against a full pie for a variety of reasons, but you can try fugazzeta by the slice, too. For me, it was just waaay too much cheese (Yes, there can be such a thing). I'm not used to provolone oozing off of my pizza pie and plain, almost raw onions and I don't mix very well. This just wasn't for me, but I'm glad I got a "slice" (pun intended) of the local specialty.

El Cuartito's Fugazzeta. I so wanted to like this. :(

Husband J was ready for the real deal. To describe Argentinian pizza in my own words, I'd guess I'd tell you to imagine if Chicago deep dish and New York's version of a thin crust pizza had a baby. The crust of the the pizza at El Cuartito was beyond doughy and honesty resembled bread. The cheese was fine, the ham thick and salted, but, for some reason I couldn't help feeling like this tasted like an open-faced ham and melted cheese sandwich with some olives thrown on top. This was passable pizza in my book, but I don't think I'll be seeking it out again. 

Check how thick that crust is!

To be honest with you, we actually went to Guerrín BEFORE we made it to El Cuartito. Just like El Cuartito, at Guerrín you can stand at the bar á la an Italian trattoria. Make your way to the back and seat yourself. Guerrin offers fugazzeta as well, but Husband J and I were both too hungry to really mess around. We'd just wandered around most of downtown Buenos Aires. Instead, we ordered something similar to what we'd had at El Cuartito.

This is pizza, my friends. PIZZA.

Our pizza at Guerrín - tomatoes, olives, ham

The crust was thicker than the usual Neapolitan or New York style that I eat, but it was just enough to be both crispy and a little springy but not breadlike. The cheese was melted perfectly. The lovely hidden surprise? Fresh, tender ham. The slices of tomato brought out the tangy tomato sauce underneath it all. This was darn good pizza. Husband J and I polished this pie off pretty easily. 

I like that Argentinian pizza is a little different from the Italian and U.S. versions that I've eaten before. Italian culture has influenced the country in a different way, so it should have its own take on such a popular dish. So, yes, don't sleep on Buenos Aires' pizza. Really.

El Cuartito
937 Talcahuano 
Buenos Aires, Argentina

1368 Avenida Corrientes
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Hey there!

Are you out there? Just doing a test. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

7 Things To Know About Eating & Traveling in Argentina

I like to research the heck out of a place before arriving in a new destination. At the same time, you can't know everything beforehand. You've just got to experience it. That's how I felt about some of the situations we experienced in Argentina, so I thought I'd share them with you.

1. Internal flights can be expensive - If you are a non-Argentine, finding cheap flights in Argentina is downright difficult. When buying a domestic airline ticket online from outside of Argentina, the prices are different than for locals. That includes buying them within the country. To get a reduced rate, you either need a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad/National Identification Document) number or need a credit card issued from an Argentinian bank, which......requires a DNI number. One of the main reasons for expensive flights is that there is no competition between airlines for domestic air travel. There are really only two to choose from, Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN. I hear that the high-end buses are amazing and relatively affordable. If you choose traveling by bus, know that Argentina is a vast country, and there are long distances between major areas.

2. You may need to send up smoke signals to get your waiter's attention. Sometimes I get a little miffed when wait staff here in New York City drop the check on your table and say "Whenever you're ready...." while I'm still eating dessert. In Argentina, I felt like I had to send up flares to get the wait staff to notice us, especially at the end of the meal. People lounge over food or even a very small cup of coffee, so don't be in a rush per se (you're supposed to be relaxing anyway). We weren't necessarily in a rush at all of our meals, but sometimes we did want to actually get back to our hotel.

El Cabildo in downtown Buenos Aires

3. Vegetarians, be wary - Argentine cuisine isn't exactly known for its meat-free options and vegetable cookery. Even if you say you don't eat meat at a restaurant, wait staff might just think you don't eat RED meat. I would suggest asking for things specifically without carne (meat as in red meat), pollo (chicken), etc. Spell it out, if you must. Because of the strong influence of early 20th century Italian migrants, Argentina really has great Italian cuisine. Pizza and pasta are always good bets. Buenos Aires also has a Koreatown and a Chinatown, which may have great veggie options (didn't get to check them out). In Patagonia, it was harder to find good vegetarian fare, although I do recommend Pura Vida in El Calafate. Vegans, I don't know what to tell you because everything had cheese on it. Buena suerte (Good luck!). :(

I enjoyed taste testing empanadas wherever we went in Argentina. Every place has their own recipe and style. Vegetarians, try the spinach ones!

4. Watch your money - I mean literally examine it closely. Counterfeit money is a real issue in Argentina, and it is very much a part of the monetary system. You may get some fake funds from unlikely places: shops, restaurants and maybe even your hotel (although most places like this take great pains to weed out bad money). I have heard that taxi drivers can be some of the biggest culprits, but I'm not going to throw shade on a whole profession. Here's a good link to know if you've got the right money.

5. You may know Spanish, but the Argentine usages are different - I've heard lots of jokes about bringing together Spanish speakers from different countries in one room, and many of them not being able to understand each other because of regional word usage. Argentina uses some words that I haven't heard before for common nouns. Sanitario = bathroom, coletivo = bus are a few that come to mind. You can still use the Spanish vocabulary you know, but just know that Argentines occasionally call things by a different name.

U.N. Plaza, Buenos Aires

6.  You can get by without Spanish, but it sure does help. In most destinations around the world, making a feeble attempt at the local language is going to get you far with local staff. Both Buenos Aires and El Calafate (where we were based for our time in Patagonia), were major tourist centers, so many people spoke English.  Yet they weren't always totally fluent, and sometimes it was easier for me and for them if I just spoke Spanish. I think I'm trying to give myself props, but at times I think we also got better service because of it. Ok fine, I'm probably just dreaming, but I believe my knowledge of Spanish helped us. If you can use some basic phrases or learn even a few key vocabulary words before your trip, it might help.

An iceberg in Lago Argentino in Patagonia

7. Argentine men are flirty (at least with me) - I got quite a few (okay, many) winks and even a few catcalls. I wasn't exactly expecting that.  I suspect it's because I'm a little exotic looking there? (Unlike its neighbor, Brazil, Argentina has almost no Black people) Actually, I think it's just an Argentinian man thing and probably nothing to do with me. :) In case you're wondering, Argentines are pretty good looking.

Are there any details you wish you had known prior to your last trip to a new place? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jama Masjid - Sight of the Week

Jama Masjid was the first major site that I saw with Team Ozzie and Pancham.  Located in the extremely bustling Old Delhi, it is the largest mosque in India and can hold 25,000 people. It was commissioned by Shah Jahan, the same ruler who commissioned the Taj Mahal.  Shah Jahan and I can be friends because I like large, grandiose buildings, too.

Team Ozzie, Pancham and me climbing up the steps towards the East entrance

A few things about seeing Jama Masjid and other major Indian tourists sites:

1. If you're a foreigner, you're going to pay a higher entrance fee - With the exception of the Taj Mahal, most places to visit are 300 rupees or less. Many are free. While I was there, the exchange rate was a little over 50 rupees to the U.S. dollar (It's now 55 rupees!), so that means no more than $6USD. Also I didn't care that I was charged more because I think it's important that these beautiful sights be accessible to all Indians.

2. Even if it may be free to enter, you may have to pay a fee to bring in your camera and take pictures.

3. Ladies, bring a scarf with you just in case. You never know when it's best to have your head covered.  

For Jama Masjid, women are required to be covered, preferably wearing long loose clothing that covers shoulders and legs. I was already very conservatively dressed for the day (I am going to write about dressing in India at some point), but the men at the entrance will require women to wear these unflatteringly large robe-like things to cover up. They will tell you that you need to pay them money. Like Nancy Reagan says, "JUST SAY NO" and walk on through. 

Here I am in all of my glory.....

That's my travel bag peeking out. 

I think Ms. J of Team Ozzie got a worse looking one than me, so I don't feel so bad. 

As with most mosques, Jama Masjid requires you to take off your shoes when entering. The problem here is that Jama Masjid is open-air meaning that there's lots of bird poop to avoid. Be careful! I was wishing for some socks at different moments . 

Jama Masjid is an impressive place, and I am sure an inspiring setting for Muslim worshippers to pray and to attend services on Fridays. 
The courtyard and main prayer hall of Jama Masjid

One of the gates 

Pool in the middle of the courtyard

With many mosques and Islamic architecture in general, it's all about the details. When you get close, you really see the craftsmanship. 

After taking in the courtyard, we entered the main prayer hall. 
A man at the mihrab, the central prayer area facing Mecca

I had to remind myself that mosques aren't open just for prayer and worship, but also as a place where people can gather to talk and relax. This man was definitely relaxing (more like sleeping, but that's cool). 

We spied the tower, which requires paying an extra fee for access. We'd heard that the walk to the top was worth it. 

What we didn't realize was that it was a long, long way up! There's barely any room for more than two people on the stair case, and it's dark and winding. I was starting to get pretty dizzy, and it seemed like the stairs could go on forever.  

Unfortunately, all of these stairs didn't help because all of a sudden my right leg started to cramp like you wouldn't believe. I'm a fairly active person, so I wasn't hurting from the climbing. Team Ozzie and I realized that I was suffering from dehydration. That make sense because I'd had a rough first day in Delhi two days before where I barely drank water for hours (That wasn't on purpose; I'm a water fiend). I was determined to make it to the top, and I did.

I have to say that the view of Old Delhi and beyond was worth the trek up to the top. Delhi really doesn't have a skyline to speak of, so you can really see much of the city from Jama Masjid's tower.

Was Jama Masjid worth the attempted shakedown for extra money, dodging bird poop barefoot, and steep climb up its tower? I'd say yes.

Have you ever had to go above and beyond to truly enjoy a visit to a major sight? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Why) I'm Not Too Proud for Group Tour, Part II

While I've already talked about the basics of my tour with Intrepid Travel in India, I never really talked about WHY I decided to do a group tour to India. Some of them are probably obvious, but I thought I'd talk about them a little:

I don't think I would have gone to several places on our itinerary. It's very easy when traveling in India to keep on the tourist trail in part because it's often hard to veer off of it. What I loved most about our tour was the fact that we stayed and experienced both large cities with major sites AND got a chance to see small, rural towns. Honestly, those experiences in more "off the beaten" path locations were really some of my favorite moments on the trip. Over the coming weeks, I'll share those experiences with you, but I know that I wouldn't have even thought of going to many of them. One place we visited wasn't even mentioned in my guidebook and barely comes up in a Google search.

Doing the washing in the town of Tal Waz (I think that's the name of the town. I'm not sure about the spelling.)

I knew being a woman traveling alone in India was not always going to be easy. I'm not trying to scare anyone, but I knew going in that my time in India was not always going to be hassle-free. I read a lot about the experiences of solo women travelers, and they were all a mixed bag. Mostly the answer was, "You'll be fine as a solo woman traveler, but....". Solo women travelers were a rarity (Black female solo travelers non-existent) in my three weeks in India. Our group did encounter or see a few women traveling alone, and there were moments where I felt like a little bit of a punk. Maybe I should have done this all alone? Maybe I can't hack travel like I think I can (I thought I'd overcome that insecurity with my solo trip to Brazil, but maybe not)?

On the streets of Jaipur within the Pink City walls

Can a woman travel alone in India safely? Totally! Would I want to travel solo in India as a Black woman for an extended period of time? I'm not so sure (I'll get into why in many posts). Also I did have 8 days of solo travel during the trip, so it's not like I didn't have the solo experience. I have to admit to you, though, that there were moments when I liked knowing that the men of Team Ozzie and our guide, Pancham, had my back.  I felt there were instances when I was alone that people (okay, fine, men, especially vendors) felt it was okay to a be a bit more aggressive than if I was walking with the male members of our group or Pancham. Although I'll have to tell you about the time I almost got into a fight in Darjeeling, but, that, my friends, is another story.

While we were on camels, our guide, Pancham, used another route. :)

Sometimes I needed to talk it out with someone. What I mean by this is that India can sometimes rattle you. I'd seen extreme poverty while traveling before. I've stood out as a traveler before, but India affected me differently than many places I've been. I call my time there "in your face, full frontal" travel. I think that's why I liked it so much. When I saw or experienced something, it was nice to have someone right there to say, "Hey, did you just see what I just saw?" I was processing so much between my travel journal (the first one I've kept in a long time) and writing e-mails to family and friends, but having someone who was experiencing the same things at the same time who could discuss it really helped me. I know that Team Ozzie and I may not have agreed about everything, but at least we could talk about it all together.

Me during a boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur

For those who've been on group tours what were your reasons? Safety? Ease? A need for company? When would you NOT consider a group tour?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dinner at Castle Hill Inn - A 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Friday, I mentioned on Facebook (Hey, are you following me on Facebook?) that this past weekend was going to be a special one for Husband J's side of the family. This weekend we celebrated my mother and father-in-law's 40th wedding anniversary at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. I have to say that 40 years is a rare and beautiful thing in 2012. Congratulations to them!

I've actually written a little about a previous experience at Castle Hill Inn. This hotel and restaurant are perched on a great spot in Newport. Many people don't even bother to stay or eat here. They just come for the views of the water and cocktails.

The Castle Hill Inn Lawn 

Boats pass right by Castle Hill Inn's gorgeous lawn. It's a nice place for boat watching. 

By the way, I think it's time for my once per year "Please allow me to show you that I actually have some sense of style" picture.

Husband J cleans up well, too. Yes, I am taller than him in wedge heels.

While it was fun being waterside, we also came to get our grub on; and we sure did. The Castle Hill Inn has three types of menus: a three course, five course or eight course tasting with the possibility of wine pairings for each course. We kept it simple with the three course. 

By the way, I have to shout out to my family for always asking, "Hey, Terri. Did you get your picture?" before eating. They are too sweet. Plus, my sister-in-law J ( Sis-L J), I think gave some people the side eye when they remarked about me taking pics of food. It's good when the family helps out the cause. :)

We received an amuse bouche to start. 

Can I say that I didn't get the entire description that the waiter gave, so just trust me. I wasn't sure how I felt about this amuse bouche. It's actually a watermelon gelee, but it was a little rubbery. You don't really get the full watermelon flavor. I did like the parmesan.

We each ordered very different appetizers.

Pan-Seared Foie Gras 
 Pinto Noir cake, green grapes, foie gras ice cream, vincotto

Someone ((ahem!) got foie gras, but it was primarily because of the ice cream, which was really did taste like sweet foie gras. I would never think of cake and foie gras going together either, but it was really nice for all of the different textures and tastes in this dish (sweet, tart, and savory). Do you see the pop rocks underneath the ice cream? That was a super cool surprise. Many times I just let them pop on my tongue.

Confit of Wild Boar
 applewood smoked, yakitori glaze, candied citrus fruit, shaved radish

The small taste I got of this was awesome. What made it really special was the play between the smokiness and the sweetness of the glaze. Plus, the boar was really just buttery tender. 

Cheese Plate
with fruit jam, Marcona almonds, honey, and grilled bread

I can't believe this was supposed to be for one person. We all chipped in to help out Sis-L J.  

Three of us ended up with the same main course. We were in Newport where the fish is fresh. 

Pan seared Native Fluke
with a bouillabaisse, lobster "sausage", confit potato, and braised leeks 

I had to try the lobster sausage. It had a sweet finish. While not a traditional bouillabaisee, it was still nice to have the soup-like broth that was comforting for a cool, early evening on the water. 

Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb
with Merguez sausage, falafel, spring bean ragout, Lucques olives

Duck Rohan 
roasted with gooseberries, foie gras and quinoa

I snagged a small piece of Husband J's duck, and it was cooked beautifully.

Since we were celebrating, we had to have dessert. 

Tres Leches Cake 
caramel corn, toasted marshmallows, popcorn ice cream

What you're not seeing are the pop rocks (again!). They were underneath the smaller pieces of cake, which had been drenched with thick dulce del leche-like cream. I even thought the little pieces of parsley actually added to the dish giving it an earthy edge. 

Belgian Chocolate Terrine
Cocoa nib coulis, caramelized white chocolate creme, feuilletine

Creme Brulee
Vanilla & Meyer lemon custard on top with poppyseed cake on the bottom, blueberry coulis

Not a bad way to celebrate....

I asked my mother-in-law the secret to staying happily married for a long time. In her opinion, she told me that she thought there were two things that have helped her and my father-in-law all these years:

1. Have a sense of humor - Be able to laugh with one another and at one another. I definitely have no problems laughing at Husband J. :)

2. Grow together, not apart - Over the course of time, we all change. Taking into account each other's best interests through the years and staying connected is important.

Great advice, no? 

Happy Anniversary to them!

Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Avenue
Newport, Rhode Island 


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