Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bali High - The Ebb & Flow of Seminyak Beach

Hey, all!

I'm having some major computer problems lately, and I'll also be going away soon for the next several days (Viva Grand Canyon/Arizona!), so posting will be light. I should be tweeting quite a bit though (are there cell phone signals in the Grand Canyon?), but I thought I would leave you with some images from Seminyak beach in Bali.

Unlike some places, the beaches in Bali are public for the most part. Even in our pretty darn nice resort, we got to see all manner of people doing everything from swimming and playing to praying and selling.

Here's a sense of what we saw each day on Seminyak Beach.

Leisurely horseback rides on the beach. I hope the horses are treated humanely. They did seem to be chilling out.

Can you see the rainbow in this picture? Lots of early morning rain would eventually clear to perfect skies. One morning we got a rainbow.

A newly married couple taking pictures on the beach. They actually got married at our hotel.

One of my favorite pictures that I took the entire trip. The temple next to our hotel was having a three day festival. We could hear drumming and chanting from our room (luckily not too late into the night). I'm the type of person who likes hearing and seeing things that remind me that I am somewhere different experiencing someone else's culture.

I sometimes got uncomfortable taking pictures of people praying. I'm not sure how I would feel about it myself. My camera's zoom lens is pretty great. I find the beach calming and a deeply spiritual place. I can see why these worshippers chose to come here.

A perfect sunset

I'll post soon when I get back (maybe prior to my trip), or when I get a new computer. Whichever comes first!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me! - Dinner at Nuela (Part 1)

How many meals can you eat for your birthday? I had three. Yeah, I know, but I couldn't help myself :( One meal was on my birthday (just me), another meal with Husband J, and finally a lovely lunch with Roo Mi (she's the bomb!). I'll focus on two of these meals because they were both at restaurants serving Latin American cuisine, something that I have not really focused on the blog so far.

For my actual birthday, I decided to go to a pretty new pan-Latin restaurant called Nuela. When I first entered Nuela, I was wondering why it seemed so familiar. Well, I'd actually been there before when it was another restaurant called Sapa. Talk about a total transformation! Where Sapa was about muted colors (green, blues, and white), Nuela is all things hot, hot hot! Red paint and furniture everywhere with sleek, modern colorful decor all over.

I sat at the ceviche bar in the center of the restaurant. Look to the left in the picture below.

I love ceviches, and I ordered that first.

Hamachi Ceviche with aji amarillo, sour orange and black garlic
All those ingredients sound pretty interesting, huh? I'm used to traditional ceviches where the fish or seafood is marinated in fresh citrus juices (and usually served in the juices as well). This was altogether different and tasted very similar to a spicy sushi roll (except not rolled and no rice. Ha! Probably not the greatest analogy, but you get the idea.). I was quite surprised by the ceviche, but I realized at that moment that the dishes I'd be eating at Nuela were going to be very different from Latin food that I'd had before.

My main dish, which I think was a special for that day (and if I remember correctly), was monkish, absolutely exceptional mushrooms and corn.
I loved this dish especially the mix of mushrooms which had a smoky richness to them. This was a complete contrast to the super sweet and not overly creamy corn. Any kind of crispy fish skin is heavenly for me, so I loved the crunchiness of this fish. Again, Nuela was bringing Latin cuisine in a manner that I didn't expect.

For dessert, I had

Cafe con Leche- an Aguani chocolate bar, Peruvian ice cream, and milk espuma (a milk foam)

At this point, I had gotten use to being surprised at Nuela. The cake was not at all what I imagined. It was a cold, solid bar, and I was expecting a much more traditional piece of cake. It could have been the way the waiter described the dish. The service was extremely attentive and friendly, so I won't fault them one bit. That being said, it was my birthday, and I was definitely looking for a more traditional cake option. Oh well! No worries though, I got some red velvet cake the next day to make up for it. ;) The ice cream was an airy light chocolate flavor, and I think I spent most of time eating this part of the dessert, which is a huge deal since I am not a big chocolate ice cream fan (Yes. I know...blasphemous!). I still think I'm trying to figure out if I even like foams. I mean, are they always needed? I'm not sure if this one was.

Overall, I would say that I thought my experience at Nuela was nice. Just nice. Not amazing but far from horrible. I would actually welcome the opportunity to get back there. I do like when my food makes me think a bit and throws me for a loop. The food at Nuela made me rethink my ideas about high end Latin food. It can be more than suped up arroz con pollo (Chicken and rice) or platanos. If I do go back, I will definitely try some of the more traditional offerings like the Peruvian chicken for two.

43 West 24th Street

Have you been to any restaurants lately that have changed they way you think about a particular type if cuisine?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thinking Back in Pictures

I've been in a contemplative mood this week. I pretty much cut out the internet yesterday. For me, that's a pretty big deal! :) I've got a lot of my mind. A lot of it makes me want to just get up and go somewhere. I've got traveler's itch (That didn't sound so good, did it?), and I feel ready to head off somewhere really, really, really far away (Don't tell Husband J!). Anyway, here are some pictures of places that I've been to during some of my past trips that tend to calm me down.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Muir Woods National Park in Northern California

The ceiling of the Catedral Metropolitana in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

A rice paddy field in Bali

Home #2 (well not this particular spot) - Cocos Resort, Valley Church, Antigua

What kinds of places make you feel calm and serene? Mountains, beaches, being in the middle of a city? Actually I am the weirdo who feels calm in the middle of Manhattan. You can take the girl out of the city..... :) I'l definitely be talking about some of these trips some time in the future.

Happy Weekend to all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bali High - Upscale Dining in Seminyak at Sarong

Despite the fact that I did want to experience dining as the locals do, Bali does have a great upscale dining scene especially in Seminyak. Of the two upscale places where we ate (We also ate at Metis also in Seminyak), I think that Husband J and I liked Sarong the best. Sarong serves up high-end versions of various South and Southeast Asian dishes (emphasis on adaptations of street food) in an open air luxurious setting. Think lots of pretty women in high heels as your servers with some pulsating House music in the background on low volume. If that doesn't scream, "We're trying to be high end," I don't know what does.

As with many high end places in the main beach areas of Bali, there are security guards who approach your car when you drive up to the restaurant. Even though the most recent terrorist bombings happened five years ago (I'll talk about safety in another post), safety precautions are still a part of the experience in many restaurants and hotels catering to the high end market in Bali.

The entrance to Sarong

In addition to the pulsating music (it wasn't bad actually), Sarong's decor included Asian influences. If you like to eat in pretty places, definitely come here. There's a mix of modern and Asian-inspired decor all over the restaurant.

But forget about decor. We did come here to eat! I'm still new to Southeast Asian flavors, and I am sure some people can argue about the authenticity of our meal, but I will say that Sarong gets one thing right: SPICE!! Chile, please! Everything was more than enough kick for even me, a big time lover of things hot and spicy. I likes me some spice, but I think our meal might have actually had too much. Either that or I am not ready for Southeast Asian cooking as I think I am. It also could have been what we ordered (see below!).

Husband J trying to deal with his burning lips from all of the spice by using a cocktail glass as a cold compress. :)

Anyway, here's some of what we ate:

Salt and pepper squid

Peking duck rolls

Malayasian fish curry (fish head and all..LOVE IT!)

When not thinking about how spicy everything was, I really liked all of the flavors and seasonings of the dishes we tried. Everything was extremely fresh. The curry was thick, savory and probably the most authentic curry that I have probably ever had. Sarong's service was quick, attentive and most of all friendly. Part of me wished I had more stomach room to try more of the dishes there as everything on the menu sounded fabulous.

If you are ever in Seminyak, go to Sarong for an upscale, lively dinner!

Monday, September 20, 2010

BackTrackin', Brazil Edition - Tranquil Salvador, Brazil

Did you think I forgot about writing about my trip to Brazil? Nah! :)

My time in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil (commonly known as Bahia, but I refer to it as Salvador here) was an about face from my time in Rio. Salvador is the largest city in the Norteastern province of Bahia and is the main area of the country for exploring Afro-Brazilian culture. While I was thrilled to finally see a part of Brazil's cultural landscape that has always captivated me, at this point I was just happy to experience Salvador's laid back vibe for the days I was there.

Salvador feels like a familiar mix of the Caribbean with an unfamilar feel of a South Amerian city (Brazil was my first and only trip to South America so far.). I felt like I had been to places like Salvador before, but there was definitely a feeling of being somewhere completely new. The familiarity of the sea salt smells, the breezes and the people of the city walking leisurely as they went to the market were normal for me. The nasal-like sound of Portuguese from people who looked like my cousins, the samba music in the squares at night, and the impromptu capoeira circles were unfamiliar yet absolutely pleasing parts of my time in Salvador.

At this point in the trip, I had been traveling by myself for several days and was used to seeing many sites to occupy myself. With less sites to see, I really spent a lot of my time just relaxing in my room at Casa do Amarelindo (more on my room in another post) and wandering the streets of central Salvador.

I think these pictures should convey a sense of the easygoing, quiet moments that were a part of my morning and afternoon walks. Feel free to turn on some bossa nova (well, for Salvador it should really be samba) and make a caipirinha to drink while taking a look at these pictures. :)

Largo de Pelourinho, a main street within Salvador's historic center

The view of the Salvador's port from my room's deck.

The Elevador Lacerda, which connects the Cidade Baixa (Lower City) and Cidade Alta (Upper City). Many of Salvador's main points of interest are in the Cidade Alta.

Salvador also has beaches very close to the center.

A view of central Salvador from the other side of the Bahia de Todos Os Santos (All Saints Bay)

If there was a lesson that I learned from this part of the trip, it's that sometimes as a traveler you really need to just BE in a place in order to truly know and understand it. If you're rushing around, you'll miss seeing and understanding the reality of everyday life in another place. I find those moments of peering into someone else's life the most fulfilling part of traveling. Yes, I know that this is hardcore travelers' 101, but often we need reminders of life lessons for them to really sink in. The Type A travel personality that often rules my brain finds slowing down sometimes hard to do even now, but Salvador forced me to do that. For that, my Salvador, I am grateful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tourist in My Own Town - Discovering Another NYC Island

I think I am already in denial about fall starting to creep up on us, so I thought I would tell you all about a new place I visited a few months ago.

New York City is essentially a bunch of islands: Manhattan, Ellis Island, etc. with Brooklyn and Queens technically physically located on Long Island. Yet there was another island that New Yorkers weren't too familiar with until very recently: Governor's Island.

Where? Here....

Governor's Island is a small 172-acre island about one mile from Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn (I think we clocked the ferry at less than ten minutes). It's been in use in its various incarnations since the early 17th century; but until recently, it was primarily used as a military defensive installation and post. From 1783 to 1966, the island served as a U. S. Army outpost and was then passed on to the U.S. Coast Guard until 1996. For several years, the island sat empty and unused. New York State took over control in 2003 two years after the island received national monument status, and the City of New York recently took over control of the development of the island.

Now the island is many things to many people. For some it's a place to spend a leisurely afternoon seeing concerts and going to festivals. For others, as of a week ago, it's their school grounds. The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a charter school, just opened last week. Husband J and I are definitely in the "leisurely afternoon" group, and we had a nice time wandering around Governor's Island.

The island is accessible by ferry from both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Brooklynites, just go the western end of Atlantic Avenue (at Columbia Street to be exact; take the B65 bus if you don't want to walk or don't have a car.). After a short wait for the ferry, we were off!

Boarding the ferry at Brooklyn

Our first look at Governor's Island

Getting off of the ferry, I immediately noticed that there were just so many things to do on the island.

Visitors can rent bikes to ride.

There was a kite festival that weekend.

Governor's Island has a sculptors' society, and they were out in full force that afternoon.

I think the most fabulous thing we came upon that day was Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra's Jazz Age Lawn Party. This was a totally no joke, real live honest to goodness performance/20's dance party/picnice (albeit in some hard core heat).

People were definitely gettin' down doing the Charleston.

I loved the pretty authentic attire.

The party even included some classic cars.

Husband J and I just walked around and admired the general splendor including the views.

The view of Manhattan

The view of Ellis Island (I've never been there actually. Perhaps a trip is in order.)

I think what boggled our minds the most were all of the different types of structures and places on the island.

A VERY small min-golf course

The soldiers who lived here didn't have to go far to go to church.

Yours truly in front of a former officer's quarters now an outpost of the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

By the way, we were not without provisions.
Cut mango, a Pellegrino Limonata soda (I become obsessed with these this summer), a nectarine, hummus falafel and pita from our favorite local falafel joint, Bedouin Tent, Laughing Cow cheese (Husband J became obsessed with this over the summer)
An odd mix but it did the job.

After our afternoon on Governor's Island, I was sad that I had not taken advantage of it before. I missed out on a Cold Play concert, food festivals (including Parked (a food truck festival) and the Vendys (street vendor awards)) and countless activities before this trip.

THAT won't be happening again, but a trip to Governor's Island will.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bali High - A Special Dinner at the Samaya

One of the many reasons that I liked our stay at the Samaya in Seminyak, Bali was because of the excellent food. Part of the Honeymoon Package we decided to get there included a wonderful multi-course meal that was in a special part of the main beach area right off of the restaurant.

It was like having our own little island in the middle of the resort's main pool area. Sadly, it wasn't more private (everyone sitting in the main lounge area could technically see us), but it was our little special space for the evening.

There was a small bridge leading to our tented seating area. The Samaya made me fall in love with frangipani flowers, since they used it everywhere. I absolutely love the smell.

The area near our "tent" was strewn with flowers...more frangipani!

Two glasses of champagne were included in the meal. Wine is so expensive in Bali, and we were actually missing it at this point in the trip.

The Samaya even gave me my own bouquet.

Oh yeah...we did eat. A LOT. My goodness I think we were stuffed half way through the meal.

First out was an amuse bouche of a small potato pancake with smoked salmon. Anything with smoked salmon cannot be bad.

A yellow fin tuna salad with tomato confit, cucumber a little balsamic thrown in. There was a foam on there I am not remembering as well as pumpkin seeds. The totally fresh tuna was amazing. Although there was some gelatinous green stuff on the plate that did nothing for the rest of the dish. I could have done without it.

Gazpacho with avocado and tiger prawns. This was one of my favorite parts of the meal. The gazpacho was perfectly seasoned with a great tomato flavor. The large chunks of avocado were melded well with everything. I think I had too much gazpacho actually. :(

Wagyu beef sirloin with twice baked potato (with some crab in there somewhere) and asparagus. While I was practically stuffed, I ate the sirloin, which was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender. It made me believe in beef eating again (which I have been a lot more of lately).

Yep. I was close to stuffed, but there was MORE to eat! This is what a stuffed person looks like.

A palate cleansing guava sorbet with lemon fizz

Cannelloni with white chocolate, strawberries and basil
I wanted to like this more, but it was still a nice ending to the meal. The cannelloni was a little chewy but I loved the flavor of it as it was enhanced by the vanilla mousse. Yum!

This meal is by far the most well-executed meal that I've ever had at a hotel. I know people often don't like "hotel" food, but between the high quality of the meal and the romantic environment, I was in heaven.

Have you ever had a memorable meal at hotel?

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