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Thursday, January 31, 2013



It took us a few days to get settled but we finally got around to doing some sightseeing.  We have gone to the beach a couple of times, visiting the big tourist spot Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Azucar, to the locals) and went on a tour of the Municipal Theater.

The beach was quite the experience.  You can rent chairs and an umbrella for about $10 for the day.  The waves were pretty big and there were tons of people there.  Do not expect a quiet day at the beach.  There were vendors walking by selling absolutely everything imaginable.  From my chair, I had the options to buy:
food - nuts, Globo 'cookies' (which are puffed air biscuit/crackers shaped like donuts with a slight popcorn flavor.  My travel guide said it was a staple of Brazil and so I tried it...once was enough, I think.), shrimp skewers, empanadas, ice cream, candy, beef and chicken kabobs
the Mate man, armed with Mate
and lemonade
for all your drinking needs
drinks - beer, soda, mate tea (another staple of Brazil.  It is a local tea that they drink everywhere here.  It's  carried around in tanks at the beach - one with tea, one with lemonade.  You can have it plain or half tea, half lemonade.  Pretty tasty!)
accessories - beach wraps, bathing suits, earrings, necklaces, sunglasses, suntan lotion, hats, shirts, dresses, shoes
I know I'm leaving stuff out but that's all I can remember right now.  Suffice it to say, it was a shopping extravaganza!
It was a great day at the beach.  I enjoyed people watching and playing in the water with my daughter and watching all the vendors go by.  Oh, one other thing, the bathing suits are not as tiny as I thought.  Yes, there are tiny, little bikinis (worn by both men and women) but there are also plenty of people with 'American" style swimsuits too.  Most of the younger guys actually wear board shorts and the women were probably an equal mix of Brazilian bikinis (thongs and almost thongs) and bikinis with more coverage.  I am perfectly comfortable in my swimsuit and won't be trading it in anytime soon.

We also went downtown and checked out the theater.  It was really beautiful and well preserved. It was modeled after the Paris Opera House and was really impressive.  I am hoping that we can make another trip here soon to see an opera or ballet.  Here are some of the photos we took --

View from the upstairs balcony

We also went to Sugarloaf Mountain, which is over 1200 feet above the ocean.  You get there by riding up two cable cars.  The first one stops and you can walk around, get a snack at the restaurant, visit a cultural center that tells you all about it, take in the stunning views and of course take pictures.  Then you get on the second cable car, go even higher, take more pictures and then head back down.  It was really beautiful and peaceful (even with all the other tourists).
Ride up the cable car 
Getting ready to head up on the second cable car

Christ the Redeemer

The cable car

That's it for now.  Will blog about Christ the Redeemer when we go and see it (sometime soon).  I am also thinking of doing the next blog about some strange things you see around here.  And, of course Carnaval is coming soon and we have tickets for the sambadrome!  So I have a few blogs in the works.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hello Rio!

Our first Brazilian dinner...happy girls!
It has been a very eventful first week here in Rio! We have gone to the beach, the lake, shopping, running, house hunting, visited a weekend market, gone to church, walked all over Ipanema and Leblon and (of course) eaten tons of delicious foods!

We have had some really delicious foods here!  First of all, we get breakfast included with our room at the hotel and it is really good.  Lots of yummy fresh fruits like mangoes, pineapples, bananas,  honey dews, watermelons, plums, apples, starfruits, kiwis, papaya, passion fruit, and strawberries.  There is also yogurt, a selection of cheeses and meats, the addictive little bread called Pão de Queijo (cheese bread), hot sausages and eggs (although the eggs look a little scary to me and I haven't eaten them) and a huge selection of pastries and breads.  Needless to say, I could probably eat this breakfast for several months without tiring of it.

We've also eaten a lot of great food for lunch and dinner.  Most often it's grilled meat or seafood ( sausages, pork cutlets, chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp, octopus) which is served with fluffy white rice and beans, some type of greens and salad. We also had german for a snack and sushi for dinner  it was fantastic!  There are lots of other types of restaurants here too- I've seen Italian, Thai, Turkish, and an Irish pub.

Dinner at Brasilerinho, a great restaurant next to our hotel; grilled pork, greens, rice and beans
The beer I've tried here has been, well, sad.  The popular beer on tap is called Brahms, and being the beer snob that I am, I think it tastes like Budweiser.  No thanks, I'll pass. The wine (especially the Malbec) is good and I'll probably stick to that.  Even though I don't drink mixed drinks, I did leave my comfort zone and try the local drink, a caipirinha, just so I could tell you about it.  First of all, it was really strong!!  They are very generous with the liquor here!  Wow!  I ordered a strawberry caipirinha (they have several fruit flavors - strawberry, tangerine, lemon, lime, and some others that I can't remember) and it was filled with strawberry chunks and rum.  If I liked rum, I probably would have loved it but I'm a beer/wine kind of lady, so I just ate the strawberries out of it and made my husband drink it.

The national drink of Brazil - the caipirinha

the glass my husbands sake was served was quite comical watching him try to drink this without spilling

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The French Laundry.  Thomas Keller.  The man, the myth, the legend!

After first hearing about the man, his philosophy, and his amazing restaurant while I was in culinary school, it immediately went onto the 'must eat here before I die' list that I keep in my head.  When I found out we were going to be living in Monterey, CA for six months, I knew that if ever I was going to eat there, the time was NOW!

dressed and ready to go :)
After months of trying to get a reservation, one of my husbands classmates offered us one of his reservations (somehow both he and his wife managed to get a reservation at the exact same time on open table, which is about as likely as getting struck by lightning twice at the same time.  Seriously, they should have played the lottery that day)!!!

 We drove up to Napa, got all dressed up and made our way to The French Laundry. Our reservation was for 9pm so I couldn't get any cute pics of the famous blue door :(

But I did sneak a photo of the amazing kitchen crew, hard at work!

The restaurant is beautiful! The staff was everything you would expect- friendly, professional, courteous, etc. I thought about taking pictures of the inside of restaurant but decided to spare my husband since I was going to photograph all the dishes.  But let's get to the food!!!!

There were two nine course tastings available - the classic chefs tasting and a vegetable chefs tasting.  I thought about getting one of each so we could try more dishes but knew that I wouldn't want to share a single bite of mine, so we got the same tasting - the classic tasting.

Besides the scheduled nine courses, we were also presented with some delicious bread from Bouchon Bakery (another Thomas Keller property, just down the street) which was served with two different butters.  Next came a  couple of amuse bouches - a salmon cornet served in a cone, made to resemble an ice cream cone and a gruyere cheese gougeres.  Both of these were amazing and a perfect start to our dinner.

Here were our courses -

gruyere cheese gougeres

Salmon Tartare Cornet
It looks like an ice cream cone and tastes like heaven

Oysters and Pearls

I had read about this dish, seen the recipe and imagined it but nothing could really prepare me for how delicious this dish actually tastes! The flavors and textures are simply amazing.  This first course really prepares your heart and mind and tongue for all the fabulousness to come.

Mushroom a la Grecque

Seared Hawaiian Big Island Tuna
with mango-pineapple salsa

Butter Poached Lobster
The lobster was so sweet, buttery and delicious!

Quail Breast
Tender, moist and delicious
Lamb Saddle
Medjool Dates, Nantes Carrot, Sicilian Pistachios, Salsify and Cilantro

The cheese course
If I had to pick a least favorite course, it would be this one.  It wasn't bad it just wasn't as great as the others.

Blood orange mimosa

As a palate cleanser before desert we were served this lovely little dish - Champagne "Granité," Brown Sugar Streusel and Fresh Cream sherbet.
Happy, happy lady!

Chocolate torte

Served with cinnamon whip and banana ice cream.  

 "Coffee and Donuts"

French Laundry version of coffee and donuts is actually Cappuccino Semifredo with Cinnamon Sugar Donuts. and cocoa dusted hazel nuts.  Perfection!


The truffles came after desert.  They were presented on the beautiful tray and you could choose as many as you wanted.  Of course I wanted them ALL but restrained myself and picked these two lovely bits of goodness! Not only were they delicious, they were beautiful.  They are hand painted.  Hand. Painted.   
At the very end, we were presented with some delicious shortbread cookies to take home in a nice little tin (which, of course, I kept). And the French Laundry clothes pin that was on the napkin when we were first seated.  Lovely little reminders of our wonderful dinner!

This meal was absolutely perfect!  While I will probably never have the pleasure to eat at French Laundry again, I will never, ever forget the experience.  This is by far the best meal I have ever eaten.  It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so happy and blessed that I was able to do it.  Did I mention how very much I love my husband for this?


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