The best thing I ate in Costa Rica was chifijo (pictured below) and from what I heard this is the most classic Costa Rican dish you could try. It is composed of chicharrón, which is crispy fried pork, regular pork, beans, rice and then topped with chimichurrri (which tasted exactly like pico de gallo to me). The ingredients are how you get the name; CHI from chicharrón and FIJO from frijol or beans. I am including this fact because everyone is quick to tell you that detail because the name is actually patented by the creator Miguel Angel Araya Cordero and it was a dramatic process. He is also the owner of the restaurant chain called Cordero where you can find the original chifijo. The crunch and saltiness from the pork paired with the freshness of the pico, I mean chimichurri, was perfect! You’ll find this staple boca (bar food) at bars because it is meant to be paired with a nice cold Imperial.
That is the question that I was asked on Friday the week before Labor Day. My obvious answer was “Yes, Yes I can!” Logistics were looked over that weekend and then I booked my flight on Monday and got on the plane on Wednesday. I spent two days in San Jose and spent two days up at the Buena Vista Lodge in Guanacaste. Here we had a post season meeting with the local guides, about 35. But it wasn’t all work but also some play. We had an evening to say “thank you” to our Costa Rica staff which was thermal spas, dinner, and salsa dancing! This event was amazing. The staff here are so close and are like family. They were great to talk to about Costa Rican life as forgiving when they tried to teach me how to dance salsa or merengue.
We rode a tractor down from the lodge to the spas. First we sat in the sauna, then covered ourselves in mud and let that dry, then washed it off and relaxed in the different temperatures of spa.
This was my second trip to Paris this year and I was doing my usual thing…eating. I truly believe if you don’t gain weight in Paris you aren’t doing it right. I was training for my half marathon while I was in Paris and I was stuck between a rock and a hard place; running and cheese/wine. Since I was a chaperone our adult free time was from 9 pm til 11 pm when we would do bed checks. This was our time to breath a little, drink some wine and enjoy some nice cheese, and chat. So as soon as we released the kids to free time at the hotel I would quickly change and then go for a 30 minute run. Instead of walking, stretching, and drinking water I would run straight back up to the adult group sweaty and gross and catch up for my missed time. Sure a morning run would also be an easy solution but I am the Queen of the snooze button so that really wasn’t an option.
(Fabulous lunch in Le Marais)
I also was able to do a few “first” in Paris this time. I went up the Arc de Triomphe and and then deep underground to the catacombs. I wasn’t impressed with the catacombs but that could be because I am a little bit claustrophobic. The Arc de Triomphe though was not a let down. I personally think the views are better than the Eiffel tower.
Oxford is a town that shouldn’t be missed when visiting England. You can spend the day bouncing around to one of the 38 colleges and see the beautiful different architecture of each one. You can also find many spots where Harry Potter was filmed or see the original rooms (example the great hall) that were replicated in a studio for filming. When you find yourself ready for a meal, and I mean ready because this one isn’t light, head over to Pieminister. It is located in the Covered Market that opened in 1774 and has different restaurants, meat shops, flower shops, and more. At Pieminister you will find pretty much any variation of a meat pie you can think of. I had the Moo and Blue which was steak and stilton with a side of mashed potatoes and mushy peas. The gravy was rich and the meat was tender. With each bite the finishing flavor was the stilton. The mushy peas were a good refreshing side because they were full of mint that helped lighten the meal. Like I said, this is a heavy but fabulous English meal.
London is a city that will always be calling to my heart. I have been a few times now and I love it. I feel comfortable there. When I go on my work tours I typically only see the usual tourist sites but this time I found two new places I haven’t been. One spot involves Buckingham Palace and though I’ve seen the palace a handful of times this is a different view. If you stand on the Blue Bridge that crosses the lake in St James’s Park you will get the view below. I will say my photo skills were lacking and this doesn’t do it justice because it was truly breathtaking.
The next spot is the Southbank Centre Market. This a street food market full of all different kinds of cuisine—doesn’t get much better than that. I got the curry dish pictured below and not pictured was my friends truffle duck confit burger with a side of duck fat fries topped with truffle mayonnaise. I finished the fries.
This past weekend I went to Charleston to visit old friends. I lived there for about six months in 2012 and I was way over due for a weekend visit. We gave our young party selves a run for our old party selves money. But as would be expected we realized we couldn’t rally like we used to–a lot more sleeping is needed now. Most of the weekend was spent eating and drinking. One main thing that has changed since I lived there is they have befriended people with boats! Happy hour was spent on a boat sipping mojitos; this is a good improvement. Eating at places like Taco Mamacita (sloppy nachos are a must), Leon’s Oyster Shop, Edmund’s Oast, and finally Butcher & Bee. Our nights were spent at Warehouse, Bay Street Biergarten, and I’m semi ashamed to admit Taco Bell. Can’t wait for my next Charleston Reunion.
Then 2012 Now 2015
(Butcher & Bee lunch and Leon’s)
(Tavern and Table brunch)
This past weekend I went back to one of my favorite places…East Lansing, Michigan for Michigan State University’s graduation. I went to watch my litter sister graduate and of course act like I was in college again. The first day I was there I went to Burgerama which might just be my heaven. It is day drinking beer only out of pitchers, burgers, and awesome music. What more could you ask for?
The next night things got real young when my sister, brother-in-law, and I went to my little sister’s house party. We tried to fit and…
We also made sure to visit out most fav late night eats places, below is Conrads! Though the menu has changed my love for them has not.
I made cookies and cupcakes for the bachelorette party and some had to be inappropriate which means so were boobs, butts, and penises. I had to get creative with the heart cookie cutter for the boobs and butts because I couldn’t find one anywhere. I cut a can and shaped it into a heart; which actually worked out pretty well. I borrowed the penis cookie cutters from one of my friends—that would have been a little bit more difficult to make out of a can. I also made golf themed cupcakes because the bride-t0-be is marrying a pro golfer and is also a big golf fan! I used a special tip for the frosting, got edible pearls from the grocery store, and made the flags with toothpicks and paper. I carried the cupcakes, unfrosted, on the plane along with the fully done cookies. I checked my bag with the frosting and it was easy to put together once I was in Nashville.
If you don’t have inappropriate desserts and dance on the kitchen counter then it really isn’t a bachelorette party now is it?
What is a bouchon you ask? A bouchon is a type of restaurant that is most commonly found in Lyon France and serves classic Lyonnaise food. This is not your light lunch type of meal it is a meal normally focused around meats. They say the classic ones have red-checkered table clothes and a bistro feel to them. Lets take it a step further and discuss Lyon.
Lyon is the gastronomic capital in France with Michelin star rated restaurants all over the city; one of the many reasons we wanted to go. Though there were star restaurants all of the the city Kara and I could not wait to have a classic Lyonnaise meal. We almost didn’t get this experience because we didn’t make a reservation in advance so like a said in the previous post MAKE A RESERVATION—even the day of is good enough but you need one to be seated.
We had our bouchon experience at Le Café des Federations. You are given a menu for you to see what you will be served for your appetizers and cheese course and then you get a choice for you entree.
The meal started with oeufs en meurette which is egg poached in a wine sauce. This starter set the bar very high for the rest of the meal. Next came a lyonnaise salad which consist of frissee lettuce topped with an egg and warm bacon to wilt the greens and coated with a mayonnaise like dressing, a lentil salad, and a few different kinds of salami like meats and cornichons.
Next we had the cheese course. There were about six different of options; soft, hard, and spreadable cheese. This might be the only time in my life I left cheese on my plate. I was appalled at myself but I knew I had two more courses to go and I had already learned my lesson on trying to ask for a to go box.
Next we had the mains. I had a quenelle which is a mixture of creamed fish and it was poached with a crawfish sauce. It was heavenly! So light and almost soufflé like. My French teacher told me I must be French if I like this dish. Kara had a pork cheeks stew, which reminded me of beef bougonione. They were both amazing. Rich in flavor, which the way the French know best, and hearty and elegant in all ways food possibly can be.
Here we are super excited about the mains then we realized there was still dessert!
We got an ice cream with a berry glaze on top and then pink praline tart. The tart had a caramel like deep red texture and tasted like sugar that had pork cracklins in it.
When I think about experiences eating or not in my life this will always be one of my favorite.
Want to know how to conquer Lyon, France in 48 hours? I’ve got you covered.
If you are like me and my sister you will arrive around 2 pm into the Lyon train station from Charles de Gaulle. From there you can either take the easy route and hop in a cab or take the bus which cost €1.25 per person. We opted for the bus. Of course with this way you might lose a little time but it makes for a good story. For example standing at the wrong bus stop for about 20 mins, then getting to the right bus stop, then getting on the right bus but the wrong direction and trying to ask in French if you are going the right way all while jet lagged…like I said lost time but good story. We hopped off the bus at the Opera house because our Airbnb we rented was in that area. Once checked in the first thing you need to do is get food. We walked to try to get in at a bouchon (will share my bouchon experience in the next post) but they were closing because it was the in-between lunch and dinner time so instead settled for the cafe outside our apartment. We got a cheese platter and beef tartare and enjoyed our first of many glasses of wine. We ate as much as we could and then decided we could not stay awake a minute longer. We had a good amount of cheese left and being the good Americans we are wanted to take it home. Kara went inside and asked for a box; nothing. Then in my broken French I asked our server “take food with me.” I never learned box in French. Apparently you need to learn that because once again nothing happened. We really were going to start napping at the table so we did the only thing we could, took our napkins out and put the bread and cheese in it and left. Serious times call for serious measures.
Next nap for a few hours then wake up refreshed and explore the city at night. Walk to Place des Terreaux and enjoy a cappuccino. We next tried to go again to a bouchon and were laughed at by the same guy who laughed at us earlier when he said they were closed when we told him we didn’t have a reservation. If there is one thing I learned form this trip is MAKE A RESERVATION. Even if the restaurant can accommodate you they won’t unless you have a reservation. I’ll say it again because it is that important; MAKE A RESERVATION. We went across the street to La Creperie du Major and had crepes. It was a cute little place with interesting fairy paintings on the wall but was super cozy and had fabulous crepes, savory and sweet. Next enjoy the rest of your Saturday night at Les Berthoms then get a goodnight’s rest.
Day two; wake up. Call and make a reservation for lunch and then head to Marché Saint-Antoine right on La Saone. Anything and everything you could imagine food wise was available to be purchased. Such fresh produce, meats, seafood. I felt like I had died and gone to farmer’s market heaven.
Next head to your bouchon lunch. Do not miss this. It was amazing and what Lyon is known for(Details in next post). Help digest your food and start the hike up Fouvière Hill. Here you get a great view of the city as well as La Basilique Notre Dame and the see the Roman ruins. Walked back down and head to Vieux Lyon and look at one of the oldest cloaks in Europe on Cathédrale Saint-Jean.
Keep exploring Vieux “Old” Lyon and the cobble streets. At this point we headed back to the apartment and took a quick power nap. Head back out to the city for beers at The Smoking Dog in the old part of town and then finish with wine at Le Baroc Bar right off the river. A perfect way to say good bye to the city you have now fallen in love with. This is a perfect Sunday which is a little more difficult to plan since most places are closed.