A day in Mendoza!

A day in Mendoza!

Mendoza is located in the wine country of Argentina.  Red, white, light, crisp or full-bodied wine can all be found being produced in Mendoza.  But, in addition to the awesome wine production, Mendoza has become one of the top culinary cities in South America. Top that off with the all-star wineries and the spectacular view of the Andes mountains and Mendoza is an up and coming travel destination!

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A girl’s dream! Leather shoes, purses, and coats!

Mendoza is like many wine towns that I’ve visited.  There are all sorts of cute shops and cafe’s that line the streets of the town.  You can find handcrafted items and treats that are unique to the area.  In Mendoza, there are leather shops everywhere.  Gorgeous leather items can be found throughout Argentina.  It’s a girl’s dream town of purses, shoes, and coats!

Chocolate Store in Mendoza
Who doesn’t love a candy store!

The town of Mendoza is very picturesque. In many places, trees naturally provide a canopy over the streets. It’s lovely. Flower stands are on every corner. Even the police station is cute!

Trees Lined Streets of Mendoza
Trees provide a natural canopy in Mendoza
flower stands in Mendoza
Flower stands line the street in Mendoza
Police Station in Mendoza
Even the jail is charming!

Instead of food trucks that you can find in many cities in America, there are open flame pits in Mendoza.  All types of meats are prepared and sold to people on the street.  Vendors even toast various types nuts over the flames.

Street Vendor in Mendoza
Toasting nuts on the street
Street Barbeque in Mendoza
Argentina loves to barbeque!

A day without wine in Mendoza is like a day without sunshine!  The wine is so good and there are many wineries and vineyards to visit.  On this particular day, the first stop was Bodega Los Toneles.  A six-course tasting and wine pairing awaited us!

Bodega-Toneles-in-Mendoza.jpg
Food and wine pairing is a great way to spend the afternoon!

We took an Uber to the winery.  The bodega was really hard to find, just tucked away in the middle of the city.  Hard to believe that this lovely setting and interesting winery were located in the middle of the town!

Bodega Los Toneles in Mendoza
Hard to believe that the winery is located in the middle of Mendoza

Bodega Los Toneles was built in 1922. The meaning of the name Bodega Toneles is Winery of the Tun.  According to the dictionary, a tun is a large beer or wine cask.   “Toneles was founded by the Armando family, who built their immigrant dream in the classical, elegant and charming style of the belle époque, using art nouveau details and ornaments to imprint the building with beauty and a unique personality,” according to the website.

Welcome to Bodega Los Toneles
Welcome to Bodega Los Toneles!

After a tour of the facility and a brief class in winemaking, we settled in for our tasting.  The tasting room was a very modern dining room and with unusual art that decorated the walls.  It was very pretty.

Ceramic Wine Vessels at Bodega Toneles
Wine is stored in ceramic eggs

 

Tasting Room at Bodega Los Toneles
The lovely dining room at Bodega Los Toneles

The first food tasting that was presented was a lemon scented sweetbread with grilled onions and mustard, with a honey and chardonnay dressing.  The wine pairing was a Fuego Blanco Gewurztraminer wine.

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Sweetbreads aren’t for everybody!

The wine was very light and refreshing.  After all, sweetbreads are a little on the heavy side.  The wine was served to balance the starter.  I have to be honest, I just drank the wine.  Sweetbreads aren’t really my thing.  Others said they were very good, they just didn’t really realize what they were eating! hehe

First Wine Pairing at Bodega Los Toneles
Light and refreshing white wine

The next course was really delicious.  It was an Andean sweet corn humita with oxtail ragout on fresh bread.  The soup was what we typically think of as corn chowder.  The ragout was a little dollop of barbecue on the top.  It was paired with a Fuego Blanco Malbec/Cabernet Franc. The red wine was very nice and light and complimented the heavy soup.

Bodega Los Toneles Corn Chowder
I ate it all! It was delicious!
Bodega Los Toneles Red Blend Wine
Perfect balance between the heavy soup and the light red blend

If you are a vegetarian, Argentina would be really difficult.  Argentina is known for their beef.  Most of the beef is grass-fed.  The landscape of Argentina is relatively flat, so there’s a lot of grass that naturally grows and makes it easy to raise cattle.  You might be aware that most American cattle are grain fed, mainly from corn.

Because the cattle in Argentina have a diet of grass, it results in the beef containing more omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s widely thought that Argentinian beef produces less risk of cholesterol or heart disease.  Music to my ears!

Some of my farm friends may not like me to say this, but cows don’t naturally have a diet of corn.  Sometimes the cows are fed corn to fatten them up quickly so they can go to market.  The cow’s diet may or may not contain hormones.  Because the Argentinian cows are fed a more natural diet, the meat is a little more tender.  I thought that it tasted better than most American steaks that I have had. Before I traveled there, I really didn’t believe that Argentinian beef could taste so much better than ours.  I quickly learned how good it was!

The next tasting course was, of course, beef!  According to the winery, the sirloin steak was dry aged for 30 days.  If you are not familiar with what dry-aged beef means, it is beef that has been placed on a rack or has been hung for several weeks after being butchered.  According to Wikipedia, ” Ageing is a process of preparing beef for consumption, mainly by breaking down the connective tissue”.  Dry-aged beef is often found in more expensive restaurants or butcher shops in America.

Steak at Bodega Toneless Tasting
When in Argentina, Eat Steak!

The restaurant displayed the aging beef in a cool display case.

Dry Age at Bodega Los Toneles
Dry-Aged Beef

There were vegetables and a small salad that accompanied the steak.  The wine pairing was a red wine, which was a fuller-bodied wine that stood up nicely to the beef.  The wine was a Sapo de Otro Pozo Red blend.   Everything about this course was delicious!

Bodega Los Toneles Red Blend Wine
Full-bodied wine served with beef

Many countries eat cheese plates at the end of the meal, sometimes in the place of the desert or at least before the desert is served.  I love a good cheese plate.  This was no exception!

Cheese tasting at Bodega Toneles
Interesting presentation!

The winery menu stated that the next tasting was an abrasado vigilante which translates in English to chestnut cream, fig and squash syrup, brie cheese, a chip, and cheese mousse.  It was a very interesting presentation.  The wine that was served was a Mosquita Muerta White blend.  It was a little on the sweet side for me, more of a dessert wine.  Many people liked it.

Bodega Toneless White Blend Wine
A sweet wine was served with the cheese tasting

The dessert course was a grapefruit and white chocolate with coconut mousse with thyme syrup and cashew nuts.  The wine pairing, in this case a sparkling (my favorite!), was a Fuego Blanco Brut Nature.  The bottle was gorgeous!

Brut sparkling wine at Bodega Los Toneles
Beautiful label. You know I love sparkling wine!

Cheers!  Mendoza is a great place to relax and experience some awesome food and wine!  Stay tuned for next week when I visit another vineyard and Cava Wine Lodge in Mendoza!

 

 

 

 

 

1884 Mendoza

1884 Mendoza

Have you ever been to a restaurant that hit every note perfectly?  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and experience fine dining.  From James Beard nominees to Michelin star winners, I’ve been to many outstanding restaurants.  I’m here to tell you that 1884 in Mendoza, Argentina should be a foodie destination!

If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and his show, Parts Unknown.  He talked with people in such a way that you learned more about an area that you could ever discern from the internet.   He truly brought out the culture and made you feel that you were there with him.

So, one day I happened to be watching the show when Bourdain traveled to Buenos Aires.  I had already booked my trip so I paid close attention to the things he discussed when he was in Argentina.  He usually had a chef companion with him when he traveled to all of the exotic locations for the show.  This time he was touring the city with South American chef Francis Mallman.  Mallman is pretty much the Bobby Flay of South America.  He’s a true grillmaster!

When I was researching Mendoza for my South American trip I ran across a Francis Mallman restaurant called 1884.   The restaurant opened in 1996 and looked very interesting.   According to the 1884 website, “Today, the property of Escorihuela, also houses the prestigious facilities of the Bodega “Caro” that is born from the union of Chateau Laffite led by the mythical Baron, Eric de Rothschild and Catena Zapata, led by Nicolas Catena Zapata who has been in the last 25 years the leader of the wine quality in Mendoza.”  What do you know, Catena is one of my favorite wines of all time!

1884 bodega in Mendoza
Bodega means “a storehouse for wine”

On the day of our reservation, the cab arrived to take us to the restaurant.  Upon arrival at the restuarant, I’ll never forget the way the cab pulled under a covered area and honked the horn.  There was just a little door, not really a sign.  It was very James Bondish.  We also had to knock on the door?  Very interesting but also a little disconcerting for first-time visitors!

1884 restaurant in Mendoza
Honk and knock to enter 1884 Restaurant

We made our way through the little gold doorway that opened to a lovely bar with fresh flowers and low lighting.  The bar wasn’t very large, but it had a very cozy feeling. Just right!

The dining room was a lovely shade of eggplant (yes, eggplant is the best way to describe it) and there was a lovely mural was on the wall directly behind us.  The lighting was enough for us to see the room….and, also just enough so that everybody looked fabulous!  The restaurant was very romantic with candles and fresh flowers.

mural on the wall at 1884
The elegant dining room at 1884

As we were looking over the menu the sommelier came to the table to help us with our wine selections.  Mendoza is known for its red wine, particularly it’s Malbecs.  The wine list was something to behold.  The 1884 website says that it has over 600 Argentine wines to choose from.  I believe it!   The sommelier described our wine as having notes of smoke, mint, thyme, graphite, and licorice.   Our Malbec was excellent and very different than many Malbecs I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Malbec wine at 1884
The wine had notes of smoke, licorice, graphite, and thyme!

Beef and empanadas are specialties in South America.  I had eaten a few empanadas on my trip already, but I had not experienced anything like the 1884 empanada! Fabuloso.  These empanadas were baked in a clay oven.  They make my mouth water just thinking about them.

1884 empanadas
Empanadas cooked in a clay oven

Another one of my dining mates ordered the pear salad.  It was wrapped in cured ham (it looked like Proscuitto) with burrata cheese and mixed nut gremolata.  Pure perfection!

peach salad with burrata at 1884
My kinda salad!

For the main course, I ordered a ribeye.  When in Rome…..of course, I’m ordering the beef!  It arrived with a crusty outside and a juicy inside.   I can’t describe how good it was.  The chimi-churri on the top provided an interesting twist.

Ribeye with chimichurri at 1884
Perfection!

As you know, I’m all about deserts.  I really couldn’t eat another bite, but I couldn’t let dessert go by!  I remembered back in high school making flan for Spanish class, which turned out really good.  And then I tasted 1884’s flan!

Dulce de leche flan at 1884
The.best.dessert.EVER!

The dessert was flan of dulce de leche and fresh whipped cream.  In South America, they eat a lot of dulce de leche.  It is served with every meal, including breakfast.  I could definitely get used to it.  My dessert was divine.

Another friend ordered the Chocolate for Fanatics dessert.  WOW!

Chocolate Fanatic Dessert at 1884
I should have ordered this too!

My visit to 1884 was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.  Everything was perfect about the restaurant and the meal.  I was curious about the chef, Francis Mallman, so when I arrived back home I did a little research on him.

As I told you before, he is seen as the premier chef of South America.  He’s what we would call a grillmaster, but not in the sense of cooking with a regular grill.  He is the master of cooking over an open flame pit, using many unique techniques that are not very common here in the US.  Even at the restaurant, there were open fire pits used to cook the food.  No wonder the steak had the wonderful char on the outside.

outside grill at 1884
This is where the magic happens!

I happened to watch the Netflix series “Chef’s Table” where Mallman was featured.  Some of the techniques that he uses are not only open fire pits but clay ovens and smoldering covered pits (on the show he uses this cooking method primarily for fish). The food is completely covered by dirt as the steam cooks the seafood to perfection.  If you get a chance to see the show, watch it.  He’s a very unique guy!

Francis Mallman
The master of grilling photo by watatenzi.nl

During my research, I came across his recipe for the dulce de leche flan.  I’m certainly going to try my hand at it.  I hope you will, too. Enjoy!  Stay tuned next week for more about Mendoza, Argentina!  xoxox

Francis Mallman Dulce de Leche Flan per Epicurious

Ingredients
For dulce de leche:
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1-quart whole milk
4 cups sugar

For flans:
1 large egg
8 large egg yolks
For caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water

Preparation
Make dulce de leche:
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, then place a small saucer upside down in pot to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom or forming a crust. Cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and brown, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Cool.

Make caramel:
Preheat oven to 325° F. Place eight 6-ounce ramekins in the shallow baking pan. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in small saucepan with pouring lip. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the pan. Immediately pour caramel into ramekins, tilting and rotating ramekins to coat bottom and rewarming caramel over medium heat if it gets too thick.

Make flans:
Whisk together egg and yolks in large bowl. Whisk in dulce de leche. Strain mixture through a sieve into large measuring cup and pour into ramekins, diving evenly.
Place baking pan in the oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come two-thirds up sides of ramekins. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Tent foil to vent steam and continue to bake 10 to 15 minutes, until flans are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers. Using a metal spatula, transfer flans in ramekins to rack; cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. To unmold flans, run a small knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto plates.

 

Wine, Graffitti & Chile

Wine, Graffitti & Chile

I guess you’re wondering how wine and graffiti go together in a blog post about Chile?  If you happen to travel to Santiago you will see that Chile is very proud of these two things, wine and public art.  South America is known for some of the finest Malbecs and Sauvignon Blanc in the world, and the street art is really popular all around the country.  Between the landscape and conditions that make Chile so good for winemaking and the vibrant colors and images of the graffiti, both of these things make Chile standout as a travel destination!

Elephant Mosiac Mural in Santiago
Elaborate Street Art in Santiago

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Malbec, it is a type of red wine.  Malbec is relatively new to the wine game, rising in popularity in the last 10 years or so.  According to a recent Vinepair article,  “Malbec was born in France where it was primarily used as a blending grape in the country’s famous Bordeaux blend.”

The Vinepair publication goes on to explain how the Malbec grape found its way to Argentina and Chile from France.  According to the article, ” In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of Argentine winemakers consulted a French agronomist Michel Pouget for his thoughts on a grape they should plant in order to improve the quality of the Argentine wine.  The grape that was recommended was Malbec!  The Argentines took vine cuttings from France and brought them back to Argentina.  In the hot high-altitude region the vines thrived.”

Veramonte Wine Tasting
Check out the legs of the red wine!

Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite wine!) is also grown in Chile.  Much like the Malbec grape, the Sauvignon Blanc grape also originated from the Bordeaux region of France.  According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, “Sauvignon blanc is the second-most-planted wine grape in Chile.  Sauvignon blanc has vied with chardonnay as the country’s premier white wine variety.”

Chile is right next door to Argentina and it has much of the same climate and altitude, so it makes sense that Chile would also be a great place for malbec and sauvignon blanc grapes!

While I was in Chile I visited an organic vineyard on the outskirts of Santiago.  The vineyard was located in a town called Casablanca.  How fun is that!

Veramonte Winery in Casablanca Chile
When you travel to Chile you should definitely visit a winery!

Veramonte vineyard was established in the late 1990’s, so it’s still a relatively young grower and producer.  The founder was Agustin Huneeus, who was a pioneer of the Chilean wine industry.  The views of the mountains from the vineyard were breathtaking.

Veramonte in Casablanca
Veramonte is lovely!

The town of Casablanca is situated at the base of a mountain range.  According to the Veramonte website,  “The vineyard is surrounded by 2,500 hectares of native forest.  The Pacific Ocean’s cool breezes and morning fog provide great conditions for growing white grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as cool-climate reds such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.”

Veramonte in Casablanca Chile
The climate and landscape in Chile are perfect for several varieties of grapes

Veramonte specializes in organic wine. This basically means that the wine is made from organic grapes, which means they are certified by a third party as organically grown.  According to the Organic Vineyard Alliance, the third party certifies that there are no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers used when making the wine.

Organic Winery Veramonte
Veramonte is an organic winery

The method used by the vineyard to make organic compost was also very interesting.  Instead of using lawn mowers, weed killers, fertilizers, etc. to keep the grass and weeds manageable, Veramonte has goats, sheep and llamas (we all know how much I love llamas!) that eat the weeds and grass throughout the vineyard.  How handy is that?  And from that, you can guess where the organic fertilizer comes from at the vineyard. 🙂

farming-bg
Sheep and goats eat the grass so chemicals aren’t needed! Photo from Veramonte Website

On the tour, the guide explained that each toasted white oak wine barrel is used for four times before it is discarded. The first time the barrel is used is for the aging of red wines, including Malbecs and Cabernets. That’s because these wines need to age for much longer than the Sauvaugn Blanc, Chardonnay or even the Pinot Noirs. The hearty reds need to absorb more of the charred oak to soften and add depth to the wine, therefore spending more time in the barrel.

Our Veramonte tour guide was very knowledgeable and personable.  The winery produces a wide variety of white, rose and red wine.  Many of their wines have won awards including the International Wine Challenge Gold Winner of 2018 for the Chardonnay 2016, and the Silver Medal Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2017 winner for the Carmenere 2015 (this is a grape that tastes to me like a cross between a Malbec and a Cabernet).  During my visit, I tasted several of the wines.  They were all quite good.  I’ll be checking my local wine store for Veramonte labels!

Veramonte Pinot Noir
Lovely Pinot from Veramonte

After a short nap on the bus on the way back to Santiago, we ventured on a city tour, which included the Bellavista neighborhood.  Bellavista is a very affluent area in Santiago, filled with high-end shops and restaurants.  Sort of a hipster area.  I was just fascinated by the graffiti and murals that were located throughout the area.  The use of such vibrant colors and mixed media was striking.   I loved the mosaic mural pictured below.

Mosaic Mural in Santiago Chile
Public Art – A mosaic in Santiago

Upon returning home I did a little research as to why graffiti was so popular in Chile.  According to an article I found on Upscapetravel.com, “The history of Chilean street art was straight-up political.  At a time when political unrest was rising, in the days before the military coup in 1973, the two opposing parties had different takes on how to get their word across.  Pablo Neruda, who was interested in becoming the president of the Unidad Popular, a left-wing policial alliance that supported Allende’s presidency supported the use of images over words.”  This explains some of the more politically oriented murals that we saw.

IMG_1483.jpg
The vibrant colors are beautiful!
Graffitti in Santiago
Murals are located in all areas of the city

As I kept reading the article I ran across an interesting tidbit.  According to Upscapetravel.com, “The last influence is easiest to see in the introduction of pichacao, a stylized kind of simple writing evocative of fonts used by heavy metal bands in the 80’s.”  As a child of the 80’s, no wonder I liked the graffiti so much!  Who doesn’t remember Kiss, Motley Crew, Metallica, and Whitesnake, just to name a few?  I felt a strange urge to get my Aqua Net out.

80's Mural in Santiago
I love the 80’s!

My trip to the Casablanca and Santiago was great.  Stay tuned for my next post and read all about the Restaurant 1884 in Mendoza! xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Visit to Santiago

A Visit to Santiago

Travel & Leisure listed Santiago, Chile as one of their best places to travel in 2018.  I was very excited to be able to see South America and cross that off of my map, especially since it’s such a short plane ride. Who wouldn’t be excited to visit the land where many of the best Malbecs and red wines are produced!

Bubbly Horse Travels to Santiago
I’m ready to fly all night to South America! Sweet dreams!

Santiago is the capital of Chile and also its largest city.  It is estimated that the population of Santiago is around 7 million, which is slightly less than the population of New York City.  Chile’s coastal region is about an hour’s drive from Santiago; Valparaiso is a lovely coastal city. However, the backdrop unique to Santiago is the lovely Andes mountains.  Chile was just finishing winter at the time of our trip, and the high reaching snow-capped mountains were quite beautiful!

Santiago Chile on the Square
Santiago on the Square

As we were taking our city tour, I was struck by how physically fit the people of South America are.  There are beautiful parks and outdoor sports available everywhere you look.  People riding bikes, running, walking and hiking are everywhere.  Interestingly, I saw a large group of people doing Zumba on the side of the road.  It was just so different to see such active people scattered everywhere.  Much different than in the US, where activities such as Zumba are usually confined to indoor facilities.

Winters in Santiago can be chilly, but at the time we arrived it was almost spring, so a light jacket made for comfortable sightseeing.  People everywhere were enjoying the weather as our bus made its way up to the highest point in the city.

The views of Santiago were spectacular.  A bustling city and beautiful mountains.  What’s not to like!

As we ventured out into the city later in the day we came upon a festival….. much like a festival that you would see here in the US.  There were food trucks, families with small children, games, music, etc.  Before I left the U.S., I made a list of a few things that I really wanted to do while I was in Chile.  And guess what?  I found exactly one of the things I had on my list!

Festival in Santiago
Santiago Festival, with Esperanza the LLama

I’ve always loved Llamas.  In Chile, they pronounce it as Yamma, instead of the pronunciation that we use.  This particular cutie was named Esperanza.  She was all dressed up for photos and was the sweetest thing.  She loved to cuddle and nestle her head on your shoulder.  If I could have brought her home, I sure would have!  Just look at those eyelashes and the sweet face.

Llama in Chile
Meet Esperanza! Who wouldn’t love this face!
Bubbly Horse and Esperanza
I finally got to take my photo with a Llama.  Isn’t her outfit cute!
Bubbly Horse with a Llama
I wish I could have brought Esperanza home with me.  Best friends!

I’m a foodie, so before I travel somewhere I like to research what type of food that places are known for and the dished that I should be sure to try!  Chile is known for its seafood.  Due to its coastal proximity, there is a wide variety of seafood that is available.  So, when it was time for lunch we ventured over to the Mercado Central de Santiago, otherwise known as the Fish Market.  The Mercado is a popular tourist destination that our guide recommended.  It’s a little like the fish market in Seattle, although much smaller and a lot more touristy.  It has all of the touristy things you would expect like t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, etc., but hey, I’m a tourist!  I needed to buy some souvenirs to take home.

Mercado Central de Santiago
Mercado Central de Santiago
Mercado Central del Santiago
Mercado Central de Santiago, otherwise known as the Fish Market
Santiago Market
Many selections at the market besides fish

After a quick round of shopping, it was time for lunch.  I couldn’t wait to have some fresh seafood and local wine!  I call that a perfect lunch.  We settled in at a restaurant called El Galeon, which was recommended by our guide.  It is located within the fish market, so we knew everything was pretty much right off the boat and super fresh.

IMG_1516
Nothing like fresh fish!

Crab is one of my favorite things to eat. I think it’s better than lobster. The texture is less chewy and the meat is a little sweeter.  I was thrilled to see such a wide variety of seafood options for our meal.

There is a definite language barrier in South America.  There are a few people who spoke English, but not very many.  Our Google Translate app came in handy along with my little pocket Spanish book, even though the language in Chile is more towards Portuguese.  As we were deciding what to order it was recommended that we get the medium crab, instead of the small.  I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the medium crab that was brought out for us.  Diana ordered one as well.  That’s a lot of crab!

Crab in Santiago
Nothing like fresh crab!

The restaurant had a fun presentation.  We got to put on our chef hat and hold the crab while everybody took photos.  It wasn’t my preferred dining choice; it was super touristy, but we had fun.  The way they served the crab was amazing.  I didn’t have to do any work at all! I was determined to eat every last bite.  It was served with a side order of mushrooms and olives.  I think a little was lost in the “translation”, but it was still really good.

Bubbly Horse at El Galion in Chile
Touristy but Fun!

Santiago has an area called Barrio Bellavista that we stumbled upon.  It’s a beautiful area of the city that has all kinds of unique shops, hotels, and restaurants.  We found many cool galleries and high-end shops where you could buy beautiful pieces of art made from local materials and clothing made from local Alpaca farms.

Bars and restaurants were packed with people.  There were certainly all kinds of restaurants and bars to suit everybody’s taste.

Bubbly Horse Visits Chile Bar
Cool restaurant in Santiago
Bubbly Horse visits Santiago Chile
More restaurants in Bellevista
Bubbly Horse visits Santiago Chile 2
Who knew The Simpsons had their own bar!

Chile is known for its copper mining and its semi-precious stones.  According to our guide, Chile is the world’s largest copper-producing country.  Semi-precious stones that are found in Chile include lapis lazuli (which is a bright blue stone), malachite, turquoise, jasper, quartz, and obsidian.  All around the Barrio Bellavista were shops offering work by artists who had used these materials in their creations.

Bronze Art from Chile
A piece of art that I bought in Santiago. The Lapis, Turquoise, and Onyx are all mined in Chile

Santiago is a very interesting city and one you should definitely visit on your trip to South America.  Next week I’ll talk about the graffiti street art seen throughout Santiago, as well as my trip to a local vineyard that specializes in organic wines.  Until next week!  xoxo

Magical Travel Destination

Magical Travel Destination

Have you ever traveled to a place that felt magical?  A place that is over the top beautiful or just makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale? I can recommend such a place that is just a few minutes and a lovely drive from Lexington and Frankfort, Kentucky.

Several weeks ago I was invited to visit Castle & Key Distillery for an event prior to its public opening.  Castle & Key Distillery is a magical place.  There are very few places you can travel to these days that have the effect of transporting you to a different place and time.  Castle & Key Distillery is just such a place.

Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Castle & Key looks like a storybook setting!

The distillery is located in Woodford County about 5 miles from Frankfort on 113 acres of land.  As with most distilleries, it’s located by water.  The historic property was formerly known as Old Taylor Distillery and was built in 1887.  A scenic drive takes you through a community called Millville.  It’s almost like ‘time travel.’  Interestingly, Millville got its name from to the number of flour and grist mills that used to be located in the area.

One of my friends used to tell me about how in the old days the gardens of Old Taylor Distillery were so beautiful.  He said Colonel Taylor wanted a showplace and replicated beautiful gardens he visited in Europe.  I wish my friend was still here to see how the property has been transformed into the original storybook place that Colonel Taylor built!  He would have loved it.

Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
The gardens were replicated from classic European gardens.

I grew up in Frankfort and I can remember going with the Girl Scouts to the Old Taylor Distillery.  One of my fellow girl scout’s dad was one of the leaders of the distillery and we went for an educational tour one day.  The primary building was very much like a castle in appearance. Now, that was a long time ago.  Not too many years after my visit as a child, the distillery was abandoned.  Without care and upkeep, the buildings soon became neglected.  Overgrown trees and vines took over the beautiful buildings that we all loved.  Most of the kids called it ‘the haunted castle.’

Fast forward to four years ago when two guys had a dream and bought the property.  Founders Will Arvin and Wes Murry had the vision to restore the property to its original storybook setting.  Thank goodness we have such visionary people in central Kentucky!  Storytellers in a sense who inject vitality into the history, the period of decline and neglect, and the rehabilitation of such a special place.

Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Outdoor venue perfect for an outdoor wedding!

When I arrived at the event that day I was directed to the outdoor space for cocktails.  Since the distillery has only been opened for a short time, the bourbon isn’t ready yet and is ‘resting’ in the rick house.  Castle & Key is currently producing vodka and gin since those spirits don’t really need to age as with bourbon.  The welcoming cocktail that was served was called a Paw Paw Bramble.  For those of you who don’t know, a Paw Paw is a fruit that is native to Kentucky.  It’s not very pretty in its natural form, but when it’s pureed, its great.  Sort of like a grapefruit but not as tart.  It was mixed with vodka and served with a lemon peel garnish.

Anyone for a Paw Paw Bramble?

The distillery is named for the main building, which is of course, a ‘castle.’  The water source that is used to make the bourbon, is shaped like a key…..so that’s the origin of the name Castle & Key. The water used to make the bourbon continuously seeps through the surrounding limestone and into Glenn’s Creek.  The outdoor space is highlighted by this unique feature.

The water feature that is used to make the bourbon is shaped like a key

Castle & Key Distillery is home to the only female master bourbon distiller in the country.  Not since Prohibition has there been a woman in charge of bourbon distilling.  Master Distiller Marianne Eaves is a breath of fresh air.  She’s smart, she’s articulate and she’s a great role model…..that’s what I call Girl Power!  As she describes the gin distilling process it sounds more like an adventure in the culinary world rather than distilling liquids.  Castle & Key’s gin includes the traditional Juniper Berry and Angelica, but it also includes surprise ingredients such as Rosemary, Ginger, and Chamomile.  There’s also Lemon Verbena and Corriander!  Botanicals never tasted so good!

Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Master Distiller Marianne Eaves

Marianne hosted a tasting for us in the sunken garden area.  As I told you earlier, Colonel Taylor patterned the gardens from glorious European gardens.  Local celebrity landscape designer John Carloftis has done a tremendous job using original trees and shrubs, as well as supplementing with new items keeping the green and white color scheme.  It takes the garden party concept to a new level.

Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Lovely place for a garden party!
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Koi pond in the garden
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Master Distiller Eaves did a tasting for us

The castle building is the primary location for distilling bourbon, vodka, and gin.  Gleaming copper and stainless steel vats represent new elements use to distill spirits while housed in the historic building.  The gift shop is located in the same building.  Because the building is on the National Register great care was taken in using original materials and keeping things intact.  Original exposed brick and windows are highlighted by 8′ custom made metal chandeliers.  It’s gorgeous!

Bubbly Horse Visits Castle & Key Distillery
This is where the bourbon magic happens!
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
The gin is fantastic!
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Old meets new!
Bubbly Horse Visits Castle & Key Distillery
Original windows and brick were preserved
Custom made metal 8′ chandeliers in the gift shop

As we walked the property on the way to the rick house it occurred to me that even the remaining buildings that are in total disrepair are singularly lovely and do not detract from the recent rehabilitation.  There are several buildings on the property that were torn down in the 80’s.  Such a shame.

Even the abandoned buildings are unique!

The rick house is home to thousands of barrels of bourbon.  Marianne estimated that the bourbon will be aged and ready for release around 2021.  Now, for a little bourbon 101. The bourbon is stored and aged in a white oak barrel that has been charred.  The charring process takes about 35 seconds for the natural gas flame to age the barrel, thus adding the charcoal.  Each barrel weighs 98 pounds empty and 500 pounds when it is filled with bourbon, according to the barrel maker.  The barrel doesn’t have any nails or glue so the staves are the only thing keeping the barrels together.   During aging, the bourbon penetrates deep into the wood; as the barrel wood expands and contracts with changing seasonal temperatures in the rick house the bourbon’s taste is slowly and steadily influenced by the charred oak of the barrel.

The rick house contains the bourbon barrels that are aging
The staves are the only thing holding these barrels together
It’s estimated that the bourbon will be ready in 2021

Castle & Key even has a resident cat.  Ricky is the master exterminator.  He was dressed for the party.

Ricky the Master Exterminator at Castle & Key

The enclosed event space has exposed beams and is a spectacular place for a party.  From the lounge areas to the open dining area, the facility is glamorous without feeling pretentious.  It’s a great location for any type of event.

Lounge area
Glamourous but not pretentious
The exposed beams and a fabulous chandelier make this a great venue for a party
Bubbly Horse Visits Castle & Key Distillery
Beautiful Table Settings at the event

I have to admit that the Castle & Key Distillery certainly knows how to have an elegant event.  From start to finish the event was absolute perfection!  The Apiary catered the event, and it was a southern multi-course meal to remember.  Signature cocktails were served, including a unique Gin and Tonic garnished with juniper berries.

Specialty cocktails for the evening
Even the cocktail garnishes are cool!
Gin and tonic never tasted so good!
The dinner was catered by The Apiary
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
Delicious salad with a sorghum vinaigrette
Bubbly Horse visits Castle & Key Distillery
The Apiary served a wonderful dinner. Fried peach hand pies with lemon verbena compote for dessert!

Castle & Key has an excellent staff.  They are very knowledgeable, professional and personable.  As we walked the property I was blown away by a strong sense of Kentucky history,  as well as the preservation efforts that have been undertaken.  The Castle & Key distillery experience is something that you don’t want to miss!  You will fall in love with this must-see travel destination.  Until next week, xoxoxo.

Bubbly Horse Visits Castle & Key Distillery
Knowledgeable and personable tour guides provide a lovely experience at Castle & Key

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Shakertown at Pleasant Hill

Shakertown at Pleasant Hill

Each month my former co-workers and I get together to have lunch.  It’s great to see and keep up with everybody who I used to spend so much time with on a daily basis, whether in meetings or working on projects.  We enjoy visiting different restaurants each month and having unique adventures.  For example, we recently went to the Stockyards for lunch as well as a local brewery and a bourbon oasis.

Last month we decided to visit Shakertown at Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  It’s only about a 30 minute drive from Lexington.  The drive is very scenic and really pretty.  As you drive to the location you can almost feel yourself going back into time. Barely two-lane roads wind down through the forest and for several miles all you see is wildlife, water and trees.  It’s a lovely drive.

According to the Shaker Village website, “The Shakers were 19th century America’s largest and best-known communal society.  In 1805, a group of Shakers came to central Kentucky and established a village they named Pleasant Hill.  The Shakers chose a peaceful way of life.”  Coming into the village you can almost feel the history.  The buildings are so well-preserved and the setting is serene.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown at Pleasant Hill
Shakertown is a serene setting in Harrodsburg, Kentucky

The Shaker Village website goes on to describe the Shakers: “they were celibate, believed in equality of race and sex, and freedom from prejudice.”  Well, I’m not sure the ‘celibacy’ part was such an effective long-term plan for the Shakers!

There are many buildings on the property.  One of the employees told us that 34 buildings were still in use.  You can see the craftmanship in the buildings, the finishes, and the furniture.  It’s not a mystery why the buildings are still there.  They are well made and have stood the test of time.  The Shakers were the original minimalists.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Historic buildings still stand today

Shaker Village serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the building known as the Trustees Table.  It is known for its great food and unique setting.  When we arrived we were serenaded with a lovely Shaker hymn.  What a great start our adventure!

When waiting for your table you can’t help but notice the two winding staircases that lead upstairs.  As the history goes, one side was for the ladies use and the other was for the men to use.  According to several sources, the only time men and women mixed in the staircases was during worship services.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown Staircases
Shakertown staircases
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Shakers were the original minimalists

Farm to table is a very popular movement these days in most places.  Shakertown prides itself on a menu that features seasonal ingredients from both the on-site garden as well as from local farmers in Harrodsburg. The menu isn’t huge, but it definitely has some items that you don’t find many places.  In the past, Shakertown was known for its livestock, primarily Berkshire hogs and cattle.  It was said to have some of the best quality meat available for purchase in the state of Kentucky.  They also raised sheep for the wool to make cloth for clothing and various items.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown for lunch
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Great menu!

Interestingly, Shakertown now serves a full bar.  They even have mixologists!  I’m not sure how the Shakers would feel about that, but it does add a unique twist to the property.    They serve southern cocktails such as the Colonel’s Cocktail, which is a mix of Makers Mark, orange liquor, sweet iced tea and lemon. I thought The Gardner cocktail looked interesting, as well.  The Gardner cocktail contains Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Cynar (which is an Italian bitter liquor, primarily made from the artichoke), cardamom-caraway syrup and orange bitters.  Who knew artichokes were used in cocktails!

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown Bar
Cute bar area at Shakertown

As we were ushered into the dining room, we noticed the stark furnishings but could not help being impressed with the  lovely wooden tables and chairs.  On the wall were shelves that held candlesticks with paddle-like attachments and wooden knobs.  The knobs, according to my friends,  were designed not only to hang the shelves and candlesticks, but also for the Shakers to hang their chairs after the worship services.   Certainly efficient design work!

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Lovely Dining Room at Shakertown
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Wooden knobs were used for hanging various items, including chairs!
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Craftmanship at it’s finest!

Shakertown seems to be a popular place for lunch.  The dining room was full of families, tourists, and groups like mine.  You need a reservation for a group, even for lunch.

After we ordered they brought out a basket of cornbread muffins.  I’m not really a cornbread fan, but all of my fellow diners loved it.  Coleslaw served family style was also brought to the table prior to the meal.  It was a nice touch.

Tomato pie is one of my favorite things.  You certainly don’t find it on restaurant menus very often.  I hope you saw my post about it several weeks ago, it’s a very unique southern dish.   Shakertown’s tomato pie ingredients as listed on the menu contained garden tomatoes, Gruyère cheese, fresh basil and grated Parmesan.  Count me in!

Bubbly Horse and Shakertown Tomato Pie
Delicious tomato pie from Shakertown!

As you can see the portions were very large.  A garden salad accompanied the tomato pie.  It was excellent!

Shakertown is well known for its homemade desserts.  Of course, no meal is complete without desert in my book.  There was a wide variety of desserts to choose from, so we ordered several!  Dessert options included, Lemon Shaker Pie, Chocolate Flourless Torte, Fresh Peach Shortcake, Vanilla Panna Cotta and of course Buttermilk Pie.  I ordered the Buttermilk Pie. You can’t believe how tasty it was!  Yummy!  The rest of the desserts were very good as well.  I can assure you that no dessert was left behind!

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown Lemon Pie
Lemon Pie dessert
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown Buttermilk Pie
I loved the Buttermilk Pie!
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Vanilla Panna Cotta dessert
Bubbly Horse at Shakertown chocolate dessert
Chocoholics will love the chocolate flourless torte

After lunch we walked around the grounds for a while.  It’s a very peaceful setting.  Naturally, I made sure we made a visit to the gift shop.  Staying true to the theme, the shop contained many handmade items, such as pottery, brooms and various handicrafts.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
Shakertown gift shop

Shaker Village is one of our Kentucky gems.  You can spend the night there, dine there, or just hang out.  The Shakers created a beautiful place and we should be thankful that it has been preserved over the years.  You can go to relax and just enjoy the peaceful surroundings and escape for a while from the stress of today’s lifestyle.

Bubbly Horse at Shakertown
We had a lovely day at Shakertown!

Next week be watching for my Castle and Key blog post.  You don’t want to miss it!  xoxox

Is Georgian Cuisine from Heaven?

There is a Russian poet from the 19th century named Alexander Pushkin who stated, “Every Georgian dish is a poem”.  According to Georgian legend written about in the book The Georgian Feast, “God took a supper break while creating the world.  He became so involved with his meal that he inadvertently tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus, spilling his food onto the land below.  The land blessed by Heaven’s table scraps was Georgia”……or, so it goes!

 

Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin wrote that every Georgian dish is a poem

I really didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to travel to Georgia.  But I am so glad that I did!  Georgia is a country that is home to not only wonderful people but also to some of the best food and wine in the world!

Georgians regularly meet to enjoy a supra, which means feast.  One of the most important features of the feast is, of course, the wine.  Georgia has a long history in winemaking and is home to over 500 varieties of grapes.  It’s one of the oldest wine regions in the world.

According to many of the historians, since the year 6000 BC, the inhabitants of Georgia were cultivating grapes.  Winemakers would bury them in clay vessels called kvevris. This vessel stored their wine until it was ready to serve.  According to UNESCO, ” The kvevris was topped with a wooden lid and covered and buried underground.  The porous nature of the vessel allows for natural temperature shifts and aeration….and, the oblong shape promotes kinetic movement by allowing constant natural stirring and more uniform oxygen contact.  This process is important for the production of amber wines in Georgia”.  As we drove through the countryside many homes still had grape arbors in the yard.

Qvevri store Georgian wine
Qvevri are vessels that store Georgian wine under the ground until ready to serve

Photo by Georgianrecipes.net

Today, according to wine experts, somewhere almost 500 varieties of grapes exist in Georgia.  Many of those grapes were nearly extinct!

The best way to describe Georgian wine is “orange wine”. It’s not made from citrus, but the grapes taste like a white wine but have the body, tannin, and structure of a red wine.  It’s a lot more complex than a traditional rose wine.  And, it’s a lot better than rose, in my opinion.  No preservatives are added to Georgian wine.  I’ve found that many times it’s the sulfates in the wine that gives you a headache the next day and sulfates aren’t added to Georgian wine.  The shelf life may not be as long, but at least you have an all-natural product!

Georgian wine is amber colored
Georgian wine is orange in color

Not only is Georgian wine bottled without any preservatives, it’s also much lower in alcohol than traditional American wine.  Georgian wine contains around 9-11% alcohol compared with 11.5-13.5%  in American wine.  This is excellent news when you are attending a 4-5 hour formal dinner or supra, as they call it in Georgia.

We stayed in the old part of town in a hotel that was built on a hillside. It was a cool hotel.  At the bottom of the hill was the old section of Tbilisi.  Cobblestone streets were lined with shops, restaurants, and bars.  One of my favorite memories of my trip was going to a traditional Georgian restaurant complete with a band that played Georgian music.  Both the music and the food were great!

 

 

 

Formal banquets in Georgia can last from 4-6 hours, or longer.  Multiple rounds of food, wine and toasts are the hallmarks of a Georgian supra.  My post last week discussed Georgian toasting, it’s quite an experience.

Georgian toasting
There’s always toasting and a lot of food at a Georgian dinner party!

According to Georgiastartshere.com traditional Georgian feasts consist of dishes such as these:

  • Pkhali, which is a spinach and walnut salad
  • Khinkali, dumplings stuffed with spiced meat or vegetables
  • Badridzhani Nigvsit, fried eggplant with walnut sauce
  • Charkllis Chogi, beets in a tart cherry sauce
  • Khachapura, egg and cheese bread
  • Khashlama, veal and sour plum stew
  • Pakhlava, a walnut pastry
  • wine

Although Georgian cuisine is unique to the country, you can see influences from eastern Europe and the middle east.  The Georgian diet contains many different types of vegetables, which are often meal highlights.

On many occasions, we were served Khinkali.  These are dumplings that contain spiced meats, cheeses or vegetables.  Even though they look heavy, they were very light.

Khinkali are Georgian dumplings
Khinkali are little dumplings in Georgia cuisine

Photo by Wikipedia

Another dish that was served at each of our meals, and which can be found at various street vendors, was Khachapura.  Khachapura is a cheese bread, sometimes served topped with an egg.  It was a little like cheese pizza, only much better!  No Georgian bakery, restaurant or home would be without Khachapura!

Georgian Khachapura is cheese bread
Khachapura is a cheese bread in Georgia

Photo by Wikipedia

Georgian pizza topped with vegetables
Georgian pizza is sometimes topped with mayonnaise

Badrijani may be hard to pronounce, but I can tell you it’s absolutely delicious!  The region of the Caucasus Mountains where Georgia is located is home to many delicious fruits and nuts.  Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are plentiful as well as figs, pomegranates, apricots, grapes, and mulberries.  Walnuts and pomegranates are important ingredients of Badrijani.  The dish is comprised of fried eggplant, spiced walnut and topped with pomegranate seeds.  The classic Mediterranean and Georgian dish!

Georgian Badrijani
Fried eggplant never tasted so good!

Photo by Wikipedia

Georgians don’t eat many sweets.  Because walnuts are a staple there, you do find Pakhlava served after many dinners.  Pakhlava is a variation on the traditional Greek dessert Baklava.  Pakhlava uses a different type of dough than Bakhlava and it’s not as flaky. Ingredients can contain a variety of different ingredients including poppy seeds, ginger, saffron, and almonds.

Georgians don’t really eat candy like you and I think of candy.  One “candy” that you can find on every street corner and at roadside stands is Churchkhela.  I was anxious to try this Georgian delicacy. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are threaded onto a string and then they are dipped in a sugary fruit juice, such as grape juice.  The sugar from the juice dries on the nuts and it looks like a sugarplum.  The finished candy is displayed on the string and looks like little sausages, but instead, they are candied nuts!  As you drive down city streets or rural parts of Georgia you will find these multi-colored strands of tastiness!

Georgian Churchkhela Candy
Who knew walnut candy could taste so good?

Photo by Shutterstock

Kutaisi is the capital of Georgia. We spent several days there for business.  It was a lovely town, not as large as Tbilisi.  Kutaisi’s population is around 200,00 and the Parliament of Georgia is located there.

Our Georgian hosts wanted to be sure that we felt at home. Every morning they served us breakfast at our bed-and-breakfast hotel.  They wanted to be sure that we had everything that they considered an “American” breakfast.

Georgian American Breakfast
Our Georgian hosts served us their version of an American breakfast each morning.

Next time you are looking for a place to travel, you should consider Georgia.  The food and the wine are worth the trip!  Until next time xoxo.

Sources used in this post:  The Georgian Feast; Unesco;

 

 

 

Toast to Tblisi

Toast to Tblisi

I’ve been catching up on my Parts Unknown shows.   I loved the show. It took me to places that are off the beaten path…..not in the mainstream.  Bourdain’s conversations and interactions with different cultures were so interesting and captured a more human side, versus just a typical travelogue.  The episodes were always filled with a lot of characters, but characters in a good way.  We experienced the unexpected!

Anthony Bourdain filmed Parts Unknown In Georgia
Anthony Bourdain filmed Parts Unknown in Georgia in 2016

Photo by CNN

I ran across a show that was taped in Tbilisi, Georgia.  It struck me that Bourdain was able to bring all the warmth and friendliness that I encountered when I traveled to Georgia.  The people were so welcoming, and I still talk to many of them to this day.  Facebook makes it so easy to stay in touch with people from all over the world!

I was able to travel to Georgia through a partnership with the US Department of Energy and the State of Kentucky.  Georgia needed expertise in developing their natural energy resources, such as hydropower shown below, as well as management of consumer issues.  It was a reciprocal arrangement, we went to Georgia and they came to the United States.

Hydro power dam in Georgia
Hydro dam on the border between Georgia and Russia is much bigger than the Hoover Dam. Can you see the armed Russian guards at the border?

While traveling to Georgia we had a layover in Munich, Germany.  The trip was in late September, around the time of the annual Oktoberfest.  On the flight to Tbilisi, many people boarded the plane in Germany that had been to the festival.  They served beer on the flight, even though it was 6:00 AM.  I will never forget that…..and, it certainly foreshadowed things to come!

 

 

When we arrived at the Tbilisi airport, I was struck by the warm greeting we received from our energy industry counterparts.  It was gratifying and reassuring to be welcomed by people who were genuinely glad we were there and appreciated our willingness to share and exchange our knowledge with them.

Georgia is a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and their neighbors include Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.   The population of Georgia is about 3.7 million, so as a whole its population equates to that of Oklahoma and geographically is about the size of West Virginia.   It’s a former Soviet republic state that has mountains, the Black Sea, and a mix of the old and new country.

Georgia border map
You might think you have difficult neighbors!

Photo from Thewaywomenwork.com

Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia, is known for its diverse architecture, high-tech features, and its traditional cobblestone streets.   I believe the photo below well illustrates the old and the new of Georgia.

travel views from Georgia
The old meets new in Georgia

Georgia and Russia have a long history of disputes.  The latest conflict happened in 2008 and as you travel through the country you can still see the ravages of the war.  Bombed out buildings and bridges remind you of the tumultuous history the two countries share. The United States came to the aid of Georgia to the tune of $1 billion, and to this day they are extremely grateful and appreciative.  Georgians love Americans.

As you travel into the city you can’t help but notice the high-tech designed bridge that connects old Tbilisi with the new city.  It’s a very modern suspension bridge that is called the Pedestrian Bridge of Peace.  It has glass panels and is shaped like a bow.  At night the bridge lights up with many different colors.  Every hour 30,000 bulbs broadcast a message in Morse code. It is said that the message is composed of the names of the periodic table of elements that make up the human body. According to the architect, “the message a hymn to life and peace among people and nations.”

Tblisi modern bridge of peace
Tbilisi Bridge of Peace
Tblisi Bridge of Peace
Glass panels give the bridge a very modern look
Bridge of Peace in Georgia
LED lights change colors at night broadcasting Morse code message

The bridge is not the only modern twist to the city.  Public art installations are located throughout the Tbilisi.  It was awesome to travel to a city that has such strong beliefs about the benefits of public art.

 

The statute below is in honor of the “tamada”.  A tamada in Georgia is the assigned toastmaster for formal dinners.  This is a very important function in Georgian hospitality.  Every formal dinner has a tamada that is chosen to preside over the toasts of the evening.  It’s not uncommon to have a 4-5 hour formal dinner with numerous toasts.  I didn’t keep count at our dinners but there had to be at least 25 toasts, and probably more.  The tamada is also in charge of hospitality.  They make sure that everyone is having a good time and has enough to eat and drink.

Public Art in Georgia
The statute is a piece of public art named for the Tamada

The tamada begins the toast and then each man at the table is responsible for a toast throughout the evening.  These toasts are very emotional and heartfelt.  It’s not unusual for there to be tears of joy, laughter, and sadness. There are toasts to family, Georgia, and during our dinner, to America.  I believe there was even a toast to President George Bush!  Only men in Georgia drink to each of the toasts.  Women are not expected to drink each toast (that’s a good thing!).

 

Tamada toasting in Georgia
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Cheers!
Traditional toasting in Georgia
Here’s to Georgia and the United States!

I recently read an article on Georgian toasts that described the 10 basic toasts that are traditional to formal banquets.  I remember that most of them were included in our dinners.   According to Transfersgeorgia.com, the toasts include:

  1.  To our meeting- this includes celebrating the event that brought everybody together.
  2. To our parents- this toast thanks parents for life and raising.
  3. To those that passed away- good qualities are toasted and their souls are wished peace in Heaven.  It is customary that during this toast, everyone dips a piece of bread into their wine and then puts the bread on the edge of their plates.
  4. To the children- this is a toast to the future of families and the country.
  5. To Georgia- Georgians are proud of their country and always toast to it.  It always includes any countries of foreign guests at that the table as well.
  6. To women- thanks are given to the women that have prepared the food on the table.  Georgians hold women in high regard and are treated as special creatures to be admired and respected.  I was very impressed with their courtesy towards me.
  7. To Peace- peace is very important to Georgia due to their long history of conflicts and wars.  Peace is treasured by Georgians.
  8. To someone celebrating a special occasion- birthday, graduations, anniversaries are all highlighted in this toast.
  9. To those who could not be at the table, but are present in everyone’s thoughts- if someone is ill, or unable to attend, they are remembered and toasted too.
  10. To the host family- this toast usually signals the end of the dinner.

 

For special toasts, there’s an item that is brought out that is called a Khantsi, which is a ceremonial drinking horn.  This is an important accessory in the culture of ritual toasting in Georgia.  You have to drink it all, it’s considered rude not to finish the wine.  Georgians only toast with wine, not beer.

 

Photo courtesy of En.wikipedia.org

I really enjoyed my trip to Georgia….we experienced such warmth and genuinely friendly.  Tune in next week for the Georgia food and wine blog post!  Until then xoxo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Space, Great View

Cool Space, Great View

The Mane on Main could be the most unique event space in Lexington, Kentucky.  It is located on the 15th floor of the Chase Bank Building on Main Street.  The sweeping views of the city give it an exciting, big-city vibe.

Views from The Mane on Main in Lexington, Kentucky

You might remember this 12,500-square-foot location as the Lafayette Club, which was a private lunch and dinner club, or more recently as Bakers 360, which was a restaurant and nightclub. There’s a reason that it continues to be a popular location for events and dining.  From the floor-to-ceiling windows you can see the twinkling lights of Lexington.

Fine Dining and Event Space at The Mane on Main

Dupree Catering, which is co-owned by Azur chef Jeremy Ashby and Tom Evans, along with their business partners, operates The Mane on Main.  Both the catering expertise and the location make it a great option for private events.

The farm-to-table concept has become very popular these days.  The Mane on Main offers the concept for catered events.  You don’t find many catering operations that offer farm-to-table options.  That’s a really nice touch.

Tom Evans, who is the Owner/Chef Operating Officer at The Mane on Main is no stranger to the hospitality industry.  He worked in his family’s catering business in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years before coming to Lexington.  Tom was instrumental in opening Azur Catering and later merging operations with Dupree Catering.  The Mane on Main is their newest venue space.

Diners at The Mane on Main enjoyed fine dining in Lexington, Kentucky

Last week The Mane on Main presented a pop-up dining experience.  The idea was to recreate an iconic restaurant from Lexington’s past.

Dining has always had a rich tradition in Lexington.  You may remember the New Orleans House from the mid-80’s.  The restaurant was open for a little more than 10 years.  It was first opened in the Southpark shopping center and later moved to Griffin Gate Plaza in 1989.  The New Orleans house featured a signature seafood buffet.

I can remember that when I was in college my Uncle Buddy would come in from Alabama and would take us to eat at the New Orleans House.  I got to take my best friend, Gina, and we thought we were the cat’s meow!  I always looked forward to going there.

Frog legs were one of the house specialities.  I can remember shrimp, oysters, frog legs and crab legs on the buffet.  Bananas Foster for dessert!  It makes me smile just thinking about it.

I happened to see a Facebook post a couple of months ago from Chef Jeremy Ashby asking for comments regarding The New Orleans House.  He wanted to know everybody’s favorite dish and comments that people had of the restaurant.  Of course, I replied!  How could I not share my fond memories!

The Mane on Main hosted the tribute dinner to The New Orleans House a week or so ago.  Hats off to the marketing team! I think it’s a great idea to host events like this for the community.  Not only do you get to experience great food, but you get to do it in a terrific setting!

When we stepped off the elevator to the 15th floor we were greeted by a very friendly, hospitable staff.  They welcomed us to the event and made sure we were informed about the night’s festivities.

Fine Dining at The Mane on Main in Lexington, KY

A lovely jazz band was playing in the corner of the room.  They had a great sound and were playing all the classics.

The Mane on Main in Lexington event venue

The New Orleans House was well known for specialty cocktails.  The dinner included a cocktail of your choice.  Of course, I picked a French 75! …..and, Champagne…. please!

The Mane on Main special event

The Mane on Main bar is a lovely mix of stone, glass and wood.  It’s really pretty and a nice backdrop for a reception area.  Diners mingled and enjoyed their cocktails and the live music before dinner.

The Mane on Main in Lexington, KY

The friendly catering staff passed Oyster Rockefeller and frog legs before the dinner started.  The Oysters Rockefeller were really good. Just the right amount of butter, parsley and bread crumbs.  I’m not a big frog leg fan, but you know what they say, tastes just like chicken!

The Mane on Main Special event venue

You could hear people telling stories of their dinners at the New Orleans house and the fun times they had.  Everybody was having a great time.

The event space can be configured a variety of ways but for this event there were buffet stations set around the room.  The New Orleans House was a seafood buffet, so it made sense that we eat buffet style.

Of course the first station included a lovely salad.  But it also included shrimp, oysters on the half shell, and a seafood salad.  It’s hard to beat fresh seafood!  The shrimp was really fresh, not watery like some shrimp that you may find, and the oysters were meaty and tasted like the sea.

The next station consisted of cooked seafood.  Now you might not be familiar with this dish, but it was really tasty.  The dish was a Maque Choux and Shrimp Cake that was finished with a remoulade and chow-chow.  Think about a crunchy hash brown that has shrimp in it.  It really had a splendid taste, and the presentation was great.

Fine Dining in Lexington Kentucky

On the other side of the table was a deviled crab in a cute little serving dish that was shaped like a crab.  There’s nothing better to me than lump crab!

Sepcial Events in Lexington, Kentucky

Have you ever tasted turtle soup?  Turtle soup used to be very popular and it was usually available at the New Orleans House.  But going back even further, the soup used to be one of the most popular and most sought-after dishes in American history.

Turtle soup is still a speciality and can be found in many fine dining restaurants in New Orleans.  Restaurants such as Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s and Galatoire’s still serve the delicacy.

Bubbly Horse attend the Mane on Main special event for fine dining

I didn’t try the turtle soup, but I’m sure it was delicious.   There was so much food that I needed to pick and choose.  My tablemates said it was tasty.

Crawfish is another bayou tradition.  Chef Jeremy was hard at work boiling the crawfish.  Of course, like a traditional crawfish boil, there was potatoes and corn to accompany the fish.

Did I mention that they also had baby back ribs, Trout Almondine, and smoked salmon?  Also, a dish called Angels and Devils on Horseback.  I admit I had to look it up, I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  Evidently the oysters are the angels and the scallops are the devils.  Both were wrapped in bacon (how can you go wrong!) and were in a creole mustard piquant.  They were very good.

Bubbly Horse attends a fine dining event at The Mane on Main

All of this and I haven’t even gotten to dessert yet!

The Mane on Main offered several choices for dessert.  Choices included fresh fruit (almost was too pretty to eat), strawberry almond shortcake complete with whipped cream and mint, and of course, bread pudding!  Bread pudding is a traditional New Orleans dessert.  The topping for the bread pudding had plenty of Kentucky Bourbon it.  The dessert was really good!

Following the dinner, the dance floor was full.  Everybody had a great time experiencing the bayou favorites and The Mane on Main!

See you soon. xoxo

Travel to the Fair!

Travel to the Fair!

Have you ever traveled to a state fair?  If you haven’t, you are missing out!  State fairs are one of the best ways to learn and observe what different areas of the country have to offer.  It’s a fun way to experience the USA.

Last week I traveled to the Kentucky State Fair.  It was a best of the bluegrass kind of day!

Kentucky State Fair Freddy
Freddy Farm Bureau greets all the fair goers!

According to the Filson Historical Society, ” The Kentucky State Fair is one of the oldest fairs celebrated in the United States.  Its beginning can be traced back to 1816 when Colonel Lewis Sanders of Fayette County, Kentucky (no known relation to Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) organized the first fair in the Commonwealth.”

In addition it states,” The fair became official in 1902 after being mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly the previous year.  It was held at the famed Churchill Downs initially, then rotated throughout various communities until finding a permanent home in Louisville’s West End at the newly created Kentucky State Fairgrounds on September 14, 1908.”

Photo op at the Kentucky State Fair
That’s a big chair!

There’s so much to do and to see at the fair.  Not only can you find food, music and rides but you can also watch one of the premier horse shows in the country.  The World’s Championship Horse Show is held in conjunction with the fair each year.  There are approximately 2,000 of the best saddlebreds in the country that compete for one million dollars’ worth of prizes.  You won’t believe how fancy the barns are decorated!  People obviously work hard to customize the barns and make them appealing with fresh flowers, curtains and decorative items.

World Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair
One of the premier horse shows in the country

Who doesn’t love looking at various livestock that is brought to compete at the fair? The cows and the pigs were pretty laid back.  They were content to relax and take a nap, or have a snack.  The goats, however, were busy getting baths and getting groomed.  It’s hard to be a goat supermodel, evidently.  There was a lot of crying and noise making as they were being fluffed and puffed with blowdryers and hair brushes.  It looked like something out of a Kardashian tv show filming!

Kentucky State Fair Livestock

And who knew that goats were so stylish!  Check out the fancy coats.  Of course, my favorite is the pink one.

Have you ever had a selfie with a mule?  They were so cute and very friendly…..just hanging out in the tents greeting people.  They liked being the center of the attention.

Farming is an important industry in Kentucky and other rural states.  Tobacco, corn, hay, soybeans are all on display at the fair.  Have you ever seen an 800 pound pumpkin?  Well, look no further!  Many of the 4-H clubs around the state submitted displays for the competition.

Bubbly Horse Travels to the Kentucky State Fair
Sitting among the hay bales

One of the coolest parts of the fair is a relatively new section.  Kentucky bee keepers from around the state provide educational displays as well as actual working bee hives.  It’s fascinating to learn what an important role bees play in the world, not to mention actually watching the bees in action.  If you don’t have bees, then you don’t have flowers!

The Kentucky State Bee Keepers Association had a table that contained honey from all parts of the state.  It was amazing to taste the different honey and how different they were from one another.  The dark honey is usually from the fall and the lighter honey is from the spring.  Soil conditions play a big part in the taste of the product.  Think of a wine tasting, except with honey!

Kentucky Beekeepers Association at the Kentucky State Fair
The Kentucky Beekeeper Association did a great job in educating about honey

Country hams are always a big deal at the fair.  In fact, every year there’s a country ham breakfast.  There are always politicians in the mix, and Miss Kentucky auctions off the ham.  The breakfast usually attracts around 1,600 people.  According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “the ham breakfast has netted more than $10 million for charity since 1964.  The most expensive country ham on record (before the 2018 record) at the Kentucky State Fair went for a whopping $2 million in 2014”.  This year’s country ham came in at 18.77 pounds and brought in $2.8 million at the auction.  It was a record setting year!

I ran into the proud buyer of the ham at an event the day after he bought the ham.  He told me that he was going to be serving the ham for a Christmas event for his bank’s board of directors.  I’m sure that will be a nice meal!

2018 Kentucky State Fair Champion Ham
The blue ribbon ham that sold for 2.8 million!

This year Broadbent B & B Foods had the blue ribbon ham that was auctioned.  The ham breakfast tradition was started in 1964.   According to the Courier Journal, “the breakfast includes 450 pounds of country ham; 5,400 eggs; 130 gallons of orange juice; 1,600 half-pints of milk; 30 gallons of sorghum; and 20 gallons of honey.”  That’s a lot of food!

From there we went over to the contest area.  Anything that you can imagine is there to be judged.  Whether its dolls, ugly lamps, shadow boxes, cakes, pies, quilts, decorative items…..the list goes on an on.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was entering my doll into the county and state fair.  My doll was a Madame Alexander baby doll that my Nannie had given to me.  My grandmother Bell was an expert in knitting, and would make my doll new dresses each year.  They were beautiful and little works of art.  I always entered them in the fair and  I won several blue ribbons.  It’s a great memory, so I was really excited to see the doll competition.

Doll Competition at the Kentucky State Fair
The doll category at the State Fair

Cakes and pies have always been a crowd favorite.  Did you read my post about Malone’s and their state fair award-winning apple crisp?  There were so many desserts on display.  The detail on the cake decorating entries was really intricate.  Needless to say, they were too pretty to eat.

Cake competition at the Kentucky State Fair
Yes, this is a cake!

How can you forget the pies?  They made me hungry just looking at them.

Award Winning Pecan Pies at the Kentucky State Fair
Pies look delicious

One of my favorite parts of the fair is the Kentucky Main Street area.  Counties from all around the state have booths that highlight their area.  Chamber of Commerce volunteers are happy to fill you in on what their county has to offer.  Everybody was very nice and willing to talk with you and let you know what makes their place special. Whether it’s Marion County and their distilleries or Corbin and Colonel Sanders, there’s a lot to see and learn about our state and history.  And who could forget Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln connection!

No state fair experience would be complete without sampling the various dining options.  Funnel cakes, ice cream, pizza….. the list goes on.  For years I have wanted to try the doughnut burger.  I have to say that the wait was worth it.  It was delicious!  Not only was there a doughnut, but cheese and bacon, as well.  Even the state troopers got into the action!

My trip to the fair was a great day.  Being a travel blogger gives me the opportunity to see and participate in a lot of cool things.  I noticed throughout the day that fair goers, employees, and  volunteers at the fair all had smiles on their faces and it was a really nice experience.  People were friendly and happy to be part of this great Kentucky tradition!

Smiles at the Kentucky State Fair
See what I mean about the friendly faces?