Top Spots for Seeing Breathtaking Seas of Spring Blooms | Travel Channel
Top Spots for Seeing Breathtaking Seas of Spring Blooms | Travel Channel
Photos Top Spots for Seeing Breathtaking Seas of Spring Blooms
From stunning fields of poppies to acres of tulips, whether they’re cultivated collections or those that run wild, here are some of the best places to soak up the season’s most colorful spectacles. Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com Cherry Trees Shower the Capital in Pink Petals
In late March through early April for more than a century, Washington DC’s iconic cherry trees have exploded into clouds of pink. The mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the nation’s capital in 1912, and the beloved blooms become the backbone for landscaping across the city and into surrounding Fairfax County, Virginia. Visitors can take a dinner cruise along the Potomac River, get free tickets to tour local gardens, stroll the National Mall or the Tidal Basin and along East Potomac Park shore where blooms frame views of memorials. Additional events include a freedom walk, kite festival and Petalpalooza with fireworks and a Japanese street festival.
Where else to go: The 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon blooms in March with weeping cherry trees, Sakura and camellias all with Mount Hood as the backdrop. In the South, check out the more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees that bloom, coinciding with the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Ga. Drive Bluebonnet Byways in Texas Hill Country
It’s Texas tradition to take photos among fields filled with bluebonnets — the state flower and part of the lupine species. A good place to start is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — 12 miles southwest of Austin — before heading into the rolling rural Hill Country. Follow the Fredericksburg-to-Willow City loop using Highway 16 to catch some of the best fields, which also may be blooming in swaths of sunny coreopsis, red Indian paintbrush or hot-pink phlox, which are among the 2,700 species of wildflower in the Lone Star State. Another option is following Highway 16 south to Helotes on the outskirts of San Antonio. For a full-blown celebration, head into Burnet, which has 5,000 residents, but draws close to 30,000 for its annual Bluebonnet Festival the second weekend in April.
Where else to go: Tall, purple lupine dot the trails and meadows in the valleys of North Lake Tahoe , beginning in May. They complement the sapphire lakes, sandy beaches and scenic views. Daffodils Brighten Rhode Island
A million sunny yellow daffodils herald spring along the coast of Rhode Island . Coinciding events include a bike ride, garden tours, vintage car parade, lecturers, and the light-hearted “paw-rade” of dogs dressed like daffodils.
Where else to go: Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island blooms with more than three million daffodils from early April to mid-May with a Daffodil Festival anchoring the event. Stroll Beneath the Dogwoods
In April, fans of flowering dogwoods know to gather in Paducah, Kentucky, where the annual Dogwood Trail Celebration inspires many of the area’s artists. Visitors can stroll, bike, drive or ride a trolley along 10 designated miles of flowering trees through downtown, the Lower Town Arts District and other residential neighborhoods. The trail is lit for daytime or nighttime visits, and also includes colorful Japanese maples, redbuds, weeping cherry trees and gardens. Paducah, a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative City, also offers art and photography exhibits during the celebration and month of April. Enjoy California’s Riot of Ranunculus Color
The name of Carlsbad, California’s, most famous flower, giant Tecolote ranunculus, doesn’t roll off the tongue, but these densely petaled beauties do stop traffic. On close to 50 sloped acres near Interstate 5, swaths of pink and coral, ruby red, purple, yellow and orange, dazzle visitors from early March through early May at the Flower Fields of Carlsbad Ranch . Located in northern San Diego County, the attraction welcomes visitors to stroll the paths (or ride a tractor-pulled trailer) through the fields, bring in a picnic lunch, check out concerts or workshops and take photos with mountains and the Pacific shimmering on the horizon. Celebrate Tulips in Washington’s Skagit Valley
Fields blanketed in tulips and a backdrop of mountains draw close to a million visitors to Washington state’s Skagit Valley throughout April. The bulbs explode into acres of reds, yellows, purples, pinks, peaches, cream and every variation of these beloved bulbs. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs all month with bike tours, quilt walks, art shows, street fairs, a farm-to-pint festival, salmon barbecue, and tours of display gardens. A Dutch windmill rises from the fields at Roozengaarde with a five-acre 250,000-bulb display garden a 25-acre tulip field and 22 acre-daffodil field.
Where else to go: With the name of Holland, it’s no surprise this coastal city in southwestern Michigan plays up its Dutch heritage. But for a small town, it celebrates big with more than five million tulips in the city and a 90-year-old Tulip Time Festival in mid-May with parades, Dutch dancing, Dutch cuisine, windmill and garden tours, and wooden shoe making. Seek Wisteria and Wild Blooms Near Philly
Longwood Gardens ’ 1,077-acre horticultural display in Greater Philadelphia’s Brandywine River Valley offers a wealth of fountains, formal gardens and spring bulbs in a riot of color, but each May, it also features fragrant cascades of white and purple in the Wisteria Gardens. Look for the blossoms waterfalling from vines, archways and historic buildings. Late March or April visitors who arrive before the trees of Peirce’s Woods leaf out, can see carpets of lacey white foam flowers and “Sherwood Purple” creeping phlox. The woods are home to Virginia bluebells, showy trillium and 10,000 wild plants rescued from North Carolina before highway construction. California Fields Pop With Vivid Wild Poppies
When spring showers find their way into the heart of Antelope Valley, it bursts into an ocean of orange California poppies. The town of Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, hosts The California Poppy Festival to celebrate the official state flower. Inhale the Lilacs in Rochester, New York
The nation’s largest collection of lilacs — 500 varieties at Rochester, New York’s, Highland Park —inspires a deeper appreciation for one of spring’s most evocative flowers. The 10-day Lilac Festival in early May includes a mix of concerts, arts and crafts, a parade and beer, wine and even a bloody Mary expo. Garden Battles pit local media personalities against each other in a race to create the best landscaping project. Imagine chefs on Food Network’s “Chopped” with shovels, plants and dirt instead of food and knives. Spring visitors can also enjoy 700 varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons, tulips, pansies, mountain laurel, 35 varieties of magnolias, plus tree peonies and crabapples.
Where else to go: Lilacia Park in Lombard, Ill. (also known as “Lilac Village”) boasts close to 700 cultivars of lilacs in bloom throughout most of May. Its annual Lilac Time includes heritage tours, plus beer and wine tastings, a Mutt Strut, The Lilac Ball and parade. Iris Brings Travelers to Swan Lake at Sumter, SC
Wrapping up the spring season, South Carolina’s Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter brings together all eight species of swans — including Australian Black — and the ethereal beauty of a cypress swamp. A long time ago, a frustrated gardener, who couldn’t get his Japanese iris bulbs to grow, dumped them near the swamp where today they thrive in the moist conditions and bloom by the thousands in vibrant purples, blues, pinks and white. The town’s annual three-day Iris Festival runs over Memorial Day weekend with events such as Taste of the Gardens, Art in the Gardens, flower sales, concerts and a parade. Shop This Look We may make 💰 from these links. Next Up
Abhilash Pillai Sreenath Nair Prabhath: International Theatre Day: For these theatre personalities, the whole world is their stage | Kochi
The art of performance is said to be as old as humankind and it prevails everywhere where people live as groups. The space for performance may range from the corner of a classroom or under trees to international platforms. However, the art form, across the world is considered as an important medium to express the complexities of life, nature, emotions and sounds. In a message on International Theatre Day this year, South African playwright Brett Bailey, says, “We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine.”
Theatre has been part of Kerala’s socio-political and cultural development and it has moulded many eminent theatre personalities who have won international accolades. As the Kerala theatre scenario crosses more boundaries and tries to explore the myriad possibilities in bringing change in communities and attitudes, we feature three successful theatre practitioners from Kerala who have made their mark on the global theatre front.
Growing a theatre practice: Prabhath Bhaskaran
Every Sunday in Tokigawa, Japan, local residents gather at Prabhath’s space, Anandam . They perform the play they practised the previous week and after that they sit together and relish the Kerala cuisine prepared by Prabhath and his wife, Kana, who is also a theatre aficionado. The dishes include rice, sambar and thoran. The vegetables used are grown by Prabhath and theatre enthusiasts in organic farms, along with the farmers in Tokigawa. “We are trying to encourage the idea of eating together and bonding over food which is now very rare in our communitues,” says Prabhath.
The theatre practitioner, who is an assistant professor at the University of Pondicherry, is on a sabbatical in Japan doing farming and theatre. In his words, he is “farming theatre” or creating a natural theatre, he says; the farm is his stage, music and dance become the fertilisers in the farm. “I am a true farmer now. We do theatre for good harvest,” says Prabhath, adding that his day begins at 5.30 am. “We leave for the field and return in the evening.” During work breaks, the farmers and Prabhath practise the play they are planning to perform the coming Sunday. “Everybody is part of our performance, even the children. Whatever, we get from the farm is cooked and served on Sundays after the performance,” he says. Prabhath, who met his wife Kana, a Japan native through theatre. The couple has two kids who are also active in their productions.
The Malappuram man who is an alumni of School of Drama, Thrissur, always had an interest in “primitive” theatre practices. That is how he devised a project titled Cycle Yajna , which was performed across India and Sri Lanka in 2015. The community theatre project focused on bringing even the common man into the fold of the theatre. One of the places the group worked in was Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, which was badly affected by the tsunami. They stayed and interacted with the people and everybody in the village became part of their theatre performance.
Taking inspiration from the experiences he had during Cycle Yajna , Prabhath headed to Japan with his wife and children where he is doing a research orientated practice on tai chi and the balance of motions and imagination and a project on agricultural theatre. “The history of theatre stems from farming. Most of the farmers in our place are artists in some way. In Japanese theatre, farmers are never heroes. Hence, I felt like bringing a style that would make theatre a common medium. Together, we are trying to build the relationship between art and agriculture, theatre and farming,” says Prabhath.
Setting the stage for students: Abhilash Pillai
Abhilash’s tryst with theatre began when he was very young. He spent his childhood in different states of India as his parents were Central government employees. “I was exposed to the different kinds of theatre of all these places as my dad was a theatre connoisseur. I also got the chance to learn the classical dance and music of different states,” he says. One thing which was common in all the places that his parents were transferred to was the circus. “It has no language and I never wanted help to understand it. So I used to enjoy and analyse the differences between the circuses that I watched in different places.” Later, when he became an acclaimed theatre director, his childhood influences, especially the circus, were always seen in his works, especially, Talatum , a circus-style theatre production.
The world of theatre became clearer to Abhilash when he joined the School of Drama, Thrissur. “There, I was introduced to classical theatre, Natya Shasthram , western classical theatre, ancient Greek and Shakespeare. Our generation was moulded by Vayala Vasudevan Pillai sir and Ramachandran Mokeri Mash. International theatre practitioners were available for us to learn the techniques of productions. “He then went on to do his masters at the National School of Drama.” There, I was exposed to the avant-garde style of theatre making. I was able to connect with a lot of theatre directors who were beyond the patriarchal lines and there I learnt that the director is not practising power but is distributing power to every single person in the group.”
Abhilash also had the rare chance to study in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. “Here, I worked with different theatre directors when I got selected as an assistant director at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond, England. There I made my first international theatre production which was based on the local story of two Punjabi brothers who flew from India and died at Richmond. He had already done a national-level theatre production titled Lankalakshmi in 1994 based on playwright C N Sreekantan Nair’s story. It created headlines as The Babri Masjid was demolished two years before the play was performed and it was a story told from Ravana’s perspective. After returning from England, he directed Saketham , which was selected for a series of shows in Japan. His plays have also been staged in Portugal, Germany, Russia, Korea and China among other countries. “I directed a play in Russian which is on the Abhinjana Shakunthalam, titled Shakunthala. A play that I directed in Japan was a collaboration of artistes from Japan, Sri Lanka, France, Germany, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.”
His latest production was in Taiwan on a theme based on cancer which is loosely based on The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. “We performed it in the Mandarin language and it was enacted by artistes from Taiwan.”
Based in Delhi currently, Abhilash is a theatre teacher at the National School of Drama. He is a darling of theatre students as he has initiated the students exchange programme. “I had struggled a lot to get a scholarship to study abroad. So, here we facilitate an exchange programme where the students can go to RADA and vice versa. We make the channel easier and better for education abroad,” he says, whose wife Jilmil Hajarika, is also a theatre person.
A teacher and learner: Sreenath Nair
He was passionate about poetry when he was young. That got him into journalism and he used to write features for different media, until he went to write about a theatre camp conducted by G Shankarapillai. It was a life changing moment for Sreenath Nair who has been teaching at the University of Lincoln, England, for the past nearly two decades.
“I happened to hear a speech of G Shankarapillai sir and it opened the doors of theatre for me,” he says. His collaboration with P K Venukuttan Nair brought him closer to theatre. “I got to know that my life has to be connected to theatre.” He became active in theatre. “Then I realised that it is important to have a strong base on the theoretical aspects of theatre. And it took me to the School of Drama, Thrissur. That was the beginning of a long journey. I took my masters in Ravindra Bharathi University, Kolkata. Here, I learnt about Bengali theatre.”
Then, he took a break from studies after Masters and went to Delhi. “I associated with Omchery N N Pillai. There I wrote my two plays Devasilakal and Beauty Parlour .” He returned to his hometown, Thiruvananthapuram, in the 90s, where Sreenath soon became a popular figure in Malayalam theatre.
The next U-turn in his life happened when he met Ayyappa Panicker. “He has influenced me as a playwright. So, I rewrote the play Devasilakal and the actor Sreelatha Kadavil won Kadavil Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi award for it. While we were rehearsing Devasilakal , Panicker sir walked in with professor Ralf Yarrow of the University of East Anglia. He invited me to his university. There while working on plays, I started doubting what I have been doing. I started thinking about the acquired culture that we have due to the influence of colonialisation on our indigenous culture. We have a rich performance tradition which is very connected to our land and life. So, I started focusing on it,” says Sreenath, who is the founder of the Indian Theatre Journal.
The passionate writer, director and facilitator, keeps returning to his homeland to do plays. His latest work is Mariamma , the first social play in Malayalam written by Polachirackkal Kocheeppan Tharakan in 1878, “It had been denied its due even in the State’s theatre history. It is very important in Malayalam theatre history but was never acknowledged. The play’s protagonist is a woman who dies because of domestic violence.” The Mariamma cast was made of fresh faces. “Theatre is for people. It should touch hearts and be simple and easily conveyed,” he says.
He is currently writing a book, which will be a detailed study on theatre traditions. He also has a new project in Kerala planned. “I believe in intimate theatre which can bring people together. Whoever is associated with theatre will change internally, be it the audience or the actor. It is time for a re-research. We need to unlearn whatever we have learnt and then start afresh on the importance of what we should focus on,” he says.
Young D.C. Food Entrepreneurs Are Plating Up Tradition
Monday, Mar 25 2019 • 12 p.m. (ET) Young D.C. Food Entrepreneurs Are Plating Up Tradition Rhett Maxwell / Flickr
The Washington region’s food scene is a cornucopia of culinary traditions, many brought to the area by immigrants who’ve made the the D.C. region home.
Food entrepreneurship is difficult under the best of circumstances, but innovating on traditional cuisines while staying true to their culture is an added challenge for many immigrant food entrepreneurs. So what does it take to market authentic immigrant cuisine to diners in the the D.C. area? And how far can you take innovation before losing authenticity? We explore these questions with a group of young food entrepreneurs who are taking their cultural culinary traditions mainstream.
Produced by Monna Kashfi Simone Jacobson Cultural Connector and Co-Owner, Toli Moli; @tolimolidc Noobtsaa Philip Vang Founder and CEO, Foodhini; @NoobtsaaVang Margarita Womack Principal, M’Panadas; @MargaritaWomack Tom Van Co-Managing Partner, Four Seasons Restaurant From Sweet Treats to Modern Staples, Food Entrepreneurs Bring Cultural Diversity to D.C.’s Food Scene Saffron chicken and rice (Polo Ba Morgh), fragrant and flavorful Persian comfort food prepared by Foodhini’s Chef Mina. Photo Credit: Foodhini Falooda is a layered dessert drink and popular street snack found in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and throughout the world. Toli Moli at Union Market offers a new version stacked with superfoods and house-made ingredients so guests can see each layer in the cup. Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky M’Panadas are a twist on a classic Latin American food staple. The snack-sized bites are filled with more veggies and have less dough than a traditional empanada. Photo Credit: M’Panadas Rice noodle soup with bamboo shoots and duck salad are amongst the modern Vietnamese offerings at the Four Season Restaurant in the Eden Center. Photo Credit: Four Seasons Restaurant Chef Majed’s Syrian-style chicken shawarma is now available at the new Foodhini food stall at the Whole Foods Market in Foggy Bottom. Photo Credit: Foodhini Mohinga, the de facto national dish of Burma, is a catfish curry typically eaten for breakfast with thin noodles, banana stem, ginger, catfish and lemongrass, topped with boiled egg, lime and optional chili spice. The mother-and-daughter team behind Toli Moli in D.C. are launching a new fine-dining Burmese restaurant this spring. Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky From the biology lab to the frozen food aisle, M’Panadas founder Margarita Womack says her skills as a scientist have served her well as a food entrepreneur. Photo Credit: M’Panadas Steamed sticky rice with shrimp is a chef’s special at the Four Seasons Restaurant. The young food entrepreneurs behind the Vietnamese restaurant that opened in the Eden Center in April 2018 are innovating new recipes inspired by modern trends in Vietnamese cooking. Photo Credit: Four Seasons Restaurant Transcript 12:00:12
KOJO NNAMDI You’re tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. Food entrepreneurship is difficult under the best of circumstances, but innovating on traditional cuisines while staying true to their culture is an added challenge for many first and second generation immigrant food entrepreneurs. Young food entrepreneurs in the D.C. region have taken on this challenge. And whether it’s engaging in cultural diplomacy through food or going against the grain to put a healthy twist on an ethnic food staple, they’re finding new customers beyond their own immigrant communities. 12:00:44
KOJO NNAMDI So what does it take to market immigrant cuisine to diners in the D.C. area and how far can you take innovation before losing authenticity? Joining me to answer these questions and much more today is Simone Jacobson co-owner of Toli Moli, a Burmese bodega at Union Market. Simone, thank you for joining us. 12:01:03
SIMONE JACOBSON Thank you for having me. 12:01:05
NNAMDI Also with us is Noobtsaa Philip Vang, founder and CEO of Foodhini, a food delivery service that offers multicultural meals prepared by emerging immigrant chefs. Noobtsaa, thank you for joining us. 12:01:18
NOOBTSAA PHILIP VANG Thank you for having me. 12:01:19
NNAMDI Margarita Womack is the owner of M’Panadas, a Latin fusion snack company offering frozen and deli empanadas with a twist. Margarita, thank you for joining us. 12:01:27
MARGARITA WOMACK So excited to be here. Thank you. 12:01:29
NNAMDI And Tom Van is co-managing partner at Four Seasons Restaurant, which is one of the anchor Vietnamese restaurants at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. Tom, thank you for joining us. 12:01:40
TOM VAN Thank you for having me. 12:01:41
NNAMDI Simone, you and your mother launched Toli Moli in 2016 as a pop-up selling falooda. But you had marketed it as quoting here, “The best dessert you’ve never had.” Today Toli Moli is known as the Burmese bodega at Union Market attracting customers from all across the region. First for people who have not tried it, what is falooda? 12:02:01
JACOBSON So falooda is actually one of the oldest desserts in the history of the world. In Iran, the original falooda makers, they call it “faloode.” And falooda traveled into south and Southeast Asia where my mom is from in Burma. And it’s a layered dessert drink. So it’s part dessert and part drink. Has jellies, basal seeds, ice creams, and flavored milk. And we also called it the sort of sweetening of your snack time. So something old for people who are familiar, and something new for those who had never had it. 12:02:35
NNAMDI How did you go from a pop-up concept to one of the most popular destinations at Union Market and what is unique about Toli Moli as a bodega? 12:02:43
JACOBSON Well, I think we’re the only Burmese bodega in the world. So that makes us slightly unique. And even just combining those two words Burmese and bodega, it’s not something you think of much. But we wanted to be able to offer a place that is a home, a cultural hub for people. And I think what makes us unique is that in addition to serving Burmese food, we’re currently the only place in the entire city where you can get Burmese food. 12:03:12
JACOBSON We also sell hard to find groceries from what we call the spice diaspora. So you might find Trini hot sauce next to Za’atar from a Jordanian Palestinian family. You might find things, if you are Asian American, that are from your childhood. 12:03:27
JACOBSON And we also have a partnership with Duende District, which specializes in books by, for and about people of color. So you’ll find all the books that I wish I had as a child, books with actually people of color in the stories. So they we’re not erased from that narrative. And so whether it’s through the food or the literature or what we’re making in our kitchen, this is a place that is to welcome everyone. 12:03:49
NNAMDI What was the greatest challenge you faced as you launched and grew Toli Moli and do you think it was unique to your experience as an immigrant food entrepreneur? 12:03:58
JACOBSON Every step of the way was a challenge and also a celebration. I think one of the things that maybe everybody here can relate to is that when you’re first starting a business one of the hardest things is just figuring out what things are called. So what would you call a thing that has hook and has little pinchy things to put chips on? 12:04:22
NNAMDI I have no idea what to call that. 12:04:23
JACOBSON I had no idea either. So it’s called chip clip and when you spend 45 minutes just looking for that to order that for your shop, that’s a big challenge. And it doesn’t help that my mom was born in another country. So we’re just the blind leading the blind when it comes to those kinds of challenges. Another unique challenge that we have, which is also an opportunity is that we’re across from Gallaudet in Union Market. 12:04:45
JACOBSON And early on I was concerned that we weren’t able to give the same experience to our deaf and hard of hearing customers. We were explaining falooda for the first time to this new generation of eaters and so we created this huge infographic like almost life size that broke down every layer in the cup. And had we not been across from Gallaudet, I’m not sure that we would have thought to really specifically communicate with intention and be able to bridge that gap between the deaf and hard of hearing community and between ours. I know a total of about 12 signs now and all of them are related to our menu. So I know coconut. I know noodles. I know mushrooms. I know minutes. 12:05:25
NNAMDI And she’s demonstrating the signs as she speaks. 12:05:27
JACOBSON Yeah, well, these are things that are a lot of times — I think entrepreneurs are wired to see every challenge as an opportunity. We create things that didn’t exist before us. And there was no falooda shop in the entire region. And there was no Burmese in D.C. And so we felt compelled to make that accessible and to make it available to a wider audience. 12:05:54
NNAMDI Noobtsaa Vang, Foodhini is part food business and part cultural diplomacy initiative. Tell us about Foodhini. 12:06:01
VANG Yeah. So Foodhini is an online restaurant and we hire specifically immigrant and refugee chefs. And we help them prepare and sell all their home recipes direct to customers. So you can order a meal online. Have it delivered to you and we do catering as well. And so really it’s about showcasing the talents of local immigrant and refugee chefs. And, you know, it started when I moved out to D.C. from Minnesota for grad school. And I was just missing some of my mom’s home cooking. 12:06:34
VANG And so I’m from the Hmong community, which an ethnic group from northern Laos. My parents came here as refugees. And, you know, I grew up eating Southeast Asian food my entire life. And coming out here, you know, I was just really craving that home cooking that home style food. And so I tried to figure out, maybe I can try to connect with a local auntie or grandma and just, you know, buy some of their food. And really what kind of was the ah-ha moment was really kind of integrating my parents story into what is Foodhini right now, which is, you know, they came to this country, didn’t speak very much English, not very much education, but one of the things they could do is they could, you know, cook their home foods. 12:07:11
VANG And so really Foodhini is a way to create opportunities for like people like my mom and my dad to, you know, create their foods and, you know, earn a living. But then also share their food and culture with, you know, everybody around us. So that was the, you know, the genesis of the idea. And, you know, we’ve grown to this point pretty good. 12:07:33
NNAMDI How do your parents feel about it at this point? 12:07:34
VANG My parents are — when I started they were extremely supportive. And I think it’s, because it’s kind of full circle where their journey coming here as refugees and now as being able to kind of see me kind of, you know, give back and to work with those communities, I think they’re pretty proud. 12:07:51
NNAMDI How many chefs does Foodhini currently employ? And how did you select these particular individuals to work with? 12:07:58
VANG So right now we have four chefs. We have Chef Majed. He’s from Syria. We have Chef Mina, who’s from Iran. Chef Yebralem, who’s from Eritrea. And Chef Mam who’s our Lao chef. And so when we first met Chef Mam who was our first chef, it was really just me connecting with a friend. And she was like, I think this woman makes amazing food at Temple. Like I think she’d be great for what you want to do. And so we met up. Had a meeting at my friend’s house and she just made a huge spread of food for us. 12:08:29
VANG And the first bite I had I was like, oh my gosh, we have to get you on Foodhini. And so, you know, fast forward two years and now she’s still with us. She’s kicking butt and more recently we’ve been working with organizations like the IRC, Casa de Maryland to work with these organizations, because they’re working with immigrant and refugees, you know, on the ground helping them resettle. They’re able to identify who might be looking for a job or who might be looking to work in food. And so they’ve been really great partners with us. 12:08:58
NNAMDI But food — meal delivery business in this case, Foodhini also delivers immigrant stories. Tell us about the chefs that you employ now and the stories they tell. 12:09:13
VANG So the really big point of Foodhini is to connect you to the person behind the food. I think, you know, you can find good anywhere. But I think what really makes a meal great and special is to know where the food comes from and who makes it. And so really when you order a meal from us you get a chance to learn about the chef, learn about their story, to see, you know, what their inspirations are, what their passions are. But then also they’re able to kind of write a little hand written note on the back that kind of, you know, shares a little bit insights about why they made this particular dish or why they use this ingredient. And I think, you know, that’s been the most important is building that human connection and really having that chance to get to know the person behind the food. 12:09:53
NNAMDI But there is no shortage of food delivery options services in this region. How do you cut through all that competition? 12:10:01
VANG I think for us it’s always been about that connection, that human connection. I think you could order, you know, right now you could order, you know, from 30 different restaurants on Grub Hub or some of these delivery apps. But I think, you know, what sets us apart is that we really — we want you to know who’s making your food. We want you to know their story, where they’re from, you know, what inspires them, because I think when you get that you really feel the love and the care that they put into their food. 12:10:24
NNAMDI Who’s your customer base? Who are you selling to? 12:10:28
VANG Yeah. We’re selling to basically anybody who’s hungry. We’ve seen a lot of great feedback in people, who really come for the mission first. They believe in what we’re doing supporting, you know, communities of diaspora. And, you know, they’re coming here and learning about these different people and their cultures. But then when they get the food, they’re like, “Wow, this is really good food.” And so you kind of get that really nice full circle of the mission and the product. 12:10:54
VANG And vice versa people come for the food and then they realize, oh, my God, the mission of the organization is so interesting. And you get that kind of double bottom line. So we’ve just kind of seen people from all over support and more. When we first started out we saw a lot of people who like to kind of plan out what they’re eating for the week. And, you know, like to be able to pick and choose what they want ahead of time. And so we’ve seen that kind of grow into where we are now. 12:11:21
NNAMDI We’re talking with immigrant food entrepreneurs inviting your calls, 800-433-8850. Have you tried any of the products or restaurants our guests are talking about today? Of course, today is the first day of our spring membership campaign. We’re encouraging you to become members of WAMU. You can do that by calling 800-248-8850. That’s 800-248-8850. And you’re about to learn a lot more. 12:11:59
NNAMDI Welcome back. We’re talking with immigrant food entrepreneurs. We’re talking with Tom Van. He’s co-managing partner at Four Seasons Restaurant, one of the anchor Vietnamese restaurants at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. Margarita Womack is the owner of M’Panadas, a Latin fusion snack company offering frozen and deli empanadas with a twist. Simone Jacobson is the co-owner of Toli Moli, a Burmese bodega at Union Market. And Noobtsaa Philip Vang is founder and CEO of Foodhini, a food delivery service that offers multicultural meals prepared by emerging immigrant chefs. Noobtsaa, you recently branched out beyond meal delivery. Tell us what you have going on at Whole Foods. 12:12:38
VANG Right. We just started a partnership with Whole Foods just in early January. So we actually started our first fast casual little food stall inside the Whole Foods store at Foggy Bottom. So our first — one of our amazing chefs, Chef Majed is serving up his delicious chicken shawarma every day for hungry customers. So it’s been really great to see. We’ve been there for about three months now. The Whole Foods has been amazing. And we’ve seen a bunch of customers come back and be like, that’s the best shawarma I’ve ever had. Or people are like, I’m from the Middle East and this is the best shawarma ever. So it’s been really fun to see that. And I think over time we’re going to work with Whole Foods to kind of look at looking at additional locations down the road and creating some additional food stalls around there. 12:13:23
NNAMDI Here’s Beatrice in Silver Spring, Maryland. Beatrice, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please. 12:13:28
BEATRICE Hi. Can you hear me? 12:13:30
NNAMDI Yes, we can. 12:13:31
BEATRICE Yes, thank you, Kojo. I wanted to say I’m from Silver Spring and I feel blessed, because we have so many options in Silver Spring including lots of Ethiopian amazing foods. In the whole D.C. area — I was at Union Market a few weeks ago and I had the pleasure to eat at Toli Moli. I had never tried Burmese food and I tried the dumplings and I tried a vegetarian dish and it was spectacular. And I was blown away by the diversity of food at Union Market. It was just unreal. So blessed. 12:14:04
NNAMDI That’s how you were supposed to feel. Right, Simone? 12:14:05
JACOBSON Yes. Thank you so much. I remember you, Beatrice. It’s so nice to hear you. 12:14:10
NNAMDI Beatrice, thank you very much — 12:14:11
BEATRICE Thank you. 12:14:12
NNAMDI Thank you for sharing your story with us. Margarita Womack, you took a very unconventional path to food entrepreneurship. In fact, you’re a scientist by training with a PhD in evolutionary biology. How did you end up in the empanada business? 12:14:27
WOMACK It’s a bit of a long story, but in a way I like to reinvent myself. And as you grow, as you evolve, as your life changes, you find that different things are fulfilling. I find also that there is lots of parallels. Believe it or not the skills you learn in science are actually extremely useful for business. 12:14:51
NNAMDI Empanadas are pretty ubiquitous in this region and they’re a staple food for many Latin and Hispanic cultures, but you’re putting a twist on these classic recipes. What is different about M’Panadas? 12:15:04
WOMACK So we are trying to bring empanadas in a different space and different market. So making them healthier, but keeping the portability and deliciousness of empanadas. So that you can bring them home, keep them in your freezer, and in a pinch when you’re running late for that soccer game with your kids and you need a good snack for them be able to pull them out, put them in the oven or the microwave and have a healthy satisfying snack that’s going to keep your kids going for the rest of the afternoon. Or for yourself, Hey, I went out. I come home. I’m hungry. I don’t feel like cooking something, but I need something before you go to bed. Get your empanadas. 12:15:43
NNAMDI But when you started in this business it wasn’t easy. You started a catering business. One of the reasons you started it is you wanted to help a friend, who was also an immigrant. And you discovered that is somebody has a business here they might be able to stay. That didn’t work out, did it? 12:15:57
WOMACK It did not unfortunately. Yeah, so a friend wanted to come to the U.S. and stay in the U.S., of course, legally. And that lined up well with a desire I had to start a business of my own. I come from a family business in Columbia. And so it’s something I grew up with and something I wanted to do. And it was very difficult to get involved. The family business as far as there’s a large geographical distance to start with and then it’s not the usual things for women to get deeply involved with the business. 12:16:27
WOMACK But here was an opportunity to do two things at once, help this friend and try it myself. And it seemed like it might just work out. And we thought we could do it out of our kitchen in Maryland, which is not legal. And there’s a number of countries that have a deal with the U.S. where if you have a business that is based in some way — it’s tied to your country. You invest. You start this business and you need essential personnel for your business to work, then there’s a particular type of visa that you can obtain. But unfortunately that did not work out. Then I ended up by myself with this idea. But I was really enjoying it and ended up quitting my teaching job over it and now doing this full time. 12:17:13
NNAMDI You’ve said that being a Latina woman selling empanadas often causes people to have certain assumptions that work to your disadvantage. Tell us about that and how you address some of these stereotypes and assumptions. 12:17:25
WOMACK So many times when I talk to mentors, for example, it’s been surprising, because it’s something that they don’t even think about. Oh, well, you’re selling empanadas. You’re obviously selling these to the Hispanic population in the area. Like, not necessarily. Actually, I’m trying something different. I’m trying to bring it to mainstream supermarkets and something for everybody. And it’s something difficult to break through. 12:17:47
WOMACK There’s also the idea of empanadas, that it’s not something healthy. People think of that as a treat from a farmers market, for example. And that’s not necessarily the case. That’s the magic of empanadas. You can really customize them in any way you want, and they can be as healthy or not healthy as you choose them to be. So, bringing them also into the frozen space is, again, something that just doesn’t line up with people’s expectations. 12:18:13
NNAMDI Here is Mike in Washington, DC. Mike, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please. 12:18:17
MIKE Thanks for taking my call, Kojo. First of all, sustaining member, so make sure everybody, that they haven’t done their pledge, do your pledge. 12:18:23
NNAMDI Thank you. 12:18:24
MIKE Secondly, been growing up here my whole life, and I developed a motto, which is the best thing about being American is that if you sit still long enough, the rest of the world will show up and feed you. (laugh) And it’s a lovely, lovely way to go through life, so thank you to everybody who came to feed us. 12:18:40
NNAMDI Yep, and that’s what we’re talking about today, with the people who came to feed you. Thank you very much for your call. Here is Gilty in Washington, DC. Gilty, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please. 12:18:51
GILTY Hi, Kojo. Great to be on this show again. I’m a person of Indian extraction, and what I’m calling about is the affordable Indian cuisine in DC, or lack thereof. The DC Dosa pop-up in Union Market is one of the few affordable Indian eateries in the DC area. There are plenty of famous restaurants, (unintelligible) but they’re not affordable. You have plenty of affordable Indian eateries in Virginia, and maybe some in DC, maybe in Maryland. And I guess because that’s where the Indian — there’s a lot of Indian extraction population residing in those areas. 12:19:35
NNAMDI And so that’s where you find them. 12:19:36
GILTY But DC — I know a lot of people in DC, American friends who love Indian food. But I’m pretty sure that there’s an entrepreneur who can set up more affordable Indian eateries in the DC area like DC Dosa, that it will become very popular. 12:19:54
NNAMDI Well, hopefully, they’re listening right now, and they will take your advice. So, thank you very much for your call. Let’s talk with Tom Van. Tom, speaking of Virginia, your family owns the Four Seasons restaurant… 12:20:05
VAN That’s correct. 12:20:06
NNAMDI …at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. How would you describe the Eden Center to someone who’s not familiar with it? 12:20:12
VAN So, Eden Center is a staple for the Vietnamese community. Back in — after the Vietnam War, they started to immigrate over here, and then to settle here. Eden Center is where we have, any celebration Vietnamese culture, we would go there. That’s where we can find authentic Vietnamese food, any items that you find in your household, you can buy them there. Yeah. 12:20:40
NNAMDI I recently spent the day at Eden Center, and we posted a video of my visit on the blog today. You can take a tour of the Eden Center with me. Go to kojoshow.org/blog and click, and you will find it at the top of the page. Tom Van, why did you decide to revamp the restaurant and reopen it last April as the Four Seasons, after three years? 12:21:01
VAN Well, after I took over from Viet Royale in 2015, we ran it for, yes, we ran it for three years, and it hasn’t changed much. We’re trying to introduce the new menu, but we kept the name, and the concept may not go well. So, we decided to change the atmosphere, the environment, the lighting, the name, so that way we’re kind of rebranding ourselves and bring a new look, a new environment to the Eden Center Plaza, shopping center. 12:21:35
NNAMDI How difficult was that? Did inheriting the reputation and legacy of the Viet Royale make things easier or harder for you as a new restaurateur? 12:21:45
VAN It was a mixture of good and bad. It’s good that we — we may lose some old faces, customers, but it’s good that we gain some new faces, as well. Yeah. 12:21:57
NNAMDI Let’s go to the phones. Here’s Leon in Bowie, Maryland. Leon, your turn. 12:22:03
LEON Yeah, I’m just recalling empanadas that I ate for many years in Georgetown, Sam the Argentine baker. And they have this combination of olives and meat, and I don’t know what all, and I’ve never found anything like it recently. 12:22:21
NNAMDI Margaret? 12:22:23
WOMACK I heard about this place, actually, and we have a version that’s similar, but we’ve taken out some of those Argentine elements. We don’t have the olives or the eggs or the raisins, are the three that make the saltena, Argentinean version. But I don’t know. I haven’t seen the exact Argentinean version. Actually, yes, there’s a place in Rockville called El Patio, and it’s an Argentinean restaurant, and they serve the very traditional Argentinean empanadas. So, that’s a place you might want to try. 12:22:50
NNAMDI There you go, Leon. We have the answers here for you. All you’ve got to do is call 800-433-8850. Shoot us a Tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be continuing our conversation with immigrant food entrepreneurs, but we’ll be taking a short break first, because this is the first day of our spring membership campaign. We’d love you to become a member now, or to renew your membership by going to WAMU.org, or by calling 800-248-8850. And here’s a lot more. 12:23:21
NNAMDI Welcome back to our conversation with immigrant food entrepreneurs. Tom Van, you are taking some lists with the menu at Four Seasons, offering dishes that are unique recipes of the restaurant, and not from any particular region of Vietnam. What did you decide to take the risk of innovating new recipes, rather than just sticking to traditional dishes? 12:23:40
VAN We want to bring a different taste to the community, so they can try, rather than just sticking with the old, traditional Vietnamese food. And that would make us stand out more than other restaurants at the shopping center. 12:23:57
NNAMDI What kind of feedback have you had about that from the community? 12:23:59
VAN Mostly positive feedback. As it turns out, people will come back and try it again and again, and then spread the word to their friends. And they all love the food. 12:24:12
NNAMDI And I certainly enjoyed the variety that I had when I visited the Eden Center. 12:24:14
VAN Thank you. Thank you. 12:24:17
NNAMDI Margarita Womack, do you think entrepreneurs who are trying to market an ethnic or cultural dish or type of cuisine face, well, different challenges than a food entrepreneur who’s bringing a more mainstream product to the market? 12:24:31
WOMACK Yes and no. So, definitely a double-edged sword, there. You have areas like metro DC, where you have people that are very well-educated that travel a lot, a very diverse, multinational community. There’s an advantage, here. People are going to be much more open-minded. But now, if I try to sell Empanadas in the middle of rural Nebraska, that might be a different deal. So, getting going in an area such as this, and then maybe expanding to New York, California, places like that, there’s an advantage, but it’s not going to be easy to break in in every part of the country. 12:25:09
NNAMDI Noobtsaa, same question to you. Do immigrant food entrepreneurs face challenges that are unique to promoting an ethnic food product? 12:25:17
VANG I think there are definitely unique challenges, you know, coming from a ethnic background. You know, because your pallets are just different, so what you’re used to is probably not what a lot of other people are used to. So, I think, you know, just getting people used to — or kind of introduce them to different tastes and textures I think is always something really, really important. But I think that’s part of the fun of it, too, right, is you get a chance to share something really special and different with people that normally probably might not be able to get it so much. So, I think that’s kind of the nice flipside, as well. 12:25:53
NNAMDI You developed Foodhini at the Halcyon Incubator at Georgetown University. Can you talk about food incubators and what role they play for those launching something new? 12:26:02
VANG Yeah, so there’s actually two incubators that we were part of. The Halcyon Incubator, which is a social entrepreneurship, an incubator that supports people working on social impact or environmental impact stuff. And then we’re also part of Union Kitchen, which is where we cooked out of first. So, it was a commercial kitchen that we shared with a bunch of different food businesses. 12:26:22
VANG And I think, you know, now we’ve moved on to our own kitchen, which has been great, but I think the beauty of it being an incubator is that you’re able to learn from all your peers. Everybody’s going kind of through the same things. And you’re able to say, hey, this, like, I’m trying to print out this label, and it’s not printing out correctly. And somebody’s like, oh, try this or try that. And I think having that camaraderie and everybody knowing, you know, what it’s like to hustle and go through the struggle is definitely something that you’ll always take with you. 12:26:51
NNAMDI So, you found it a worthwhile experience for you as a food entrepreneur. 12:26:54
VANG I did. I mean, I’m not from a food background. I was an engineer before, and dived into this industry, and I’m learning as I go. So, I think it’s really important to be open to hearing what other people think, but then also being able to share kind of the struggles you’re going through, or the challenges. Because, really, you now, we’re all in this together, and we’re trying to just get some really great food out to people. So… 12:27:17
NNAMDI Let’s talk with Nancy in Washington, DC. Hi, Nancy. 12:27:21
NANCY Hi, Kojo. How fun to talk to you. 12:27:24
NNAMDI Thank you. 12:27:26
NANCY I’ll keep it brief. I’m calling about empanadas, for your caller. Julia’s Empanadas — I came in late. I asked your producer, I hope they didn’t already say that, but it’s tradition, Washington, Adams Morgan tradition, the greatest, precious empanadas. And they have olives, eggs, raisins in the saltenas with the chicken. And then the Chilean beef also has olives. And they’re quite delicious and quite authentic and wonderful. And I’m lucky enough to live in DC and I can get food from other cultures every day. 12:28:07
NNAMDI Margaret, what’s different about your empanadas? 12:28:10
WOMACK So, I’ve tried Julia’s. They’re much larger. They’re a different kind of dough, and they have a variety of fillings that are not necessarily — they’re great and very diverse and indeed authentic, but not necessarily kid-friendly. We are focused more on, like, young families and snacks that will work for kids. And our preparations are different, right, and ours are something you pick up at the grocery store from your freezer aisle, versus going to the store and buying them fresh. 12:28:36
NNAMDI Thank you very much for your call, Nancy. Seepable (sp?) emails: my wife is Filipina, and we do a majority of our shopping at international markets like H Mart. As for restaurants, there are surprisingly few in the area, considering that Filipinos are such a large part of the Asian Diaspora. But you point out, Simone, that there are Filipino restaurants that people can find around here. Correct? 12:28:58
JACOBSON Yes, absolutely. Two of our favorite restaurants, period, also happen to be Filipino. Bad Saint was voted one of the best restaurants in the country. And that’s a huge trend to see moving away from Asian restaurants being best Asian and just being the best. And the second is Purple Patch, and Purple Patch is in Mount Pleasant. And I would encourage anyone listening to support both of those places. Both are excellent and very authentic and owned by some of the most hardworking, kind-hearted people who also happen to be great chefs. 12:29:33
NNAMDI Tom Van, what are the challenges of trying to market Vietnamese cuisine — which has a very long and established history and tradition — to non-Vietnamese customers? 12:29:44
VAN The challenge is to have those new customers try the food, get them to the door, make them eat the fermented fish, the shrimp paste, and then the smelly fish, right, the sauce. Many of us, we stay away from that, the fish sauce. But the challenge is to bring them to the door and have them try first. And once they try it, they will love it. 12:30:08
NNAMDI Do you lose Vietnamese customers when you aim to attract more mainstream diners? 12:30:13
VAN No. We refocus for a variety of customers. That’s including the non-Vietnamese customers and Vietnamese customers, as well. So, we’re not focusing on one ethnic group. We try to make the food that is edible for or delicious for every customer. 12:30:33
NNAMDI Simone, is there anything you would do differently in the launching and growth of your business if you had to go back and do it all over again? 12:30:40
JACOBSON I think anybody who’s starting a business for the first time would like more money. I think for us, you know, my mom is the youngest of six children, and she came here when she was just going to college. And so, you know, we didn’t start the business with a lot of money. And that’s actually, I think, made us really smart about what we’ve done, because when you don’t have a lot, you’re very careful about how you spend it. 12:31:11
JACOBSON And so as we move into the next phase of growth for our business, we’re trying to attract more financial support. We had incredible community support with the start of Toli Moli, but as we go into our new ventures, we’re looking also to be a little bit more confident and also aware that you need a little bit of startup capital to really be able to breathe and relax a little bit, and not always be counting every stick. 12:31:42
NNAMDI You mentioned new ventures. What’s next for you as a food entrepreneur? 12:31:46
JACOBSON Well, we are so excited. This is 30-plus years in the making. We will finally have our own sit-down restaurant. The restaurant is called Thamee. Thamee is the Burmese word for daughter, and it’s also a term of affection or endearment. So, you would call a younger person thamee. And in Burmese language, we don’t have the word I. So, we don’t refer to ourselves in the first person as I. I would refer to myself, if I were talking to you, probably as thamee, or as another word that shows respect. 12:32:17
JACOBSON And so this restaurant is an opportunity for my mom to shine. She has been cooking out of a kitchen that is smaller than most people’s home bathrooms, (laugh) or closets, even. For three years now, she’s been able to do amazing things with such little space. And she’ll finally have a full kitchen to be able to present Burmese food to all of Washington in our new home on H Street Northeast. 12:32:42
NNAMDI Wow, good luck. Noobtsaa, you’ve said that you want your chefs to outgrow Foodhini someday. What do you envision for them? 12:32:49
VANG Yeah, I think what we set out to do originally is to create a space for creating jobs and, you know, creating good livings for, you know, immigrants and refugees that come into this country looking to better themselves. And I think part of that is, you know, them being able to share their food. But then, you know, we work with people of all different skill levels, so people who are chefs who are professional trained, or other chefs who maybe have just been cooking their entire lives in their homes. 12:33:15
VANG And so it creates an opportunity for chefs to learn and see maybe they would like to maybe become a lead chef someday and help train other chefs. Or some chefs have an opportunity to work at, like, our store at Whole Foods and be able to grow and learn how to manage an entire kitchen and restaurant and be able to go someday and say, hey, I want to maybe start my own place in the future. And what’s great about what we’re doing is we create a place for our chefs to get their name out, right. People know their food already, they’ve tried it, they’re able to follow certain chefs. And I think that’s what we’ve been seeing so far. 12:33:48
NNAMDI Noobtsaa Philip Vang is founder and CEO of Foodhini. Thank you for joining us. 12:33:52
VANG Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. 12:33:53
NNAMDI Simone Jacobson is the co-owner of Toli Moli. Thank you for joining us. 12:33:57
Check out Dekalb Market in Brooklyn; it’s a food hall with lots of different cuisines and a few good places to grab beer. Also if you’re a beer fan, Top Hops around the LES is great with over 700+ bottles. A few more recommendations (Manhattan-centric and nearly all food) below—
NYONYA – Malaysian food. Recommended if you like Indian or Asian food, as it’s a hybrid of the two and you can get dishes here that are spicy and not spicy. Pommes Frites – authentic Belgian French fries, with over 20 sauces to choose from to dip your fries. I recommend curry ketchup, peanut satay, Irish curry, parmesan peppercorn, and organic black truffle. Artichoke Pizza – their artichoke slice is what they are famous for and it’s amazing. Some people on this subreddit frown on Artichoke, so maybe the one in Bay Ridge is just extra delicious and the ones in Manhattan aren’t great so YMMV. Xi’an Famous Foods – Chinese food, but not Chinese-American. It has lots of locations and this place is pretty popular here. They serve mostly Chinese hand-pulled noodles, and are great for a quick meal because it’s very informal and some of the locations are smaller. The one in Flatiron has a lot of seating, as well as an upstairs seating section. Zundo-Ya – the best Japanese ramen. Many people will try to tell you that Ippudo is the best, but they’re wrong lol. This place is amazing! Apparently, this place is closed. RIP. Ample Hills – best ice cream you’ll ever have in your life, period. The Sweet as Honey ice cream is transcendent. Bibble & Sip – great desserts, ESPECIALLY their cream puffs. My favorite is the Earl Grey Cream Puff, and they also have a Matcha Cream Puff that’s popular if you like matcha stuff. Daily Provisions – best for breakfast. They have great coffee, AMAZING crullers (French donuts), delicious egg sandwiches, and their ‘everything croissant’ is also excellent. I cannot express how much I love this place. If you go nowhere else on this list, go here. Brooklyn Bagel – the BEST bagel in NYC imo. It is not in Brooklyn, it’s in Chelsea (close to the High Line). There’s also one in Astoria iirc. I recommend getting an everything bagel, toasted, with scallion cream cheese. They have a million types of bagels and cream cheeses tho, so whatever your heart desires! Queens Night Market — a outdoor night market with tons of food stalls representing the diverse cultures and flavors of Queens. It’s seasonal, so I’m not sure it’s open yet but it should be! Most food is around $5-7 and 2 or 3 dishes will fill you up for sure. Underdog — craft beer bar upstairs, incredible cocktails downstairs! Obviously, I really like eating. 😂 I hope this helps! I’d love to meet up, but I’m moving that weekend so hope you are able to meet some nice Redditors!
New Zealand travel guide: Seven things we love about our Kiwi neighbour
New Zealand travel guide: Seven things we love about our Kiwi neighbour SHARE Mount Ngauruhoe and the Rangipo Desert in Tongariro National Park. Photo: Alamy Share on twitter
New Zealand is a tranquil sliver of a country perched out in the Pacific Ocean, 1000 kilometres from its nearest neighbours and a long way from almost everywhere else on Earth. It’s safe and friendly, a bit old-fashioned in an agreeable Hobbit-y way, but with rather forward-looking attitudes.
It’s a comfortable, sedate place with a surprising penchant for wild adrenaline sports; a place of civilised small cities and snug tourist lodges set amid irrepressibly rumpled landscapes, snowy mountains and wave-lashed coastlines. See Also New Zealand travel guide
This is a nation of welcoming, polite, self-deprecating, homey, humorous, chatty, quirky people.
None of this has changed, despite the most recent tragedy in Christchurch. If anything, the famed Kiwi hospitality has been honed in adversity.
All of this makes New Zealand one of the world’s best travel destinations and certainly a perennial favourite among our writers. Here, in this special tribute, are just some of the reasons we love our neighbour and still adore travelling there, even in challenging times.
Kia kaha New Zealand. Brian Johnston You will now receive updates from Traveller Newsletter Traveller Newsletter
The Maori have gathered on the tarmac to receive us. “Haere mai, haere mai,” they chant. Come here, come here. Welcome to this land clouded with sulphur, boiling with mud and veiled in steam that coils like phantoms from the earth’s cracks.
We’re on the first ever international flight to touch down in the geothermal city of Rotorua, and the powhiri (Maori welcome ceremony) is emblematic of salutations offered to all new arrivals to this country. It is warm and magnanimous; honest and affirming. Advertisement
One doesn’t need a powhiri on the tarmac to feel welcome in New Zealand. “Kia Ora!” you will hear frequently by way of a greeting. Literally translated, it means “good health”, and it’s offered with conviction – from the flight attendants on the journey over to the taxi driver who picks you up at the airport and the ferryman who transports you across the river. These are words that embody the goodwill New Zealanders feel towards visitors.
The people of New Zealand endear the country to me more than anything else. They possess a guilelessness I’ve not encountered anywhere else in the world. They seem, collectively, to be incapable of keeping secrets or being capricious, of being disagreeable or pretentious. Their good temper hangs in the air like an unfurled banner: welcome, it says, you are safe with us.
The recipe used to cook up this country’s remarkable populace can never be replicated, though its ingredients are well-known: a Maori population blessed with Polynesian charm and a strong allegiance to tradition; European settlers who have flourished, all-but-forgotten, on the far edge of the world; newer migrants who have heard the call – haere mai, haere mai – and who have brought with them their own gift of customs and culture. The finished dish is a delightful mix of self-deprecation and pragmatism, determination and sincerity, harmony and conviction – and a discernible lack of ego.
Without these inhabitants, New Zealand would be an achingly beautiful landscape devoid of an animating spirit. But the people have breathed magic into it; their energy is borne out in the land. On the tarmac back at Rotorua, I’m reminded that the haka symbolises strength and unity. The hongi conveys trust. Come here, they are saying, and we will enfold you in our welcome. Catherine Marshall THE MOUNTAINS
Taranaki. Photo: Shutterstock
Boots. Packs. Parkas. Mountaineering is not just arduous work; it also involves lugging a lot of cumbersome equipment, much of it downright unattractive. Why would anyone bother? More precisely, why would anyone in New Zealand bother? Its magnificent mountains are not just among the loveliest on earth; they are also some of the most accessible.
No need to trudge for days along a hiking trail or clip on skis and slalom your way down snow-covered slopes. New Zealand’s picturesque peaks can easily be admired from cafes, from wineries, even – if you are really lucky – from your hotel bed, no Gore-Tex required.
That means even the chronically lazy can soak up these scenic wonders. Some ranges slope steeply, while others are crumpled like used handkerchiefs. Some rise and fall like the stockmarket index, while other pinnacles push up against each other like waves washing endlessly across the ocean. There are bare mountains and forested slopes, peaks sprinkled with a light dusting of powder and others topped with a thick scoop of snow like an inverted ice-cream cone.
Best of all are the mountains that soar majestically above alpine lakes. From Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown and its neighbour Lake Wanaka to the milky waters of Lake Tekapo south of Christchurch, New Zealand’s mountain-fringed lakes are among its most scenic attractions.
Faced with the country’s endless procession of peaks, the imaginations of the European explorers – never that impressive to begin with – proved utterly inadequate to the task of conjuring up suitable names. The lovely range around Queenstown, for instance, was saddled with the clunky moniker the Remarkables. Fortunately, the Maori names for these majestic mountains are appropriately grand, unlike the pakeha alternatives.
The Maori appreciated the mountains’ power and drama, and saw them as powerful gods and warriors. The seven mountains ringing Lake Taupo, for instance, were all considered to be males, except for the beautiful Pihanga. Naturally, the other peaks were all deeply in love with her, and fought a fierce battle for her hand, one that lasted for days and came complete with massive explosions, fire and smoke and burning rocks.
Tongariro was the victor, and the other mountains were given one night to move away from the happy couple. Some, such as the grief-stricken Tauhara, chose to stay; the angry Taranaki, by contrast, gouged a huge rift in the earth as he moved, which filled with his tears and became the great Whanganui River. Epic landscapes and epic love stories; these mountains really do make an impact. Ute Junker THE CITIES
Auckland’s Britomart shopping precinct. Photo: Alamy
In a land of volcanoes, glaciers and fiords, the urban areas are always likely to be bit-part players. New Zealand’s cities, however, regularly pull off memorable, scene-stealing cameos like characters in a Coen brothers movie.
Sometimes, the quirky personality comes from the architecture. Napier is awash with art deco, the little detail wanting to be picked out from the remarkable, unparalleled uniformity. Come the annual Art Deco Festival, there’s full Great Gatsby and flapper dress buy-in, but for the rest of the year it acts as though this treasure-trove time capsule of deco density is perfectly standard behaviour.
Meanwhile, Dunedin’s distinctive dark basalt has been shaped into grandiose fantasies by Victorian and Edwardian architects. The railway station hogs the photographic limelight, but it has plenty of competition. A vein of Scottish steeliness runs through the city’s character, too, which probably comes in handy when walking home up the steep hills that offer majestic views over Otago Harbour.
Small, not sprawl, is the mindset of Kiwi cities, with manageability and walkability turned into selling points. Capital city Wellington has no intention of being a dominant colossus – it’s perfectly happy being cute, low intensity and utterly rewarding to those who enjoy being nosy.
Stroll any of its central streets, and you have a good chance of encountering distilleries, coffee roasters, microbreweries, old banks turned into restaurants, and hawker-esque pan-Asian food joints.
This is not to say it can’t think big, though. Weta Workshop shows off costumes and props from mega-budget movies; the Zealandia conservation project protects near-extinct native birds while restoring a valley to how it would have looked before humans arrived in the country.
Only Auckland has the heft to pitch as a truly global city, but Auckland’s soul will always lie on its fringes. Its setting is an isthmus present, with two natural harbours, black sand beaches, a studding of volcanic cones, and a series of islands with strong, distinct vibes. Lava-strewn Rangitoto, wildlife haven Tiritiri Matangi and winery-packed Waiheke all serve different masters.
Auckland is the de-facto capital of Polynesia, but still feels more interested in yacht races than the rat race. The CBD, flanked by brunchy Parnell and cocktail-chugging Ponsonby, is evolving via big development projects such as the luxe shopper-friendly Britomart Centre.
If Auckland has evolved by design, then Christchurch has by necessity. Once content to be a pastiche of middle England – cathedrals, gardens, punting – on the other side of the planet, tragedy has forced improvised innovation. This energy has filtered through a city that has shown it will not be cowed – and is likely to show that again. David Whitley THE LODGES
Every country has its luxury hotels. Many have wilderness lodges. None, however, have lodges quite like those in New Zealand. Some are owned by hedge-fund billionaires and Russian oligarchs. Some have their own helicopter pads, flocks of decorative alpacas and cliff-clinging golf courses. And yet somehow none ever abandon the charming New Zealand liking for informality, friendliness and utter lack of pretension.
You might well be checking into some of the world’s best accommodations, yet you’ll never encounter a stuffy or snooty attitude. It’s like checking into New Zealand itself, one of the world’s best countries, the inhabitants of which don’t seem to realise quite how special it is.
In a New Zealand lodge, no matter how posh you may be – celebrities, duchesses and heads of state often stay – you’ll be bundled onto the back of a mud-splattered buggy for a tour of the paddocks. You may be invited to a beach barbecue in your bare feet.
In short, for all the suave service and luxury levels, you always feel that you’re being treated as a friend. Similarly, you have every luxury amenity – and some you never imagined existed – and yet you’re always subordinate to the wild landscapes. It’s relaxing, it’s exhilarating. Wall Street moguls and Shanghai executives come here to cast their cares aside and be normal.
Still, despite the welcome lack of formality, New Zealand lodges are a superb experience. You get crackling fires and modern art, colonial-era charm and contemporary walls of glass gazing over mountains.
Sometimes, you’ll be sharing 250 hectares acres and 60 staff with just 10 other guests. Some lodges have their own herds of deer, mountain-biking trails and ski butlers. You can enjoy flying fishing and helicopter rides, canapes and cocktails served in billiard rooms, evenings tucking into langoustine or roast Southland lamb accompanied by great New Zealand wines.
Most of all, you get New Zealand. Its lodges have some of the world’s most sublime settings in rugged mountain ranges, or gazing over lakes, or clinging to clifftops. Some are set in rainforest with their own private beaches and waterfalls. You can lounge on manicured green lawns that slope into glassy green rivers, or float in heated pools with views to snow-capped alps, and feel very blessed. Brian Johnston THE ADRENALINE
Queenstown is New Zealand’s adrenaline capital. Photo: Shutterstock
“Bloody terrifying” is how Steve Norton describes his first leap off Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge. As a close friend of A. J. Hackett, he was one of the guinea pigs for Hackett’s harebrained scheme to allow people to throw themselves off the 43-metre-high bridge with just an elasticised cord tied around their ankles. In 1988, that scheme became a reality and Kawarau Bridge became the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump.
Since then Queenstown has blossomed into a mecca for adrenaline-lovers with an unparalleled number of ways to scare yourself senseless. Visitors can charge through Skippers Canyon in a jet boat, take a stomach-churning 200-metre swing into Shotover Canyon and tandem skydive from 15,000 feet over the region’s dramatic montage of snow-capped mountains and alpine lakes.
Queenstown gets a lot of the adventure glory but the rest of the country isn’t far behind. Hop over the hill to Wanaka and you can take a thrilling helicopter ride over Mount Aspiring National Park then jet boat back through the remote wilderness of the Siberia Valley.
Head to the West Coast and you can heli-hike on the stunning serpentine glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef. On the North Island, there’s rafting on the Tongariro River, zip lining through ancient forest in Rotorua and sand-boarding on the towering dunes at Ninety Mile Beach.
New Zealand will always have a special place in my heart as it’s the setting for many of my most memorable adventure firsts. It is where I first sky-dived (a 45-second freefall over the teal blue Lake Taupo), first white-water rafted (a white-knuckle plunge over the seven-metre-high Tutea Falls) and first set foot in a jet boat (a thrilling boulder-skimming rush down the Dart River). Without exception, every activity was well-organised, safe and delivered with an entertaining dose of deadpan Kiwi humour.
It’s a remarkable achievement that this slither of a country has established itself as a global adventure centre. And it says a lot about Kiwis’ entrepreneurial attitude and indomitable spirit.
I still have a long list of adventure activities I want to tick off. I’d like to go canyoning in the Waitakeres west of Auckland, abseil into the dark depths of Waitomo’s Lost World cave and snowmobile through the pristine powder of the Garvie Mountains. And, who knows, one day I may even pluck up the courage to leap off Kawarau Bridge. Rob McFarland THE TASTES
Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s best wine regions. Photo: Alamy
The first time I tried New Zealand’s famed sauvignon blanc, which put the country on the wine map, I was visiting Marlborough. I’d ventured south of Auckland, where I lived at the time. It was a glass of Cloudy Bay with heady notes of zesty lime and passionfruit.
Along with the rest of Australia (and much of the world), I haven’t stopped drinking it since. I fell hard for New Zealand’s cool-climate wines, not to mention its Pacific Rim inspired cuisine and fabulous coffee.
Like Australia, New Zealand cuisine is a product of its colonial past (think meat and three veg) but it’s thrown off its culinary shackles.
Lamb, dairy and sustainable seafood, in particular, are the country’s gastronomic stars.
I know of several locals that would dive for scallops, crayfish and paua (abalone), or reel in enough fresh snapper to fill their chilly bins. New Zealand’s Bluff oysters are among the world’s best, as well as green lip mussels and whitebait.
Celebrity chef Rick Stein, when given the choice of eating anywhere in the world, chose Fleur’s Place on the shores of Moeraki, a sleepy seaside hamlet on New Zealand’s South Island where seafood comes from trawler to plate.
Contemporary chefs such as London-based Peter Gordon, known as the father of fusion cuisine, are largely credited with elevating New Zealand food to another level by melding local ingredients and Pacific Rim culture. Josh Emett, ranked among the world’s best chefs, pays homage to the southern landscape at his Queenstown restaurant Rata (he also runs four Madam Woo outlets and Auckland’s Ostro).
Given that eating out in Auckland a decade ago was limited, and decent Asian cuisine, even of the no-frills variety, was hard to find, it’s astounding to see what’s now on offer. You can sip shochu cocktails at the uber-cool Fukuko bar, tuck into steamed pork buns at Blue Breeze Inn, and enjoy contemporary Indian cuisine at Sid Sahrawat’s Cassia. Meanwhile, the Hip Group, blessed with the Midas touch, is quietly revolutionising Auckland’s food scene one stylish eatery at a time.
Said to have more bars, restaurants and cafes per capita than New York, the nation’s capital Wellington is home to celebrity chefs including Martin Bosley, Rex Morgan and Monique Fiso, whose Maori fine diner is booked out months in advance. With the Wairarapa wine region to the north and Marlborough to the south, wine lists offer New Zealand’s best.
My favourite place to taste New Zealand, however, is in its urban cafes. It’s where you can you start the day with poached eggs on artisan baked sourdough, chin wag with the locals (provided the All Blacks won on the weekend) and enjoy some of the world’s best coffee. It’s not known as the Land of the Long Flat White for nothing. Sheriden Rhodes THE NATURE
A kiwi, the symbol of New Zealand. Photo: Shutterstock
I wake on Ben Lomond Station near Queenstown in New Zealand’s south and walk alone along the sharp line of a rocky ridge high above Moonlight Creek.
Heavy mist packs the valleys below me while mountains burst sporadically through the cloud and into luminous flashes of sunlight. It is a reminder that even at the most troubling of times, nature retains its intense and restorative beauty, especially in a country such as New Zealand.
Kilometre for kilometre, there’s no nation on earth that can match this country for natural variety. From where I stand, tussock grasslands rise into barren mountaintops. Rivers rage through canyons, running blue where once they glittered with gold. Cross west through these mountains and the landscape falls away into tangles of rainforest nourished by up to seven metres of rain a year. Not far away, on the east coast, barely half a metre of rain falls.
It’s a country where glaciers push through rainforest, fiords fray the southern coastline, and a band of active volcanoes runs through the heart of the North Island, releasing their energy like an escape valve on ever-belching White Island.
The ground boils and steams around Rotorua, creating lakes as vibrantly coloured as street art, while the thermal activity elsewhere around the country produces natural hot pools that offer soothing soaks.
There are beaches as black as others are white, and streams in Waitomo that pour through caves lit by constellations of glow-worms. Icebergs float about in lakes beneath the country’s highest peaks.
New Zealand’s only native land mammals are bats, and yet the wildlife encounters can be superb. Whales cruise by at Kaikoura, and I retain vivid memories of swimming years ago at Curio Bay in the Catlins, alone except for a pod of Hector’s dolphins – the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, endemic to New Zealand – that surrounded me.
Three days after that morning on Ben Lomond Station, I am kayaking along the shores of Paterson Inlet on Stewart Island, a place where kiwis outnumber people by about 40 to one. Penguins peep from the water, a sea lion settles in for a nap on a beach, and an albatross looms as large as a plane as it touches down in the sea right beside me. Andrew Bain A KIWI PERSPECTIVE
By Lauren Quaintance
Most people don’t think of New Zealanders living in Australia as expatriates, as foreigners from some unknowable place. Partly that’s geography – after all we’re only separated by a few thousand kilometres of ocean – and partly that’s shared history and culture: Anzacs, pavlovas and a love of sports played with an oval ball. New Zealand, however, is different and as a “Kiwi” who has lived in Australia for a dozen years there are things about my homeland that I miss profoundly, and they are the same things that any visitor really must experience. THE BACH
The Russians call it a “dacha” and Australians a “weekender”, but it’s New Zealanders who have perfected the idea of the simple beach house. Some of the best examples of a traditional bach – usually a single storey fibrolite construction with a flat roof – can be found in sparsely populated Northland. While they may or may not have an indoor toilet, in all likelihood they will have a poster of New Zealand fish species tacked to a wall, and decades-old paperbacks stacked in the living room. Staying at a bach is an exercise in pleasurable deprivation. See bookabach.co.nz COUNTRY TOWNS
The best road trip in New Zealand is from Christchurch to Wanaka on the Southern Tourist Route. Don’t let the name confuse you; there is nothing especially “touristy” about this largely empty stretch of road that features some of the country’s most spellbinding landscapes and one of its most perfectly formed small towns. The hub of a prosperous farming area, Geraldine is a thriving town (a village, really) with a bakery, a milk bar and a shop selling some of the best jams in New Zealand, which are made on a farm down the road. See barkers.co.nz MAORI LANGUAGE
Expect to hear Maori words and phrases in everyday conversation – haere mai (welcome) kia kaha (stay strong) and aroha (love.) My favourite of these is turangawaewae – which literally means a “place to stand” and is used to refer to the places where you feel most empowered and connected, where you truly feel at home. You’ll hear Maori, also known as te reo, used by everyone from bus drivers to shop assistants, but if you want to better understand the history of New Zealand and its language, head to the birthplace of the nation – Waitangi – and take in a kapa haka performance, a powerful mix of Maori song and dance. BLACK SAND BEACHES
Forget golden sand and gentle surf, it’s the wild, black sand beaches of the North Island that linger in the imagination. Best known as the place that Jane Campion shot The Piano , there’s something spiritual about Karekare, 35 kilometres from Auckland. With a vast expanse of volcanic black sand and thunderous surf, it’s best enjoyed at dusk when you’ll appreciate why this place has inspired some of New Zealand’s best writers and filmmakers. KIWI MUSIC
Nothing reflects the laid-back New Zealand lifestyle – and the Polynesian heritage of so many New Zealanders – better than the unique sound of “dub” or New Zealand reggae. Wellington is where popular bands such as the seven-piece Fat Freddy’s Drop got their start, and you can catch the next generation of dub musicians in bars such as the Rogue and Vagabond in the capital city’s gritty Cuba Street precinct. See rogueandvagabond.co.nz LISTEN: The things that will surprise you about New Zealand
To subscribe to the Traveller.com.au podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here . Mar 26 2019
A Beautiful Hotel in all possible repects
I had a one night stay at this hotel, before returning to the UK. I wish I could have stayed for longer…. Taj Palace is absolutely stunning in all possible respects!! The ambience is divine, food and service outstanding! Fabulous choice of restaurants – I opted for Indian Cuisine -fine dining at its best.The Room service was excellent, including delivery of fine tea and hand crafted biscuits and collection of luggage when departing. Taj Hotels never cease to please in all possible respects. I’m proud to be a member. Look forward to returning.
Science Uncovered: Flavour pairing
By Vilhelmiina Haavisto , Deputy Science and Technology Editor
Looking for a little more adventure in the kitchen? An algorithm might be able to help you pair ingredients and upgrade your meals…
The student budget can sometimes be a little unforgiving when it comes to food – pair this with a lack of time (and possibly of creativity), and meals can quickly become a chore. However, there may be an easy, analytical way of creating new and exciting dishes.
The Belgian company Foodpairing deal in the realm of computational gastronomy. They state that “years of research” have culminated in the conclusion that foods that share similar “key aroma” profiles are likely to pair well in recipes. These key aromas are chemicals released from foods that produce aromas, or flavours, when detected by receptors in the nose and mouth.
Strawberries are just one example. According to Foodpairing, their key aromas are roasted, cheesy, and citrus, which link them well to chocolate, parmesan, and basil, respectively. Foodpairing have calculated thousands of aroma pairings such as these using data analysis and machine learning algorithms. The algorithms are fed with large-scale data sets of aroma profiles from foods and drinks calculated using gas chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry (GC-MS), an analytical method used to identify multiple substances within a test sample, in this case of food or drink.
Computational gastronomy has largely been confined to the world of haute cuisine, but students, worry not – pairings can be made no matter the starting ingredients. Foodpairing has partnered with companies like Kraft and Nestlé, and some of their tech is even accessible to the public. Below are just a few combinations that I worked out using Foodpairing’s online pairing tool and student-friendly starting ingredients. The free version of the tool is limited to 50 foods and 50 drinks, but I did what I could with them.
Ingredient 1 – Pasta
Graphic by Vilhelmiina Haavisto
Ah, pasta – the beloved, versatile student staple, the delicious carbohydrate base of so many lunches and dinners. There are a number of givens in the top matches: bacon, lemon and basil are all pasta dish standards. Walnut and bacon especially caught my eye as a pairing with potential . However, acacia honey, sweet cherry, grapefruit and milk chocolate are just a few of the oddballs. Maybe desert pasta is the next über-trendy food, the next cronut – or maybe not. Only somebody brave enough to try it will know.
Ingredient #2 – Baked potato
Graphic by Vilhelmiina Haavisto
If you eat baked potatoes on the regular, you may find yourself growing tired of the rotation of toppings, whatever yours may be. Already on this second starting ingredient, the limited number of foods in the free version is becoming obvious. Though there are quite a few ingredients we’ve met already, some of them are still pretty surprising potato-pairings – acacia honey, guava, and dark chocolate, to name just a few. Again, the highest matches are pretty unsurprising, but it’s on the second page of results where things get a little more interesting, where foods like cranberries, gingerbread, and bone marrow pop up. If anybody reading this tries a baked potato topped with ham, raisins and a honey sauce, please let me know your thoughts.
Ingredient #3 – Oats
Graphic by Vilhelmiina Haavisto
Oatmeal is an incredibly easy and economical breakfast idea, but I have to say that I was a little upset by its top aroma matches; lots of cheeses, ham, fish sauce and french fries, to name just a few offenders. Then again, it’s probably just a case of other ingredients that normally go on my morning oatmeal (banana, peanut butter, apple, blueberry jam…) not being included in the limited ingredient set. However, virtually all the available and palatable oatmeal toppings are way lower down in the match hierarchy than I think they should be. It might also be the case that the aromas in raw oats are different to those we’re used to getting from cooked oats, but I’m not entirely convinced. This really goes to show that matching aroma profiles are by no means everything when it comes to food pairing.
Indeed, the science directors at Foodpairing have acknowledged that chefs and home cooks alike have used intuition and trial-and-error to make their dishes before anybody even knew about volatiles, let alone used algorithms to make matches. What’s more, an experiment designed to put the pairings suggested by Foodpairing to the test found that those with more aromas in common were not perceived to taste better than those with less overlap. The celebrated chef Heston Blumenthal has also remarked that “a molecule database is neither a shortcut to successful flavor combining nor a failsafe way of doing it…two ingredients having a compound [out of thousands] in common is a slender justification for compatibility.”
Moreover, research from 2011 compared North American and East Asian key ingredients, and concluded that pairing based on aroma similarity is a largely Western practice, while East Asian cuisine tends to pair ingredients with dissimilar aromas. This phenomenon has also been observed between Western and Indian cuisines. Perhaps, then, we should be looking to the least-matching combinations that tools like Foodpairing deliver for the best results?
There is also evidence to suggest that the order in which ingredients are perceived differently when consumed in different orders, and when associated with different colours. The reasons why food tastes the way it does are far more complex, it seems, than computational gastronomists want to believe. Tools like Foodpairing might be good starting points for generating ideas for new and surprising flavour combinations, but as we have seen, we should take everything they spit out with a grain of salt. SHARE THIS!
Culture.CLE set to spotlight Cleveland’s unsung ethnic eats
Culture.CLE set to spotlight Cleveland’s unsung ethnic eats By This article is the first in our “CLE Means We: Advancing Equity & Inclusion in Cleveland” dedicated series, presented in partnership with Jumpstart, Inc. , Greater Cleveland Partnership/The Commission on Economic Inclusion , YWCA of Greater Cleveland , and the Fund for Our Economic Future .
Though minority business owners comprise just 29 percent of the overall economy, minority restaurateurs make up 40 percent of that sector—with that number steadily rising. Cleveland’s own culinary scene has also made strides in supporting minority food business owners, with Latino Restaurant Week launching in 2017 and Quicken Loans Arena using its Launch Test Kitchen to help spotlight minority food entrepreneurs . A new dinner series, Culture.CLE , is the newest local initiative aimed at bringing Cleveland’s ethnic restaurateurs to the forefront. A joint venture of BlossomCLE and Kitchen 216 , the series launches tonight with a sold-out, traditional family-style dinner prepared by chef David Ina of Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen . On the menu? Tabbulee, baba ganouj, kefta kabobs, falafel, and other traditional Lebanese dishes. “Every month, we’re going to choose a different chef and feature a different culture,” explains Samantha Peddicord of BlossomCLE, a consulting group focused on helping organizations develop internationalization plans. “We want to teach about community and culture through cuisine.” To that end, Peddicord has curated an upcoming lineup including Honduran chef Mariela Paz of Sabor Miami (April 30), Congolese refugee and amateur chef Esther Ngemba (May 21), and Sahar Rizvi of Indian cooking school Cleveland Masala (June). Along with the meal, each event will include an informal educational component designed to share background on the featured cuisine and its related community’s presence in Cleveland. For instance, at tonight’s event, Ina’s mom Ghadda will talk about her experiences as a Lebanese-born immigrant. “It’s not going to be like a history lesson or lecture—we want it to be an interactive dialogue where people can ask questions,” says Peddicord. “Cleveland has just as many beautiful ethnic communities as some of the bigger cities, and while we [as a city] do appreciate many of them, we don’t realize how big these communities are locally and the ways we can learn from them.” Peddicord adds that each of the featured chefs “has a really interesting story,” from Paz’s work as an artist “who talks about her history and culture through food and painting” to Ngemba’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill to help end human rights violations in the Congo. “It’s important to highlight how far some of these chefs have come,” says Peddicord. “Our hope is to help smaller chefs break into the wider Cleveland market and not just serve their immediate communities.”
Chef David Ina For his part, Zaytoon’s Ina is also hoping the Culture.CLE events will help encourage more adventurous palates around the city. Though the restaurant’s Playhouse Square location attracts everyone from construction workers to CSU students to executives, Ina says that many of the customers who come in are “a little timid” about trying Zaytoon’s brand of authentic Lebanese food.
“The biggest challenge is breaking that barrier and getting people to feel comfortable and open to trying different dishes and foods,” says Ina. Peddicord was inspired to start the Culture.CLE series after her personal experience in an “Ethnic Eats” dinner club that solely focused on the food rather than the culture fueling it. “It was all about eating and drinking—we never talked about the history, culture, or people,” says Peddicord. “I’d be the dork at the end of the table talking about the history of porchetta.” She recalls going to one Ethnic Eats dinner at a Guatemalan restaurant shortly after the Fuego volcano erupted in late 2018. “I’ve been to that region before, and it was hard to see how much the people were suffering,” says Peddicord, who has lived in three countries and visited more than 30 countries. “I wanted to know why we weren’t talking about ways we could help them.”
Enter the idea for Culture.CLE, which will take place at Kitchen 216 (an event space located at Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen ). Peddicord says the space was a “no-brainer” because of its 3,000-square-foot open kitchen, conducive to observation and conversation with the chef. The tricked-out kitchen will also open up new opportunities for many of the participating chefs, which is key to the effort. “Most of the smaller ethnic restaurants I plan on working with don’t have the space for [an event like this],” says Peddicord. “Many of them are catering companies, food trucks, or [instructors of] in-home cooking classes.”
Along with the international dinner club, Culture.CLE is also hosting a monthly book club geared at exploring international books, which launched last August. Selections so far have included Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates; April’s book club meeting will feature Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides.
Tonight’s event sellout bodes well for Culture.CLE’s momentum, and Peddicord hopes it will become a passport for Clevelanders’ palates. “Why wait for vacation?” she says. “You don’t have to pay baggage fees to support one of 100 local ethnic restaurants.” CLE Means We: Calls to Action Three things you can do to advance equity and inclusion after reading this article Sign up for Culture.CLE’s April dinner event and book club! More info here .
7 IDEAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR INDIA FIRST TIMERS WITH THE HELP OF SIM RAJ
7 IDEAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR INDIA FIRST TIMERS WITH THE HELP OF SIM RAJ By – March 26, 2019
No amount of planning can prepare you for your first time in India. On arrival you’re met with a cacophony of clashing noise, a miasma of competing aromas, hawkers tugging at your sleeves and heart strings, taxis and rickshaws vying for your attention, your nose taking you one way, your stomach another, and the unrelenting pace never seems to taper.
Even arranging your trip can be an overwhelming experience. Where to focus your attention? How long to spend in each place? Which method of often unpredictable transport will deliver me safely from A to B? If you’re to get the most from your trip, the preparation and planning stage is crucial. We’ve teamed up with Sim Raj, a company that offers prepaid Indian sim card for tourists, to bring you these; our 7 IDEAL travel tips for India first timers. EMBRACE A VEGETARIAN DIET
In a country with the second lowest consumption of meat in the world and a truly varied, invigorating cuisine, there really is no better time to sample the fruits of a vegetarian diet than when in India. Each region’s culinary culture has a unique identity and specific customs, but the one thread which runs through all of the country’s food is the use of spice and aromats. Currys are prevalent throughout India, with legumes or pulses (lentils, chickpeas) used with glorious abandon.
In the North, wonderful, freshly baked breads like naan and roti accompany most meals while in the South, rice takes centre stage. The region of Goa makes use of the sea’s bounty with fervour, though one can still eat well as a vegetarian here. Gurajat and the West of India observe an almost entirely meat free diet, making it a great focal point for those on eating with a focus on plants and pulses. USE YOUR HEAD WHEN USING YOUR FEET & HANDS
There’s a certain amount of etiquette regarding hands and feet in India which is worth remembering. Let’s start with pointing; it’s considered disrespectful in the extreme to point your finger or the soles of your feet at people. Feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body (the same reason shoes must be removed before entering someone’s house) and so should only be used for walking. Make sure you don’t touch objects with your foot, particularly books and musical instruments, which have a sacred significance. If you need to point, use your whole hand; the same goes for beckoning. Finally, passing objects or eating food with your left hand is a no-no, as it’s reserved for the toilet. GET A LOCAL SIM CARD
Most tourists complain about the lack of coverage and exceptionally high fees when roaming with abandon with network services from home. While most providers offer daily fees of about £5–10, this can quickly add up. With most local carriers, the coverage is unpredictable and generally poor; 2G is, generally, the most you can hope for, if you get any service at all that is.
Getting a local SIM in advance is your best bet for smooth, quick coverage. If you want to buy an Indian SIM card online , companies like Sim Raj will deal with all the bureaucracy on your behalf and have your card waiting for you at the airport of your arrival. DRESS CONSERVATIVELY
While we wish you could wear what you like, when and where you like, the reality is different. Dressing conservatively will make everyday interactions in India occur more fluently, and therefore it’s prudent to do so. For both sexes, keep your legs covered; that means no shorts or skirts. Exposed shoulders are also inadvisable. Although this might make matters uncomfortable in the heat, by dressing respectfully you’ll get things done more efficiently and smoothly. At times (such as at holy sites) a thin headscarf for covering your hair will be necessary, so carry one with you. TIME YOUR TRIP CAREFULLY
Without wishing to state the obvious, India is massive, with hugely diverse weather patterns and seasons, so you should always check beforehand about your specific destination. However, generally speaking, India has about 3 main seasons; summer, winter and monsoon.
In short, winters are warm, and summers scorching. The monsoon season usually lasts between July and September, and many tourists avoid visiting India at this time. If you do decide to go at this time, you’ll definitely avoid the crowds, but you’ll also miss out on a lot of great things that India has to offer, as most places will be closed.
October through May is the best time to visit Mumbai and Goa. Rajasthan and Central India are perfect in the cooler months between October and March, Kerala is warm all year-round, though extremely hot in April and May, and rainy from June to August. Agra and Delhi are mostly dry with moderate temperatures from October to March, and the Himalayas are perfect from February to May. Phew. Got that? EMBRACE WELLNESS
One of India’s greatest gifts to the world is yoga. As its birthplace, India offers more wellness retreats and ashrams than you could shake your mat at, where you can learn about yoga, practice it, and become well versed in its healing powers. The choices are endless, from immersive, all day commitments where the yogini led practice is solemn and reverent, to ones perhaps more appealing to ever distracted millennials where the sessions are short, the WIFI strong and the detoxifying smoothies always spinning. TAKE IT SLOW & TAKE A REST
The relentless pace of India, the heat, the noise; it can all amount to fatigue and exhaustion if you don’t take the time to take it in, take it slow and take a rest. Don’t try to do too much at once or in one day. Instead, mindfully appreciate things individually and at length, to get the most out of crazy, beautiful India.
These are the 50 best restaurants in Asia
These are the 50 best restaurants in Asia Kristine Servando Mar 27, 2019 — 7.32am Share
Hong Kong | After four consecutive years as Asia’s best restaurant, Bangkok’s Gaggan has finally been dethroned.
Odette in Singapore managed to wrestle the title from the iconic Indian-fusion restaurant, famed for its emoji-filled menu. Chef Julien Royer, who named the place after his maternal grandmother, steered Odette to first place from from ninth in 2017 with multiple-course French fare that has included “seared foie gras, miso caramel, lemon quinoa and Japanese strawberries”.
Ta Vie has been exploring ingredients such as roselle, a species of hibiscus. Global Link Retail Management Limited
Gaggan landed in second place, still retaining the title of Thailand’s best – a bittersweet run for a restaurant that is due to close in 2020 as chef-owner Gaggan Anand plans new ventures in Japan.
Tokyo kaiseki eatery Den; German restaurant Sühring, run by twin brothers in Bangkok; and French-inspired Florilège in Tokyo rounded out the top five of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Den Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa, who also won the chef’s choice award, said he introduced Japanese truffles to his dishes over the past year, paired with soup and fish.
Surprise additions included the first-ever Malaysian winner, Dewakan Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, and Manila’s Toyo Eatery, helmed by chef Jordy Navarra. Advertisement
“In the past year we just changed the menu,” said Navarra. “One of the fun things that we’ve been playing around with is making our own banana ketchup – it’s super Filipino. I think it’s one part of what we are.” The last time a Philippine restaurant made the list was in 2017.
Miyazaki Mango Tart at Odette restaurant. Bloomberg
French haute-cuisine restaurant Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – Hong Kong’s top-placed restaurant for the past five years – fell 14 places to No. 21. Amber, at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, has been closed for renovations since December 2018 and is due to reopen this spring with a revamped menu.
Chef and Culinary Director Richard Ekkebus has spent the downtime traversing the world with his team, finding new ingredients and learning new cooking techniques.
“We’re still testing new ingredients and dishes so details of the new menu will be revealed closer to the opening. What guests can expect though, is the same purity of flavours and classic techniques,” he said.
Den’s garden salad with a single ant. Shinichiro Fujii
For the handful of restaurants that have consistently ranked among the top 50, their chefs say innovation is key.
Tetsuya Wakuda, chef of Waku Ghin at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore which now ranks No. 40, said he experimented last year with a new ingredient – the muscle of a fresh pearl oyster. Advertisement
“It is meaty, boasts sweet and delicious flavours and has a unique texture, unlike abalone or scallops,” he said. It’s the star in the dish “poached pearl’s meat with confit of chicken and mushroom”, which has taken a place on the menu alongside house signatures such as “marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar”.
Heirloom carrots, confit with and orange blossom honey, carrot cake, segments, zest and sorbet of blood orange. Amber via Mandarin Oriental
In Hong Kong, chef Hideaki Sato of Ta Vie, which came in at No. 50, said he liked to tweak the flavour of his dishes at the last minute to suit what diners are drinking. He’s been exploring ingredients such as Chinese yellow wine, roselle (a species of hibiscus), dried persimmon and lotus. In New Delhi, chef Manish Mehrotra said he experimented with sorrel leaves, amaranth seeds and fresh mangoes at Indian Accent, which at No. 17 is India’s best restaurant.
Since taking over gourmet Thai restaurant Nahm (No. 22) in Bangkok last year, Chef Pim Techamuanvivit – one of the handful of female chefs who featured in this year’s list – said she made a completely new menu, “refocusing on amazing ingredients produced in Thailand”, such as variants of fish sauce.
Urchin from Waku Ghin. Stephen Chin/Marina Bay Sands
And executive chef Chan Yan Tak at Hong Kong’s Lung King Heen, ranked No. 38, found unlikely inspiration for one of his latest creations: plane food. On a flight to Singapore he peeled back the foil cover of his meal and found “long grains that are quite chewy”.
He said: “I later learned that it is an Italian pasta called puntalette, so I tried to cook it in the Chinese way and this new twist to fried rice has become very popular at Lung King Heen.”
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list is selected and voted on by a panel of 318 food writers, critics, chefs, restaurateurs and foodies across Asia. The awards are held and published each year by William Reed Business Media, a UK-based media company. Advertisement Here’s the full list for 2019 Odette – Singapore