The Hunt: Finding Food Abroad

As I’ve gotten older, and my palate has become more developed, vacations to see beautiful things must be accompanied with tasty food. Having just got back from a brief trip to Spain, I was reminded that I don’t really want to eat bad food on vacation.

Not a bad statement, but really who does?

The trick is being able to find good food on vacation.  In Spain they don’t really start eating until late evening about 10pm so it gives you plenty of time between sight-seeing and dinner to look up some good suspects. Not being particularly sure were me and my partner-in-crime were going to end up we resorted to our favorite Internet café, Burger King.

When you’re on holiday, Burger King and McDonalds can be a great resource to your Internet woes. They 90% of the time offer free Wi-Fi. Usually you can just stand outside by the door or if you want to rest your feet, drop in, buy water or a pop and settle into to do your searching.

In the day and age of smart phones there is a plethora of apps that you can download. In the US Yelp is pretty spot on, as well as Trip advisor. Trip advisor is also good for international spots, in the app you can also download a map of the city which can be quite helpful.

If you have an IPhone, Yelp is great because the map goes straight to your map application, which has a GPS function that doesn’t require Wi-Fi to work. Simply load the route and follow along. Nifty, huh? Ideally if you were super concerned about this you would probably do your research before hand and have a lot more tools at your disposal.

If you find yourself somewhere more remote or are a more off the grid traveler (kudos to you), talk to the locals! Before you leave look up a few phrases in the native language; most helpful “Do you speak (insert your language)”,  “Where is good for (insert meal)” or at the very least “food” and “good”.  Failing that I would wander around and look for where a) the most native people are b) the biggest group is.  That should get you the most authentic and or safest bet for a good meal.

I’m starting a international food guide for this blog (similar to LA Eats); click here for more info on that

Enjoy and happy travels!

Fall Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Fall is hands down my favorite season. The leaves changing colors, falling off the trees and coating the ground in an almost dance like fashion. The weather getting cooler making it nice to be outside with a trendy sweater on. Then of course there’s Thanksgiving and all the tasty memories of both food and family that  it conjures.  Just the thought makes me warm and cozy.

One of the signature foods of fall is pumpkin. You can practically set your season watch by when it hits the shelves. (That is, if there were such a thing as a season watch.) Last week, LA got a little sprinkle of rain that made me yearn for the midwestern thunderstorms where you cozy up on the couch with a good book and a big gooey cookie. Or maybe that’s just me.

Either way, since LA doesn’t really have quite the fall I’m used to I needed to give myself a little push to believe that fall was actually upon us Angelenos and out came these tasty treats.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Adapted from: Pixelated Crumb

For cookies:
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
1 lg egg
1 vanilla bean (scrapped)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp of ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda

For coating:

1 cup sugar
2 tbps cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

1. First cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add the egg, vanilla bean, and pumpkin. This takes about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together and then mix with the wet ingredients until just combined. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, overnight is better. If you’re in a hurry, pop them in the freezer but make sure they’re covered tight!

3. Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Create round balls of dough (I use a scoop) and then roll them in our spice coating. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Cook until golden brown about 12 minutes. (I like a bigger cookie. Using a 24 scoop they take about 20 mintues) Cool and eat!

P.S. Reuse that parchment paper!

Enjoy!

My Cooking Adventures with The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories

A lot of people, in my opinion anyway, are afraid of cooking or baking because it seems hard. It has a lot of points where you can go wrong and sometimes it is time consuming;  god forbid you put all that time in and your cookies more closely resemble hockey pucks than the mouth-watering picture on the box.

I know, I’ve been that person. I don’t like being bad at things, at least things I’m passionate about. I grew up  surrounded by sweets; I feel like there was always a baked good in the house. I remember when I first started trying to replicate the stuff I saw my mom making. It was a not pretty. My mom said I was the only person she ever met that made a cake fall, that came from a mix.

In addition to being a bit of a dork, I’m also stubborn. If people tell me that I cannot do something that I want to do, I see that as a challenge. I wanted to be able to make sweets and desserts that were not just edible, but were “oh my goodness” delicious. So after failing a bunch on my own with scattered successes I started to look into cooking classes and schools.

To my surprise culinary school was EXPENSIVE. So I sort of just kept up my trial and error method and would peruse yelp every now and again but never really committed to anything. It wasn’t until I moved out to LA that I found the came across The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. They had great reviews on yelp, short drive away, not to outrageously priced. Sold.

Since embarking on that journey almost a year ago, I feel like I’ve gotten more confident. One thing the teacher, Clemence, would say during class is that the ingredients can smell your fear. I think she was right. I also think, that having someone there to guide you is super helpful.

So if you’re in the LA area I highly recommend looking them up and popping in for a class. You won’t regret it.

They have some delicious recipes you can check out here. Hope you’re grilling up a storm and making the most of your Labor Day.

Enjoy!