Tag Archives: Food

Hungry Days of Summer

It took a couple weeks, but Tony and I are finally over jetlag and mostly decompressed from school stress. Time to get down to business. There’s so much to eat and drink before the end of July!

Here are some of my Michigan food-and-drink-related routines:
(1) I welcome myself home with a cake from Kroger’s. Usually I just pop in to the store and ask for a cake that says, “Welcome home, Sharon!” and then I eat it in secret. This time, I decided to be more inclusive and I had the hilarious plan of asking the baker to box in a corner and write, “… and Tony.” My sister Kate offered to pick up the cake for me, but when she saw the poor baker seemed to suffer from terrible arthritis, she said, “You can just write ‘Welcome home S & T’.” Lame.

(2) I eat avocado every day. This is my Second Annual Eat Avocado Every Day Summer Challenge. It started last summer when I was stuck in Washington, D.C., with a fun group of ladies from AES, waiting for our new Indian visas to be issued. We found ourselves at the same Mexican restaurant most days, eating guacamole. Avocados in Delhi are rare and expensive, so it seems like a good plan to get ’em while I can. My favorite lunch time treat? A loaded BLAT sandwich.

(3) I eat copious amounts of pie. My favorite? Strawberry rhubarb. Bring it. (And be sure to bring Breyer’s Natural Vanilla ice cream, too.)

(4) I drink a ridiculous amount of beer and wine. With import duties around 150%, booze is pricey in India. My go-to red wine in Delhi is Yellow Tail Shiraz, which retails at $30. Guess how much it costs in Michigan? $4.95! Less than five bucks! We have a beer pub in our Delhi neighborhood, where Tony and I go for dinner occasionally. A nice pizza and a couple glasses of beer costs us about $100. So, if most of my summer pictures show a drink in my hand, don’t judge.

(5) Bacon. Bacon. And more bacon. The Hindus in India don’t eat beef, and the Muslims in India don’t eat pork. So the only ubiquitous meat is chicken. Dang it, I am so sick of chicken. Bacon cheeseburger with guacamole? Yes, please!

By the end of the summer, I may be jonesing for a samosa, but for now, you’ll find me on my deck, beer in hand and gearing up for my next American snack.

National Pie Week, aka the most awesome week of the year

Did you know this was National Pie Week?
Moreover, did you know this is the last day of National Pie Week and I haven’t had any PIE all WEEK?!
Many of you know that pie is my favorite food, so missing out on National Pie Week would have been tragic.

I’m a pie eater, not a pie baker, so I had to run out and buy a selection to celebrate this special week. I purchased mini versions of Michigan 4-berry, strawberry-rhubarb, apple and cherry, as well as Breyer’s Vanilla ice-cream (truly the ONLY ice-cream worthy of sharing a bowl with pie). Tempted to eat them all by myself, I altruistically hauled them to my parents’ house to share.


Strawberry-rhubarb is my all-time fave, but Michigan 4-berry is pretty delish.

Megan eats pie for two, and Dad digs in.

Why do I always eat so much pie that it stops tasting fabulous?

Next year, I will strive to honor the spirit of National Pie Week with a delectable slice every day instead of a massive pie pile on the last day.

edible irony

When I was living in the States, I struggled to resist processed food products at the grocery store. The lure of quick, cheap, filling meals cannot be ignored. Day after day of craptastic frozen dinners infused my body with the salt, sugar, fat and empty calories it craved with little impact on my digestive system. A night out for Indian food, on the other hand, was likely to cause quite a rumbly in my tumbly.

Now I live in India and eat home-made (not by ME, silly!) Indian food almost every night, much to the pleasure of both my mouth and stomach. You know what gets my tummy in a twist these days? That’s right. You know it. Processed nature-free boxed food imposters.

Wednesday, I stayed at school till almost 9 p.m. for the staff musical rehearsal, which meant I had to scavenge my own dinner. There’s no better place than the American Embassy Commissary for quick, cheap, filling “food.” The place is stocked like a 7-11, and it’s right across the street from school.

Look what I ate for dinner. Gross.

Add a backstage beer, and you’ve got an unpredictable bubbly belly brew.
Lesson learned.

christmas dinner – The continuing saga of how I ate my way through Germany

Returning from a walk around the Eibsee lake at the base of the Zugspitz, I checked the Christmas market schedule posted on our hotel bulletin board. The market was open till 8 p.m., but the only event listed was “Schmankerln.”

I asked Nicole, the assistant manager, “Was ist ‘schmankerln’?” She fumbled for a moment, looked at the others working behind the counter. “Schmankerln is …”
“Food?” I asked.
“Yes, but it’s more of a, well, you know … Bavarian Schmankerln!” she said with a laugh.
Finally, Julian, the hotel owner, said, “It’s like tapas. Small portions.”
Later I found the translation online: delicacies.

As anyone would do, I immediately decided to eat all the Schmankerln at the market. This would be the best Christmas dinner EVER!

We started with bratwurst and gluhwein, of course.

Moved on to Schupfnudeln, fried gnocchi-like noodles with meat sauce, cheese and sour cream.

Gulasch soup with rye bread.

Mmm … creamy raclette – melted cheese on potatoes.

More soup. Pumpkin, usually my favorite. Disappointing.

Tony finally got embarrassed and went back to the hotel. I wish I had a dollar for every time that’s happened.

Moving right along … possibly the highlight of the night: a crepe with camembert cheese and “Preiselbeere” jam. I had never heard of preiselberries before, but they taste similar to cranberries.

Clearly I was too caught up in this Schmankerlfest to tuck that piece of hair back under my hat.
Next stop, hot roasted chestnuts. Yum!

By this time, the Schokohütte didn’t appeal to me, but I had to soldier on. Dark-chocolate covered strawberries. Surprisingly refreshing!

A bite of Summer’s marshmallowy Kussmix wrapped up the tour of Bavarian tapas.

Frauendorfer Restaurant

A visit to Garmisch is never complete for my family without an evening at the Frauendorfer Restaurant. Wedged in at long tables, we chatted with other guests, watched awkward tween boys perform traditional Alpine dancing, listened to live accordion music and yodeling, and gobbled up delicious Bavarian specialties.




We have no idea what was in these shots, but they knocked my socks off.

Kesar Da Dhaba

I came to Amritsar with only one restaurant recommendation: Kesar Da Dhaba. It came from the brother of my colleague, Shafali. When I searched for it online, I discovered it was tripadvisor‘s number one restaurant in town! I didn’t get a good look at the place when the rickshaw brought us here for lunch (only to find it was closed), but I knew not to get my expectations too high.

Our taxi parked a short distance away, and the driver got out to help us find the restaurant. We meandered through some alleys and eventually found it. At around 6:30 p.m., we were the only ones there. In most countries, that would be a red flag, but Indians eat dinner well after our bedtime.

The decor could be described as “prison minimalist” with a Coke poster to liven up the joint. We sat in concrete booths with gray marble tables and cluelessly perused the menu. The waiter appeared and cheerfully addressed us in Hindi. We ordered water, which he seemed to understand.

Then we experienced a classic ESL moment: Oftentimes, teachers present English learners with a choice, “Do you want to use crayons or colored pencils?” and the kids respond, “Yes.” You can’t help but giggle. Unless you’re the one saying “yes.” So the waiter said, “Blah blah blah” with one hand extended, followed by “blah blah blah” with his other hand extended. And we said, “Yes!” Then he shook his head (oh boy, been there, done that) and repeated the “blah blah blahs” with the hand gestures, to which we repeated, “Yes!” Finally, he laughed, wandered away and returned with two bottles of water – one cold and one at room temperature. Oh, right!

The confusion continued. We had no idea what to order. So I pointed to the menu, made a thumbs-up gesture (please don’t let that be offensive in India), rubbed my tummy and smacked my lips, pointed at the waiter and then shrugged my shoulders, which is obviously the international message: “What’s good here?” Somehow it all worked out. Our meal – parantha thali (which kind of translates to “delicious flat bread with a few small servings of other things on a round tray”) – featured bowls of dal (fried lentils), channa masala (spicy/sweet chickpeas), raita (thick yogurt with cucumber) and the most delicious butter nan bread I’ve ever tasted.

We asked for more bread, and a young boy delivered it, picking up each newly fried piece and crunching it in his bare hands.

Dessert was an almond custard called firni. Pretty and scrumptious!

Cristi and I were members of the Clean Plate Club!

There’s very little on this planet that I won’t eat, and I don’t have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to hygiene or western standards at restaurants. That said, I am SO glad we visited the kitchen AFTER dinner. It was open to the street, and the cooks sat cross-legged on the counter.
Katrina took this one.

Here are a couple shots from our walk back to the taxi.

Diwali dinner

Tony and I enjoyed celebrating Diwali at the home of my lovely colleague, Devika, and her husband, Deepak, last Friday. I bought an elegant kurta and churidar (pants that fit tightly in the calves and gather at the ankles with enough room in the bottom for my whole third-grade class).

We were greeted by the whole family, including Eshana, age 4, in her shimmery sari. I coaxed her out from behind a door with a Diwali gift of markers and a coloring book, and she immediately got to work drawing pictures and writing her name. Sparkling with energy, she contracted a contagious case of the giggles when I took a picture of her taking a picture of me.

With mom. (Oh! That round thing on her plate is an idli, fyi.)

With dad. (She was giving me a finger wag! Can you imagine?)

So enamored with Eshana, I didn’t even think to take photos of the rest of the group or even the amazing delicacies on the buffet table. My plate overflowed with idli and coconut chutney (one of my favorite dishes!), vegetarian momos (dumplings), samosas with tamarind dip, chicken kebabs, and mouth-watering burfi (a milk-based dessert) and honey-soaked fried dough balls, whose Hindi name escapes me.

After the crowd thinned, we sipped wine and engaged Deepak in a discussion of Indian literature. Such a special evening!

Devouring Delhi

Delhi is the symbol of old India and new … even the stones here whisper to our ears of the ages of long ago and the air we breathe is full of the dust and fragrances of the past, as also of the fresh and piercing winds of the present.
– Jawaharial Nehru, India’s first prime minister (1947-64)

I echo Nehru’s poetic take on this fascinating city, but unfortunately I have to admit the allure of ancient ruins, modern art galleries, teeming bazaars and cultural shows hasn’t been enough to break my weekly school-home-school-home cycle that leaves me too exhausted for weekend revelry. Then I found out about Restaurant Week and suddenly mustered the energy to venture beyond my usual route.

During Restaurant Week, 13 upscale eateries offered 3-course meals at a fixed price – 1,000 Rupees or about $20. I would have gone every night except the available dinner seatings were at 8:30 p.m. at the earliest! I’m usually in bed by then on school nights. So I booked two reservations: Friday dinner and Saturday lunch.

For Friday’s outing, I invited three other teachers – Nancy, Andi and Katrina – for a little Ladies’ Night at Chutney Restaurant, located in the Metropolitan Hotel. Rather than worry about transportation, we hired Kapoor, the taxi driver who takes Tony and me to school each day. Having no feel for the layout of this city or the time needed to get from any point A to any point B, I planned for an hour’s drive. In fact, it took 20 minutes. So we settled in at the hotel bar and enjoyed cocktails and some fun with the beaded curtain.

IMG_4580 - Version 2

We finally got seated for dinner around 8:45 p.m., by which time we had nearly eaten the sofa cushions. Our waiter, Amit, graciously explained that two menus were on offer: vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Un-versed in Indian cuisine, we made him repeat and describe the courses several times and ultimately confused him in return by mixing and matching the options to create our own combo-veg-non-veg menu.

I opted for the veg appetizers, as pictured here.

Hmmm.. I wish I could tell you what I ate. All I can say is it was delish.
We all chose shorba tamatar, aka spicy tomato soup, for the second course and started pouring the wine in earnest to douse the fire in our mouths. For the third course, I went non-veg with two scrumptious curries – fish and chicken, served with rice, black-lentil dal and nan bread. Dessert featured a fried something (called tukda) and a dense Indian-style fruity ice-cream.

By the time we swallowed the last drop of wine, our cheeks ached from laughing. As much as I relish a fine meal, I know it’s much better paired with fun company. We were having such a great time that we forgot to watch the clock, so when we stumbled outside at 11:30, Kapoor was nowhere to be found. I pulled out my phone to ring him only to find the battery had died. One of my new friends called Tony to get Kapoor’s number, and our sleep-deprived driver eventually pulled up to the restaurant in an understandably cranky mood. My bad.

Still a bit full from the Friday night dinner, I climbed into a taxi Saturday with Tony and another new teaching couple – Dan and Sandra – for my second Restaurant Week outing. In the shadow of the historic Qutub Minar, the restaurant Circa 1193 served up a beautiful view and tasty Asian fusion dishes. The menu included a few choices for each course. My line-up: vegetarian miso soup, pork gyoza with a spicy tomato relish, crunchy and carmelized basa (an Indonesian fish), and yuzu and mint cheesecake (at which time I learned that yuzu is a small citrus fruit). I figured the optional cocktail pairings would help alleviate my hangover, so I also enjoyed a Garden Frost Martini (green apple and cucumber) with my dumplings, a glass of Opera Chardonnay with my fish, and a passion fruit spritzer with my dessert.

On the deck, overlooking the ruins.

The taxi driver took this shot. He was a good sport.

So, that wasn’t so hard. Breaking out of my routine actually felt good. I’m inspired to check out a little more of this city, bit by bit, dish by dish.

Family Night – Soundara Restaurant

Well, this story is getting a big stale, eh? If you’re new to Family Night, here’s the scoop: Tony, a couple friends (Carol and Nikki) and I take turns picking a local restaurant for dinner once a week. By “local,” we mean nearby and geared toward Lao customers.

This week’s Family Night restaurant had all the requisite components: twinkly lights, yellow Beer Lao-sponsored restaurant sign, karaoke, indecipherable menu, no English speakers on staff, and friendly fellow diners. Carol had chosen the open-air Soundara Restaurant, a little joint just a couple meters off Tha Deua, one of Vientiane’s main thoroughfares.

We grabbed a table overlooking the motorbike parking area (really just the shoulder of the road), where the bored parking attendant and a little boy played with battery-operated dinosaurs. The roadside restaurant’s location explains the gritty film on the tabletop, but there’s no excuse for the nails poking out of my chair that nearly shredded my jeans.

Before we could say “Beer Lao,” the ubiquitous refreshment appeared on the table. Ordering food, however, proved a bit more challenging. One waitress fooled us with her confident use of English numbers and animal words. We tried to order random dishes, so we said – and she repeated while scribbling on a pad – “One chicken, one fish, one shrimp, one fried rice” and so on. She scurried away, and we waited. And waited. Finally, she returned with three other waitresses and the busboy, who all chattered at us in Lao despite our humiliated laughter and our insistence, in Lao, that we didn’t understand.

At that point, it was time to call reinforcements. Nikki dialed our Lao friend Addie, who answered the phone with “I’ve been expecting your call.” Nikki handed her phone to the restaurant staff, who huddled around the telephone to record our order.

In the meantime, we all continued to sing along with the men at the next table to the Thai pop songs (and occasional English-language tune) playing on the karaoke screen. This place was clearly unprepared for a band of western songsters: they played neither Mariah nor the Eagles, much to our disappointment.

More disappointment came with the food. The soup cleaned out my sinuses, but the fried chicken comprised mostly chunks of cartilage and the veggies were uncharacteristically bland. Just as we were ready to write off this place for good, the fish came out and rocked our world. Usually restaurant fish here is literally just a fish: intact and grilled. This one had been dismantled, mixed with some herbs and spices, breaded and deep-fried. Bring it on!

The verdict? Pleasant enough ambiance, mediocre food, interesting karaoke selections, monolingual but undeterred servers, and Vientiane’s most tasty fish.

All Family Night photos this week are brought to you by Carol.


The English faker.


Bored parking attendant.

Dinosaurs alleviate the boredom.

Tony supervises the frantic food ordering.

Heading off to get ice-cream.