Indian food 101

Maybe am getting tired of all the cookies, Mexican and Continental dishes that are in most menus in all our holiday parties that I am suddenly hankering for something exotic like Indian food.

When I was in Monterey, my friend Fatima, treated me to an Indian lunch at Ambrosia. She knew my knowledge of Indian dishes was very poor and I was all sport to try them. All I needed was someone who’s familiar with what to order and a buffet was good so I could try many dishes in one visit. It was comforting to have someone who’s fond of the place and so there’s less guess-work. It turned out that Moroccan and Indian dishes carry some similarities – they use almost the same spices only in different ways and quantities.

Almost everything I tried was good but my favorite was the butter chicken. Unfortunately they only had chicken and vegan dishes. I was looking forward to trying lamb or other meat but what they had was a good sampling. I also liked their lentil soup and other vegan dishes which you eat with na’an. This particular bread was fresh, soft, light and airy at Ambrosia unlike the store-bought ones I’ve tried in the past.

I want to try some Indian restaurants here in Chicago but I need someone who’s more knowledgeable than me. If you ask me what I had in my first foray at the Indian restaurant, the only one I could remember and most familiar with was the chicken tandoori. Unfortunately none of my Filipino friends are fond of Indian food or as adventurous as I am.

Now that some of my negative impressions of Indian dishes are unfounded – they are not as spicy as I thought and the strength of the spices were very well moderated or modulated, am willing to try more soon.

Posted in California, Food, Friendships, Vacation | 4 Comments

Monarch butterflies

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It was a pleasant surprise to know that monarch butterflies spend some time at Pacific Grove. I saw a sign about butterfly exhibit in the Museum of Natural History but I was not that interested until a visit at the Tourism Information Office informed me that if I get lucky I might see the monarchs at their sanctuary. It was a warm sunny day when I went but I already had a different agenda for the day.

But one afternoon when Katherine and I went out for a walk, she drove me to the sanctuary. At first it was very disappointing as they were high up in the Monterey pines and they looked like dried twigs. I had to max the zoom in my lens to actually see them and then by 3:00 pm when it warmed up they started to come alive. One has to visit the park when the temperature is warm as the monarchs fold part of their wings when it is chilly and damp.

Although they over-winter in Pacific Grove around October to March, these monarchs will eventually migrate to warmer places like Mexico and Canada. It is said that in a year, the monarch goes through four generations. Read the link above.

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Pacific Grove is considered Butterfly Town USA. It is charming to see butterfly artwork on the light posts and as adornments in their homes. Those little Victorian homes looked all dressed up with tiny butterflies at the front.

The butterflies are well protected in Pacific Grove. In October the schoolchildren joins a parade to honor the monarchs’ homecoming. There were children dressed up as butterflies too during the town’s Christmas parade.

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At one time I thought I needed to go to Mexico to see the monarch clusters, Pacific Grove is much closer.

Posted in California, Vacation | 4 Comments

Travel Theme Challenge: Freedom

Am very grateful that I get a chance to live in this country. Where there is so much respect for individual freedom, where everyone’s religion is accepted and to be able to be with the person you love. Of course there are limitations to those freedom but only to protect the very same thing we deem sacred.

My entry to Ailsa’s challenge for the week: Freedom.

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We visited the old Spanish mission in Salome in California. On the board were petitions by people in need of prayers. When we got home my friend asked if I wrote mine and I said I didn’t. She was surprised but I was too that she did. She is from Morocco but has lived most of her life in France and the US and I know she’s not a Catholic but she does believe in one Supreme Being.

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Posted in California, My Core, Photo Challenge, Vacation | Tagged | 6 Comments

WPC: Gone but not forgotten

Sea Urchin and Periwinkle

Sea Urchin and Periwinkle

Carmel-by-the-Sea is fighting for its history. Once an enclave of artists and fishermen, the city by the bay is fighting for its old world European charm. There is a frenzy of construction overwhelming the city, with new money trying to impose their will on a once bucolic and idyllic small town.

But Periwinkle and Sea Urchin is trying to fight to maintain its heritage. Built in 1915 the twin cottages has been inhabitable inside but they are trying to have a compromise. The new owners will have to preserve the facade of the old home to be incorporated in the single home they plan to build. It is a landmark but the decision to completely demolish them by the Coastal Commission will be decided in January.

Marked on the archway of the main doors are the name “Periwinkle” and “Sea Urchin”. It is considered bad luck by Carmelites to change the original names of old homes. It is a city where homes have names but no numbers.

The founding fathers of Carmel didn’t want their town to be “citified” so there are no mail deliveries and mailboxes. The post office has become a social hub for people picking up their mail.

Maybe Carmel is slowly losing its old romantic charm as newly built homes are replacing the old fishermen cottages with modern glass structures. They now how a big mall not too far from the Carmel Mission. But I hope Periwinkle and Sea Urchin win its fight for what is a place without history.

Posted in California, Photo Challenge, Vacation | Tagged | 3 Comments

WPC for the week: Twinkle

Our firm’s holiday party (to be politically correct) was last night at The Field Museum.

We’ve had several of our events there in the past and for me was getting old but I thought the better of it. It is nice that they give us an opportunity to enjoy the museum all by ourselves and at such a beautiful and happy atmosphere. Food, drinks and music overflowed and non-stop. And plenty of room for everyone. When I retire, I will be missing it.

Glad that I went with my co-worker. My friends from work came too.

After we filled ourselves with the heavy appetizers, a walk was much needed. There were several exhibits opened to us and the two Noreen and I most enjoyed were the Hall of Jades and the Hall of Gems. Diamond is not the only best friend of a woman. If you’ve seen the other jewels, you would reconsider.

Here’s my entry to Word Press Challenge for the Week: Twinkle. To see more entries, go here.

Chalmers Topaz

Chalmers Topaz

“The Chalmers Topaz, named for former Field Museum trustee William J. Chalmers, is 5,899.5 carats and weighs over two and a half pounds.”

Empress

Empress

Goshenites and diamonds set in white gold pendant. 3.8-13.1 carat goshenites. My first time to have heard a goshenite or seen one. My research says it is a colorless beryl stone. There were some beryl stones shown at the exhibit too and they were as dazzling.

And here’s a garnet I won’t mind wearing – my birthstone. To add an extra sparkle and serious twinkle to the holiday season.

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Posted in Chicago, Photo Challenge | Tagged | 7 Comments

Lavender and rosemary

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Monterey County in California is the location of some highly desirable addresses in the West Coast.

Pacific Grove where my friend works and live now is a small city bound by Monterey, Salinas and Carmel. It is the gate to the 17-mile drive to Carmel from the north. It is the location of some beautiful Victorian homes but unlike the ones we have here in Illinois, they are very much smaller in scale. Looking more like doll houses but don’t be fooled, they all cost a fortune.

I will write another blog to feature these houses and their tiny gardens but what strike me was the smell of rosemary and lavender in the streets. Because of its proximity to the ocean and its high humidity, rosemary and lavender grow so well in the area that the herb is everywhere for the picking. They grow like hedges in their gardens I had to take home a tiny bouquet for my cooking.

There is a restaurant we frequented in Pacific Grove called International. Their food is so good and reasonable and service is fast. So on our third dinner there, I decided to order one of their most expensive in the menu – a seafood paella.

Am not a paella aficionado. I don’t claim to know what is considered best paella but I know that I haven’t found one that I liked in Spain. See Filipinos has a version of paella we got from our Spanish ancestors so that’s my benchmark although we use less of the saffron since the cost is prohibitive in the Philippines. But I prefer the way we cook the rice – which is cooked well. The ones I’ve tried in Spain was al dente and it was like eating raw grain. We call it Arroz a’la Valenciana, the dish was named after a city in Southern Spain – Valencia, where it originally came from.

I like the paella in the Spanish restaurants in Chicago though. Maybe those have been adopted to American taste.

My friend is Moroccan and her friend is French. They’re not rice lovers like me. At this point I was starting to miss my rice and paella was a good excuse.

Paella at International Restaurant

Paella at International Restaurant

It looked good and delicious, in fact promising. The rice was soft and tender enough for me and it had big portions of fish fillet aside from a pair of jumbo shrimps. But the fragrance of the herb used was very strong and overwhelming. I couldn’t figure it out while we were there. In short, I was really disappointed.

The night before I left I went to pick up some rosemary to take home. It was a revelation because that was the smell I couldn’t name in my paella. There was too much rosemary with some cilantro. Like crushed rosemary in oil and then mixed in with the dish. I never thought of using both herbs in paella no wonder I wasn’t associating it.

That was a case of having too much of a good thing could be disastrous.

But I did use a sprig of rosemary in my chicken dish tonight and it made it extra-special.

Posted in California, Flowers, Food, Vacation | 4 Comments

A Word a Week: Shell

Abalone shell

Abalone shell

Abalone is a prized commodity in the coastal towns of Northern California. But there are stringent rules in abalone fishing. It is legal to harvest north of the mouth of San Francisco but illegal south of it and there are limits as to the size and quantity one can get.

One has to read the rules before you should go fishing for abalone. Not to mention that they are dangerous to get.

I haven’t tasted a freshly caught abalone. I heard it tastes good and their shells are beautiful.

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Above are empty abalone shells at the Whalers Cabin Museum in Point Lobos.

My entry to Sue Llewellyn’s photo challenge for the week: Shells.

Posted in California, Vacation | Tagged | 2 Comments