With Love, From Greece

Again, the same orange blossom fragrance greeted me this time and lead me through the marble streets of Athens. This sweet memory simply reminds me that my last visit was also around late March or early April.

The pace in Athens is laid back and relaxing, like in many other cities in the Mediterranean. Under the glaring spring sunshine, one wears big sun glasses, sipping coffee or enjoying a glass of wine…or like me, fresh orange juice. (BTW, I use orange blossom eau de toilette and put Moroccan orange blossom water in fruit salad.) Here I am, visiting a friend, without any plans, but roaming around, feeling the atmosphere, walking up a couple of hills to enjoy the 360 degree view of the city, or savoring Mediterranean food.

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Acropolis Museum

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Santorini Island is just spectacular! I was lucky with the weather, sunny and comfortable during the day, but cold once the sun went down. Many villas, hotels or restaurants were closed because the season starts in June. I have been told the best month to visit Santorini is May, when the weather is stable and not too hot yet, and hotel rate lower than peak season. As usual, I explored the island by public transportation (and on foot).

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Beautiful Aegean Sea

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#33cccc;">Q&A

Ann: How did you prepare the artichokes that you bought from the market?

Lin-shu: My friend cooked it. She cleaned it (cut off the spiky tip, the heart, and bottom, cut in halves) and boiled in salty water. After it cooled off, just ate it with olive oil. She calls it “à la grecque,” Greek style. BTW, I just sent you one photo from my iPhone- a dish of young raw zucchini salad with chopped dill, salt and olive oil. The other is a kind of artichoke ragout, with potatoes and carrots, of course, cooked with olive oil.

A: Can you describe your most memorable meal on the trip?

L: Actually, they were all delicious and healthy. None of the ordered dishes came with cream or heavy sauce; closer to original taste. Of course, Greek food is famous for using olive oil, and Greeks eat a lot of vegetables. Now, back in Vienna, I eat Greek yogurt, and cook zucchini à la Grecque.

A: Looks like you visited several places on Santorini- where?

L: The place I stayed was in Imerovigli [Merovigliosso Apartments], which is about 30 minutes walking distance to Fira (the capital of Santorini), and everyday I walked to Fira, passing by Firostefani. Fira is where I took the bus. Actually, I visited: Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, Akrotiri and Perissa (black beach).

A: I didn’t see any boats docked along the coast- where are they? Do people have boats? Do they go sailing in the Aegean?

L: Santorini is actually a part of an erupted volcano crater (dead). Oia and Fira are on the western part, where the cliffs are, as the eastern part of Santorini is flatter. All the nicer hotels are in Oia and Fira, because they are on cliffs and have gorgeous views. All cruise ships stop at the bottom of Fira, where my photos of the steps down to the old seaport shows. I did not pay attention to boats.

A: Which place on Santorini did you like the best and why?

L: Fira and Oia are the best, may be Oia a little better. They are made of little villas/hotels built on cliffs, staggered one on top of the other, all very cute and cozy, as you can see from my photos. And one walks among them in tiny paths. One has to visit Oia and Fira on foot.

A: Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos of Greece. I look forward to seeing more of your travels around the world!

Date Lin-shu visited Athens and Santorini: March 2014

#ff00ff;">About the photographer: #000000;">Lin-shu loves traveling and has lived in many places around the world- NYC, Kenya, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Thailand- just to name a few. Her photos are stunning and I always look forward to seeing where she traveled to and hearing about what she did there. In addition to traveling, she also enjoys snow shoeing, skiing, and staying active. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

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Izanami: Sake and Spa

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The most important alcoholic beverage in Japan is SAKE. It’s called “the drink of the gods” and has a long history dating back for centuries. This fermented rice and water drink is used in religious ceremonies and is enjoyed by many in the social setting among friends and family. Interestingly, sake is believed to possess health benefits and promote youthful, smooth skin. At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Hot Springs Amusement Park and Spa Resort in Japan patrons can soak in a sake bath and look beautiful from head to toe! Now, that’s a lot of sake!

While the idea of soaking in a sake bath might be appealing to some, foodies will find the following sake experience more appealing: Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese inspired spa resort/oasis in Santa Fe, opened a sake restaurant called IZANAMI. In fact, the James Beard Foundation recently named it a semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant.”

#000000;">What a brilliant idea to pair spa treatments with sake tasting The Turquoise Table decided a visit to Ten Thousand Waves would be a perfect girlfriend day trip to get away, relax and educate our palates!

Izanami

The high desert oasis is located just 10 minutes north of Santa Fe away from the busy, touristy part of town. Two oxygen facials, a salt glow treatment and a therapeutic massage later, we were feeling pampered and ready for lunch at Izanami. The restaurant resembles a modern day Japanese farmhouse set among the evergreens. The setting is spiritual and zen-like. The main dining area has a very high ceiling with large hanging paper lanterns, an open kitchen on one end, booth seating in the middle, and a room with traditional Japanese zashiki style floor seating on the other end (perfect for playing footsie if you’re on a date :) ). The restaurant serves izkaya dining which is the perfect way to enjoy sake tasting with small plates of food shared among friends.

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Izanami

 

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Lantern translations: I♥生油 I♥namazake (unpasteurized sake),
七味 shimichi (7 spice seasonings on each table),
萬波 Thousand Waves,
一期一会 One opportunity, one encounter so live life to the fullest

 

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Zashiki style seating

 

We were equally excited about the food and sake- we had been waiting weeks for this day to arrive. There are plenty of small plates to choose from with many of the ingredients locally sourced and organic: roasted beet salad, house made gyoza, Japanese sweet potatoes, sake braised shimeji mushrooms, pork ribs (heritage St. Louis ribs), nami burger (local wagyu beef), kakiage (tempura battered shredded vegetables), and bokchoy. Each dish was very well prepared and plenty enough for sharing. With the very first bite of velvety shimeji mushrooms, we were in paradise!

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Top: Shimeji Mushrooms
Bottom: Gyozas

 

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Left: Beet Salad
Right: Japanese sweet potatoes
Bottom: Bokchoy

 

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Nami Burger with local Tucumcari asadero cheese

 

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Ginger BBQ Pork Ribs

 

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Aooni “Blue Devil” Beer smiling and ready to devour Kakiage

 

The sake menu is very impressive with over 40 different sakes to choose from. Reading the descriptions of all the sakes took a while, and to say the very least, was very entertaining. There are 4 general groups of sake- fragrant, bright; tart, sweet; rich, mellow; clean, refined. In each of these 4 groups, there are about 8-10 different sakes to choose from. If you are unfamiliar with sake and just want to explore, Izanami offers flights of sake with each flight consisting of 3 sakes from one group. Being the inexperienced sake drinker that I am, I was expecting the sakes to be harsh and astringent (and gagging). But I was pleasantly surprised. Many of them were smooth going down the throat and complex in taste. Sparkling sake is also available.

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Fragrant, Bright

 

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Tart, Sweet

 

Izanami
乾杯 (ganpai)!Bottoms up!

 

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Maybe not so crazy for Crazy Milk?

 

After a few flights, we were having a really good time! The zen-like atmosphere was replaced with loud laughter, hip-hop singing, and tangential conversations about anything, everything and most importantly which sake to order next. With descriptions like “cabin in the snow,” “euphoria,” “yuri’s sword,” or “four diamonds,” how can you not order more? The descriptions were so entertaining that by the end of our meal, each of us had chosen a personal sake name to commemorate the occasion- Moon Glow, Crazy Milk, Umami Bomb and Fragrant Jewel- can you guess who’s who?

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Black Sesame Panna Cotta

 

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Flourless Yuzu Ricotta cheesecake

 

It was hard to end such a perfect meal but all good things must come to an end. After having dessert, we headed back to The Duke City with XM Radio blaring 80s and 90s music. Tumbleweeds were blowing across the highway and thoughts of returning to our daily routines weren’t a bother. After all…it had been a perfect day!

Date visited: March 2014

Izanami on Urbanspoon

Posted in Day Trips from Albuquerque, Santa Fe Restaurant Reviews, Taste, Travel, Urbanspoon reviews, Yelp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zorba’s Fine Greek Cuisine

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Santorini, Greece
Photo taken by Stacy Cashman, www.movingtofreedom.org
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license

 

Ahhhh, Greece… My good friend, Ann-Marie, tells me that this is one of her dream destinations. Just looking at all the on-line photos, I can see why travelers continue to name this as one of the top destinations in the world (even during times of economic woes). The landscape is breathtaking. Who wouldn’t want to visit such a picturesque place? I can picture my friends and I sitting at one of the small tables right by the water, enjoying the view and a delicious meal.

Greek food, the basis for the Mediterranean diet, is full of healthy ingredients such as olive oil, veggies/fruits, beans, and wine. However, the Greeks also have dishes where the meat takes center stage- gyros, lamb kebabs, grilled chicken, etc. When my family and I want a break from burritos and burgers, luckily, we don’t have to travel 6000 miles to Greece to get delicious Greek food. It’s a short drive to the Northeast Heights where Zorba’s Fine Greek Cuisine is located.

On a recent visit to Zorba’s I was in the mood for a gyro (yee-row). Close your eyes and imagine this- lots of onions and tomatoes nestled among seasoned, thin slices of grilled lamb and beef wrapped up warmly in a pillowy pita topped with a cool, creamy tzatziki sauce (add a splash of hot sauce if you like). Now doesn’t that sound delicious?! After taking a bite of the gyro, I looked over at Zorba’s large wall photo mural of a Greek town similar to  the photo above of Santorini and I saw myself transported to that place where my friends and I are sitting right by the cobalt blue waters of Greece…mmmm, ooooo, yum, ahhh….heaven…

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Gyro

 

The entrees usually come with a side Greek salad, just the right size to satisfy my requirement that all healthy meals should have a serving of veggies. I just love the traditional flavors of feta, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, olives, and banana peppers tossed with a vinaigrette…so clean and simple.

I like moussaka so I recommended it to my daughter and she ordered it. My first-ever moussaka was eaten at Vios Café in Seattle (Capitol Hill neighborhood) where I became an instant fan of Greek food. My husband, who is always looking for a healthy choice, chose the grilled Greek chicken with rice pilaf and a side salad. For the less adventurous, like my son, there’s always the safe but satisfying Greek-style spaghetti. One will also find many of the other traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita and souvlaki.

Moussaka, a casserole made with layers of eggplant (and sometimes potatoes) and spiced meat filling topped off with a creamy bechamel sauce

 

Grilled Greek Chicken

 

To finish, there’s always everybody’s favorite, baklava. But, why not try some of the other traditional desserts like galatoboureko, a creamy dreamy custard. How about  kataifi or ergolavus? Or maybe Zorba’s family recipe rizogalo? Galatoboureko, ergolavus, rizogalo, kataifi, baklava…(clap, clap)…galatoboureko, ergolavus, rizogalo, kataifi, baklava…hey!

As I write this post I’m getting hungry for Zorba’s so I think I’ll stop here. My daughter is just back from taking the SAT so I think we’ll head over to Zorba’s…and then…. we’ll go shopping. See you there!

Date visited: February 1, 2014

Zorba's Fine Greek Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Posted in Albuquerque Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants by location: NE Heights Albuquerque, Taste, Uncategorized, Urbanspoon reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cravings Satisfied at Rebel Donut

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Do you ever get food cravings? I do…many times for chocolate, sometimes for cookies, occasionally for something salty. Usually I can conveniently find something in my pantry to satisfy those cravings, but every once in a while my cravings require a little more effort to fulfill. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I were both having a craving for doughnuts. I have a pretty good recipe for baked sweet potato doughnuts and I could have made some at home. Instead she suggested we try something more adventurous, hedonistic, and rebellious.

“How about Rebel Donuts?!” she said.

“Perfect! We’ll stop by on our way to the shopping mall.”

It’s always enjoyable to have someone to share my cravings with, and even better when that someone is my daughter :)

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Rebel Donut- east side location near Menaul and Wyoming

 

With all the buzz surrounding this doughnut shop (Breaking Bad inspired Blue Sky donuts and winning the Food Network’s Donut Showdown), we were eager to sample the many different flavors. The doughnut case was filled with colorful and creatively decorated goods. Don’t expect to find the old-fashioned, traditional flavors such as glazed, chocolate glazed or jelly filled donuts. But do expect to find bold, defying-the-norm combinations just as the name of the place clearly states. Since it was only the two of us, we had a really hard time narrowing down our choices to half a dozen. While we were checking out each one of the doughnuts, the line behind us kept getting longer, so we let some patrons go ahead of us. As we continued our discussion about what to get, the line built up again. Feeling the pressure to make a decision, we finally decided it was best to just give in to our inner cravings and order. My daughter chose the Chocolate Bacon, Hello Dolly, and the Birthday Cake donut for her brother. I chose the French Toast, the Boston Bullseye, and the Coconut.

Rebel Donut

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Clockwise starting from upper left: Coconut, Boston Bullseye, Chocolate Bacon. French Toast, Birthday Cake, Hello Dolly

 

The French Toast donut was accurately portrayed. The doughnut was shaped like a piece of toast, drizzled with maple syrup frosting, dusted with sugar and topped with a dollop of very buttery buttercream. My daughter gave the Chocolate Bacon a thumbs up as she fed and fulfilled her craving. The Coconut donut is a cake donut. When comparing this cake donut to a cake donut from Dunkin Donuts or Shipley’s Donuts, this one is better. It was moist and creamy, not dry and cardboardy- a pleasant surprise.

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After downing 2 doughnuts each, we agreed our cravings were satisfied and we were ready for some shopping. It’s great to have such a place in town where we can fulfill our needs in a fun, creative, and tasty way, the Rebel Donut way!

#33cccc;"> Tips:

  1. Prices are a little steep but worth the experience.
  2. If you have a giant craving they can make you a giant donut, 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Menu changes.

Date visited:  January 20, 2014

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