Wanderlust Azores- Authentic Lunch at Sao Sebastiao with First World Efficiency and Developing Country Openness and Kindness

Another authentic food experience at Os Moinhos in Sao Sebastiao! Amazingly, for $59 per person I got a full day around the island bus tour plus a great meal. Thanks for Azores Gateways and a shout out to Miguel and Marlo for their infinite politeness and incredible driving skills! Yes, a marketing plug for them because of how warm they are and how they operate with the first world efficiency yet with the developing country openness and kindness.
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image Filing into the small restaurant in the stone house.image The cheese tasted soft like a camembert but less bitey and more runny.imageCabbage soup is a typical dish in the Azores. This has more oil than what I’m used to. With chickpeas.image Beautiful, right? Tasted homey.image Beef stewed with red wine. I know there are more ingredients…
image Look at the size of these pieces.image This is the most popular dessert on Terceira. Made with cornmeal, honey, cinnamon, and sprinkled with powder sugar on top.

The meal was excellent, showcased the local flavors and representative dishes. The beef was a little crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. Both soup and beef were cooked in a cauldron and brought whole to the table to be shared in a family style. I am also pretty sure that they were cooked over an open flame.

Wow. What an experience! Definitely worth visiting… HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Terceira experience in the Azores.

P.S. The meal was served with plenty of wine produced locally as well.

This experience took place at

Restaurante Os Moinhos
(Vila de São Sebastião)

Rua Arrabalde
9700-610 VILA DE SÃO SEBASTIÃO
( Angra do Heroísmo )
Azores, Portugal

Wanderlust Taiwan- 十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, 13 Flavors Noodle Shop

I feel badly writing about a Taiwanese restaurant that does not have an English name nor a site in English for my readers since majority of my readers hail from the US. The restaurant name, 十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, is a long description of what they served; it means 13 flavors fine noodles, mala hot-pot beef noodle soup. Yeah, not terribly marketing friendly nor is it easy to recall. Mala is a description for level of spiciness; the literal translation is numb and spicy. The sauce originated from the Sichuan region of China.

十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, 13 Flavors, is located in Taipei, on Heping East Road, between the National Taipei University of Education and my summer residence. My daughter and I walked by this restaurant twice a day for 20 days this Summer. Below is the evidence of sampling two of their finest noodle soup dishes. This is the mala beef noodle soup with half beef cubes and half tendons麻辣半筋半肉麵. I grew up with beef noodle soup. One of the few fond memories I have with my father is going to a neighborhood beef noodle shop in Kaohsiung 高雄市, where the sunshine filled the open-air restaurant, time stopped and all demands and expectations disappeared. It was just my father and his little girl each eating a big bowl of noodle soup in silence. This is the shredded pork with pickled cabbage noodle soup 榨菜肉絲麵, my daughter and her father’s favorite noodle soup. I was there in the country of my birth, after being away for decades, eating a big bowl of noodle soup with my little girl in silence. In that broth, I saw the reclaiming of my heritage, the passing of my heritage to her, and the intricate relationship between a mother and a child who takes after her father.

13 Flavors is popular. Restaurant is open only at night which is a rare occurrence in Taipei; Taiwanese people have a very strong work ethic and often work around the clock. When we walked by, the restaurant was always filled with diners. 13 Flavors certainly charged enough for two bowls of noodles. The beef was $190 TWD or a little more than $6 USD. The pork was $100 TWD or a little more than $3 USD.

How was the food, you may ask, since this is the primary focus of this blog? It was okay, I believe. The broth for the beef was decent but not special. My daughter gave the pork broth a thumbs up. I would say that the noodles were pedestrian for this level of restaurant and service – better than noodles from the street stands and the night markets yet they were nothing special. But I strongly suspect that I am biased in this view. The memories of childhood and the philosophical question of whether we repeat the mistakes of our parents are what dominated in my thoughts.

This experience took place at

十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵

台北市大安區和平東路三段48-6號
No 48-6, Section 3, Heping East Road,
Taipei, Taiwan
Phone:+886 2 2733 8986

Wanderlust Edinburgh, Scotland- Patisserie Valerie and My Ménage à Trois of Desserts

I love desserts, especially anything chocolaty. Since I was in Europe where some of my favorite desserts come from, I went and investigated the dessert scenes in Edinburgh. Patisserie Valerie is a chain bakery and I visited one on Rose Street (next to the famous pub Rose & Crown) in the Edinburgh town center. I was a bit hesitant when I saw only this display case of cakes. Was not terribly impressed.These are my selections. From left to right: tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and double chocolate cake. This is my ménage à trois of desserts where both chocolate cakes triumphed. The chocolates were dark and not repulsively sweet like the Godiva. The mousse had the perfect texture- beaten just soft and fluffy enough to caress with a lingering sweet aftertaste. The double chocolate cake was perfect in taste- the spongy dark Belgium chocolate cake portion coupled with smooth/soft cream puff on top played well off each other.As life would have it, the fire alarm went off at 1:43am in the morning in the hotel while I was enjoying my cakes. I got myself out of the room after my call to the front desk went unanswered. The customer service at the Apex Waterloo Palace Hotel was not excellent. Furthermore, both their paid search and organic research results are currently linking to a runtime error page. Obviously their digital marketing efforts also sucked.

Definitely check out Patisserie Valerie when visiting Edinburgh but not the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel.  Patisserie Valerie is well worth a stop and a cup of tea.

This experience took place at

Patisserie Valerie
158-162 Rose Street
Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 3JD
+411 0131 2201336

Wanderlust Taiwan- Fish Ball Rules! Cheap and Yummy Noodle Soup vs. NY Pizza and Bagel 佳興魚丸店的魚丸冬粉

This is typical of a “small eats” place in Taiwan. The store is petite with less than 10 tables. The owner and his family work the restaurant. They control all aspect of the operations, from buying and making the goods to serving and cleaning. They are friendly and welcome you with big smiles. The menu is simple: only fish related items – fish balls and fish skin in different kind of noodle soups.The prices range from $35 TWD or just slightly more than $1 USD for dry noodles to $65 TWD or a little more than $2 USD for fish & fish skin with noodle soup.
The dark vinegar, Sha Cha sauce, chili and white pepper. You may create the perfect taste yourself with these condiments.Fish balls with meat in the middle, fish and vermicelli noodles in fish broth 
Tofu steamed in sauce.

Less than $3 USD gets me a warm, yummy and fulfilling noodle soup plus steamed tofu that are brought to my table. In the NYC area, $3 gets me maybe a slice of cheese pizza or a bagel with cream cheese while I wait in line to order. How I miss the taste of Asia and the easy and cheap access to food.

Happy Thursday, Hardworking and Slaving New Yorkers!

This experience took place at

佳興魚丸店
台北市和平東路二段
Taipei City, Taiwan

Wanderlust Taiwan- Home Cooked Taiwanese Cuisine for the Gypsy

I got lots of feedback on my “Wanderlust Taiwan – Leaving in a Few Days with a Heart of a Gypsy” post. People wrote to me. My ex-pat friends took me to lunch as did my local friends. They made me cry and felt that perhaps I do have a place where I may call home. Although homesickness is universal, it’s harder on the soul when the home has no geographical address. It leaves the heart in mid-air and between continents.

What do the Taiwanese do when we feel sorrowful? We eat to restore a sense of belonging and love.  I am proud to be immersed in this tradition.My local friends made me a well-thought out home-cooked meal, starting with a Nespresso coffee.
Clockwise from 9pm: stewed tofu滷香豆干, parboiled Taiwanese spinach清燙空心菜, stinky tofu fermented辣味蔭鳳梨臭豆腐 by my lovely friend, Nancy, at her home especially for me, garlic and vinegar cucumbers蒜味醋拌小黃瓜, carrots and daikon, noodles麻油麵線. In the center is stewed beef and tripe,滷牛腱,牛肚(堅持要用台灣牛)+翁家版酸甜辣椒醬. 
Handmade tapioca balls from lotus root flour with no preservatives
Tapioca balls in caramelized brown sugar,黑糖蓮藕粉波霸. Ends with Oriental Beauty tea.

Here is a clip of how the stinky tofu was steamed and prepared.

My love affair with Taiwan will continue next summer when my heart will beat with delight and my soul soar with glee. This is the journey of a gypsy.

Wanderlust Taiwan- Outer Space Cake 雞蛋糕: 雞老闆太空棒

This is a popular cake, made fresh and warm in a street cart, for all to snack on. In my case, I eat it for dinner and breakfast. You can find street carts like this in different locations in the cities of Taiwan. This style is called the outer space cake and this vendor is called the chicken boss. Here is his Facebook page, 雞老闆太空棒.  Here is a casual conversation with the chicken boss.  He works two jobs but loves this job because he controls his own schedule.

This takes place on the street of Taipei.

Wanderlust Taiwan- Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1 Food Court, 紅祖師擔仔麵

If you travel frequently, you know how important the airport restaurant or food court is to your happiness and well being. Tired and grouchy, all you want is some delicious food that will fire you up or settle you down. Taoyuan International Airport did that for me.This is number six on the menu: Taiwanese beef noodle soup. My picky child gave it a thumbs up and ate the entire thing. The broth was obviously simmered for a long time as was the beef.  Yet the beef was tender. For $230 TWD or approximately $7 USD, this is considered expensive in Taiwan but a very good value for the Americans.This is number three on the menu: Dan Zai noodles 擔仔麵 (a Taiwanese must have- noodles with the Taiwanese Bolognese), blanched cabbage with the same Bolognese sauce, 皮蛋century egg, cold tofu with Bonita flakes and sweet sauce, steamed asparagus with mayo. This was such a winner!  I have never liked century eggs but this one together with the tofu was a new positively pleasant experience.The menu. I can eat this kind of food majority of the time because it’s authentic and body enriching. Wish more airports have high quality food.

This experience took place at

紅祖師擔仔麵
Terminal 1D food court
Taoyuan International Airport
Taoyuan, Taiwan