Widgets A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care: February 2011 Archives

February 2011 Archives

So far, we've avoided meeting any disasters during our travels, although we've had some near misses. It's been heartbreaking to watch the images of Christchurch this afternoon, and to think back on our drive by the cathedral and the city centre. We didn't spend much time there, but one rainy afternoon we did stop for supplies at a local warehouse-style supercenter. In the checkout aisle, where the People magazines would normally be in a U.S. Wal-Mart, sat a glossy book commemorating last year's earthquake. This one, although smaller in magnitude, struck closer to the heart of the city.

A different kind of upheaval, the political turmoil in the Middle East, raises questions for our upcoming plans. Our tickets currently take us from Thailand to India, India to London, and then London to Cairo. From there, we intended to make our way into Africa on local carriers, as the One World Alliance does not have a lot of intra-African flights. Given the situation there, and the fact that the State Department is recommending against travel to the region, we're wondering whether to proceed. I'm not even sure the extent to which OneWorld will allow us to change our flights: British Airways policies only cover flights before the end of March, and LAN's website has no information that I can find.

Any advice is welcome in the comments.

It's always fun to see what happens to "American" brands that have gone global. I think we've seen Pringles all over the world, but we've found the widest and goofiest variety in Southeast Asia.

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Sure, there are your standards: Cheesy Cheese, Sour Cream and Onion. There's a few things you'd expect to see on any good Asian tour: Wild Spice, Bangkok Grilled Chicken Wing (part of the "street food" series), Seaweed, Grilled Shrimp, Softshell Crab. But then we leave the land of the savory altogether, and plunge into "fruit and nut" potato chips: Lemon and Sesame and the so-improbable-we-had-to-try-it Blueberry and Hazelnut.

Prediction: this will not become a hit in the U.S. anytime soon.

What's the word for those not-really martinis: appletinis, espresso martinis, mangotinis, and all those other overly-sweet concoctions? I'm generally not fond of such "something-tini" drinks, at least if they don't involve gin (or maybe vodka) and a whisper of vermouth. [1] I'll admit that this is a kind of name snobbery: it's not that such things can't sometimes be good drinks, but they're not martinis. I'm glad I let curiousity overcome my natural dislike of fauxtinis when we had our Valentine's dinner at Nahm, or else I would have missed the Met Bar's "C3 Martini" due to a silly prejudice.

IMG 0403The C3 perfectly captures the coconut and spice flavors of tom kha soup, a common Thai dish of which I'm very fond. The drink is served very cold: the humid Thai air had covered the glass in a thin sheen of condensation before the drink had reached our table. Garnished with what looked to be a floating kaffir lime leaf, its consistency is distinctly thick and soupy, and the pepper gives a sharply aromatic flavor lacking in many mixed drinks. Unsurprisingly, this cocktail perfectly complements Thai food, even moderating the hellish spiciness of some dishes.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a sausage-factory drink: the effect is magical when you don't know what's in it, but loses its charm once you've seen it made. We went back to the Met Bar last night because I wanted to figure out the recipe. In case you don't want to know how it works, I've put my observations after the cut. 

Valentine's Day Dinner at Nahm Bangkok

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To celebrate Valentine's Day, we splurged on the special occasion set menu at Nahm, a restaurant helmed by an Australian with the controversial mission of "striving for authenticity" in a "decaying" Thai cuisine. In appropriate Greek tragedy fashion, Chef David Thompson recently suffered the loss of his London restaurant's Michelin star. Nonetheless, an Australian couple and their expat friends we met at Sky Bar had recommended Nahm to us as worthy of being our fancy meal out in an otherwise budget-minded stay in Bangkok. So we dressed up in some of the new clothes we'd acquired in Vietnam and set out with open minds and mouths.

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Critical Information

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If you are doing a lot of international travel, take the time to learn the words for "men" and "women" in the local tongue. There will come a time when you are faced with two doors, and they will not be as helpfuly illustrated as the ones below.

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Restrooms at the Wonder Restaurant in Da Nang, Vietnam


A spectator strolls past a glowing cat-shaped parasol in Hoi An, Vietnam

In the spirit of catching up, I figure that I ought to review a few of our favorite drinking holes that I've missed out. We visited Margarita Resto & Bar twice, the last time on the night before I won my first poker tournament . The restaurant has an old fashioned crimson and dark-wood theme, and the kitchen serves tasty and not-too-expensive Argentinian food. Behind the bar hardwood bar, like little liquid soldiers, stand row after row of bottles containing spirits and beer from across South America and the world.

I doubt most of the bottles have been touched in decades, but the multitude of available options hints at the creativity of the bartender. While mostly offering common classics (as well as backpacker staples like Sex on the Beach), the back page of the drinks menu holds the bartender's personal inventions. Most of these were fun and fruity, but he recommended his Martini Malbe to me as his greatest creation. Sadly, it's only occasionally available, as it takes him a while to prepare the malbec reduction, and this ingredient doesn't keep. The wine and whiskey combination works surprisingly well, however, so I've included the recipe below.

Malbec Martini (Puerto Madryn, Argentina)

  • 1 part reduction of malbec
  • 1 part juice of 1 grapefruit (and one teaspoon of pulp)
  • 2 parts whiskey
  • A dask of lemon

Mix ingredients with ice in a shaker, in the order given. Shake, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with starfruit (although I think an orange or a bit of grapefruit rind would work as well).

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