Saturday, October 31, 2015

What's Your Scary Story?

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Who or what are you portraying today? If you ask me, I wanted to be a sexy policewoman this year! I have my costume ready and was already planning where to go and party but sadly I'm still sick so I'm stuck at home with my boring cough medicine beside me. Well, the least I can do tonight is actually watch scary movies.

Well how about story telling time? I don't really believe in supernatural or ghosts but let me share to you a mysterious experience when my husband and I stayed at this castle hotel in Pisa, Italy.

We were driving around Tuscany so we arrived at this villa hotel late in the evening. The big iron gates were already locked so we have to call the reception to enter the premises. Since it was very late, the receptionists have also left but gave us the security code to enter. We drove in, parked our car near the villa and decided to check first the inside before we bring in our things. While walking towards the villa, we noticed the lights in one of the rooms on the third floor were on and the window opened so we're happy to know that we're not the only guests. The inside was really fancy and beautifully decorated, the reception left us a map to our room and after how many attempts of pushing the walls around, we finally found our ''secret'' room located behind the living room wall. There were two hidden rooms behind and our room was exquisite. My husband and I went back outside to take our stuffs in and I observed the light in the room upstairs were already off and the window closed so I assumed that the other guests might have already been sleeping.

We were in our room when we heard this really weird noise like a chair being dragged back and forth. It was frightening so we weren't able to sleep. My husband doesn't believe in ghosts but he was convinced that we should go back to our car and sleep there instead. It was 3 am, the noise didn't stop and we were very scared so I opened the window to check where the sound comes from and it was actually from the outside. Every time a car passes by, the weird sound comes so we thought it was nothing relevant. We felt so relieved then slept like a log.

Breakfast time, we were quite alone in the breakfast hall and we met the owner of the villa so we asked if the other guests have left early. His reply was ''Oh, you two were the only guests here tonight.''

What's your story?

Photo from the hotel website.

Photo from the hotel website.

Photo from the hotel website.

At the balcony of the Villa. :)

Lovely ceiling details.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Saigon Cooking Class by Hua Tuc

As I sometimes post recipes about my experimental dishes, I love being in the kitchen! Every time I travel, I would always like to try the local dish. If it's something exotic or bizarre, I try to find an alternative like made of vegetables or seafood instead of something else. And when I get back home, I would recreate the dish with the help of online recipes or simply the cookbook I purchased during that trip.

If you are travelling to destinations with palatable cuisine, I suggest you enroll yourself even just for a day culinary class. It's also fun to shop for some spices that are difficult to find in your local supermarket. 

Two weeks ago, I signed- up for one day cooking class with a three-course menu for only 35 USD at Saigon Cooking Class by Hua Tuc. Aside from the fun experience and making new friends, I learned to create authentic Vietnamese dishes. 

Alone but excited to go in and learn!

Saigon Cooking Class is situated on the second floor of a historical building at an old Opium Refinery in Ho Chi Minh City. The place is very cozy and very full of history.

First Dish: The appetizer ingredients!

Whoa la! Very yummy Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls! :) After we made this dish, we all sat down and enjoyed our creation! lol

The Second Dish: Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken.

The secret to this jagged and creative cutting is in the knife! ;)

Time for me to mix the salad with some Asian sauce! A little different but impressive taste.

Here it is, Salad with Grilled Chicken.

The Last and Final Dish: Fried Rice. I have shared here on my blog on how to make fried rice but this one is different. And as I have said on my post before, Fried Rice is very easy to make. Just mix everything and fry!

I love how they presented our work place, clean and precise.

Here is the tricky part of this special Vietnamese Lotus Fried Rice. Have to wrap it on Lotus Leaf then cut the middle to have like a flower presentation. Very, very creative!

Our master chef teaching us how to cut the Leaf. Looks easy but it's very difficult. You must wrap it tight enough for the rice to stick and not to fall apart. 

My creation! I love how it is presented. Really learned something new here.

After savouring our creation, we were given this dessert (Sorbet) made from exotic Passion fruit.

After the cooking class, everybody will receive this cook book/recipes of the dishes you made.

If you love Vietnamese cuisine, I will share to you the recipe of one of my favorite Vietnamese appetizer- Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls. 

Hope you enjoy!

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Ingredients- Serves 12 rolls.
400 g prawns (about 20 prawns)
240 g rice noodle
12 thick rice papers or more in case if you break some
12 green ettuce leaves cut into "Julienne"
40 g fresh Basil
40 g fresh Mint
100 g Bean Sprouts (remove the yellow part)
1 bunch Chive cut into lengths
Peanut Sauce for dipping

Prepare The Prawns
In a saucepan bring water to a boil with a pinch of salt.
Add prawns and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until orange.
Remove from pan and let it cool.
Peel and cut in 2 parts.
Set Aside

Wrap and Roll
1) To make the fresh rolls briefly dip a rice paper in a bowl of water until soft or just wet a little bit the rice paper with your fingers.
2) Remove and place on a dry surface and smoothing it with your fingers.
3) Place the lettuce Julienne onto the rice paper with a bit of rice noodles and top with some basil, mint and bean sprouts.
4) Add 2 to 3 pieces of prawns then fold 2 sides parallel and roll up tightly, press to seal with a little bit of water.

Serve Spring rolls with peanut sauce. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chasing Scottish Distilleries

Last August, my husband and I were in Spain for about two weeks for our usual August holiday then we flew to Edinburgh, Scotland from Madrid to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.
When we arrived in Edinburgh, we rented a big car, drove directly to Perth to spend the night there then we continued driving around the following day. We didn't really stay at one place, we travelled around Scotland visiting different distilleries. It was one hectic trip but we sure had a lot of fun seeing different sites and attractions aside from the whisky. ;)

Day 1: Edinburgh- Perth.

Day 2: Perth- Highlands- Royal Lochnagar Distillery- Strathisla Distillery- Glen Grant Distillery- Glen Moray Distillery- Benromach Distillery- Loch Ness- Dornie.

At our B&B in Perth. I'm so ready to see Scotland! Our first distillery stop- Royal Lochnagar.
Highlands. Isn't this beautiful? What a picturesque view! So lucky we took this way going to the distillery.
Ahh! I can live here. So tranquil, oh! I just love Scottish scenery.
We have to stop to take photos, of course!
After an hour and a half driving plus plus stopping, we're finally here!
Behind me are the expensive whisky in Scotland.
Close to the distillery is Balmoral Castle. We weren't able to go in because the British Royals were there. But at least I was able to have my photo taken with one of the guards.
The panoramic view again! Look at the road, small but lovely.
Our second distillery tour, this time we went to see how the Scottish Whisky, Chivas Regal, is made!
While waiting for our tour, we can try different whisky at the bar.
So this is how it's stored! It was a lovely tour.
I get to try different whisky. My favorite here?  The Chivas 12 year old! But most in our group voted for the Strathisla 12.
Finally! Dream come true. Off my bucket list- Loch Ness. When I was a kid, I heard stories about the Loch Ness monster, there was even a movie about it and I've seen it many times.  
The beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle along Loch Ness.
This town is lovely! We spent our second night in the village of Dornie. With a population of 300, there's not much choice in this village. With only 1 pub, it's unsurprising that it was full so we have to take dinner at the hotel which was good because they serve the best fish and chips. The best I ever had.
The most photographed castle in the world- Eileen Donan at night. So beautiful!

Day 3: Dornie- Isle of Skye- Dalwhinnie Distillery- Pitlochry.

Nature at its best in Isle of Skye.
The only distillery in the island! Talisker Whisky is famous in Asia.
At the lovely town of Pitlochry! Small but very cozy.

Day 4: (My Mother-in law's Birthday) Still in Pitlochry- Blair Atholl Distillery- Aberfeldy Distillery- The House of Bruar- Back to Pitlochry. Then we took a walk to The Edradour Distillery with a side trip in the Scottish forest and Malt fields.

Our breakfast drink! ;)
At Aberfeldy Distillery. Finally, got to have my photo taken with a Scottish man wearing kilt. ;)
This whisky costs £10,000.
Since it's my mother-in-law's birthday, declared the shopping day so we went to the luxury House of Bruar and shopped for some cashmere clothes. Happy! :)
After Blair Atholl, we went back to Pitlochry and took a walk to Edradour Distillery. Have to pass by a malt field then into the woods but it was lovely!

What a beauty!
I don't know how many distilleries we've been! To be honest, I've lost count! But I must say, this is the worst.The staff were rude, we have to pay the tour (even though my parents-in-law doesn't want since they've already been here many times) to get into the bar. 
Where my mother-in-law celebrated her birthday dinner. It was yummy food!

Day 5: Pitlochry- Glenkinchie Distillery- Edinburgh Airport.
Our last day in Scotland. My husband and I flew to London while my parents-in-law flew back to Sweden.