Today, I still feel at home in Vienna.

For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.
– Simon van Booy

Last weekend, Megan and I met for a semi-spontaneous trip to Vienna! It’s about a 3 hour train ride from BP, and a slightly longer plane ride from Madrid. She doesn’t have class on Fridays or Mondays, and school’s about to start for me again, so it worked out really well!
My memories of the city are tinged by nostalgia and the summer heat: ice cream every day, walks in the park, strangers who took to me, the girl traveling without her parents. I was prepared for the possibility that the city wouldn’t have the charm and luster that lives in my memory, especially in the winter and with the changes that more than a decade inevitably bring to a person and a place.

Stefansdom then ...

Stefansdom then …

... and now.

… and now.

Anna and I arrived on Friday around noon, and took a subway straight to the hotel. One great thing about Vienna is that public transportation there is extremely accessible: every subway stop has an elevator, for example, which makes life there A LOT EASIER when trying to get around in a wheelchair.

Megan arrived shortly after, well-fed by the airline snacks on Air Italia 🙂 We walked around the city center, including a visit to Stefansdom and Peter’s Church. Afterwards, Megan and I saw more of the city by ourselves. We tried to go to one of the cafés that her father recommended, but all of those had a least a step precluding my entrance. Accessibility issues still abound! However, it worked out for the best because we stumbled across a delicious Italian restaurant called Ristorante Sole. The staff there was so considerate, even taking pity on our indecisiveness and portioning our two entrees so that we could each have half. For dessert, we split strawberries with creamy mascarpone.

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

Well-fed and ready to see the city by night!

That’s when the excitement really started, though, because as we walked around, we found ourselves on the outskirts of a riot protesting a ball in the Hofburg. Megan and I tend to gravitate towards home before the night owls even take flight. It so happened that the entrance to our hotel was RIGHT in the middle of a crowd of protestors. Fortunately, the policemen deemed us harmless and allowed us to pass through the barriers.

On Saturday, we took a subway to Schönbrunn, the Hapsburg’s summer residence, painted Maria Theresa’s favorite color, ochre yellow.

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

We toured 40 rooms on the first floor!

The palace itself is only half the fun of Schönbrunn; its vast grounds include a zoo (with pandas!), rose garden, and paths for meandering.  We walked to the top of a small hill to see this view:

I didn't realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

I didn’t realize we were so far up until we got there! It was worth the cold ascent.

After warming up in our room, Megan and I ventured out again for dinner at Café Landtmann and explorations around the city hall. The city hall is a gorgeous building, reminiscent of the gothic style of Duke Chapel.IMG_0793

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

There were at least 3 ice skating rinks set up in front of the city hall, and people were out en masse to skate and enjoy mulled wine and hot food.

Temperatures were frigid at this point, so we called it an early night again and relaxed in our room.

On Sunday, we went to the Albertina to see the newly acquired collection of Impressionist, Expressionist, and Surrealist art, entitled “Monet to Picasso”.

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites

This Chagall painting was one of my favorites.

Per Anna’s request, we had to to have Wiener Schnitzel (when in Wien …), so that was our mission in the afternoon. That was when the snow started to fall! It was enough to be pretty without becoming an inconvenience like the Snowpocalypse and Polar Vortex of the East Coast.
In the evening, Megan and I went to visit Stephi, an old friend of mine, at her home. It was really nice to see her again and meet her family. I had not spoken to her in quite a while, though she sends me Advent calendars every December! Moreover, Megan and I had just become friends in middle school before I met Stephi, so it was sweetly bizarre to introduce these two people who have been in my life so long.

Stephi suggested we go to Sunday Swing at the Leopold Museum Café, so that was our next destination, since the night was still young, even for us. At this point, there was an inch layer of snow coating the streets, making for a charming winter wonderland as we trudged out. The Sunday Swing was in full … swing… when we got there. I felt transported to the ’20s! The only downside was the thick smoke hanging in the air from all the cigarettes, but perhaps that contributed to the authenticity of the experience.

Monday was our last morning, so we went to see Karl’s church and a peak of Belvedere, but it was too cold and snowy, so we ended up getting hot chocolate and coffee in a bakery underground. 🙂 Warmth and a friend – not a bad way to end the trip, after all.

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

from a temporary exhibit by the Austrian artist Sonja Gangl at the Albertina. Adieu, Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen!

Vienna wasn’t quite as I remembered it, but that ended up being okay. After all, I’ve changed a lot, too. Time has worn down parts of us, circumstances have enriched us, but we are still recognizable.

Today, I am thinking of Tapas! (Jaleo DC – photos)

photo (1)Some of my favorite restaurants in DC are owned by the chef José Andrés. On Wednesday evening, a friend of mine from out of town came to visit and I took her and a group of friends to Jaleo DC. I loved our table! The glass table sat on top of a Foosball Table (it’s been so long since I’ve played with these!). I helped my team score a goal on this evening! Go me! Photos speak louder and convey more emotion than words, so it’s mostly just going to be lovely photos. We then went to see a few of the DC monuments/memorials (lovely view at night)… but I’ll present those to y’alls in a separate post. Here’s the food! Enjoy~

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First up came the Mejillones Vinagreta (mussels served with pipirrana, sherry dressing and honey). These were served cold on a platter of ice. The scallions, tomatoes, vinegrette was so delightful to eat.
Jarkie’s Rating: 9/10

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Next came the Croquetas De Pollo (traditional chicken fritters) which was DELICIOUS! Anything fried is yummy in my opinion. And it was so incredibly cheesy & savory… it all just melts in your mouth.
Jarkie’s Rating: 8.5/10

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I’m not a fan of octopus–well, this was my first time trying it–so this next dish was not my favorite one. Pulpo A La Gallega Maestro Alfonso (boiled octopus with pee wee potatoes, pimentón and olive oil) – I spied some light paprika sprinkled on top … but other than that, there wasn’t much flavor. I was not a fan of the texture of the octopus. The thing that saved the dish for me? The potatoes. You can’t go wrong with potatoes.
Jarkie’s Rating: 4.5/10

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Another type of chicken this came along… this time, grilled to perfection. Pollo Al Ajillo Con Salsa Verde (grilled marinated chicken served with parsley purée and garlic sauce).
Jarkie’s Rating: 6.5/10

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We proceeded to eat the Rossejat (traditional paella‘ of fried pasta with shrimp and calamari) which my lovely company told me tasted like a popular Malaysian snack. Very good. Granted, there could have been some more shrimp and calamari.
Jarkie’s Rating7/10

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One of the highlights of the dinner was the Costillas De Cerdo Ibérico De Bellota (grilled pork ribs from the legendary acorn-fed, black-footed pigs of spain) that serves about 2-6. Whatever marinade they use is so very tasty. The ribs were tender and juicy. I wish I could have had more! Comes with rosemary (for decorational purposes?) and salt.
Jarkie’s Rating: 9/10

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There were two other dishes that we tried that are not pictured above. The Ensalada Campera (salad of conserved tuna, fingerling potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs) and the Pan De Cristal Con Tomate (toasted slices of uniquely crispy and ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato).

I ended the night with their signature red sangria by the glass. It was a bit too watered down… but for my personal taste, it was perfect!
Jarkie’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Today, I write about a legenDAIRY experience

For dinner, I fulfilled my #1 mission in HK, according to Jarkie: Going to Australia Dairy Company. From the moment I told her I would be visiting the city, she has urged, reminded, and implored me to go to this place! As all the reviews say, the place was packed, but the service was very prompt. We ordered the food to go because we were in a hurry, and it was handed to us freshly cooked and packaged in less than 10 minutes!

For dinner on Wednesday, I fulfilled my #1 mission in HK, according to Jarkie: Going to Australia Dairy Company. Beginning from the moment I told her I would be here, she has urged, reminded, and implored me to go to this place! As the reviews warned, it was packed, but the service was very prompt. We ordered the food to go because we were in a hurry, and it was handed to us freshly cooked and packaged in less than 10 minutes!

The menu was in Chinese, so my aunt ordered for us. This sandwich had a mishmash of things (egg, ham, cucumber, dressing) that sound normal, but were very tasty in combination. The cold egg custard was my favorite! Perfect consistency and sweetness. You were right, Jarkie!

The menu was in Chinese, so my aunt ordered for us. This sandwich had a mishmash of things (egg, ham, cucumber, dressing) that sound normal, but were very tasty in combination. The cold egg custard was my favorite! Perfect consistency and sweetness. You were right, Jarkie!

Today, I enjoy solitude at the country french cafe & bring you recipe for Rice Bowls (donburi issue)….

Country French Breakfast

Breakfast

I love being with people. But I also love being alone. I love socializing. I also love going to restaurants, cafe’s, movies alone. Just add an iPad/Laptop or a great read in my purse and off I go! So that brings me to where I am now: La Madeleine Country French Cafe. One thing I love about them? Their wonderful selection of Baroque music. Wanna learn French? Just hop over to the ladies room and you can learn your Bonjour, Je m’appelle [insert your name]…, oui, merci beaucoup and all that jazz. My favorite is sitting here sipping my coffee and having some toast with jam & butter. Oh what a life :]

This past Thursday, I said goodbye to a friend over at When Babel Fell.  She is starting a new journey in Japan… and I, of course, wish her the best of luck! I must also thank her because she took me to a local Japanese restaurant (Matuba Japanese Restaurant) where I realized my fascination for Donburi, or rice bowls!

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I ordered the Katsudon and Gyoza. So delicious. I have decided to try to perfect my Katsudon-making skills. And so here’s mineeeeee.

Katsudon/Katsu Donburi [Pork Cutlet Rice Bowl]

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What you’ll need:

  • Pork chops – boneless
  • Flour
  • Panko
  • Egg – 2
  • Rice- I like using sushi rice
  • Dashi
  • Mirin
  • Miso
  • Soysauce – a little dash
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Onions (Red or Yellow)
  • Green Onions/Scallions
Katsudon!

Katsudon!

  1. Cook your rice in the rice cooker 🙂
  2. Take the pork chops and make little shallow vertical slices up top
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper and dredge with flour
  4. Crack and egg in a bowl and dip the pork chops in the egg and then into panko.
  5. Lightly fry in a pan with vegetable oil
  6. Take out of pan, cut pork up into slices and set aside
  7. Sautee onions and some of the scallions in vegetable oil
  8. Place your pork cutlets into the middle of the pan
  9. Pour in mirin, dashi (just a little sprinkle), soy sauce (the tiniest dash you can think of), a little bit of chicken broth or water, miso and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low/medium setting
  10. Crack the second into the remainder of the egg (from making the pork cutlets)… beat lightly, not all the way. Make sure the egg whites and yolk are not quite mixed
  11. Pour egg mixture gently over the pork cutlet/onions (distribute evening)
  12. Cover pan with a lid and let egg cook… when it seems almost done, turn off stove, remove pan from heat
  13. Take a bowl of cooked rice and lightly scoop out your pork/egg mix – place on top of rice
  14. Pour rest of broth from pan over the bowl of pork cutlet rice.
  15. ENJOY ~
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Today, I’m on a journey to the past…

Pani Puri!

My eyes glistened as I saw the dish listed under the appetizers at Tandoori Nights in Bethesda Row.  My roomie and I … well, let’s just say our original plan was to study… which then led to buying a groupon… which then let to us looking at the menu. This isn’t really a review of the restaurant (I can yelp that 😛 )… this is more just an ode to my lovely pani puris!

Pani is the hindi word for water. And puri’s are a deep-fried sort of bread. In this case, they’re tiny (perfect snack size!), round and punched through the top.  Tandoori Night had chickpeas, potatoes and tamarind chutney in them.  The spiced water was tasty … but a little too thick. I prefer a lighter consistency. However, it brought back such good memories…. My only complaint is … WHY NOT FEED ME 10 of THESE? Or 20?! I only got 3 😦 Sad 😦

Nomnomnom!

Nomnomnom!

When I was in Udaipur, I never got a chance to take a picture of it… because … ain’t nobody got time for dat!

You best be taking the puri from the street vendor and stuffing them in your mouth as quickly as you can. So so so good! One of my favorite foods! And it’s late, so I should sleep. I’ll leave you with a picture that brings traditional food a little Western flair. The second time I had gone back to Udaipur (end of May to beginning of July 2011), I had caught the grand opening of Udaipuri, a vegetarian kitchen that serves Indian and International cuisine. I remember eating falafels and Thai curry!  Since this was a classier place, I had to control myself… And so I managed a picture before I took a shot (non-alcoholic). hehe. But anyways, enjoy the picture! I can almost taste the spicy water in my mouth. Good night!

Pani Puri Shots (Udaipuri, Udaipur, India)

Pani Puri Shots (Udaipuri, Udaipur, India)

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See You Later, See You Soon

We’ve been sweating it out in the heat and doing major packing this weekend. My possessions are divided into “will need this summer” & “staying in BP”, most of them falling into the latter category so as not to lug them around for the next two months. Even though I won’t be leaving the city until the end of June, I’m putting things in storage this week at Anna’s cousin’s house. It was very kind of her to offer the space (and save me 2 months’ rent!); I hope she won’t regret it when she sees just how much STUFF I’m handing over.

Other than that, it’s been a social weekend – 3 outings in as many days! I guess I can’t claim hermit status anymore.

On Friday, I went to Gerbeaud, Budapest’s most famous café, for the first time. It’s in a beautiful part of the city teeming with tourists, and priced accordingly. Four of us shared this sampler platter:
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Then, we walked around for a bit on Vaci utca before heading home. Budapest is radiant in the summer sun.

Yesterday, five of us had dinner at The Big Fish, billed as “the only restaurant in town that offers fresh seafood, made in front of you”. It was excellent, and I’m definitely planning on returning to try the paella, which was sold out (a common occurrence, apparently). The only blight on the meal was an injured pigeon in the middle of the sidewalk behind us. It had a broken leg and was trying to launch itself to a safer corner, which it ultimately did, but seeing it suffer was terrible.

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There’s been an undercurrent of goodbyes as we part for the summer months, but we’ll be back at the books before we know it.

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Today, we reunited!

And, oh, it was grand.

I sheepishly admit that I’m actually tearing up a tiny bit as I write this post. It seems silly but seeing you all tonight reminded me of the silly 18-year olds we were when we first met and the (comparatively) grown up 23-year olds we now are. I know saying that will make those of you who have conquered 23 and moved on to better, brighter ages laugh, but hey, these past five years have been filled with challenges, growth, friendship, and many, many good memories.Image

We reunited at La Tasca Restaurant in Washington DC for tapas and drinks. I’m curious to see what the other ladies will say about it; I really enjoyed it. We got there pretty early in the evening but the upstairs area was already filled! No worries, though, because the nicely lit lower floor had our number, and the festivities began.

The tapas we ordered (mine included patatas bravas and a fried eggplant dish) were delicious, but I think the blackberry mango sangria was the biggest hit of the night. Our waiter was a nice British man who, upon watching our hilarious attempts at taking a photo of the four of us, offered to take one for us – nice of him considering that the place was packed and the waitstaff seemed busy, busy, busy the whole night. Anyway, I liked the vibe a lot, and I would recommend it to friends who want to meet up in a lively place in DC.

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Charkie, you were missed! xoxo

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