Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where'd they all go?

All gone

Happy Herbert's Cruncheezy things look like a healthier alternative to Cheetos. Taste good, too.

Oops. I ate the whole 4.5 oz. bag in one sitting.  So much for "healthier."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eating Egypt: Day 6 - Touk and Cairo

In the village of Touk 2 - butcher district
(Touk, featuring skinned camel carcasses; photo by Dan)

On Day Six of our Egypt trip, we hooked up with Casual Cairo Detours, a private tour company that had been recommended to me.  Proprietor Debbie Senters suggested we try an off-the-beaten-path trip for two (with guide and driver) up the Alexandria Green Road (the Agricultural Road) into a nearby Nile Delta village and orange grove, which sounded unusual and fun.  We decided to go for it!

Ful (hotel breakfast buffet)
(photo by Dan)

1. The day started with another hotel buffet breakfast, of course, featuring various things, including Dan's masterfully spiced plate of ful.

In the village of Touk 1
(Touk; photo by Dan)

In the village of Touk, our driver, Tarek, stopped to buy eggs.  We happened to be parked in the butchery district, and were surrounded by carcasses (marked in red ink for some governmental reason) and knives.  Dan got out to take some pictures, for which he was eventually chastised.  When Tarek got back to the car to translate (Tarek is from Touk), he told us that the man yelling at Dan was upset because things were dirty and he was embarrased that Dan would be taking pictures of dirty things.  But our purpose wasn't to embarrass the people of Egypt or Touk, of course.  We just thought everything looked cool.

Motorcycle driver

We stopped in Touk to transfer our party of four to sidecar motorcycle taxi.  You might be surprised at the number of people who can fit on and in one of these things!  The man pictured here is our taxi driver (not Tarek, our tour driver).

Crypts for men and women

I really enjoyed the open-air ride through the orange grove (and local cemetery).

Orange tree

At the pump
(Dan; our guide, Jim; and Tarek)

Water source
(photo by Dan)

Hut view

Eventually, we dismounted from our taxi and walked down one of the orange grove rows.  The smell of citrus in the air, even at the end of the busy season, was incredible.  Tarek carried a cooler and gave us a guided tour (the grove we were in belongs to his family).  He talked to us about the farm life, the village, methods of irrigation, and more.

2. We stopped outside of a guard hut (shown above) and had a picnic snack of fresh-picked fruit, juices and water. 

(canal in the grove; not used for irrigation)

Orange drink

Orchard orange - for juicing Tangerine fresh from the tree

Tarek was so nice -- he picked 2-3 different kinds of oranges for us to try, and when I mentioned how much I had enjoyed my taste of Omar's tangerine juice at Arabesque, he even found one of the last tangerines growing nearby for me to eat.

Tarek, Jim, and the taxi driver insisted Dan try driving the motorcycle taxi.  I was glad to skip this initiation.

Making Charcoal

After we left the grove, we drove to a nearby restaurant for lunch, passing several "charcoal factories."

Shai - mint tea - and peach drink

While our food was being prepared at Baraka, a newly opened restaurant owned by Debbie's sister's driver (or something like that!), we sat outside by a river and watched the birds.  I had a very strong cup of mint shai. I liked Dan's canned peach drink (with pieces of fruit in it) better.

Mezzes at Baraka, including spicy tahina

3. Baraka (location unknown; outside Touk and Cairo) -- Jim, our guide, who is an American (if I remember correctly) who has lived in Egypt for years, is a vegetarian. A vegetarian can eat quite well in Egypt, as the meals all come with many breads, dips, and vegetable dishes, but now that meat is more affordable in Egypt (Jim told us), Egyptians eat a lot of meat and don't understand why people would choose not to. It can be difficult to make an Egyptian host feel he or she has fed you well if you opt out of the meat, apparently. Eventually, though, we were able to get across that Jim would enjoy the mezzes and the rest of us would partake in the mystery meats.

Mixed grill and kofta with potato chips

The mixed grill and kofta plate was served garnished with potato chips (cheese? BBQ?). Jim was given his own small plate of chips, once the waiters understood he wouldn't be eating the meat. This is the meal at which I think I might have eaten camel, as I read that it is sometimes served in this fashion. But I asked no questions.

We were seated near the grill on the restaurant's patio. It was fun to watch the food being prepared, and lovely to smell.

A sign I liked

After eating, Tarek drove us back into Cairo.The whole tour was a gorgeous start to a day that was only half over.

At Pumpkin 1

At Pumpkin 2

Desserts from Pumpkin

4. Later that afternoon, on Adam's recommendation, Dan and I walked a few blocks from our hotel to buy some cheesecake from "Pumpkin," a cake store. It wasn't particularly special. I think it's a chain establishment. But the cakes looked nice.

Khan el Khalili view

Khan el Khalili market

Khan el Khalili shoppers
(photo by Dan)

That night, Adam and Omar took us to Khan el Khalili market, a famous draw for tourists in Cairo. We didn't buy much. It almost felt like cheating to have two native speakers of Egyptian Arabic with us, but I'm glad we couldn't be taken advantage of by the shop owners.

In Khan el Khalili - Naguib Mahfouz Café

5. Adam and Omar helped us find Naguib Mahfouz Café, named after the famous writer.

Hibiscus drink at Naguib Mahfouz Café

They recommended the hibiscus drink.  It was amazing - halfway between juice and tea.  They also recommended I order a shrimp sandwich (tiny shrimps stuffed in a pita with a tangy sauce), which was out of sight.

Egyptian Pancake restaurant

Sneak Peek Pancake

Fatir from Egyptian Pancake at Khan el Khalili

6. We ended Day Six on the outskirts of the market, where Adam suggested we try fatir, an Egyptian pancake served savory or sweet. He hadn't been wrong so far. Needing dessert, Dan and I split a large, sweet pancake. It was sort of crepe-like and covered in powdered sugar. Decadent food for a decadent setting. I was pretty happy, as you might well imagine.


Things to Eat In Brooklyn When You're Pregnant

 Pickles Fage Lemonade Babybel
[Actually, feel free to eat these things anywhere, pregnant or not.]

 Pretty Much
Only Want to Eat:
1. String Cheese (if terribly hungry, skip the "stringing" part)
2. Babybel Cheese (save the wax and make a sculpture!)
3. Pickles
4. Clif Bars (my favorite? Peanut Toffee Buzz.  Watch the caffeine.)
5. Cottage Cheese (4% fat, minimum)
6. Greek Yogurt (at least 2%; add honey)
7. Brownies
8. Cucumber Slices and Hummus
9. Fruit (especially apples)
10. Cheez-Its (especially Green Tabasco)
11. Triscuits (especially plain; rosemary is good normally, but might weird out your tastebuds some days)
12. Oreos (and why buy any kind other than Double Stuf?!)
13. Annie's Southwest Burritos
14. Peanut Butter on Caramel Rice Cakes
15. Pretzels (especially the kind made with flavor powders)

16. Pudding
17. Mashed potatoes

18. Grilled cheese sandwiches
19. Tomato soups
20. Pasta

Cottage My friends

Need to Drink Mostly:
1. Lemonade
2. Chocolate Milk
3. Power-C Naked Juice
4. Water
5. Ginger Ale

OMG, Avoid:
1. Eggs
2. Anything that Smells Like Eggs
3. Chicken Fried Rice (because it smells like eggs)
4. Vegetables (for a while)

String cheese

Eating Egypt: Day 5 - Alexandria

Library at Alexandria
(photo by Dan)

Main Reading Room at Alexandria Library

Cookbooks at Alexandria library

I still haven't finished my run-down of our Egypt trip this summer.  I owe y'all a few more posts. Here's one.

While in Egypt, we took a day trip to Alexandria and visited that city's famous library.  Strangely enough, I found myself in the cookbook section while wandering around in there!

A hotel breakfast - my choices from the buffet

1. Hotel Breakfast - savory pastries, juice, grapefruit, mystery dessert.

Waiting for our train
(photo by Dan)

Snacks and tickets

2. We ate cookies on the train.

Corniche and the Mediterranean Sea

(photo by Dan)

I touched the Mediterranean Sea!

Abou Ashraf cups

Our cabbie spoke just enough English to get us to Abou Ashraf, which Adam had recommended as the best place to get an early dinner of fresh fish.

Abou Ashraf plate

Dan at Abou Ashraf

The tables were in a sort of alley between several buildings.

Abou Ashraf mezzes

This (above) is all food we didn't order.  It comes with the meal.

Abou Ashraf spread 2
(photo by Dan)

Abou Ashraf spread 4
(photo by Dan)

Fresh fish - fried (Abou Ashraf)

3. Abou Ashraf - Oh my.  Dan and I ate soft-shell crab, fish, and shrimp (all fresh and picked out by us from the iced displays before being cooked and brought to our table).  They were accompanied by many mezzes -- breads, spreads, salads, eggplant, and more.

We had a sort of frightening adventure after this meal, as it turned out not only that there are two train stations -- only one of which features trains going to Cairo -- and not many cab drivers who speak much English in Alexandria, but the trains back to Cairo were completely sold out that night.  Luckily, we hooked up with a Chinese-Canadian family (they spoke Chinese and English fluently) who let us tag along as they tenaciously discovered a cab driver who would take all five of us to the bus depot for a bargain price.  There, we just managed (1 minute to spare!) to get on a bus to Cairo so that we could return to our hotel for the night.  Yikes!!

p.s. One more adventure to recount - I was a leetle confused while in the bathroom in the Alexandria library.  I think the hose that sprayed (clean) water all over the wall when I tried to flush the toilet was some sort of hand-held bidet nozzle.   I never did figure out how to flush.

Toilet confusion at the Alexandria library (ask me)


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