Sunday, December 30, 2012

Taste of Tucson

Vacant hummingbird nest

As my time in Arizona has come to a close, I had the opportunity to eat some classically Sonoran cuisine, as per the suggestion of my bff who also came to visit family here.  Every year it seems to be a tradition to visit one of the many restaurant / food joints in Tucson which serve Sonoran hot dogs.  What is a Sonoran hot dog?  See the photo below:

Looks pretty gross in this picture I must say...

A Sonoran hot dog consists of a grilled hot dog wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon nested in a soft bun and topped with beans, onions, tomatoes, sauce, mayonnaise  mustard, and whatever other "fixings" you desire--a slab of house guacamole in my case.  Not exactly the healthiest cuisine in the world (read: heart-attack central) but a couple per year shouldn't hurt too bad right?  Cheap treats.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Homeward bound

I've been going through a bit of a life transition currently as I'm finally back in the States, Arizona to be specific.  A little relaxation and calm is on the agenda till the end of the year.  Following my brief holiday in Arizona I'll be moving (driving!) back to Seattle to continue working there.  Last time I drove from Arizona to Seattle was during the middle of Summer (with no A/C), a solid 24 hours of driving split between two days--it was an interesting experience of which I don't hold too many fond memories but perhaps the second stint will be more bearable (?).  Key differences will be that this time I'll be driving in the middle of winter.  I recall a good deal of winding roads through mountain passes in northern California approaching Oregon.  Hopefully these passes won't be impassable due to inclemental weather.  I'll probably be making the attempt regardless though.

Some family came to visit recently and we took a nice drive outside of the Scottsdale / Phoenix area toward a few lakes nearby.  We made a few stops at Tortilla flats which was a small western "faux-town" with a few shops selling trinkets, and at a small "gold mining" settlement which was essentially a light western-themed tourist attraction revolving around gold-mining life and culture of the old-west.  It was an interesting adventure.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mannheim - Weihnachtsmarkt

Last weekend after spending some time checking out the markets of Heidelberg, I concluded my Weihnachtsmarkt tour with none other than Mannheim's sizable centrally-located version.  Much of the same types of things could be found in this market, however, one key difference to the experience was the fact that it was night--dark and very cold.  I've managed to use my nose as a barometer of all that is cold and that particular night was so cold I couldn't even feel my face.  My nose told no lie as the following day the view outside my apartment window was filled with a snowy white wonderland.

The Mannheim Weihnachtsmarkt had a pretty nice atmosphere--a frosty night well lit up with sparkly yellow dots of light surrounding the smells of wine and sausage and vibrantly colored trinkets and crafts.  I mentioned in the last post that I tasted my first cup of fine Gluehwein while getting my haircut.  Being that my first Gluehwein experience was so good I incorrectly assumed that all Gluehwein would be equally amazing--this was a disappointing assumption.  The Gluehwein that is sold in market stalls is just... bad.  I think one of key differences is probably the quality of the wine used as the drink's base.  Market stall Gluehwein uses really cheap red wine as the stock fluid and it really showed, tasting like nothing more than cheap hot red wine.  

The market was loaded will all sorts of foodstuffs, including: handmade chocolates, french fries, smelly cheese, and more.  There was also a presumably Turkish guy selling tea and expensive stuffed dates which cost about 3 euros a pop.  As tempting as they were, the price was a bit too much.  The smelly cheese I mentioned was pretty interesting in that giant blocks of solid cheese were placed directly under an extremely hot lamp causing the surface of the cheese blocks to boil and bubble forth foul cheese smells.  The molten surface would then be scraped off and spread onto some kind of bread and served.  I don't remember what this cheese / technique was called but it looked nice. 

There was also a lot of fun activities for young kids with pony rides, train rides, Ferris wheels, carousels, and more.  This balanced aspect of German festivals was quite nice with there being "something for everyone."  All in all it was a pretty good experience.  My recommendation: A++ would attend again.