My Travel Journal

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West Virginia
When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs below).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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November 30, 2016

Late Thanksgiving report

Hope anyone reading this who celebrates Thanksgiving had a nice, relaxing and delicious one.  I certainly did!  For the last two or three years, I've stayed here in Huntington and cooked myself an extra special Thanksgiving feast with pie, sweet potatoes, chicken, etc., and enjoyed it very much.  But this year I decided I needed a break from that and a new scene.  I decided to go to Columbus, OH after searching for and finding a restaurant that said they would be serving a traditional Thanksgiving buffet (which is what most every restaurant that's open serves and which I didn't want) but would also be serving from their regular menu.  And their regular menu sounded very nice.  So reserved a room at a nearby motel, made a reservation for dinner and took off Thursday around 1:00.  Needless to say, traffic was no problem by then! :)

I didn't get there till around 4:30 or so and got myself all settled in, looked at my computer a bit to see what I wanted to do on Friday, changed my clothes and went off to dinner at Cooper's Hawk Winery in the Easton Town Center.
It was really beautiful and a cold, dark night.  I'm not crazy about blue lights but these added something to the overall holiday and wintry scene.

I've been to the shopping plaza several times with friends but we have always had our meal at Brio's which I love but I wanted something different and was very happy with my choice.  They are a chain restaurant and somewhere I suppose there is a Cooper's Hawk Winery. I think they maybe told me it's in Chicago but the grapes come from mainly California.  I didn't see all of it and didn't see any sign of a buffet.  You go through their tasting room/gift shop area first and then I was seated in the small bar area.
 The bar room - I liked the big wine barrels up on the shelf and all the sparkling glasses - a very convivial setting.

I decided since I was celebrating a holiday, I'd order a glass of Prosecco (bubbly) before dinner.  It arrived and was delicious!  I've learned I like Prosecco better than champagne and this was maybe the best one I've had.  Once I ordered my food (three different appetizers), I poked around in the tasting room/gift shop area and noticed that all the wines they were selling were from their winery and there was Prosecco!   So I asked the man at the counter if that was what I was enjoying at my table and he said yes, so I bought some.
The big lit-up space in the center is I think a main dining room probably.  I was right around the corner to the right which was much nicer for a solo diner, I think.

I ordered three appetizers because when I'm at a nice restaurant eating by myself it gives me more variety than just one entree.  With friends, you tend to share a little but alone you don't have that variety.  I would have only ordered two if I had known that they were going to bring me a big, delicious, dark brown and salty pretzel bun when they brought the Prosecco.  I tried not to eat too much of it but oh, my - it was good!  And the whipped butter was wonderful.

My appetizers were a roasted beet salad with arugula, whipped ricotta(!), and a balsamic drizzle.  Very, very tasty.  That white sort of worm-looking bit in the front is the whipped ricotta.  A little strange looking but it went well with the salad.  And, yes, this is a horrible picture but it wasn't the best lighting. 

My second and favorite appetizer was Mexican drunken shrimp which looking at the menu just now, I see was bacon wrapped, jumbo shrimp with a tequila lemon sauce and little balls of guacamole.  I had forgotten about the bacon and told my sister they were fried until the shell got real crispy and you could just eat it all (I had just read about that idea a week or so before).  But that's probably one reason why they were so incredibly tasty - the bacon must have been very thin because it really did just look like crispy fried shrimp.
And the plate in the back was the third appetizer and was my least favorite mainly because it was so hard to eat - had a large amount of the whipped ricotta which made everything slide off as soon as you picked it up.  I'm not real sure I got what I ordered but fortunately, after the pretzel bun, the beet salad, the shrimp (which I ate every last morsel of) and two or three bites of the bruschetta (which was tasty) along with another glass of Prosecco, I was ready to stop.  My waitress was very nice and attentive and the guy in the tasting room/gift shop was also very pleasant.  I really think I made a good choice - especially for a holiday meal.  The restaurant was full as far as I could see and I imagine the others in the Center were also.  Makes you wonder who was eating at home!

My motel was only about 5 miles or so so I got back quickly and safely and had a long and good sleep.  I'll post Friday and Saturday next.


November 11, 2016

Having fun with little pizzas

and thinking maybe I should open a pizza-for-one parlor!  Not really, but since I made that first eggplant one, I've made three more that I remember - probably so far that's it.  But I've enjoyed each one and so far, no matter what I put on them, they are very tasty.  I took pictures of two of them:

First is a chili pizza!  I had made my chili and decided rather than just keep eating bowl after bowl, I'd (for some strange reason) try using it for a pizza.  Baked it on naan bread like the others and it was really good!  I also some onion and red & green peppers and sprinkled them around. (I might have some minced garlic in there too - can't remember).  Then I used grated cheddar for the topping, popped it in my toaster oven for 8 minutes and was really delighted with the result.  I think I was so tickled with it when I took it out of the oven I didn't remember to take another picture to show it finished.

I also think one reason I'm finding these so tasty is because of the bread.  It's just the right thickness and when it gets brown and crusty it has such a good toasty flavor - very different from a standard pizza crust but very tasty.


So, this next one didn't turn out too great because I used a regular sized tomato and cut the slices too thick.  I had meant for them to kind of shrivel up a little like they do when they're baked but the pizza doesn't bake long enough to give the thick slices time to do that.  However, I liked the flavor mix so I made another one later and used my Campari tomatoes - they're smaller than a regular tomato but bigger than a cherry tomato.  And I managed to get them sliced more thinly.

The picture on the left always makes me think I'm looking at fish for some reason.  I spread a couple teaspoons of crushed tomatoes on the bread, then added some of the sautéed onion/pepper mix and finished off with some Feta cheese.  It was tasty but ugly and very difficult to eat with those great slabs of tomato.  Wish I had taken a picture of the second one I made which was delicious!


So I think these little pizzas will be something I go to fairly regularly.  I was thinking since I'm using naan bread I should probably try a curry one sometime.  I'll ponder that for a bit.



Meanwhile, I tried another recipe a week or two before all this pizza baking.  It was from the Food & Wine cookbook and so was a recipe to serve four.  I cut it down either to a half or quarter.  It was Polenta with Eggplant, Onion and Tomato and was also very good although I think it would be just about as good and easier to just serve it on pasta.  I love polenta but it takes quite a while to get cooked and requires not necessarily constant stirring but frequent stirring.  

Here's the cooking part and below is the eating part. :)












And that's my cooking report.  I've also made a lentil recipe twice now - once with quite old lentils and when that wasn't wildly successful but was tasty I bought new lentils and made it again.  I'm going to be posting that one in My Recipes and will probably also add these pizza ideas to the pizza "recipe" I've already posted.  If anyone ever tries this idea (and you could always use those packaged individual pizza crusts although I prefer the naan) and comes up with other combinations, I would love to hear about them and post them.

Bon appetit!

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