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There are a few ways to get around from city to city in Myanmar. You can hire a driver and depending on where you are going, your travels could take an entire day. You could take the romanticized route and take the train. Unfortunately the trains are not as efficient as those in Europe and the journey can take 12 to 18 or more hours. These trains are not the equivalent of the Orient Express either. The trains are old and bare bones. I really contemplated taking the train for one of our legs, but did a bit more research and found that the leg I was really reviewing often took 24 to 36 hours and that would be utterly awful.
We decided to fly, which was the recommendation from our local guides. I was and little nervous about the domestic carriers in Myanmar because they had some safety issues historically. Those issues are all but gone now. There are a couple of carriers you can choose from. Most of our flights were on Air KBZ.
I had never heard of Air KBZ before, but this Myanmar based carrier operates a series of flights on various circuits. The flight starts in Yangon, goes to Bagan then continues on to Heho (serving Inle Lake) then back to Yangon. There are other circuits too. These routes are operated by ATR-72 (both 500s and 600s). The ATR-72 600s are brand new and the 500s are not that old.
We flew Air KBZ twice, once from Yangon (RGN) to Bagan (NYU) then next from Bagan to Inle LAKE (HEH). Both of these flights were less than an hour and were really nice. It doesn’t compare to EVA Royal Laurel Business Class or Thai Royal Orchid First, of course, but the planes were new and clean (ahem….I’m looking at you, United) and the strive onboard was quick, efficient and friendly.
You don’t have many options for you intra-Myanmar flights, but I’d highly recommend Air KBZ for these shirt hops. Unfortunately, you can’t credit your miles to a mainline western air program, but it’s OK to skip the miles from time to time.
Have you traveled through Myanmar before? What was your preferred mode of transportation? Did you have the long romantic train ride through the countryside or did you do as we did and hop on the nearest plane, which provided quick, inexpensive travel?
We have a ton of cook books. Cook books always play a major role as Christmas gifts too. Each year we probably add half a dozen to our library. In general, we look at the book immediately after unwrapping it and make these great plans on all the new things we’ll make, then fail to execute. When we either have a dinner party or a free weekend, we’ll often pull a cook book and find something new to cook, then the book goes right back to the shelf.
I decided that I’d be meat free in January (also chose to be booze free). I needed to expand my meatless repertoire, so I pulled A Year in a Vegetarian’s Kitchen – grabbed some post it notes and went to marking interesting recipes. We found about a dozen that really spoke to us and since they were vegetarian it fit my nutritional changes for the month.
We made these recipes throughout the month and we’re really pleased with our selections. We tried so many great things in January, we decided to pick another cook book for February and will try this experiment again. While I’m not going to be meatless in February, I do plan to remain as mindful about my food as I was in January. It might be a bit tougher considering we chose Tommy Bahamas Flavors of the Southern Coast as our February book. We found another dozen or so recipes, but these recipes all require more work than our January selections, so adding these to our week night rotation will be tough.
It felt great trying so many new recipes in January and I can’t wait to work our way through this new book. How often do you use your cook books? Seriously, how often? Do you dig getting a new cook book as much as I do? I love to give cook books just as much – it often means that someone will be thanking me for the gift by making something amazing out of their new book too. Now that’s a win-win!
I was chatting about travel at work last week (surprising, I know) and a colleague asked if I eat street food while traveling. The woman who posed this question isn’t a traveler, she takes her vacation each year to Disney World, or if she decides to go wild she goes to Disneyland. I’ve traveled (for work) with this woman before and she freaks out if we try to eat somewhere she’s never heard of – she loves national chain restaurants (Olive Garden and PF Chang’s).
I do eat street food. I like to be a traveler not a tourist. The locals eat street food and the reason I travel is to experience other cultures, including their food. Street food is usually very cheap too. I’ve had some great street food all over the world, including:
- Easy and Safe Tapas in Spain
- A wonderfully entertaining motorbike ride with multiple dining stops in Saigon
- A strange night party and carnival in Siem Reap
- A bustling market on a frigid day in Shanghai – Loved the soup dumplings
I’ve been fortunate and have never gotten sick from eating street food. I’ve gotten sick while traveling, but never from street food. When eating street food, I follow a few simple rules:
- Always eat at places that have at line – the more people the quicker the food turns over. No customers mean the food ends up sitting out longer, giving more opportunity for bacteria to grow. Plus, if the food stall has a long line that means the local customers like the place. It has to be worth trying.
- See and smell the food. If you see flies or other insects on the food, you should likely stay clear.
- See the people preparing the food. Are they clean? Are their action sanitary?
Street food can be a little scary – like most things, I say trust your gut. If you think something isn’t right, you are probably right – stay away.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten from a street vendor? Have you gotten sick from street food?
Who isn’t a fan of a classic French Macaron? Those bite sized little bits of almond flour and meringue sandwiched around a flavorful jam (or chocolate…or anything else, the possibilities are endless) are always a hit. They look beautiful, taste great and are almost never homemade. Since these things are so delicate – they melt in your mouth – I just figured that if I tried to make them I’d end up crushing the cookies and making an utter mess.
I was gifted a macaron baking set for Christmas a couple years ago. This included a recipe guide, a silicon sheet with small circles imprinted so you could properly place the batter and a whoopee cushion style device to squirt the batter into place (in lieu of using a pastry bag). The day after I opened this present in 2014, I made macarons. I diligently followed the recipe, which was originally in French, translated to English. The recipe called for you to make your own almond flour, which I did…it was awful. It wasn’t fine enough and it was just extra work that wasn’t needed.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2017. I decided to try my hand at macarons again, this time using store bought almond flour, pulled out the seldom used KitchenAid Stand Mixer and found a recipe written by a native English speaker.
I decided to substitute more confectioners’ sugar in lieu of superfine sugar only because I failed to read the recipe fully and I didn’t realize I needed two different types of sugar.
This recipe was simple and turned out really well. I do need to work on my piping skills – as I squirted the batter out, I made it too thick, so when I put the sandwiches together they were very tall – a big mouthful. I also used a few drops of yellow food coloring to give the cookies a deeper yellow color and I filled the macarons with either store bought lemon curd or a homemade spicy passion fruit jam. These fillings were amazing additions – the spicy passion fruit filled cookies were my favorite. The sweet and spicy jam was a unique twist on the traditional French treat – it turned it into a French Polynesian treat.
Do you have a favorite macaron recipe or shop? What is your favorite flavor? Who wants to try one of my spicy passion fruit macaron?
Our Labor Day Weekend trip to Yosemite ended with a final night in San Francisco, before our flight back to Chicago. I was given a choice of 3 restaurants for our one main meal in San Francisco, and I selected Coi (pronounced kwah – not coy). This Michelin Two-Star Restaurant is located in the North Beach neighborhood. The seafood centric menu by newly named chef, Matthew Kirkley was exquisite. Chef Kirkley and a few other members of his team recently left Chicago for San Francisco and are doing amazing things at Coi.
I wrote a few days about about the geographical error in the wine list – a simple, yet glaringly obvious issue: Burgundy is in France, not Germany. We all make errors in our work, but something as basic as this really surprises me that it made through the review process. Perhaps someone went in and intentionally made a change when printing new menus. How long had this error been present? How important is an issue like this when the fine folks from Michelin come in to review the restaurant? That being said, if the worst part of the dinner was a wrong country listed on a wine list, I’d consider that to be a win.
This meal made the list of best dining experiences we’ve had this year. It wasn’t number one for the year, remember, we went to Lima and ate our way through some of the best places on the continent (more on that later). For me, the standout dish was the Dungeness Crab. Being an Oregonian, I have a special place in my heart, er, stomach, for Dungeness Crab. One of the reasons this course stood out was the juxtaposition of the presentation (which looked fine, but didn’t wow me) and the flavors / textures of the food itself. My expectations were dropped based on presentation, but my mouth was blown away by the execution.
From a wine perspective, I think the Burgundy served with the Maine Lobster was great. I am a major fan of, as I call them, dirty Pinot Noirs. I just love the Earthy flavors that come from some of the world’s best Pinots. Oregon and Burgundy are my favorite regions for this type of wine and the 2006 Serafin Père et Fils, ‘Les Millandes,’ Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru sure fit the bill.
What I also loved about Coi was the service. When we visited L20, in Chicago (where Chef Kirkley and at least one of Coi’s servers came from), the service was abysmal…at best. We loved, again, the juxtaposition of the highly-elevated fine dining experience, with the gentile and approachable staff. We quickly built a rapport with the service team and laughed quite a bit together. After the meal, we sat and chatted, getting additional restaurant recommendations for the following day, and enjoying our wine.
We don’t make it to San Francisco all that often, and Coi isn’t an every day option, but I would very much love to return and experience another menu from this stellar team – if the opportunity should arise, I would definitely considering returning for this same menu again. I’d have to make sure the same service team was working my table though – they really pulled program together.
Kudos Chef and Team.