Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

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The Pancake Queen

In Food,Pancakes,Updates,Vacation on December 30, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged:

Nestled in the heart of the Ferringi neighborhood of Penang is a wonderful night market. It is a great setup. Haukers are lined up around the periphery and hundreds of picnic tables are in the center. Each table has a number and when you place your order at a stall you tell the attendant your table number and when the food is prepared they bring it to your table and collect the money.

This night market really has it all. Traditional Malay dishes like satay were available right off the coals. Indian food was abundant. The absolute best vindaloo I ever had was there. And there were also Chinese and Western stalls from everything from hamburgers to roast lamb.

But it was the sign that first caught my attention: The Pancake Queen. Let me begin by saying that I am suspicious of any royal titles when it comes to food preparation. With the Papaya King hotdog stand in New York City as a notable exception, titles often don’t stand up to the hype.

I was pleasantly surprised when I inspected the pancake menu to discover that in fact these were indeed pancakes and not those flat rice wafers that are sometimes served with some Thai dishes. No – these were cakes from the griddle complete with maple syrup and an endless number of toppings.

I quickly scanned the selections: strawberry, chocolate chip, pecan, sourdough, gingerbread, apple, cinnamon and the list went on and on. Each selection was accompanied with its own photo.

I was overwhelmed. In part because I had no expectation to find pancakes on this trip and to boot pancakes of such variety. Over two separate visits I tried two creations. I wish I had had more time to try them all.

Banana and Walnut

This is a classic combination. In some ways this was my first choice because it is such a diner staple that it provided a great point of comparison. Hands down this was the finest assembled stack that I have ever had.

In Chinese cooking, wok dishes are often cooked separately and the at the end all the wonderful pieces are put together. This dish was made in that same spirit.

The cakes were grilled, light and had wonderful lift. They were complex but were not overpowering. The walnut concoction was not mixed into the batter, but the nuts had been lightly toasted and candied to make them slightly sweet and sticky. This treatment allowed easy fork grabbing of equal portions of nuts to cake. Maple syrup – check. Light dusting of powered sugar – check. Butter pat – check. Scoop of premium vanilla ice cream – check. Lastly a whole banana split down the middle was placed on top. It had been sautéed in butter and was firm but tender to the fork.

★★★★★ Five Stars – it was a beautiful presentation and not a single addition could have made them better. Total cost – $3.00

Raisin Mix

Raisins are not a traditional pancake topping. I went with raisins as a second choice because I wanted to see how far the Pancake Queen could push her talents. Was she so bold that she thought she could pull this off or did she have the chops to impress me again?

The first bite made me immediately think of fruitcake. But good fruitcake! Perhaps this was a seasonal offering? But where fruitcake can be dry and stale this was moist and full of taste.

I quickly drifted off to a childhood dream where I thought of coming in from a fictitious sled ride, cheeks all rosy. There was snow on the ground and a roaring fire. On the kitchen table was a prepared stack of my mom’s pancakes waiting for me.

I awoke from the dream to discover that I was in southeast Asia, it was 85 degrees, the air was filled with gnats, I was sitting at a rickety table with an unknown Chinese family and that my reality was better than my fantasy.

★★★★★ Five Stars – Total cost – $3.00. I did not think it was possible to take a well-known entity like fruitcake and improve upon it to the point where I will never again be happy with Christmas cake.

I asked her majesty, the Pancake Queen for a photo that she happy to oblige a humble servant an audience. I got the feeling she gets this requests a lot. I walked away with a feeling of regret. It’s never going to get any better than this I thought.

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Walking in the Steps of Emperors

In Vacation on November 21, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged:

Family Quasdorf

Beijing is overwhelming. Beijing is difficult. Beijing is a place that should not be missed.

Our recent trip to Beijing was more like going to the doctor’s office than taking a vacation. No one can deny that China in the 21st century will make a global mark. China is here and now. And Beijing as the capital of this nation sits in the middle of all its past and all of its future.

For a Western to step in to this environment was a little overwhelming, scary and confusing. But it was also exciting and rewarding. One week in Beijing has not necessarily changed me but it has forever placed into context this great unknown and the possibilities and fears of the future.

We for the most part stuck to the well-worn paths of travelers before us. We saw Tiananmen Square, gazed upon the portrait of Mao, climbed the Great Wall, and enjoyed the Emperor’s homes at the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

But by far the greatest experience was simply being here in China’s capital. To see the progress that has been made over the past years and hope for the reforms that will make this a great nation. It is a new dynasty for China. And it was great to walk through this city and be a part of this new generation.

Forbidden City Beijing
Mao at Tiananmen Gate
Forbidden City
Summer Palace
Great Wall of China

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Thai Me Down

In Food,Pancakes,Thailand,Updates,Vacation on June 27, 2011 by triotriotrio

To Infinity and Beyond

Perhaps it is part age, perhaps it is part laziness but nonetheless I have come to a conclusion: when it comes to going on vacation I no longer want to rise in the morning, fight the crowds and seek out all the local attractions. I am now in search of finding a secluded spot that allows me to sit in peace and do nothing if I please.

Jennifer and I recently had a brief getaway to Phuket, Thailand. And in many ways this recent getaway helped to reaffirm three points that make up the perfect do-nothing vacation:

Breakfast Buffet – I love a breakfast buffet. The key point to any buffet is the omelet station. Everything else is just gravy if the offering include an egg station. The best aspect of the Phuket buffet was the wide and delicious assortment of fruits. Asia has so many fruits offerings that are not available in the States. They also had pancakes, which is a major plus for me. They also had an assortment of Thai favorites. I enjoyed the breakfast fishcake especially. But another observation that I have made is that I tend to be culinary adventurous but when it comes to breakfast I still gravitate to the American fare as a default.

Beach Side or Poolside Service – The key to doing nothing is making sure one plans for it. Doing nothing can be great but one has to have support. Any proper resort needs to provide umbrellas (cabana preferred), towels, cool drinks and confortable sitting. Our resort had a full menu, beautiful pools and a beachside massage station that ran about $30 for one hour of attention. It was all pretty spectacular.

Mini Bar – I am not sure why tiny bottles and prepackage snacks have a greater allure when they are jacked up in price? But if a hotel offers anything beyond the norm than it is probably a sign that they have taken special attention to other things as well. The appearance of the mini bar is a micro-inspection of the hotel overall. So even if one doesn’t partake in the mini bar options a guest is rewarded if the offerings are better than the average place.

No surprise – many of my points are about food or food related options. If you plan a getaway nail down these points right away. I wish everyone a wonderful getaway. I don’t think I want to spend every vacation this way – but I would be willing to give it a try.