Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

What Were We Thinking?

AtlantaSnowclouds

We really needed to visit Atlanta; old friends opened a restaurant and we wanted to encourage and applaud their dream come true. When we chose the dates, we didn’t realize it was going to be the coldest days in Atlanta – ever.

As we arrived, I said “Is that what I think it is?” and AdventureMan said “I think it’s from some factory, or blowing off some truck.”

No. No, AdventureMan, you don’t know snow. This was flurry. It’s too tiny to be sleet, it’s just flurry, but I’m really glad we are getting to our hotel quickly. Fortunately for us, the entire very cold time we were there, during their record-breaking cold, it was too cold to snow. We escaped as the temperatures started rising to return to Pensacola.

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February 24, 2015 Posted by | Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Rio Nuevo in Alpharetta, GA

Alpharetta, GA is a bedroom community of Atlanta, with a nice big mall with a Macy’s.

(Pensacola does not have a Macy’s.)

When we got to Alpharetta, it was 7 pm because we had lost an hour between Pensacola and Atlanta; we got settled and then we decided to look for a place to eat. I checked with TripAdvisor and Yelp, but we really didn’t see anything that interested us until we checked one of the sattelite strips around the Northpoint Mall, and found Rio Nuevo.

Rio Nuevo is a relatively new Mexican restaurant. I loved the hostess, who essentially looked at me and said “I don’t think you’re from around here” LOL; her Mother is European and she pegged me for European, too. She was surprised when I told her I am an Eskimo (not really true) and that I am a born Alaskan (true).

I loved the light fixtures. I wish I had the courage to put one of these gorgeous sparkly lights up in my entry hall instead of the traditional chandelier I have there, now. These light fixtures really give life to the restaurant; they sparkle!

It gave me something to think about besides the menu. The problem with the menu: too many good things to choose from, and a lot of them I have never heard of before, but they sound really really good.

Very good selection of beers and wine 🙂 I had ordered a Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet, but ended up with the house cab – and it was just fine.

I ordered the Chili Seared Scallops. They were beautiful, and tasty, and surrounded by lovely vegetables, so I felt doubly good, eating tasty scallops AND vegetables. I was just a tiny bit taken aback that the chili sauce was sweet, so it reminded me a little of Thai food; I think I would prefer them sharp and salty, rather than sweet. They were, however, beautiful and delicious.

AdventureMan, however, was the big winner. He ordered a la carte Mexican tacos, one with a Pastore filling and one with a Barbacoa filling.

Here is what Wikipedia says about Tacos al Pastore:

A similar dish is served in Mexico known as tacos al pastor or “tacos de trompo”. The cooking is different from that of the kebab. The meat is cooked and then sliced into a corn tortilla. They can be found all over Mexico, especially in street corners. They are not new to Mexico, and it is unknown if there is a direct relationship with the Turkish Kebab. In Puebla, this was introduced by the numerous Middle-Eastern immigrants, mostly from Lebanon and Syria, but also Turkey and Iraq, in the early 1920s.[42] Since then, it has become a traditional dish of the city, locally known as taco árabe, “Arabian taco”, sold in taquerías orientales, “[Middle-]Eastern taco stands”.[43] Nonetheless, it is now usually made with beef and lamb and served either in pitas –locally called pan árabe, “Arabian bread”–, leavened bread –locally called torta árabe, “Arabian baguette”, also called cemita–, or simply in flour tortillas.

It is usually accompanied tahini and labneh –locally called jocoque–[44] even though the skhug (or kharif) has been replaced with a thick chipotle-garlic sauce.[45] In other parts of the country, most notably in Mexico City, the dish has adapted to the Mexican cuisine by replacing the pita with corn tortillas, in what is now called a taco al pastor, “shepherd taco”.[45] Unlike a taco árabe, the taco al pastor is served with pineapple, cilantro, chopped onions and green or red salsa, and marinated with annatto sauce.

Regardless of local adaptations, authentic middle eastern shawarma is available in the many middle eastern restaurants and kosher taquerias that cater to the large Mexican Lebanese and Mexican Sephardim communities. German style Doner Kebab can be found too but is not common, although is gaining popularity.

In some places of Northern Mexico, such as Nuevo Leon, Durango, Chihuahua, these are usually called Tacos de Trompo if served on maize flour tortillas, and gringas if they are served on wheat flour tortillas with cheese.

A similar dish is called Tacos Árabes, which originated in Puebla in the 1930s from Lebanese-Mexican cuisine. Tacos Árabes use shawarma-style meat carved from a spit, but are served in a pita bread called pan arabe. These tacos have been brought by Mexican immigrants to the United States in the past few years and have become popular in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, the two largest Mexican and Mexican-American population centers in the United States.[46]

LLOOLLL – an Arab taco! Filed under doner kebab! And made with PORK! Well, they are delicious, and they have this taste like I imagine you could buy on a street in Mexico 😉 I have to imagine. I have never been to Mexico. Not yet 🙂

Here is what Wikipedia says about Barbacoa:

Throughout Mexico, from pre-Mexican times to the present, barbacoa (the name derives from the Caribbean indigenous Taino barabicu) was the original Mexican barbecue, utilizing the many and varied moles (from Nahuatl molli) and salsa de molcajete, which were the first barbecue sauces. Game, turkey, and fish along with beans and other side dishes were slow cooked together in a pit for many hours. Following the introduction of cattle, domestic pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens by the Spanish, the meat of these animals was cooked utilizing the traditional indigenous barbacoa style of cooking.

“Barbacoa” actually has its origins in all the countries that Tainos and other Indian populations inhabited, not just Mexico. The Tainos themselves were pre-Columbian Indians located throughout the Caribbean and which some believe included the Arawak Indians who especially dominated the most leeward Caribbean islands themselves.

The Arawak were first and foremost those who historically used the green and fire resistant flexible limbs of the hanging branches of the giant Bearded Fig Tree (Los Barbadoes) to cook meats and fish over an open fire while first marinating their foods in tropical herbs and spices found naturally throughout the southern islands to South America.

Unlike latter variations, the original and most authentic “Barbacoa” used herbs and spices, such as island prepared “cassareep” (derived from the root of the cassava plant), not only to enhance the natural flavors of meats, fish and vegetables, but preserve their cooked foods from spoiling in the heat of the tropics. The Arawak Indians called their preparations “Barbacoa,” accordingly, as these methods proved to be a boon of protection for keeping their foods from prematurely spoiling.

Rio Nuevo also had two different Mole’s I am dying to try, but when we went back for lunch the next day . . . . after hours at the Mall on the hottest day in Atlanta history ever, we BOTH ordered the tacos-a-la-carte: al pastore and barbacoa. They were SO good, served with bowls of fresh cilantro and chopped onion to sprinkle on – divine!

Service both times was excellent. This is not fast food, but there were a lot of people eating lunch there who were in and out quickly. The owner came by both times we ate there, and there are still things on the menu I would love to try.

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping | , | Leave a comment

A Drive to Atlanta; Cars on their Last Legs

We decided to take a quick trip to to Atlanta, and unfortunately for me, we are not staying anywhere near the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant we tried the last time we came through.

We got a later start than usual; we had lunch at one of our favorite lunch stops in Pensacola, The Bangkok Garden, then got on the road. AdventureMan had a full and physically active morning, so after the first thirty minutes, I drove and he snoozed.

I love to drive while he is snoozing. It makes me feel so competent and protective, and like a full partner. He sleeps so deeply and happily, it makes me feel trusted. He sleeps like all is well with the world. He sleeps like that for two hours; fortunately I took a good look at the map and directions and managed the right turns onto the right roads.

Driving keeps me alert, and it also gives me time to think. As I am driving this time, I am thinking that I have never before seen so many cars abandoned along the highway. I know cars get a ticket, and then if they are not towed within a certain time the state confiscates them, and probably junks them. It’s not unusual to see an abandoned car now and then, but there are so many this time, so many that it catches my attention.

I worked for a while with the homeless, the less visible homeless, the ones who are not out begging on the streets or carrying their lives with them in a backpack. The homeless I worked with were those who had lost homes, and were staying with people or living out of their cars. Their situation was desperate, and their car, usually old and faltering, was critical to them working whatever small job they could find to keep going. What they earned was not enough to pay rent on any decent place, and they never earned enough to be able to save up for that first and last month’s rent required by most renters. They didn’t have a rental history or a credit history, which made them unlikely to get into housing that screened.

The cars I saw abandoned along the road looked a lot like the cars my homeless people drove. Cars on their last legs. I wondered about the people who were forced to abandon their cars, I wish them well, I hope they are able to claim and fix their car and to go on with their lives.

Or maybe, I think, maybe it is the heat. There has been a huge heat wave, following on a deluge of rain. The temperatures are in the 100’s, hotter than in Pensacola where when it gets hot – and humid – we usually have breezes coming in off the Gulf to help us cope. I remember Kuwait, where cars littered the sides of the major highways, and how heat just wore the cars out. In a country with a desperate need for air conditioning (welll, in my perception, remember I am an Alaska girl) the wiring in the cars was a constant fire hazard.

AdventureMan woke up a little outside Montgomery and we had some of our great road-trip conversations. He took over driving as we neared Atlanta; it was time for my trip-reward, I got to have a Wild Berry Smoothie from McDonalds. Yes, we have McDonalds in Pensacola. No, I do not allow myself to have a Wild Berry Smoothie often. Yes, I know they are made with “real fruit.” No, I have not checked the sugar content, I don’t want to know, but it is why I do not allow myself to have more than one every couple months. And only a small one. It keeps it special.

So I am using the iPhone and directions to navigate us through Atlanta and on to GA 400 going north, and if you know Atlanta, you will know what I am talking about. First, coming into Atlanta, we saw huge signs telling us downtown was congested – and it is drive time home, around dinner time, but fools rush in and we decided everyone else could take the ring road and our directions showed us going through central Atlanta would be the fastest.

We saw billowing flames, and smoke made it hard to see, and there was a huge, uncontained brush fire along the side of the road – the other side, thank God. Traffic on the other side was backed up and more than congested; it was at a stand still. Another mile, and now there is billowing black smoke, and I see a sight I haven’t seen since Kuwait, a big black SUV on the side of the road, totally consumed by fire, and three police cars trying to get through the backed up, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a fire truck and an ambulance, but they can’t get through – again, on the leaving town going south side of the road, not the going north side we were on.

Then we get to a place where one major road becomes two different roads. The iPhone isn’t helping, I can’t figure out the number of the road it is that we are supposed to take, and when I try to make it bigger, nothing happens, we are underneath an overpass and I think there is a problem with reception. As soon as I tell him we are supposed to go right, we go right and then our road goes under the other road and we are going left, and the little blue ball has left the road. Fortunately, we need gas, so we get to a station and I have reception again and show AdventureMan how we have to get back on 75, to a short distance, get in the lane for 85, make a loop and end up going North again.

Thank God he had a nap! Sometimes, if it is nearing dinnertime, and we hit rush hour traffic, and I make a navigational error, we can have hurtful words, and end up not speaking for a while. He was very forgiving. We got back on 85; it was actually very exciting trying to navigate into the right lanes in a strange city where we have little experience and it’s hot and all the cars are full of people who only want to get home. Then, I also miss the right exit to get us on to GA-400 once again, but there is an alternate route showing which may actually be faster than if I had gotten it right. It takes us to the ring road and then north where we can easily get on GA-400. From there, it is easy sailing; the exits are well market and my little iPhone is performing reliably.

We found the hotel easily. I’m not going to tell you the hotel, because when we got here, we found it under renovation and the temporary lobby was full of people in all states of dress – and undress, and while the receptionist was very professional and courteous, I was not wildly happy to be staying here.

And then again . . . there are no hippos outside my window. No immense river, no Fish Eagle. It is hot, and crowded, and I don’t have Steve-the-butler soothing my spirits with a Compari and Bitter Lemon, or Victor suggesting a nice river cruise. AdventureMan kids me a little about my high expectations. It’s true. It’s true. I am missing my African adventure; I am missing Zambia.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, iPhone, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Renovations, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment