Shop local: Yangshuo market, Guangxi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the teriminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the terminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

 

Our river boat ride down the Li River from Guilin, through the spectacular karst mountains, took us to the city of Yangshuo (population 300,000) where we had an afternoon of exploration, the opportunity to cook our own dinners at a Chinese restaurant and cooking school, and then attend the Liu San Jie Impression Light Show on the Li River bank in town.  Our cooking school chef and instructor – from Cloud 9 Restaurant and Cooking School — took us through the local market on Xi Jie Street (West Street), pointing out many of the ingredients for our multi-course dinner that we then prepared.  Our four courses, individually cooked by each of us in our small group, included: Gong Bao Chicken, Egg Dumplings with Pork and Vegetables, Fry Noodles with Vegetables, and Cucumber in Vinegar & Chili Sauce.

 

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6 – rambutan fruit

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7 — bamboo shoots

 

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

 

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression- Folk Songs” -- on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression: Folk Songs” — on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water. This red picture symbolizes the enthusiasm and praises the labors of the local people”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

“Impression Sanjie Liu was premiered on March 20th, 2004 at the Sanjie Liu Sing Fair, one mile from West Street (Xi Jie).  This is the world largest natural theater which utilizes the waters of the Li River as its stage, with twelve mist shrouded hills and the heavens as its backdrop.  Mist, rain, moonlight, the hills and their inverted reflections in the river all become the ever-changing natural background.  Its auditorium is housed on the natural islands of the river with the audience standing on the designed terraces, surrounded by green plants.  The sound equipment here cannot be seen because it is in harmony with the natural environment.

 

“The valleys, the hills, the cool breeze and the gurgling streams are all elements contributing to the three-dimensional sound effect.  Day by day, different weather offers different sceneries with the four seasons refreshing the performance of Impression Sanjie Liu as well, so you will have unique experience every time you watch it. This is really a new concept opera using nature as an integral part of its performers; hence its name – ‘Human’s Masterpiece Cooperated with the God’.

 

“Maybe you have heard of the film ‘Sanjie Liu’ produced in 1961, which made the Li River famous worldwide.  Sanjie Liu is a fairy singer in the myths and legends of the Zhuang ethnic minority.  She is incomparably beautiful, and has voice to match her beauty.  In the ‘Impression Sanjie Liu’, what you can see are the impressions derived from the daily life of the people living around the Li River, rather than the specific details of the stories.” — www.travelchinaguide.com

 

As we watched the incredible light show with a total of nearly 600 actors (mostly locals, supplemented by students at the local universities), we were struck by the scale and beauty of the show – reminding us of the opening night spectacle of the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008 (08-08-08).  Afterwards, on the way to our hotel, we learned from our local guide that indeed, the producer (and owner) of the Impression Sanjie Liu show and theater was Yimou Zhang, the chief director of the opening and closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.  In 2008, Zhang was nominated as 2008 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

 

The last chapter of the story-performance is the “Silvery Impression- Performance Grand Ceremony” -- as the 'Wonder of Lijiang Culture', this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie's hometown according to the legend
The last chapter of the story/performance is the “Silvery Impression: Performance Grand Ceremony” — as the ‘Wonder of Lijiang Culture’, this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie’s hometown according to the legend. Over 200 Zhuang girls form a long column across the bridge over the Li River; their silver dresses make the river shimmer in a mysterious manner”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Cook local: Making Strudel at the First Strudel House of Pest and Chocolate Marzipan Bonbons at Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

We started our strudel-making class with a serving platter of 12 different “flavors” of strudel, all prepared at the First Strudel House of Pest, Budapest, Hungary, along with coffee

We started our strudel-making class with a serving platter of 12 different “flavors” of strudel, all prepared at the First Strudel House of Pest, Budapest, Hungary, along with coffee or tea

 

In Budapest, Hungary, one morning we had a chance to experience two different cooking classes – both local specialties: strudel and marzipan-filled chocolate bonbons.  Our first class was at “the First Strudel House of Pest that started its operation in 2007, uniquely in Hungary, in the heart of Budapest, in a historical building built in 1812, with the mission to preserve, hand down and popularize a real Hungarian tradition: the experienced gained in preparing and consuming strudels in order to provide guests with gastronomic adventures that carry weight, history, and values.”  We started our class with a serving platter of 12 different “flavors” of strudel, all prepared at the First Studel House.  Our chef/instructor walked us through an explanation of making strudel and then a demonstration of the dough making. Then it was our turn and the four of us, with the instructor, kneaded the dough and then stretched it carefully across the table until it became translucent – the correct thinness for the raw dough that is then filled, rolled and baked in the oven to produce the really delicious tasting strudels that we began the class with.  Our take home gift was the basket of the uneaten strudels – a nice reminder of a tasty and educational cooking class.

 

The chef demonstrated kneading and stretching the strudel dough to a thinness that allowed us to read a menu through the dough – then he placed the fillings on the raw dough

The chef demonstrated kneading and stretching the strudel dough to a thinness that allowed us to read a menu through the dough – then he placed the fillings on the raw dough (followed by cutting and folding the strudels in preparation for baking), the First Strudel House of Pest, Budapest, Hungary

 

Folding the layers of strudel dough around the filling in preparation for baking, the First Strudel House of Pest, Budapest, Hungary

Folding the layers of strudel dough around the filling in preparation for baking, the First Strudel House of Pest, Budapest, Hungary

 

The chocolate “manufacturing” kitchen in the back of Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary, where we took our hands-on cooking class

The chocolate “manufacturing” kitchen in the back of Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary, where we took our hands-on cooking class

 

Our second class was totally hands-on at the Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace) where we had a private class from one of the Szamos confection company’s chocolatiers in a chocolate candy-making kitchen.  The company specializes in marzipan, a Hungarian delicacy.  According to a VisitBudapest.travel blog, “It was in the early 1930s when a young apprentice confectioner, Mátyás Szamos mastered the art of making a pretty rose from the almondy, sweet product called marzipan.  He believed, that with enough skill, attention and lots of practice almost anything could be handcrafted from the sweetened almond mass.  To date, Szamos Marzipan comes in different shapes and sizes, with the rose being the most famous of them all and definitely one to savor.  Equally delicious are the marzipan bonbons covered with dark chocolate, which by the way make a great gift.”

 

The heart of the kitchen is this machine which melts (and keeps liquid) the 70% Hungarian dark chocolate (the beans were sourced in South America) to be used in the bonbon making, Szamos

The heart of the kitchen is this machine which melts (and keeps liquid) the 70% Hungarian dark chocolate (the beans were sourced in South America) to be used in the bonbon making, Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

 

Making the Szamos chocolate marzipan bonbons by hand requires patience and excellent ingredients.  We took turns folding liquid 70% Hungarian dark chocolate (the beans were sourced in South America) on a marble counter that had chillers installed so we could cool it down while tempering it (that makes the finished chocolate bonbons’ exterior “shiny”).  When at the right temperature, we then filled chocolate molds and, after they sat for a minute, then tipped out the liquid chocolate that had not adhered to the molds.  While these molds were in the refrigerator, cooling, we mixed marzipan with some wine to make the marzipan more pliable when we “piped” it into the molds, which was our next step.  After chilling the molds again, the next step was to pour more tempered, liquid chocolate onto the top of the molds and scraping the molds to remove any loose liquid chocolate that didn’t fill the molds.  Another cooling and then the molds were ready to be emptied.  We each worked several molds – banging the edge of the mold on the granite work surface to break the tension of the bonbon with the mold.  Inverting the molds with more tapping and the individual, shiny dark chocolate marzipan-filled bonbons came tumbling out.  Of course the best part of the class was taking a full box of hand-made (by each of us) bonbons home with us (after tasting the broken ones in the kitchen…).  We enjoyed the bonbons for the duration of the trip and still had some left 10 days later to bring back to the ship to share with our friends onboard.  The class was memorable, and so was the delicious flavor of the chocolate and marzipan combination in the finished bonbons.

 

After our class, the master chocolatier took over the kitchen to temper the liquid chocolate that he then used to make (by hand) some of the marzipan-filled chocolate bonbons that are so

After our class, the master chocolatier took over the kitchen to temper the liquid chocolate that he then used to make (by hand) some of the marzipan-filled chocolate bonbons that are sold at Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

 

The intrepid explorer, properly outfitted in a Szamos black apron, scrapes the liquid chocolate off the top of a bonbon mold as the final step in preparing the bonbons, Szamos Gourmet Ha

The intrepid explorer, properly outfitted in a Szamos black apron, scrapes the liquid chocolate off the top of a bonbon mold as the final step in preparing the bonbons, Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

 

Our finished handmade Szamos chocolate marzipan bonbons fresh out of their molds (before the edges were “cleaned”), Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

Our finished handmade Szamos chocolate marzipan bonbons fresh out of their molds (before the edges were “cleaned”), Szamos Gourmet Ház (Palace), Budapest, Hungary

 

One of the highly decorated buildings we saw on our walk back to our hotel (the magnificently restored Gresham Palace Four Seasons facing the Danube River) on our last afternoon in Budap

One of the highly decorated buildings we saw on our walk back to our hotel (the magnificently restored Gresham Palace Four Seasons facing the Danube River) on our last afternoon in Budapest, Hungary

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

The interior of Kazami Restaurant, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls

The interior of Kazami Restaurant, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls

 

There are basically two types of Okinawan dishes: the elegant cuisine prepared for the Ryukyuan Kings and his court during the Ryukyu Dynasty and the more economical and reasonable dishes developed out of the sensible wisdom of commoners’ everyday life.  Both are influenced by Chinese and Japanese culinary cultures

 

One of the chefs at the woks at Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, preparing individual orders with fresh ingredients

One of the chefs at the woks at Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan, preparing individual orders with fresh ingredients

 

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Kazami Restaurant in Naha, known for its incredibly fresh fish, shellfish, sashimi and rice bowls. The menu changes daily based on what fresh ingredients the chefs can buy at the local markets.

 

A delicious, crispy fried fresh Guruku fish purchased a few hours earlier at the local market, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; we ate almost the whole crispy fish, including the tail and m

A delicious, crispy fried fresh Guruku fish purchased a few hours earlier at the local market, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan; we ate almost the whole crispy fish, including the tail and most of the head (skipping the mouth and eyes), except for the skeletal bones

 

Showing some Chinese influence, the stir-fried beef and tofu with vegetables was quite tasty, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Showing some Chinese influence, the stir-fried beef and tofu with vegetables was quite tasty, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Excellent shrimp-flavored noodles with vegetables and slices of pork, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Excellent shrimp-flavored noodles with vegetables and slices of pork, Kazami, Naha, Okinawa, Japan

 

Eat local: Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

whole-tasmanian-atlantic-salmon-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Whole Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon, Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

On this trip we purposely sought out the Sydney Fish Market for some morning sashimi (really fresh!!) and to purchase seafood for our kitchen on the ship – some for lunches and dinners the next day or two and more for the freezer for the upcoming months when we will be on an expedition and will not have access to either towns or markets.  We were quite excited, as on our previous visit we were staying in a hotel in Sydney and, while we enjoyed some morning sashimi, could not purchase any seafood for “take-away” as we had no access to a kitchen.

 

cooked-morton-bay-bugs-a-shellfish-delicacy-that-tastes-like-lobster-found-around-the-cold-waters-of-south-east-australia-looking-like-a-trilobite-a-fossil-group-of-extinct-marine-arthropods_

Cooked Morton Bay Bugs, a shellfish delicacy that tastes like lobster, found around the cold waters of south-east Australia, looking like a trilobite (a fossil group of extinct marine arthropods that are one of the earliest known groups of arthropods); Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

“SFM (the Sydney Fish Market) is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest seafood market in terms of variety in the world.  Approximately 2,700 crates (around 50-55 tonnes) of the freshest possible seafood is auctioned each day through the computerised Dutch auction system to approximately 160 buyers.  The incredible variety of seafood is sourced from individual fishermen, co-ops, fishing businesses and aquaculture farms in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific Region with over 100 species available to buyers daily.” – SydneyFishMarket.com.au

 

oyster-sashimi-at-the-market-with-multi-colored-caviar-fish-roe-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Oyster “sashimi” at the market with multi-colored caviar (fish roe), Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

cooked-morton-bay-bugs-out-of-the-shell-that-was-stuffed-with-fruit-topped-with-caviar-roe-for-take-away-eating-at-the-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Cooked Morton Bay Bugs (out of the shell that was stuffed with fruit) topped with caviar (roe) for take-away eating at the Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

fresh-local-scampi-raw-for-cooking-at-home-or-at-a-restaurant-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Fresh, local scampi (raw) for cooking at home (or at a restaurant), Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

fresh-scallops-on-the-half-shell-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Fresh scallops on the “half-shell”, Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

freshly-prepared-sashimi-for-take-away-or-eating-at-the-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia-mackerel-sake-salmon-and-scallops

Freshly prepared sashimi for take-away or eating at the Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia – mackerel, sake (salmon) and scallops

 

the-price-says-it-all-note-at-the-time-of-publication-1-au-0-73-us-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

The price says it all (note, at the time of publication, 1 AU$ = 0.73 US$); Sydney Fish Market, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

wild-abalone-sashimi-for-take-away-or-eating-at-the-sydney-fish-market-sydney-new-south-wales-australia

Wild Abalone Sashimi (for take-away or eating at the Sydney Fish Market), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

Perth, Australia

panorama-of-the-downtown-area-and-swan-river-perth-australia

Panorama of the downtown area and Swan River, Perth, Australia

 

The vibrant capital of the state of Western Australia, Perth rests alongside the Swan River, with parks, beaches, bike paths, and golf.  Kings Park and Botanic Garden, an expanse of natural bushland and gardens filled with native flora and fauna, is a popular site for picnics and hiking and biking.  The performing arts are well represented by the Western Australian Opera, Ballet and Symphony.  Stellar restaurants, a casino and a profusion of lively watering holes complete the picture.  As noted in our previous two blog posts, Fremantle, the nearby port city for Perth, holds plenty of appeal of its own — attractions include the new harbor side Western Australia Maritime Museum, home to America’s Cup winner Australia II and the Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre.

 

the-downtown-area-of-perth-as-viewed-from-the-ferry-boat-sailing-into-perth-from-fremantle-australia

The downtown area of Perth, as viewed from the ferry boat sailing into Perth from Fremantle, Australia

 

a-view-of-some-of-the-new-skyscrapers-downtown-as-seen-from-the-gardens-outside-the-supreme-court-perth-australia

A view of some of the new skyscrapers downtown as seen from the gardens outside the Supreme Court, Perth, Australia

 

the-supreme-court-building-perth-australia

The Supreme Court Building, Perth, Australia

 

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Juxtaposition of the gardens and new office buildings, Perth, Australia

 

the-downtown-area-has-a-nice-mix-of-preserved-and-restored-19th-century-buildings-and-tall-modern-high-rise-office-buildings-perth-australia

The downtown area has a nice mix of preserved and restored 19th century buildings and tall, modern high-rise office buildings, Perth, Australia

 

memorial-eucalyptus-trees-line-fraser-avenue-in-kings-park-perth-australia

Memorial eucalyptus trees line Fraser Avenue in Kings Park, Perth, Australia

 

Considered one of the world’s largest inner city parks, Kings Park (and Botanic Garden) is a sprawling paradise of 988 acres/400 hectares of beautifully manicured gardens, modern culture, and Aboriginal and European history.  Approximately two-thirds of the park is protected as bushland, creating a native biological haven.  Within the park is the Botanic Garden, home to 3,000 species of Western Australia’s unique flora.

 

close-up-of-the-downtown-area-perth-australia-taken-from-kings-park

Close up of the downtown area, Perth, Australia, taken from Kings Park

 

We enjoyed a delicious lunch with friends from the ship at Fraser’s, located in Kings Park on Fraser Avenue with spectacular views of downtown Perth and the Swan River from its hillside location.  Executive Chef Chris Taylor oversees the kitchen that prepares West Australian specialties such as carpaccio of kangaroo fillet – a delicious starter that we all enjoyed, reminding us of a nice lean, tasty beef carpaccio.

 

the-clock-tower-at-the-entrance-to-london-court-building-and-entrance-to-the-shopping-street-behind-the-building-perth-australia

The clock tower at the entrance to London Court (building and entrance to the shopping street behind the building), Perth, Australia

 

julia-childs-eggplant-and-walnut-dip-with-crackers-served-for-a-dinner-party-in-our-apartment-on-the-ship-perth-australia

Julia Child’s eggplant and walnut dip with crackers, served for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship, Perth, Australia

 

our-home-made-dinner-continued-with-a-starter-of-asparagus-tonnato-perth-australia

Our home-made dinner continued with a starter of asparagus tonnato (cooked asparagus covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna), Perth, Australia

 

seafood-stew-with-local-ingredients-tiger-shrimp-scallops-and-new-zealand-green-lip-mussels-from-the-market-at-fishermans-bay-in-fremantle-the-port-for-perth-australia

Seafood stew with local ingredients (Tiger Shrimp, scallops and New Zealand green lip mussels) from the market at Fisherman’s Bay in Fremantle, the port for Perth, Australia

 

for-desert-we-served-a-frozen-pineapple-mousse-with-the-intrepid-explorers-chocolate-hazelnut-squares-cookies-that-won-the-prize-for-the-best-all-around-holiday-cookie-on-the-ship-for-2016

For desert we served a frozen pineapple mousse with the intrepid explorer’s chocolate hazelnut squares (cookies) that won the prize for the best all around holiday cookie on the ship for 2016; Perth, Australia

 

Eat local: Cooking class at Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento Harbor in the Bay of Naples, looking north to Mount Vesuvius across the bay, Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento Harbor in the Bay of Naples, looking north to Mount Vesuvius across the bay, Sorrento, Italy

 

Sorrento, perched on a ledge between the water overlooking Naples and Mount Vesuvius, is a beautiful Italian town of 20,000 residents, with just as many tourists in the summer months (and sometimes it feels like even more!).  Surrounded by lemon and olive groves, this gateway to the Amalfi Coast has a lovely old quarter (Centro Storico), a lively shopping district, a gorgeous rugged coastline, and friendly residents.

 

Piazza Tasso in the center of Sorrento, Italy’s Historic Center (Centro Storico), overlooking the Bay of Naples and the harbor (to the north)

Piazza Tasso in the center of Sorrento, Italy’s Historic Center (Centro Storico), overlooking the Bay of Naples and the harbor (to the north)

 

On the edge of Sorrento, Italy, a small group of us participated in a hands-on cooking class at Villa Ida, an inviting home surrounded by grape vines, fruit trees and gardens (where we dined on a sumptuous luncheon that we helped cook)

On the edge of Sorrento, Italy, a small group of us participated in a hands-on cooking class at Villa Ida, an inviting home surrounded by grape vines, fruit trees and gardens (where we dined on a sumptuous luncheon that we helped cook)

 

We joined a small group from our ship and participated in a cooking class at Villa Ida, an inviting home surrounded by grape vines, fruit trees and gardens.  The estate is owned by Ida’s daughter and granddaughter (who acted as translator for her mother); both served as our instructors, demonstration chefs and cooking chefs (with several assistants).  Charlie, the brother-in-law of Ida’s daughter, makes wines in Sorrento from grapes he purchases from friends’ vineyards nearby – local, naturally made wines with little fuss.  After our class and just before eating on the beautiful patio in the garden, we had the opportunity to visit his wine “cellar” and taste his 2014 and 2015 wines with salami and cheese.  With our luncheon we had both the red and white wines (“Charlie’s Wine” and “Ida’s Wine”).  The experience at Villa Ida was great fun, educational, and a surprisingly savory luncheon (that we had helped prepare!).  We left fully sated and ready to head back to the ship for a late afternoon siesta.

 

One of our appetizers was zucchini flowers lightly fried in a tempura-like batter, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

One of our appetizers was zucchini flowers lightly fried in a tempura-like batter, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

Our appetizer plates included the fried zucchini flowers, fresh tomatoes in olive oil, home-made focaccia bread, and burrata cheese; Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

Our appetizer plates included the fried zucchini flowers, fresh tomatoes in olive oil, home-made focaccia bread, and burrata cheese; Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

The simple ingredients for our baked pasta-  cooked penne pasta tossed in tomato puree, diced mozzarella cheese, diced eggplant that had been lightly fried (in olive oil), and Parmesan cheese for the top, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

The simple ingredients for our baked pasta- cooked penne pasta tossed in tomato puree, diced mozzarella cheese, diced eggplant that had been lightly fried (in olive oil), and Parmesan cheese for the top, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

The finished baked pasta was scrumptious at Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

The finished baked pasta was scrumptious at Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

Sliced potatoes with rosemary & Italian parsley tossed with olive oil & salt were baked in the oven to accompany veal scallopini that was slowly cooked in olive oil over medium heat and then served with a wine sauce, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

Sliced potatoes with rosemary & Italian parsley tossed with olive oil & salt were baked in the oven to accompany veal scallopini that was slowly cooked in olive oil over medium heat and then served with a wine sauce, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

We each made a small tiramisu after watching Ida’s daughter (our instructor who was assisted by her daughter who also translated) demonstrate the way to combine the ingredients, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

We each made a small tiramisu after watching Ida’s daughter (our instructor who was assisted by her daughter who also translated) demonstrate the way to combine the ingredients, Villa Ida, Sorrento, Italy

 

Our ship at anchor in the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background, Sorrento, Italy

Our ship at anchor in the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background, Sorrento, Italy

 

Eat local: Gaeta, Italy

The Medieval Quarter of Gaeta, Italy, with Castello Angevin-Aragonese on top of the hill – once one of southern Italy’s strongest fortresses

The Medieval Quarter of Gaeta, Italy, with Castello Angevin-Aragonese on top of the hill – once one of southern Italy’s strongest fortresses

 

Located an hour or so from both Rome and Naples, Italy, Gaeta somehow manages to retain much of its “Old World” ambiance, especially outside the summer season when its beaches fill with Italians, particularly Romans, seeking sun and water.  The town, with a population of 20,800, is divided into two parts on either side of the giant hill, Monte Orlando, that separates the two – the Medieval Quarter and New Gaeta.  On our first day in town, we explored New Gaeta and did a lot of food shopping along Via Indipendenzia which is home to numerous small food shops, each specializing in one type of food – bakeries, cheese stores, butchers. salumeria, fresh produce, fish, etc.

 

 

Chiesa St. Francesco – dating back to a monastery built in 1222 that was founded by Francis of Assisi and then converted to a church in the 14th century, Gaeta, Italy dominates the hillside of Monte Orlando, overlooking Gaeta Harbor_

Chiesa St. Francesco – dating back to a monastery built in 1222 that was founded by Francis of Assisi and then converted to a church in the 14th century, Gaeta, Italy dominates the hillside of Monte Orlando, overlooking Gaeta Harbor

 

The façade of the Sanctuary of SS Ammunziata, Gaeta, Italy

The façade of the Sanctuary of SS Ammunziata, Gaeta, Italy

 

Pizza is served in wedges that are then hand cut into bite size “slices” at Pizzeria Rustica and piled onto a tray for eating al fresco under the trees at Plazza Liberta, Gaeta, Italy; our favorite was the white (no tomato sauce) prosciutto and cheese

Pizza is served in wedges that are then hand cut into bite size “slices” at Pizzeria Rustica and piled onto a tray for eating al fresco under the trees at Plazza Liberta, Gaeta, Italy; our favorite was the white (no tomato sauce) prosciutto and cheese

 

Afterwards, we enjoyed excellent local pizza from what is reputedly the best pizza stand – Pizzeria Rustica — in the town that is credited with inventing pizza.  The first recorded use of the word pizza was around the year 1,000 A.D. in Gaeta, before Naples began making the famous “pies”.  On board the ship that evening we cooked some of our local purchases for a tasty dinner in our apartment that was a toast to the summer season.

 

The tower of city hall, Gaeta, Italy

The tower of city hall, Gaeta, Italy

 

The first course of our home cooked dinner was salad Caprese (fresh tomatoes with a creamy, local mozzarella that was similar to burrata in its creaminess, Gaeta, Italy

The first course of our home cooked dinner was salad Caprese (fresh tomatoes with a creamy, local mozzarella that was similar to burrata in its creaminess, Gaeta, Italy

 

Franco selecting the freshest clams for us at his fish market in Gaeta, Italy; while he spoke only Italian, we were fortunate that a younger patron at the store spoke English & could translate for us – all the locals we met were cheerful and helpful

Franco selecting the freshest clams for us at his fish market in Gaeta, Italy; while he spoke only Italian, we were fortunate that a younger patron at the store spoke English & could translate for us – all the locals we met were cheerful and helpful

 

The main course of our home cooked dinner was linguine with Franco’s fresh clams in wine and garlic sauce, Gaeta, Italy

The main course of our home cooked dinner was linguine with Franco’s fresh clams in wine and garlic sauce, Gaeta, Italy

 

Accompanying our pasta was a “salad” of fresh roasted, sliced vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and fennel) drizzled with a little local EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), Gaeta, Italy

Accompanying our pasta was a “salad” of fresh roasted, sliced vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and fennel) drizzled with a little local EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), Gaeta, Italy

 

Eat local: “A Cooking Day in Rome”, Roma, Italy

Herbs, knives and utensils for our class at Chef David’s apartment-classroom in Roma, Italy, though his program, “A Cooking Day in Rome”

Herbs, knives and utensils for our class at Chef David’s apartment-classroom in Roma, Italy, though his program, “A Cooking Day in Rome”

 

The four of us visiting Roma had made previous arrangements to meet a professional chef for a morning of shopping at a local market and then a hands-on class where we would prepare several courses and then eat what we had cooked for a late lunch.  We met Chef David Sgueglia della Marra at the Pantheon early in the morning and then walked through his neighborhood to Campo de Fiore where there is an open air food market in the mornings.  Chef David purchased fruits and vegetables at the market and then we headed east to his apartment where our cooking class was held.

 

An overview of the open air daily food market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

An overview of the open air daily food market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

 

We bought tomatoes and green zucchini with flowers at the market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

We bought tomatoes and green zucchini with flowers at the market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

 

The fresh fruit looked terrific at the market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

The fresh fruit looked terrific at the market in Campo de Fiore, Roma, Italy

 

Chef David Sgueglia della Marra, founder of the “A Cooking Day in Rome” program, working with his students on whipped cream for our dessert

Chef David Sgueglia della Marra, founder of the “A Cooking Day in Rome” program, working with his students on whipped cream for our dessert

 

Before we each made a dough ball of pasta and then kneaded it and rolled it out through the pasta machine, we got instruction from Chef David on how to mix the water with the 00 Durum Wheat flour to make the ideal Italian pasta dough

Before we each made a dough ball of pasta and then kneaded it and rolled it out through the pasta machine, we got instruction from Chef David on how to mix the water with the 00 Durum Wheat flour to make the ideal Italian pasta dough

 

After the water is blended into the flour, we were shown how to begin the hand kneading on the wooden board

After the water is blended into the flour, we were shown how to begin the hand kneading on the wooden board

 

After the dough was the correct consistency and had a chance to “settle”, we used a rolling pin and then the pasta machine to make sheets of thins pasta that were then hand cut and hand rolled into hollow, twisted tubes

After the dough was the correct consistency and had a chance to “settle”, we used a rolling pin and then the pasta machine to make sheets of thins pasta that were then hand cut and hand rolled into hollow, twisted tubes

 

The zucchini (and their fried, cut flowers) were incorporated into the pasta sauce and the final dish (with some Parmesan cheese) was fantastic for lunch

The zucchini (and their fried, cut flowers) were incorporated into the pasta sauce and the final dish (with some Parmesan cheese) was fantastic for lunch

 

Our main course was baked, stuffed fresh eggplants with a filling of tomatoes, chopped eggplant, pecorino cheese with lots of olive oil and spices, particularly oregano

Our main course was baked, stuffed fresh eggplants with a filling of tomatoes, chopped eggplant, pecorino cheese with lots of olive oil and spices, particularly oregano

 

Dessert was a frozen “semifredo” of fresh Italian cantaloupe melon puree with separately whipped eggs and whipping cream with a fresh fruit syrup on top

Dessert was a frozen “semifredo” of fresh Italian cantaloupe melon puree with separately whipped eggs and whipping cream with a fresh fruit syrup on top

 

The exterior of the Ealaly, Roma, Italy

The exterior of the Ealaly complex, Roma, Italy

 

Eataly is now well known in New York City, NY, USA, as a shopping emporium and collection of restaurants with all things Italian; the original was in Italy and we visited the larger of the two complexes in Roma, Italy.  We did quite a bit of shopping – both fresh produce for upcoming meals and a lot of dried pasta, tomatoes, etc. for the pantry for cooking Italian meals as we circumnavigate the world, long after we depart from this year’s visit to Italy.

 

Fresh, local pomodori (tomatoes) in the green grocer section of Ealaly, Roma, Italy

Fresh, local pomodori (tomatoes) in the green grocer section of Ealaly, Roma, Italy

 

One of the many restuarants and “cafes” in Ealaly, Roma, Italy, featured fresh, hand-made flatbreads with very interesting toppings (e.g., zucchini and cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, on the left)

One of the many restuarants and “cafes” in Ealaly, Roma, Italy, featured fresh, hand-made flatbreads with very interesting toppings (e.g., zucchini and cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, on the left)

 

A display of regional Italian products, Ealaly, Roma, Italy

A display of regional Italian products, Ealaly, Roma, Italy

 

Eat local: Café Niederegger (marzipan), Lübeck, Germany

Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger, specializing in marzipan, in the heart of Lübeck, Germany, in 1806

Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger, specializing in marzipan, in the heart of Lübeck, Germany, in 1806

 

In 1806, master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck — today it is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall).  The company is now run by the seventh generation of the same family. Café Niederegger is claimed by the family to be the unofficial hallmark of the Hanseatic city, such is the world renown of their marzipan confections.

 

The current, contemporary building housing the café, museum and some of the marzipan production is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

The current, contemporary building housing the café, museum and some of the marzipan production is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Marzipan was invented far from Germany, where almonds and sugar are grown.  Rhazes, a Persian doctor who lived from 850 to 923 A.D., wrote a book in which he praised the curative qualities of almond and sugar paste.  When the crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought with them a host of spices and Oriental secrets.  In 13th century Venice, Naples and Sicily, spices and confectionery were generally traded  in tiny boxes.  The enchanting word “Mataban” (box) gradually came to be used for the contents of the box:  Mazapane (Italian), Massepain (French.), Marzipan (German).  In the 13th century, the renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating Marzipan.  In his doctrinal teaching, he reassures inquiring and anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.”  In his stories, the great novelist Boccaccio clearly describes the correlation between passion and marzipan.  In those days, marzipan was topped with gold leaf to crown the sweet temptation. — source: Café Niederegger

 

A wooden mould for marzipan confections, based on a lithograph of the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall) by Carl Schroeder, in the Niederegger marzipan museum (upstairs), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

A wooden mould for marzipan confections, based on a lithograph of the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall) by Carl Schroeder, in the Niederegger marzipan museum (upstairs), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Great Hanseatic merchant boats brought spices and other prized ingredients to the North.  Initially, however, only apothecaries were allowed to trade with sugar and spices.  Not until confectionary became a trade in its own right were so-called ‘canditors’ allowed to produce marzipan.  The first Europeans to indulge in marzipan were kings and rich people.  It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth I of England, who lived from 1533 to 1603, was addicted to all things sweet.   The saying ‘regal enjoyment’ was coined.  Later, at the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s sumptuous feasts, huge tables laden with marzipan were the order of the day.  Marzipan reproductions of all sorts of fruits, poultry and game were created – anything you desired could be made.  In the first half of the 19th century, the general population were now able to sample the almond delicacy to their heart’s content in coffee houses.  Now that sugar could be extracted from sugar beet, the costly luxury became slightly more affordable.  Marzipan was also particularly popular and prized in Lübeck.  Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck in 1806.  Café Niederegger’s reputation grew thanks to excellent quality.  Their recipe for marzipan – as many almonds as possible, as little sugar as necessary – is secret, and has been passed on from generation to generation since the founder’s death.  Thus, Niederegger Marzipan remains what it has always been: a delicious speciality made from the very best almonds. — source: Café Niederegger

 

A sailing ship made out of marzipan in the retail store at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

A sailing ship made out of marzipan in the retail store at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

After a guided tour of the museum, we had the opportunity to eat homemade marzipan cake with coffee/tea in the Café Niederegger.  We had lots of time for shopping for delectables for the ship and some presents to bring home to the family in the U.S.  A small group of us then attended a marzipan modeling class to learn the basics of how the various hand-crafted designs are created (see the sailing ship photograph above, for example!); the photographs from our class are at the end of this blog post…  Of course, the bulk items are all created in moulds (see the photograph of the historical wooden mould, earlier in this blog post).

 

Petit fours and other marzipan confections for sale at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Petit fours and other marzipan confections for sale at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Not exactly Homard Bleu from Normandy, but tasty lobsters (marzipan), none the less, Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Not exactly Homard Bleu from Normandy, but tasty lobsters (marzipan), none the less, Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

The intrepid explorer took a marzipan modeling class at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

The intrepid explorer took a marzipan modeling class at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Your intrepid blogger’s attempt at marzipan creatures – a mouse and an elephant (not to scale!), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Your intrepid blogger’s attempt at marzipan creatures – a mouse and an elephant (not to scale!), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Eat local: traversing the Kiel Canal (connecting the North Sea to the Baltic Sea), Germany

The freshwater Kiel Canal saves considerable time going from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea (not sailing through the rough waters off the Jutland Peninsula) across northern Germany (from near Hamburg to Kiel)

The freshwater Kiel Canal saves considerable time going from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea (not sailing through the rough waters off the Jutland Peninsula) across northern Germany (from near Hamburg to Kiel)

 

Originally constructed between 1887 and 1895 and named in honor of Kaiser Wilheim, the Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee Kanal), which links the North Sea at Brunsbuttel (near Hamburg) with the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau, is the world’s busiest artificial waterway.  Its initial purpose was to facilitate movement of the German fleet.  Although the canal is just a distance of about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in length, it saves roughly 250 nautical miles (460 kilometers) for ships and small or vessels moving between the two bodies of water.  Entrance is gained at a lock at either end, with small boats and ships often sharing passage.  Expanded to a depth of 36 feet (11 meters) and a depth of 328 feet (100 meters), the canal accommodates fairly large vessels, although megaships and tankers must take the longer route around the Jutland Peninsula.

 

A hotel and homes along the side of the Kiel Canal, Germany

A hotel and homes along the side of the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

A railroad bridge, one of several crossings of the canal (the automobile-truck bridges are free), Kiel Canal, Germany

A railroad bridge, one of several crossings of the canal (the automobile-truck bridges are free), Kiel Canal, Germany

 

Trivia about the Kiel Canal:

  • It took 9,000 workers eight years to dig the Kiel Canal.
  • Though originally named the Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal, Germans used to refer to it as the Nord-Ostsee Kanal.
  • During 2015, 88 ships passed through the Kiel Canal every day – a total of 32,091 vessels for the year.
  • Though there are two locks in the canal (at either end), these were designed mainly to protect the structure against movements of the tides.

 

 

Close-up of the railroad bridge crossing the Kiel Canal, Germany

Close-up of the railroad bridge crossing the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

An appetizer of homemade crab cakes, asparagus, mache and tomatoes for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

An appetizer of homemade crab cakes, asparagus, mache and tomatoes for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

The entrée, prepared by our co-hosts, of filet mignon with wild mushrooms and a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce with Dauphinoise potatoes & haricot verts for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

The entrée, prepared by our co-hosts, of filet mignon with wild mushrooms and a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce with Dauphinoise potatoes & haricot verts for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

The dessert was a chocolate-caramel tarte based on a Parisian family recipe from our friend, Paule, for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

The dessert was a chocolate-caramel tarte based on a Parisian family recipe from our friend, Paule, for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany