Eat Around the World Challenge Recap

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I never thought when starting this challenge I would enjoy myself so much and also get so fat from it.  We started off the year with an average Irish breakfast and ended it with an amazing Israeli breakfast.  I had a goal of reaching 75 countries and we surpassed that by eating from 84.

I learned that I like some foods more than I like others that I have never tried before.  In Japan I tried octopus for the first time (which I loved).  I came to realize that maybe I am not the biggest fan of Burmese food or maybe I should never try making curry again from scratch.

We brought along so many guests to join us in this eclectic adventure. Dave Ravikoff joined us first to a tiny Honduran restaurant where  I came to realize that I loved horchata.  Christina Hernandez wrote an awesome post about our Kenyan meal where we learned hot really is HOT.  Melissa Williams treated us (which is most important) to a fantastic Greek dinner, where we had the WORST service.  Paige Knappenberger wrote a great post about our trip to Iran for Moby Dick’s, where I learned it was no standard “fast food” joint.  Malvi Ganoza joined us for a gas station sandwich for Uruguay and an amazing meal at a new local Panamanian restaurant.

Both parent units even joined us for a country cuisine.  Bridget’s parents joined us for Cuban food while were in Florida.  My parents were up in DC and had an interesting Russian meal with us.

The Kolskys joined us for fantastic fried chicken that was Korean.  Abby and Jake showed us a great restaurant outside of DC for Bolivian food.

Michael and Mary DeVito went out of their way and joined us for Ethiopian, Laotian, Egyptian, even treated us to a dessert for American food.  Half the party also joined us Paraguayan & Swiss cuisine.

Bridget and I had a lot of ups and downs on our adventure.  As we look back we don’t regret anything we tried to cook or eat.  Many foods that we ate surprised us, good and bad.  A few were awful but a majority were fantastic.  Here are our favorites and worst categories.

BEST BREAKFAST/BRUNCH:
Matt: Argentina (Rural Society)
Bridget: France (Le Diplomate)

BEST DESSERT:
Matt: Philippines- Purple Yam Ice Cream (Purple Patch)
Bridget: South Africa- Malva (Homemade)

BEST FOOD TRUCK:
Matt: Puerto Rico (Borinquen Lunch Box)
Bridget: Puerto Rico (Borinquen Lunch Box)

BEST APPETIZER:
Matt: Georgia Khachapuri (Compass Rose)
Bridget: Georgia Khachapuri (Compass Rose)
BEST ENTREE:
Matt: Brazil- All Da Meats (Fogo de Chao)
Bridget: Philippines (Purple Patch) 

BEST DRINK:
Matt: Honduras- Horchata (El Catrachito)
Bridget: Czech Republic- Czech 75 (Bistro Bohem)

WEIRDEST FOOD EATEN:
Matt: Taiwan- Shaved Ice Mountain (Taipei Cafe)
Bridget: Taiwan- Shaved Ice Mountain (Taipei Cafe)
BEST HOME COOKED MEAL:
Matt: Denmark
Bridget: Ecuador 

WORST HOME COOKED MEAL:
Matt: Burma 
Bridget: Burma

WORST EXPERIENCE NOT HOMEMADE:
Matt: Greece (Kellari)
Bridget: Belgium (Belgian Cafe)
BEST EXPERIENCE NOT HOMEMADE: 
Matt: Mexico (Hidden Spot) 
Bridget: Mexico (Hidden Spot)
RESTAURANT WE WOULD GO BACK TO FIRST IN 2016:
Matt: Cambodia (Maketto)
Bridget: Georgia (Compass Rose)

MOST UNDERRATED COUNTRY:
Matt: Pakistan (Cusbah)
Bridget: Afghanistan (Local 16)
BEST COUNTRY:
Matt: Philippines (Purple Patch)
Bridget: Mexico (Hidden Spot)


This was a fun challenge and we learned a lot. Not only did I learn to eat different foods, I learned about different cultures. Also I got really fat. 84 country cuisines and we move on to 2016 with new adventures and losing weight.

-Matt


 

Israel: Christmas Breakfast

Well here it is, Christmas Day, our last post of the year.  When we started this challenge I had no idea where we were going or how we were going to get there.  After starting with a not so great Irish breakfast, we had a hell of a trip to get to our 84th country’s cuisine: Israel.

For Israel we had a staple breakfast/brunch dish called Skakshouka.  It is a very popular dish across the Middle East as well as North Africa.  A dish that was thought to be created in the Ottoman Empire and has survived until this day.

The dish was very easy to make and tasted great when done.  Bridget cooked most of it while I prepped. We halved the original recipe but had plenty for us to enjoy.  I prepped the onions, tomatoes, green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic.  All were sauteed together for about 20 minutes.

After that we put a half bunch of swiss chard and 5 eggs cracked on top.

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In that light it may not look as appealing.  But we covered it and let it cook for about 10 more minutes.  This gave us heaven in a pan.

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We toasted a few pieces of toast to go with it.  The bread was the key as it soaked up the sauce and flavors that sauteed before the eggs were placed in.

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As you can see I found a beer from this country.  This beer, called Malka, is a blonde ale that is brewed in Israel.  It definitely went well with the dish and even improved one of the top breakfasts we’ve had with the flavor of a Belgian Wit.

This by far was one of the best breakfasts that we enjoyed throughout this challenge.  It may have started with a disappointing Irish breakfast but we ended with a delicious Shakshouka to close out 2015.

-Matt

 

Lithuania: Last Supper

Back in 1992 the Lithuanian basketball team had special tie dye skeleton shirts made for them.  This is the one and only fact I know about Lithuania.  In fact if not for this information I wouldn’t even have known it existed.

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For our meal tonight I found something that would be simple to make for dinner.  If you have kept up and read some of our homemade blog posts nothing is simple.  In fact anything “simple” usually turns into a complete mess, which we were close here.

The Lithuanian dish I made is called Zrazai.   They are popular across Europe and have many different names.  Zrazai are beef rolls stuffed with mushrooms of different types.

Right from the start Bridget was not gonna be happy since she is not a big mushroom fan.  I thought I could hide the mushrooms but boy was I wrong.  I learned how to reconstitute porcini mushrooms.  (Didn’t even know this was a thing at first.) After doing this over the day I cut up another 3 cups of mushrooms (Yeah, there is tons in here and no way to hide.)  The mushrooms, onions and garlic were all sauteed then mixed with breadcrumbs.  This made a stuffing that would be used later.

I wrapped sandwich steaks in rolls, stuffed with the mushroom mixture. I then rigged kabob sticks into toothpicks.  This let me keep the rolls together without falling them apart too much.

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After stuffing them and getting them to stick together in a roll, I floured them and browned them in a pan.

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The rolls were removed and placed in the ninja crockpot as  I put some liquid in (water from mushroom reconstitution and broth), letting it simmer for 45 min.  Instead of simmering most of the liquid burned up and it was done quite early.   They looked a little strange but had good flavor.  In fact Bridget liked them more than me and the mushroom flavor was dulled.

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The other reason we did a cuisine from this obscure country was because I found a beer from Total Wine.  This beer was delicious to me and came in a funky bottle.  No other special reason than I wanted to drink this beer from Lithuania.

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This would be our last dinner we made during this challenge.  Maybe it wasn’t our best but I enjoyed making something different and fun.

-Matt

Canada: A Heart Stopper

Poutine is Canada’s gift to the world.  It is also a dish that might kill someone within hours of eating it.  If you don’t know what is poutine , this is the time to read about what heaven would taste like.

Ketchup is boring now to me.  The only thing I want on my french fries is gravy and cheese curds.  Not gravy OR cheese curds, please make sure they are together.  Now you know what poutine is, let’s show you how we made it.

We went ahead and made everything from scratch except the cheese curds.  I cut up a couple potatoes, rinsed em and threw them in a deep pot of vegetable oil.  After frying on 300°, I dumped them on a paper towel.  I then heated it back up to 375° and re-fried for a couple a minutes.  This 2nd frying made all the difference in the word.  The potatoes were fresh and crisp as can be.

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While this was going on and of course I was making a mess, Bridget started making the gravy.  Nothing special about the gravy.  Just a thick brown gravy to go right on top the fresh hot fries. (Editor’s note: it was a slightly different gravey, we mixed chicken and beef stock and added some chopped garlic).

To go with the gravy and fries was the coup d’état, cheese curds.  We definitely weren’t going to make our own cheese curds and using mozzarella was a fake way to go.  So we found a local store that sold fresh made local cheese curds.

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Before we got to eat we drank a few beers that were Canadian.  One was a gross green bottle beer called Moosehead.  I thought I would skip the worst beer from Canada ever, Labatts, but boy was I wrong.  Moosehead is awful. (Editor’s note: I didn’t think it was that bad, Matt has something against beers in green bottles). The 2nd beer was much better and tasted like a Belgium wheat beer, Blanche de Chambly.

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Back to the heart stopper.  When you put all three of these ingredients together you get the most heart stopping dish ever made.   The hot fresh fries were thrown in a bowl and salted.  The gravy was ladled from the pot onto the fries.  They were tossed with the cheese curds as well.  This gives you heaven on a platter when mixed together.

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If the picture looks greasy, it’s not doing it enough justice.  I informed Bridget that this will be my last meal if ever on death row (just sayin.)

-Matt

Argentina: Too Fancy for Flip Flops

As the year winds down we find it harder to find a decent restaurant for a new country’s cuisine, much less brunch.  While we have enjoyed most of South America, one main country we have missed is Argentina.  Luckily I found a restaurant, Rural Society (dc.ruralsocietyrestaurant.com/) in a Loews hotel  (Which apparently is too fancy for flip flops).

As I said the options for brunch and a new country’s cuisine was slim pickings by the end of our challenge.  We were embarking on cuisine #81 and we didn’t realize this would be one of the best.  Rural Society had a brunch menu that was prix fixe (for those not as sophisticated as me that means “set price.”)  Again, easy for Bridget to order and not make a difficult decision.

Both our meals came with Facturas, a variety of Argentinian pastries.  There were 4 different types in the bread basket, including a dulce de leche stuffed pastry.

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The prix fixe meals each came with two courses.  Bridget ordered a dish called Morrones.  Morrones, which means a variety of peppers in Spanish.  This dish was roasted red peppers with whipped eggplant and anchovies on top.  The anchovies were a surprise to Bridget since she didn’t exactly read that far in on the menu.  Not the most appealing part of the dish at 11am.

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I ordered a dish that is basically hot cheese in a skillet and on the side was a salad of arugula.  Now that may not sound as tasty as you think, but I wanted more of this after I finished.  Provoleta is trademark for an Argentinian type of provolone cheese.  As you can see the cheese was boiling hot and cooked right in the skillet.

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After sharing the pastries and first courses we were mostly stuffed.   We were definitely not ready for the giant second courses that were coming up next.  Not like that stopped us from trying.

Bridget ordered the Medialuna, which means half moon, a sandwich served on a croissant (That’s where the half moon comes in).  In the half moon was a large amount of smoked ham, fontina cheese and a fried egg.  On the side were perfectly cooked breakfast potatoes with Merken, a smoked chili pepper.

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For my second course I went with the Gramajo, an Argentine omelet.  When it came out I had no idea what I ordered anymore but I wasn’t disappointed. This omelet is very popular in Argentina and was enjoyed at this table as well.  Their way of doing fried potatoes were fantastic and enjoyed with the serrano ham on the omelet.

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Argentina is our 81st country’s cuisine we visited during this challenge.  It will also be our last restaurant we visit on this challenge in 2015.  There was no better way to enjoy our last restaurant in DC with this special prix fixe brunch.

-Matt