Friday, October 24, 2008


The bread we get in Abu Dhabi is crap, pardon my French. I've only been able to find two places that will sell half decent bread at most, one of 'em charging as much AED12 (around EUR2,50/$3) per loaf of around 6, maybe 10 slices. And I do love my bread...

Ok, I admit, I was spoiled while living in Holland, the Reinkenstraat especially. There were two excellent bakeries within 100 meters of my apartment. Nice 'n fresh, crunchy crust, soft bread, choice of tens of different kinds of bread, from plain white to exotic whole grain multi-blah-blah :)

So I was in the mood to find an alternative, and baking it myself seemed the best option. People have suggested I get my own breadmaker, but for those who've seen our kitchen: ain't gonna fit... and besides, mankind has made bread for ages without the assistance of a bread maker!

Last June while in the States, I picked up a mix of 10-grain stuff to make a loaf, and I still have to try it. But even if it's good, even if it's delicious, we can't get the stuff here, and shipping it over is just plain ridiculous, just for some bread.

Then I stumbled upon a posting in the website Get Rich Slowly (highly recommended, not just for frugal people ;), titled Easy and Cheap home-made bread, now how could I resist?! Here's the result:
Doesn't that just make your mouth water? I did with us! And it not only looks delicious, but the taste was awesome!!! We'll be doing this more often!
Go ahead, friend-cooks of mine, give it a try. It will not disappoint!

And while we're on the topic, this was the veggie dish I made yesterday (along with Poached Salmon with Caper-Egg sauce):
Look at those colors! It's called Roasted Autumn Vegetables, in honor of the fact it is autumn (although it's hard to tell here in Abu...). It had, among others, pumpkin, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, red beetroot, drizzled with a little olive oil, bay leaves, rosemary, thai curry leaves and some peppercorns. A treat!

Both recipes came from one of my new additions to my collection, Saveur Cooks Authentic American, which I picked up while in Toronto in a discount book store (we brought with us over 20 books in total, of which 5 cookbooks! Two of the others were The Professional Chef, weighing in at 4 kg(!), and La Cuisine de Référence (thanks, dad, for picking this one up!), both very interesting reference books with a gazillion tips and recipes in them, both well over 1000 pages! (La Cuisine is in French, but it has pictures too! ;) check out the first chapter in PDF format)

(oh, right, our trip to The Netherlands and Canada! More on that later... we had a great time, met up with a million people (thanks for everyone making time for us and even throwing schedules around to meet us!), surprised a handful of them, enjoyed plenty of yummy dinners (Troubadour!), lunches, brunches and whathaveyounot, had great weather most of the time. A big thanks to our dear friends who let us stay at their place! More to follow!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Belarus Trip

As Q mentioned previously, I managed to pull off a five-day trip to Belarus last weekend. For those of you who don't know, Belarus is a small country next to Russia, and was part of former-USSR. And the name Belarus means "White Russia" for its people's fair skin color. Anyway, I found the country uhm interesting in its own way. FYI, I posted some photos in this online photo album.

- Language barrier. In my defence, I was too busy to learn some basic Russian before hand. So after many "denial and error", I only figured out at the end of Day 2 that places with big signs of "PECTOPAH" are restaurants. You see, in Russian alphabets, "P" pronounces as "R", "C" as "S", etc. Thank God for sign language.

- Minsk is also the most un-touristy city I've been to so far. There's very little information in English and I was under the impression that residents were just not used to seeing adventure-type tourists, although I understand there's plenty "other" type tourists. When they see a foreigner wandering their shops and streets, the first guess is likely that he/she is there to study.
- I managed to meet up with a Canadian guy who studied Russian there (Thank you, Jon!) and got some downloads from him that Lonely Planet would never tell. Several thing in particular are that Belarus is a relatively closed country with resticted immigration policy, service in general is horrible (that would explain why sales staff would ignore me most of the time), and apparently a lot of Belarusians are openly racists towards Asians and Africans. Hum.

- Almost all of Minks was rebuilt after destroyed badly during WWII and the USSR regime managed to put in all sorts of KGB-looking concrete buildings, so yeah, the city didn't give off a very romantic feel. Luckily my hotel room has a veiw of the riverside park.

All the interesting things aside, there are two things I would definitely go back to Belarus for: leather boots and ballet/concert/opera performances:

- The national unofficial outfits for Belarussian women are skirts and boots, and the younger they get, the higher the boots go, the taller the heels go, and the shorter the skirts go. Needless to say they have wide variety of good quality (and relatively cheap) leather boots. I only got uhm pairs of shoes - hey, they all fit in my carry-on bag!

- Watched two national ballet and one philharmonic orchestra concerts with row 3 to 5 seats, for a grand total of $18! The cheapest seat only costs $2!! WOW.

All in all, I am not sure if I quite found the pulse of Belarus, but I have a feeling that's probably because it's still sleeping. ...That's my report, from yours truly.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Better Than Sarah Palin

According to the US VP candidate Sarah Palin's theory, I am better than her in foreign policies! That really should not come as a surprise since I've lived in Canada and actually visited a former-USSR country. As a matter of fact, so are the Indian dry cleaner, Pakistanie cab driver, Phillipino cleaning lady - they all have more foreign policy experience than Palin! Now that is scary. Oh wait, we can't play flute or smile as pretty, but surely real foreign policy experience counts as something in a political election?!?

I am not American and I am already so embarrased when I saw her in the interviews. Seriously, just about all of the expats I have spoken to want to see Obama-Biden lead one of the most powerful countries/economies, so for all you Americans reading this, please do the world a favor and pick wisely.