It’s Tuesday, but Eyjafjallajokull is making travel to and from Europe exceedingly difficult.  News of stranded travelers, massive ash clouds and the British Royal Navy on the move are everywhere.

So rather than talking about our own travel, we’re deferring to one of our favorite food writers: David Lebovitz.  He’s the guy who turned us on to homemade Roquefort and honey ice cream, and Elizabeth just flew through his “The Sweet Life in Paris.”

This morning he did a huge favor to those who are stranded in the City of Lights: a list of “10 Things to Do if You’re Stuck in Paris.”

Check out his list and try not to drool.  And if you’re a European visitor stuck in Washington, check out our list of 10 Things NOT to Do in DC.

Here’s hoping we get stuck in Paris soon so we can put Lebovitz’s list to good use…

Image courtesy Muppet Wiki

When you think of Swedish cuisine, the first words that come to mind are most likely “Bork, bork, bork!”  Once you get past the image of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, you’ve got little meatballs, herring, and cafeteria food from IKEA.  At least that was pretty much the extent of things for us until we first heard about Marcus Samuelsson.

Image courtesy of Bravo TV

Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish couple from his home in Ethiopia, and his adopted grandmother instilled in him a love of cooking.  His story really gets good after he came to America and made a name for himself as the chef (and now co-owner) of Aquavit.  He’s won multiple James Beard Foundation awards, published several popular cookbooks, cooked at the White House and guest judged on Top Chef (he’s about to compete in the second season of Top Chef Masters).

The combination of the chef’s mystique and the fact that we knew next to nothing about Swedish cuisine was too much to resist.  When it came time to plan a trip to New York for Mike’s parents’ anniversary, we suggested dinner at Aquavit.  Fortunately, everyone else was as intrigued as we were, so they agreed.

Aquavit offers two different meal experiences.  In the Dining Room, guests select either a chef’s tasting menu ($105 per person) or a select-your-own-courses prix fixe menu ($78 per person).  The Bistro, on the other hand, allows diners to choose from an impressive menu of Scandinavian classics with some modern American dishes thrown in.  With appetizers in the $10-$13 range and entrees running from $14 to $29, the Bistro’s menu makes for a more economical way to sample Aquavit’s fare – and the one we opted for.

What the heck is a smorgasbord?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

One of the best parts about travel – especially travel that involves drinking and dining well – is coming back and sharing what you found with friends.  Stories of amazing meals and beautiful sights, photos that capture it all in vivid color…it’s like reliving the trip.  But the real joy comes in sharing the goodies you bring back with you.

After a recent trip to Belgium, our friends Itty Bitty Betty and the Bacon Terrorist offered us plenty of all three.  We asked I.B.B. to share with you, too.

Sorry…we finished all the beer.

-Elizabeth and Mike

While we all reap the benefits of D.C.’s growing love affair with Belgian beer, actually visiting Belgium last year gave me new appreciation for my favorite decadent, boozy brews. I am lucky that my boyfriend, the Bacon Terrorist, and I share a fascination with triples, doubles, lambics, and all of their delectable contemporaries. After talking about going to Belgium for years to enjoy them in their natural habitat, I was thrilled when we finally booked the trip.

Arriving in Brussels, our mission was simple: seek and imbibe every beer we had never seen in the States, and if we knocked back a few old favorites along the way, even better. This was actually harder than it sounds. While we think of Belgium as a brewtopia, where every bar contains magical brews you’ve never heard of before, most bars carry a similar selection of drafts (e.g. Leffe, Stella Artois, and Maes Pils – think Belgian Heineken). Still, we didn’t have to go too far off the beaten path to find unique bars with local brews that don’t frequently journey over the Atlantic.

For “must-visit” bars in Brussels, we recommend Toone, a bar and puppet theater in one. Unlike other bars in the area, Toone is not nearly as touristy. They have a modest selection of beers, including Oud Beersel Oude Kriek, an earthy cherry lambic with all the essence of cherry, but without the added sugar of more popular DeTroch and Lindemans brands. Beware though, for those used to these brands, or the Huyghe Floris beers, the Oude Kriek will be acidic and sharp in comparison. While you can get Oude Kriek in the D.C. area (Brickskeller and Rustico carry it), my better half just couldn’t help himself after Toone’s proprietor gushed about how it contained “Four kilograms of ze cherries…per gallon!”

Another bar worth grabbing a drink (or four) in is Delirium Café, which offers a full draft selection of the entire Huyghe catalogue, and a rowdy dive-bar atmosphere.  The Cantillon brewery is another fun stop in the neighborhood, complete with self-guided tour and a tasty pour of lambics at the end.

Other standout beers were Ciney Brown, Mort Subite (“the sudden death”), and Grottenbier, a modern version of a Belgian “Grotto” or “cave” beer. [picture of ciney brown and mort subit in glasses] We also procured a few bottles of the infamous Westvleteren, a beer so famous it requires no label, and a favorite of beer snobs worldwide. We brought a bottle of all three styles (Blonde, 8, and 12) home to share with good friends, including some of our favorite drinking buddies, Mike and Elizabeth. We didn’t think Westvleteren fully lived up to the hype (for some, Westvleteren is akin to the holy grail), but they were definitely delicious.

While Brussels is a necessary stop on any beer lover’s journey, a day trip to Bruges was our favorite part of the trip (only an hour by train, and $48 round trip—a steal considering Bruges is one of the most breathtaking places we’ve ever seen). The Brugse Zot brewery was one of the more memorable stops on our tour de beer. Sure, it’s a standard tourist stop, but sometimes you should follow the wisdom of the crowds. This small operation is the only active brewery in Bruges, and you can view the entire city from its rooftop. After a tour around the facilities, you are rewarded with a hearty pour of the Brugse Zot Blonde, and a seat in the romantic garden outside the brewery. The temperature the day we visited was 92° F, so the refreshing coriander and orange finish of this beer was a welcome treat.

Overall, the trip reminded us that while Blue Moon tastes better than Bud, at the end of the day it really can’t compare to a freshly poured glass of Sterkens White, or a Cantillon Gueuze straight from the brewer’s hands.

One of the questions in our Blogger Beat interview asked about the most bizarre things we’ve ever eaten.  Elizabeth’s answer came without a second thought: cuy.  For this week’s Travel Tuesday, we’re revisiting our trip to Peru, where Elizabeth made her peace with guinea pigs as entrees instead of pets.

The allure of Machu Picchu is a combination of its beauty and its relative isolation.  Of course, that means there really isn’t all that much besides the formerly lost civilization to plan a vacation around.  When Elizabeth learned about GlobeAware, an American voluntourism operation with a program in Peru, we knew we had found a solution that we could feel good about.  We’d spend a week in Peru, volunteering at an albergue in Cusco and visiting Machu Picchu while we were there.

We arrived in Cusco to a meal of quinoa-crusted fried chicken and a steaming mug of mate de coca. This tea, steeped from the leaves of the coca plant, is a natural remedy for the altitude sickness that invariably strikes new arrivals.  At an elevation of almost 11,000 feet, Cusco takes some getting used to.  Something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs can leave you winded (if you’re lucky).  The tea somehow soothes the nausea and headaches that come with the change in altitude.  It’s pretty much the polar opposite of cocaine, despite coming from the same plant.

Throughout the week, we enjoyed simple, homemade meals prepared for us by the full-time staff on site.  We got to experience local produce including a rainbow of potatoes and the strange granadilla. We found ourselves chanting along with a street vendor who passed through the neighborhood every day announcing his fresh produce: “Piña!  Papaya!” We even tried chicha frutillada, a drink made from fermented corn and strawberries that packs a sweet, boozy punch.

More about the maize and a few restaurant meals (including the cuy) after the jump. (more…)

We don’t make it out to Kansas City to visit Elizabeth’s family as often as we’d like.  More often than not, our visits are timed around holidays where there’s an abundance of home-cooked treats.

Tough to be us, right?  Even so, we always make it out to at least one or two restaurants while we’re in town.

For our most recent visit, we were all about the classics.  When the family asked if there were any places we wanted to eat while we were in town, we were ready with two establishments that have more than 150 years of restaurant experience between them.  We requested trips to Stroud’s and Rosedale Barbeque.

The family was happy to oblige, and so we hit up Rosedale for lunch one day and Stroud’s for dinner the next.  We were eager to see how the years had treated these Kansas City institutions.  And while Stroud’s is a long-time favorite of Elizabeth’s, Rosedale was a new experience for both of us.

Fried chicken, pulled pork and a drink called the “Chicken Choker” after the jump. (more…)

With all the snow we’ve gotten this winter, the idea of getting away somewhere tropical and warm is more appealing than ever.  Although we weren’t able to escape this year, we did just that a year ago to celebrate our birthdays.  We rang in 2009 at Jaguar Reef Lodge, an all-inclusive resort in Belize.

The resort was wonderful.  The excursions blew us away.  The food…not so much.

Don’t get me wrong.  Most of the dishes we ordered were tasty, and the portions were certainly generous.  But I was hoping for something a little more authentic than chicken nachos and conch fritters, so I found myself selecting the menu items that seemed to be closest to the kinds of dishes a local might eat: rice and beans with stewed pork, grilled fillet of snapper with fruit salsa, etc.

Even so, authenticity seemed to elude me.  I was getting my fill of Belikin beer (regular and stout, thank you) and seasoning my meals with a healthy dose of Marie Sharp hot sauce, but I was eager to see what a local meal really looked like.  So I borrowed a bike from the resort one afternoon and headed down the road to nearby Hopkins Village.

It was there, in Hopkins, that I finally experienced a truly local dish: the Garifuna fish stew known as hudut.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but everything about the experience was unique.

What is hudut?  Find out after the jump. (more…)