Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passports With A Purpose Taste Harlem


I'm excited to be participating in the Passports With A Purpose fundraiser again.  This year, the travel bloggers fundraiser is raising $100,000 to build two wells in Haiti with Water.org. The raffle prizes will earn  money for two rural communities to enjoy the basic benefit of clean water. My prize is again a generous donation from Taste Harlem for two tickets for a two hour food tour.  The $110 value will supply heaping portions of soul food classics like chicken and waffles, shown above.


Short ribs, collard greens, mac n cheese and candied yams will also be on the menu. If you win the tickets, go on an empty stomach and be prepared to stuff yourself silly.



The tour also features interesting tidbits about Harlem music, history and culture. You'll pass historic murals, churches and museum, learning about the vibrant neighborhood's storied legacy. Even though I've experienced the tour many times, it never gets old. The food is always great and Harlem is always exciting.


The tickets are good for a year, based on availability and require a week's notice. If you live in New York or plan on visiting, the tour is a great cultural experience that also gives back. I'm proud to be involved in an event that raises awareness and funds for communities in developing countries. Please consider donating $10  for a  raffle ticket, you'll be entered into a raffle for each prize you select.



Monday, November 19, 2012

St. George Oyster Harvesting


Along the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, St. George Island unfurls with long stretches of pearly sand and serene landscapes. I visited this hidden, 22-mile barrier island expecting the unspoiled beauty but I also discovered a very distinctive, old school lifestyle that includes oyster harvesting.  Oysters can only be harvested manually in St. George so the surrounding Apalachicola Bay is dotted with small boats like the one above.



These oyster boats haven't changed much since they were developed 100 years ago.  The wooden structure measures 20-23 feet and are equipped with  a small cubicle to protect against the sun, a culling board to separate the oysters and long, 12-feet tongs used to rake the shellfish from the oyster beds onto the boats.


Oyster harvesting is often a family business, I spotted many husband and wife teams out on the water, patiently culling oysters, piling them into 60 pound sacks that go for approximately $25 each.  Oysters from the Florida Gulf Coast provide about 80%  of the State's supply and 20% of the country's. I don't eat shellfish but oysters were everywhere in St. George, especially on the beach shores. I went home with a two pound sack of my own, filled with pretty shells, a lot of them iridescent oyster shells bleached by the sun and colored by sea plants.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Sip of Cuba


I long to visit Cuba and experience the vibrant culture I love so much. My plans haven't arrived just yet so the next best thing after regularly bathing in Cuban rhythms, is dipping into Cuban cuisine. I visited Chicago's newest Cuban restaurant, The Lazy Parrot and discovered a few Cuban delicacies that I had never tried, namely Ironbeer. The name doesn't sound very appealing but when the owner and his cute daughter assured me that it was "the national beverage," I was intrigued.  Apparently, the soda was developed in Cuba in 1917 and contains a secret blend of fruit, herbs and spices that no one can ever put their finger on.


The soda's story of  a mule-driven wagon carrying the soda to popular Havana cafeterias is quaintly written on the back of the can. Only now, the soda is manufactured in Miami, where the original family was exiled. The muscleman logo doesn't hoist the 500 pound weights in the original logo but the flavor is said to be the same. I'm not a big cola fan and I figured the caramel -colored soda would taste something like a cola so I ordered Coco Rico, a coconut flavored soda, instead. I love coconut in all forms but after a sip of my husband's Ironbeer, I forgot about Coco Rico.  I was hooked on Ironbeer. The flavor is hard to describe but it tastes similar to cream soda, which I also love. The coconut soda was good but Ironbeer was great. The restaurant serves a range of Cuban sodas, including Jupina a pineapple soda, Materva, a soda made from yerba mate and Quinabeer, which tastes like champagne cola.  But I couldn't pull myself away from the Ironbeer, which I sipped under a mural of a Cuban sunset.