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Kanishka

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About Kanishka

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  • Birthday 05/27/1979

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  1. Kanishka

    South Africa

    Thank you for the recommendation! We spent the bulk of today at Babylonstoren. While staying there and/or dining at Babel (after Werf yesterday--more on what we're spending on in a few days) would have broken our budget (even more acutely with this furlough) the garden tour was wonderful. Most of the fruits and veg sadly weren't ready, but there were some terrific edible shrubs that we got to taste, and our middle son found what the guide said was probably the first ripe pear of the farm this year. We ate lunch at the Greenhouse, with a ham, cheese, and local veggie sandwich for me; a local sausage with tomato relish for M; mac and cheese for the boys; and watermelon and tomato gazpacho, and freshly fried "chips" to share. We finished off with a scone. A pretty indulgent lunch, but worth it. The meal isn't the highlight though -- the farm is. It is a huge, intense experience once you realize everything in the garden is edible or has some sort of purpose in the agro-chain. If it isn't food, it's protecting against pests, or it has a medicinal purpose. If you don't get in on the garden tour none of this is obvious to the non-gardeners *raises hand* amongst us. For us, with the boys in tow, it was totally worth it. Our eldest was entranced by the guide's presentation, which held his attention for the full hour! The smaller ones liked picking herbs, or those fruits or vegetables available, and were very excited when they encountered the two turtles, the ducks, the chickens, or the turkeys. The Babylonstoren garden is an incredible, fun place that is an absolute must visit, in some capacity, if you want something other than the usual wine tastings in Franschhoek. What fun.
  2. Kanishka

    South Africa

    Tonight was our official blowout meal (something we tend to do on all vacations), dinner at the beautiful Werf at the Boschendal Winery near Franschhoek. I chose the spot because of the fact that according to all my research, it offered kid-friendly fine dining. Not wrong! The gorgeous dining room, which looks over the restaurant's impressive vegetable garden, was filled with kids, all making various sorts of noise. So I felt not at all guilty that our two-year old kept yelling "all aboard!" (why? I have no idea.) or how our other two boys were fidgety and needed to be taken out to the deck to look at said garden multiple times. The restaurant itself strikes me as quite beautiful -- all blond wood and natural light, with plants on many of the surfaces indoors as well as outdoors. Our meal started with an amuse bouche of fennel roti with roasted carrot hummus and roasted radishes. There were tiny edible flowers scattered on the dish as well, with an odd familiar flavor that was not chive. The sweet carrot hummus and the radish made it clear that veggies would be the star of our show. The boys had kid's steak with roasted potatoes and a fantastic salad of shaved carrot, shaved golden beets, and fennel pollen dressed with a vinaigrette. Marisa and I opted for the three course option: Her Grilled garden leeks, "vichysoisse," dill, cured egg yolks Yellowtail, smoked potato puree, taramasalata Grilled Angus steak, giant garden marrow (NB: basically, zucchini), pickled kale Me Confit white onion, nut cream "tzatziki," green coriander seeds, watermelon, fennel pollen Crispy baby marrow flower & pickled mussels, chokka (local baby squid) & parsley "risotto," horseradish Slow roasted lamb shoulder, maize porridge, Werf Food Garden vegetables The meal also came with a complimentary bowl to share of the same salad the boys had, and a second salad of marrow, green beans, and bok choy in a parsely vinaigrette. The meal was wonderful. Low points were my onion dish (eh) and the pickled kale (which wasn't.) Everything else was very produce-forward and tasted of peak mid-summer. Both seafood dishes were standouts, and the chokka and parsley risotto was just out of this world bright, like the first rays of summer sun exploding on your palate. The yellowtail, when paired with the smoked potato, was as if the fish itself was smoked. Separated, it was a completely different plate. It was fun comparing -- and it was quite rightly paired with a lighter red rather than a white. The gratis salads were also wonderful, especially the bok choy and green beans. Our eldest loved picking out the beets and nibbling at them slowly, and telling our very kind waitress he loved the veggies. We finished with a single dessert for the five of us, because we were stuffed: Ariette biscuit, baked vanilla custard, roasted apricot sorbet. The tangy, nearly sugarless sorbet was my favorite, though the vanilla custard won the day with the boys. I also had a glass of their top-end "vin de memoire" Syrah ($11.50 a glass -- this is their top end!), which was a nice way to end the evening. After dinner we walked in the vegetable garden a bit to work off a very nice but very filling meal. I do have to say I felt pretty virtuous, because the two older boys couldn't stop talking about how great vegetables are and how you don't really need too much meat. That's me on my high horse, I know. It's still a nice feeling. I have to thank the management of the Boschendal Winery for opening a fine dining experience to kids. Every dish was just as attractive as the restaurant itself, reminding me of Restaurant Eve during its best days. What a pleasure to share it with our sons, even though they did make their fair share of noise. They were very entertained by the nature all around them -- especially the inch-long mantis they found crawling on a wine bucket near the deck, which the staff made no effort to shoo away. It's a garden after all. Two kids meals, three three-course meals with wine pairing, three sodas, one dessert, one additional glass of wine, $150 with a generous tip.
  3. Kanishka

    South Africa

    Many of the old-timers here know what I do, and to those I say: I'm currently on an unpaid vacation. It's not wonderful, but we have spent several years in some of the tougher (though not toughest) parts of the world, developing a cushion that allows this family of five to travel out of one of those said hard places for a bit and enjoy things like "paved roads" and "clean air." Oh and "sidewalks," "playgrounds," and "no malaria." I continue to be thankful to the organization for which I work for making this trip possible. I just wish I were receiving my next paycheck. I am not. Vent out of the way. Tonight is our last night in Cape Town -- we go from here to Franschhoek, and then further east along the Garden Route. Tonight we had dinner just a block or so from our rented house, at Ferdinando's. It's a pizza spot that was written up in Lonely Planet, so is reservation-essential (we thought ahead) and is busy busy busy. We started with delicious beef carpaccio, lightly dressed in lemon and served with parmesan, capers, and arugula. The best arugula I have had in many years, frankly. This was the standout of the night. We moved on to pizzas after that -- margherita for the boys, the Maiala de Mare for me, and the Mamma Mia for my wife. All were excellent -- Two Amy's quality maybe? It's been to long to judge. I should mention (again) that it's been so long between truly good meals out (we're talking months if not years) that I can't compare, but I can say that we all shut up and just devoured our pizzas when they came, even the little ones. I also got a side of the artichoke salad, but we barely had room to finish half between the two adults. The seafood on my pizza was wonderful, but I do wish all of the mussels and shrimp were unshelled. I think this may be a European thing -- like unpitted olives on pizza. We closed with dessert, ice cream for the boys, a milkshake for the lady, and a double Negroni for me. That was one big Negroni -- based on the price ($4) I thought a double would be smart, but it was laaarge. As in "would cost you $20+ in DC" large. Oh well. Walking home. Ferdinando's is a fun place I would absolutely recommend for families visiting Cape Town with a car and/or Uber. The upstairs is perfect for littles, with tons of noise and distraction and a wonderfully accepting management. 1100 rand ($80) for a bunch of sodas, a beer, apps, dinner, dessert for five.
  4. Kanishka

    South Africa

    After wandering Bo-Kaap, the South African Museum, and The Company's Garden for most of a day, the kids were exhausted and liable to kill each other. So we decided to find a location about an hour away and let them nap it off -- planning to arrive at Darling right around dinner time. Sadly I am in vacation mode, and forgot that it was Sunday -- and that the Darling Brewery restaurant would be closed. We ended up at Cafe Mosaic. The TripAdvisor reviews are bad and probably not inaccurate, just grumpy. This is a no-frills place, and we sat outside at picnic tables as the temperatures plummeted (NB: this is a summer thing here -- je suis si tropicalisé que j'ai oublié que la temperature chute quand le soleil se couche). Between the five of us, we had two plates of fish and chips, a "fishy platter" (fish and chips + calamari), a 500ml bottle of cheap local white, three apple juices, and a sparkling water. The fish and chips was of the lightly-battered variety and the calamari were cut thicker than back home, roughly the size of the accompanying fries, which is to say Brit-style. It was good! Not the best meal by far, but with a play area a few meters away to give mom and dad some peace, decent fries, and just a pleasant local feel, it was what we needed. All for 500 rand, or $35.75. Worth a trip? No. But good nonetheless.
  5. Kanishka

    South Africa

    Wandering down the aggressively hipster/crunchy Lower Main Road, the main stretch of Obs (Observatory), to the east of central Cape Town, we were starting to get nervous. It was dinner time, the boys were exhausted, and yet every restaurant seemed closed. Many until January 7 -- or just three days before we leave to explore the western and eastern Cape (d'oh.) But lo and behold, just north of the KFC and McDo, there was the inappropriately named Timbuktu, an Ethiopian restaurant I had scoped out but had given up finding. It's not at all obviously marked, like most of the other restaurants in this part of town. Ironic that we picked Ethiopian for our first meal (as a family -- i've been here once for work) in SAfrica, and yet had (decent, but not amazing) Ethiopian at the Ramada in Addis Ababa on New Year's Eve, less than 20 hours earlier. But this was better. Dare I say it, probably the best Ethiopian I have ever had outside of the greater DC area. We went all-in and got the "serengaya," the "everything on the menu except lamb" platter built for four. Our eldest son was the trail blazer, trying everything on the plate and providing commentary for his little brothers ("yummy!", "a little spicy...", "try this! try this!") Marisa and I dug in, though she worked a moat around the beautiful berbere spiked kitfo, leaving it all for me. I take that back -- the eldest had that one too, but mixed with the stewed beets. "The meat and the beets get in a fight in your mouth," he said, "and the spicy from the meat loses to the sweet from the beets, but then it comes back, but then it loses again, in that kind of pattern." Couldn't have said it better myself. The stewed collards were fantastic, in my opinion better than anything in DC because the vinegar/acid was upped by a bit. The two younger ones (three and two) were more hesitant, but eventually both found dishes they liked, leaning towards the softer doro wot and all of the lentils. The beef tibs was probably the loser (out of a platter of at least 12 different preparations!), because the pieces were cut a little too big. The berbere was smoky and hot, some of the best I have had. I haven't had Ethiopian in the States (DC or Seattle) in over two years. My last two times were at the aforementioned Ramada, and at the Addis Ababa airport last summer (protip: don't do it.) So maybe I don't remember exactly how good Zenebech at its heyday was. All I know is that our family of five walked home happy, the youngest with a layer of doro wat sauce on his sleeve, the eldest saying "maybe [he doesn't] like Ethiopian, but maybe [he] loves it." $45, including four freshly pressed lemonades and a sparkling water.
  6. Kanishka

    Benin

    Fu-fu -- pounded yam here -- is not at all like dumplings -- it's a two-fist sized lump of pasty manioc/cassava/whatever goop that is flavorless, designed for farmers and laborers who need quick calories to go back out and do what they do. Locals love it, I do not. But you know, differing opinions are perfectly fine. I will sing the praises of Maryland steamed crabs while my lovely wife will silently tell everyone around her Dungeness crabs are superior. Such is taste, I suppose. And I love the brainteaser, but Lome and Rome do not rhyme -- there's an accent missing for the "e" in Lomé (LO-may). It's a nice town, btw, but I've only ever eaten at friends' houses when there, and one random Lebanese fast food joint. I guess that is valuable to mention -- there's a ton of Lebanese influence around these parts.
  7. Kanishka

    Benin

    In case you were wondering: still here! And still eating out regularly. I have come to the sad conclusion that Beninese food is not up there in terms of my world favorites, with a few exceptions. Palm oil tastes unpleasant. The bitterness of local leaves is featured rather than diminished, as is the "goopiness" of okra. And I find the king of local food, igname pilé, aka fu fu, basically awful. I am an adventurous eater, but Benin has been challenging. OK, caveat time. Southern Beninese food is challenging. Mid-Beninese food too. But when you get to the Sahelian north -- voila! The flavors change. Perhaps my favorite place in northern Benin is Le Secret de la Vieille Marmite, in Parakou, a confoundingly organized quasi-buffet style, quasi-fast food style spot. You go to the buffet and point at what you would like, which the staff dishes up onto a plate. They hand you a ticket with a price calculated seemingly out of thin air. You pay, sit, and they deliver the plate to your table, and a few seconds later yet another staff member comes to get your drink order, which you pay for separately. Why so many steps? Why can't I carry my plate to the table myself? Why can't I pay for my drink and food together? These and myriad other questions disappear once you tuck in to your repas. On a week-long trip up north, I ate at La Marmite four times, each time enjoying something different: tender brochettes of mutton with red rice, fried wedges of local cheese with couscous and vegetable sauce, spiced chicken with amiwo, and a grab-bag plate of various items with a vegetable-accented rice dish. I had liberal servings of piment each time, and each preparation of that ubiquitous hot sauce tasted slightly different. Each meal cost about 2500-3000 FCFA ($5-6 dollars), beer included, and service was fast fast fast. Parakou is my least favorite town in northern Benin, a sprawling carrefour with limited local culture, mostly used as a jump-off point for other, more colorful places. But as a trading post, it has OK hotels and decent places to eat. If you find yourself there, La Marmite isn't a bad option for eating at all.
  8. Kanishka

    South Africa

    Any more recent recommendations for Cape Town or the Western Cape?
  9. Hi Andy -- In all of your travels, do is there any type of cuisine you consider unjustly ignored or overlooked -- hidden gems, or cuisines not given the adulation deserved?
  10. Kanishka

    Seattle, WA

    Ray's Boathouse is great for kids, and on a weekend night it shouldn't be too busy. You're also not far from Lunchbox Laboratory, which is by no means fancy, but was fun when we went a few years ago.
  11. Taylor Gourmet Owner's Vacant Home Is An Extreme Example Of How Renovations Can Become A 'Nightmare' For Neighbors by Martin Austermuhle for the resurrected DCist. I've been late on bills maybe twice in my adult life... and now I see some view paying bills and fines as an option? (see: multiple liens on properties, non-payment of property tax...) This shouldn't affect my views on the food... but it does.
  12. Kanishka

    Scotland

    Just back from three weeks in Scotland, split between Edinburgh and the middle of nowhere in Wester Ross. There were many good meals, all had as a family with three small ones. That limited us a bit (kids are hard!) but there was one absolute standout -- lunch at Salt Seafood Kitchen, located in the tiny town of Achiltbuie (gesundheit) in Coigach. Getting there was its own adventure, on single track roads much of the way. But it was well worth it. I had a half dozen of the best oysters I have ever had, a half-pint of incredible sweet "spinies"/squat lobsters, and a smoked mackerel Caesar salad. Marisa had the Cullen Skink (a smoked haddock chowder, essentially) and a hot smoked salmon dish served on crusty bread with feta and a pear compote. She's still thinking abut both, a week later. We were there for lunch and just walked in. It's a tiny place, so at dinner reservations are essential, and we were told dinner preparations are more ambitious -- the lunch menu was mostly simple dishes. All of the fish is brought in fresh the morning of by local fishermen. One note: it's BYOB, with no license. We stuck with soft drinks, but if you want something cold and crisp, there's a small shop in town.
  13. Kanishka

    Dining at Airports

    CDG. How in the world is an airport in Paris a food desert? Well, ok, not the entire airport, but the entirety of hall K, which appears to cover all intercontinental flights. We transited CDG today and found hall K to be dismal. A Starbucks. A Prêt-a-Manger. A fancy truffles-and-seafood bar (where I would have been were it not for the three anklebiters.) And a Yo Sushi!, one of those conveyer-belt sushi places. A three-hour layover feels insufficient with three kids under five, so long lines (see: above mentioned Starbucks and Prêt-a-Manger) were rejected. Hence a very fast lunch at Yo Sushi!, where the boys had katsu chicken and the baby decided he loved kiwi. How in the world CDG can't have one decent sit-down airport-quality restaurant, where I can get a mediocre burger and a pint of megabrew is beyond me.
  14. Kanishka

    Toulouse, France

    I'm overdue on my write-up of dinner at Michel Sarran (Cliffs notes version: wow that was a lot of food, some very good, some unforgettable, all high quality, why didn't I fast beforehand.) That will have to wait for when I have a bit more time. Today, the family all drove out to the spectacular Rocamadour, two hours north of Toulouse. It's the low low season, meaning the access road wasn't crowded, parking was plentiful, and the town was basically shut down. The very beautiful sanctuary was open, however, which was helpful to burn calories after lunch. We had that lunch at Le Belvédère, in next-door L'Hospitalet. My wife and I both had velouté des legumes and the duck confit (when in the Dordogne... (I didn't see any non-extravagant truffled options)), which with dessert was only 19 euros. Our middle son, who is getting more French the longer we're here, demanded the duck as well ("Me want duck! Me want duck!"). While the velouté was good, I thought the confit was outstanding, with the crispy skin and succulent meat you expect from simply country French cooking. The accompanying duck fat fries were a bit much for me in terms of quantity. My mother-in-law had pumpkin soup with two large hunks of scallop. Though she felt the scallop was a bit over-caramelized, she said the soup was excellent. Our oldest, feeling picky, had a ham and cheese pizza, which he gleefully ate without sharing. The kids ate off of the Menu Enfant, which offered a choice of duck confit or pizza for 9 euros. The only difference I saw between the kid's duck and the adults was the accompanying sauce. If you're making the trek to Rocamadour and want a nice restaurant with a beautiful view of the medieval town and chateau, Le Belvédère seems like a great bet. I suspect that in the high season, reservations are a must.
  15. Kanishka

    Toulouse, France

    We've been here a week+ now, and have had multiple wonderful meals. In fact, the only two real disappointments have been non-French. Tripadvisor says Le Rohtang Pass is the best Indian restaurant in town. If so that's pretty awful. We went because they opened earlier than other places and we were famished. We got butter chicken for the boys (comme d'habitude) and one veggie and one meat thali. The sauce on the butter chicken approached something I'd prefer served on ice cream. My chole was cardboard, and the lamb, though tender, was almost as sweet as the chicken. Service was alternately inattentive or extremely rushed. Perhaps most strangely, they tried to get us to go online and cancel our reservation when we came in (though they said they would seat us), with some weird explanation as to why based on fees they pay to their online reservation provider. I get the ins and outs of the business but I'm here to eat, so please don't try to talk me into scamming your service partner. Ugh. (two side notes: 1. The restaurant is actually run/operated by Bangladeshis. At one point, I was having a conversation in three different languages with one person. 2. This is the second time I've been utterly disappointed by Indian food in France, the last time being 15 years ago and for nearly the same reasons.) We popped in to BATbAt (ugh that capitalization) because it was near our apartment and advertised pho. We were craving, and took the plunge. We got a variety of other small sides for the kids and happily, those were quite good. But the pho was not. good. Broth like water -- as if someone had boiled it for maybe 30 minutes or so. Low quality, rubbery meat, with some weird curry spicing that was completely out of place. Contrast that with the pho at Haozai, which was great. Still nothing compared to the great pho options in the DC area, but definitely hit the spot for those of us who live hors du Beltway. But those are the only real lowlights. We've had two awesome lunches at Marché Victor Hugo, one at Le Louchbem and one at Le Magret. I had cassoulet at both and regret nothing. The beans were better at Le Magret, while the duck and sausage within were better at Le Louchebem. Hot tip: you want to eat here, but it is super crowded, especially on the weekend. Show up at 1150, ten minutes before the average Toulousain starts thinking about lunch, however, and you're golden. I also was very French and dropped nine euros on a half dozen oysters and a glass of white Sunday morning at Poissonerrie Bellocq. The oysters were huge, sweet, briny, and *incredibly* fresh. We are staying across the street from the Marché Couvert des Carmes, a smaller and less touristy Marché that still has some awesome stuff. I've been there practically every morning to get fruits, vegetables, and various cheeses. I am currently blanking on the hard cheese the local fromagier told me was "tipiquement de cette region," but it's a wonderful mild, nutty hard cheese that gets better as it approaches room temperature. Tonight: Michel Sarran. Tomorrow: Carcassonne! A très bientôt.
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