Not everything makes it into a post, I've deleted many photos for posts that never got started....that Mariscos place where I got ill, that very good fine meal with no lighting....though unless we're travelling, I usually don't even break out the camera for those type of meals. And the one's I just never got around to.... I've done these "Never Made the Cut" posts before. Here's another batch.....
Recently, "Kha" sent me an email for some Hawaii recommendations, which included some requests for the North Shore.......
One of the places was Mackey's Shrimp Truck.......I sent him a photo and realized I never posted on the place.
Which made me realize that I had photos from meals during our travels that I never posted on. Too much time had passed.....
Sometimes I even had a very good meal, but the lighting was just too bad......like this revisit to The Old Fashioned.
Pickled Pork Hock...pickled egg.....
Nice burger.....and cheese curds of course....
And an adorable Server.......
But that lighting....ick......
I just plumb forgot about our revisit to Fresh Catch....
We enjoyed the poke much more this time around....
The Missus loved the really aged poi.....which was a surprise.....it was really funky.
This last one is from Tunis. It was a surprisingly decent meal......
This was pretty inexpensive as well.... in the Airport in Tunis! Airport staff and flight crew were on the other tables....so I guess this is the place!
So that's it....another Clearing Out the Memory Card post! Have a great weekend!
I've mentioned how beautiful Sidi Bou Said was before, that beauty even shines through the crowds walking its cobble stoned streets.
Still, we really enjoyed the still, quiet mornings when we didn't have to "wrassle" our way through the crowds.
Perhaps the vibrant energy that the crowds bring adds it's own color and energy to the mix, but in the quiet moments you're allowed the time to just stand and enjoy the view wrapped in your own little bubble.
Still, no matter how wonderful the view, we found ourselves on the TGM headed back to La Marsa. It was no different on this morning.
There's something about the Mediterranean brightness of La Marsa, of the whitewashed buildings and the palm tree lined road that has such a retro feel for me.
And though there were tourists, there didn't seem to be as many of them.
I really enjoyed the cafe culture in Tunisia. Folks actually took time out of the day to socialize, read, contemplate, or whatever.......the moment was yours to enjoy.
And while the view and the beach was nice......
It was starting to get pretty warm.
Plus, we were here on a mission......a lunch mission.
We headed back down the side streets of La Marsa, past the well to do homes, bright white, with blue windows, doors, and trim. You could tell this was the high rent district.....
Some of these places may not have looked like much from the road......
But the Mediterranean was this building's backyard.
We found the street where Le Golfe was fairly easily.
We walked in just as they were opening. The woman who kindly seated us before they were opened the day before, first looked at us in surprise, I guess most "tourists" visit just once. Then, giving us a bright smile, told us, "welcome back" and waving with her open hand told us, "your table is waiting!"
You gotta love these folks!
Our server was also the same as the previous day, he's so nice and welcoming.
We started with a Mushroom Salad - Salade de Champignons (13 TND - about $7.50)
Man, this is so good. Just enough chew, wonderfully grilled, with a smokiness that reminds me of stuff done over binchotan. Nice salt and cumin, brushed with olive oil......it hit all those flavor points.
The Missus really wanted to try the Salade Nicoise au Thon mi-cuit (16 TND - about $9.50 US)
The seared tuna was nicely seasoned and tasted fresh. The balsamic reduction really added to this salad.
The olive wood really lifted the Sardines Grillees (8 TND - about $4.75 US).
There was one item I really wanted to try. I'd seen fresh Bluefin Tuna several times during this trip. Once, in a market in Carthage, I watched in horror as two of the "fish cutters" went at a beautiful bluefin with chisels, hammers, and saws, just hacking the daylights out of it.
So today, I inquired about the Les Carpaccio de Poisson (20 TND - about $12 US) and was told it was "thon rouge", bluefin. So of course we had to get it!
This was very nice, the fish super fresh, the flavor mild, the texture light, but meaty. They gave us a little bowl of "soy sauce".....place very strong quotations around that, with wasabi. I went with lemon which added a nice acidic touch to the dish.
All in all, a wonderful meal, in a beautiful and relaxed setting. What more could we ask for?
We had been a bit disappointed with Carthage and caught the TGM, the light rail back toward Sidi Bou Said. But instead of getting off there, we just went to the end of the line to La Marsa. We had really enjoyed the "vibe" and folks in that little seaside village when we visited. We were also lining up lunch. Rafael, that regular visitor to Dar Amilcar, recommended a restaurant in La Marsa named Le Golfe.
So we got off in La Marsa and like before were totally confused. We knew the address and hailed a cab. But after trying to converse with us for about 30 seconds he drove off. Just then a friendly looking gentleman eating an ice cream cone walked over and asked us.....
"you speak English?" We both immediately answered, "Yes, do you?" He smiled and nodded side to side, "No....." It was really funny. He put his hand up with a single finger pointing to the sky and placed a call on his cellphone. A few minutes later a young lady, obviously his daughter appeared. Alright, she must speak English, right? The first thing she told me was.....
"I don't speak English!" Me, laughing: "But, you are speaking English!" Her: "That is all I speak....."
This was hilarious. We were all laughing. Finally, I displayed the address of the restaurant. I didn't know that I had the phone number on the listing. The nice gentleman used his own cell phone and called the restaurant and got directions. I recall hearing some thing about "tourists...." He then hailed us a cab and gave the driver directions. Our cabbie was very serious looking. The drive was very short, the restaurant was a couple of blocks from the waterfront in a very upscale looking residential area. The fare was just 1.5 TND, about 95 cents! I gave the driver 4 TND and obviously thinking that I didn't know how to calculate prices tried to give me back my money. I explained to him that it was all for him. After all, the distance was so short. 4 TND is basically $2.50. We really enjoyed La Marsa.
The restaurant is very understated. In fact, we would have probably walked right past it.
The look is very modern.
We'd arrived before lunch service, but the nice woman told us to go ahead and have a seat. So we took the table overlooking the beach just steps away.
You gotta love the view.
We had a seat and just took in the view and the breezes from the Mediterranean.
Then the woman came up to us and told us it would be a short while for lunch since service hadn't started yet. We were just happy that they let us in and we were able to take in the wonderful view. But she also brought over some water and even asked us if we were going to have wine with lunch. They could get us started on that right away. So of course we got the Blanc Magnifique. They even brought bread over.
How nice was that? We would have been happy just to have waited, this gracious hospitality just made this experience so nice.
The Missus and I decided to just go for it and order whatever we felt like.
Since we've ordered it everywhere, we decided to get the Salade Mechouia (10 TND ).
Loved the presentation, down to the drizzle of balsamic vinegar and the capers, a local staple, which really added to the mechouia.
Overall, this was good, but not the best we had in terms of just plain flavor. A good salade mechouia has a very pleasant savory-smokiness, this one was good.
The Salade de la Mer (21TND) was very nice and refreshing.
Our favorite dish of the meal was the Seches Grillees (14TND).
Baby cuttlefish, so tender and full of flavor, simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and yes, a good amount of cumin. Grilled over olive wood, which seems to impart a nice smokey flavor which really brings out the sweet aspect of salt.
Goodness, this was possibly the best thing I ate in Tunisia!
The Missus had some reservations over my ordering Les Carpaccio de Bouef (20TND). But they were out of Carppacio de poisson on this day. We were rewarded with a refreshing and delicious dish.
Served on a ice cold slate. This was excellent.
Like the mechouia, because we order it everywhere, we got the merguez (11TND).
This was very nice, though in line with other versions we had during our trip.
We enjoyed a nice relaxing meal. The place started filling up with what seemed to be a combination of ex-pat/foreign officials and well to do locals. In all we spent about $70 US.....we've spent more at a "gastro-pub" in San Diego that didn't even come close to this in terms of food and service. This was by far the best meal we had in Tunisia.
We walked back to La Marsa and the TGM. As we crossed one of the streets I heard the honk of car horn. A cab passed me by, arm outstretched, waving to us. It was the cabbie who dropped us off at Le Golfe! In fact, everytime he'd see us, we'd hear a honk and without a doubt he'd be smiling and waving to us. For a $1.50 tip, we had a friend for life it seems! Such was life in La Marsa I guess.
One of the places recommended to us by Rafael was Au Bon Vieux Temps. Located right off the main tourist street of Rue Hedi Zarrouk, the place has a nice, almost romantic feel.
Perfectly in character, we arrived just at the beginning of dinner service. We enjoy the quiet before the chaos.
Though folks rave about the views, I really didn't think it that great from where we sat on the patio.
The menu featured both French style and Tunisian style dishes. The prices were the highest we'd encounted in Tunisia, but still pretty reasonable by US standards.
We were still in search of a Tunisian wine we really enjoyed. Not really knowing where to start and wanting a "blanc", we simply ordered the most expensive bottle on the menu at 42 Dinar, which was about $25 US at the time. It turned out to be a good choice as this bottle of Magnifique was light and refreshing, with a crispness to it. We ended up getting this whenever we saw it on the menu.
As the meal goes, we found that we preferred the Tunisian style dishes to the French preparations, like the Fruits de Mer (18 TND - $10 US) which was kind of waterlogged and mushy.
The Duck Pate, a bargain at 10TND, think six bucks, had some potential, the flavor was decent, but the texture was a bit too waxy.
For me, the best dish of the night was my Lamb Couscous (26TND - $15).
This was by far the best couscous we had on our trip. It was light and fluffy. I thought the vegetables were going to be somewhat onerous, but they were fork tender, not mushy, but yielding perfectly under my fork. The lamb was simply flavored, but was also very tender....loved the gamey flavor. It really didn't need the spicy sauce provided, which actually covered up all the wonderful flavors.
The Missus loved Her stuffed squid (22 TND - $13US).
The squid was very tender, we don't really remember much else about this dish.
Right as we were finishing our mains, a gentleman who claimed to be the owner came up to us and started a conversation. He talked the Missus into ordering a dessert, which She loved....probably because of all the pistachios and the rose water. Since She obviously enjoyed the rose water so much, he brought Her a glass with a bit more of it to pour over the dessert....
He also told the Missus She should check out the upstairs VIP area where Presidents, King's, Queen's, and Prime Ministers have eaten. He was a pretty smooth operator.
The Missus managed this photo....perhaps you'll recognize someone.
Overall, this wasn't bad. Perhaps if the prices were a lot higher I'd complain a bit more about the place. On the bright side, we found our favorite Tunisian wine and that makes this meal worthwhile. And as you can tell; we didn't leave hungry.
We admired the sunset as we walked back down the hill.
We were amazed at all the folks sitting and still having coffee at the busy cafe across from Place du 7 Novembre.
Folks laughing and carrying on, chatting as they ended the day.
Meanwhile, right across the street, it was time for prayers at the Mosque.
An interesting contrast for us. Such is life in Tunisia........
We got up pretty early in the morning. The Missus decided that we should check out La Marsa, a village which is the last stop on the TGM, the Tunis train line. The Missus however, wanted to walk to La Marsa and we got some basic instructions from the folks at Dar Amilcar. La Marsa was somewhat sprawling, but looked more upscale. There are signs you notice that indicate a more well to do lifestyle; more cars and folks exercising. Folks who have to work long hours or hard labor just don't have the luxury of putting on some rather stylish work-out gear and go jogging. La Marsa really had a laid-back Mediterranean vibe which we really enjoyed....we later found out that many Europeans also enjoy the vibe as this is where the rich Tunisians and ex-pats live. We wandered the streets of La Marsa until we walked pass the Mosque.
Right past the mosque was a rather busy coffee shop....well, the coffee shop wasn't very busy, but the shaded little area across the street was. It seemed like this was where the locals hung out, socializing and chatting.
This seemed like the perfect place for a short break and a "cafe express", what the Tunisians call espresso.
So we had a seat, looked around, and just soaked in La Marsa.
One thing we quickly noticed was that everyone was facing the same direction. Toward the coffee shop and the little street in front of it. I'm not sure why this was, but hey, if it's good enough for the locals, right? I recall tweeting, "having a cup of cafe express with the locals, all facing the same direction, like camels toward the sun." Or something like that.
There was a bit of excitement when two cats decided to duke it out under a chair. What made it slightly humorous was that there was a gentleman seated in it! He was calmly reading a newspaper when all screeching hell broke out below him. He literally levitated out of his seat into the road. Ah, such was the thrill of having a cafe express here; you never knew what was going to happen next.
A few blocks away is the waterfront, here you suddenly knew why this was prime real estate, and why the Ottoman's made this their summer capital, a place to escape the heat.
We loved the palms, the white-washed look, it was so Mediterranean to us.
A few blocks away is this building. You could tell right away what it was.......
The perimeter of the ground floor was ringed by various shops, most of them selling meat, poultry, and charcuterie.
The center portion was where all the produce was located. Here's a view from above.
There was quite a good selection.
Our favorite shop here by far was the little pickle and olive shop.
There was just a staggering array of pickled items in this shop. The friendly guy running the place kept trying to give us samples.
At this point we decided to just go ahead and have a nice self-catered lunch. We'd hit up someplace a little bit nicer for dinner.
Right across the street from the other side of the building is a location of Monoprix Market, the big grocery chain in Tunisia. And next to the market is this Patisserie.
I took that photo a day later since the place was really packed on this day. I was just trying to survive long enough to get a baguette.
We started walking back the way we came, but then decided that the TGM might be a good bet. Thing was, we couldn't find the train station. The Missus went up to a gentleman and asked, he spoke some English, but then I noticed that he was blind. Leave it to the Missus to find the one blind guy in the crowd to give us directions. So we walked around looking for the TGM station. Finally, we saw a young lady, book in hand, she looked like a college student. So we went up and asked her if she spoke English, which she did....quite well by the way. We asked her where the train station was and she told us to follow her. We told her that she could just point it out to us, but she insisted on walking us there. We actually walked back toward the mosque, but on the other side, a good half kilometer. We felt really bad that the young lady, "Sophie" had to walk all this way with some strangers. She led us to the TGM station, told us to wait, and went to the window and spoke to the person issuing tickets. A couple of second later she came back and said, "your train will be here in a few minutes....here are some tickets, this is from me. I hope you enjoy Tunisia." My goodness, what could we say! I felt like we should be giving her some money, but thought that would have just insulted her. So I simply got her name, we shook hands, she smiled, turned around and walked away. Bless you Sophie, you're a wonderful ambassador of your city! You really touched us and we'll always remember your generous and kind gesture.
We caught our train and made it back to the Sidi Bou Said station and did the short 10 minute walk back to the Dar Amilcar.
While the Missus went upstairs to freshen up, I spoke to the woman working and she led me to the kitchen and I got some plates, silverware, and glasses for us.
We ended up having a nice lunch......nice cheese from Monoprix.
Peppers, olives, and various pickles from the stand in the market......
Man, that baguette was really good!
Sitting around the pool........
Having a nice bottle of wine......
Life was good!
We also met a friendly gentleman who was sunning at the pool. I believe his name is Raphael. He told us he was from Toulouse and visits Sidi Bou Said just about every 6 weeks or so. He told us it's cheaper to have a little weekend holiday in Tunisia than it is in France. Anyway, he gave us a couple of recommendations for places to eat.
Our time in Tunisia had been quite a whirlwind, from bustling, confusing, and hustling Tunis, to amazing El Djem and Sbeitla, the vast desolation of the Chott el Jerid, and the beauty of the Grand Erg Oriental, our days had been full. It was time to wind down a bit. Which is why we decided to stay out of Tunis and stay in the village of Sidi Bou Said. Located to the North of Tunis, this town has gained a reputation as a town for artists. The whole town is draped in white colors with bright blue doors, windows, and trim. It gained protected status in 1915 and while researching Tunisia, I constantly came across the word beautiful and relaxing in descriptions of the town. The Missus and I were kind of bushed by this time. You see, even though you might think we go like crazy when on vacation, we're not like many of the, ahem, Chinese or Korean tourists we see. We don't do well in tours, we have the attitude of "we'll return someday", so if we miss something, so be it. We try to take in a bit of where we're visiting, not just blitz through a place to say we've been there, another notch in our belt. Most times it is the journey, not the destination that really makes the trip worthwhile. And though we have so many photos, it's the stories, most of which never make it to the blog, that we remember....like the time I was poaching wi-fi from across the street by sneaking into the restaurant of the Hotel Carlton in Tunis. You could only get decent wifi on the balcony of the restaurant. It was past dinner and the place was closed so I just walked in. As I was checking email and such, a team of men walked in and started fumigating the place....no masks, gloves, nothing....they were just blasting the place! Of course this is where we ate breakfast in the morning. It made me wonder if this was a regular event and what effect it had on the breakfast each day????
Anyway, wanting to enjoy Sidi Bou Said, but not wanting to hang with all the tourists up the hill in Place Sidi Bou Said, we chose a little place called Dar Amilcar. Both the Missus and I had our doubts when the taxi drove up to this street.
Right across from a huge empty lot, full of brown withered grass and trash was a compound with the sign Dar Amilcar in front.
Once we entered into Dar Amilcar and was greeted by the owners and the staff, we knew this was the right place. On the first floor is a spacious lounge and eating area, where breakfast is served.
Though we didn't spend much time down here, some of our most memorable moments of our time in Sidi Bou Said were spent here....more on that in a future post.
There are three suites and a bedroom in the guest house....ours was the Asdrubal Suite, which was huge......
We ended up spending four really nice nights here. Like much of Tunisia, the wifi was a bit spotty, but that really didn't matter.
We came to really enjoy our walks into Sidi Bou Said proper. Being away from all the crowds of tourists was nice....as were the quiet nights.
It was about a 20 minute walk past the train station, the mosque and the busy coffee shop past Place du 7 Novembre to Rue Habib Thameur.
Up the cobble-stoned hill was where most of the tourist action took place.
Though we loved the views.......
The colors and architecture, we ended up coming up here only three times during our four night stay, twice to eat, and once to get ripped off (just joking).
The place was often crawling with tourists and somewhat pushy touts and just wasn't our scene.
Though the people watching could be interesting at times. Along with all the European tourists, it seems like folks from around Tunisia came to visit Sidi Bou Said. It was a little peaceful and pleasant oasis (of a different kind) outside of busy Tunis.
In spite of all the tourists and visitors, we found the food in Sidi Bou Said to be pretty good. Yes there were some tourist trap coffee shops and restaurants, but sprinkled amongst them were places like the simple, straight-forward, and reasonably priced (for the area) Cafe Restaurant Chargui.
Located through a little portal, in an area that was probably once a courtyard, this restaurant is very, well.....bright and white, and potentially very hot. We were the first customers of the day so we got a little covered and raised gazebo. It seems that the sun shone very brightly around these parts.
The menu was simple and the prices not bad......of course you'd pay more for the "Couscous Royale" (20 Dinar), but if you keep it simple, the prices aren't bad.
Like a simple Salade Tunisienne (4 Dinar - $2.50):
Or the Salade Mechouia (5 Dinar - $3).
This was an interesting version. First off, it had a nice spicy kick to it, which helped to lift the entire roasted pepper salad. I also think there was some tomato in this. The acidic component balanced things out nicely.
The Merguez Grille (10 Dinar - $6), also had a bit of spice to it. It wasn't the run of the mill spiced lamb sausage.
They sure love their soggy fries in Tunisia....along with over-cooked pasta!
The brik was just ok, the egg was overcooked (2 Diner - $1.20).
After lunch we wandered around a bit, then hit the market (an interesting post on that is coming up) for some H2O, had a nap and a lazy afternoon.
We were still kind of just unwinding, so we decided on a very popular place on Avenue 7 Novembre called Tam Tam.
The place looked quite modern, in fact, the place looked like it could be dropped into a mall in the US and fit right in....say along with one of those places like California Pizza Kitchen.
I quickly saw something on the "specials" menu that I pointed out to the Missus...the Seiches Grille.
For some reason, countries other than the US seem to be able to cook cephalopods....and the thought of it grilled over olive wood just seemed delish.
Of course, this was still Tunisia, so there was the bread.....
And of course Harissa.......
The seiches were not bad......
Salt, pepper, and not over-cooking these buggers.......
As for me, I decided on something that went against all of my sensibilites......
For some reason, the thought of a tuna and cheese pizza just sounds wrong. But why not, right? The "tuna" here, like in Europe is pretty good quality stuff; it ain't "Chicken of the Sea". And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised.
Just in terms of being a pizza this wasn't bad. The crust was nice and crisp, light, and yeasty. The tuna actually went well on this....I was surprised at the amount of very mild flavored tuna. It was put on the pie after baking so the mositure content was still good. I'll be the first to admit, I was totally wrong about this.
Though I won't be going out of my way looking for it, I rather enjoyed it.
After dinner we walked around a bit, then headed back to the Dar Amilcar........the Missus went on a rampage with the iPad (we found an area in the room that got a decent signal). I just turned on the television.....
We were settling in for a relaxing couple of days.
Remember that empty lot across the street from the guest house? Well, even that was growing on us.....it looked really nice out there as the sun set.
We found Restaurant De L'ile. The place was immaculate...clean and bright in the very Mediterranean way. It was also totally empty for lunch.....perhaps the combination of of "all inclusive" resorts and Arab Spring was having an effect.
The menu had a ton of Tunisian "standards" and toruist dishes....but this was Houmt Souk, on the island of Djerba....we were having seafood.
Things started out with some "amuse/appetizers" to stimulate our appetite and tastebuds.
Along with the standard bread and harissa was a carrot "puree" of sorts...the Missus was ready to hate the stuff, but really enjoyed the spices mixed with a touch of sweetness.
Along with this was a plate of "thon" (tuna) with braised potatoes which was very tasty.
First up was the "salade aux fruits de mer".....a seafood salad.
Nice, well prepared seafood, nothing fancy, but quite solid.
Then tuna with tomato sauce.....
The tomato sauce had a touch of spiciness and was very tangy. They cooked the fish to death.
If you've read my previous posts on meals in Tunisia, you'd know how much I'd taken to brik, the wonderful deep fried pastry, filled with a fried egg and sometimes seafood. This was the "Brik aux fruits de mer"...the seafood filled brik.
This one wins the "runny egg award".....I was almost mesmerized by how runny the egg was.
The yolk was profoundly "eggy", reminding me of how eggs used to taste when I was a kid. It was a bit too much for the Missus, though I enjoyed it.
There is of course, the communication barrier, which displayed itself in the calamare....we ordered it "grille", but got it fried. The squid was very tender, thought the batter oily and mushy....oh what could have been.
We finished off with the Octopus in Tomato Sauce. I'm not sure why most of what we have here in the states is like tire rubber. This was quite tender, though not as good as our favorite.
In the end, this was the best restaurant meal we'd had in Tunisia.
After lunch we found a taxi....on the way back to the resort, the Missus saw a pastry shop and had the cabbie stop.....to buy pastries! You know, this being Tunisia, he didn't bat an eye and the Missus bought him a box of confections for his trouble.
We had a nap in the afternoon, went for a walk, and as is our "MO" went to dinner early. After our previous dinner, with the themed "Italian Night", we were curious what "Tunisia Night" would be like.
We peeked out to the patio and saw that the really nice young man...the one who had gotten the Chef de Cuisine to get the Missus some mechouia the night before was working. He waved us over to the little two-top he was waiting on....there was no doubt that we wanted him to be our waiter tonight. We went out and grabbed our plates and when we returned he had created a little bouquet of sorts for our table. This was such a sweet touch.....
And while I felt bad for the folks who had to be "in character" for the dinner......
We also found a dish we really loved.....it was black and tarry looking and was in a container that looked like a flower pot. The flavor however was profound....rich, beefy with some heat, and a tongue coating texture that we found enjoyable. No one seemed to want to eat this stuff....in fact, the Chef de Cuisine came out to talk to us, just because he was happy to see folks enjoy this so much.
It was made with something we had never come across before Molokhia....of course we came home and found the stuff being sold in Nijiya, but at that time this was all new....still is, because we were told this preparation takes two days.
In the end, even though I'm not fond of these "all-inclusive" resorts, we did enjoy our time.
As our cab took us to the airport and back to Tunis, we reflected, not only on the Tunisian Cabbies dream....they all want Cadillacs and Lincoln Towncars....really! But also on how relaxed and kind folks we came across were.....
The little town is quite charming and the architecture quite unique. Most of the buildings in Houmt Souq have that Mediterranean whitewashed look, but are square and somewhat formidable looking. I was told that this was because of the location of Djerba there used to be a constant fear of attack.
The alleyways and distinct vibe made us wish that we had stayed here instead of on one of the resorts on the island.
Houmt Souq literally means "the marketplace" in Arabic....so of course that would be Marche Central (the Central Market).
By now, Ben understood that we were interested in the food and cuisine of Tunisia. He led us through a small portal and into a courtyard. At the end stood the fish market.
Here amongst the fish stands one can witness the daily fish auction.....no it's not the havoc and craziness of Tsukiji Fishmarket, but rather something on the other end of the spectrum....very relaxed, casual, and amazingly laidback.
As you milled amongst the booths you noticed that chairs were being hoisted up upon the very counters that held the fish....this happened in a very subtle way, without any fanfare. Older gentleman then climbed up, sometimes with a bit of help and sat at their mighty fish "throne". A person to the left would then "show" a string of fish, octopus, or other type of seafood, then hand it up to the person who is auctioning the fish off.
The folks who had been milling around then suddenly all come together......some I guess to bid, other maybe just to watch?
The process seemed fairly quiet and calm......
And after the highest bidder got his prize, the crowd would slightly disperse and the whole thing started over again.
In the case of something that there was something no one wanted, the crowd would simply thin out....folks losing interest.
Until the next "juicy" item came up for bid.......
There was something mesmerizing about the whole thing. We decided to stay and watch for a little while longer and let Ben off the hook. This was where we parted ways, we'd catch a cab back to the Green Palm.
After watching for a few more minutes we decided to move on.....we found a coffee shop in the middle of Marche Central and sat down to just take in the whole place with a cup of "cafe express" - espresso.
Aah.....now we were really doing things at our pace.....
Of course, there was the question of "what's for lunch?"
I usually don't do these end of year round-up type of posts....well, because we've usually done quite a bit during the year, and yes, it can be quite a bit of work. This year however, FOY (friend of yoso) Candice asked me to contribute something for end of the year round-up. This in turn made me take a look back.
I did come to the conclusion that I really didn't have a "best" meal, but several memorable experiences....and that's kind of what it's about for me. It can be the simplest of things, a great bowl of noodle soup, at just the right moment. It could be doing something new and different, or trying something new and different.
Eating something different, tasting something you haven't tried before, having a dish be your window into a different culture, place, or time.....that to me is priceless.
Or like dealing with Mr Piggy above, you have to overcome things in your attempt to succeed. In the end, it wasn't about the destination, but the journey....and of course proving to my friends that I'm willing to spontaneously com-bust for some pork.
The setting can be a backyard, graciously donated by a friend's mom, knowing that the potential exists of being totally decimated by flaming pork. Or something as wonderful as a stand by the roadside, grill smoking, pelts of sheep slaughtered that day proudly hanging, a sign of freshness and of popularity.....who needs 10,000,000 served? We've slaughtered and grilled three whole sheep today and have sold out!
I'm still thinking that once one of those television travel/dining personalities bites into the tender olive wood grilled lamb from these stands in Tunisia, it's going to blow up.
Well, maybe not......
It's also about learning things....like the "other white meat" seems like filet mignon compared to "dromidaire".
Anyway, I did have a couple of very memorable meals during the past year........
But strangely, I haven't posted on any of them yet!!!
Two of them are from our long trip this year.
We enjoyed the first meal at Le Golfe in La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, that we returned the next day!
In between beach side homes on the Mediterranean, you couldn't beat the scenery.
Except for maybe the food!
Like th seches grille - baby cuttlefish grilled over olive wood.
Or freshly caught Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna Carpaccio!
We also finally found our favorite little restaurant in Istanbul.......we ate there three times! We escaped the clutches of Kumkapi and found this place.....
On our first visit, all the customers were men.....everyone was a regular it seems.
Items were served in the style of meyhanes.....giant trays of mezes brought forth and you selected. You could still order off the menu too. I saw something that every table had and decided we needed it too. The Missus was a bit apprehensive....but after one taste was sold. One of our new "desert island dishes" Çiğ köfte.
It's raw ground lamb mixed with bulghur and herbs....you wrap it in lettuce with a couple of mint leaves.....oh man!
The third occurred at the end of the year, when I finally managed to get into one of the more enigmatic sushi shops in San Diego. If you know your sushi here in San Diego, you know of this place.
It's not quite like what most folks think.
I'll get to these three posts in the New Year I'm sure!
The fourth meal has a special place in my heart. In September of this past year, Candice and I received emails inviting us to dinner in remembrance of Naomi Wise, who sadly, and suddenly passed away on December 15, 2011. Though I had only met her once, she did have an unforgettable effect on me.
I did have some reservations about attending because I'd never really been a part of her "posse" and didn't want to intrude on such an intimate moment. But I also knew that Sang ("Sam"), who really worked hard to put together this dinner, was such a warm and friendly individual. When I attended it became clear; this was a small intimate dinner of folks who have been touched by Naomi Wise, whether in person, or through her years of writing the dining column for the Reader.
The meal was an excellent, unpretentious, but well put together family style meal at AR Valentien. Chef Kara Snyder did a great job.
There was one particular moment during that evening that I recall clearly. We were eating on the balcony and the fog had moved in. We were seated as the first course started to arrive. Distracted by the menu card, a drop of condensation hit me, getting my attention, in the background the "Hawaiian Lullabye" by the Brother Cazimero started playing.... at A R Valentien!
"Where I live there are rainbows With life in laughter of morning And starry nights Where I live there are rainbows With flowers full of color And birds filled with song I can smile when it's raining Touch the warmth of the sun I hear children laughing In this place that I love"
It was a wonderful evening of conversation and memories! It was great meeting all the folks who attended, some of them members of Naomi's posse:
The Lynnester Scottish Sue Sheila Sam Cheryl Robin "pre-Raphaelite" Jennifer Teresa
And the other folks who I got to meet:
Ed Lisa Katy Mary Marcie Greg Marcie Greg (yes, two Gregs and Marcies!)
And of course my buddy Candice.
Sang, I don't know if you read our blog, but I'd just like to say thanks! I was honored to be invited.....you did such a great job!
So I guess that's it, this year is wrapped up. See you next year..........
After an afternoon nap and basically sitting around bored in the Green Palm, it was dinner time. Places like this have a standard dining room, with usually a typical buffet and this didn't seem to be an exception.
We walked through the rather large dining area and found a little veranda out the back of the restaurant, taking a tiny little two top away from the feeding frenzy. Our server was a really nice young man, warm, with a wonderful smile. He spoke little English but we had no problem ordering us a bottle of wine. He would turn out to be one of the typical genuinely nice people we encountered in Tunisia....one of many.
As we walked pass the dishes,we noticed that there was an unusually large amount of pasta dishes.....really overcooked looking pasta dishes. We had gotten into the habit of going after more vegetable oriented dishes along with availing ourselves of the pretty decent olive oil at these buffets. We noticed that many of these typical dishes were rather "scarce". The Missus asked our server why they didn't have mechouia, the wonderful grilled pepper/vegetable salad She had gotten to really enjoy.
The reason? "Tonight is Italian night, no mechouia." Kind of a bummer. He then asked us, "you like mechouia?" Of course we answered "yes, it is very good." He pointed to the ground and said, "tomorrow, Tunisienne night.....still...." And pointed to the ground. So, that was the deal; there was a theme to every night's dinner, and tomorrow was "Tunisia night". We nodded and went on with our meal. About ten minutes later he walks up to our table and drops off this plate....of mechouia! We're just flabbergasted. He tells us, "I tell chef de cuisine, you really like mechouia, so we make you some." Say what? Shades of Vientiane! Say what you will about the politics and religion, but I've always asserted, we as people, are much kinder then the borders built by flags and rhetoric, and more alike than different. This gesture alone, made staying here a pleasure. On our way out, we wanted to thank this young man....the only thing we could think of was giving him like 20 dinar.
On our way out, the Missus noticed a line in frontof the cheese station....which by the way, was stocked with some pretty decent cheeses. So of course, my crazy wife decided to man the station....walking up and starting to serve the guests their cheese....much to the amusement of the young man who returned to find one of the guests, albeit a slightly off center one working his station.
Walking out of the restaurant, we noticed this bulletin.....listing the "themes" for each night's dinner.
I was just glad we weren't here on Tuesday ("Mardi") for "Oriental night".
There wasn't much more to do during the evening, I went down to the bar for a beer and worked on getting photos uploaded and working on a short post. The next morning we woke early, Ben would be picking us up for the last half day portion of the tour.......this being Houmt Souk and some outlying areas.
The sun was already shining brightly, but the restaurant was completely empty except for us. I'm guessing most folks were sleeping in after a night of partying. When I went upstairs to our room the previous night, folks were coming down to go to the nightclub in the resort.
Breakfast was simple and light.....I've come to enjoy the tomato-cheese-olive and bread type of breakfasts.
As usual, Ben met us promptly at 8 am and we headed off. The first stop was the town of Midoun. This was Friday, the day of a large market in the town.
We arrived pretty early, so many vendors were still setting up......most of the booths were just filled with tourist stuff. I'm guessing many of the tourists some here in cabs from the resorts to buy souvenirs......
Our next stop was on a sleepy street in the town of Erriadh, also known as Hara Seghira ("small ghetto"). Many people are not aware that Djerba once had a rather large Jewish community which some say dates back to 586 BC, following Nebuchadnezzar's taking of Jerusalem, making this one of the oldest outside of Israel. El Ghriba Synagogue, located in Erriadhis the oldest in North Africa and the site of a major pilgrimage in May of each year.
After arriving, we had to wait across the street from the Synagogue for a detachment of soldiers to arrive and the "Fat Man" who held the keys to the place. Each visitor has to go through a metal detector and possibly some screening before visiting. The reason is written on the right; on April 11th, 2002 a natural gas truck fitted with explosives drove past the security gates and detonated; killing 19.
Though the first Synagogue was first built here when a "holy stone" fell from heaven and a mysterious woman appeared instructing people to build the synagogue, this building was constructed in the 20th century.
The colors are strikingly Mediterranean, with bright blues and whites. The interior is also full of the striking blues, but is somewhat tempered by its design.
I was told that one of the oldest existing Torahs is kept here and also the story that, "when the last Jews leave Djerba, the keys to the synagogue will fly to heaven......."
After this rather somber visit, we headed off to Houmt Souk, the largest town on the island. We stopped at Borj El K'bir Fort, also known as Borj Ghazi Mustapha.
This fort was the site of a huge massacre in 1560 when Dragut (Turgut Ries) the Ottoman Commander defeated a coalition army of Phillip II of Spain, over-running the fort.
According to the story, there were about 6000 of the garrison killed and their skulls were stacked up on the shoreline as a warning. The monument was taken apart in 1848 and the bones buried and this was placed at the site.
You really wouldn't give it but a brief glance if you didn't know what once stood here.
Ben told me that to this day, Houmt Souk is never shown on any tourist maps in Spain. not sure if that's true, but it sure makes for a heck of a story, huh?