A Trip to Cascais: Portugal #2

A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

When I told my grandmother about our grand travel plans, she immediately wanted to connect me with some friends of hers. Lauren and Sam live in Mozambique but have a house in Cascais, where they spend a few months every year. My grandmother introduced us over email, and they gave us some tips about our time in Lisbon, and we planned to meet when they were in town in January. They invited us out to Cascais to go to the market and then prepare and have brunch together.

Cascais is a suburb of Lisbon: it’s about 20 miles west and sits nestled on the coast. If you get a sense of the ocean in Lisbon, that sense is much stronger in this town. It used to be a fishing village, but is now a upscale vacation town, with lots of Europeans making their way there to spend summers on the beach. It has the same cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings as Lisbon, but was much more calm and laid back. I wonder if it would feel the same in the summer when it’s filled to the brim with people.

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Sunlight and Steep Hills: Portugal #1

Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well, now that we have left Lisbon, I figure it’s time to start writing about it. Our plan was to arrive in Lisbon and stay. For two and a half months. We had booked an Airbnb (with the greatest hosts ever) for the first two weeks, and we were going to use that time to find an apartment and a coworking space, to establish a routine, and to explore the city, of course. But within our first few days in Lisbon, things changed. I felt completely drained. I did not have the energy to wander far from our apartment, much less decode a new language and public transit system, hunt for apartments, or research coworking spaces. I was wiped out, and I did not have the ability to summon the excitement for being in a new and beautiful place. So after some serious heart-to-hearts, Jonah and I decided, once again, to change plans: we would stay in Lisbon for a month, explore the rest of Portugal for about three weeks after that, then fly to the Netherlands to visit some old friends who live there and to meet some friends at the beginning of their own Europe trip, and then fly back to the States.

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Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage)

Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well friends, this is the last post from my time in Thailand. Although I’ve been gone from the country for a month and a half now, the fact is that after this post I’ll be done writing about it, looking at pictures constantly, revisiting notes, and all that. But in a way I saved the best for last.

As a birthday present for me, Kylie and Walt got the four of us a class at Ton Gluay Thai Culinary Heritage, a cooking school that Kylie found on a blog all about life in Chiang Mai. They contacted Ice, the woman who runs the school, and got us set up for an afternoon class to take place at Ice’s house. The cool thing about this class is that instead of rushing you through making four different dishes, you pick one dish to make from scratch. One of the dishes we hadn’t yet made in any of our cooking classes was the infamous Chiang Mai sausage, or Sai Ua, that we had eaten (and loved) on many occasions. It was spicy and juicy, with strong flavors of cilantro and lemongrass. Now, I’ll admit that making sausage from scratch isn’t necessarily the most appealing thing to me – intestines have never been high on the list of parts I enjoy eating or handling. But I was determined to try something new! So the class was scheduled and we were on.

When Jonah and I pulled up to Ice’s house on our motorbike, she and her boyfriend Eric (from New Jersey) were sitting out front, waving us in. Perhaps the first thing you notice about Ice is her petite but incredibly strong frame – turns out she and Eric are starting a gym in Chiang Mai and do lots of weight training in their yard. But the second thing you quickly notice is her voice. Ice is Thai but studied in Scotland and has also spent some time in the U.S., and because of this her accent is fascinating and hard to place. The way she said “cool” was so great that eventually all four of us started repeating it after her. If you want too hear what I’m talking about, you can check out the podcast that Jonah and I have been making and listen to the episode that features Ice’s class.

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Paris Restaurant Review: Restaurant Alliance

Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

How the hell do you decide where to eat in Paris? Pardon my French (pun very much intended). When Jonah and I decided to spend a quick 36 hours in the city of light between Christmas with his family in Germany and landing in Lisbon, I immediately felt overwhelmed. In my opinion, Paris is not the kind of place you can do in that short amount of time! But Jonah and I had both been to the city before, so we decided to just spend the day walking and eating.

As a holiday gift, my mom sent me some money for a nice dinner out in Paris. The research commenced, and after much reading, we ended up settling on a place I found fairly early on in my hunt: Restaurant Alliance from chef Toshitaka Omiya and Shawn Joyeux, two men with lots of Paris kitchen experience. It seemed beautiful, small, and interesting – and that’s exactly what it was. The space was long and narrow, seating maybe 30 people in total in comfy chairs under beautiful round chandeliers. The space was very calm and quiet without being uncomfortably so; everything felt very relaxed. In the back of the dining room, a huge window allowed a peek into the kitchen where the chef works.

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Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce

Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

As I mentioned in my last post, Thailand is seeming more and more like a distant memory, especially now that our friends Kylie and Walt have left Chiang Mai for the next leg of their adventure. But there are some things that have faded less than others, and Wee’s delicious food and her megawatt smile. You can read more about how we met Wee and our cooking class with her in this post (and make some pumpkin curry soup, while you’re at it.)

These fish cakes were a dish that Wee surprised us with at our cooking class. She wanted us to make an appetizer, and one that was a little more challenging and involved than a Thai style omelette, so she picked this. We hadn’t eaten them at any of our previous meals at her restaurant, and I instantly regretted that when we tasted them during our cooking class. The fish is subtle, tender, but the cakes themselves are airy and crispy. But really the star of this dish for me was the dipping sauce. We made our own sweet chili sauce – a simple task that I plan on doing a lot more when I get home – and then poured it over cucumbers and shallots and topped it with ground peanuts. This fruity sauce was light and crunchy, matching so well with the fish cakes. But it also lent a refreshing acidity to the fried fish cakes. I can easily imagine using the dipping sauce at many a summer BBQ to top grilled chicken or salmon. But first, try it with these fish cakes.

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