Friday Links: Sneaker-Wearing Spiders Like Female Bosses (and Fritos Chili Pizza)

Spiders
That’s a sneaker-wearing spider above a spider web pizza. I’m not good at the Photoshopping.
  • Now that I’m working freelance from Poe Industries Worldwide Headquarters, my style needs have changed a bit (Jeans Day EVERYDAY). Plus, I’m coming up with a packing list for Italy and I know I’ll need to take my Pumas (cobblestones — WHY???). So this slideshow I found on Pinterest on cool sneakers and the outfits that work with them is pretty helpful and timely.
  • This guy in Canada bought his girlfriend a pretty awesome round-the-world trip for Christmas. Then she broke up with him. Now he’s looking for another Elizabeth Gallagher to use the plane tickets. Hmmm, yeah. Nothing could go wrong with that.
  • If you do go on that trip, check your earbuds. British pop star Katie Melua had a spider living in her ear for a week. She suspects it got in there from a pair of old in-ear monitors she used to block out the flight noise. IRONY ALERT: Katie Melua has a song called “Spider’s Web.” You can’t make this stuff up.
  • In light of the new abomination known as Papa John’s Fritos chili pizza, I feel like a few of these fast food disasters are on the verge of a comeback. I’m looking at you Burger King pumpkin burger
  • Well, I’ve had some really good female bosses, and not-so-good female bosses. Now this new poll suggests that 39% of women prefer male bosses to female ones.
  • I’ve been dinged by Uber’s surge pricing (although, mine was on a normal, ordinary, non-rainy, non-holiday Thursday). I guess I should’ve crowdfunded it!
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Balinese Eats that Will (Probably) Not Result in a Spider Body Possession

Babi guling

When I came across this article about Bali, I had to click on it, even though I knew I didn’t really have the “stomach” to do so. (PUN INTENDED) Also: (Heads up: the article I’m referring to involves an Australian tourist and stomach-burrowing tropical spiders. Soooo….yeah. Nothing fun there.)

You see, we went to Bali a few months ago. Actually, we went to Bali exactly two weeks after this event and stayed in the exact same hotel. (Heads up: the article I’m now referring to involves a daughter and her boyfriend murdering her socialite mother and stuffing her in a suitcase. You’ve been warned.)

Anyway, the coincidence of that event and our trip timing was incredibly creepy and weird. Creepy because, well, there had just recently been a murder in what I would positively call the least murder-y type place ever. I mean, seriously, the St. Regis in Bali is amazing. Wonderful. Tranquil. Everything and everyone is peaceful and cheerful and willing to help you with absolutely anything. If you even mentioned, for example, that you liked a particular fruit, that fruit would then appear every damn day nestled in a beautiful wooden bowl, just especially for you.

St. Regis beach
See? Totally peaceful and gorgeous. Not at all murder-y.

Weird because we spent a good part of everyday wondering if any of the staff we were encountering had known or waited on the victim and her murderers. When we saw a sign in the lobby about the area being monitored by cameras, we wondered if those signs were new or if they had been there the whole time. We suspiciously eyed every single heavy decorative object in our bungalow as a potential bludgeoning device. It was all very at odds with a vacation mentality.

Anyway, I’ll talk about the St. Regis in Bali a bit more in another post. Well, probably a lot more, since staying there was one of the best vacation experiences we’ve ever had (We flew a kite! We released a sea turtle! These are not euphemisms! These are legitimate activities we participated in!).

But for today, let’s just explore some of Bali’s best eats in pictures and be glad that no one got invaded by tropical spiders. Also, no giardia, so nothing but unicorns and rainbows as far as I’m concerned.

drinks and sambal

Sambal – This is the first thing we ate in Bali. It was served in a small dish next to these amazing peanut crackers. Sambal is sauce typically made from a variety of chili peppers and secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.

Nasi Goreng at St. Regis
(Photo not mine. I was too busy eating to take pictures http://www.foodnut.com/i/St-Regis-Boneka-Sunday-Brunch-Bali/St-Regis-Boneka-Sunday-Brunch-Buffet-Bali-nasi-goreng.jpg)

Nasi Goreng – I had this for brunch one morning at the St. Regis in Nusa Dua. It’s a fried rice dish, with shrimp crackers and sliced up omelet, and a side condiment of spicy red paste.

bubur ayem
Photo not mine. I was…well, you know. Click on photo for link/credit.

Bubur ayam – This was another St. Regis brunch special. It was like congee – a non-sweet porridge, with shredded chicken, green onions, sambal and eggs, I think. It was ok, not my favorite.

Satay – The Balinese love their satay. It’s exactly what you think it is: skewers of grilled meat slathered in a peanut sauce. We even ate these on the dive boat lunch (along with a variation of nasi goring).

Babi guling

Babi guling – The Balinese national dish: roasted whole pig. I really wanted to try this, but never got to. We hired a driver to take us around the island one day and he had his own agenda. When I asked about getting babi guling, he said the place he goes to was too far out of the way. Meanwhile, we must have passed about 50 roadside places specializing in babi guling over the course of the next eight hours. I really should have been more insistent. Especially in light of our own Porktober event.

pomelo salad

Rujak jeruk bali – Pomelo salad. Actually, I’m not sure this is a Balinese dish per se. I think it’s Thai. But we fell for it hard. We had it at breakfast and it came in these little glass jars at the W Hotel in Seminyak. A pomelo is like a grapefruit on steroids, and it’s cut up and combined with cilantro, peanuts, green beans, carrots. So refreshing and not unlike green papaya salad, only more citrus-y.

snakeskin fruit

Salak – Snakeskin fruit. It is indigenous to Bali and is related to the palm tree, somehow. It had an easy to peel, flaky outerskin. The inside fruit was segmented, and had a firm flesh similar to an apple, and a small dark pit in each segment. In fact, it tasted a lot like a cross between an apple and a pear, but much neater (less juicy). We loved them and ate a ton of them. Our butler at the St. Regis made sure we were well stocked.

Rambutan - the hairy, scary Balinese fruit
Again, not my photo. Click on image for link.

Rambutan – This hairy, scary-looking fruit was in our fruit bowl, but we didn’t even attempt to eat it.

Bitang - Balinese beer
This one, totally is my picture. Amazingly.

Bitang – Balinese beer. Nuff said.

There was one other dish that I ate twice and loudly declared them to be the best I’d ever had: nachos at the St. Regis. Usually at lunch, by our pool, after drinking many Bitangs and/or glasses of wine. At first, we ordered them out of morbid curiosity, certain that there was no way they’d be any good. But they were. They were delicious. Then I had to order them a second time, just to make sure. They had shredded chicken and a cheese sauce made out of béchamel and they were actually really, really good. I guess sometimes a girl just wants a taste of home.

St. Regis nachos. The. Best.
Amazingly, I stopped shoving these into my mouth long enough to take a picture. Note glass of rose in the background.

Poe Spiders are Now a Thing

I’m not generally afraid of spiders. Sure, I don’t want to snuggle up with one and take a nap or anything, but I’ve been known to nut up and squish a few or rinse one down the sink without too much screaming.

spiderscared

However. There are limits to co-existence with spiders. And this one may be taking it too far.

According to Time magazine:

[S]traight from northern Sri Lanka, where scientists say they’ve discovered a new type of giant tarantula with a leg span of up to eight inches. Grab your rulers and mirrors, because yep, that’s about the average length of a human noggin.

As if that weren’t frightening enough (or cool enough — you pick), this particular spider was found living in trees. Anyone who’s ever walked beneath a tree and wound up brushing away a tiny spider knows that some arachnids enjoy an arboreal life, dangling from silken threads to surprise unsuspecting trail-walkers. Now imagine one the size of a volleyball landing on you like one of the facehuggers from Alien.

Hmmm, they sound like they might be just a tad bit too large to gently nudge/wash down the sink drain. (Related: we can also take Sri Lanka off the list of places we’ll ever visit.)

But the real clincher, as my sister pointed out to me on Facebook, is the spider’s name (and nickname)

Covered in beautiful, ornate markings, the spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, known as “Pokies” for short. These are the tiger spiders, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colourful, fast, and venomous.

So these crazy fast, venomous, humongous spiders are named Poe and they go by Pokie for short, which sounds an awful lot like my childhood nickname, Pookie.

I guess I’ll have to stop squishing them now that they’re kinfolk.

Poe spiders

 

Rioja: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Winemaking (and a teeny bit of actual drinking)

Our three-day visit to the Rioja wine route in Spain has made us experts at making wine.

Spain's Rioja wine region

Prior to this trip, my personal sommelier XFE and I felt fully confident that after watching two seasons of Moonshiners, several tours of distilleries (including Jameson in Ireland) and quite a few breweries (mostly in Colorado), and probably a total of a hundred wineries on three continents, we were conversant in the basics of turning a grain or fruit into a fermented adult beverage.

When planning our trip to the Rioja region, we ran into a wrinkle that we’ve actually run into before. Spain (like other parts of Europe) requires advance bookings for visits to their wineries. Fine. But in most cases, you can’t just go in for a tasting. You have to do a tour of the facilities.

Now, as I mentioned, we go on a lot of winery visits. We go out to Virginia wineries twice a year to taste the latest vintages and stock our wine closet. We’ve been to Napa and Sonoma. We’ve been to Northern Italy. We’ve been to the Barossa region of Australia. We’ve done many, many tours. This is not our first wine rodeo.

So being required to go on tour after tour after tour where there’s actually only a tiny bit of variance in the process (hmmm, you use American oak barrels instead of French oak? Wow.) just so we can have a tiny taste of two of your least popular wines? It’s excessive. In no instance were the wines served as good as wines we subsequently bought and tasted.

My suggestion? I’d rather hear more about the wine itself. What notes should I look for? Which specific ones are available for sale in the US (since the wineries won’t ship)? How long should we store it if we buy it? How is this one different from this one? That kind of stuff.

Nevertheless, we made reservations for tours at four facilities: Bodega Lopez de Heredia in Haro; Bodega Baigorri in Samaniego; Marques de Riscal in Elciego; and Bodega Ysios in Laguardia. Our mid-November trip was around two-to-six weeks after harvest and bottling (depending on the facility), so things were definitely quiet and reservations were easy to arrange.

We started our trip with a pleasant morning drive to Haro, about an hour and a half south of Bilbao. The countryside was beautiful, with steep cliffs of iron on each side of the road and early morning fog burning off.

Spain's Rioja wine region

Haro is one of those small old Spanish towns that has one road entering it, and Lopez de Heredia was one of the first spots right off the road. You couldn’t miss it. Well, and the modern decanter shaped tasting room building also gave it away.

Lopez de Heredia in Haro, Spain
Tasting room at Lopez de Heredia

You see, the big thing in the Rioja region is to have some fancy-schmancy architect build your facility or tasting room. In the case of Lopez de Heredia, the tasting room was designed by an Iraqui-British architect, Zaha Hadid.

The tasting room is the only nod to modernity at Lopez de Heredia. They are extremely proud of their adherence to the old ways of doing things, using many of the traditional methods they’ve honed over the last 130-plus years to make their Vina Tondonia. They make their own barrels and have an onsite cooperage, a source of great pride for our lovely young tour guide. And, in case you were wondering, they use American oak.

Barrel making at Lopez de Heredia in Haro, Spain

We also got a peek at some of their very creepy underground storage vaults where bottles of wine were just coated with cobwebs and dust. You could not make out a single label. In many cases, you couldn’t even tell that they were bottles. Our tour guide explained that killing the spiders would be environmentally insensitive since they provide a necessary service of eating other pests. The amount of post-harvest wine gnats floating in the air would seem to suggest—to me at least—that the spiders were not holding up their end of the deal, and just maybe, we could break out a feather duster and tidy up a bit.

Wine storage at Lopez de Heredia

At Heredia, we tasted crianzas, reservas and gran reservas – terms which refer to how long the wines have been aged. They were all very, very good and were bargain priced, although that did us no good since they don’t ship to the U.S. Heredia, like other wineries in Rioja, uses a U.S. distributor, which means you can’t get all of their wines, and the staff at the wineries don’t know which ones you can get. Quite frustrating. We ended up buying a bottle to drink, and a small dessert wine to take home.

Wine storage at Lopez de Heredia

Haro has 19 or so wineries, but we had only made reservations at Heredia, which had been recommended by the guy at our favorite local wine store. There was, however, a tasting room right next door to Heredia that we had read about during our research – Bodegas Roda. As promised, it was small and to the point. You could taste Roda wines and even their olive oil, which we did.

Bodegas Roda in Spain

We then headed down the street to Bodegas Torre Muga, which is a very large and modern operation that, quite wisely, has a wine bar where you can sit and try a flight of wines without going through the tour business. It was here that we made a very odd discovery: although the Rioja region is deservedly known for its wonderful reds, the whites were just as good, if not sometimes better. This was true at Muga, which had a wonderful blanco that we fell in love with.(They also had some of the best buttery crackers there, which I. Tore. Up.)

Torre Muga, Rioja, Spain
Didn’t like anything. Anything at all.

Tomorrow: Wine bankruptcies, the role of gravity in winemaking, and why you should not choose a winery based on a cool, architecturally interesting building.

Still on the Lookout for Grey-Headed Flying Fox Pizza

We finished our first day in Sydney. It’s been pretty soggy. It’s either misting, sprinkling or pouring, but we’re making the best of it. I didn’t travel three days in the lap of luxury to just luxuriate in my gorgeously appointed suite of rooms overlooking the park for crying out loud (actually, that sounds quite nice).

We went to the Royal Botanical Gardens where we saw a giant GIANT spider. Actually, we saw about four of these spiders throughout the day, but this one was the biggest.

Then we saw these crazy grey-headed flying foxes. Oh, you don’t know about grey-headed flying foxes? Well, they’re these “mega bats,” according to Wikipedia. And of course, they’re giant. And they’re hanging from the trees. They’re these giant fuzzy fruit bats hanging from the trees in the middle of the damn city. Supposedly, they aren’t dangerous to humans, but I’m not really into it.

We also saw poisonous plants. These plants weren’t separated by glass or anything. You could just reach out and touch them if you were so inclined. There they were. Poisonous plants. Just out in the open. Australia is crazy y’all.

Totally inspired, we then went to the Rocks, Australia’s oldest neighborhood. We walked around, shopped a bit, and then ate at the Australian Heritage Hotel. This place had some of the most delicious pizzas. We ordered a kangaroo pizza and a salt water crocodile pizza (which had some yummy Thai flavors). But the kangaroo won out. It was phenomenal – salty, slightly gamey, spicy and so, so good.