Terceira Local Artists Studio Tour

Friday I had the opportunity to go on an all day trip to visit local artists in their studios and see some of the traditional crafts of the island. To begin with I was exhausted since I teach from midnight to 1am and it was the first night of a new term, so I was a wee bit excited Thursday night. This trip was offered though the arts & crafts center here, so I headed there to start my day. I did not know anyone since I have only met a few people here so far. I was hoping this trip would help me to find some new friends since I knew we would at least have one thing in common, enjoying crafts and other art works.

The first place we stopped was an embroidery shop. They had napkins, table runners, wine bottle labels, wall hangings, and a variety of religious items. They are extremely Catholic here. The other item I thought was neat were the flags for the different villages. At this point in time I was still sleepy and barely able to stay up straight, but I did manage to remember the location so I can go back another time. Next the trip organizer took us all to a cafe for some coffee. I am not a fan of coffee. In fact I hate it, but the thought of caffeine was was enough to make me order a drink that I find similar to a cappucino. At this point I did meet a few people and was really enjoying the conversations with them.
Back into the van. This time we headed to the industrial area, which I thought was odd. Thinking about it now, I guess it does make sense to have a ceramic "factory" in an industrial area. This place was really neat. I have seen many of these souveniers around town (mugs, espresso cups, and tiles), but this was where they were being produced. This is a photo of a large tile wall hanging that is in the process of being started. The photo or design has been transferred to the tiles, and then they can be painted.

Here is a close up of the scene. I suppose this was a specialty piece that a family wants for their home. Many people have 4-6 tile signs announcing the house with the family name. This one is much larger. I also think some of these are framed and used inside as art.

Here is another tile painting, also not yet painted and glazed, but does have the drawing on it. This is much smaller. You can see one of those 6 tile signs I was mentioning. The shop owner took this one out to display for us.
Here one of the artists is cutting out decals that contain a map of the island. They will be transferred and then provide the outline for the painting. I know these are going on the small espresso cup since I have seen this design many times on the small cups in little shops around town. The idea with this decal is similar to a temporary tattoo. She will use water to make the design transfer to the intended item.
Last we have the store itself that is located in the front. Most visitors only make it this far, but we were on a tour and they were happy to show us around. In this store they sold tiles, paintings made from multiple tiles, mugs and espresso cups. I bought a set of four espresso cups in an amazing shade of torquoise. They say Azores (except in Portugese, so the z is a c with the little line coming of the bottom...my computer is not cool enough to make this letter) with hydrangeas in place of the 'O'. They had many nice things here and I am sure I will go back to purchase more.
Next stop was an aromatherapy shop where they do massage and reflexology. The prices are very reasonable for a 1 1/2 hr massage, so I think I will go back.
They also sold handmade soaps, books (in Portugese only), incense and candle holders.
The next stop was in Porto Judeu. This shop had many different items and I am not sure how many were actually made at this location. There were fused glass pieces, crocheted handbags (which I purchased), embossed metal pieces, and some other little knick-knacks. The photo here shows some really cool fused glass pieces. These are candle holders. They act as trays and those here will hold a candle with a large diameter. I really liked some of these designs and colors. I know I will purchase some of these pieces before we leave.
After that shop it was time to stop for lunch. Since we were driving along the coast, I was pleased to find that the restaurant they picked for use was right on the water. You can't beat a meal with a view like this.
Someone on the tour ordered this dish. This was a shrimp dish prepared in a clay tile. There are also potatoes to accompany the shrimp and it looked like a creamy sauce. This comes in a portion for 1 or 2 people. I think this looks like enough for 2, but I honestly think this was the portion for one. I think that baking the food in a clay tile is a traditional meal preparation technique used on the island, but I have not yet tried anything prepared this way.
Here is my lunch. This is the grilled seabass served with salad and potatoes. It was very good. Very few bones. The person next to me ordered the fish of the day, and although the head was removed, it still had all of the bones inside.
After lunch we went to Angra to see a pottery shop. You can see that this was different from the first ceramic shop we visited. These were terra cotta pieces. They had water jugs, little bells, vases and pots for plants. Most pieces were unpainted, but I did find a section with some neat painting on them. It was a single color swirled with white. Some used black, some purple and some red pieces too. This is another shop I hope to go back to.
Our last stop of the day was another studio for fused glass. The pieces were very similar to those I have pictured above. This artist was very generous. She did give discounts, but she also baked us an orange flavored cake and served coffee and tea. It was a nice way to end the day. I now have more of an appreciation for the local artists and their native crafts. I can't wait to see more of what this island has to offer.
QUESTION TIME: Do you have a favorite local craft where you live?

O Pescador, a wonderful dining experience

This restaurant was highly recommended by some of Ryan's Portugese coworkers. So we decided to turn Thursday night into a Friday night and go out for a nice dinner. We were told this was expensive, but coming from Vegas, expensive meals are all relative. So we went, and yes, it was a bit more pricey than your standard snack bar, cafe or sit down restaurant, but it was not outrageously priced. Next time I think I will wear something a little more on the dressy side.

O Pescador = The Fisherman

When we walked in the place was empty (of course when we left it was getting busier. We did go on the early side). The waiting area had a tank of lobsters (above pic). They had an extensive collection of wines lining the walls. The tables were nicely set with a mint green and then a white tablecloth. The menu was available in English, which is always a plus. The servers spoke English and so did the server assistant. This was very comforting as sometimes you really do nt know what you are ordering. The menu items led me to believe they were catering more to tourists and Americans than to Portugese. It was different than the standard local fare.

We started off with the usual: bread. There were 3 pieces of bread brought to each of us. One was the typical local bread, one was the same type but crispy (turns out it was the bruschetta bread), and then a sweeter and softer bread on top. This was served with butter and a plate of cheeses.

For the cheeses there were two different kinds. The outer cheese was a softer cheese. It was easily spreadable. The inner, round cheese, had a nuttier flavor. If I wasn't the driver I would had a glass of wine since this cheese would have paired well.

On to the appetizer. This was THE BEST! I loved this dish. We split it and it was just the right size for sharing. This was the bruschette with tomato and pico cheese, served with banana chutney. It was the right combination of sweet and salty. You can see the banana chutney, it is a pinkish purple color underneath the bread.

On to the main course. Ryan ordered a steak. This was served on "the rock" which was a hot block that causes the meat to sizzle, steam, and continue to cook while at the table. It was served with salad and french fries.
From this angle you can see the size of the steak. You can also see the 3 different sauces that came with it.
I ordered the parrotfish, which is a local fish with a mild, yet distinct flavor. It almost tasted like salt water. To the credit of the server, he did tell me it was unique. It was not the best fish I have ever had, but it was good and the rest of the dish preparation was delicious. The fish was topped with carrots and served over potatoes and chopped shrimp (both cut to the same size cubes) in a safron sauce. This was excellent. When we were finishing dinner we did notice the ladies nearby receiving their food. They ordered these amzaing looking skewers of shrimp and veggies, so I already know what I am getting next time.
Of course no fancy evening out is complete without dessert. Here is my brownie sundae. Very tasty, although it did have walnuts inside, which for some reason I do not like.
And lastly we have Ryan's dessert. This was the house cake, or specialty dessert. It was sweet, but not too sweet. It tasted like a buttercream frosting.
We were fairly full by the time we got to dessert, so we passed on the chocolate fondue, but it looked great. It was served with all fruits. I am hoping to try that next time. I know this is one place we will go back to for dinner, and I am certain when friends and family come to visit we will bring them here to dine.
QUESTION TIME: What is your favorite restaurant and what do you like best there?

Vegas Memories (Part 1)

I am sitting here messaging with my friend Amanda who lives in San Diego. One of the first things she asked me was if I miss Vegas. Well, the answer is yes. I love where I am now and I love the adventure, but I also miss my friends and some of the comforts of a 24/7 town. I lived in Vegas for 5 years, which was a good amount of time. I learned a lot, saw a lot, and met a LOT of great people (including my wonderful husband). So, here are some of my favorites from Vegas. Whether you live there or are going to visit, this might give you some ideas of things to try while there.

This is a picture of the Holsum bread factory. It is no longer a bread factory, but the outside still looks very cool. There are some design stores inside, but this is in an area with many antique shops, so if you are into antuques look for this building. There are also outlet stores across the street. I just really think this is a cool looking building.
Here is a picture of Fresh and Easy, a nice little grocery store. I really liked it there and miss having one nearby. Although some of their prepared meals may be high in sodium and fat, it beats the alternative for some people. I would recommend these meals any day over fast food hamburgers and fries.
Here is the inside of the Venetian hotel. I love the over the top set ups inside of these hotels. While it is certainly not Venice, it is a magical feeling to walk down these "streets". Straight ahead in this photo is the restaurant Canelleto. I ate here with my grandparents every October when they came to visit. The branzino al sale is fantastic. If you go there and like fish, order this. It is big enough for two. If you save room for dessert there is a gelato cart (off the right, a tad hard to see). The no sugar added blueberry is the perfect way to end a meal.

And if you visit the Venetian, you must also check out the Bellagio. Here are some photos from the various conservatory displays. They change the setup 5 times a year: Chinese New Year, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter/Christmas. We made it a point to see the display every time it changed. While some aspects remained the same, the display was also different, and very beautiful. If you head to the Bellagio you must also see the fountain show out front. I used to drive by this on the way home from UNLV and loved to pick my own music off my iPod to play in the car as I watched the fountains. Also check out the chihuly glass flowers on the ceiling in the lobby. Lastly, if you like chocolate and you like crepes, you musy visit the patisserie behind the conservatory gardens. There you will find the largest chocolate fountain (unable to loacte a pic at this time) and the most amazing wedding cakes. Off the menu I recommend the chocolate brownie crepes. Anytime we had visitors in town, we ALWAYS stopped for this treat. But be prepared, it is expensive, it is at the Bellagio!
This is from a spring display
This is from a summer display
This is my favorite part of the displays. I love this tree. Usually (as shown here) was a part of the fall display. Sometimes they used the tree for other seasons.
Here is, yes you guessed it, a winter and Christmas display. I also liked when they had polar bears. One thing to mention though, do NOT, do NOT go to the Bellagio on Christmas Eve. My sister and I made that mistake once, didn't even think about, it was just that it was open and fit into out busy schedule of fitting things in over her vacation. Let's just say we saw the fountain display out front more times than is ever necessary in one lifetime.
My last set of photos for today come from our hike up Cathedral Rock. This is located in the Mt. Charleston area. In fact it is basically up Mt. Charleston. This is a nice little hike. Not hard at all, but does have some good uphill climbs. It is only 30-45 minutes from Vegas, and the drive is really nice. Believe it or not, Vegas has some good outdoor activities. When you are done hiking, the lodge has a restaurant where you can get brunch or lunch, depending on the day and time.

That is the town of Mt. Charleston down below. If you look closely in this photo you can see the special chipmunk. It lives at high altimtudes and is unique to this area only.
Here is a shot of Cathedral Rock, which you can see clearly from the end point of the hike.
So those are just some of my memories from living in Las Vegas. I am sure I will have more to come, I have tons of pictures (5 years worth!) and great memories that I would like to share.
So my question to you: Have you ever been to Vegas? What was/is your favorite part/place in Vegas?

Terceira, the island of bull fights

The idea of the street bull fight is the coolest part about this island. Starting in May and running through October there are many of the bull fights. I have seen estimates that there are more than 400 of these each summer. Many weeks there are fights Wednesday-Sunday nights.

If the fight is in your neighborhood chances are your are throwing a party and all your friends will be at your house. The first step in preparing is boarding up the front of your house. many houses have high up walls, but others don't. It is important to use wood, or cardboard at least to cover up any windows, doors or gates. We have not had ours in front of our house yet, but we should have one in September.
We have been to 4 of these. Since none were in front of our house we had to find a way to safely watch these. Often times you just need to search for a high up wall and climb it.

There is a family that owns the bulls around here. They have the fields (and there is a bull ring there too) and they will load up 4 bulls in crates, load them on a truck and take them to the location for the fight. They will also be responsible for holding the bull during the street running and taunting.

There are street vendors selling a variety of foods. It reminded me of a baseball game. There is ice cream, popcorn, corn on the cob, candy bars and sometimes there are stands with traditional foods.

Then a firework will sound. A single blast denotes the bull is being set free. The bull is attached to a long rope where the men will hold to control the bull. Other boys and men will taunt the bull using umbrellas. I want to mention that no bull is intentionally hurt or killed. In fact they let them rest and then use them again. No, not the most humane activity to poke and prod and make it angry, but it is a local custom so I go along with it.

The bull will run up and down the street and the men will put on a "show". this goes on for 10-15 minutes and then you will hear a double firework. This signals that the bull is back in the cage. After a short break the second bull will be released. After bull #2 there is a 30 minute break which is sufficient time to safely leave the area if you do not want to stay. After this intermission there are 2 more fights and that is it.

Overall it is a very interesting custom. Boys and men will chase the bull around in a display of their manlihood or just to show off for the girls. Sometimes stupidity takes over and people do get hurt. It is dangerous, bulls can jump walls, and there are a lot of people around which is always cause for concern (people can stampede too!). In the end, I think it is a really cool tradition and makes for a good cheep evening out. I am looking forward to when the bulls run in front of my house.

This is the special summer activity here on the island. What is your favorite summer only pastime? What about the coolest custom you have seen while traveling somewhere?

Pizza in a cone

Two weekends ago we found ourselves in Angra again. It seems that many restaurants do not open until 6pm or later for dinner. We wanted to try what looked like a nice (fancier than an everyday establishment) restaurant since we have passed it many times, btu never been inside. The woman spoke some English, but told us they open ay 18:00 if we wanted to come back. So we left. Once we got back out to the street we looked at a clock and noticed it was 17:58. Confused by her concept of opening time (she literally left the place behind us and walked down the street. perhaps to smoke one last cigarette before opening or to grab a coffee?), we decided to visit Kono Pizza, a pizza joint we ate at once before. On a Saturday afternoon it is always nice to sit and dine by the water. This is like a fast food place, but nicer. This is the outdoor dining area and the view of the ocean.

This place is so cute. The concept is that the pizza crust is in the shape of a cone. There are hot pizzas, cold pizzas and dessert pizzas. They also sell hamburgers on bagels, breakfast sandwiches in the morning, and some salads. Last time my pizza was so good that I really felt I needed to get that kind again. Not eating meat also limits my choices. I knew going in this time that I was going to not only get one of the pizzas, but also try a dessert. I knew I would almost always be too full to want the dessert, so I would just need to make up my mind now before I never got a chance to order one during my two years on this island. Boy was it worth it.

Here is the store front. Sorry for the glare, but it gives an idea of what it looks like.

This is the hamburger menu. I won't be trying these, but I like that they serve them on bagels.

This is the cold pizza menu. I ordered from here. I went with the Noruegues. This is basically a corss between a bagel with lox and cream cheese and a cheese pizza. This was cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, and smoked salmon on the top part. In the very bottom was some hot pizza sauce and a small amount of melted cheese. Interesting taste combo, but surprisingly good. Ryan went with the first on here, the Kapricho. This was the same tomato sauce and cheese in the bottom, but the top cold portion was sliced tomatos and fresh cheese cubes (it's the one pictured at the top of the sign). He also got the combo meal which meant we had a lovely salad to share before eating our pizzas.

Here is the machine they use to heat the cones. The dough is already cooked and in the cone shape. This toaster has cone holders and the cone simply rotates through the machine to become warm.

Although we wanted to sit outside, there were some girls smoking so we moved upstairs. Here is the view from the upstairs window.

Since this is not quite as fast as fast food, it did take some time to get our lunch, but it looked wonderful when it did arrive. I love their presentation.
This is my kono pizza. It is neat how the top is cold, yes the bread is warm, and the bottom is hot. It actually works well and tastes great.

And then it was time for dessert. The cone itself is a bit smaller than the pizza cone. I was thankful for that. Ryan's is on the left. He had a kono split, which was cream, chocolate and banana. I tried the chocolate kono. This was a special type of cream, on the chunky side, with bits of chocolate which melt during the heating process. They were delicious. I am glad I tried one though since I know I would go back there and always be wondering about them. Now that my curiousity has been satisfied, along with my sweet tooth, I think I can go sometime without the kono dessert and pizza in one sitting.

This is one of the more unique concepts I have seen in food service. What about you? What's the most interesting or unique food service concept you have seen or tried?