6 Weird Ways To Get Your Food Served Around The World

Now that food trucks are a staple in pretty much every metropolis, people have to get really creative to think about how to serve food in an edgy manner. But from fries in a vending machine to sparkling water in a public fountain, there are plenty of places around the world that will make sure that you have an unforgettable eating experience.

1. Coin-operated Belgian Fries
If you want a cornet of classic Belgian fries, look no further than a vending machine. A coin-operated machine in Brussels has been specifically developed to produce fries made with beef fat. And yes they do come with an option of ketchup or mayonnaise.

2. Ice cream from a monster truck
You’ve seen food trucks, but have you ever seen a monster food truck? Czech carmaker Skoda turned a 5.5 ton van into an ice cream truck, deeming it the “world’s largest ice cream truck.” It has five-foot tall tires after all. You’ll find it touring around the UK.3. Vending machine champagne
In Berlin you can get your bubbles from a vending machine. The gourmet food vending machine at delicatessen Floris Feinkost not only has pint-sized bottles of champagne available for sale, but also Dutch stroopwaffels and flavored salts. That’s what you call one stop shopping.

4. Sparkling water from a fountain
It would seem that only in Paris would you be able to get sparkling water from a fountain (which you can do at three different parks in the city) but earlier this year even Australia tried one out, with the city of Perth using a sparkling water fountain on a three-month trial.

5. Carry-out bacon bar
A restaurant isn’t such an odd or intriguing thing, but a carry-out bacon bar is. In Chicago you now know exactly where to order your bacon when you’re having that random craving thanks to Burke’s Bacon Bar which offers up mini sandwiches stuffed with bacon. As chef Rick Gresh said, “Bacon could be the one legal drug, because once you taste it you’re hooked.”

6. The in-car rice maker
Want food on the go? For those looking for a little more homecooked of a meal while they’re traveling, you might want the new Japanese in-car rice cooker. That’s right, you can now prep your sushi rice while you drive. Could be useful when you’re running late on dish prep for a dinner party.

Eating And Drinking In Valencia: Fartons, Paella And Orange-Flavored Cava

A holiday in Spain is all about the food. Oh, and there’s the art, the nightlife, the beaches, the countryside, the beautiful people, but really it’s all about the food. It’s one of the great world cuisines, and as you eat your way around the country you find some amazing regional variations.

I’ve just spent the last three days chowing down in Valencia on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Valencia is the name of both a region and that region’s largest city. Their cuisine is famous even among the Spaniards, not the least because the national dish paella originated in Valencia. The saffron-infused rice mixed with seafood or meat is a staple here, and Valenicans say they make the only true paella, all others being arroz con cosas (“rice with things”).

So is Valencian paella the only true paella? I don’t know, but it’s damn good. And it comes in many varieties that are hard to find elsewhere. The one shown here is pretty standard, in the sense of “awesome in the usual way.” If you notice, though, you’ll see that half the base isn’t rice but pasta. Valencia has long historical ties to Italy and I sense an Italian flair to a lot of the cooking here. Another paella I tried was Arroz de Señoret, in which the shrimp was already peeled. Sort of a lazy man’s paella.

%Slideshow-3070%Of course there’s plenty more on the Valencian plate. Another local delicacy is orxata, which is pronounced and looks like horchata from Mexico. While the Mexican drink can be made from many things, usually rice, the Valencian drink is always made with tigernuts. It’s often served with a farton. Once you stop snickering about the name (it took me a while) you’ll find it to be sort of like a glazed donut shaped like a bread stick. It’s good for dipping in the orxata.

In addition to local specialties, Valencia has plenty of what makes Spanish cuisine in general famous: good cheese, endless varieties of pork and, of course, the famous Valencian oranges.

Those oranges get put into a favorite local drink, agua de Valencia, which is a refreshing mix of orange juice and cava (Spanish champagne). It’s a perfect drink while sitting at an outdoor cafe on a hot day. Beware: many of the more touristy places charge hefty amounts for a pitcher of orange juice with only trace amounts of cava.

While the region of Valencia is not as famous for wine as regions such as Rioja, wine production is expanding and both their red and white whites are beginning to gain more respect and distribution. They’re also producing a large number of craft beers. The national beers in Spain are all mediocre lagers, perfectly good on a hot day but not satisfying for your typical beer snob. Now microbreweries are cropping up in Valencia and other regions and making pale ales, brown ales, bitters, wheat beers and all the other styles typically found in more northern countries.

So if you find yourself on Spain’s southwestern coast, check out Valencia. Your stomach will thank you.

12 12 12 Is Coming, Like It Or Not

12 12 12 is more than just next Wednesday and an unusual calendar date. The Mayan calendar has it as a time of transformation and evolution. Basically the end of time as we know it, Mayan’s believed 12/12/12 was also the beginning of a new cycle of evolution for planet earth, humanity and the cosmos. With a focus on the planet surviving, a number of events and promotions are planned by organizations and travel service providers.

12/12/12, The Concert For Sandy Relief
An all-star roster of who’s who in music will be on hand for The Concert For Sandy Relief.

Appearing via free simulcast in hurricane-affected area theaters will be Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and others. An estimated 1 billion others worldwide will view the Madison Square Garden concert via television and live streaming video.

A variety of corporate sponsors are hosting the event to raise money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, providing financial assistance, material and know-how to organizations helping victims of Hurricane Sandy throughout the affected area.

$12 Hotel Stay
At the B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, 12/12/12 is a time to take advantage of exclusive $12 promotions, from room rates to food and beverage offerings. Travelers making reservations on December 12, 2012, for stays through September 30, 2013, will receive a third night at $12* (with the purchase of two nights at the best available rate), daily breakfast buffet for $12 per person and two signature cocktails for $12 when using the promotional code 121212.

They have the right attitude too. “Offering an added perk surrounding this fun, highly anticipated, one-time event is the perfect way to cap off an exciting year filled with accolades, new opportunities and optimism,” said B Ocean General Manager Eduardo Fernandez in a statement.Marry Me at 12 Event
Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel lets couples ready to take the plunge or those renewing their vows do so in a very special way. Called the Marry Me At 12 event, the landmark hotel will be setting up a wedding chapel in the historic Barbershop on December 12 at 12 p.m., complete with an officiate to marry couples or renew vows.

Celebrating couples will get flowers, Champagne toasts, and upgraded wedding night accommodations for $99 a night.

$12 On Board Credit Per Day, Per Stateroom
Royal Caribbean International has a special offer for those who book a cruise vacation on 12/12/12, Book any cruise in 2013 on any ship, to any destination and they will give you $12 on board credit per day, per stateroom. Book a suite and they double the offer to $24 on board credit per day per stateroom.

Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise
Speaking of cruises, the Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise, named the
12:12:12 Gateway to Ascension Cruise sets sail from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on December 8 on a seven-day Caribbean sailing aboard Holland America’s Eurodam visiting San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and the Bahamas

Interdimensional channelers, spiritual teachers and healing practitioners will celebrate the new age of peace with a World Peace Ceremony on the beach in St. Thomas on 12/12/12
at 12:12 p.m. as they join “millions praying for peace around the globe!” says promoter AlistCalendar on its web site.

Before we proceed, let’s review some wiki on things Mayan-related:

Channelerinspiration from extra-dimensional beings or spirits, whereby one is a medium or channel for such an entity.

Skulls– claimed to exhibit paranormal phenomena by some members of the New Age movement, and have often been portrayed as such in fiction.

Crystals– act as transducers, transforming and transmuting energy from one form to another. Quartz crystals in particular behave as capacitors, storing energy in a form, which can later be discharged.

2012 Mayan Marriage of Many
Admittedly, having an anniversary date of 12/12/12 would be a great idea for memory-challenged couples afraid of forgetting the important day. That won’t be a problem with the celebration of love with a marriage en mass for 12 couples in Belize at the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech on 12-12-12.

The Mayan Marriage of Many
has prices starting at $7,530 per couple including transportation,
accommodations, meals, a cocktail and dinner reception, orientation breakfast, adventure tours and more.

Crystal Skull Event
Oracle Stone Productions produces international events that bring together ancient crystal skulls, Mayan elders and people in the metaphysical community “to create a synergy for peace, a higher vibration and consciousness shift for our planet,” says the organization’s website. Hosting events for 09/09/09, 10/10/10 and 11/11/11, Oracle has a 12/12/12 event too.

During the 12/12/12 Extravaganza, vendors will be selling crystals, crystal skulls, crystal bowls, jewelry, self-help books, healing modalities, healing sessions, aura readings and more.

Not only the last of the alliteration dates for 100 years, but also a significant number to the Maya as well, the number 12 is believed to be the number of strength, conviction, absoluteness and finality.

[Image Credit- Flickr User elycefeliz]

Luxury Vacation Guide 2012: Caviar in the surf

No Luxury Vacation Guide would be complete without a nod to cruise vacations. But there are cruises and then there are luxury cruise vacations. Seabourn sails a fleet of small yacht-like ships to exotic destinations around the world. On board, passengers are pampered with fine cuisine, luxury suite accommodations and the highest crew to passenger ratio in the cruise business. That allows for personal attention like no other line can provide and special events exclusive to Seabourn.

One of those special events is called Caviar in the Surf where passengers are taken ashore for a day of fun and sun on a private beach. About half-way through the day, a siren is heard in the distance, signaling the arrival of fine champagne and caviar via speedboat from the Seabourn ship anchored not far from shore.

On arrival, passengers wade into the surf, waist-deep in warm Caribbean waters, to enjoy the ship’s best caviar and French champagne. It’s a signature event unique to Seabourn that draws a crowd whenever they do it.

The event is followed closely by a beach barbecue featuring grilled fresh lobster, steaks and a variety of accompaniments while the champagne continues to flow.

Full bar service, beach sports and activities ranging from kayaks to water skiing are all included in the fun day and a local band is usually playing throughout the event.

Luxury does come at a price though with fares starting at $2799 per person for a seven-day Caribbean sailing. Still, luxury cruising is gaining in popularity as almost everything is included in the price. Even the caviar and champagne.

[flickr image via GeishaBoy500]

Think Small: Why Small-Batch Champagne Is Better

There’s a quiet revolution underway in Champagne. A grape-accented battle against the goliaths of the bubble-laced industry. It’s called terroir, that mostly untranslatable French word that refers to the influence of soil and weather on wine (it’s also creeping into the food world too).

Big Champagne doesn’t really have any terroir. It’s one soiled little not-so-secret aspect of the Champagne industry: that the grapes used by the big guys — Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, for example — don’t come from just one vineyard. They come from all over the Champagne region, as many as 1,000 different places. Which is fine. Champagne like Veuve are great thanks to technique. But, like wine, if you want to really taste the influence of the area (or how the terroir has shaped the taste), it’s not going to happen.

That is, until now.

Meet grower Champagne. This is a small movement that’s been gaining traction in recent years. In a few words, grower Champagne is small growers using grapes that they cultivated. There are about 5,000 grower Champagnes in the region, but the reason you may not have heard of them is that they only produce a small amount and few of the bottles end up across the Atlantic. After all, Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot dominate the market, making up 55% of sales of sparkling wine in the United States. Save for the aficionados, bubbly buyers are likely choosing based on name recognition alone. One criticism of grower Champagne is that it’s not always great. The key is to find a Champagne house who has the technique down and the boutique operation.

I’ve met a lot of travelers who have gone to Champagne to seek out the big names and take tours of the vineyards. When I go, I’m going to hit up the small Champagne vineyards.

One such small-batch grower that I’d put on my list (and whose Champagne you can get in the United States) is Louis de Sacy, a family-run outfit that that has been making Champagne since 1633 (Jonathan Sacy is the 13th generation of bubbly makers in the family). Louis de Sacy is located in Verzy, one of 319 villages in Champagne that make the bubbly stuff. But it’s only one of 17 that can use the “Grand Cru” appellation. I recently tasted the vineyard’s brut grand cru. It had toasty elements to it and a lot of spice with a super smooth finish. Until a friend recently introduced me to Sacy, small-batch Champagne was something I didn’t know existed.

For a list of other good grower Champagne, check out this extensive compendium here. Or you can buy grower Champagne from this site.

How can you tell grower Champagne? You just have to look for the “secret” code. The big Champagne producers will have NM. Grower Champagne, though, has RM. You’re certain to arouse suspicion in the wine shop but at least you’ll walk out with a nice bottle (and for about the same price or cheaper) than those well-known labels.

So, with the Champagne-toasting season upon us, let us raise our glasses to the small guys.