Archive for November, 2011

World Cuisine Wednesday | Dutch Brandy & Raisin Holiday Refreshment

By 1800FlyEurope in World Cuisine Wednesdays | on November 30th, 2011

Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) will be coming soon, so it is time to place your shoes out with a bit of hay inside them, this is for Santa’s white horse, in preparation of his arrival. If you have been good, you will receive candy and gifts, but if you have been naughty, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter- Santa’s helper) may either chase you with a stick or place you in a sack to bring back to Spain. Spain? Yes, Sinterklaas lives in Spain, and he arrives December 5th via steamboat in Amsterdam to deliver gifts to all of Holland’s well behaved children; he is Amsterdam’s patron saint.

The Netherlands celebrate what is known as St. Nicholas Eve on December 5th. Children, as well as adults, partake in the gift giving, all the while playing little tricks on each other before one receives their Christmas goodie. Sometimes presents are hidden and clues need to be followed to locate them, or a huge box will be unwrapped only to discover there is a much smaller gift inside. The Dutch do celebrate Christmas on December 25th and 26th, however these days aren’t traditionally gift giving days so much as a time to spend with family and celebrate Christmas with good food and drinks. Let’s kick off this holiday season with some Dutch Christmas Cheer!

Boerenjongens (Dutch Brandy & Raisins) in English it translates to Farm Boys

Preparation & Cook Time: 25 minutes

(You will need 4 mason jars with lids.)

Ingredients

  • ¬†1 clove
  • ¬†1 cinnamon stick
  • ¬†1 ¬º c brown sugar
  • ¬†Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¬†3 c white raisins or sultana
  • ¬†1 tsp honey
  • ¬†1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¬†1 c water
  • ¬†4 c brandy (Dutch white grain brandy if possible)

Directions

Heat in a saucepan over medium the water and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon zest, raisins, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and clove. Continue heating over medium until the raisins have swelled and softened. Then, bring the mixture to a boil, and use a straining spoon to separate the raisins from the liquid. Ladle the raisins into the mason jars.

Continue heating the liquid until it thickens, and then remove the pan from heat to cool. Strain the remaining spices and lemon zest from the liquid, and pour the liquid into the mason jars. Divide the brandy evenly between all the jars. Secure the lids on each jar and shake. Place the jars in a cool, dark location to age a few weeks. This beverage will keep, if unopened, for about a year. Once the jar has been opened, it needs to be chilled.

Serve this fun holiday cordial up at your Christmas party, or tie a ribbon around the top of the jar and give it away as a gift. Boerenjongens will add a fun European flare to this year’s holiday party. To experience the real deal, begin planning a trip to Amsterdam for this December. 1-800-Fly-Europe offers the lowest rates for booking flights to the Netherlands or even flights to Barcelona this season.

 

Kicked Off a Plane for Doing What?!

By 1800FlyEurope in Travel Tips | on November 23rd, 2011

Fasten your seat belt, please remain seated, turn off all electrical devices until further notice, and make sure that your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position… We are all familiar with the basic airline code of conduct, and most of us realize that these rules are in effect for everyone’s safety. Every once in a while, a news headline flashes before your eyes that makes you do a double-take to confirm that you just read/heard it correctly.

Do your Pants Hang Low?

This past September the Green Day singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, was kicked off a flight because he refused to pull his pajama pants up. I can not help but wonder if his attitude had a large part to do with his being removed from the plane. The huffingtonpost.com reported that Billie talked back to the flight attendant, who had just asked him to pull up his pants, by protesting ‚ÄúI‚Äôm just trying to get to my [expletive] seat.‚Äù After tweeting, on Twitter, his dissatisfaction of the airline’s treatment towards him, Billie was promptly found another flight and the air carrier apologized to the singer.

It’s Your Call

A little over a week ago a woman was taken off a flight, because she refused to turn her phone off and put it away. SantaFeNewMexican.com wrote that the passenger was asked three times to power her cell phone off. She must have had more important things to chat about than to be bothered by the flight attendant’s request. I imagine everyone on board was glad to see her being forced to return to the airport gate and book another flight.

Double Whammy

This past July cbsnews.com posted an article about two brothers who decided to take matters into their own hands. While the plane was taxiing down the runway, a flight attendant tried to wake Jonathan Baez and ask him to fasten his seatbelt. He showed signs of inebriation and did not respond appropriately to the flight attendant’s directions. When the plane returned to the concourse for Jonathan to be sent packing on another flight, his brother Luis Baez decided to leave with him. If being booted from the plane was not bad enough, both brothers attacked and threatened the life of the pilot once they were inside the terminal. These two were not allowed to rebook their flights; they went straight to jail.

Do not let off the F Bomb

TV producer and children‚Äôs book author, Robert Sayegh, was asked to deplane after dropping the four-letter F Bomb during boarding. According to huffingtonpost.com, a flight attendant heard him complaining to another passenger “What’s taking so ¬†[expletive] long to close the overhead compartments?”The airline was quick to get Mr. Sayegh on another flight and express their regret for his embarrassment over the situation.

I’m too Pretty to Fly

Per dallasnews.com, two eighteen year old females were removed from a flight in 2008, and the teens tried to claim that they were discriminated against because of their appearance. The airline responded that it was the girls‚Äô behavior that was the cause for needing to be escorted off the plane by police. The girls also tried to tell media that they were banned from this particular air carrier’s flights for life. I think these gals were ahead of their time, because it wasn‚Äôt until the summer of 2010 that Snooki, Jersey Shore star, belligerently whined in front a camera crew that she was just ‚Äòtoo pretty to be in jail.‚Äô

Add these examples to your list of things of what not to do or say while on your flights to Barcelona, Spain or to Denver, Colorado. If you are looking for some good bathroom reading on the topic of flight regulations, check out Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Personally, I think most of passenger safety aviation laws should strike us as common sense. I know that when I am flying, I want the pilot to be giving their full attention to the operation of the aircraft, and the last thought in my mind has absolutely nothing to do with even remotely interfering with their flight navigation. That’s just me though.

 

Forget about Black Friday | Shop Cyber Monday Instead!

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on November 16th, 2011

Honestly, I can not think of anything worse than holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Raking the leaves in my parents’ one acre sized yard last month or even doing this 2010’s taxes seem more appealing than getting stuck in Black Friday shopping crowds. Luckily, today’s modern and technologically advanced world now offers us an alluring alternative to shopping amongst the mobs of sale hungry lunatics on Black Friday; it is what has become known as Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday’s online sales events only date back 6 years. It may be a newer concept in lieu of traditional holiday shopping, but it is has begun to give Black Friday a run for its money. According to Coremetrics, an online marketing research company, sales from Cyber Monday 2010 were 19.4 % higher than 2009’s. Even more impressive than this is that Cyber Monday’s 2010 revenue surpassed Black Friday’s by 31.1 %. So, why should you forgo Black Friday? Read on to find out.

Save Time

You don’t have to sit in traffic that has backed up to the next city or town. There will be no circling the parking lot for the 3rd and 4th time in search of a parking space. What about those lovely 20 people deep checkout lines? There are no lines in cyber space! All you have to do is sit back in your own comfy office chair and click away.

Cyber Monday Sales

Just like Black Friday, Cyber Monday’s main attractions are its sales. There are websites, such as cybermonday.com, that have not only compiled a significant list of major cyber retail businesses by category, but these sites feature lists of the leading online company promotions; you can do side by side sales comparisons. If this is not enticing enough, cybermonday.com will automatically show the prices of a single product from several online retailers at one time. Simply enter a search term, let’s say “Mp3,” into the website’s search engine to get a list of Mp3 players available for purchase online. You will see the names of the cyber companies selling this specific item and a “compare prices” button to see the individual Mp3 player prices for each vendor. A large percentage of these online retailers are not only offering excellent Cyber Monday discounts on their goods but are also providing their customers with free shipping.

Shipping Time and Return Policy Concerns

Before clicking that checkout button and entering your payment information for a gift, be sure to read the company’s shipping and returns information. If you are not given the ability to track your purchase’s delivery online, say through UPS or FedEx, consider buying that item with another online business. If the return policy is convoluted, once again, look elsewhere for an online retailer that has straightforward exchange/refund terms. In my opinion, the ideal exchange/returns policies you should be looking for include these services free via mail, or better yet giving the customer the option of being able to walk into the retail store locally to return/exchange an item.

Shopping Online can be “Green”

The environmentally friendly aspect of shopping online is that there is no need to drive anywhere. This means that you save money on gas and personally consume zero fuel. Another way to think of the online purchase delivery process is as a sort of holiday gift “car pooling.” Companies will be sending their products in large grouped shipments, not individually. This is, of course, only one perspective on this topic.

Gift Ideas

Do you have that impossible to shop for friend or family member? Are you hoping that browsing through the crowded store isles will enlighten you with gift ideas? Save yourself the time and frustration, check out gifts.com. This site has a search engine to browse products by your relation to the recipient, the occasion and the price range you desire. Are you still uncertain about what to get this hard to buy for person? There is a “Personality Profiler” tool on gifts.com. Take a quick and fun quiz to pull up unique gifting options based on the quiz results.

Support Privately Owned Business

I am adding this very important amendment to this blog as this was brought to me attention by a reader who left me a comment in regards to online shopping only¬†benefiting¬†large corporations. Thank you! ¬†You can absolutely support local and not so local independently owned businesses by shopping online. ¬†Small business owners are savvy, and they have been using the internet to their advantage. ¬†Why shouldn’t they when so many social media sites are free? ¬†I make it a point to like all my favorite independently owned businesses in Portland, ME on my facebook. The unique and personalized gifts that can be purchased at these shops are integral to our communities and the economy. Many business owners are cleverly offering the option to purchase their gift cards online. Not only can I buy a gift card online from my Portland, ME beloved shops, but I can purchase a gift card for a good friend’s choice local store ¬†in, say, Richmond, VA.

I can tell you where I will not be Friday, November 25th of this year and that will be out shopping! The chaotic, aggressive crowds at shopping centers across the U.S. on Black Friday are ridiculous enough to give me a panic attack. I will be doing my shopping online in the comfort of my own home this year, thank you very much. While you are doing your online shopping this holiday season, secure your holiday travel plans at the same time by booking flights to Barcelona, Berlin or anywhere in between at 1 800 Fly Europe.com.

 

‘Tis the Season for Pie

By 1800FlyEurope in Destination Highlights | on November 9th, 2011

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and so we commence the two-month long season of feasting. The turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and bottomless gravy boat are most delightful, of course, but throughout the holiday gatherings of friends and family for these overly indulgent meals, MY eye is always on the pie! So in celebration of pie season I present to you the following European countries’ top pie picks.

Empananada Gallega

The Empanada Gallega has been traced back to the Middle Ages. Pilgrims en route to the holy site in Santiago de Compestela, Spain would pack this convenient portable meal on this long journey on foot. In modern day Galicia, Spain, the empanada traditionally has a filling of beef, pork, fish or chorizo, although it can contain fruit. Generally the sauce has a base of tomato, garlic and onion. It is baked in the form of a large thin pie with dough enveloping both the top and bottom sides.

Tarte au Citron

The origins of lemon pie, tarte au citron, aren’t certain, but Menton, France would be my choice destination to sample this tangy treat. Each year a lemon festival is held to celebrate the city’s citrus heritage. Large floats are created with lemons and oranges. They are then fancifully displayed down Promenade du Soleil painting the street in a sea of yellow and orange merriment. It should be no surprise that the tarte au citron is embraced by the people of this city. The lemon pie can be found in patisseries throughout Menton.

Appelgebak or Appeltaart

Appelgebak is as Dutch as apple pie. The US may claim the apple pie as a piece of Americana heritage, but the Dutch certainly know how to make one mean apple pie! They have recipes dating back to the 17th century for this pleasing pastry. It differs from the traditional American apple pie in that lemon juice is a common Dutch ingredient, and the crust tends to be on the thicker side. Cinnamon and sugar are added to the sliced apple filling, and on top, strips of crust are laid to create a lattice design

Crostata di Ricotta

I’ve saved my favorite confection for the final slice of this pie themed blog. In the US, we may be more familiar with the term cheesecake. The translation from Italian to English for crostata di ricotta is ricotta tart. This rich, creamy piece of heaven can be traced back to 15th century Rome. I am especially partial to this dessert; just one bite, and I am brought fond childhood memories the countless cheesecakes my Sicilian grandfather used to bake for special occasions and holidays.

Pie is pie is pie?

According to Wikipedia, pie is a baked pastry encased dish which may contain a sweet or savory filling. As any art form, this baked good medium has many exceptions where the so-called pie rules are broken, and thank goodness for that!

Pie-a-thon Proposal

The ultimate pie tasting experience would be a pie-a-thon. Yeah, I just made this up, but think about it. How delectable would it be to hop on a flight to Barcelona, Spain or Paris, France and then work your way throughout Europe in search of the perfect pie(s)? Is anyone willing to sponsor me for this event in the name of overindulgence?

(Disclaimer: the pie-a-thon does not really exist, and I am not seriously asking for sponsorship for this.)

 

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Passengers  Adults
  Children under 11