Friday, December 20, 2019

Holidays abroad: Let yourself go, invent, try something new

When in Tuscany one Christmas, we took a vineyards and wine making tour. These lovely casks are in a Greve winery.

A Cuban Christmas before President Trump curtailed
U.S. relations.  Dinner was a delicious mojo pork.



Turkish appetizers. a mezze party platter, made a lovely holiday meal in Istanbul.
ALTHOUGH WE ARE seldom in the United States for the holidays, we always celebrate -- sometimes with paella and sticky pudding, maybe borscht and bagels, rijsttafel and raisin pie.
Paella is served for special occasions, and whenever friends
gather in Spain.  This one featured crab, chicken breasts, 
mussels, shrimp, ham and calamari rings served with rice. 
Although we plan our basic trips and destinations years in advance, once we arrive, we're spontaneous diners, up for anything.
WE ASK THE locals, consult the hotel concierge, see what people like, where they dine on "our" holiday. Some of our best culinary adventures happen by the seat of the pants. Christmas and Hanukkah "on the road" meals are no different.
When in Rome, Spain, Greece, Israel, or Argentina, you can be sure it's a holiday -- somewhere, even if Christianity is in minority.  If you're outside the country, on a ship or in a hotel with a group of Americans, there will be a gathering staged to celebrate the holiday with traditional fare. Many places worldwide celebrate their own versions of Christmas, while only a few countries joined our Thanksgiving celebration: Canada,  Germany, Grenada, Japan and Norfolk Island and China.  More and more Chinese are celebrating  Thanksgiving -- to express thankfulness to those who have enriched their lives and even though there are few Christians in China, it's becoming a popular holiday there. Everyone knows Santa, known as "Sheng dan lao ren" or Old Christmas Man. People give apples on Christmas Eve, called "Ping'an Ye" meaning peaceful evening, translated from the carol 'Silent Night'.
Desserts in northern Spain. Have paella in Barcelona and
drive north to San Sebastian for apple tart and bar cookies. 
IN CUBA, CHRISTMAS is a big feasting and family day. In Havana, the day is not complete without a good mojo pork, similar to our pulled pork with spices, lime and orange. That made an early, memorable holiday for us, before relationships were severed, sadly, by President Trump. Another tasty holiday meal was a gorgeous paella cooked by friends in Madrid. We continued the feasting fest the next day with a dessert orgy in San Sebastian.
Potato latkes with sour cream and
apples usher in Hanukkah in Haifa.
Friends served fabulous potato latkes once for a Hanukkah meal in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Complete with the requisite applesauce and sour cream, of course.
'Eating Europe' fun food tours, click here
IN TURKEY, we found duck.  Istanbul’s vibrant expat American community keeps holiday traditions alive.  Tourist-savvy Turks advertised a feast at our Hilton's Bosphorus Terrace Restaurant.  While it was not promoted as holiday fare, turkey, mince meat, ham and pumpkin were are on the buffet line, and we were invited to a table reserved by other Americans. We chose the Turkish cuisine, that wonderful fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Balkan favorites. We enjoyed mussels stuffed with rice, nuts, and raisins. stuffed vine leaves and squash flowers, purslane with yogurt and garlic, roast lamb and meatballs.
Cheese and red wine began a memorable
French Thanksgiving meal for us in Provence.
 AS WE STROLLED to work off the meal, we smelled the intoxicating aromas of Cantonese and Szechwan cooking.  Following our noses to the nearby Dragon Restaurant in the same complex, we found classic Chinese fare being enjoyed by French, Moroccan, Italian and Australian diners.
We peeked in the Dragon Restaurant as the chef was
serving this beautifully sliced duck -- in Istanbul.
We dined on a festive holiday
cheese plate in France, making a meal of those fabulous bleus, bries and munsters. The French love their cheeses and offered many different types, from camembert to roquefort and boursine that we scarcely had room for the creme brule. Happy Christmas and Hanukkah it was.
Steak and lamb in meat-loving Argentina make 
a  Christmas meal we thoroughly enjoyed.
THE PEOPLE of Buenos Aires don’t need an excuse to party. But Christmas gives them one, in the city's  major restaurants and hotels. The biggest celebration is at Kansas Grill and Bar in upscale San Isidro. As the name implies, the food is inspired by high-end American steakhouses.  Our holiday meal lived up to expectations, artfully served by a tango dancer on break. We had steak and lamb, not turkey or ham, and wonderful pie -- pecan, not mince or pumpkin. Ole!

UP NEXT:  New Year's traditions and celebrations around the world are as varied as the people of the many lands where a bridge might be wrapped in a bow and food rules. We take you to a few favorite spots where we've ushered in the new year -- from Singapore with its magical lights and gardens, to Bora Bora and Fiji, where Santa arrives in a kayak, to Times Square, soon to "drop the ball." Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family, food and more.


  1. Food, glorious food. Fun global tour.

  2. Basking in these enticing suggestions. You must keep a separate photo stash on food photos. Great idea.

  3. We love to try new menu items. You embrace the spirit by which we travel. Fun.

  4. Fantastic photos, lively copy. Made me hungry.