It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Outback Steakhouse : Alice Springs Chicken

"Outback Steakhouse?  Outback Steakhouse!  Surely it's not a review of Outback Steakhouse?"  I can hear you saying it, and please, don't worry, I'm not reviewing Outback Steakhouse.  Not that there's anything wrong with Outback Steakhouse - I really like it there!  There used to be one up the road from our home in Michigan and I was a big fan of their ginormous frozen cocktails and the slices of carrot cake that could feed me for days.

But no.  I'm actually posting a recipe for one of their dishes, "Alice Springs Chicken".  I used to order it from time to time and really enjoyed it, but this recipe I pulled from Pinterest (yes, Pinterest, you know I'm addicted) is actually BETTER tasting than the original.  Possibly because I'm lazy and didn't pound the chicken breasts flat - it was VERY moist and tender and it's VERY easy.

Okey doke, get yourself ready ...

Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken (feeds 4)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (pounded to half inch thickness) - I was too lazy to pound, so they were fat chicken breasts
  • Lowry's Seasoning Salt - we can't get that in Germany, so I used chicken seasoning powder from the herbs and spices section of the supermarket
  • 6 bacon slices - don't know why they say 6, I used a whole pack - mmmmm, bacon
  • 1/4 cup regular mustard - I didn't measure it
  • 1/3 cup honey - I didn't measure it
  • 2 Tbsp Mayonaisse - I didn't measure it
  • 2 tsp dried onion flakes - surprise, I didn't measure it
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms - I used more
  • 2 cups shredded Colby/Jack cheese - we can't get either of those cheeses here in Germany, so I used a bag of ordinary shredded cheese, and didn't measure it - I know, the shock ...

  1. First, sprinkle and rub chicken breasts with seasoning salt, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (I didn't rub the seasoning salt in, and I didn't refrigerate it for 30 minutes).
  2. Cook bacon until crisp, remove bacon and set aside, keep bacon fat in pan.
  3. Eat some bacon straight from the pan and burn your mouth, self medicate with cocktail (oh, maybe that's just me ...)
  4. Saute chicken in bacon fat in pan for 3-5 minutes on each side, until browned.
  5. Place chicken in casserole dish or pan (I lined the baking pan with baking paper as I didn't want to be scraping melted cheese off things for weeks).
  6. In small bowl mix mustard, honey, mayo and dried onion flakes.
  7. Spread some of the honey mustard mix over each piece of chicken and top with mushrooms, crumbled bacon (I didn't crumble mine) and shredded cheese.
  8. Bake in 350 (180c) oven for 30 minutes (I cut into one of mine to make sure it was cooked all the way through after about 20 minutes, and it was)
  9. Serve with leftover honey mustard sauce (I used all of mine on the chicken, that's what you get when you don't measure!)

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  We really enjoyed it and I'm definitely making it again!

Oh, and FYI, we don't have Outback Steakhouse in Australia - 'tis a brilliant American marketing ploy.  Actually, I blame Crocodile Dundee ...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Best Western Hotel de la Paix, Reims, France

We stayed at the lovely Best Western de la Paix in Reims.  We found it on and it had some great reviews.  It's only a 3* hotel, but we've stayed in 5* hotels that weren't this nice.

The hotel seems to have been gutted and recently totally refurbished.  Everything was clean and new and smelt lovely.  The hotel is located in the centre of town and you couldn't find a more central spot.

Rooms were getting scarce when we got around to booking, so Privilege Rooms were the only ones available to us.  We booked using a hotel broker online and got three nights for €400, which is pretty great for a hotel in the centre of a popular town in the middle of summer.

Our room was large with a queen-sized bed, opening windows (oh yes), large bathroom with opening window, fabulous automatic black out curtains, desk and chair, and an opaque curtain separating the living and sleeping areas (the curtain could be pulled right back if you didn't want to push past it all the time).

There's an indoor pool with large sliding doors to an outdoor lounging area, and a brilliant champagne and cocktail bar - very trendy.  We were told that the restaurant was good, but theres no shortage of restaurants and cafes in Reims, so we ate out except for breakfast.

Breakfast was good and had a decent selection.  The coffee machines were new and the coffee was okay.  There was a small warm food selection, but mostly cold European breakfast with ham, cheese, fruit, yoghurt and scrumptious baguettes.  We also ate breakfast out one morning and it was lovely to sit in a local cafe in the sun and just enjoy the atmosphere of this lovely town.

The hotel is quiet, newly refurbished, well priced and in the middle of town - what else could you need?  There's a Mono prix supermarket in the arcade across the road (it's not terribly well marked, but it's in the basement and it's good).  There's also car parking under the hotel for €11/night - you need to ring and book one of these because there aren't many, and the car park is TIGHT so be careful if you've got a big car.

Best Western Hotel de la Paix
9 rue Buirette
Reims  France  51100
Phone:- +33 (0)3 26 40 04 08

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reims, France

Together with our friend Jim, we had a great long weekend in Reims earlier this month - it was a place that none of us had been before and it was GREAT!  It is about a 500km drive from home and we broke the trip over with lunch on the way in Strasbourg, in a restaurant opened in the 1400's at the edge of the cathedral - glorious.

Reims itself is absolutely gorgeous, and so neat and clean.  Considering the town was essentially levelled during over 1,000 days of continuous German bombing in WW1, the rebuilding program and restoration of the astonishingly beautiful Unesco listed Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims has been incredibly effective.

We didn't know much about Reims, excepting that it's considered the centre of the Champagne region of France, before we went, but we quickly realised that it's a seat of such history and importance.  Reims was founded in 80BC and pretty much anyone of ancient importance has trundled through the place over the years.  Attila the Hun sacked the town, Clovis the King of the Salian Franks was baptised in the cathedral, and Pope Stephen II, Pope Leo III and Charlemagne conducted meetings here.

The most important thing in recent history was that Eisenhower made his WW2 headquarters in a school near the railway station, and in that school at 2.41am on the 7th May 1945 the unconditional surrender of the German forces was signed by General Alfred Jodl, German Chief of Staff, almost two full days before it was repeated in Berlin.

Reims in 1916

We really enjoyed our few days in Reims, doing lots of eating, drinking and exploring.  We stayed at the Best Western Hotel de la Paix, visited the champagne houses of Champagne Geoffroy & Nicholas Maillart, did a seriously great tour with Chris from La Vigne du Roy, and even sipped some bubbles at the worlds only tree top champagne bar, Perching Bar.  I'll be doing separate blogs on most of these things, but you can click on them above and get more details that way too.

The Perching Bar, high in the treetops

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pinterest, I'm Hooked!

Oh dear, it's taken a while, but I'm hooked on Pinterest.  It seems I'm a very late adopter of the Pinterest website, but now it's got its claws into me.  I guess the only upside is that after you've been hooked for a few weeks, you start to discover that a lot of it is repeated and your usage tapers off a bit.

What's Pinterest?  If you're a guy, you probably don't know (or care), but if you're a girl you're going to LOVE IT!  Here's the semi-official explanation:-

Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, 're-pin' images to their own collections or 'like' photos. Pinterest's mission is to "connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting"[2] via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing. Founded by Ben Silbermann, of West Des Moines, IowaPaul Sciarra and Evan Sharp [3] the site is managed by Cold Brew Labs and funded by a small group of entrepreneurs and inventors. It is one of the “fastest growing social services in the world.”

I'm not really sure about that "connect everyone in the world" fluff, it's certainly not that for me, but the way I see it is that it's an online version of reading a great magazine (house design, fashion, cooking, craft, anything really) and ripping out the pages that interest you and keeping them in a book, or pinning them up on a pinboard in your study, so you can go back later and look at them.

The brilliant bit is that people all over the world, with access to lots of things that you don't have access to, are "ripping out the pages" of things they see on the internet and then "pinning them on a pinboard" on Pinterest - and you can see then all!  So you can click on a picture of a cake that looks yum, then it'll take you to the recipe and you can "pin" it on your own virtual "Recipe" pinboard.  There are millions (billions?) of pictures and links on Pinterest.  If you're looking for inspiration, you WILL find it here.  Get the gist?

What am I "pinning"?  Well, it's a mix of house design (the dreams a girl has when living in a rental property), fashion (let's be honest, most of my "fashion" board is cowboy boots - yes, I am that predictable), recipes (have got a few lined up to try), and great quotes ("I'm only responsible for what I say, not what you understand" etc.).

One of my "pinned" quotes.

Anyway, give Pinterest a go if you love design, fashion, craft, cooking, travel, photography, animals, anything at all!  You can see I've added a new button on the top right where you can "follow me on Pinterest" - give it a click and see what I'm currently looking at.  You can even "follow" my boards and re-pin my pins onto your own boards.  See you on Pinterest!

One of my "pinned" kitchens.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Union Woodshop, Clarkston, MI, USA

When we were back in Michigan, hubby had to fly away for work, and I begged a bed with Rebecca and Rick over in Lake Orion.  They really wanted me to try this amazing BBQ restaurant, The Union Woodshop, over in Clarkston, so we headed over and arrived about 8.30pm on a Thursday night.  Now, Clarkston isn't a big place, and it's kind of out in the country.  We thought we'd easily snag a table that late on a weeknight.  Mistake.

We lobbed up to the door of the Union Woodshop only to be told there was a 90 minute wait, and we were welcome to take a beeper, and they'd beep us when a table became available.  90 minutes!  On a Thursday night!  Hmmmm.  We were hungry, so we decided to try its sister restaurant just up the street (sorry guys, I can't remember the name of it!).  We wandered up the street and were told that it was a 90 minutes wait for them as well!  It's an outrage.  Or not.  But it is if you're hungry.

The amazing smell of pulled pork and smoked BBQ was drifting up the street, and we were getting really peckish.  We decided we'd try to get a beeper for the Woodshop and go upstairs to the bar and get a drink whilst we waited - but we were really only half hearted about waiting because we were HUNGRY.  As we debated the merits of waiting and eating this amazing food, or leaving and trying to find something half as good, we got talking to a lovely guy who'd come down from the bar upstairs.

He was saying how good the food was, and that he and his wife had a long wait too, but they'd luckily just got a table.  After a bit of chat, one of us made a joke about how we'd come and join his table, and he laughed and then said "What a minute!", then ducked inside and came back out and invited us in!  Turns out that Dean and his gorgeous wife Christine (picture a young Stevie Nicks and you'll know how pretty she was) had been given a table for 5, but there were only two of them and they asked us to join them.  Seriously.  How fabulous is that?

They were great company and we didn't stop laughing and chatting for hours.  Add in the amazing food that the Woodshop is famous for, and it was one of those nights that you don't forget.  I had the pulled pork (bliss) which came on a large tray (enough for two) with sides of mac and cheese, sweet potato mash and cornbread - it was absolutely, outrageously, lick your fingers, good.  There's no way I could finish it all, but I gave it a good try.  Rebecca and Rick had eaten there before and they really enjoyed their meals too.

So, get along to the Union Woodshop if you can get out to Clarkston - and, in the mangled words of Blanche Dubois "always depend on the kindness of strangers"!

Here's the blurb from their website:-

It begins and ends in the backlot, with a Southern Pride smoker that's on a constant low-temp tear with green hickory and an assortment of meats. It's a ritual that starts with a careful rub and ends only when we think its time to pull the meat from the bath of smoke we surround it with. Pork butt. Brisket. Spare ribs. Back ribs. Whole birds and chicken wings alike. And bacon. Lots of bacon. Slow cooked bacon ready to be cut in from thick slabs into magical planks. Thank you pig, for all you do for us.

It is a menu that's rustic in its delivery and refined in its care. And it's crafted with hickory on the smoke side and apple and cherry wood on the pizza side. These aren't conveyor belt byproducts. These bear little resemblance to the frozen disks of surplus cheese that have come to pass for pizza today. No, Pizza Coco pies are fired in a 800 degree inferno until the cheese caramelizes and the ingredients bake into something incredible. No two pies are the same. It's the kind of oven, the kind of crafted pie, that can take two or three of your favorite toppings and deliver them a thousand different ways.

Here's to getting what you want, but didn't expect... Here's to a handcrafted, woodfired joint.

Clarkston Union
54 South Main Street
Clarkston  MI  48346
Phone:- 248 620 6100

Oh, and when Jim was staying last week, he cooked up Heston Blumenthal's Pulled Pork recipe and it was amazing!  Click here for the recipe - it takes a while but it's not difficult.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Meg's Cous Cous Salad Recipe

When I was back in Adelaide in May, I headed 400km out of town to visit my dear friend Meg who is living, working and attending university in Whyalla.  It was fab to see her, and we had a few fun meals - amazing salt and pepper squid at a little cafe down by the wild sea, and yummy chicken and chips from the drive-through (yes, I said drive-through - it's the future!) chicken shop which goes by the name of "Bottle & Bird".

Bottle & Bird - drive-through chicken, chips and alcohol service!

One night Meg did a BBQ for some friends and made this amazing and incredibly easy salad that she'd modified from a recipe in an old Donna Hay magazine.

It's dead easy, really yummy, and you can make as much or as little as you like just by making more cous cous.  One simple thing to remember is that the amount of cous cous and the amount of water have to be the same - that's it.  I find that one cup of cous cous is enough for two people.

Cous Cous Salad for Two

  • 1 cup cous cous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Handful fresh chopped basil
  • Handful fresh chopped parsley
  • Handful fresh chopped mint
  • Red wine vinegar (I don't have any and I use balsamico)
  • Olive Oil (a good one)
  • 1 lemon

  1. Boil the kettle, put one cup cous cous and one cup of boiling water in a bowl, stir it with a fork and cover it (I use a dinner plate to cover).
  2. Zest your lemon and chop it in half
  3. Chop your herbs
  4. After about 3 minutes uncover the cous cous and fluff it a bit with a fork, then add the zest and squeeze the lemon in, give it another stir, cover it again.
  5. After another 5 minutes or so, uncover it and drizzle in some vinegar and olive oil, fluff with a fork again, then add the chopped herbs and give it a stir with the fork.
  6. You're done.

So, basically, you can have this ready in the time it takes to cook your steak.    Give it a try - it's fab.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

After a short, but very fun, trip to Detroit the flight counter has shot up to 22 for the year.

Thanks to all our friends who made time to catch up with us, fed us, and had us to stay.  I know our schedule was pretty tight and tricky, and we really appreciate you moving your lives around to accommodate us.

Hubby had a ball in his official volunteer capacity ("Quiet Please!") at the US Senior Open at his old golf club - we even saw him on ESPN!  I had an absolute hoot boosting the economy with Rebecca, Beth and Kris and laying around the pool (thanks Jennifer & Vince!).

I think I've successfully eaten enough Mexican food to last me until I can get to a good Mexican restaurant again.  We hit On The Border (huge frozen watermelon Margaritas and "made fresh at your table" guacamole), Sagebrush (huge frozen strawberry Daiquiris and scrumptious everything) and Chipotle (franchise Mexican takeaway) - yum, yum, yum.  I can't get enough guacamole!  I'm only going to do one restaurant review of this trip, so look out for my review on the Clarkston Woodshop shortly.

Big thanks to Rebecca & Rick and Mary & Joe for making your spare rooms available and taking such good care of us - we think you're fabulous.