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Showing posts from 2012

Morocco, Closer than Paris and a Lot More Exotic

To get a good photograph of Casablanca's Mosque Hassan II took a lot of backing up and avoiding the crowds of international tourists who had come to visit one of the world's largest mosques.
The building is not only about size, but details. The mosque invites visitors to appreciate the scale of nature and the intricacies of life as represented by the exquisite metal and tile work. As if it were the land's sentinel protecting man from the violence of the world, the Mosque stands on the edge of the North African continent, on the edge of a palisade overlooking the turbulent Atlantic Ocean.
A trip to Morocco often begins in Casablanca and frequently tour guides make the Mosque one of the first stops. After the majesty of the Mosque, we traveled north-east toward Fez, stopping in Mouly Idriss, a historically important hill city where we had lunch at Restaurant Alaambra with an open air-patio and grill.
The Mosque and Restaurant Alaambra were two good tent poles for our Morocc…

What's Cooking in New Orleans

Mention New Orleans and anyone who's been says, "The food's so great. And the music. If you go, you'll love it."
I hadn't been so when I was able to stay for a three day weekend in early October, I jumped at the chance.

With so few days in town, I asked for suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, read guide books and got recommendations from friends who are NOLA aficionados.

Certain restaurants appeared on multiple lists:

Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville Street, New Orleans 504/522-5973) in the French Quarter (for oysters although I was advised the place is so crowded, a good workaround to get in is to sit at the bar between 3:00pm-4:00pm).

Donald Link's restaurants are popular, especially Herbsaint (701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans 504/524-4114) and Cochon(930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans 504/588-2123) I made it to the latter, but more about that in a minute.
Fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House (2401 At. Ann Street, Seventh Ward, New Orl…

A Cooking Class High in Morocco's Atlas Mountains

Taking a cooking class is a great way to learn about another culture. In Morocco recently we had a cooking class in a very unlikely spot--a mountain top in the High Atlas Mountains.
At the trekking hotel, Kasbah Toubkal, adventurers head off by foot and donkey on trails that go deep into the mountains for all-day and all-week trips. Berber villages cling to the sides of the mountains, accessed only by dirt trails littered with donkey poop and walnut shells from the orchards along the path. For our cooking class, in a clean and organized kitchen, straight out of the 1960s, our group sat on low stools around tables covered with whole chickens, large chunks of bone-in lamb shoulder, fresh tomatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini and a jumble of herbs and spices. Haja Rkia ben Houari ("Haja" because Rkia had completed a pilgrimage to Mecca) had invited us into her kitchen to show us how to make a traditional Moroccan meal of couscous, tagine, freshly made bread and m…

Morocco from Casablanca to Fez

From Casablanca on the coast to the inland city of Fez in the northern part of Morocco, the area looks very much like the American Southwest.

Looking out the window of the van, there's not much to see.
A well-paved highway cuts through the flat, dusty farmland, passing villages remarkable only for the number of flat roofed houses with satellite dishes and the occasional donkey cart.
I'm with a group of travel and food writers visiting Morocco. Some of us are here for the first time.
Before we leave Casablanca we stop at the Mosque Hassam II, the 3rd largest mosque in the world, the largest in Morocco.  The scale of the doors makes visitors look very small. The detailing on tiles and metal work on the tall doorways is beautiful. The mosque overlooks the breakwater and harbor. A few blocks away, restaurants and clubs share the same view.  We grab a quick breakfast after our all-night flight before we climb in the van for a three hour drive.
Passing through villages along the way…