Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Amazing Graze Begins!

So there I sat, pondering the mysteries of the universe when I said to myself, "Self, you and TLC love The Amazing Race. Moreover, dear self, you are both crazy foodies. Lastly, you're a world-class chef (at least in your own mind, old sport!) who hasn't had a culinary challenge in quite some time." Two things came out of this conversation. A realization that my inner voice sounds like Jay Gatsby and, more importantly, the birth of THE AMAZING GRAZE! least that's what I'm calling it here, I've never actually uttered those words...

I decided that every week as The Amazing Race moves from country to country, I would prepare an authentic three-course meal from the new destination to enjoy while watching the show. For FUN! And invite friends over! For FREE!!! But sometimes the contestants don't change countries between episodes, what then? How about making three desserts from that country instead! PERFECT!!!

Google and Wikipedia are my best friends while researching all of this. Wikipedia has been especially helpful in not only giving me dishes native to the country, but to the exact region of each country they visit! Google Chrome's auto-translate feature ensures that I always have authentic recipes in somewhat-easy-to-understand-broken-English.

We're only two episodes into the season so far, but I've already had a blast planning and preparing the events. Here's what we've had so far:

Episode 1 - "We're Not in Oklahoma No More"
Location: Iqique, Chile
1st Course: Vegetable-stuffed Quinoa Salad on a Bed of Greens
2nd Course: Tortillas de Mariscos (Seafood Omelettes) with bay shrimp and calamari (hoods and tentacles)
3rd Course: Lamb Stew

Reactions: The lamb stew was really good. The quinoa salad was the strongest flavored quinoa I've ever had...and not necessarily in a good way. Too salty for sure. The omelette was interesting because of the calamari. I've only ever had fried calamari rings before. This was both hoods and tentacles lightly sauteed. The tentacles were a bit too chewy for my taste, but TLC didn't have a problem with it.

Episode 2 - "Zip it, Bingo!"
Location: Santiago, Chile
1st Dessert: Alfajores (shortbread-esque cookies with 'Manjar' caramel)
2nd Dessert: Brazo de Reina (literally "Queen's Arm', a meringue-based cake flavored with coconut and cherry then filled with 'Manjar' caramel)
3rd Dessert: Mote con Huesillo (a sugary peach drink with cooked wheat berries)

Reactions: We learned that most Chilean desserts take an existing dessert from a different country and add Manjar caramel (a thicker version of dulce de leche). This was fun because we got to yell MANJAR!!! at least 50 times that night, but we were sick of MANJAR!!! by the end of the experience. The Alfajores were quite unique though: it's not quite shortbread because the cookie is cornstarch based. It was tasty like shortbread, but just a little dry. And that peach drink with wheat in it? Not nearly as terrible as it sounds. Though I still don't know why anyone ever thought to throw wheat berries in a sugary drink.

The Amazing Graze lives on! I'm extremely excited for next week which will be in Portugal. I've already planned the meal. Believe it or not, the hardest part of these events is getting friends over to watch TV and eat free food with us. (I know, right?) It seems like we've reached a point in our lives when all our friends are more concerned with bedtime than about shindigs. But regardless of the turnout, at least TLC and I will be grazing deliciousness every Monday night.