Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Forum Vini 2010

By: David Douglas

For longtime readers, you might remember last year’s Forum Vini article. I went back this year for my fourth Forum Vini dose of fine food, wine, and spirits! This year I experimented with only natural light: no flash, and all photos are using my Nikon 35mm f/2 lens + Nikon D90. I often white-balanced on an index card before each shot.

Delicious Goufrais chocolates… amazingly cool on the tongue. True fine chocolate truffles.

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Once again, Enoteca Palmieri was in full force with some great wines (more photos below in the full album). Check out the shop at Augsburgerstr. 25 in Dachau. Palmieri had the largest bottle of wine that I saw at Forum Vini!

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Palmieri also had something else special: grappa infused with olives! This is a really unique, delicious spirit. And that’s coming from someone with a big (and varied) liquor cabinet.

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Delicious oil, vinegar, and sherries from Aecovi Jerez:

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Once again I stopped by Dr. Schätzl of Moosburg to check out this year’s display. Here’s a stunning array of different exotic oil: pumpkin seed, poppy seed, walnut, and more…

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And a list of other exhibitors who are shown below in the gallery:

Thanks to those at the stands who allowed me permission to photograph them or their products. I had a great time, and (I think) found some great photographic opportunities!

Full album of photos: [salbumphotos=9,144,max,y,n]

Posted 6 years, 5 months ago at 3:47 pm.

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Omakase at Sushi-Dai

At Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, there are several sushi restaurants where tourists try out never-frozen fish at what is truly a bargain price for some of the world’s freshest sushi. I went to Sushi-Dai. After a mere 2h in line (starting at about 7:30am) I sat down in the tiny restaurant for my Omakase (chef’s choice) breakfast. This is the entire restaurant, which explains the long wait times:

Sushi Dai - Tsukiji, Tokyo

Here’s my delectable piece of Toro, or fatty tuna:

Sushi Dai Toro - fatty tuna

This one I don’t recall the name, if anyone knows just leave a comment. I am guessing red snapper?

Sushi Dai - red snapper?

The first piece is Uni, or sea urchin. The second, Aji or horse mackerel (I think).

Sushi Dai - Uni (sea urchin), Aji (horse mackerel)

Yet another “no idea” (I should have brought a pen and paper!).

Sushi Dai - nigiri

A few rolls, then Anago (Sea Eel) and another slightly-unsure.

Sushi Dai - Rolls, Anago (Sea Eel)

There were a few more, 10pcs in all plus 1 more of my choice (anything on the menu); then the rolls, layered egg nigiri, and miso soup. Well worth the 3900 yen (roundabout $40 depending on the exchange rate).

Let me be clear: this was the best sushi I’ve ever eaten anywhere, for any price. By far. Never frozen, well prepared by a good (and friendly) chef. Tsukiji is truly amazing!

Posted 6 years, 5 months ago at 12:45 pm.

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Homemade Sushi

I love eating raw food. Usually it just tastes better to me, and has a great texture compared to most things cooked. And in today’s markets, it’s relatively safe for healthy adults to eat several kinds of meat & fish raw. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, and I take no responsibility if eating raw food makes you sick).

Below is some of my homemade sushi from a few days ago. I always buy the fish in a high-end market, and ask the fishmonger what he recommends for sushi. Often they say “Nothing today, come back on xxxx” – and I definitely respect that. Usually they have tuna and salmon; on the right days sometimes another one or two. You can also find frozen sushi (such as pre-cooked Unagi, or eel) in some Asian shops.

Homemade tuna and salmon sushi - Maguro, Sake

Of course to get this nice blur, I used my 35mm f/2. ISO was cranked up to 800 to avoid using a flash, and I white-balanced on an empty plate before shooting.

Homemade sushi - Eel (Unagi) on the right

Despite that I once ate raw chicken in Kyoto, I don’t recommend that for everyone. Nor would I ever recommend eating raw pork, because the consequences are too dire. But I’ve never been sick from raw beef or fish. Of course I only consume these in countries where I trust the food processing chain.

So, if you live in a well-developed country, check out the best fish market you can find in town – maybe you, too, can make your own sushi for a fraction of the restaurant price!

Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 4:28 pm.

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Shocker at the Oktoberfest

This one is for my Skydive Orange peeps. Some of whom will be here starting tomorrow, for Oktoberfest 2010 (200th anniversary)! This shadowy shocker is compliments of the Nikon 35mm f/2.

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A tasty beer at Hacker-Pschorr near the Theresienwiese.

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I love this picture of my buddy eating a Steaksemmel. Blurry-background-girl must have been wondering, “Why is that guy aiming such a huge camera at someone eating a sandwich?”

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I’ve posted a few other pics from this day on the Guided Munich Blog.

Can’t wait to see Scott, Amy, and Eric here for Oktoberfest – it’s gonna be a blast!

Posted 6 years, 7 months ago at 1:00 pm.

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Downtown Siem Reap

On July 18th I flew from Singapore to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Priority #1: relaxing to recover from a rather travel-weary state. Siem Reap was just what the doctor ordered!

My hotel (Angkor Spirit Palace) is quite nice, for the $20/night I paid via hotels.com. There were a few blips in the description: I had to argue for the complimentary breakfast, my room lacks the promised safe, and (contrary to the description) there is no whale-watching onsite. Shocker!

For the afternoon I headed into town by the hotel’s complimentary tuk-tuk. Here’s what I found around the Old Market. Cellphones are everywhere in the world, even in the poorest of nations:

Mother and daughter with cell phone in Siem Reap

You’ve gotta love some of the restaurant names in Cambodia. The fine print: “Don’t serve dog,cat,rat,wrm. Died in, 1999.”

Siem Reap's "Dead Fish Tower"

I haven’t seen any 7-Eleven’s here in Cambodia. But they have the next best thing, the 6-Eleven! Note the blurry scooter with a whole family riding on it.

It's the infamous 6-Eleven!

Well, just wait a few seconds and another fully-loaded scooter will come by. Then I can get a better focus on what would break about eighteen laws in most Western countries.

How many people can you fit on one motorbike? The answer is five.

I’ll cap today with a shot demonstrating the short depth-of-field of the 35mm f/2 lens. Even on that first taco, only half the cilantro is in focus!

Viva Carne Asada Tacos!

I can recommend Viva as decent Mexican. Especially considering it’s about as far away from Mexico as you can get. More authentic than anything I’ve ever tried in Germany! Plus, you just can’t beat $0.50 USD draft Angkor beer. Which is the standard price all along Siem Reap’s “Pub Street.” So far, an awesome (and very relaxing) experience!

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:41 pm.

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Chilli Crab

When in Singapore, you must have a chilli crab. If you can take the heat, that is! I love ‘em, and on July 15th I headed to the East Coast Seafood Center my hosts.

Jumbo Seafood is the undisputed king in my book. They have everything known to Poseidon on the menu, and the crab is fantastic.

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One of our number was not yet old enough to take the heat. He preferred the tasty (fried?) buns. Also, did I mention a few days ago that the 35mm f2 lens can practically see in the dark? 1/15s, f2, ISO 1600 on the Nikon D90.

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And here’s a tasty chilli crab claw, coated in glorious chili-egg-sauce:

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At this point, I was (obviously) recovered from the dumpling incident. This means I was ready to get up the next day and visit not one, but two zoos! One in the daylight, and one at night. Anyone ever been on a real safari? I’m dying to try it one day…

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:52 pm.

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Yes, it’s all about FOOD

I’m sure there are more things to do in Penang, but we had our eyes on the local delicacies! Before heading back to Kuala Lumpur on July 11th, we stopped at a food fair and feasted on what the vendors had to offer. Laksa, Hokkien noodles (very spicy), satay sticks…

Satay sticks grilling at the Penang Food Festival

Here’s the spread at our table. On the far right you can see (if I remember correctly) chrysanthemum juice.

Feasting in Penang

On the way out of town we stopped at Ghee Hiang, a gourmet shop that sells buns, cakes, white coffee, sesame oil, that kind of thing. The buns are awesome, but the signage is even better. I couldn’t resist…

Ghee Hiang - poppin' fresh!

I’m not kidding when I say all we did was eat. Here was our delicious pork-soup-stew dinner, called Bah Kut Teh (thanks, JK!).

Tasty pork soup with herb broth

Alright, I promise, no pictures of food tomorrow – haha!

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:28 am.

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Rotorua – Thermal Everything

I realized that a post from last month didn’t publish properly. So here’s a break between Thailand and Malaysia: a short flashback to New Zealand! On June 15th I woke up refreshed (and a bit cold) at the Cosy Cottage Holiday Park, in the thermal-spring town of Rotorua.

For those not familiar with such places, a holiday park is a combination of campgrounds, camper parking, and cabins / backpacker rooms. Like many places I’ve stayed in New Zealand, the heating in my backpacker room was not very good, so it pays to have a good sleeping bag if you travel in the winter. I didn’t, so I froze my arse off for two nights.

Cold room aside, his holiday park is pretty awesome. It has access to a beach on Lake Rotorua where you can dig a hole that fills with hot thermal water. Or you can soak in the thermal springs-fed hot tubs. For dinner you can cook food in a thermal-vent powered steam oven (more on that below).

Rotorua is all about bubbling, steaming hot thermal features – beaches, hot water, and boiling mud.

Boiling mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

By the way, try taking a picture of something that’s boiling. It’s not so easy! Boiling is all about motion, seeing bubbles rise and burst. A still frame of anything boiling is about one tenth as interesting as you might think.

Besides Rotorua town, I checked out two attractions: the Skyline area with a gondola, a tires-on-cement luge, and several other adventure activities; and Rainbow Park, a forest conservation area that helps raise kiwi birds and release them into the wild (among other things). Here’s a green tree gecko, a native of New Zealand:

A green tree gecko in Rainbow Park, Rotorua

To be honest, Skyline was a disappointment (seeing as I live near the Alps). The view was nothing spectacular. And I didn’t realize I could have hiked to the top of the gondola in about 15 minutes, rather than pay >$20 to ride in the (painfully slow) cabin. The luge was pretty cool – I would have done it a second time to try the “advanced” course if my gloveless hands hadn’t been nearly frostbitten from the cold.

I went back to Rainbow Park at night to get pictures of the kiwi birds. Unfortunately, just one was out and about, and he stuck to the darkest area in the whole enclosure. Since using the flash on nocturnal animals is strictly out, and I’d forgotten my tripod, here’s the best I could do. It’s a crop of a hand-held 2s exposure of a frenetic pecking bird. But it is a photo of the elusive kiwi!

A kiwi bird at Rainbow Park in Rotorua

It strikes me that “kiwi” can refer to a fruit or a bird, and is a friendly nickname for New Zealanders. So if you say “I had a kiwi last night,” it’s not certain if you ate fruit for dessert, broke a conservation law by eating endangered animals, or got lucky with a local hottie. Hmm…

Now, on to steam ovens! Here’s the rack of lamb before cooking:

Pre-cooking rack of lamb with rosemary

The lovely steam oven itself:

Volcanic steam oven at Cosy Cottage Holiday Park in Rotorua

And finally, the lamb after four hours of steaming in a volcanically-powered oven:

Rack of lamb cooked in a thermal steam oven

It’s very tender and moist, with a texture just like pulled pork barbecue! In fact, I’d recommend to use a lower grade of meat than prime rack of lamb, because I suspect this oven would make even the toughest pork or beef flake apart in moist tidbits. By the way, the cost of this hunk o’ lamb in New Zealand: $5 USD! I love this country.

Tomorrow, (a.k.a. 4 weeks ago) I’ll relate my visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It definitely lives up to its name!

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:47 pm.

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Penang – Culinary Paradise

On the morning of July 10th, we took in this great view of Penang from the lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis (an old British fort).

View from the lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis

Here’s a taste of the local cuisine. Laksa is a noodle dish mixed with some greens and fish paste, with a dose of chilis on top. This small outdoor restaurant is renowned as the best place in Penang to eat this regional specialty! Man, was it good. If you’re a chilihead, ask for it extra spicy.

Delicious Laksa soup in Penang

After lunch we headed to Kek Lok Si – the Temple of Supreme Bliss! This is crowned by the majestic Ban Po Thar, or Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower.

Ban Po Thar - Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower

There’s a great view of the temple complex (and the city of Penang) from the top of the tower, if you don’t mind six or seven flights of winding stairs.

View from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower

Definitely a lot of Buddhas (and their related statuary) in this place!

Lots of statues here!

For dinner, we went to a nice seafood market restaurant in Penang. My hosts chose some interesting dishes. The barbecued stingray was really tasty:

I eat Steve Irwin's assassin: the stingray!

And the female horseshoe crab, well, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. Definitely worth trying once, for those with a sense of culinary adventure!

Grilled horseshoe crab - filled with shellfish-egg goodness

What’s the strangest seafood you’ve ever eaten? Leave a comment and share your crazy food stories!

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:01 pm.

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Street Buys and Santa Condom

Some of the people I met in Thailand were very nice, and the Thais I know in Germany are fantastic people. But if you’re a tourist in Bangkok, be very careful whom you trust. This basically means no one who drives a taxi, tuk-tuk, or motorcycle; and absolutely NO ONE that approaches you on the street with “helpful information.”

  • The attraction you want to see probably IS open, right now.
  • Unless it’s the palace, they probably WILL let you in with shorts/sandals on.
  • There is no “diamond buddha” at a special temple that’s only open one day a year (TODAY!).
  • The traffic always sucks; it won’t get better in an hour if you stop somewhere for shopping.

On July 7th I determined that almost no taxi wants an “honest” fare. One guy complained constantly about traffic after I refused his offers to stop for shopping, and tried to guilt me into leaving the cab. I persevered, and it took a whopping 15 minutes to reach my destination (not 1-2h as promised).

A second taxi was actually nice: took me right where I wanted to go with no complaints, for the metered fare, and actually HAD correct change. The third just wanted the flag drop (35 Baht, or about $1), then persuaded me to take the Skytrain to my destination. I took the Skytrain after it was clear he had no idea how to get to my destination, a small hotel in Nana.

Aside from taxicab craziness, here’s a selection of what I saw today. First, the Golden Mount (where the first cabbie didn’t want to take me). Great views of the city from the top of all these stairs.

Golden Mount in Bangkok

Second, here’s a lovely image from Wat Suthat Temple:

Photo inside Wat Suthat temple grounds

Now a street photo from my walk around the center of town. The small 3-wheeled vehicles are tuk-tuks, named for their annoying 2-cycle-engine noise.

Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing

After being hassled by several dudes on the street (“Don’t go to that temple! It’s closed today!”), I went to the farmers’ market. Mostly veg (for cooking) and flowers (for shrines), with a smattering of other stuff as well. Great local color!

Bangkok chilies at a farmers' market

Here’s where I ate lunch. Finally found something moderately spicy, although from what I found so far, the average Thai food (or what they serve Caucasians) is not nearly as hot as what I expected.

Lunch in a farmers' market in Bangkok

For dinner, I tried out a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms. It promotes the use of birth control, in order to bring the skyrocketing population into check. Apparently seven children per family in a developing country is too much. The prices are much higher than restaurants the locals frequent, but the service and food are fantastic. Since the profits go to a very good cause, I was happy to splurge and spend $13 on my meal.

Plus you get to see lamps made of condoms, and great statuary at the entranceway:

Condom mannequins at Cabbages and Condoms

Yes, Santa Condom. I think I have a new theme party idea for Skydive Orange! What do the jumpers think?

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:10 pm.

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