Thailand. The 4th of February, I flew to Bangkok to see my friend Ning, who just had a baby boy named Rico. She used to be a student at Drexel and a waitress and brioche expert at the Spring Mill Cafe. I taught her how to prepare fish–we poached salmon in a rich fish fumet and made a coriander ginger sauce to accompany it.
Cambodia. After that, I was off to Siemreap, Cambodia to visit the hospital that I have been helping in fundraising since the beginning, twelve years ago. The hospital has grown with new dental facilities and optometric offices. Most of the staff is now Cambodian, which is a big source of pride for the Cambodian people. I met my friend Pierre, who was very generous in his hospitality. He manages a beautiful hotel inn, called Angkor Village. (I recommend the place highly–the building is made with local woods, and its rooms have views of an immaculate garden with lotus flowers floating in a beautiful pond and palm trees right by the door.) The restaurant has an open kitchen and serves Kmer cuisine.
Myanmar. Then I was off to Myanmar, where my first stop was Yangoon. I stayed in a semi-private home, where the family rents rooms. The feeling is one of great comfort and intimacy, and it was a pleasure to be in the mother’s kitchen and chit-chat (the best I could!) with the cook.
I met a French gentleman who founded an association called The Swimming Doctors on the Swimming Boats. The boats are the hospital. They go down the canals and small rivers of the delta to villages that can only be reached by water. They help and heal the villages’ inhabitants. They treat about 60 people per day. I volunteered to join them next year in February.
I took a side trip to Inle Lake, which is northeast of Bagan. I wanted to visit a vineyard owned by a German fellow. It was very interesting! I also visited a weaving factory up in Tribal Hills, where the people are more isolated and live in very primitive conditions. I also went on a two-day trekking expedition in order to see more of the agricultural resources. (They have broccoli, cabbage, green beans, carrots, lettuce, onions, etc.)
In a small town called Kalaw, I stopped suddenly when I saw an advertisement for authentic papardelle with bolognese sauce. I introduced myself and met the woman owner, who told me the story of why they make pasta. She had a young lady from Bologna, who wanted to teach her how to make authentic pasta and authentic tomato sauce for bolognese sauce. She sent her the pasta machine, came back to the village, and taught her all of the above. I proceeded to order the dish, which is served with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan, and it was amazing!
Los Angeles. Upon returning to the States, I felt very dizzy in a taxi driving me through the highways of LA. (It was Oscar night!) Fortunately, I recovered quickly, thanks to a walk in the hills above the Hollywood Sign as well as a delicious cheese in a little bistro on Melrose Boulevard.