Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Tunisian cliffhanger

Before we left for Tunisia, BF and I went to the used book store and picked up several books for our trip. I ended up only reading one of them, which is totally odd for me, and I still have yet to finish it. My problem is, I can't start reading a new one until the current one is finished. It's just one of those weird quirks I have. The funny thing is, the book is so terrible but I still want to finish it! Now I have actually lost the book somewhere in this house, so I am forced to start a new one. Oh darn! But I am still left wondering what happens in the end.....

I will not leave you hanging on my Tunisian adventure, so here come the adventures of Day #2. :)
We woke up early to catch breakfast at the hotel which was included in our stay, and not a cheesy American continental breakfast. Bonus, and bonus. I wanted to eat light, so I had coconut yogurt (YUM!), fruit salad with apples, pears, and pomegranates and a crepe with honey and chocolate. I also tried a chocolate croissant, but it was a little dry. I did say "light", didn't I?

Anyway, we tried to catch one of the tours they had leaving from the hotel after we had breakfast. Unfortunately our need for breakfast, or the misunderstanding of how the tours worked, caused us to miss the tour bus for that day. We ended up scheduling a tour for Friday and then went back to the room for a nap. This really was the only day I felt out of sorts with the time difference, thank goodness. After our nap, we checked in with the World Congress registration and recieved some cool swag including a laptop bag with the 2009 JCI World Congress logo. Score! In our package, we recieved coupons for the lunch at the Restaurant Shéhérazade where all the JC's could have lunch daily. Apparently this was included in our registration cost. Yes, that's right folks, breakfast and lunch FREE daily.

The restaurant must not have recieved the memo, because we walked over and it was not open. Bummer! We didn't really care, so we sat down at a cafe' next door and ordered our lunch. I ordered a Tunisian Salad, BF ordered a sandwich ou polette and again we were served mezze. Did I mention I love this place? More olives, bread, and harissa...mmmm. While we were waiting for our lunch, a couple of JC's approached us and asked if they could join us. Of course, we said yes, and that's when the international fun started.

M is from Turkey and she works in film/production and also works on film festivals. J is an American born French citizen, which I thought was totally cool. He has been in France for 7 years and owns a translating business. We talked with them for AT LEAST two hours about JCI, cultural differences, and what our local chapters were like. It was an eye-opening conversation that has changed the perspective of BF and I about the JC's in a way we had not imagined. Who would have thought I would be in that conversation 6 years ago when I joined? I truly had not appreciated the fact that JCI was an international organization until that very conversation.

After our "international luncheon", we got dressed for the Opening Ceremonies, which was "formal" attire. As it turned out, not everyone read that memo, but we certainly did.

We hopped on a tour bus they had setup for us and headed over to Salle de Sport in Hammamet in a motorcade, police escorts, the whole bit. It was mind blowing to say the least. I had never been in a motorcade before, and I can't say it's likely to happen again. The big hoopla was not just for us, we had some special guest speakers at the opening ceremonies, including the Director of Commerce from Tunisia. Yea, that would explain it!

It was fun to see all the representation from all the countries, people proudly waving their flags, singing national songs, and just an overall positive vibe everywhere. JCI Tunisia arranged for some onstage entertainment between speeches (which were relatively short) and it was a really cool night. At one point, they introduced all the JCI presidents from each country by region. Most of them were in "national dress" or carrying some type of flag. Imagine being at a conference where 90 countries are's mind blowing.

The Tunisians gave out a really cool souviner to everyone at the ceremonies, a Tunisian fez! BF was MORE than excited to recieve this gift and wore it proudly!

We then headed back to the Medina for "Tunisia Welcome Night" where they held a party in the Douar Lemdina. At the party, we feasted on more Tunisian food and drank Tunisian beer while watching the entertainment. They had ladies in traditional Tunisian dress onstage, a group of shepards doing a traditional dance, and a group of younger Tunisians were taking turns playing a drum and singing songs. There was a crowd around, so we joined in to watch. Soon enough, they grabbed us and we were dancing along with them to some Tunisian beats. Too cool for words.

The party was so much fun and we ended up getting fez keychains too. What a hoot. After all the FREE beer was gone, we ended up going to the hotel lobby bar and had a bottle of Tunisian red wine, Selian, which became one of our trip favorites.

We sat and chatted with one of BF's friends from the United States and a gentleman from Ireland. Good times, good times. After the bottle of wine, we settled into our room and talked about our day like we were two excited teenagers. It was a great way to start our Tunisian adventure!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Short Night

Last night we only had 3 reservations, so it was a short but fun night. I had not worked since before we went to Tunisia, so it was almost a blessing in disguise. Even though I only worked 4.5 hours, I was exhausted today! I didn't get out of bed until 11 am - which NEVER happens!

Upon arrival, I immediately noticed that the kitchen had been re-arranged. I think it's going to take us a few weeks to get used to it, but I do like the new setup. There is much more room to plate and prep for the main courses.

I started by prepping the cold station and making sure everything was available in the cold station fridge. We didn't take things out to put them in the service trays, because the temp is slightly lower and why risk wasting food that we may not use. I washed some baby romaine and endive for the salads, roasted beets for the beet "salad", and made flower-shaped chevre that we use as a garnish. I heart chevre and would use it on almost anything....

Image'>Tom Curtis /

Anyway, I only ended up plating one salad and two desserts. Lady Chef made a change to one of the desserts, by adding some raspberry preserves along with the tart raspberries, so she showed me how to pipe them on. Good times.

I also was able to try one of her main dishes that she made with flageolet beans and lamb sausage. YUM!! It was really tasty and just what the Dr ordered! To top it off, I had a tiny bowl of my favorite Red Fire ice cream. I am so spoiled there and I love it!

More adventures to come, hopefully, since this winter is pretty slow at the restaurant. Since we just got slammed with about 8 inches of snow, we didn't have any reservations tonight. Boo! In the mean time, I am going to day dream about what it would be like to buy that little cafe' here in town and have my own little kitchen kingdom.......

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


No, I am not calling you names, but greating you with a "good morning" in Tunisian Arabic!! :)

I had an amazing time in Tunisia and Paris! In fact, I have been so overwhelmed by the whole experience, I had to take some time to figure out how I was going to blog about all of it! We were in Tunisia for 8 days and in Paris for about 20 hours. I can't wait to go back to both places!

The main reason for our trip was to attend the JCI 2009 World Congress in Hammamet, Tunisia. My BF is on the BOD for JCI USA, so he wanted to "represent" his country - and what a great way to do it! Both of us have been involved in the JC's for about 6 years and neither of us anticipated what we were about to experience on this trip.

We arrived in Tunis, Tunisia on Sunday, November 15th after an overnight flight to Paris and a connecting flight to Tunis. This was my first overseas flight ever, so I was super excited and hoping I would not be too bored on the plane. I brought several books, magazines, cards, and of course I had my BF to talk to. Funny thing is, I didn't really read much and ended up chatting and sleeping basically the whole time.

Anyhow, we arrived in Tunis and were greeted by JCI Tunisia that had a refreshment stand setup for us with juice, water, and traditional Tunisian cookies. YUM! We then took a bus to the hotel we were staying in, the Diar Lemdina at the Medina (city center) of Yasmine-Hammamet. The medina was comprised of our hotel, a conference center, several cafes, shops, and souks. A souk is basically where the people sell their wares throughout the medina and other places around town. By the time we arrived at the hotel, after 24 hours of travel, we were wiped out so we took showers and met up with some other folks from the US for dinner at a restaurant in the Medina. In fact, we were so wiped out, we just didn't care about having separate beds. ;)

We went to a restaurant called The Viking, that featured Italian and Tunisian cuisine. Of course, I started right in on the Tunisian! They served bread before our meal with a variety of scrumptious goodies incluiding Harissa, which a standard North African ingredient which is made from chili peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. It is HOT! HOT! HOT! but, I LOVED it! You can tame it down with olive oil, which of course is super tasty anyway. They have olive oil at almost every restaurant table and it is better than anything I have EVER tasted. It was almost clear, super light, and too bad the Frenchies took the 5 bottles I bought!!

Anyhow, back to dinner. They also served brushetta, olives, yogurt sauce, and mini fried bread that looked like mini pitas. We had our first taste of Tunisian wine, Magnon, and it was SO good! it was SUPER cheap at the restaurant too. It cost us about 20 Tunisian Dinars which is about $15 in the US.

I had a chicken dish with red and green peppers with a tasty sauce that was excellent and BF and I split a brik (pronounced "breek") for an additional appetizer. A brik is a turnover that is made with phyllo type dough, filled with some type of meat (chicken, tuna, lamb) and also an egg. They are really good and we had plenty throughout the week, and even made some when we got home.

After we finished dinner, they served us a shot of some licorice tasting liquor that was clear. I forgot to write that one down or take it's picture, but once we get rolling on the trip, I get better at remembering to do that kind of thing!

The interesting thing about Tunisia, is that it is a Muslim country, so they don't sell alcohol in the stores. On RARE occasion you will find it. They do, however, produce plenty of wine and liquor to serve in restaurants to the tourists. Gambling is illegal in Tunisa, but they also have casinos set up for the tourists as well. It was such an intriguing country! You will notice that the women do not cover their faces, on occasion you will see a Tunisian women with her hair covered up - mainly in the smaller non-tourist cities and in the market places. Since I did my research beforehand, so I learned that women normally wear long pants, long or 3/4 sleeve shirts. I was very glad that I brought appropriate clothing to respect the culture of Tunisia, I just felt so comfortable there. Maybe that wasn't it, but the warm hospitality of the Tunisians.

I will post more pictures next week, and continue to tell you the Tale of Tunisia....but for now here is a peek behind the curtain. Bisslama!