Monday, February 16, 2009

Uganda and pasta!

All in all, Uganda was fantastic. Even the roads are some of the worst I've ever experienced (potholes large enough to lose a Miata in!) and Will and I are both currently suffering from a mysterious malady we think was caused by swallowing too much Nile water, we absolutely loved Uganda.

The Ugandans are SO NICE! The Zambians are also super nice, but they are very shy and reserved whereas the Ugandans are just so much fun. Understandably, this made the trip really great as every where we went, there were friendly faces. We also felt incredibly safe in Kampala, which also made the trip great.

Even though I was holed up in the hotel for most of the day because of work, Will and I made it a point to go out every night. We went to what could possibly be the best Indian restaurant I've ever been to (which is sad, as I don't think I'll be making it back to Uganda any time soon to go back there!). Another night we went to a great Thai restaurant, which was really yummy. I think one of the nicest things about dining out in Kampala was that everywhere we went, we ate outside. The weather was perfect while we were there so it was nice to spend the evening relaxing outside and enjoying the great weather.

For my birthday we made reservations at Emin Pasha based on the recommendations of some colleagues. It did not disappoint. This place is incredibly breathtaking - I've never seen such a beautiful hotel! The food was incredible. I had a goat cheese and arugula salad and a really yummy butternut squash ravioli - just what I wanted! Will had a great steak. After dinner, we relaxed outside on a cushy bench under the stars in the beautifully manicured garden behind the hotel - it really was a perfect birthday dinner. When we returned to the hotel, we invited some colleagues to share the huge cake and wine the Sheraton had given me for my birthday. There was a karaoke band that convinced me to come on stage with them and sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - amazingly, the crowd cheered me on. All in all, it was an amazing birthday and one that won't be forgotten any time soon.

Here is a picture of the fabulous treats the hotel got me for my birthday! Will had asked the concierge for help in finding me some roses for my birthday. When he came back from running an errand, he found all the items above sitting in our room. As you can see, roses, wine, a big fruit platter, a bottle of "Lady Perfume" (eau de toilette de Sheraton!), and a nice note written to me about my birthday. Yay! How nice!

Next thing I know, someone is knocking on our door. Its this gentleman (who is very happy as you can see!) bringing a HUGE cake to my door with lots of birthday wishes. Nice!

A close-up of the massive cake! They even spelled my name right! This cake was HUGE and actually really tasty. We split it between 8 people and still had half of the cake left! One Sheraton waiter was ecstatic to take it home with him that night...

We're now in South Africa - it really feels good to be back! Yesterday we decided to have a pasta party and put the pasta machine I got for Christmas to use. I had seen an article in my Rachael Ray magazine on hosting a pasta party so I thought I'd give it a try. I was not disappointed with the results. We made homemade fettucine, a marinara sauce, and meatballs based on the recipes in the article. Everything was SO GOOD. Of course my meatballs were made with ostrich and panko bread crumbs plus some red pepper flakes and fennel seed, but man oh man, they were, in the words of Rachael Ray, yum-o. The marinara sauce was hands down the best marinara I've ever made. I added diced up carrot to lessen the acidity of the sauce plus some dried oregano and italian herbs to the cooking onions, and of course, lots of extra basil. It was PERFECT. I would highly recommend trying the sauce and/or meatballs as it was so tasty!

We also decided to be brave and try making ravioli. Will looked up our favorite dish from Maggiano's, the mushroom ravioli al forno, and found a cheater recipe online. Although my patience was tried by this sauce as you have to reduce everything (the mushrooms, the wine/onion mixture, the cream!), it truly tasted like the real thing once all was said and done. And that, my friends, is a-mazing. A shout out must be made to Beth, who assembled all the raviolis. The pasta is definitely a two-person job!

1 comment:

Rachel D. said...

Happy Birthday, Valerie! It sounds as if you had an amazing night. :)

Also: "Lady Perfume"!