Suriname News Covers Steven Pinkert and Victor Bao’s Tourism Presentation in Suriname

 

STVS Surinaamse Televisie Stichting News Story about Steven D Pinkert and Victor Bao’s Tourism Presentation

I recently returned from a business trip to Paramaribo, Suriname. While there Victor Bao and I (mostly Victor) gave a lecture on the infrastructure needs to expand tourism in Suriname.

The local Suriname news, STVS Surinaamse Televisie Stichting, covered the talk and here is the news piece. Its in Dutch – good luck.

Renee – A Long Lost Friend Appears

I spent my early years on the South Side of Chicago where I attended Coles School from the first to the eighth grade.  I left the area for high school and lost touch with all my grammar school classmates.

A few months ago, out of the blue, I received a call from Renee Chaden – one of my grammar school classmates. She was visiting her cousin Debbie in Miami and something possessed her to look me up.  I was floored.  I hadn’t heard from her or any of my grammar school classmates for 46 years! I had had such a crush on Renee. I remember thinking that she was to cool for me – which she was. I mean I was a dork and she was so cool. And to make matter worse – she was much taller than me.

Renee returned to Miami this week to visit Debbie and today we got together for the first time in 46 years. I think it’s fair to say we have both aged a bit. I mean the last time we were together we were 13. We had a great time together today.  We had lunch with my father which was really special because he remembered Renee from Sunday school car pool.

Renee’s mother, who passed away before her time, kept many photographs and other memorabilia from Renee’s grammar school days.  Renee brought our original Coles School class pictures with her. She has the class photo for every year that we attended – amazing.

The pictures are everything I remembered – and worse. I really was a dork – big ears and in many I looked like a deer in the headlights.  But Renee looked great.  She looks like a character from the movie Hairspray with her poofed up black hair.

Coles School 1961 4th Grade

Renee also had her graduation album with messages that many of us left.  My message was so pathetic.  I told her that I seriously liked her and that I was obviously too young to date her because she was only interested in older guys.

It was a nice day together.  It is a shame that I have lost touch with so many good friends from Coles..

 

 

Dinner at Yardbird – Miami Beach

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Last night eight of us had dinner at Yardbird, located at 16th and Lenox on South Beach. It was Helene’s birthday and some of our closest friends attended. Parking, often a challenge on the beach was easy as they have valet right in front. In fact Joe, who hates to valet park because he hates to wait for his car, surprised me and immediately took advantage of the valet.

I think the best description of the food at Yardbird is gourmet Southern Style cooking by Top Chef Jeff McInnis. Think of the food as gourmet comfort food and it is fair to say that if you are concerned with your cholesterol or triglycerides this eatery will not be your regular venue.

The Good. The fried chicken is as good as I have ever had. It has a slightly spicy crusty breading with a subtle fruity flavor just between the breading and the meat. Accompanying the fried chicken was a great balsamic watermelon. If you could just eat the accompanying watermelon you would spare your arteries.  But only eating the balsamic watermelon would be impossible. Other great items are the grits and cheese, baked pumpkin, and do not miss the mac and cheese which was nearly perfect. I say nearly as it was a smidgen either creamier or less well done than I prefer. But honestly I am splitting hairs.

The Bad. Other than the fact that this is not healthy eating, the noise level made conversation at our large table impossible. The noise was so bad that we stood outside in front of Yardbird and talked for almost half an hour after dinner.

I know that the music and noise level in a restaurant creates a kind of energy that many restaurateurs desire. And admittedly our group probably has an average age of 55 (I am a dead man). However, strategically placed sound absorbing materials near a few of the tables would be great for the crowd that actually likes to talk together while they enjoy great food.

To be fair there is a lively bar area and many more young people than elderly at this happening place on the beach. I suspect that my complaint about the noise level reveals that I am now an official altacocker (for the definition, click here on altacocker!)

Now a word about my reference to the elderly.  Sherma and I just turned 60 in September.  Last month, our son Keith casually referred to us as elderly, in a context that I cannot recall, and I have been obsessed ever since.  Maybe I think that by repeating it over and over the reader will respond – “Steve you look so young  – don’t be silly.”

Here is a recent photo of me, do I look elderly (aside from the puffy eyes)?

 

Steven Pinkert - Do I Look Elderly?

Steven Pinkert’s Homemade French Fries

I make the best french fries. Really. Now I know you are going to have doubts but I swear that Steven Pinkert’s fries are better than Five Guys. And in my opinion Five Guys Fries are great. I have been working on my french fry techniques for over a year and I have decided to share it with all 5 of my readers. (Actually I am exaggerating about the number of readers.)

Equipment
1) French Fry Cutter
2) Deep Fryer

Lets discuss the equipment. The french fry cutters come in several varieties and I will discuss the types that I am familiar with. I have owned a cheap plastic cutter and also a fairly heavy duty metal device. Both use a plunger action that forces the potatoes into and through square cut blades. The blades come in different widths; 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch.  I recommend 3/8  inch. The cheap plastic cutter is ok but the excursion of the plunger is short so you frequently have to cut off the end to shorten a potato to fit. Also in the plastic device the handle is short and without the extra leverage of a long handle it can be difficult to force the potatoes through the blades.  The metal variety is much more durable. Amazon sells an excellent reasonably priced metal unit that takes a little assembly.  Here is the link: Restaurant French Fry Cutter. I recommend the plastic unit if you are only going to make french fries occasionally.  If you plan on feeding a crowd of 5 or more say monthly, then the metal unit is worth the extra investment of about $50.00. (By the way, the Amazon metal cutter comes with the suction cup legs.)

The deep fryer is also critical to successfully making great fries.  There are several issues to consider.  The size of the fryer, the ability of the fryer to reach and maintain temperature (watts), and the accuracy of the thermostat.  I have owned many fryers and most recently an inexpensive commercial unit. How often you plan on using the fryer determines how much you should spend. The better the fryer the faster and more consistent your french fries will turn out. At a minimum I would suggest the 12 cup Presto Profry.  It is reasonable at Amazon and is okay if not a little slow to work with because of the limited wattage.  I currently use a larger 1800 watt unit that is quasi-commercial.  If I had my drothers I would purchase a 220 volt unit and install a dedicated 220 volt outlet for the unit.  But this can be expensive and I elected not to take this step.

Ingredients:
Potatoes (Russet preferred but I buy whatever are available at Publix)
Salt
Vegetable Oil, or Canola

I am not too particular about the type of oil or the type of potatoes, but make sure the oil is fresh. Wash the potatoes and cut with the cutter. Place the cut potatoes into ice water for at least an hour. Drain a portion of the cut potatoes in a colander so that the water has run off.

You must cook the fries twice. Yes twice! Place a few handfuls in the fryer basket and make sure the fryer is heated to no more than 325 degrees.  Cook the fries for about 3 minutes but do not let them get brown – even a bit. Remove the fries from the oil and let cool for at least 30 minutes but no more than 90 minutes.  Now set the heat to 375-400 degrees and wait until the unit comes up to temperature. Now re-cook the fries until they are golden brown or the desired amount. Drain on parper towel, salt, serve, enjoy.

This recipe for making awesome homemade french fries is from Steven Pinkert, Miami Florida.

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

The Wonders of the Jet Age

It is almost 8:00 a.m Thursday morning and right now I should be in a meeting at Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota – but no I am here at home in Miami. I left for Rochester yesterday morning – but here I am.

Yesterday I boarded an American Airlines flight from Miami to Rochester via Chicago. The flight from Miami to Chicago was delayed over an hour due to weather in Chicago – but I had plenty of time to make my connection.

When I arrived in Chicago I had a 90 minute wait for my flight to Rochester. At the gate American announced that the flight to Rochester was delayed due to weather. I sat and waited patiently – which was difficult as it was the second flight delay of the day. About 45 minutes later American announced that the flight was cancelled due to weather in Rochester. All flights to Rochester and even Minneapolis were completely booked. So, I got on a flight back to Miami and was home by 10:00 p.m. last night. What a funny day.

S0 – I left my home for the Miami airport at 9:00 a.m., flew to Chicago and came back the same day with absolutely nothing accomplished. Oh the wonders of the jet age.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

I have always loved Chicago Hot Dogs. When I was young we lived on the South Side of Chicago and we frequently visited a little hot dog stand that was named Carl’s Hot Dogs. I just called them and unbelievably they are still in business after 54 years! (I am 60 and went to Carls when I was 6).  The new name is: Carl’s Red Hots, located at the original Carls’s location at 1957 E. 83rd St. Chicago, IL 60617. Their phone number is 773-721-8300.

When we were very young my cousin Phil Graff and I used to play Carls  Hot Dogs.  We would have bowls with pretend condiments and slop on each condiment. We even had a jingle: Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, Carls makes hotdogs with loving care, Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, especially for you…

For anyone that knows Chicago well, Phil is now the president of the Old Town Triangle Association.  He is one of the smartest and kindest people in the Universe. He has worked tirelessly as a board member for years.  He is going to run for re-election as president and if you happen to be among the 350 eligible voting members – trust me – you can’t go wrong.

 

Phil Graff

Well anyway, my father,who is now 84 and I still love Chicago Style Hot dogs and living in Miami I have perfected making the Chicago Style Hot Dog. Today, again, I made Hot Dogs and in case you love them as much as I do you might be interested in how I prepare them.

So you need the following ingredients:

-Poppy seed hot dog buns
-Half dill pickles cut in thin spears – you can use full dill but I think half dill is better
-Sport peppers – hard to find check the internet or buy from Vienna
-Sweet relish
-Yellow mustard
-chopped yellow onion
-celery salt
-Tomato – thin sliced wedges
-Beef hot dogs – skinless

Now their are a few potential problems. Obtaining the hot dogs can be an issue.  We would prefer to use Vienna, but unfortunately they are not available from retail sources in many areas.  Hebrew National, our second choice, is also good quality.

Now, there is a trick to cook the hot dogs. You definitely want to boil the hot dogs. But if you boil in plain water the flavor of the hot dogs is diluted. So here is the secret.  Finely chop up 6 hot dogs in a blender.  Add these hot dogs to a quart of water and simmer for at least 2 hours.  Add water as necessary  Then, when you are ready, boil your hot dogs in the flavored water for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Buns are also a big problem. You MUST have poppy seed hot dog buns. If you live in the Chicago area you can get buns from Vienna or Rosens – no problem. But in other areas finding the right buns can be a problem.  In Miami, I call Publix, our largest supermarket chain, the day before and they bake the buns for me. They are excellent quality, fresh, and reasonable. You must briefly steam the buns just before serving.  If you look on the internet there is a small company that sells a little steamer rack that hangs from the top of a pot of water.  This seems to work fine – if you aren’t serving more than 4-6 people.

So add all the condiments on the dogs with a generous shake of celery salt and you have it.

Chicago Style Hot Dog by Steven Pinkert

By Steven Pinkert, a Miami lawyer, that loves Chicago Style Hot Dogs, home made french fries and home made Cole Slaw using Joes Stone Crab recipe.  I will post on these soon.

One Day in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey is a delight for the senses – the beauty, the smells, and the spirituality.  I have been to Istanbul before but that only helped as now I was prepared.  My experience has been that sometimes you miss and forget so many aspects of a place when you visit the first time.  That it is the second visit when you can sit back and truly appreciate the gestalt.

Sherma and I visited Istanbul for a day in November (2011) on our way to Morocco. We were onour ownand had seeral things that we wanted to pack into the day. We stayed in a modest hotel with a great location.   It overlooked the famous Blue Mosque.  Of course it is Islamic and the Blue Mosque construction was completed in about 1600.  It is beautiful with intricate exterior details and for a house of worship it is extremely large and can hold about 10,000 worshippers. The architectural style is Late Classical Ottoma. The inside by comparison is very simple and not very ornate – at least certanly not ornate by church standards.

Blue Mosque from the Roof of Our Hotel

 

Blue Mosque at Night

Also not to be missed in Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern.  This is an enormous underground structure that was used to store water.  It can hold almost 3,000,000 gallons. Today the cistern is for tourism and has served as a Movie set (From Russia With Love). There is very little water in the cistern but in the past the water came from 10 miles North of the city via aquaduct.  The roof of the cistern where the city streets and buildings are located is supported by 336 marble columns. The story goes that htese columns were stolen from Rome. There excellent information regarding Basilica Cistern on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_Cistern.

Basilica Cistern Istanbul Turkey

 

Sherma in the Cistern

I mentioned that one of the great things about Istanbul is the smell.  Walking through the Spice Market (which is very near the Grand Bazaar) is fun.  One of the things we purchased was dried/sugared lime peel.  It is delicious and refreshing particularly compared to the chewy texture of some dried fruits. We bought some Iranian Saffron and we have used it as part of a fish rub since we arrived home.  It is woderfully fragrant and supposedly Iranian saffron is the best saffron. In the photo you can see the sign for the Iranian Saffron – I think the vendor spelled wrong!

Istanbul Spice Market - copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

We tried to visit the Hagia Sophia but it was closed for the day. The Hagia Sophia is a beautiful Mosque that was originally an orthodox basilica.  The inside is particularly interesting because it is extremely ornate for a mosque and there is plenty of evidence left of its origins.

 

Hagia Sophia copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

We spent some time walking trhough the outdoor markets – which are interesting. Large variety of foods and clothing and household goods.  By the way, taking photographs in Istanbul as in most Muslim countries is particularly challenging as many people do not like to be photographed.  If you take there photograph without permission you occasionally get yelled at.  It is a better practice to ask permission although admittedly if you rushing – as I usually am – it is difficult.

 

Istanbul Market Early Afternoon copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

We walked back to our hotel a bit tired and after a nap we took in an evening Belly Dancing Show. I describe the show in a separate post.

Istanbul Turkey Belly Dancing Show

Sherma and I recently visited Istanbul. Our hotel concierge suggested that we go to a famous belly dance / dinner theater. We were picked up by a van that went from hotel to hotel picking up guests for the show. In the van we met a few interesting gentlemen that we asked to share our table at the show.  One was a parisian artist, the other a Moroccan physician on holiday. The artist was hilarious and looked alot like Salvador Dali.

Our travel friends we met on the way to the show.

 

We arrived and were seated at a table not too far from the stage.  Food was ok but the show turned out to be excellent.  First there were two exotic belly dancers that performed. Although I am no judge of Belly Dancing the dancers were sexy and fun to watch.

Then the Master of Ceremonies explained that they were going to have a Sultan contest.  They picked four men from the audience to compete to be the Sultan for the evening.  I was one of the men selected.  They had a contest where we had to compete in various tasks – such as showing our biceps, repeating drums beats, etc. I won and then I was crowned Sultan and entertained in front of the entire audience – a bit embarrassing!

The Winning Sultan

The Coronation

After crowning a new member of my harem was selected and then she performed especially for me.

The "Private" Dance for Steven

We all laughed so hard. We had a wonderful and memorable evening 🙂

 

 

Morocco September 2011

Sherma and I spent our 60th birthdays and 35th anniversaries, all of which occur in the same week in Morocco.  We began in Tangier – a fairly commercial city and quickly moved on to Chefchaouen.  Chefchaouen is known as the “Blue City.”  This is a nice photo of us and it is obvious why Chaouen as it is known to the locals is called the “Blue City.”

Steve and Sherma

Sherma and Steven Pinkert in Chefchaouen

 From Chefchaouen we proceeded South to Fes. We stayed overnight at a beautiful Riad located in the medina (old city). The riad is a converted palace that has about 8 guest rooms. The recent owners of the Riad are a charming French/American couple and they could not have been more hospitable.

Sherma Pinkert
Sherma in the Courtyard of Riad – Fes

The food was very good at the Riad and throughout Morocco – mostly we ate traditional Moroccan food during the trip. The mainstay of Moroccan food is the Tajine. It is a stew of various types baked in an earthenware  pot. Usually a meat and several vegetables – quite rich and delicious.

We loved walking through the Medina in Fes, trying to avoid the mules used to transport goods on the narrow streets.

Watch out for these guys in the narrow medina

The highlight of the Fes Medina was visiting their famous leather tannery.  Here they treat the cow hide in large tanks.  Workers walk on the walls between the tanks.  For perspective, the photograph of the leather treatment tanks is a kind of courtyard that covers almost a square block.

Leather Tannery - Fes

Sherma bought several pairs of slippers and a jacket.  Very nice quality leather and the shop keepers were entertaining to say the least. It was alot of fun to bargain with them.  They are a bit resistant to bargain in the tannery but if you are nice and persistent they reduce the price a bit.

Sherma shopping for slippers at the Fes Tannery

I should add that the more you buy the more they bargain. The problem of course is having enough space in your luggage to get you purchases home.

The More You Buy - trying to sell us leather ottomans

After a few nights in Fes we continued South and after a long journey wound up at the edge of the Sahara desert.  It was remarkable.  In order to get into the desert your choices are walk, camel or and off road vehicle.  So we switched from our car to an off road vehicle and road into the desert.  The terrain of the Southeast Sahara begins as a combination of rocks and sand, then as you progress deeper into the desert (either South or East) the terrain changes to smooth sand dunes.  The dunes look like a movie set.  We pushed very hard to arrive before sunset and we just made it to the desert as the sun was setting. It was beautiful.

Sahara Desert at Sunset

We spent the night sleeping under the sky in the Sahara.  Unfortunately there were a few clouds so sky was nice but I admit that I was dissapointed.  We were awakened at 4 am to take our camels up to a tall sand dune to watch the sunrise.

photo by Steven Pinkert

The sunrise was beautiful in the desert.  The sand dunes appeared almost artificial and at times seemed like a photographers backdrop.

Sunrise on the Sahara - Steven Pinkert and Sherma Pinkert

Camel rides are fun and very easy. They certainly were one of the highlights of this trip. Sherma is an avid animal lover and camels were no exception.

She also loves goats.

Sherma and Goat - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

And Cats

Sherma and a Cat - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

And Monkeys

Sherma and Monkey - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

I have numerous Sherma and animal shots that I will add as I select the best.  By the way sometimes she actually tries to get the animals to feed her…

Sherma Waiting for a Nut - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Sherma and I continued our journey South and spent several days in Marrakesh. Marrakesh is a remarkable city.  The Medina is interesting and similar to the Medina in Fes. The products in the different souks (part of a market) are interesting to window shop – though of course there are rarely windows. Typical goods include baskets and woven crafts, metal work (tea pots), wool and silk goods.

Silk Headcover - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

More interesting to us was the food.  We loved the “pancakes” that were cooked fresh over a curved hot iron and folded to make them easy to handle.

Pancakes - Marrakesh - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

But also of interest is the Place Jemaa el-Fina.  This is the famous square in Marrakesh and in the evening it comes alive with street entertainers of all kinds and intereresting local street food. Snake charmers, dancers from different regions, fortune tellers, artists, even tooth pullers!

Tooth Puller, Marrakesh - Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

 

Sherma having a Tooth Extraction - Marrakesh Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Marrakesh also has numerous restaurants. We visited the famous hotel Mamounia to listen to some jazz at night.  Talented band and beautiful place to relax and listen to live jazz.