Mama’s Dinner: Kaliviani Village, Crete

One of my favorite things about traveling is when you accidentally stumble onto something spectacular.  That’s what happened to me in Crete this month.  When I initially booked the Hotel Kaliviani I didn’t really pay that much attention to the listing, I was more interested in finding a hotel near Balos Beach in western Crete. But it turned out when I booked the traditional Kaliviani Hotel in the village of Kaliviani, I was in for a huge treat.

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I won’t even mention the sea views of the rooms or the quaint Cretan village itself. No, I’m gonna focus on the food which turned out to be one of the best gastronomique experiences ever.

Here’s the back story.  Ioannis Deiktakis’s mother and father built and operated this little, traditional hotel for many years.  People loved it in particular because his mother was sweet and adorable and a talented cook of traditional Cretan food.

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About 20 years ago, Ioannis started working in the family business.  He took a break and traveled around the world, particularly Europe and South America. He returned home with a new idea for the restaurant. He wanted to combine the love and passion his mother put into the food with some of the tastes he had experienced elsewhere.  He called the restaurant Mama’s Dinner, and the result is fantastic.  He changes the food and wine menu every year.  I don’t usually eat a lot of red meat, but I went for it after seeing and smelling some mouth-watering dishes emerge from the kitchen.

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I had two spectacular dishes.  The first was a Cretan tart with lamb and local cheeses.  I followed that up with lamb which had been cooked in low heat (55F) for 24 hours.  It was tender, tasty with a perfect balance of olive oil, garlic and lemon.

But enough from me. Let Ioannis tell you about Mama’s Dinner himself.

And here’s the Balos Beach that initially attracted me to Kaliviani in the first place.

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And here’s another old goat I met on the beach.

 

Easter in Singapore

At the end of the Chinese Methodist Church of Singapore’s Easter service, the young parents sitting next to me embraced their three-year old daughter in a group hug, and whispered a prayer.  It was a beautiful moment to witness, and the best possible demonstration of the Easter message.  Afterwards, the ministers and friendly congregation were very welcoming.  Like Methodist’s everywhere, they served large quantities of cake and other goodies, post-sermon.

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Walking back down Telok Ayer Street, I experienced some additional reminders that spirituality and prayer still exists amongst the secular world of modern Singapore which often seems fixated on sanitation, status-seeking and wealth accumulation.  I passed the Thian Hock Keng Temple where families lit incense and prayed to their ancestors and to the sea goddess Matsu for whom the temple is dedicated.  One block further, I stopped to watch people conducting ritual ablutions before the noon prayer at the Al-Abrar Mosque founded by Indian Muslims. You’ll also find Hindu temples just a few blocks away.

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It was a much needed experience of people from different religions, color and cultures living together peacefully and respecting one another’s religious practices.  And especially inspiring after witnessing just the opposite happening with the terror attacks in Brussels, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey and San Bernardino…not to mention the ignorance and hate coming from mouths of certain American political candidates.

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Worshippers at Thian Hock Keng Temple

Good on you, Singapore.

 

Next stop Bali.  Where the spirits and Gods actually do rule.

 

3 Years Gone: Lessons Learned About America

Our journey to Bali and Europe was supposed to be about learning a different culture.  It was.  But our travels also helped us reflect about our own country. Here are a few of those lessons.

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I love freedom.

I mean, I really LOVE FREEDOM!! Freedom to criticize your leaders. Freedom to practice your religion without government bureaucrats looking over your shoulder. Freedom to demonstrate, protest, complain, organize, petition, and kick the bums out. Freedom to privacy from sneaky NSA information thieves. Freedom for reporters and bloggers to report whatever they think is important — even if it’s nonsense from MSNBC or Fox News. Living in countries where they want to make it a crime to insult the President or to say something about the corruption makes you realize what a special gift the Constitution is. Our system may not be perfect, but at least we have the right to voice our grievances and question our government leaders.

But we must be ever vigilant! Returning today, I’ve been reading about politicians wanting to read everyone’s email and Facebook pages in the name of fighting terrorism…and do other dumb stuff to act like they are dealing with the problem, but in reality leaves us less free. Don’t let them do it.

I love the certainty of the rule of law.

God knows our legal system has flaws, but it beats other places we’ve visited by a country mile. The fact there are real rules, more often than not transparently enforced just makes life a little more stable and less stressful. I was bewildered by the often changing laws, rules, etc. based on the whim of a police officer or bureaucrat that we had to deal with. And it happens at every level of government.

I hate corruption.

Sometimes just handing over the bribe is the easiest and only way to deal with being stopped by a policeman, obtaining approval for a project or just about anything else in other places in the world. But it’s a terrible way to run a country. It just eats away at the legitimacy of a government, makes people despise rather than respect their leaders. There is still corruption in American governments, but it’s not as widespread and it is often hunted out and exposed. That would never happen in many other countries in the world.

 America isn’t the only big dog in town.

The world is changing. Many think America’s empire is waning. Even with its ailing economy, China’s economic power and cultural influence is growing. In Asia, people rarely think of the USA first, second or third when thinking about business partners or customers. We don’t even seem to be terribly important to Europeans. That’s fine. We aren’t the only big player in the world anymore. We don’t need to be an empire, but we can be an important player. That should mean shared responsibility and costs. We can all grow to meet our needs, but we aren’t going to be able to dictate anymore.

 

People all over the world wonder why we tolerate gun slaughter.

Maybe a hundred times, an Australian, Austrian, Indonesia, Italian,…asked: So what’s up with the gunfights in America? Why are you letting people walk around with automatic weapons? I try to explain about the Second Amendment, our culture of independence, hunting…None of it makes any sense to my friends, and less and less sense to me. Why are we putting such powerful weapons in the hands of kids, people with mental problems? Why can’t we stand up to the NRA?

There is room for smart, hardworking people to create wonderful new ideas.

There really is no place in the world that supports innovation and entrepreneurship like America. Google, Facebook, Apple….This is exciting and creates huge economic opportunities for millions here and abroad. But are people too focused on the IPO and forgetting their spirits?

Does America still have its spiritual mojo?

Sometimes I wonder if the nation’s religion isn’t about creating a new killer app to make millions.  Is our church the mall or Amazon.   But then I returned and see people practicing Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, meditation, Hindu. I have more faith that spirituality is not lost in America…just a little more diverse and taking a less visible role.

Cell phone service and Internet is bad and costs are too high compared to other countries.

In Bali, I can make a cell phone call to the USA for 3 cents per minute. Get data on my phone for $5 per month. There are a half dozen providers to choose from. There is real competition. Why are there only Comcast and AT&T to choose from here?

Health care is way more affordable and often on par or better outside of the USA.

It’s crazy how much we pay for medical care in America. The medical service we received in Bali, Singapore, Thailand and Croatia was just as competent, but a fraction of the price.

Our government has done great things in our name.

Japan, and Asia in general, is a better place thanks to our post-war program. Europe has had no more wars and is richer and more stable thanks to the Marshall Plan. As Americans, we should be very proud of these achievements.

Our government has done terrible things in our name.

During the 1960’s the CIA helped to execute nearly half a million people in Indonesia under the excuse of stopping Communism. The bloodbath still stains the Indonesia psyche. In the same café, you would see the killers at one table and the family of their victim ate at the next table.

 

Where is Central Europe’s Best Food?

Croatia…near the Slovenia border…in the little spa town of Krapinske Toplice… we found the most amazing chef.  He’s a local guy, Mislav Božić, who loves feeding people.  He’s very good at it.  He honed his skills in Zagreb, and then traveled to Tokyo to cook.  He’s combined his Croatian roots to his Asian experience to create something wonderful.

Chef Mislav Božić Hotel Villa Magdalena

Chef Mislav Božić
Hotel Villa Magdalena

No, I’m not an investor, just a very satisfied customer (eater).  Check out this video which reveals Mislav’s two key secrets to cooking:

Late-Night-Pillow-Talk-Dreams….by Maxwell Fogarty

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Max’s new (and first) book of poetry has been published and the E-Book version is available at Amazon (click here) for the low, low price of $9.99.  Please consider helping out a starving new artist, and be sure to leave a review.  The book is illustrated by the brilliant English artist Arran MacPhail.

Here’s an excerpt:

Strolls of Argentine

A father and son walk through weaving cobble veined Streets to then stumble upon the heart of magical piazzas That shined like unknown biblical hymns cracking their Most pessimistic eyes clear again—

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Max is currently working on a farm and writing his next book near Gothesborg, Sweden. However, this photo is a pair of grandmothers in Abruzzo, Italy who adopted him.

Hiking in the Dolomites of Northern Italy

I just returned from a week of hiking in the Alps of Italy known as the Dolomites with a group of 14 Italians from across the country.  Led by Giancarlo of Genoa, we hiked across mountain passes, viewed dozens of waterfalls, and visited the many mountain huts (rifugios) where a tired hiker can get an expresso with a shot of grappa to keep his strength up.  And most importantly, it was a chance to really get to know some wonderful people who graciously forgave my many blunders with the Italian language.

Check out this short video to see the mountains and people: