Sunday, January 21, 2018

New Drink of 2018

Maltex at Miliki Restaurant

Nearly every year I "discover" a new drink either unexpectedly stumbled upon it or having someone introduced it to me.  Earlier this month I was invited to a group dinner at a Nigerian restaurant named Miliki in Oakland. I had never ever had Nigerian food, and most people in the group were the same.  Our host, a Nigerian native, patiently described everything and even order a variety of appetizers for us to try.  I was very impressed with the flavors of everything. Nigerian food is not much on presentation but more of comfort food.  They don't look all that fancy and pretty in photographs, but they taste great and very satisfying.

I always check out the beverage section in ethnic restaurants to see if they have interesting drinks. As everyone else in the group enjoyed wine, I asked the host what "Maltex" is. As soon as he said it is a popular drink in Nigerian and confirmed it's alcohol free, I wanted to try it.  A dark beer looking bottle was brought to me. I took a sip with a straw and was immediately intrigued. It tasted great and reminded me of molasses. It's carbonated and sweet but tasted natural unlike regular soda. I looked up Wikipedia for more information as I sipped more of my new drink. The first sentence in the article is "Malta is a lightly carbonated malt beverage, brewed from barley, hops, and water much like beer;...". Wow, so this is what beer would taste like before it turns into an alcoholic drink? I can't stand the way beer tastes, but malt is delicious. I also noticed on the bottle that Maltex is actually imported from Denmark not Nigeria. Another surprise.

I felt a little sad as I finished my first bottle of Malta. After I got home, I searched the net to see where I can get more. I could not find anyone carrying the exact brand in nearby stores, but discovered a different brand called Vita Malt on, where I order my dog food sometime. Vita Malt is another company in Denmark that makes malt drinks. Vita Malt Plus has aloe vera, ginseng, and royal jelly. It's marketed as a type of energy drink. It's packed with vitamin B complex. It sounds fantastic! As I dug more information on Vita Malt Plus, I came upon an extremely negative review on the drink on The Soda Jerks website. The reviewer thought it tasted so disgusting that he had to throw away the rest of it after a couple sips. Hummm.... would I feel that way? I scroll to the bottom of the review, and many people commented in defense of malta. Secondly, the reviewer had no clue what royal jelly was. He obviously had not been exposed to as many nature's wonders as I have. I decided that I was not going to take his opinion seriously. I received my 6-pack of Vita Malt a few days later. I feel that I have much more energy after drinking it, and I love the way it tastes. I don't normally like soft drink and only drink soda occasionally, but this malt drink is good stuff. I can't believe nobody introduced it to me before.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Day 1 in Autlán, Mexico

After driving for more than 3 hours, I was very excited to see Carlos Santana on the welcoming "Autlan" sign at the entrance of the town. This town of 60,000 people happens to be the birthplace of legendary musician, Carlos Santana.  Comparing to the many tiny villages we passed by on the way here, Autlán has everything - a beautiful mural leads to the church on top of the hill, a historical city hall, a rodeo ring, a museum, a university, Santana Plaza, night markets, and countless shops all over the town.

The first we did was hiking up the hill in the morning. Along the way, we saw a donkey, chickens, roosters, and several dogs. One dog followed us for a while.  There were many Giant Cactus trees. When we reached the top of the hill, we were able to see the entire town. There is a church on top of the hill.  I was told it will be all decorated and looking festive in the next few weeks for Christmas although it looked a bit run down at the moment.

City Hall

The City Hall is quite impressive. It says 1810 on the building, so I assume it's over 200 years old. I went inside and looked around. It has a lot of offices and people applying for passports, paying bills, applying for marriage licenses, etc. It's a lot bigger than El Cerrito for sure.

Plaza De Toros Alberto Balderas is the rodeo ring. Although my friend told me that they no longer practice traditional bullfight, inside of the plaza has many paintings and photographs past bullfights and matadors. I think some traditions are better left in the past. I was told that rodeo is the main sport at the Plaza these days.

I was quite surprised to see many point of interests in this town since there was very little information I could find on the internet. This town is definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chapala, Mexico

Back in May this year, I used over 15,000 miles on my Capital One Visa card plus $95 to purchase a roundtrip ticket to Guadalajara, Mexico. A former co-worker of mine turned to her hometown Autlán, after the company we worked for was sold.  She had frequently invited me to go visit her. After six years, I finally arrived at Guadalajara Airport at 6 a.m.  I was a little worried about getting in touch with my friend even though my cellphone carrier, Cricket, indicates that SMS and calls are included while traveling in Mexico and Canada.

The phone certainly worked. Before we headed to Autlán, we stopped by Chapala, which is just 30 minutes away from the airport, for lunch and some sightseeing. Chapala is a little resort town next to a lake. It's a popular destination for American retirees as the weather is in mid-80's all year round. There are plenty of souvenir shops and street food vendors at the outdoor market.  I had my first elote (corn) ice cream cone. It was very refreshing and not overly sweet. I enjoyed every bit of the ice cream cone.

Prior to my trip, I was concerned about consuming water. Everything on the internet still indicates that tap water is not safe to drink, and travellers need to avoid ice as well. Although I wanted to be careful, by now I already had a tamarind drink with my lunch. I couldn't possibly turn down some homemade ice cream. I wanted to try everything!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Cutting Down Those Bamboos

Remember the bamboos that I used to make a trellis? Some of us know that bamboos are extremely invasive and fast growers. I wonder if the people who planted them knew these facts about bamboos. They have grown into my surrounding neighbors' yards. They have grown so much that I started to see big spiders and their webs on them.  After doing some research, I believe these big spiders are Orb-weaving spiders, which are non-aggressive to humans and not toxic; however, they are big and scary and walking into their big webs would be terrifying. After doing more research on  how to get rid of them, I decided to go the natural route - cutting down and thinning out the bamboos. Once their preferred habitats are removed, they will move on.

I spent the weekend sawing off the bamboos from as close to the ground as possible. I kept some of them fence height, and also cut off some super tall ones. I will be keeping some straight thick ones for more trellis.  After hours of chopping, cutting, and trimming, I noticed some stinging and itchy sensations on my arms. I couldn't help not to scratch them.  I was wearing garden gloves but only wearing a t-shirt and overall shorts. My ankles also experience a little itchiness. After scratching my arms a few times, I noticed little red blistery bumps all over my forearms. Upon doing more research online, I found that others have experienced the same symptoms after dealing with bamboos while some people have never experienced any problem. It's believed to be some kind of allergic reaction, which I am not surprised. My skin tends to get allergic reaction from brushing against certain plants. This is another reason to get rid of these bamboos. The dogs were running around the bamboos and stepping on the leaves. I tried to shoo them away since I don't want their little paws to get some bad reactions from the bamboos, but they don't seem to be bothered at all.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Glass Beach Road Trip

Glass Beach (this side has fewer glass) 

I have wanted to visit Glass Beach in Fort Bragg for a few years now. I first saw a photo of Glass Beach on Instagram and was surprised that it's within driving distance from where we are. It's a little over 3 hours of drive from El Cerrito. This past weekend we took a drive up north to check it out. The weather has been unusually warm for this time of the year. However, it was also very windy at the beach. A lot of people were picking the shiny glass pebbles on the beach. I read that Glass Beach is gradually disappearing. Even though the law prohibits anything to be disturbed or removed from California State Parks, you can imagine people do take the pebbles as souvenirs.  The area that's closer to the water has more glass but Cracus isn't water kind of dog, so we stayed on the dryer side.

We took a walk along Ka Kahleh trail. It was beautiful and a easy walk except it was super windy to the point that your ears would hurt. We had to turn back because of the strong wind. In the afternoon, we also visited MacKerricher State Park and took a walk on the boardwalk.  It was a lot of walking for little Cracus on one day. In the evening he just rested quietly on the bed. Shortly after he started snoring. We had great time.