31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

New Year's Eve! Tonight we say good-bye to all of the let-downs, set-backs, and failures of 2014 and make promises to ourselves for what we will do better or different(ly) in 2015. For me 2014 was a pretty good year. I traveled, ticked items off my bucket list, saw some marvelous theatre, made new friends (a true feat), broke through a building wall to rescue my cat, witnessed a miracle, saw one of my best friends happily married, served at a Papal Mass, continued to stand on my own feet, and had tribute laid at them. I think my only real regret is not having done more.

What will 2015 hold? I have no idea; there is so much over which we have no control. What I can control though I will so in 2015 I will:

  1. Learn to play the Turkish mey
  2. Improve my Turkish
  3. Write (if not publish) a book
  4. Travel more within Turkey; specifically to: Mount Nemrut, Mardin, Canakale
  5. Visit my friends in Serbia
  6. Visit a new country; I'm thinking Iceland
  7. Go to a Christmas market in Europe
  8. Finally learn what all the buttons on my camera do
My ambitions may be neither great nor many but I am happy with them. I might add a ninth...I've been thinking about crowd funding my wine reviews. People do Kickstarter and Crowdfunding campaigns for some of the oddest things now so, why not?

Whether or not you make or keep to your new year's resolutions; ParMieux Adventures wishes you an amazing 2015!

30 December 2014

Elf and Mint Hot Chocolate

Really is there any other flavor for hot chocolate more appropriate to accompany Elf? Really, what else would Buddy drink? Well maybe maple syrup flavored hot chocolate but...ew.

Lacking extract I thought it would be a good idea to steep mint leaves in milk for a while. It may have gone well had one thing and the other not got in the way. I stripped and bruised the leaves, added them to the milk, and put it all back in the refrigerator with the intention of only letting it steep for half hour or so. Just before the 30 minutes were up I got a phone call from my priest and ran out to meet him. 40 minutes later I got home five minutes before a schedule teleconference with Palestine.

Long story short, by the time I got around to making the hot chocolate the leaves had been steeping for  at least three times as long as I'd intended. Whether it was that or it was simply a bad idea to use leaves the mint hot chocolate did not turn out as well as I was hoping. I got a brief hint of mint at first sip which quickly transitioned to...leaf. So my mint hot chocolate was more like leaf hot chocolate. Which was an interesting if utterly unintended flavor.


  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 50-ish grams dark chocolate
  • Mint leaves*
  1. Wash and strip mint leaves from 6-7 stalks. Bruise with your fingers.
  2. Steep in milk/cream for half an hour or so.
  3. Heat milk until just hot then remove mint leaves.
  4. Whisk in chocolate, add a little sugar if desired.
*Of course you could just use peppermint extract :)

29 December 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kabatepe White 2013

This week we're talking about Suvla's Kabatepe 2013 white. Sadly, they're not producing any more of this so what is in stock is what is left.

Like the red, the white is a super blend of: Kinali Yapinkcak 47%, Chardonnay 17%, Sauvignon Blanc 15%, Semillon 10%, and Roussanne Marsanne 11%.

Right out of the bottle it was interesting with its bright straw yellow color and green hues. The nose was dry and little floral. I was really surprised by the flavor which was sweeter than I expected given the dryness of the nose. I don't mean sweet like a muscat sweet, of course, more like there was just a hint of honey. Crisp, slightly acidic, and with flavors of what I think was green apple, the Kabatepe white is delightful. Such a pity there's only a limited supply-so go get yours now!

27 December 2014

Love Actually and Orange Clove Hot Chocolate

In the spirit of what is apparently a British tradition of Christmas truth-telling I must confess...I'm a genius.

Putting chocolate, orange, and clove together is one of the most brilliant flavor combinations around. Clove is tricky to work with sometimes because there is a fine line between that tantalizing hint and being completely overpowered.

I paired this one with Love Actually. Despite the bizarre British desire to tell everyone the truth at Christmas (what is that all about?), I love this movie. Who doesn't want a Prime Minister who uses Harry Potter and David Beckham to charmingly tells the sleazy US President to frack off? And Colin Firth with his adorably bad Portuguese is my favorite part. I hope my bad Turkish is that adorable. I got some giggles when I took my cat to the vet and told them that "I want her to not be able to have babies." I thought that was a logical compromise for not knowing the Turkish word for "spay" but they thought it was funny.

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • Zest of one large orange
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 Teaspoon ground clove
  • 50-ish grams chopped dark chocolate 
This isn't a recipe to make when you've a whim because the zest has to steep for a bit.
  1. Steep the zest in the milk/cream combination for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how impatient you are. I don't have a zester so I used a vegetable peeler to take off the zest in large strips. It's easier to remove the zest from the milk if you do it this way, just make sure to remove any pith.
  2. Heat the milk, cream, and zest on low until hot to the touch or you see bubbles forming around the edge. As ever, do not let boil! 
  3. Remove zest from milk.
  4. Whisk in sugar, clove, and chocolate until everything is smooth an incorporated.
  5. Give it a bit of a taste and add clove as desired. Remember, you can always add but you can't take out!
If you're not a zest person and/or don't want to take the time you could instead use and orange flavored chocolate.

25 December 2014

Merry Christmas! Cardamom Hot Chocolate

A few weeks ago my priest asked me if I would start singing the Psalms during Mass.  Usually only about a dozen people come to my Mass so I figured, why not? Embarrassing myself in from of 12 people isn't the end of the world. Unfortunately my debut was none other than Christmas Eve Mass. Santa Maria is a fairly small church but once you pack people into pews, set out a couple dozen extra chairs, and crowd people standing in the back there must have been at least 200 people there.

I got the Psalm and the music on the 23rd so I had a full day to practice. Which I did much to Sherlock's displeasure. I was nervous as anything but figured if I could just get the first note right then I'd be ok. Naturally I'd stressed myself into a migraine (which put a kabosh on my plans for liquid courage). To make it worse, being a high holy day the priests bust out the incense. Incense makes me sick under the best of circumstances and they got really enthusiastic with it. It was like someone had fogged the alter with it. Unfortunately the clouds of nauseous incense that were intensifying my migraine did nothing to obscure the several hundred people staring at me; nor did they hide me from them. Needless to say I did not get the first note right. I think I got it together by the first verse though.

If that weren't enough I also went to Christmas morning Mass so I had only a handful of hours to learn a new Psalm. It went much worse this morning. Much, much worse. I should have had Gluehwein with breakfast instead of coffee. I didn't manage to pull things together until round about the third verse. At least there were less people this morning.

While I couldn't go home to my family again this year, at least modern technology makes it less depressing (no more crying during Home Alone). My sister and I talked via Skype when I got home and she and my brother-in-law taunted me by showing me the ham he prepared for dinner. Then at about 1.15AM my brother set up a Google Hangout so I could talk to him, my parents, and the cousins who go to my parents' for Christmas Eve.

It being actual Christmas day and all of course we're going to talk about a hot chocolate! I enjoy cardamom in coffee so why not in chocolate? Like cayenne, cardamom is not to be used with a liberal hand. Taste and add as you go! To accompany the hot chocolate, today I'm watching my other favorite version of The Christmas Carol-Micky Mouse's.

We used to watch this every year of TV when we were kids. Then it disappeared and you couldn't find it for love or money. But Disney, not a company to miss the chance to make money any way it can, finally released it on DVD some years ago. In addition to the Christmas Carol is a short with Chip and Dale creating a ruckus with Mickey's tree and some cartoon about a donkey that we never fail to skip.

I can never decide which version I like better; the Muppets' or Mickey. The Muppet version has the fantastic ghosts and Gonzo...but it also has singing and puppets. Shudder. Mickey's version has Goofy and is what introduced Uncle Scrooge to us. I don't really like Donald (or Huey, Duey, and Louie) but I love Scrooge McDuck. I'm also less tempted to smack the Mickey Tiny Tim. I'll just have to keep watching them both year after year until I decide!

A Merry and Blessed Christmas from ParMieux Adventures!

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/4-ish Cup heavy cream
  • 50 grams milk chocolate (chopped)
  • 1 big Tablespoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4-1/2 Teaspoon cardamom
  1. Heat milk and cream until hot or just bubbling around the edges.
  2. Whisk in chocolate, cocoa powder, and cardamom.
  3. Add more cardamom (or not) to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

23 December 2014

Hunting for Nessie

The last of our Scotland adventures took us to Inverness.It's not quite as old and not nearly as charming as Edinburgh but since we were there pretty much for Nessie that didn't matter so much.

River Ness

Inverness Castle

Saint Andrews Cathedral

We took an early morning train from Edinburgh and arrived in Inverness...or did we? It was so, so foggy that we could have arrived in Budapest and I don't think I'd have known the difference. Between the weather and my back the first day was a wash. We walked around a little bit and went to a Highland arts and crafts fair. My back had got so bad though that I was walking like a feeble, old person, moaning a little every few steps. The craft fair was a nightmare for me. The venue was really too narrow to shove as many stalls in it as they did and it was so crowded that I was getting bumped every other second causing me to emit increasingly less brief, piteous moans of pain. It was worth it though because that's were we found Damn Fine Cheese.

Thanks to the magically curative beds at Pitfaranne Guest House, I was virtually cured and ready to hunt down Nessie the next day.Pitfaranne Guest House, by the way, is a fantastic choice for your stay in Inverness. It's very central and everything is within walking distance. The beds are so comfortable, breakfast was great, and the owner, Pearl, was so lovely and helpful.

Me freezing on the Loch

Urquhart Castle from Loch Ness

Of course the real highlight of Inverness (aside from the cheddar) was the trip to Loch Ness.  We booked a tour that picked us up at the central bus station and brought us to a boat for our Loch Ness cruise, picked us up at Urquhart Castle, then took us to the Loch Ness visitors' center. The last, which chronicled the history of the lake and the monster was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. We also had a lovely guide who provided laughs and some fun an interesting information.

For example, no matter how cold it gets, Loch Ness never freezes. There is simply too much water. In fact, Loch Ness holds more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. And at 755 ft (230m) deep and covering 22 square mi (56 square km), if it were to be emptied of water it could hold the world's entire population. Multiple times.

As much as I would love to be able to say that we saw shadows moving under the surface of the water or a head breaking the loch's surface...we didn't. We had fun freezing our butts off on the boat though and wandering around the ruins of Urquhart (pronounced: er-kit) Castle. Thankfully the weather was no where near as foggy as it was our first day; but there was still enough haze around to lend the loch and castle a sense of mystery and the promise that a monster could be lingering nearby. We learned all about the hoaxes people have perpetrated and the natural phenomena that could be mistaken for a monster. My favorite was the deer. Apparently the local deer like to swim across the loch, which I believe is a mile across. Deer where I'm from don't do that.

This is as close as I got to Nessie

Just because we did not spot Nessie did not make this a wasted trip. If nothing else, the excellent, comfortable beds at Pitfaranne cured my back injury. I really enjoyed this brief glimpse of the Highlands though. The Scottish country side is stunning. I didn't even mind the cold.

Thus ends my adventures in Scotland. I fell in love with the country; especially with Edinburgh. I feel very much about Edinburgh as I felt the first time I came to Istanbul. Unfortunately the UK dosn't hand out residency permits with the same sense of abandon as does Turkey so the chances of my up and moving to Edinburgh are pretty slim. Which is a pity. For the time being I will have to make do with more visits. So ta for now, Scotland!

22 December 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kabatepe Red

In addition to the its already overwhelming selection of excellent wine; Suvla also produces a series called Kabatepe-a table red, white, and blush. If the red, which we're reviewing today, is an indication of the complete series then Suvla has done the impossible...produced an under 20TL wine that is GOOD!

Garnet in color with a fruity and slightly spicy nose, the 2012 Kabatepe Red is a busy blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 47%, Merlot 21%, Syrah 21%, Petit Verdot 8%, and Cabernet France 3%; with a flavor profile indicative of the three most dominant grapes. Juicy, slightly acidic with light tannins and hints of raspberry and pepper, the Kabatepe Red is consistent from the first taste to its not so lengthy finish.

While it is not a spectacular, blow your socks off wine (unlike Suvla's Sır and Petit Verdot which continue to be my favorites) it is a very nice red table wine and would accompany meats and red sauces nicely. With this flavor and price combination you simply cannot go wrong.

Since I can never buy just one of a series, I also bought the white and blush on my last visit to the Suvla shop so those reviews will be coming soon!

21 December 2014

Melrose Abbey

I'm getting married here. I can totally make that happen. Luckily for me, L was not only tolerant of my crazy fantasies but is also an enabler and helped me plot out where the tent for the reception would go (obviously not in the graveyard) and pointed out that some sort of temporary flooring would have to be put down over the gravel.

Established by the Cistercian order in 11-something or other, the surviving structure is actually from only the 16th Century. "Only".  Not only are the ruins of the abbey home to the graves of many Scottish nobles but the heart of Robert the Bruce is also said to be here. Our charming (which really is a needless descriptor as to be Scottish is to be charming) driver said that if we remember anything from our trip, let it be that Braveheart was a great movie-but without one iota of actual historical accuracy.

What remains of the abbey is hauntingly beautiful. I've talked before about some churches giving me the feeling of being out doors while inside; that is truly the case at Melrose where little of the roof remains. Exposed to the elements as it has been, the stonework is alive with lichens the same vivid green as the Scottish fields. The stone carvings in the windows seem all the more elegant for the lack of glass and the exposed arches and buttresses seem impossibly delicate to provide support for the heavy stone walls.

It is an architecturally interesting place; originally constructed in the form of Saint John's cross. Soaring fluted Doric columns support the towering roof under which groin (or rib; it was hard for me to tell which ) and barrel vaults share space.

Melrose Abbey as equally beautiful from without as within. And I, the strange lover of cemeteries (the older the better) felt the crumbling headstones added an additional layer of enchantment to an already magical place.

You can totally see me getting married here, right? It was decommissioned in 16-somethingorother but I'm sure arrangements could be made for resanctification.

20 December 2014

Is This Irony?

Truly, with the gross misuse and abuse of the word over the last 20 years I really am not sure if I ever use 'irony' correctly or not. A fly in your Chardonnay is not irony...it's just a fly with bad taste in wine.

But is this conversation I had with L. last night; ironic?


Andrea: So I changed my Twitter self description. It's now: Adventurer, wine drinker, acidental humorist, and very bad speller.

L: Was the "acidental" accidental?" :p

Andrea: hahaha

L: Or ironic?

Andrea: It's spelled correctly on titter.



damn i

L: lmao

Andrea: i gove up


L: roflmao

dude I can't breathe.

I'm laughing hard and trying to be quiet about it (context: she's in a shared office in US)

Andrea: Me too! (context: it's almost 1 AM in Istanbul and I have a guest trying to sleep)

L: oh god

that was fantastic

Andrea: I have to gigure out how to share this

f*&k me


So I guess whether or not I have a handle on 'irony' at least I'm living up to my claim about being an 'accidental humorist'.

19 December 2014

The Muppet Christmas Carol and Aztec Hot Chocolate

Today I'm watching what is, surprisingly, one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol. Why is that surprising? Because puppets are fracking scary and Muppets most of all. Full body Kermit gives me nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares, someone on the Harry Potter team has to have seen this movie. The Muppet Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is clearly a Dementor precursor.Equally scary is a singing, dancing Michael Caine.

Let's talk about today's hot chocolate. I imagine it was very startling and probably even off putting the first time someone was served chocolate that had chili in it but it's not an uncommon thing anymore. There's something really special to me about it because I think when you get other flavored chocolates, caramel, mint, what have you, that second flavor shares as much space on your tongue as the chocolate. Chili is different though simply through its nature. I mean the amount of chili you're going to put in chocolate is a heck of a lot less than the amount of caramel you'd use. Chili brings chocolate to the next level and then kind of kicks you in the face during the finish. It's like a bonus.

You do have to be careful with it. I especially did since my bottle of cayenne pepper didn't have one of those perforated tops that helps you sprinkle spices. This could have gone full on disaster for me. I suggest sprinkling a little bit at a time then taste an mull. Did the chili kick you in the face? No? Add a little more. And so on.

The very timely Lauren sent me this link to an article about the history of hot chocolate. It's fascinating.Authors Brett & Kate McKay talk about how chocolate came to Europe, the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa, and how many a drink hot chocolate is. Even though we didn't write it, it's totally worth a read! The Surprisingly Manly History of Hot Cocoa

And speaking of a kick in the face; does anyone else ever want to punch Tiny Tim?

  • 1 C milk
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 50 gr chopped dark chocolate
  • 3 TSP sugar
  • 1 heaping TSP cocoa powder
  • 1/2 TSP cinnamon
  • few pinches (to taste) cayenne pepper
  1. Heat milk and cream until just barely bubbling around the edges.
  2. Whisk in milk and dry ingredients.
  3.  Enjoy getting kicked in the face :)

17 December 2014

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, just outside of Edinburgh, is one of the finest examples of carved stonework in the United Kingdom. However I have no pictures of it because the rather greedy Sinclair family charges an 11 GBP entrance fee but doesn't allow pictures inside so that you buy their picture DVDs in the gift shop.

It's still absolutely worth the visit though. L and I went on a day tour our of Edinburgh visiting Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose Abbey (up next!) and a Scotch distillery. I also have no pictures of the distillery because apparently picture taking could cause an explosion. *crickets* I still wonder if that's true or if it's like 'your battery powered electronics will interfere with airplane instruments; which even airlines now admit was a bunch of hokum.

Anyway, Rosslyn Chapel has a pretty interesting history. Built in the 15th Century as, of course a Catholic church, it was supposed to be much larger than it is now. However the Sinclair patriarch who commissioned the church died mid construction and his sin, not so gung-ho about the project, halted construction where it was and fairly literally just slapped a wall on the open end.

The stonework inside is done, I think our guide said, in limestone which is very soft and easy to carve but it also means that the centuries have done their best to eradicate the finer details of many of the carvings. Those that remain though are beautiful. Pillars are topped with angels playing instruments, including one playing bagpipes, and there are over 110 'green men', faces with vines and leaves growing out of the mouth and around the head, all around the chapel.

The chapel was closed in 1560 during the Scottish Reformation though the Sinclair family remained Catholic until they caved in 1861, converted to Church of Scotland, and reopened the chapel for worship. Since then rumor and fame of all sorts have touched the church. The Holy Grail, among other relics, is rumored to be in the crypt below the church which hasn't been opened since the 19th century. The chapel is also featured in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code which is really what made tourists come in droves. Historian Louise Yeoman apparently criticized the Sinclairs for cashing in on the popularity of the book/movie and I gotta agree with her as, prior to the movie's release and popularity, video and photography were not forbidden.

The church also has a giant cat which is friendly as can be; which they have also commercialized. You can buy all sorts of things in the gift shop made with his image.

Nearby are the remains of the Roslin Castle. We didn't have a lot of time before our bus departed so we hurried there, snapped a few pictures, then scurried back to the bus. While it didn't look overly impressive from our view on the bridge by which one accesses the castle; I believe the ruins actually go down several stories and part of the remains have been refurbished into a guest house.  Originally built sometime in the late 14th Century, the castle was a working castle meant to hold off the British. And that's worked out really well.

Roslin Castle

We left Roslin for Melrose which gets its own post soon, and on the way to the explodable distillery we stopped to take in the view at an area called Scott's View. Evidently this was a favorite viewpoint of one of Scotland's favorite sons; Sir Walter Scott. It is a rather lovely view.

Scott's View