Worldwide Wednesday: Prickly Pear

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Our second annual Mother-Daughter trip took us to Sedona this past weekend. We relaxed at the spa, took a Vortex Tour, ate at a bunch of delicious food, and hiked so much that my lower body is still sore.

I knew that Sedona is recognized for its sought-after spas, vortex energy, and geological wonderlands before we arrived but what I didn’t realize was that Sedona is home to the Opunita cactus. Commonly known as the prickly pear, the large cactus species grows in the southwestern United States, Mexico, South America, Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean. What cactus am I talking about, you might ask? It is the classic picturesque cactus plant with large oval leaves, sharp spines, and cylindrical magenta fruit around the edge.

WW5 - Pickly PearWW5 - Sedona

Before I moved to the Southwest, the balanced character of the exotic cacti fascinated me. Despite my interest in cactus plants, I haven’t seen the famous prickly pear in Las Vegas, which made it all the more exciting when I spotted it in Sedona. Much to my surprise, I quickly learned that the fruit of the cactus is edible after noticing local restaurants offering prickly pear desserts and Margaritas. That’s right! It can be peeled and eaten raw but is mostly made into candy, juice, or dried and sweetened.

My excitement stemmed more in regard to the cactus plant rather than my desire to actually taste the fruit. I reacted to it like I do most new foods: I’m sure that it “tastes great” and everything but I don’t feel the need to try it. Then, we had an overzealous hike one afternoon and I needed to spike my blood sugar levels. Prickly pear taffy was my only option. The fruit, at least in taffy form, tastes like a mixture of raspberry, watermelon, and bubble gum. It’s not bad, but it’s strange to swallow a bubble-gum textured candy that has a bubble-gum taste. Nevertheless, it is something all types of eaters should try when adventures take them to the lands of the prickly pear.

Pickin’ your Brain:

  • Do you have the urge to try new foods when you travel?

Worldwide Wednesday: Gelato Messina

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My world would be dark and lonely without ice cream. I drink chocolate malts to celebrate, eat Cookies & Crème to make a bad day better, and even enjoy a scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip when I’m too full for dessert. While I don’t like to admit it, I eat ice cream almost every night. No, that’s a lie – the truth is I eat ice cream every night. It’s possible that I’m borderline addicted to this creamy, cold treat. If there were a hotline for ice cream addicts, I’d consider arranging evening sessions. Let’s just say my 2016 resolution, that I can only eat ice cream the number of times I work out each week, hasn’t started yet.

Ice cream’s favorite relative, Gelato, came into my life when my aunts and I traveled to Italy after my high school graduation. It was my first trip abroad so I naturally chose a destination based on my ability to eat. Having no other choice but to eat pasta and gelato for 10 days straight made my taste buds explode with excitement. I averaged 2.5 gelatos a day, a challenge for some but an effortless task for a gelato groupie like myself. Lalia’s having a coffee? Okay, I’ll have a gelato. We’re going to Florence today? I need a gelato for the train ride. We’re in Florence? I have to make sure Florentine gelato tastes as good as Roman gelato. It’s time to wake up? Gelato for breakfast is the best idea ever! Needless to say, I suffered from severe gelato withdrawals when we returned to the States…

Despite my committed efforts to find authentic gelato outside of Italy, nothing compared until I traveled to Australia in 2013. When I studied abroad in Sydney in 2010, I was infatuated with Darrel Lea’s Australian Licorice and Pancakes on the Rocks but in 2013, Gelato Messina was everyone’s everything. I approached Messina with low expectations because my previous searches for authentic gelato were met with false hope, disappointment and tears.

Gelato Messina was different.

Gelato Messina

The modern decor, ridiculously delicious gelato, and staff of gelato-enthusiasts set this Australian-Italian gelato café apart. The gelato is so smooth, so creamy (without using much cream), and so flavorful, I wanted to move next door so I could eat it every day. Even more, this gelateria is interesting and unique. Messina is passionately dedicated to working with raw ingredients and experimenting with new flavors and textures – the gelato makers work behind a giant glass wall so everyone can experience the process of creating happiness in a cup (or cone!). Thirty five permanent flavors and five weekly specials are churned remotely and you can tell. Apple pies are baked in-house (yes, there is apple pie gelato), pistachios are cracked by hand, and you could argue that they are hiding a garden of fruit on the roof because the fruit sorbet are that fresh. The hardest part about leaving Australia was (arguably) leaving Gelato Messina behind.

Gelato Messina

So, what’s better than traveling to Australia for some Messina? Finding out that the only Gelato Messina location outside of Australia happens to be in the city that I live in. That’s right – Gelato Messina is in Vegas, baby! Life as I know it has officially changed.

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • What’s your food addiction?

Worldwide Wednesday: Airplane Food

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There are many reasons to hate air travel. Some people despise the fundamentals of flying and everything that comes with it – the nightmare of checking bags, removing everything but your underwear to pass security, and overzealous TSA officials, just to name a few of the irritating things. Not to mention the dreaded boarding process full of aggressive boarders and unhelpful gate agents. Other travelers are annoyed by air vents that don’t work and TV monitors that play movies you’ve already watched.  Most people hate the fact that flying means they are stuck in a tube of airborne illnesses for the next three hours and everyone’s flight gets a little worse when a crying child sits in the seat next to you. Then comes tarmac delays, turbulence, and sketchy landings that end with the embarrassment of passengers clapping at touch down.

For me, food is the worst part of flying. 

It wasn’t always this way. When airlines offered light snacks with the beverage cart, I thoroughly enjoyed pretzels and apple juice halfway through my journey. Without warning, most airlines decided to increase ticket prices and omit complimentary snack service on domestic flights and I’ve been bitter ever since. The reason people bring food on board is because snacks aren’t served anymore!! There’s nothing worse than the potent smell of Micky D’s lingering for the duration of the flight….

International flights are tricky, too. The idea of eating on an airplane is exciting: flight attendants walk down the aisles with airplane food carts, delivering your hot meal right to your seat. Then, the beverage cart comes offering unlimited drinks of your choice! Too bad the fun stops there…

“Chicken or Pasta?” the flight attendant asks while I continued the conversation to get a better description. Ordering on the spot and without a menu doesn’t work for me but I ultimately decided on the safe option: pasta. Then, she plopped this down in front of me:

WW3 - Airplane (Adrian)

My pickiness protruded in full effect – I’d rather go hungry than eat that. The idea of eating on an airplane might be fun but the reality of it is not. An unfamiliar dining environment coupled by food that looks inedible is not my idea of fun.

From that point on, I have not taken an international flight without stocking up on as many snacks as possible before I cross the security check point (it pays to prepare…snacks in the terminal are three times the price!). Who said it’s scientifically proven that taste buds don’t work properly in high altitudes, anyways? My peanut butter M&Ms and Original Recipe Gardetto’s taste just as delicious in the air as they do on land. I think it’s just an excuse to cover up the fact that airplane food is awful.

Happy Travels this holiday season!

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • What do you hate most about flying?