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Missing my kitchen…

…and Erik, of course! I’ve been on a business trip in Armenia for almost five weeks. Living in a hotel for this long is strange. You might think that it’s nice to have someone to make the bed and clean the bathroom, but Erik usually takes care of both of those. I’m really a terrible housekeeper. I don’t think I would have survived the 50′s very well. So, really, it’s just strange noises and Fox Life on TV, which plays American shows, but the same three commercials. If I have to see the Chanel commercial with Kiera Knightley one more time while I’m trying to fall asleep… *shaking fist*

I had no idea where Armenia was, so I’m going to assume you don’t either.

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Don’t be fooled by the geography (nestled in between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey); it’s very safe. The people are warm and friendly and the weather has been mostly spring-like and beautiful. It’s an emerging market country, so it’s been a unique working experience. Things I take for granted, such as people having internet at home, can’t be counted on here. But look at the view from my hotel room!

Anyway, one of the first things I did when I got here was to book a trip with a company focusing on “special interest” travel. We planned a two-day food extravaganza. The food here is really quite good. It’s mostly local, since they don’t spend money to import much, and very seasonal. I’ve been told a few times in restaurants that what I want isn’t available because it’s out of season. It’s kind of a cross between Middle Eastern and Russian, which sounds weird, but is tasty. We’ll post the recipes from the tour once I figure out how to get some of the more unique ingredients locally, but here are some photos to give you an idea of what to expect.

On Day 1, we went to the town of Vayk in southern Armenia and made soup and summer salad.

The Arpa River valley near VaykSoup with an Armenian vegetable, walnuts, and lentils

This soup is made with a vegetable that they harvest in the summer and dry to eat all winter. It was really good, especially with bits of dried lavash crumbled on top. I’m not sure if we have the vegetable in the US, so I might try to find a subsititute. Summer salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes a feta-like cheese) is really popular in Armenia. The tomatoes are delicious here already. We still have another month or so in NYC before we get great tomatoes, so this has been a treat.

On Day 2, we travelled to the northern part of Armenia, pretty close to the Georgian border. Our first stop was in Vanadzor, where we tried some local cheeses. The one in the bowl is kind of like bleu cheese, but they make it in a tree. I’m not quite sure how, though…language issues.

The town of VanadzorA sampling of local cheeses

One thing I have come to really like here is that they usually serve a big plate of fresh herbs with meals – tarragon, purple basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, and maybe some green onions or chives. You eat them with cheese and lavash or just alone. It’s very refreshing.

After driving through a few un-lit tunnels and up a steep and muddy mountain, we arrived at our final destination – the small village of Akner. My host, Armine, taught me how to make dolmas. Dolma means something like “stuffed”, so you can make a dolma out of almost anything. We used grape leaves, cabbage leaves, and a bunch of veggies.

The village of Akner and its 500-year-old treeDolmas in Akner

The weather was pretty dismal both days, so I was REALLY glad my guide, Arthur, was driving. I could just focus on the incredible scenery and ignore the fact that we were barreling down a tiny mountain road.

Anyone want to come over for some Armenian food when I get back?

Dolma madness!

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