Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving week in Paris and Luxemburg

Last week I was on business trip to Paris and while there went to meet a potential IBM customer in Luxemburg. Since this was my 4th time in Paris I decided to not go for a city walk and just stayed in my hotel room finishing up a couple of projects for work. I stayed in Hilton Airport - a bit expensive, but overall a very nice hotel (with a nice fitness center). Hence all of the Paris pictures are from the window of my hotel room (click on the image below to view all pictures).

Boy, do I love this job - it's nice to be able to travel, meet smart people, learn new cultures, see places, try different foods, and get paid to do all that :-).

I took TGV train to Luxemburg. TGV is very popular high speed train in France. According to wikipedia its *average* speed is 279.3 km/h (173.5 mph). Took me 2h 15 min to get from the center of Paris to Luxemburg. Very comfy ride - no bumps, etc. Beats airplane any day. Luxemburg is one of the smallest countries in the world and only has half a million population - that is less than what we have in Pittsburgh! Luxemburg is also smaller in size than Pittsburgh and its suburbs (sorry for using Pittsburgh - my favorite measuring stick :-). Luxemburg is roughly 30 miles by 30 miles in size, which makes it 179th smallest country in the world!

Regarldless of its size, it seems to me people who live there are quite happy - all smiling, well dressed, driving nice cars, etc. In fact, IBM provides BMW 5 series cars to its sales folks in Luxemburg. Something I really miss in US :-). After my customer meeting I had two hours before my train back and took a walk around the city, despite light drizzling rain (click on the image below to view all pictures).

Friday, November 9, 2012

Uzbek Plov (rice dish)

Last time I cooked anything of significance was 15+ years ago, before I got married and still lived in the university's dormitory in Moscow, Russia. My wife is a great cook and nowadays I do not cook anything in the kitchen, except for the tea, coffee and salads.

However this summer a friend of mine inspired me to learn how to cook a super delicious meal called "Plov", which is a traditional dish in Uzbekistan (this friend of mine was born and raised there and moved to US few years ago).

I watched him cook it few times over the past year and finally decided to take a master's lesson. With my iPhone I took a picture of every single step while he was preparing the dish and when I was making the dish myself I literally held iPhone with those pictures in one hand and was cooking with another.

Now here is a complete list of photos I took while watching the Master cooking the Plov (click on the image below to see the slideshow) - below each photo you will see my comments:

In August my little sister got married and I volunteered to cook Plov for all the guests for the day two of the wedding. I did my first ever Plov cooking as a "dry run" one week before and the dish turned out pretty well, so that one week later during the wedding I was pretty sure that guests wont be hungry. It turned out pretty good this second time as well and I even brought back the Kazan back to Pittsburgh so I can cook Plov here in US.

I wont publish the exact recipe here, but you can get a number of very good ones if you simply google for "uzbek plov recipe". Make sure to look at both - the text search results and google images for this search! Just do not salivate to death while looking :-).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Photos from the trip to Kiev, Ukraine

Last week I was in Kiev, Ukraine for IBM business. What a beautiful city it is! For those of you who don't know, Kiev used to be the capital of the ancient Russia (Kievskaya Rus'). While being there I enjoyed excellent Ukranian food, including "salo" - something I ate extensively in my childhood since I am half Ukranian myself. Kiev is a great tourist destination as food and other services is relatively inexpensive and there is a lot to see in the city. US citizens and Russians do not need a visa to visit Ukraine.

On the day of departure I got a chance to tour perhaps the oldest monastery on the territory of Ukraine and Russia - Kievskaya Lavra, founded in 1051 - almost 1,000 years ago. Lavra is one of the seven wonders of Ukraine and is quite amazing. The most important part of Lavra is not even its buildings, but caves with burials of dozens of saint monks, including some very famous people, such as Nestor (the first historian in Russia) and Ilya Murometz (the legendary / mythical warrior who could alone win the battle against enemy army). Monks lived underground in caves and some even buried themselves in cells for many years with a small window left open for food. Listening to those stories makes me shiver.

Here are some photos I took during my short stay in Kiev:

Photos from my 2011 trip to Kiev can be found here: