Monday, August 20, 2012

The South Coast

As most of my stories, this one starts with beer too. BeerS if we have to be correct,  but we really don’t. 


And a Swiss and a Bulgarian waiting for a plane to Mombasa. Sounds like one of those jokes, no? Indian Ocean here we come! (First trip to the Kenyan coast was amazing, but it involved mangrove islands and a bay, which qualifies not as a dip in the Indian Ocean). Clearly a repeat was necessary.

Let’s skip the first night that we spent with one of our best friends Johnny and move on to full day numero uno.

Getting to the beach was an adventure in and of itself, and possibly deserves its own post, but I feel like including a brief summary here. We had two options: take 2 matatus or walk 30 minutes headed right. We chose the latter, which in retrospect might not have been the best decision, but whatever. After numerous questions, winding paths, corn fields, chicken farms, village huts, rain and Captain Lorenzo, we finally made it to a tarmac road and some drinks stands. Yes, exactly where the matatu would have dropped us off. This little enterprise took us about a full hour and another half. Needless to say, at this point, we were desperate for some beach time.

Side note: Best directions ever: “You go around that path and you will see a Muslim at the crossroad.” You will see a Muslim?! Seriously?!

Side note 2: After that much walking in the burning sun and a brief rain, with no view of the beach or the ocean, there is only one thing that can lift your spirits: baboon sex! Too quick to even take out my camera, this event will only remain imprinted on my mind, not yours.

White sand, blue water, crystal clear – left speechless in a beach orgasm. Exactly as I pictured it, but so much better!!! 
That little sandbar you see in the middle was thoroughly explored with the assistance of some devious local guides. What is it about us that screams “idiots”, I don’t know. But people took us for fools way too often that day.

Sea cucumber (looks like poop, I know!), some sort of snail/crab and a sea urchin. Not supposed to step on sea urchins, because they sting. Guess what I almost did? They hide in the caves under the sand, where there is still water during low tide. How am I supposed to see them? Also, how they are different from porcupines, I did not quite understand.
Two white kids were running around the sandbar exploring the wildlife. They knew pretty much everything. But if I lived at a beach like that, I’d probably be a mini-marine-biologist at the age of 8 as well. Damn fucking fantastic to grow up at a place like this one though.

Diverse entertainment obviously involves camel riding and glass bottom boats. And whatever that person on the left is doing with the tyre in the water.
Beach, beer, beer, kuku choma, beer, beer, matatu, grocery shopping, matatu, food, drink, drink, drink, drink … you’d think it would stop somewhere, but a rainy Sunday turned it into more of a marathon. Starting with Johnny, going through numerous Pilsners and Tuskers, switching to Bombay, we eventually made it to nothing else but Bulgarian wine. No joke! Here’s the proof:

Of all the places in the world, Diani Beach (or Kenya in general) was the last that I would have expected to find Bulgarian wine. On top of everything, cheaper than it’s offered back home. How did this happen…?!?!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Masai shopping

Masai markets are quite popular in Nairobi. Basically, the same people rotate locations around the city between an open-air market downtown and parking lot markets in malls. Great place to buy some local souvenirs and presents and hope that they were made somewhere here and not in China. (I’m only saying this because I recently learnt that the beads the Masai people use to make jewellery are made in China and imported in Kenya. Then, the Masai just bead their necklaces, bracelets, bowls, belts and pretty much anything else you can think of. But making the beads here is now to expensive. Which is sad because Kenya also happens to be famous for its glass works.) 

Anyhow, the shopping started at Hilton’s Arcade. Why? To build le strategie, which was – go to an Indian, non-bargain place to check out how cheap things can get; write it down (thanks J for the idea and the little notebook); use as reference and bargain at the Masai market.

Successful, hellz yeah. I only got 1/4 of my things back at the Hilton Arcade.

While I’ve explored Masai markets before, I never indulged in any shopping. Now that I am down to my last weekend in Nairobi, it’s about time I bought myself some African stuff before I leave the continent. So, here are some observations on the Masai market.

1. Everyone is a craftsman, they make it, they give you the best price. They are not like the brokers. Oh, no, it’s fair here.

2. It would seem that I no longer look like a complete mzungu (Side note: apparently, mzungu means English, so I was never actually a mzungu, but that’s a completely separate story), because no one really offered me completely exorbitant prices. Only the three times higher than you should pay.

3. Some people refused to bargain. What up with that?

4. It’s hard to tell how much things are really worth. More importantly though, how much are they worth to you. Cost and benefit analysis: would I really pay that much and do I really want it that badly. In the end, you can buy none of these things, or similar ones, at these prices back home. So why not splurge and spend $10 for a Masai painting? (Yes, I did bring the price down, but only halfway of what the guy originally wanted. And no, I don’t wanna know if I paid too much.)

5. The more you buy, the better price you get. Great, but I’m not exactly sure what to do with 7 paintings now.

6. Easier to bargain with women… They seem to understand better my “take it or leave it” approach. Don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m hurting men’s feelings by outsmarting them? Maybe they think because I’m a woman I’ll bend? Someone elaborate, ‘coz I ain’t getting it. Women are so much more straightforward: this is how much I want, this is how much I’ll give you. Deal. No bickering over 50 Kshs as if that makes a difference. (For those guys it probably does….)

7. You could get better deals that from the Masai people in Masai Mara. Significantly better.

In the end, I walked out with yeah, those 7 paintings, 2 candlesticks, 4 bowls, a set of coasters and 10 pairs of earrings all for less than $40 (and if you trace back you’ll notice that just one of the paintings was $10). This is also how much my dinner at Carnivore cost a month earlier. What I’ll do with all this stuff? No clue.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Le food III

Clearly my favorite topic Smile 


Authentic Indian at the heart of Westlands. Statements like this one is why I find restaurant reviews useless. They don’t mean anything. Unless you can picture the food and almost taste it, there is no point writing about it (you might be able to make the point that I have no pictures, but that’s mostly because I was busy eating). They also don’t mean anything when made by people like me, who while we strongly appreciate and passionately love food, don’t really care where it comes from. This place was more Pakistani than Indian. Just fyi.

Authentic,  can’t tell. Never been to India or Pakistan. But was packed with Indians and that for me means legit Indian cooking. Indian friends confirmed. Heart of Westlands? Well who knows where the heart of Westlands is, if there really is one….

Now, to the point: (1) Masala chips (what they call here chips, a leftover of British colonial English I’m gonna guess, is more widely known as French fries. Then again this rises the question, why French, but I have no desire to dwell on this topic) is what Hashmi is known for. After several bites, the spiciness increased and soon my tongue was on fire. Burning... but I had to try. Da ne se minem, as they say. (2) Mixed platter with 4 types of meat – surprisingly edible, excluding the chicken which was way out of the spice safe zone. One bite was the end of me and chicken for the night. (3) Pilipili :), cute I know, but this basically means tilapia with yet another spicy sauce. Somewhat bearable, so I even helped myself to a second serving of the fish. (4) Again the naan and a large bottle of water save the day.

Ultimately, in conclusion, after all, in the end: great food. But Indian is not for me, way too spicy. Neither is Pakistani. I often wonder why I even try the food when my spice tolerance nothing but deteriorates with time.

Fogo Gaucho

Churrascaria in Nairobi: meat on a stick!! Yum!

Need say nothing else, but I have the charming quality of having an opinion about everything. And you might have noticed, reader, that it tends to be on the negative/complaining/whining side.

I will not diverge from that trend. Not because of the quality of the restaurant, which was high, but mostly because nothing will ever match my first churrascaria experience and my fascination with the types, quality and quantity of meat. Many people go for the experience, I found that fun only the first time. I’ve said this before, but nothing matches a cow on a cart! Now, I go for the food.

So what we got served: lamb, beef, chicken, prawns and I feel like I’m forgetting something. Somehow I don’t remember eating pork or seeing it on the brochure (that’s right, brochure, not menu). Which is sad, because pork rocks! They also offer crocodile, but they didn’t serve it this time. And we started with empanadas.

NB: If you are wonder, I did employ the same “Carnivore” strategy. It works. 83% of the time.

Why, yes, I do love taking pictures of my plate :)
I’m not gonna do another clock because this is clearly a mess.

Lamb leg = great (there was another lamb cut, but it wasn’t as good)

Cow ribs = awesome (Side note: in Kenya, apparently, they serve cow ribs to women, so they get full on them, while the men eat the better meat. Sexist and funny. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ribs, especially with some crispy skin on).

Fried bananas = great

Beef (various cuts and types that I don’t remember) = amazing

Chicken = mediocre (drumsticks and wings)

Prawns = had been frozen, defrosted and grilled and in the processed had acquired a not so appealing metallic taste, characteristics of frozen and defrosted things. More importantly, where did they come from. Are there any prawns in the Indian Ocean? Ask yourself? Then go for the prawns. Also, apply the no-R rule and it’s pretty clear you have to avoid seafood. Not at all costs, but most of the time.

Salad bar = paid no attention, but good arugula salad and a wide variety of other salads. There was a large roll of cheese, but like large large that you had to carve into and sprinkle on your salad. Parmigiano taste, but not confirmed.

Four hot meals = no idea what those even were, paid so little attention to that side of the restaurant.

And finally a surprise! 


DESSERT ON A STICK!!!!! Pineapple Smile with bloody cinnamon Sad smile

Brew Bistro

I feel like I have to say something about Brew Bistro just to make my stay in Nairobi sound more legit. Great food! Never tried it, but so I hear. Meat on a stick (really nothing new for Kenya or this particular post, but somehow the variety always takes me a little off guard). Baby burgers – I honestly don’t get it. As with everything else in life, size matters for burgers too. In this case, just so it happens that the bigger is actually the better. 

Where was I going with this… good beer when you just order a beer. This time around they had some difficulty comprehending that. Heifeisen ?! (can’t be bothered with the spelling right now) had to do, after a painfully deceptive listing of Octoberfest. Sam Adams, I miss you! Can’t wait for a taste of the seasonal!
This part of the post is kinda useless and more about me trying to prove I’ve been there. Ha! But really nothing to talk about: it is fun, the music is good, the atmosphere chill, there’s hookah. Only thing they can work on is the dessert menu. Don’t dig the whole healthy thing they have going on.


To include this was someone’s suggestion. But I somehow did not feel inspired enough by this place. Others loved it, so read up elsewhere:

It’s probably ‘coz I didn’t eat meat there that I have nothing to say and was left unsatisfied.

Monday, August 6, 2012


A pick by the Kenyans, this restaurant had an amazing ethnic ambiance and gorgeous decor, while at the same time offered a variety of food from every corner of the country. Some chose to make the full “journey” (to be referred simply as journey from now on. It’s an acceptable change). Others decided to order a la carte and share. Although I fall in the second category, I will clearly talk about both (unless you are a completely oblivious reader, by now it should have dawned on you that I love talking about food whether it’s on my plate or someone else’s).

Really cool lamp!

After a very tiring journey that day, coffee was my first order. Kenyan style, great. Hadn’t actually tried it before. With a Tusker on the side, life was as beautiful as it could possibly be. But just to make sure we were fully comfortable, four clay furnace-type things filled with glowing embers (I know I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t) were brought to all four sides of the table to keep us warm. 

As the journey for some began, others stared drooling at their food and picked at their appetizers. And some appetizers those were: fried white flying ants. No joke! You could see the tentacles and the wings. Crunchy, awful aftertaste and generally disgusting.

IMG_1649 2
Not my best picture, but you can almost see that those are ants the size of a sunflower seed. 
Then, we ordered moratina. Fermented honey wine that tasted just like mead (although I’ve like never tried mead in my conscious life, I’m pretty sure this is what it’s supposed to taste like). To check my spelling I just came across a blog claiming moratina is Kikuyu. That has yet to be confirmed. Was confirmed. My cabby cracked up when I told him that I moratina and kinda liked it. Apparently, it's a very traditional drink made on certain occasions like weddings: families sit with moratina when negotiating dowry.

The little bottle on the side is filled with moratina. Very cool. The candle is just for composition. And to make a dinner of 11 romantic. 

The journey proceeded with fermented millet porridge. Not a standing ovation, but overall positive feedback from those that tried it. And then they just started bringing different pots of cooked meat and side dishes and the journey guys, and girl, were wolfing down through various types of deliciousness, while we were still waiting for our food. Now I’m not going to focus on their food, but on ours. They got the same stuff, cooked in different ways and a lot more of it. But that’s just details.

Oh before I continue, we actually did order an appetizer, but that was served somewhere mid way through the journey. Anyway, chicken gizzards. Yet again I learn a new word in English. And yet again I am amazing at how close Kenyan cuisine is to Bulgarian. To save the trouble of some of my readers: pileshki vodenichki po selski. Hadn’t had those in a very long time.

My plate Smile
Starting @ 12:00 o’clock – Quail in a somewhat creamy sauce. Didn’t remember what was in it. A little boney with softer bones than a chicken. A little heavy. Not to be used for engorgement.

@ 3 o’clock – matoke – banana cooked in tomato sauce. I honestly found this a little strange. Couldn’t quite reconcile the sweet/banana and sour/tomato mixture. Needless to say that it got eaten.

@4-5 o’clock – brown ugali, a lot stickier than regular ugali. To read more about ugali, check previous food post. This one I think is better than regular white ugali.

@ 6 o’clock and crossing over to 7 and 8 – rabbit. Not sure what style, a little between grilled or barbequed I’d say. Truly fantastic. Again everyone surprised I’ve tried it before. But you have to understand, there is nothing a Bulgarian appreciates more than a versatile animal: it can serve as both a pet and a meal. What’s better than that? (The answer is pork, but that a little unrelated)

@ 9 o’clock – chicken biriani. Again not sure exactly what was in the sauce, but it was too delicious to bother my small brain with so many unimportant details.

Filling up the rest of my clock – chapati.

In comparison to the journey: their quail was on skewers as was their rabbit. They also got fish and beef and all types of side dishes.

After this meal, there was no way we were doing dessert. And we didn’t.

A cheers to global friendship with five continents represented at our table closed the night of the glass perspective and the weekend of simba choma.