The Traveling Chefs Discovered Aruba

THE TRAVELING CHEFS DISCOVERED ARUBA AND ENJOYED IT.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”  ~Mark Twain

While searching for a wonderful place for vacation in the Caribbean, The Traveling Chefs discovered Aruba, the “One Happy Island” which they enjoyed well. There, they’ve spent one of the best weeks of their lives as a family. Those who have gone there were raving about their experience.  It is rated the number one place in the Caribbean for repeat visitors. 

To date, it is the place where The Traveling Chefs have spent most of their hard-earned vacation money and did not regret having done so.  In fact, the memories of their special moments still linger in their hearts even to this day. Their adopted daughter Pauline joined them in this special place.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS FLEW TO ARUBA

They took a plane from Orlando International Airport to Aruba via AirTran.  They were in the air for way over two and a half hours.  From the airport, they took a taxi to Caribbean Palm Village Resort.

On the way there, the taxi driver took a shorter route. They were very nervous because the areas they passed through didn’t look desirable.  At one point, he stopped his taxi and spoke to two men and a woman on the street.  The men wore nothing but pants.  

Their fears slowly subsided when they reached a paved road and saw better looking buildings and cars.  They didn’t miss the words “One Happy Island” embossed on the plate number of every vehicle.  Chef Pedro was eager to find out what make this a one happy island.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS LOVED THE FOOD IN ARUBA

They were so tired and hungry after depositing their luggage in the Resort.  They went out looking for a restaurant nearby and they chose “Wacky Wahoo”.  They were not disappointed.  It is owned by two fishermen who serve their customers their fresh catch of the day.  They Traveling Chefs loved their food. The waiter and waitresses were friendly. Their only disappointment was the long wait because they did not have a reservation.  It was however, well worth it.

They woke up early the following day to find out what awaits them at this paradise. They decided to hang out at the MooMba Beach Bar and Restaurant located close to Palm Beach.  The place was so busy.  It offers all kinds of drinks and they have live music. 

They saw some birds in the sand and an iguana up a tree limb.  It later climbed down the tree and slowly walked on the sand, unmindful of the scantily dressed tourists lounging on beach chairs or walking to and fro the restaurant.  They did go into the water which was very soothing.  There were so many other people enjoying themselves in the beach.  

THE TRAVELING CHEFS MET NEW FRIENDS

The following day, they decided to go the lighthouse located on the northernmost part of the island.  A little down below, they noticed an Italian restaurant.  They decided to dine there. Located on top of the hill, it has the best view of the rest of the island. 

That night proved to be The Traveling Chefs’ lucky night.  The waiter assigned to them is a Filipino with whom they developed an instant vibe. They regarded each other as friends and he introduced them to some of his relatives and friends in the area. Some of them were working at the Tiera del Sol golf course.

So, the following day, they arranged a tee time for Chef Pedro and his son Stephen to play with them at Tiera del Sol. Its driving range is perhaps the best they’ve experienced. They were hitting balls on the direction of the beach at the eastern part of the island.  The cool sea breeze negated the early afternoon sun’s heat.

The course has a great layout. They struggled at the holes which obliged them to hit the ball against the wind.  Although they didn’t score well, they had so much fun.  Their new friends were gracious to play with.  They did not run out of encouraging  remarks when they mishit their balls.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS DIG THE WELCOME PARTY

That evening they attended the welcome party of the Island at the town square where their famous tower is located. Food and drinks were available; singers and dancers took turn entertaining the happy crowd of strangers from different corners of the world. 

At one point of the show, they called for volunteers to join a contest.  Blindfolded, the participants were carrying a stick and he who hits the rooster with it wins, subject to the audience’s final approval by loudest noise.

Chef Pedro joined and instantly became the crowd’s favorite as he danced goofily while searching for the dummy rooster.  He got a free snack and drink of his choice for prize. He walked back to his family with a sheepish grin as the crowd kept applauding.

For dinner that night, they went to Texas de Brazil, an eat-all-you-can Brazilian steakhouse.  If you haven’t been to one, and if you like steak, go and indulge yourself at least once. Waiters carrying various flavors of steaks take turn carving one for you for as long you keep saying yes by letting your disk’s green side up.

The waiters and waitresses will only stop if you let the red side up.  In addition to mouth-watering steaks, they had unlimited  salad bar, too  which most of them skipped to give room for delicious steaks.  The waiters were friendly and made sure they had fun.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS LOVED THE BEACHES OF ARUBA

Baby Beach by Peter Nunez Photography

On the next day, they’ve found the Eagle Beach a little bit cleaner than Palm Beach.  At the southern tip of the island can be found Baby Beach.  They were the first to arrive there on their second to the last day in Aruba.

They were so early the cabanas weren’t set up yet.  The water was crystal clear Chef Pedro can see his wife and daughter’s feet though the water was knee high.  On several occasions, he felt some tiny fish bumping into his feet and legs. They ate at Big Mama Grill, the only restaurant in the area.  

On their way back, they passed by a fresh young coconut stand. They had to stop and enjoyed the fresh coconut juice as well as its jelly.  It sure reminded them of what they used to do in the Philippines where coconut also abound.

Their last stop was the amazing rock formation dubbed as the “place where God rests.” They went up to its summit and saw both ends of the islands. They saw a cruise ship on its west side and a cone-shaped mountain a little farther south.  

They also dined at Driftwood, another seafood restaurant.  The food was likewise great. It didn’t however make them forget their experience at Wacky Wahoo. Perhaps they were hungrier when they entered the latter. Or perhaps nothing beats first time experience.

They also tried the Filipino restaurant referred by their new friend.  The owners were very friendly and their cooking was exceptional.  Theirs is the only place in Aruba where The Traveling Chefs and their family ate more than once.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS SAY GOODBYE TO ARUBA

On their last night, they invited their new Filipino friends for a going away party at their unit in the Resort.  The latter brought a guitar and drum and they were singing and drinking and having fun till almost midnight. 

They did not want that night to end nor their vacation to stop. Yet, they were powerless to stop the clock. And they must go back to the US, back to their daily routine of work, home, and work again. Their new friends urged them to come back. “Maybe someday,” they wished, thinking that it will remain just a wish for a long time.

The staff at the Resort were also nice and friendly.  They had a great time during the whole week.  They were glad they discovered Aruba. Theirs was indeed a week in paradise.  They understood why many visitors in Aruba decide to go back.  It is without a doubt a “one happy island.”  

When will you discover your own one happy island?

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Sycamore Lodge, Trexia’s First Camp Out Of Florida

DRIVING TO SYCAMORE LODGE, TREXIA’S FIRST CAMP OUT OF FLORIDA

Last September, The Traveling Chefs drove Trexia for a two-week vacation in Sycamore Lodge RV Resort in Jackson Springs, NC. This is Trexia’s first camp outside of Florida, their home base.

Chef Pedro drove her all the way to NC by himself as Chef Alicia hasn’t driven her yet since the test drive. If you’re wondering who Trexia is, she is their Class C motorhome which they have introduced in their previous blog entitled Introducing Trexia.

Driving a motorhome on I-95 where the speed limit goes up to 70 mph is a lot more nerve-racking than driving a cruiser. Those who have driven a tall mid-sized truck can relate. Every time a large truck overtakes her, Chef Pedro has to keep her steady on the lane. This is why Chef Alicia hasn’t been driving her up to this time.

When they arrived at Sycamore Lodge after about 11 hours on the road, including stops for gas and food, Chef Pedro took a big sigh of relief. The naps he took during each stop weren’t enough to compensate for the lack of sleep the night before. Too much excitement must have taken hold of him.

THE SITE AT THE SYCAMORE LODGE, TREXIA’S FIRST CAMP OUT OF FL

Due to their late arrival and to COVID-19, nobody was on the Registration Office when they stopped for direction to their lot. Luckily, someone asked them if it’s their first time there. He then led them to their site which was all the way to the back. Without his help, The Traveling Chefs would have difficulty locating the lot at Trexia’s first camp out of Florida.

After thanking him, Chef Pedro parked Trexia and hooked her up instantly. The trial campings they had in their home base had equipped him with these necessary skills. Shortly after a quick dinner, they went to bed, promising to explore the campground tomorrow.

THE BEAUTY OF SYCAMORE LODGE

The new friends they’ve met in their home base had great things to say about Sycamore Lodge. They said it’s one of the biggest RV campgrounds owned by Travel Resorts of America and one of the most beautiful.

Tall long leaf pines abound all over the property. The welcome center, the reception center, and the lodge itself are superior to the ones they have seen in their home base Luna Sands Resort. They even have miniature golf which Chef Pedro tried right away.

The cabins lining the edge of the lake are charming. They rent them out to guests without RVs. They even have sites for tent camping.

THE PRETTY LAKE WITH PICKY FISH

The Traveling Chefs love the lake the most in Sycamore Lodge. They enjoyed the refreshing breeze while they sat in the gazebo. Some geese rested on the foreground and then waded in the water. Chef Pedro invited Chef Alicia to take the trail around the lake. It’s a little over a mile walk. The trail leads to other points for more adventurous guests.

Chef Pedro tried fishing but hasn’t caught anything the first day. Sensing his frustration, a couple told him a secret. “The fish here like hotdogs,” they said. “The kids usually use hotdogs for bait, so the fish relish them,” they explained. Although the Traveling Chefs haven’t heard this before, they thought it’s okay to try. They purchased some hotdogs for the fish and the leftover for themselves. They haven’t eaten them for a while.

Using the secret bait, Chef Pedro caught three bluegills, each time as exciting as the rest. The last one he caught was longer than his palm. A friend of theirs in FB told them they can eat them. Unfortunately, here in Sycamore Lodge, the rule is catch and release.

THE SYCAMORE LODGE AS SPRINGBOARD TO OTHER PLACES

From Sycamore Lodge, The Traveling Chefs visited Raleigh, Durham, Pinehurst, Carthage, and Southern Pines. They have shared their unique experiences in some of these interesting places in separate posts. They have also planned to visit Lake Lure but the approaching storm on the last four days of their vacation forced them to abandon it.

To escape the storm, they departed early via Charleston, South Carolina. En route there, Trexia crawled as heavy rain battered the highway and flooded a few spots leading to the city.

As you see, The Traveling Chefs travel with no fixed destination. They embrace spontaneity for exciting moments and make adjustments when needed. They also shared in a separate post their experiences in Charleston. Thank you for reading.

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Harvey, Jane And Their Olde Carthage Farm

THE TRAVELING CHEFS MET HARVEY AND JANE IN THEIR OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

The Traveling Chefs met Harvey and Jane in their Old Carthage Farm. In the course of their travels, the former oftentimes meet special people. At few times however, their path comes across with very special ones. This story is about one of these few times.

While searching at Google for a local farm one day, they found out that many visitors have rated Olde Carthage Farm rather highly. One person wrote, “What an amazing place, the owners are some great people…” G. Tomeski.

When The Traveling Chefs entered Olde Carthage Farm, in Carthage, North Carolina last September, two incredibly special people touched their lives. They were Harvey and Jane Godfrey. The former was talking to another gentleman when The Traveling Chefs were parking their RV. Harvey promptly ended his conversation with him and warmly greeted them.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS PICK GRAPES FOR THE FIRST TIME AT OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

“We have only muscadine grapes this time of the year,” Harvey said. “Would you like to pick them?”, he continued. The Traveling Chefs couldn’t believe their ears! They haven’t picked grapes before. “Of course!”, they said, selecting half a gallon container.

“Follow me!”, Harvey said as he led them to the vineyard. He showed them how to pick the grapes and surprised them by saying, “You can eat as much as you like. You only pay for the ones you bring home.”

He picked a couple of grapes and ate each one of them, spitting out the seeds and the skin. As soon as The Traveling Chefs knew what they were doing, he left them by themselves.

The Traveling Chefs took turns taking videos and photos of each other and sharing them with their friends through Facebook. “Where are you guys?”, many of their friends asked. They, too wanted to experience something like this.

When their tummies and their bucket were filled with grapes, they hastened to Harvey who was seated on one of the chairs available. He motioned them to sit beside him and converse with them as if he had nothing better else to do in the world.

HARVEY PICKS FLOWERS FOR ALICIA AT HIS OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

He told them that he and his wife also enjoy RVing usually in Florida in winter. They don’t like the highways, he confided. When Chef Pedro asked if they also sell the flowers in front of them, he said yes. “I will pick some for your wife.”, he volunteered, requesting Chef Alicia to follow him.

Wait, did The Traveling Chefs tell you Harvey gave the flowers to Chef Alicia for free? He did! What a generous gentleman Harvey really is!, they thought.

ON GOLDEN POND OF OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

Their conversations touched more deeply into each’s other lives including golf, family, vacation, and the farm. Finally, Chef Pedro inquired about the pond. “Are there fish on it?”, he asked. Harvey took some feeds from his barn and asked Chef Pedro to follow him.

As soon as the feeds hit the water, a throng of fish wiggled in the water. “Can I fish here?”, Chef Pedro excitedly asked. “I would love to let you do it, but I have been saying no to everyone,” he apologetically said. The kids have a great time feeding them when they come, he explained. For security reasons, he hasn’t allowed anyone to fish.

Meanwhile, Chef Alicia was spending time with Jane in their office. Chef Pedro and she found Jane very pleasant, down to earth and as amazing as her husband. They learned that Jane is the one doing the hard work in the farm, mowing and everything.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE TO HARVEY & JANE

Before The Traveling Chefs said goodbye, Harvey asked Chef Pedro, “You love life, don’t you? “We should, life is short,” he replied. Harvey even asked for the phone number of Chef Pedro. They didn’t tell him they call themselves The Traveling Chefs.

As they drove out of the farm, The Traveling Chefs were telling each other how lucky they were and how great their hosts were. People are special because they make other people special, Chef Pedro thought to himself. Harvey and Jane will be in their hearts for a long, long time.

This is the kind of connections The Traveling Chefs are looking to make in their travels. This is the kind of stories they want to tell over and over again. Thank you for reading.

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Chef Alicia Cooks Bibingka

Chef Alicia DECIDES TO COOK BIBINGKA

“Hi Dad!”, Chef Alicia greeted Chef Pedro this morning. “I’d like to cook bibingka. Will you get me some banana leaves?”, she asked. “Sure,” Chef Pedro replied, knowing that they have a banana tree in the backyard.

It must have been windy these past days because all the leaves are torn apart. “These won’t do,” she said. “I will make it happen for you,” he assured her. He pieced together the torn leaves and shaped them into the four tin molds which she has found in the pantry.

Pau must have left these with us when she moved to California,” Chef Alicia said. She wished she had eight instead so she could cook one recipe simultaneously. She tried looking for them in the stores but couldn’t find them. She’s wondering where Pau bought these from.

WHAT IS BIBINGKA?

Originally made in the Philippines and Indonesia, bibingka is one of the rice cakes baked during Christmas and other special occasions. It is usually eaten during breakfast on Christmas season or sometimes served as a dessert or snack.

Different parts of the Philippines have their own versions of bibingka. Some add young coconut slivers or cooked duck egg or both. Others used cassava flour instead of the original glutinous rice.

Today is just Chef Alicia’s second time of cooking bibingka. She said she learned to cook it from a YouTube video. Prior to watching it, she thought it is something difficult to do. When she tried it the first time, she found it surprisingly simple.

She employs the modern way of cooking bibingka, making use of dry glutinous rice flour and tin molds popularized by restaurants. The original way of cooking it entails soaking the rice overnight, allowing it to ferment by the use of wild yeast. Then the rice is ground into a paste using a stone mill. We saw some of these stone mills growing up.

Chef Alicia TRIES COOKING A BIGGER BIBINGKA

Emboldened by her initial success this morning, Chef Alicia tried to cook a bigger bibingka. This time, she uses a much bigger mold. Whereas on the smaller bibingka, she only baked them for 23 minutes at 375 °F, she found out that she had to bake this for one hour.

When she called Stephen and Kay to try them, they both liked them. Chef Pedro who normally stays away from rice cakes or any cake, loved them. He thinks his wife has a knack for baking. Of course, it’s now Christmas season again. This bibingka is an addition to Chef Alicia’s traditional boat tarts which everyone love.

If you’re interested in the exact recipe Chef Alicia used for both bibingka, please check back on our website. We will post the recipe for every dish we feature on our blogs. Ciao!

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One Last Stop – Wilmington

THE TRAVELING CHEFS TOOK A ONE LAST STOP BY WILMINGTON BEFORE GOING HOME

On their way home from one week of travel, The Traveling Chefs decided to take one more stop, this time by Wilmington. It was highly recommended by their children anyway and it’s not out of their way at all.

Two of The Traveling Chefs children have either lived or visited Wilmington, North Carolina. Both have endorsed its beauty and livability. One of them even said he will live there for good. That was before a big hurricane has submerged this beautiful city for days. But that is another story.

After they took the exit from the highway, The Traveling Chefs found a parking lot close to the Riverwalk, a top attraction in the city. Built along the edge of the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, the Riverwalk offers visitors and residents alike, spectacular views of the water, of the river bridge and of the USS North Carolina Battleship which they toured the day before.

While seated on one of the many available benches on the Riverwalk, Chef Alicia got a call from Arlene who inquired about her guests’ whereabout. “We’re still here in Wilmington!”, declared Chef Alicia. “I can’t believe you guys!”, Arlene exclaimed. From then on, Arlene has no doubts left on how crazy The Traveling Chefs are about travel.

LUNCH AT PORT CITY JAVA

For lunch, The Traveling Chefs went to Port City Java, a coffeehouse franchisor based right here in Wilmington. It’s a specialty coffee roaster which serves coffee beverages, smoothies, shakes, teas, breakfast all day and sandwiches for lunch.

The Traveling Chefs enjoyed the casual ambience of Port City Java, their specialty coffee and sandwiches and above all, their courteous young associates.

Then, The Traveling Chefs took time to catch their breath at the Railroad Museum. There were two other families when they came in and both have children. They all got into the Museum while the Traveling Chefs opted to rest outside. They have read that the Museum is a great attraction for children.

“Let’s go home.”, Chef Pedro finally said. This time, Chef Alicia and he are exhausted.

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A Detour To Jacksonville

THE TRAVELING CHEFS TOOK A DETOUR TO JACKSONVILLE

From Savannah, Georgia, The Traveling Chefs were supposed to go to Asheville, North Carolina. They took a detour instead to the opposite direction – Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was closer from where they were and most importantly, they will be spending time with some loving people.

“Check the map, which one is closer – Asheville or Jacksonville?”, asked Chef Pedro. When they learned that the latter is closer, they decided to surprise Fred, Chef Alicia’s brother who lives in Jacksonville. Although they have visited Fred many times before, they still wanted to go there because they are close to him and his family.

They only planned to stay for the night. Asheville was likewise recommended by their children to visit. So, they planned to drive to Asheville early the following day. Fred however, had a different plan. He wanted to bring them to places they haven’t heard or seen before.

A TOUR OF THE U.S.S. North Carolina

One of them is the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship which saw action in the Pacific including the Philippines during the 2nd World War. Chef Pedro and Chef Alicia found the tour of the battleship informative and interesting. They took many photos.

Fred also brought the Traveling Chefs to Topsail Island Beach and to one of its piers where many people were fishing. There is an entrance fee to the pier.

Topsail Island in Jacksonville, NC By Peter Nunez Photography

For dinner, Fred and his wife Arlene invited them to eat in the former’s favorite Japanese restaurant – Wasabi Japanese Sushi and Cuisine, currently rated 4.7 stars. The wide selection of their menu and the quality of their food impressed The Traveling Chefs who have a liking for Japanese cuisine.

The Traveling Chef took a detour to Jacksonville to be with relatives

Instead of proceeding to Asheville, The Traveling Chefs embraced the unequaled hospitality of their hosts. They are fortunate to have relatives who care. Nothing is more essential to a healthy and happy life than the quality of our relationships, Chef Pedro recalled a Harvard study.

In life, The Traveling Chefs have found it’s not easy to say goodbye to the people they love who love them in return. So, even though they skipped Asheville, they had no regrets. Their one week vacation is over. It’s time to go home.

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