Bali

Nestled in a long chain of islands lies a unique Hindu culture. One with many Gods and demons, for which people pray for almost every aspect of daily life. Each morning before the busy day starts business owners would place a small bamboo leaf boat filled with candles, incense, prayers, and food outside of their shops for protection and good luck. Living here for several months, Eve and I would travel the island, working as restaurant consultants for eco retreat centers. Usually they would exchange money or lodging plus food for help with their menu, kitchen design, staff training, cocktail menu, or all of the above. I handle the staff, kitchen, and menu, and Eve takes care of the cocktails, bar, and graphic menu design. The people here are very unique. They have a blend of kindness, traditional values, modern influences, and religious piety. The locals are content living day to day, fishing, farming, taking care of their family, and being happy. The thing about island folk from anywhere in the world I have been is that they take things slowly, and know how to have a good time. Eve spent a lot of her energy researching traditional healing beverages here, one in particular called Jamu, which is a health and vitality blend of local herbs and root vegetables. There are a lot of fresh spices in the cooking here, and they enjoy some of the best Yucca root I have ever tried. The island is also famous for a special type of coffee called Copi Luwak, which is the most expensive coffee in the world and is made by feeding a small raccoon like animal coffee beans, collecting the excrement, processing it, and making coffee from it. This was discovered by accident many years ago by the english military, who were very desperate for coffee, so desperate in fact that they decided to brew some coffee bean poop. Turned out to be pretty damn good. There are so many fruits and vegetables that grow here, and the cuisine is a mix of Indonesian, Chinese, and a hint of Indian. Traditional dishes like Nasi Goreng, Sambal Matah, and Urab combine fresh vegetables, coconut, peanuts, cinnamon, rice, local meats, and many fresh herbs and spices. I would look for people selling "Tum" on the side of the road which is a combination of rice, herbs, peanuts, shredded coconut, and fresh vegetables wrapped in a neat banana leaf. You would eat that (and many things) with Sambal, a lemongrass infused sweet and tangy condiment. We made many friends here, learned how to make fresh coconut milk ice cream, enjoyed endless parades of masked religious devotees, traditional music, daily festivals for one God or another, and returned many broad smiles. We love you Bali, and cant wait to return.