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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 @ 07:08 AM

048We are down to the wire as far as when this baby could arrive, 2 1/2 weeks to be exact; and while we are super excited, we are also a little nervous as far as what to expect bringing a new little one into our brood.  One thing you quickly realize is how drastically your life is about to change and how this little human will not only depend on you for everything, but they aren’t like a house guest who just comes and stays for the weekend.  So…you start to think about a lot of things. Like, although she isn’t going to be eating “real” food for quite some time, it does make you begin to really consider what types of food choices you will be making to feed your family. In particular, how will our grocery shopping change?

We live in a day and age where it isn’t as simple as just going to the corner store anymore.  Now there are choices from what types of food to buy to where it comes from, and even the type of store you would like to purchase it from.  Now I am all for healthy eating and I truly do try to feed Adam and me as healthily as possible, with limited amounts of processed food coming into our house. But it has become increasingly clear in the past 10 years that even WHERE you buy your groceries is a “BIG DEAL” to some people.  With bigger all natural food markets on the scene, it has even become quite political.

But I’m not here to get into all of that.  Instead I want to focus on the uniqueness of these newer age markets and how they offer unusual and hard to find products; and as you’re reading this, stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are already popping into your mind….right? However, there is a grocery store near Cincinnati, OH that puts them all to shame…Jungle Jim’s International Market

Started in 1974 as a small food stand, Jungle Jim’s has since grown to over 6 1/2 acres, 300,000-square-foot food tourist destination, offering 150,000 different items from over 75 countries from around the world.  And we ain’t just talking about only organic, or international foods…or any one particular specialty. Nope…., rather it is anything and everything you can possibly think of with every country having its own section of the store, with a produce section that is as large as some grocery stores themselves, and everything in between.

Although we weren’t sure if we could enjoy a meal there or not, we figured as foodies we needed to experience just the shock and awe of walking around a store that large with that many products…, an amusement park of groceries of sorts.  We’d seen it on a few television shows, most notably Food Network’s “Unwrapped” and Travel Channel’s “Top Ten Public Restrooms,” but it was even more awe inspiring than we thought; and what was even more shocking was it appeared that many seem to do their regular weekly shopping there. I’m still not sure I would want to take on having to walk that much in search of my items weekly, but for unusual ingredients or fun items, this certainly would be the store to seek them out at.  Not only will you experience every food imaginable, they may even have a few surprises around the store…including the crazy bathrooms (which are meant to be deceiving!)…

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Pretty crazy huge huh?  Like I said, I can’t imagine ever “running to the store” and THAT BEING THE STORE!!! But if you needed everything under the sun or some really random ingredients, Jim’s would for sure be the place to go.

We were a little disappointed that besides a sandwich shop, they don’t have any other spots to get food. Still, we did enjoy our time walking around and taking in all the unique sights of this grocery store; so although it is a bit outside of Cincinnati, I would say if you are looking for something to do or kill some time when you are in the area, a visit to Jungle Jim’s would be a definite must…, heck, just for the shear SIZE of it!

SIGNATURE DISH: For this excursion that would be hard to say, because they aren’t really known for a dish, but rather ingredients; and although they aren’t dishing out food to eat per se, as a Foodie, I’d say their signature is that they have about EVERY signature thing you could ever want!

TASTE: Again, hard to qualify, because although we sampled a few things here and there around the store, they aren’t really serving up food; and unlike some grocery stores, they don’t have a place to really get a meal outside of the small sandwich shop that is attached.  They really are just specializing in the ingredients.

AMBIANCE: This is for sure the stand out category in the case of Jungle Jim’s. It’s truly another world EXPERIENCE!  I mean…how many grocery stores have you been to where there are animatronic food, cans, etc. throughout the store, a real full-size bathroom that appears to be a porta potty, and every food ingredient and type of food you could possible think of?  It takes quite awhile just to walk around and take it all in. 6 1/2 acres ain’t no joke!

PRICE: Because we chose not to buy anything, it’s hard to say how their prices compared. But, the prices didn’t look half bad as we were walking around.  Truthfully, it would be hard to know unless you were shopping there on a regular basis.

SERVICE: With a store this large, they have 300 or more employees and they seemed extremely attentive and well versed in all of the products that we carry.  We were able to ask a few employees some very specific questions and they could point or lead us in the right direction, even though we still managed to get lost!

As typically happens when going to stores like this, I was super jealous Jim’s is available in that area and that we have nothing even close to us like this; and while I likely wouldn’t shop their super often, I was so in awe of the shear size of this place, I think it would be fun to frequent.  Jungle Jim’s International Market is truly a “must see to believe” type of experience, so if you are ever passing through the Cincinnati area, the Jungle Jim’s Safari awaits! Perhaps you’ll even see a few ‘Little Piggies’…4 of them.

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Friday, August 12, 2011 @ 08:08 AM

048I want to start off by apologizing for the inconsistency when it comes to posting this summer. Let’s just say working a new full time job, growing a little one inside my belly, trying to keep our house running, still be a good wife, and enjoying a little free time have all sort of put my little blog on the back burner. But I really want to try and get the ball rolling again consistently… at least until our little beanette arrives, and then who knows. 😉

While I love reviewing restaurants and trying new hot spots around the country, I also love getting to try unique and exciting experiences (or food related excursions) that are also featured in popular culture. From Harry Potter to the good ol’ County Fair, our excursions have run the gamut. While some of our excursions are more focused around food than others, this next one I want to showcase was truly a culinary adventure of epic proportions. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is an annual event that takes place for 2 months at…you guessed it, Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando; and what makes this event such a fun experience is it is something you can participate in as little or as much as you want to once you have been admitted into the park.

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I am sure you are all aware of what Epcot is all about. But if you aren’t, I will sum it up for you: it’s a park dedicated to science & ingenuity on one half and a World Showcase on the other. In the World Showcase, it is divided up into 11 sections, each section representing a different country from around the world with unique rides, shops, and eateries that are themed specifically for that country; and so you can imagine, this entire area is the venue for the Food and Wine Festival. Also, even more and what makes it so fun is in addition to those food items you can always find at each country, the festival adds tents scattered throughout the park where you can buy samples of even more culinary treats and drinks from many more countries.

While we didn’t try every food item or even stop at every country at the over 25 different food tents, we did try a good number. I thought Adam and I played it very smart, and something I would recommend if you are thinking about ever attending… DO NOT TRY TO EAT IT ALL! We decided our best bet in getting to fully experience the festival was to pick and choose what really sounded delicious or interesting to us and then share those small plates. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the day we were still very stuffed, but I never felt uncomfortable because we really tried to edit our choices and then each got a couple of bites so we could enjoy it all. Throw a couple of beers from around the world and rides in there, it was definitely the way to go and truly made for a fun and memorable experience; and rather than talk about each dish individually, I’m going to show you through the pictures the many worldly dishes we tried and all the fun we had:

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There were SO MANY dishes you would be hard pressed to try them all, or even remember what you ate from the beginning of the day to the end, but we had such fun making our way throughout the park and trying some items that were new to us and a few favorite dishes along the way.  By the time we sat down for our Japanese Hibachi meal that evening, our feet were aching, our bellies were surprisingly still ready for more food, and what a great adventure it was! I highly recommend that if you are planning a visit to Epcot in the near future and you like to eat, it is worth your while to plan during the International Food and Wine Festival just to expand your options. You won’t regret it.

SIGNATURE DISH: Well if International Food and Wine Festival doesn’t explain it, I will say there isn’t one dish in particular that make this excursion, but rather the whole experience is the variety of dishes from a number of countries that are the signature.

TASTE: While every dish we opted to try was not our most favorite, there were definitely some that stuck out for us as “wishing we had more of that!” We really liked the Greek stand, and the German tent I would say was far and wide our favorite. This could be because we love sausage and pretzel roll and the spatzle with ham and cheese was pretty gosh darn good too. But overall, we really enjoyed most everything we tried.

AMBIANCE: It’s pretty hard to beat getting to try all these wonderful bites of food while you are surrounded by a huge Disney theme park, complete with costumes, rides, and fun.  They have really gone to big lengths to create a sense of realism; and I know some of you might think you are too old for all of that, but really it’s hard to ever get too old for Disney! There is just something about it that takes you back to being a kid.  And well…with the little pit stops you can make for adult beverages around Epcot, it is hard to not enjoy it all the more. 😉

PRICE: This would have to be the rub of the whole event. Don’t expect to attend this festival without shelling out quite a bit of dough.  For starters, you do have to pay your entrance fee to the park, which alone is sort of pricey…near $50 per person. But on top of that, every dish you want to try at the tents ranges from $4 – $7, which can add up pretty quickly if you want to try a variety.  This was largely why we opted to share all the plates, so we could try all the more.  Being that we were on a special vacation, we didn’t mind paying a little more for the whole experience, but just know going in over the course of the day you will likely spend a lot.

SERVICE: As you would expect of a Disney park, everyone on the staff who we encountered was extremely helpful, friendly, and accommodating.  Luckily, we didn’t really encounter too many outrageous lines, but those that work for the park truly do a great job of making everyone feel at home and welcome.

If you have never visited or haven’t visited in awhile, Epcot is a theme park that is well worth the trip in and of itself; and if you are making that trip, I think it would for sure be a fun addition to go during the International Food and Wine Festival to get a truly well rounded culinary experience worth 3 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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